May 21, 2024

New CNAS Report Addresses Afghanistan's Current Human Rights and Looming Terrorism Crisis 

Washington, May 21, 2024 — Today, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released a new report, Addressing a Human Rights and Looming Terrorism Crisis in Afghanistan: The Need for Principled International Intervention, by Lisa Curtis and Annie Pforzheimer. The report provides an overview of the escalating human rights crisis and rising terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control in August 2021.

The report examines how the Taliban's resurgence has triggered a series of regressive policies reminiscent of its rule in the 1990s, severely impacting the rights of women and girls. Simultaneously, Afghanistan has become a breeding ground for terrorist activities, including deadly international attacks by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and a deepening alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

In response to these challenges, the authors provide a concrete set of policy recommendations and emphasize the need for a comprehensive approach that prioritizes both human rights and counterterrorism, highlighting the link between the suppression of women’s rights and the rise of extremist ideologies that contribute to terrorism.

“The United States and other like-minded nations should support a robust United Nations (UN) process that promotes an inclusive political dialogue, elevates the role of non-Taliban Afghans, and places the issue of women’s rights at the center of its agenda,” Curtis and Pforzheimer write. “The alternative course of action—accepting the erasure of 50 percent of the population and awarding international legitimacy to a terror-supporting organization—will have enormously negative and dangerous consequences for the world community.”

The report recommends:

  • Strengthening public diplomacy and messaging and coordinating these efforts with like-minded partners;
  • Supporting the work of United Nations (UN) human rights experts by reinforcing the role of the UN special rapporteur for Afghan human rights with an expanded budget and staffing;
  • Encouraging change in the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA’s) bureaucratic structure so that UNAMA staff responsible for human rights report directly to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva;
  • Supporting the UN Credentials Committee in preventing the Taliban from obtaining a seat at the UN;
  • Elevating diplomatic discussions with Afghan opposition leaders and supporting the consolidation of a non-Taliban political force;
  • Insisting on stringent conditions on international assistance to Afghanistan;
  • Reinforcing international counterterrorism norms with additional terrorist designations;
  • Imposing additional human rights sanctions on individual Taliban leaders;
  • Protecting Afghan refugees by leading the international community in urging national authorities in Pakistan and Iran to allow the UN high commissioner for refugees to evaluate and offer protection for the most at-risk Afghan refugees; and
  • Refraining from opening a U.S. mission inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

For more information or to schedule an interview with the report authors, please contact Alexa Whaley at awhaley@cnas.org. 

Indo-Pacific Security

Addressing a Human Rights and Looming Terrorism Crisis in Afghanistan

Executive Summary Pursuing the same harsh policies as it did during its previous stint in power in the 1990s, the Taliban has increasingly clamped down on the rights of women...

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