President Biden: Don’t Abandon the Women and Girls of Afghanistan

Photo by Sohaib Ghyasi on Unsplash

Habiba Sarabi, Fawzia Koofi and Sharifa Zurmati write:

After two decades of war, this can be a historic year of peace in Afghanistan. But, as Afghan negotiators, we are duty-bound to caution that peace must not come at the cost of our humanity. And it must not come at the cost of the rights of Afghan women, who have gained so much in recent years.

President Joe Biden’s announcement that he will withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by September, however, could challenge our efforts — especially if American troops leave before a long-term political solution is achieved. After years of conflict, we and other representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban are finally at the negotiating table in Doha, Qatar, where we are hammering out the details of what could become a durable peace deal. But if the Taliban does not believe the United States is firmly committed to a stable and democratic Afghanistan, that could spell trouble for our future talks.

Since the United States went to war with the Taliban, we have been able to make unprecedented progress toward democracy and human rights, all while improving the quality of life for Afghan women. Over the last two decades, the risk that an Afghan woman will die in childbirth has plummeted, while the life expectancy of an average Afghan woman has increased by almost 10 years. Meanwhile, the percentage of Afghan girls who attend secondary school has grown more than sixfold….

These are not simply humanitarian imperatives: Women contribute to Afghanistan’s stability. If they are unsafe or excluded, the country as a whole will be worse off, deepening the toll of a conflict in which thousands of Afghan and American troops have fought and died side by side — a sacrifice that women will never forget as we strive to create a better future for our children….

We press on because we know that an inclusive Afghanistan is the only path to a lasting, just peace and end to the war. We are not alone: Women of all walks of life do not want to return to an era in which their fundamental rights counted for nothing.
The Islamic Republic and the Taliban should engage meaningfully at the negotiating table, since there is no going back. For the Afghan people and the Afghan women, the only way is forward. And if Biden truly wants to play a role in brokering a genuine and enduring peace in Afghanistan, then we ask that he find a meaningful way to support peace through international diplomacy, even after American troops are gone.