Lawmakers are urging Biden to appoint an ambassador to protect Afghan women as US forces leave

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Concerned about the plight of women in Afghanistan once US forces leave, lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to ensure that the United States helps keep women and girls safe in Afghanistan once the last of the US forces leave.

If the Taliban took control of more of the country, women could see their rights restricted or worse. There was actually a 37% increase in the number of dead and injured women in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, According to United Nations data.

Democratic Senators Mazi Hirono, Jane Shaheen and Republican Senator Susan Collins sent a letter to the White House last week requesting the appointment of an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues to coordinate the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Hirono told CBS News in an interview that she and her colleagues have “great concern” about what will happen to Afghan women and expect President Biden to act.

“We won’t just forget it, you know,” said Hirono. “There will be a follow-up if we don’t get some kind of timely response from the White House.”

The new Ambassador-at-Large will work alongside Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation at the State Department, who is the US envoy involved in efforts to secure a peace process for Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, a car bomb explosion outside Sayed Al-Shuhada School killed more than 85 and injured more than 150. Most of the victims were schoolgirls. The car bomb exploded near the school, and then, as the students began to flee, two IEDs detonated.

The senators ’letter said the bombing” illustrates the bleak future that we risk if women’s rights and guarantees are not prioritized. ”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban for the attack, although the Taliban denied responsibility. Khalilzad believes that the car bombing “is likely ISIS,” he said during his recent testimony in Parliament.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the United States “condemns the barbaric attack near a girls’ school in Kabul” and is “intent on ensuring that the gains of the past two decades are not erased.”

It is not a foregone conclusion that once the army withdraws, the Taliban will automatically triumph and overthrow Kabul, ”Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, said at a press conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month. Austin said the United States is committed to continuing to support the Afghan security forces with financial aid and logistical support from outside the country when possible.

Rehana: “There are various scenarios that constantly come to our mind, such as whether the Taliban will take over, the civil war will start, or ISIS will emerge stronger. Each of these scenarios is frightening for Afghan women because they will be the first victims and the biggest losers.” Azad, a member of the Afghan parliament, told CBS News.

Azad said the US condemnation of any violations of women’s rights guarantees would do little to change the facts on the ground once US forces leave.

Zarifa Ghafari, the youngest and only mayor of Afghanistan, has already survived 3 assassination attempts, most likely by the Taliban.

“They started shooting from the back this way, this way, then from the front, they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot,” She told Charlie Dagata from CBS News. “After only twenty days they killed my father.”

A generation of Afghan women has grown up with freedoms that were unavailable when Afghanistan was under Taliban rule, and an unclassified recent report from National Intelligence Council He warns that Taliban control could jeopardize those freedoms.

“The Taliban remains broadly consistent in their restrictive approach to women’s rights and will undo much of the progress that has been made over the past two decades if the group regains national authority.”

Some women in the country are preparing for this possibility.

“Most of the women’s rights activists I know are looking for ways to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible before September,” Azad says. “Some of my colleagues say they will continue their fight to improve the lives of women with or without the United States, but how is that possible if they don’t even have physical security in a dangerous environment?”

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