Aug 16, 2022
‘Entire Generation Of Girls Had Future Instantly Taken Away’: Expert On Afghanistan Under Taliban Transcript
The Taliban has imposed severe restrictions within the country–particularly on women. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:02)
All right, it was just one year ago today, August 15th, 2021, Kabul fell to the Taliban after 20 years of democracy and freedom for the Afghan people. Now in the years since, the Taliban has imposed severe restrictions within the country, particularly on women. NBC’s Kelly Colby took a deep dive into what’s happened over the past year.
Speaker 2: (00:24)
A defiant and dangerous protest by women in Kabul, beaten by Taliban fighters for gathering in the street, chanting, “Bread, work and freedom.” A year ago today, thousands desperately trying to escape is the Taliban encircled the capital, fighting to get on the last flights out of the country, handing over their children, many terrified they would be hunted down for working with the US. Kabul fell in hours with almost no resistance, the country’s former president fleeing in a helicopter.
Speaker 3: (00:59)
And the reason I left was because I did not want to give the Taliban and their supporters the pleasure of yet again humiliating an Afghan president.
Speaker 2: (01:11)
The new rulers promised to be more moderate than the Taliban of the 1990s and vowed to not harbor Al-Qaeda or others planning to attack the west. After the US drone strike that killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this month in Kabul, the Taliban insisted they didn’t know he was living in the capital. The White House claiming in a newly declassified intelligence report that al-Zawahiri was the only key Al-Qaeda figure trying to reestablish himself in Afghanistan, adding that the terror group does not have a capability to launch attacks against the US or its interests abroad from that country.
Speaker 2: (01:50)
Drought and sanctions have destroyed Afghanistan’s economy. More than a million children are at risk of severe malnutrition, as we saw firsthand back in January. Today, women’s freedoms have all but disappeared. Morality police make sure they’re covered and traveling with a male escort. Girls older than 11 can’t go to school. Yet, some women and girls so determined to learn are studying in secret, a network of underground schools reportedly springing up across the country.
Speaker 1: (02:22)
All right, joining me now is Nayyera Haq. She’s a former senior state department advisor and former House senior director under President Obama. Nayyera, thanks so much for being here. Watching that package, and I’ve been reading about the anniversary all weekend and what the women, women and children, are facing, and really everybody, but I’m just, I guess, partial to women and children and what they’re going through. Tell me, what do you think their future holds after we’ve seen what the past year has done to them?
Speaker 4: (02:51)
Well, we should be partial to what women and children are experiencing because they bear the brunt of the war, and they are often the ones who have to deal with the day to day realities of not having access to water or food or education. We saw many women throughout the 20 year war being widowed, not having the men in their lives to help support them, having to take on that role as well. Despite the fact that the Taliban around them were discouraging them from advancing themselves, we also saw that women were advancing in society. We had girls attending college. If you were born on 911, you were an 18/19 year old. By the time the United States was drawing down from Afghanistan. You have an entire generation of girls who became women who had hope for a future that was instantly taken away from them when the United States left.
Speaker 1: (03:43)
Which is so devastating to see. And I really don’t understand it because Afghanistan is experiencing a terrible economy right now. And depriving girls of secondary education UNICEF is reporting translates to a loss of at least 500 million us dollars for the Afghan economy in the last 12 months. And if the cohort of 3 million girls were able to complete their secondary education and participate in the job market, they would contribute at least 5.4 billion to Afghanistan’s economy. Why are they shooting themselves in the foot? For lack of a better expression.
Speaker 4: (04:19)
Well, the Taliban’s not actually really interested in advancing the interest of the Afghan people, let alone advancing Afghan society and women and children. They’re interested in power and imposing a very rigid interpretation of theology. It’s actually the same Taliban that existed 20 years ago, the same Taliban that harbored Al-Qaeda back in the day. They are now back in power, but they’ve realized over the course of 20 years how to better use technology and how to message themselves better.
Speaker 4: (04:48)
So on the surface, they’ll say, “Yes, of course, we’ll try to help and protect the gains that have been made for women,” and they’ll say that simply to keep international monitors off of their back, simply to get access to money that they can then use as a griff to support their power. They have not changed. The Afghan people know they have not changed, but what we’re seeing in a lot of rural communities is that Afghan villagers, Afghan people were willing to accept Taliban rules simply to have security and peace. So we’re seeing the trade off being made of it having security instead of having human rights, and that’s a choice that no one should ever have to make.
Speaker 1: (05:29)
Yeah. I began my career in journalism around this time and it was very disconcerting to see people immediately take down signs and immediately adhere to the Taliban wishes. And again, I don’t think that was necessary ideology, but a movement out of fear. It was something that even they knew, perhaps democracy was only temporary for them, which is a sad sight to see.
Speaker 1: (05:49)
I do want to ask you about this report that’s coming out from the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Republicans, where they are tiding Biden for the evacuation. They said it was a failure to adequately plan and execute the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Republicans are alleging that President Biden misled the public about the consequences of a withdrawal. Listen, to be fair here, I do remember watching, when this news first came about, and it was really challenging to watch in the few days, but then when they executed the withdrawal of thousands, tens of thousands of people, it was quite a sight to see. Is there any credibility or truth to what the Republicans are suggesting here in this report?
Speaker 4: (06:32)
Oh, there are several administrations worth of fault to be found here, and we can start more recently actually with the Trump administration, that despite years of efforts to negotiate and create a peace deal with the Taliban, something I was involved with in the Obama administration, Trump decided that he was going to cut a deal directly with the Taliban insurgents and cut out the Afghan government entirely, so immediately undercutting any hope of having a sustainable democracy and showing the Afghan people that the United States was only interested in leaving.
Speaker 4: (07:04)
In addition to that, President Trump also undermined and diminished the capacity of the United States to process visas to evacuate refugees from all over the world. So suddenly you have President Biden now having to execute a date of withdrawal that Trump picked with minimal resources to actually make any of that happen. And this despite the fact that as vice president, he was one of the lone voices that wanted the withdrawal. He was against surges.
Speaker 1: (07:32)
Speaker 4: (07:32)
He has a long record of saying he wanted to draw this war down, but it was not ideal in any way, shape or form, and a big part of that was because of the 19 years of what he inherited.
Speaker 1: (07:43)
Yeah. And look, this is not Afghanistan, and women here in America are certainly not living the terrors of the women in Afghanistan, but it’s just striking to me that the Republicans are focused on this as they actively oppress women’s rights here in our own country. But I do have to shift gears because we’re running out of time, Nayyera, and I do want to ask you the latest on Brittney Griner. Her lawyers are appealing her conviction. Walk us through that. What does that mean for her? Is this helpful or harmful to her case? And does it delay or expedite her coming home?
Speaker 4: (08:13)
Yeah. Her agreeing to plead guilty, her making a statement of apology for violating Russian law does not actually mean in this case that she did those things. It’s a tactical decision to plead guilty, to get leniency from the Russian court and to set up the situation where the Russian government and the United States government can negotiate a prisoner swap. That is the harsh reality she is facing right now. Already she has served more time for a minimal drug charge than anybody else has ever had to serve for the same drug charge in Russia, so she’s a political prisoner. She will be used by both governments to negotiate some kind of deal to exchange people. Hopefully it’ll be Brittney Griner as well as Paul Whelan, who is still in custody in Russia.
Speaker 1: (08:59)
Yeah. Paul Whelan. Can’t forget about him either. Thank you so much, Nayyera Haq, for always delivering such important context. Thank you for joining.