The "Kabul Process" peace talks opened in Afghanistan's capital this week, drawing representatives from 20 countries and international organizations—but none from the Taliban or other insurgent groups. President Ashraf Ghani's own foreign minister apparently even boycotted the gathering as a farce. Meanwhile, anti-government protesters continued to defy orders to leave camps they had set up in the city, demanding that top security officials step down for failing to stop relentless attacks. Despite extreme security measures, at least one rocket was fired into the Green Zone near where the meeting was being held. As the meeting opened, Ghani admitted that over 150 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in the truck bombing outside the German Embassy last week, making it possibly the deadliest such attack since the US-led invasion in 2001. And heavy fighting was reported in the countryside, clashes between the army and Taliban leaving high numbers dead in Kunduz province. (Khaama Press, Khaama Press, June 11; NYT, June 6)
Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch found another deficiency in the talks: the near-complete absence of women. She notes that the "family photo" of the meeting participants, 47 Afghan and foreign dignitaries, included only two Afghan women.
In previous talks, Afghan women have sometimes been totally absent, sometimes been relegated to note-taking roles, and have never appeared in numbers sufficient to transcend tokenism. A long-promised plan by the Afghan government to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women’s equal participation in issues surrounding peace and security, has been beset by delays and apathy.
Research shows that full participation by women in peace negotiations increases the chances of a deal being reached and it being successful—making the extreme gender imbalance at the Kabul talks not only a betrayal of Afghanistan's women, but of any realistic hopes for peace.