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Key Issue Could Cost Afghanistan Billions in Aid

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    Posted: 24-Apr-2019 at 4:40pm

International support, considered critical to Afghanistan's ability to govern, will evaporate if rights for women are not secured, inspector general John Sopko says.

THE FATE OF AFGHANISTAN rests on a little-discussed human rights issue that will determine whether the war-torn nation can rebuild itself once a peace agreement is reached, a senior official overseeing reconstruction there said Wednesday.

Key Issue Could Cost Afghanistan Billions in Foreign Aid

International backers, including the U.S., will only continue to pay for rebuilding Afghanistan if a peace agreement includes securing rights for women and girls, John Sopko, the congressionally appointed special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told a small group of reporters Wednesday.

The issue, which senior officials in the Trump administration have signaled is not a top priority, stems from the Taliban's brutal rule prior to 2001 that secured Afghanistan's enduring position as the worst place in the world for women.

"It's almost like the proverbial canary in the coal mine," Sopko said. "If the Taliban/Afghan government wants financial support afterward, they run a serious risk that that financial support from the coalition - from the U.S. - will evaporate if they go back to their evil ways on treating women."

Sopko referenced personal discussions with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as well as with parliamentarians and ambassadors from partner countries like Norway, France and Germany, all of whom will be instrumental in paying for and overseeing reconstruction in Afghanistan. And they will likely withhold those funds if evidence emerges that the Taliban continues mistreating women and small girls there, he said.

Sopko's organization - mandated by Congress to audit international reconstruction efforts and publicly release its findings - highlighted threats to women's rights in a recent report of high-risk problems in Afghanistan. It's next quarterly report to Congress, published next week, will show marked improvements to women's rights in urban centers like Kabul and Jalalabad and the prevalence of tens of thousands of female teachers as well as female judges and police officers who would not have been allowed to perform such work before the U.S. invasion.

Threats, however, are still potent throughout the rest of Afghanistan.

"Go out into the hinterlands. Women are still treated very poorly, and we have to remember that," Sopko said.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the only woman to serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of nine on the Armed Services Committee, asked Pompeo in a congressional hearing last week whether U.S. negotiators had pushed the Afghan government and Taliban delegates to include Afghan women in ongoing peace talks.

"Senator, there are lots of issues that we're working our way through," Pompeo responded. When pressed by the New Hampshire Democrat, he added, "I hope they will make their voices heard."

Source: U.S. News

Edited by AfghanistanNews - 24-Apr-2019 at 4:45pm
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