US Women’s Rights Envoy Boycotts Talks With Taliban, Mocks Muttaqi
July 2, 2022
The agenda item during talks between the U.S. and Taliban in Doha this week was widely expected to be about potentially unfreezing Afghan assets for earthquake recovery efforts. Although that topic was discussed, the State Department said a “central focus” of the dialogue was the Taliban’s restrictions on Afghan women. This emphasis was interesting because the U.S. diplomat in charge of this portfolio was conspicuously missing.
After the talks, Rina Amiri, the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, took to twitter to explain her absence, which gave her an opportunity to question the Taliban government’s legitimacy with a jab at the radical movement’s top diplomat.
“This week, @US4AfghanPeace led an interagency delegation in high-level meetings with the Taliban, including so-called Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. After much deliberation & consultation, I opted not to attend,” Amiri said in a tweet on Friday evening. “I’m ready to engage when the Taliban are prepared to work on concrete steps to restore the rights of Afghans, including women, girls & at-risk populations. The US government stands in solidarity in calling on the Taliban to respect the human rights of all Afghans.”
Amiri said she supports her colleagues engaging the Taliban on issues where there is “traction,” such as economic stabilization and the humanitarian response.
“However, I’m gravely concerned by the Taliban’s actions & current stance on the areas my office oversees & disappointed that robust international engagement to this point hasn’t produced meaningful outcomes,” she added.
Special Envoy Thomas West, who led the U.S. interagency delegation in talks with senior Taliban representatives and technocratic professionals on June 29 and 30 in Doha, made it publicly known that he stood by Amiri.
“I share her deep concern and supported this decision,” West said in his own tweet linking to Amiri’s statement.
One twitter user responding to the post may have hit on something:
“Sounds more like bad cop and good cop,” wrote journalist Akmal Dawi.
According to a State Department readout, West made clear “the critical linkage between progress on protection of Afghans’ rights and steps toward normalizing America’s ties with the Taliban.”
It is important to underscore that the West is not alone in making the Taliban upholding women’s rights a precondition to consideration of formal recognition. Russia and China have similar policies, although both countries are willing to open formal diplomatic channels and host Taliban representatives.
It is fair to wonder, however, if the U.S. could have chosen a better time to press this issue so dramatically as the priority should be providing disaster relief to quake-stricken Afghanistan. Besides, it is hard to believe any such boycotts or rhetoric are going to persuade religious fanatics not to be religious fanatics. As if on cue, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada on Friday slammed the entire world for criticizing the way the radical movement runs Afghanistan and insisted that “sharia law was the only model for a successful Islamic state.”
BILLIONS IN FUNDS STILL FROZEN
Meanwhile, on the ground in the aftermath of the disaster, the Taliban government is reportedly providing only about 10 percent of the relief, with the rest coming from international organizations and a few foreign governments.
Although there is no evidence the Taliban would have been effective in doing it themselves, the reality is that when the radicals seized power the international community froze $9 billion in Afghan state assets, about $7 billion of which is on American soil.
The State Department said during the meeting in Doha the two sides discussed in detail “U.S. actions to preserve $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people as well as steps to build international confidence in the central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank.”
This of course raises the embarrassing question: what happened to the other half of the money?
In February, President Joe Biden ordered that $3.5 billion of the frozen funds from the Afghan central bank be given to families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Those victims being Americans. This is always a good time to point out another glaring fact: not a single Afghan was among the hijackers.
Then again, according to one of the lawyers for the 9/11 Families, the Afghans do not deserve the money.
“The reality is, the Afghan people did not stand up to the Taliban… they bear some responsibility for the condition they’re in,” Andrew Maloney, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler, said shortly after Biden’s order, in an audio clip obtained by The Intercept.
Washington justifying keeping the assets frozen because they want to keep the money out of Taliban hands keeps running into the thorny reality that this is not America’s money. It belongs to the Afghan people. The Taliban may be corrupt and incompetent, but it is hard to believe they could be much worse than the two previous puppet administrations that stole billions of American taxpayer dollars.