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Bush Institute Report Details Perils of a Rash Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Report demonstrates fragile, hard-fought gains at risk, especially for Afghan women and girls

September 16, 2019
Students at the American University in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of American University in Afghanistan.

Dallas, Texas (September 16, 2019) – Today, the George W. Bush Institute released What’s at Stake in Afghanistan, a policy paper asserting the need for continued U.S. engagement and support and detailing the fragile yet meaningful gains Afghan people have made since the start of the post-Taliban era.

What’s at Stake in Afghanistan, written by Bush Institute senior program managers Farhat Popal and Christopher Walsh, makes the case that continued investment in Afghanistan is the right thing to do morally and for reasons of national security.

Under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women and girls were isolated and marginalized. Citizens fell into poverty and despair. The Taliban imposed a dogmatic government relegating women and girls to second-class citizenship.

Since the Taliban’s fall, Afghan women and girls have made substantial progress in the areas of education, health care, economic inclusion, and civic and social life, and the country has experienced economic growth—gross domestic product per capita has tripled since 2001. These advances are at stake if the U.S. withdraws support before conditions on the ground merit.

Additionally, Afghan defense forces require further training to provide security for their people, without which the country would be vulnerable to a return to dictatorship, leaving women and girls exposed to brutality and making Afghanistan a potential haven for terrorist organizations plotting against the United States.

“Today in Kabul, young girls walk to school in their uniforms; women go to work as teachers, civil servants, and health workers; and Afghans watch women broadcasters on the evening news and listen to their voices on the radio,” said Farhat Popal. “This is what is at risk.”

“Afghan women have said they will not go back to the way things were, and we must stand by them,” said Chris Walsh. “A country that excludes half its population cannot succeed.”

This work is part of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, which promotes education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for women around the world, and builds on President and Mrs. Bush’s commitment to women’s inclusion and leadership in Afghanistan.