Afghanistan's "peace deal" has been blown up. The government has resumed fighting the Taliban after a horrifying attack by gunmen on a maternity ward run by Doctors Without Borders in Kabul. Mothers and nurses were the main victims in the first attack, with 16 killed. Two of the dead were newborns.
Although the Taliban denied being responsible for the attack, Afghanistan's national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated on Twitter that "their attacks this spring against Afghans are comparable to the level of fighting in past fighting seasons ...This is not peace, nor its beginnings", and that there is "little point in continuing to engage Taliban in 'peace talks.' "
Whoever is responsible for the brutal massacre at the maternity ward, Afghanistan is nowhere near a peaceful settlement.This attack has left even me, a longtime analyst of Afghan women's rights, stunned. I honestly thought I could not be shocked about this country anymore.
Bizarrely, this brutal attack on women and newborn babies mimics a recent episode of Showtime's prescient "Homeland", which "predicted" the demise of peace talks with the Taliban, but it mainly proves that not only was the messy "peace deal" reached in February between the US and the Taliban a joke to begin with (it kicked off an increase in attacks on Afghan soldiers and police instead) but a dangerous gamble -- especially for Afghan women's rights.
It's no secret that America and Americans have serious war fatigue and want US troops home, but these talks took place in Doha, Qatar, with no women present, even though it was the plight of Afghan women that the US government has long exploited to win the public relations and optics battle for the war.
"The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women", then First Lady Laura Bush said after the 2001 US invasion. She said that, thanks to US intervention, (Afghan) women were "no longer imprisoned in their homes".
Yet, today here we are, almost two decades later, with Afghan women and their babies being slaughtered. If they're not safe in maternity wards, how safe are they in their homes, or anywhere in the country?
In a statement Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the hospital attack as "an act of sheer evil" and urged both sides to find a solution.
"The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice", the statement read. "As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism".
What Pompeo is conveniently overlooking is that yes, while without violence being scaled down there can be no peace, without women's rights there can never be democracy -- in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.
"Women's rights" was something that the United States once stipulated was non-negotiable for Afghanistan, but today we are expecting the very terrorists we once wanted to "save" Afghanistan from to deliver her peace.
Anushay Hossain is a journalist and political analyst based in Washington. The views expressed are her own.