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Afghanistan Study Group Testifies Before Congress; Voices Strong Support for Afghan Women

Afghanistan Study Group Testifies Before Congress; Voices Strong Support for Afghan Women, Serious Concerns about Corruption and Accountability in the Afghan Government

On Friday, February 19, 2021, the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Subcommittee on National Security, held a hearing to discuss the final report published earlier this month by the Afghanistan Study Group (ASG). The Subcommittee heard testimony from the three co-chairs of the Afghanistan Study Group: former Senator Kelly A. Ayotte, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and Nancy Lindborg.

The ASG final report recommends the Biden Administration take this unique opportunity at peace to focus the U.S. diplomatic and military missions in Afghanistan on the pursuit of a sustainable peace agreement that protects U.S. national security interests and the will of the Afghan people. The comprehensive report highlights several critical issues including, the significant rise in Taliban violence and targeted assassinations, the need to support democratic institutions and elections, the need to preserve the gains of women, minorities, and civil society, the need to delay an immediate troop withdrawal in favor of a conditions-based withdrawal, and the need for accountability from both the Taliban and the Afghan government throughout the peace process.

Several members of Congress, including Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, voiced strong support for Afghan women, civil society, and the need to preserve the significant gains by both groups. The ASG co-chairs discussed the crucial role of civil society and the democratic gains made in the last 20 years. They also noted that facilitating a sustainable and inclusive peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that supports the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, is essential to U.S. national security interests. “We highlighted the issue of women’s rights and values in a future Afghanistan consistent with the Constitution for two reasons. And it wasn’t just because it was the right thing to do, we actually assessed that stability and security cannot be achieved unless we have a future Afghanistan consistent with the values in the Constitution and unless women’s rights are respected,” General Dunford stated.

Acknowledging there is no military solution to end the war with the Taliban, the ASG co-chairs emphasized that reaching a long-lasting political settlement requires conditionality on all sides. “Conditionality includes the reduction of violence by the Taliban and a demonstrated ability by the Taliban to contain terror groups in Afghanistan. And by the Afghan government to deal with corruption and to accept that the Taliban will have some role in the future of Afghanistan. Sustainable peace will not be possible without an inclusive government, ” Ayotte declared.

The co-chairs also maintained that supporting the Afghan government doesn't mean ignoring or downplaying its corruption and ineffectiveness. Several members of Congress on the Subcommittee asked witnesses about the ongoing corruption in the Afghan government and the continuation of aid. The witnesses testified that aid should be targeted, focused, and in certain areas even withheld if the Afghan government doesn’t take certain actions. “We are not recommending a blank check to the Afghan government. The report is clear of ensuring that not just the Taliban but also the government of Afghanistan is held accountable for immediate conditions. The government must engage seriously in the peace negotiations as well as exercise greater responsibility improving corruption. The continued corruption and lack of access to justice for too many of their citizens consistently results in widespread grievances that are easily exploitable by the Taliban,” Lindborg said.

The Afghanistan Study Group was created by Congress in December 2019 to “consider the implications of a peace settlement, or the failure to reach a settlement, on U.S. policy, resources, and commitments in Afghanistan.”

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