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Prominent U.S. Lawmaker Calls For Continued Support To Afghan Women

Women waiting for food aid in Herat, western Afghanistan.
Women waiting for food aid in Herat, western Afghanistan.

U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore (Democrat-Wisconsin), a member of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, says Washington and allies should continue funding for the most vulnerable segments of Afghan society.

RFE/RL: Afghan women fear their progress might be reversed with the departure from the country of U.S. and Western forces. How concerned are you?

Moore: One of the things that was really eye-opening to me when I spoke with Afghan women was just the absolute number of widows and orphans that we had left behind and people who weren’t necessarily able to support themselves because of the tremendous death toll this war has caused. I think it is extremely important for the United States and some of its allies to make sure there are resources to compensate especially those women and children for the tremendous loss they have endured. I think that is a really pressing issue.

RFE/RL: American troops have lost thousands of lives in Afghanistan. Don't you think they are still leaving the work halfway done?

Moore: Well, I am really glad there is an observation in Afghanistan that there have been sacrifices on both sides. I can tell you that Americans are fatigued; they are tired not only by treasure that has been lost, not only the money, but American lives that have been lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, quite frankly. I belong with a group within the United States Congress which is called the House Democracy Partnership, and we tried hard to work closely with those legal institutions, those parliamentary institutions to help buoy the parliamentary democracy to succeed. I am very proud of Afghanistan for the level of women that are part of their parliament, and I think that is going to advance because of rebuilding to a great extent the gender equality and gender balance.

Gwen Moore
Gwen Moore

​I do think that if there is an absence of ground troops, an absence of warriors, it is extremely important to continue training missions in Afghanistan, to try to help build the forces within Afghanistan but also to provide financial resources to rebuild those institutions and to provide the Afghan people some traction for fight off ISIS. One of the problems that we have found and we need the Afghani people to help solve is there has got to be some political reconciliation among the various groups and tribes within Afghanistan. I don’t think the United States can do anything about that, about the dispersion of views that cohesiveness is going to have to come within. Whatever we can do to help build those institutions, I think that is the next step.

RFE/RL: How important is it to include women’s voices in the peace talks or the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan?

Moore: It would be a huge mistake on the part of Afghanistan if they were to leave women out. What our experience has been in the United States, and there is by no means gender balance and gender parity in our Congress, so I am not saying that we are models and examples of gender equality, but one of the things we have found is that women are the canary in the coal mine and that when women don’t do well in a country, it presents security issues for that country. The breeding ground for violence is when women are not respected, not listened to and not regarded. What we have found is that when we provide resources and money to women, women in fact use those resources to rebuild the family, schools, educational opportunities, versus when we provide those resources to men it will be a huge mistake for women to not be at the table. We have a saying that if you are not at the table, then that means you are on the menu.

RFE/RL: Are there any major aid projects for empowering Afghan women being discussed in the Congress?

Moore: The debates now are with regard to whether or not and when we are to withdraw our military forces from Afghanistan. But I think that simultaneously we ought to be talking about an exit strategy that leaves behind the resources to make sure humanitarian needs are being met. I say the priority would be on the women and orphans that we have left in Afghanistan. I would pledge personally to be a part of that initiative. I do understand the importance. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell once said that if you break it, you own it. I think the extent to which Afghanistan has been just broken, it is really important for us to maintain a humanitarian engagement.