National Security

If Taliban regains power, they would roll back rights for women: US intelligence

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U.S. intelligence analysts are arguing that the Taliban would likely “roll back” rights for women in Afghanistan should the Islamist extremist group regain wide-reaching power in the country. 

In an intelligence assessment report declassified last month, the National Intelligence Council found that if the Taliban rises to power, there will likely not be enough support within Afghanistan for maintaining the progress reached in women’s rights that had been achieved more so as a result of “external pressure.” 

“Afghanistan’s progress since the end of Taliban rule toward meeting broadly accepted international standards for the conditions of women has been uneven, reflecting cultural norms and conflict,” the intelligence officials wrote in the two-page report. 

“Although the Taliban’s fall officially ended some policies, many continue in practice even in government-controlled areas, and years of war have left millions of women maimed, widowed, impoverished, and displaced,” they added. 

For example, the officials noted that while the number of schools in Afghanistan has increased since 2001, more than 80 percent of Afghan women over the age of 15 remain illiterate, and Afghan women continue to face obstacles to earning capital. 

The report also said that progress has been “concentrated in cities and ethnic minority enclaves, where violence is lower and women had more freedom before Taliban rule.” 

The intelligence analysts wrote that while some Taliban officials have said they will respect women’s rights, “they caveat that these protections must align with Taliban interpretations of sharia,” or Islamic law.  

“If the Taliban were again Afghanistan’s dominant power, we assess that any prospect for moderating the group’s policies toward women would lie with ethnic minorities’ ability to maintain local variation and technological development since the Taliban’s previous rule,” the intelligence officials argued, adding that “International pressure could play a reinforcing role.” 

The report comes as lawmakers have expressed concerns on how the rights of Afghan citizens, especially women, will be impacted by the Biden administration’s goal to completely withdraw U.S. troops by this year’s 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who pushed for the declassification of the intelligence report, said that Afghan women’s rights had “really seemed to fall on deaf ears” under the Trump administration and that her “concerns have still not been sufficiently addressed.” 

“We owe it to the women and girls to ensure that their hard-fought rights are preserved,” Shaheen continued. “Sadly, I believe an arbitrary deadline withdrawal for our forces in Afghanistan risks those efforts.” 

“It is not a women’s issue; it is a human rights issue, and it is a security issue for the future of Afghanistan,” she added. 

Shaheen reiterated this message in a statement Tuesday following a virtual meeting with female members of Afghanistan’s parliament, saying that they and “other women engaged in the political and civil discourse around the rights of Afghan women and girls are so brave.”

“But they shouldn’t have to be,” she argued, adding that she plans in the coming months to “work with the Biden administration however I can to ensure every effort is made to safeguard the progress made and support our partners on the ground to secure a stable and inclusive transitional government.”

U.S. Central Command on Tuesday said that it had completed about 2 percent to 6 percent of its total withdrawal from Afghanistan, though the Taliban has already launched military offensives across the country after the U.S. failed to meet a May 1 troop deadline set by former President Trump.

Tags Afghanistan biden administration Director of National Intelligence Donald Trump girls' education Human rights intelligence reports Jeanne Shaheen Literacy Senate Foreign Relations Committee Taliban Women's rights
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