In the rush to end its longest war, the US is ignoring the rights of Afghan women

Rashmee Roshan Lall
4 min readMar 12, 2019

In the years since the ousting of the Taliban, significant freedoms have been won. They must not be put at risk

Artists paint a mural on barrier wall at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to mark International Women’s Day in Kabul, Afghanistan. AP/Rahmat Gul

In an effort to end its longest war, the United States is actively suing for peace in Afghanistan. However, this process has thrown up urgent questions about what any deal it might make could mean for Afghan women.

Consider where things stand. Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, has been talking to the Taliban for the past few months. The latest round of talks started in Doha on February 25. All along, the Afghan government and president Ashraf Ghani, whom the Taliban regard as illegitimate puppets of the US, have been marginalised. No Afghan women are at the negotiating table. In effect, the US seems to be acquiescing to the Taliban’s open contempt for existing Afghan institutions, not least the elected government and the constitution, which guarantees women’s rights.

Some six weeks ago, a “framework” for a deal between the Americans and the Taliban was announced and Mr Khalilzad separately indicated hopes for an agreement before Afghan voters go to the polls in July.

The discussions appear to have centred on two areas — the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Taliban’s commitment that Afghan territory would never again be used by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. The Taliban themselves, in a statement released on March 8, described the current negotiations as limited to “the withdrawal of all occupying forces from Afghanistan and not allowing Afghanistan to harm others.”

There has been no mention — both in US or Taliban accounts — of anything to do with the rights of Afghan women. This is extraordinary for three reasons. The Taliban’s treatment of women while in power was appalling; the US has spent much of the past 18 years of the Afghan campaign railing against it and Afghan women may be at risk if the Taliban regain control on their own terms.

It was the Taliban’s five-year rule from 1996 that drastically changed the lives of Afghan women. They were barred from attending school, from working, leaving the house…

Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London