As the United States continues to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of war and occupation, the Taliban say they now control most Afghan territory, surrounding major population centers and holding more than two-thirds of Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan. Former President George W. Bush made a rare criticism of U.S. policy, saying, “I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.” But a leading Afghan women’s rights activist says the plight of women in the country has always served as a “very good excuse” for U.S. military goals, while conditions in the country have barely improved. “Unfortunately, they pushed us from the frying pan into the fire as they replaced the barbaric regime of the Taliban with the misogynist warlords,” says Malalai Joya, who in 2005 became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan Parliament. She says the decades of U.S. occupation have accomplished little for the people of Afghanistan. “No nation can donate liberation to another nation,” she says.
AMY GOODMAN: As the United States continues to withdraw most of its forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of war and occupation, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan said Wednesday they had seized a major border crossing with Pakistan as part of a rapid advance across the country. This comes after 22 members of the Afghan elite special forces were reportedly massacred by Taliban forces earlier this week. The commandos had surrendered and were unarmed.
A Taliban delegation in Moscow said Friday the group now controls over 85% of Afghan territory and has surrounded population centers, captured a key Afghan border crossing with Iran and holds more than two-thirds of Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan.
All of this is happening as President Biden said last week the U.S. military will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31st — nearly two weeks ahead of the previous September 11th deadline.
On Wednesday, former Republican President George W. Bush responded with a rare criticism of U.S. policy in Afghanistan during an interview with the German news outlet Deutsche Welle.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm. … I’m sad. And I spend a — Laura and I spend a lot of time with Afghan women, and they’re scared.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Afghanistan to speak to a leading Afghan woman, Malalai Joya. She’s a women’s rights activist and human rights activist who in 2005 became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended for publicly denouncing the presence of warlords and war criminals in the Afghan Parliament. She’s also the author of A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Malalai Joya. Thank you for joining us from Afghanistan. I was wondering if you could respond to President Bush’s criticism of Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly relating it to the condition of women. Have the condition of women improved after the last two decades of U.S. war and occupation there?
MALALAI JOYA: Hello, dear Amy and Nermeen. Thanks for the interview. And hello to all listeners.
As I was saying in the past, as well, and repeating again, that catastrophic situation of the women of Afghanistan was a very good excuse for U.S. and NATO to occupy our country. Unfortunately, they pushed us from the frying pan into the fire as they replaced the barbaric regime of the Taliban with the misogynist warlords, who are — their nature seem like the Taliban. They physically changed, imposed on the destiny of Afghan people. That’s why today millions of Afghans are suffering from insecurity, corruption, joblessness, poverty. And still most of Afghan women are the victim.
No doubt that some project that they had for Afghan women and girls, some schools they built, especially in the big cities, for justification of their occupation, this criminal War in Afghanistan. But still now you see the rape cases, domestic violences, acid attacks, forced marriages, self-immolation, beat women publicly with lashes, stoning to death. This list can be prolonged, that these all women rights violation against women continues.
And it was not enough that now that U.S. and NATO invite the terrorist Taliban in the name of the so-called peace reconciliation to join this nondemocratic regime. It is clear that, again, the women of Afghanistan will be the most victims, as to the men and women of my country do not have liberation at all. And you may also hear just now that they are talking about so-called peace reconciliation with the Taliban, but these Taliban announced their declaration that — they were saying, through their declaration, that when they come in power, the girls 15 years old and the widows below 45 years old, they will force marry their commanders with them. And it is only one example, while we have many other example of their misogynist act against women, that their nature never changed. For example, that two 14- and 16-years-old girls in Samangan province just recently, in front of their mother, two commander raped brutally. And 9-years-old, two babies in Kabul, few months ago, they were raped. And this list can be prolonged, that’s unfortunately situation of the women is a disaster.
And now, from one end, Afghan people are — they are suffering awfully from the COVID-19. But from another end, they are suffering from insecurity, corruption, joblessness, poverty. In fact, in the past 20 years, U.S. and NATO, they doubled the sorrows and miseries of Afghan people. Around 1 million Afghan were killed in the past 20 years. And they even dropped matters of all other bomb in our country, used white phosphorus cluster bomb and polluted our environment. They corrupted our economy. The wave of asylum seekers itself is another strong evidence of the wrong policy of the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan.
And they changed Afghanistan to the center of the drug. There are now tens of thousands of orphans, widows and disabled people we have. And millions of Afghan, over 3 million, that they are giving report officially that they are addicted. This list can be prolonged, that the result of this criminal war of the U.S. and NATO, that in fact the victim was ordinary Afghan people. That’s why always I say that it was better they changed this banner of the so-called war on terror to the war on innocent Afghan people.
And now they proved that the U.S. government has a inseparable bond with their lackeys, like Taliban, not only warlords, as they’re giving them amnesty to these misogynist, bloodthirsty humans and try to bring them in power and sharing power with them and even give the international recognition to these terrorists. No doubt that the situation will be more disaster.
