In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week, senators from across the political spectrum expressed concerns about the security situation in Afghanistan post-U.S. and NATO withdrawal this year. Committee members repeatedly expressed concerns on U.S. counter-terrorism operations, as well the future of human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Habiba Sarabi, Fatima Gailani, Sharifa Zurmati Wardak and Fawzia Koofi are the only women negotiators representing the Afghan state in negotiating peace with the Taliban. They urged a premature U.S. exit would “result in state collapse and collapse of institutions.”
Among Afghan women, there is a sense of frustration, disappointment and fear that a rushed peace process that excludes women will not have a long-term outcome—allowing a Taliban comeback that could roll back the progress made over the last two decades.
Since the signing of the peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban in February of 2020, a new chapter of violence has opened in Afghanistan. The nature of violence has changed from mass suicide attacks to unprecedented levels of targeted killings of media workers, journalists, civil servants, members of civil society, NGO workers, health workers and advocates of human rights.
The Biden administration plans to review and assess the Doha agreement, signed by the Trump administration with the Taliban, Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. Sullivan also ensured the U.S. support “for protecting the extraordinary gains made by Afghan women, girls and minority groups.”
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Antony Blinken promised to protect the hard-won gains of Afghan women and girls if confirmed as secretary of state. He said the Taliban cannot be trusted with U.S. national security, policing Al-Qaeda and ISIS regarding attacking U.S., and that a further withdrawal of U.S. troops will be conditions-based.
Despite several warnings from security experts and allies, including from his own party, Trump is set to further reduce U.S. troops from Afghanistan—from 4,500 to 2,500.
Soon after President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a Tweet on November 9, the President appointed Chris Miller, as acting Defense Secretary and Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor as Miller’s senior advisor. Both are loyal to the President and are strong opponents of maintaining a U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
In an interview, the president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars said that the war in Afghanistan has no Islamic justification. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Raissouni said that the killing of Muslims is a “great sin” and that carrying out suicide attacks against Muslims is “prohibited” in Islam.
With Afghan peace talks ongoing, the Taliban are attempting to use a surge in violence as leverage in the intra-Afghan talks—taking the lives of many Afghan civilians and army personnel.