Recent events related to the U.S. and allied forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan have been major news in recent weeks, but it can be tricky to follow along with all of the details. STAND has compiled answers to some key questions to help you better understand the context and add avenues for engagement. These are short answers to very complex questions, so please feel free to connect with STAND for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org). We also encourage you to look to sources who are most directly impacted by the events, such as refugee and diaspora activists and organizations.
The Doha Agreement, or the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan, was signed in February 2020 between the United States and the Taliban to invite a framework that would bring an end to the two-decade U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. The framework outlines: 1) measures to ensure the continued security of the U.S. and its allies, 2) the withdrawal of U.S., allied, and Coalition forces from Afghanistan, 3) a process to put in place a new, inclusive government, and 4) a permanent ceasefire amongst all parties in Afghanistan. The Agreement explicitly called for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces and non-diplomatic civilian personnel over a 14-month period, with the final round of forces departing Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The Doha Agreement was negotiated and signed by the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration negotiated a 6-month extension for troop withdrawal, bringing the final date to have troops removed by September 11, 2021.
Why do so many Afghans want to leave Afghanistan?
As the U.S. and allied forces stepped away, the Taliban made many initial gains in territory which further increased their access to roads, a critical source of control in Afghanistan, as well as minerals, other natural resources, guns, and other combat supplies that supported their war effort. As fighting intensified in areas outside the capital, many people fled their homes and either left Afghanistan or stayed in makeshift camps in Kabul that were still under the Afghan government’s control. The Taliban signaled that they were not interested in continuing to uphold their part of the Doha Agreement with their rapid, forceful takeover of Afghanistan and the capital. Instead, they sought a purely military solution to the conflict.
While the Taliban’s formal position was that amnesty would be granted to members of the Afghan government, that citizens would not be harmed, and human rights would be respected, members of the Afghan government fled, fearing retaliatory attacks. Many other Afghans continued to attempt to flee, believing that their human rights and women’s rights would not be respected, and that mass atrocities might occur. While flights have resumed, it is difficult to get to the airport in Afghanistan as the Taliban controls the only road that leads to the airport. The Taliban have checkpoints along the whole road, and there are reports of the Taliban ripping up people’s documents to stop them from leaving the country, as well as reports of killings targeting certain ethnic groups. The decision to leave is not just about fearing attacks and human rights violations, but also financial ability and the ability to travel.
Who are the Taliban?
The Taliban, formally known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is an Islamic armed insurgent group that became well known under the Soviet Union’s occupation of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Initially popular, they represented Afghan independence in the conflict against the superpower that was the Soviet Union, and also provided consistent justice mechanisms and structure to people’s lives in times of conflict. They overtook Afghanistan militarily and ruled from 1996 to 2001, when an international coalition of countries led by the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government, who had protected and given shelter to Osama bin Laden, the coordinator of the September 11 attacks. The Taliban is not recognized as a state by the U.S. or by the broad international community. It is also not a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), although there have been an embargo and sanctions on individuals who sell arms to the Taliban since 2011, enforced by the United Nations Security Council.
Afghanistan has more than 14 ethnic groups, one of the largest being Pashtun, with communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban are pro-Pashtun and do not single-handedly reflect the diversity of Afghan society. The Taliban are organized through committees which manage all aspects of life, like education and other social services, media, and culture. Under Taliban rule from 1979 to 1989, women’s rights were not upheld.
How can I take action to address the situation?
1. Conscious Consumption
The Taliban make money through the illicit global economy, and some goods and services, including timber, minerals, and methamphetamine get exported to the U.S. Consumers can divest from products that may have come from the Taliban. Learn more about Conscious Consumption.
2. Call Congress
Call your representative and ask them to support:
- Increasing the number of Afghan refugees admitted to the U.S.
- Improving visa processing capacity and expedited processing
- Declining to formally recognize the Taliban as a government
- Continuing financial sanctions
- Providing humanitarian aid and support to local aid organizations
If your representative supports the above measures, thank them!
3. Keep up to date
STAND will be following any policy changes closely and will add more actions as opportunities arise. Join our mailing list, and follow our social profiles @standnow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you haven’t already!
Where can I find more resources?
- Follow orgs like @WomenforWomen, @WAWHumanRights, and @RESCUEorg
- Resources to Help Afghan Refugees
- Washington Post: Afghan refugees: How to help people fleeing the Taliban
- STAND: Conscious Consumption Toolkit
- Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect: Afghanistan
- Washington Post: What is the Taliban?
- Vox: The history of Afghanistan and US ties, from the Cold War to 9/11
- Vahe Mirikian and Shannon Paige: Recognize, fund and support Afghan peacebuilders now
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