Center for A New American Security (CNAS) published a report earlier in March on how the United States can support human rights, especially women and girls in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Lisa Curtis, a senior fellow and director of the Indo-pacific Security program at Center for A New American Security (CNAS), and her colleagues Annie Pforzheimer and Jan Mohammad Jahid were involved in Afghanistan talks with Taliban in Doha.
Ms Pforzheimer was the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Afghanistan and deputy chief of mission in Kabul from 2017–2019. They published a 26-page report earlier in March, “Against All Odds Supporting Civil Society and Human Rights in Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan.”
The report discussed several relevant topics in Afghanistan, including the rapid decline of human rights in Afghanistan, human rights violations since the Taliban takeover of the country, U.S. policy debate on engagement with the Taliban, critical international and regional players, the increasingly important role of the Afghan diaspora, exile and civil society and finally outlined certain specific and practical recommendations on how to support human rights, women and girls in Afghanistan.
Eighteen months after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the group has intensified its repression of the rights and freedom of all Afghans, particularly women and girls.
The current suppressing policy to govern the country will promote extremism, paving the way for harbouring terrorists and threatening global peace and security in the coming years.
It is also worth mentioning that Taliban 2.0 follows the same extremist policies as Taliban 1.0. For instance, the abolition of democratic institutions, Parliament, judiciary, free press, key government ministries and departments charged with protecting human rights demonstrated that the Taliban follows the same extremist policies of the first period from 1996 to 2001, the report said.
Among them, disrespecting women’s and girls’ rights devastates the country’s economic and social development.
The United States will have the greatest chance of impacting human rights inside Afghanistan if it works closely with European players committed to protecting Afghan women and preserving civil society gains.
The report outlined some meaningful and practical recommendations for the U.S. and its allies to deal with the current situation in Afghanistan.
1. U.S. limits its engagement with Taliban leadership and backs the U.N. travel ban on Taliban leaders.
2. Empower former Afghan diplomats and reopen the Afghanistan embassy in Washington to support the Afghan diaspora and exiled communities, including political opposition. The U.S. should authorize the Afghan fund to support the reopening of the Afghanistan embassy in Washington and pay for new passport books for this mission and Afghan diplomatic missions worldwide, as many critical Afghan diplomatic missions worldwide remained open and staffed by members of the previous government. This will put pressure on the Taliban, which still craves international recognition.
3. Support opening an office for the Afghan political opposition in a country near Afghanistan.
Washington should back the establishment of a political office for the Afghan opposition in a third country near Afghanistan, which could serve as the central location for the groups’ activities and engagement with the Taliban and the international community. Several political opposition members already engage individually with Taliban leaders; however, establishing a formal opposition office would give more weight to those discussions and facilitate a negotiation process among Afghans.
4. Maintain U.S. Treasury sanctions on individuals involved in terrorism, resist Taliban demands to lift the sanctions merely because these leaders now hold positions of power, and add new human rights–related sanctions, including the torture and killing of protesters, journalists, and former government officials.
5. Formally and publicly abrogate the Doha Agreement, which most Afghans view as favouring and legitimizing the Taliban and which the Taliban has violated.
Most Afghans view the Doha Agreement as a U.S. withdrawal agreement that favoured the Taliban and provided it legitimacy. Moreover, the deal has neither led to a peace process among Afghans nor the Taliban breaking ties with terrorists, which was underscored by the July 31, 2022, killing of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul at home associated with Taliban acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani.
6. Support human rights and civil society activists inside Afghanistan. The United States should support the creation of a commission of inquiry, which is a robust mechanism for documenting human rights abuses.
7. Increase funding for U.N. efforts in Afghanistan that promote human rights.
8. Offer alternative forms of education for girls until the Taliban allows them to attend school.
9. Press regional countries to use their influence with the Taliban to address human rights issues, noting that the Taliban’s repression and backward policies will lead to instability and regional insecurity. Iran, Russia, China, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Central Asian states have varying degrees of influence on Taliban leaders but have so far not prioritized the issue of human rights in their interactions with and policies toward the Taliban.
These countries regard the treatment of women and civil society as “internal matters,” which ignores the apparent risk of state failure and burgeoning instability.
Recommendations for Afghan diaspora, exile, opposition and civil society
The opposition and Afghan diaspora must have a unified statement of purpose and a process for agreeing on goals to successfully lobby foreign governments and the Afghan population on its agenda and vision for the future of Afghanistan.
Having a common position and a clear roadmap for a path forward between the opposition and diaspora will avoid competing among them to distribute resources; it nullifies existing concerns of foreign supporters.