Seven American women from various organizations visited Kabul last week, despite warning US citizens against allowing US citizens to travel to Afghanistan due to “civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, terrorism, kidnapping and COVID-19”.
The group, including a women-led grassroots organization called Code Pink, spent a week in meetings with Taliban officials, locals and women’s rights activists. He said he returned home “disappointed”.
“Objective [of the trip] It was originally meant to celebrate the opening of girls’ schools,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who was with the group, said in a phone interview from her home in San Francisco.
But two days before the trip to Afghanistan, the group was informed that the Taliban had unexpectedly extended their ban on secondary schools for girls, contrary to earlier assurances.
“We debated whether we should still go and decided it was important for girls to show their support and do everything we could to persuade the Taliban, which was a very bad decision,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin said Taliban officials told the group during the visit that the school ban was temporary.
“There was so much heartbreak between the young women that we met,” Benjamin said. “They told us how their hopes and dreams had been dashed, and how disappointed they were that they weren’t able to connect with their brothers, and how important education was to them.”
The school ban has drawn universal condemnation, with Islamic scholars inside and outside Afghanistan calling on Taliban leaders to reopen schools for girls.
Aid agencies say Afghanistan is battling widespread hunger affecting about 94% of its estimated 36 million people.
During their weeklong visit, the women witnessed poverty on the streets of Kabul.
“We saw signs of severe economic distress from malnourished children and very needy people at food distribution sites. …we saw women waiting in bread lines for bread and signs of economic distress everywhere,” said Kelly Campbell, co-founder of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrow.
To avert the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the United Nations has called for $4.4 billion in aid for 2022. But donors have pledged only $2.4 billion.
While the United States has been the largest humanitarian donor to Afghanistan, with a commitment of $512 million to the UN appeal, the women said the US could and should do more to ease Afghan suffering.
“America spent $300 million a day for 20 years on war and occupation, and yet never spent the equivalent of two days on humanitarian appeal,” Benjamin said.
The US war in Afghanistan, which lasted nearly two decades, cost more than $2.3 trillion, according to research from the Watson Institute at Brown University.
frozen afghan fund
After the Taliban came to power in August 2021, the US government in New York put a freeze on Afghanistan’s financial reserves of more than $7 billion.
The funds are also sought by a group of 9/11 victim families through a lawsuit filed in New York that blames the Taliban for the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001.
In February, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that split the Afghan fund — $3.5 billion to be released to an Afghan Humanitarian Trust Fund and the other half to be held until the trial is settled.
“These funds do not belong to 9/11 families. They don’t belong to America, they don’t belong to Taliban. They belong to the people of Afghanistan,” said Campbell, who lost a family member in the 9/11 attacks in New York. He said the withholding of funds contributed to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Campbell said his organization has 275 active members, all family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, which strongly opposes a lawsuit filed by another group of 9/11 victims’ families.
“I haven’t spoken to a single member of the 9/11 family who is excited to take money from hungry Afghans,” Campbell said.
Campbell and Benjamin said they would like to visit Afghanistan in the future, but until then they would advocate for better US policies towards the war-torn country.
“I do not think that a failed state in Afghanistan is in the interest of the United States or the world community. We have already seen the results,” Benjamin said.
“We have a lot of interesting information to share with our government,” Campbell said.