US intelligence report says withdrawal from Afghanistan will undermine women's rights

US military sent two additional B-52 aircraft to Qatar to aid withdrawal this week

Afghan women pass by a wall with graffiti reading 'Peace' in Herat, Afghanistan. EPA
Afghan women pass by a wall with graffiti reading 'Peace' in Herat, Afghanistan. EPA

A US intelligence report released this week said that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by September will undermine women’s rights and empower the Taliban.

The two-page report released Tuesday by the director of national intelligence states that the progress made in empowering Afghan women over the last two decades is at risk.

“Progress probably owes more to external pressure than domestic support, suggesting it would be at risk after coalition withdrawal, even without Taliban efforts to reverse it,” the report stated.

It added that the Taliban, if it regains the power it lost after 2002, will definitely reverse minimal gains in women's rights.

“The Taliban remains broadly consistent in its restrictive approach to women’s rights and would roll back much of the past two decades’ progress if the group regained national power.”

But US intelligence agencies pointed to the leverage the international community has in preventing such a reversal.

“The Taliban’s desires for foreign aid and legitimacy might marginally moderate its conduct over time,” the report said. “However, in the early days of re-establishing its emirate, the Taliban probably would focus on extending control on its own terms.”

According to the report, roughly 3.5 million of the 9 million pupils enrolled in school in Afghanistan are girls. However, the gap between rural and urban parts of the country remains significant.

Only 17 per cent of girls living in rural areas attend secondary school compared to 45 per cent of their urban peers, and more than 80 per cent of Afghan women over the age of 15 are illiterate, it said.

The warning from US intelligence agencies follows statements by the military, which has pointed to the risk of Al Qaeda's possible return to Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined last week a “worst-case” scenario in Afghanistan following the withdrawal, describing a potential civil war that would allow for the return of Al Qaeda.

But despite these red flags, the Biden administration is carrying on with its plans to end America’s longest war and complete the withdrawal by September 11.

On Monday, the US handed over a military base in southern Afghanistan even as Afghan and Taliban forces clashed in the same area.

The US Air Force announced on Wednesday that more B-52 aircraft have arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to enable the withdrawal.

“The bombers join the four B-52 aircraft that previously arrived to Al Udeid in late April as they protect the orderly and responsible withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan,” the US military said.

Updated: May 5, 2021 10:59 PM

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