Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last week could potentially lead to cuts in funding for essential services for Afghan women and girls.
The bipartisan Protect Women's and Girls' Rights in Afghanistan Act would require the U.S. secretary of state to report twice yearly to Congress on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.
The proposed legislation would continue U.S. support to "preserve the rights" of Afghan women, but warns that the United States will "refuse to provide economic aid to an Afghan government" that violates these rights.
The bill comes amid the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. and international forces from Afghanistan by September 11.
It also follows a November 2020 joint statement by the United States and Afghanistan's other main donors that laid out the "key elements" that would be taken into account when considering whether to continue their current development and budgetary support to the country. These elements included respect for women's rights.
"Efforts to hold this and any future Afghan government to account are vital," HRW said in a statement.
But it also said that "donors should consider how they can respond to government abuses without harming women and girls by cutting essential services."
Falling international donor support to Afghanistan has already reduced women's access to essential health care and "could imperil" girls' access to education, the group said.
"Defunding the government should not mean defunding services. Nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan have proved they can deliver vital services despite the country's escalating insecurity, so long as they have sufficient resources," according to HRW.
In 2013, member countries of the OECD Development Assistance Committee contributed $141 million to health and population assistance in Afghanistan, HRW noted in a recent report, adding that by 2019 the figure had dropped by more than one-quarter to $105 million.
And with more than 75 percent of its budget coming from international donors, the Afghan government has little ability to move toward self-sufficiency in the short term.