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War, Withdrawal & The Women

Dark clouds of danger gather in Afghanistan, with the US planning to withdraw its troops from the war-ravaged South Asian Nation. According to a recent US Intelligence Report, the way the Government of Afghanistan has worked to ensure Women’s Rights in the country over the past few years would not last, if the Taliban returns to power…

In its two-page report, the US National Intelligence Council stated: “Taliban’s views on Women’s Rights have not changed since their time in power between 1996 and the US military’s 2001 intervention. The withdrawal of US and international forces from Afghanistan, which is set to be completed by September 2021, has raised fears that return of Taliban Rule would risk undoing the gains made in Women’s Rights.” It may be noted that in Afghanistan, girls were deprived of education from 1996 to 2001. They were also not allowed to visit public places. The report added that the top Taliban leadership might change its position on Women’s Rights, initially, in the hope of receiving foreign relief and global recognition. However, they would return to their previous position, if they stayed in power for a few days.

The Afghan women

Former US President Donald Trump had signed a peace accord, titled ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’, with the Taliban leadership in Doha on February 29, 2020. It was mentioned in the agreement that the number of US troops in the South Asian Nation would be reduced from 13,000 to 8,600 by July 2020. The Trump Administration had also assured the Taliban that the last US troop would leave Afghanistan by April 2021.

On April 13, 2021, current President Joe Biden announced that the 2,500 US troops, still in Afghanistan, would be withdrawn by September 11 this year (on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11). However, violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year, especially since May 1, when the US forces handed over the control of a military base in Helmand Province to the Afghan authorities. Fighting in the first quarter of 2021 saw 573 Afghan civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29% increase from the previous year, according to the UN.

US Forces in Afghanistan

President Biden has said that the US withdrawal would not be “conditions-based”, meaning the pull-out is meant to continue regardless of developments on the ground. The US withdrawal comes amid wider concerns the Afghan forces are ill-equipped to continue the fight against the Taliban group, which was removed from power after foreign forces invaded nearly 20 years ago, but still controls large swaths of the country.

While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has stressed that his Government is “ready” to continue the fight following the withdrawal, at least one top US military official has questioned whether Afghan forces will be able to hold the territory they currently control. In April, General Kenneth Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command that directs forces in Afghanistan, voiced “concern” about Afghan Forces no longer having boots-on-the-ground assistance from foreign forces, including for intelligence, firepower, and aircraft support. Kirby has noted that the Pentagon was “well aware” of the risks many Afghans who worked for the US and coalition forces face as the Taliban grows in power and threatens to seize control in Kabul. He insisted that US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is in talks with other officials “about how we meet our obligations to them”.

Taliban

Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar discussed the current Political and Security Situation in Afghanistan with High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell Fontelles on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit in London in the first week of May.

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