And for years I have called for the withdrawal of the foreign occupation from our country, as I believe no nation can donate liberation to another nation. Now it has been proved for our people, as well, that U.S. and NATO were not honest for them. And now, from one end, U.S. and NATO, as their puppet regime is in power, continue to their barbarism against our people; from another end, the terrorist Taliban continue to their fascism and ISIS and all these other terrorists. And no doubt that with the withdrawal of these foreign troops, for the short term, people will face more economic insecure problem, but for the long run, it is the interest of Afghan people, because they’re fed up from this kind of so-called democracy, as they give bad view about democracy to our people. And that, again, says this big lie put us on the eyes of the U.S. public, great people of the U.S. and around the world, that apparently actually that we are leaving from Afghanistan, but their puppet mafia corrupt regime remain in power, and they are supporting more these other terrorist band of terrorists, like ISIS, like Taliban, warlords, that each of these, from this, the disaster situation, try to catch their own fishes in our country. Anywhere, that as long as the foreigner interfere in our country and with the Western and neighbor countries, there is no chance that people will breathe a little bit in peace.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Malalai, you’ve talked about these criminal warlords and the criminal mujahideen — could you explain? — who are complicit with the present government of Ashraf Ghani and have been, for the last 20 years, with successive Afghan governments. Who are these criminal mujahideen, who in fact are being armed by the Afghan government to fight the Taliban now?
MALALAI JOYA: You know, there are now — world know about some of them, as 20 years they were in power, like Abdullah Abdullah, like Sayyaf, Mohaqiq, Khalili, Rabbani, who were killed by brother in creed like Taliban, and this less than before long, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, this fascist man whose name was on the blacklist of the U.S., has a long list of the human rights, women rights violation. And he welcomed in Kabul like a groom and come in power, as well, in the name of the peace reconciliation, this terrorist man. It’s another example that by these terrorists never come peace or democracy, women rights in our country. The name of these warlords, they are all those, most of them, who are in power, and also some Western technocrat who compromise with them because of the dollar and because of the position, high position, and chair that they have, unfortunately. And that’s why situation of Afghanistan is very disaster today.
And the only demand of Afghan people is that they must come to the court. They must be prosecuted. Same about the Taliban. This so-called peace that U.S. and NATO is talking about is more dangerous than war. The result will make more united the sworn enemies of democracy, peace and justice, and also more force will be released on the destiny of Afghan people. Peace without justice is meaningless. The only demand of Afghan people is justice.
And our people divide the mujahideen to two parts. One is most people of Afghanistan fighted against Russia invasion. They are real mujahideen. They are heroes. But a small party, there’s about eight fundamentalist extremist parties that their leaders now in power. Some name of them I mentioned. You can see in Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International. And many book has been written: Eyes for Infidel, Ghost Wars, Bleeding Afghanistan, my book. This list can be prolonged, that today world know about them. Now they are in power, and all of them — the warlords, the ISIS, the Taliban — their nature is same and all fighting for the same bone, like dogs, the bone of the power. Hopefully, do not be insulted to dogs.
Anyway, our people are really fed up from this disgusting, criminal policy of the U.S. and NATO, who are responsible for the current disaster situation of my country. If they are honest for Afghan people, when they are leaving the country, they should take all their lackeys, these bunch of puppets and these terrorists, with themselves. They have no motivate to fight, but just because of the dollar, because of the money and because of their foreign master, they are killing our people, still continue to their barbarism, terrorism against our people. In fact, terrorism itself was a big tool in the hand of the U.S., NATO and neighbor countries, used for their own interests, for their own strategic policies. And the people of Afghanistan are the victim.
And these terrorists never want to lose, these terrorists. I am giving you example about the Taliban. In the past 20 years, they in fact played a game of Tom & Jerry with these terrorists: one day, divide these terrorists to two parts — moderate Talib, extremist Talib. It make no sense. Or another day, for example, recently, they released 5,000 terrorist Talib from the jail. It is clear that most of them joined again the rank of the terrorist Taliban, continue, as they joined. And also that many other examples that we have, according that game of Tom & Jerry that I said, they are not serious to defeat these terrorists. Some commander of the Taliban, leaders of the Taliban, like Mullah Muttawakil, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Mullah Rahmatullah Hashemi. This list can be prolonged — Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef. All the hot key posts in Kabul, safe life, in the safest area, all expenses the government paid. Never they regret from their past, at least to say apologize to Afghan people, while our people want them to come to the court. Or this nondemocratic government call these terrorists dissenter brothers, you know, when they are doing society attacks and shed the blood of the innocent people.
And from this disgusting situation, disaster situation, all these terrorists also misuse. For example, they are paying for their fighters $600 per month, because millions of Afghans now suffering from the joblessness. They only had some super infrastructure project for justification of their occupation, that now again Taliban are destroying every day. But the infrastructure projects that to create job for Afghan people, they never worked on this, because they don’t want Afghanistan to stand on its own field. For example, they didn’t build factories, and many other examples that we have like this.
Anyway, that they are not honest for Afghan people, and now they betray the destiny of Afghan people. How? Well, they are doing deals with these terrorist Taliban. As they have [inaudible] their deal is that they should not attack, the terrorist Taliban do not attack their troops, the foreign troops. Even puppet Ghani recently confessed that in the past four years 45,000 Afghan security forces were killed, only 70 foreigners were killed. And also now in the name of — as I said, in the name of peace, reconciliation, bring them in power to betray the peace, and many deals that they have with them, and not only with them, with the U.S. and also these other neighbor countries, as, for example, now they are going to give the control of the airport of Kabul to the nondemocratic dictator regime of Erdogan, whose supporting created ISIS and want to exporting in Afghanistan more, and the terrorist Taliban against this act. And we have many example like this that they want to — they don’t want to have Afghanistan situation — I mean, that civility to come in Afghanistan, because of their own dirty agendas that they have in our country. And I have many other example of their [inaudible] —
AMY GOODMAN: Malalai, I’m just going to interrupt to say: As the U.S. troops leave, what message do you have for the American people, after the, for the United States, longest war in its history? And for President Bush, who was the one who led the war into Afghanistan, who said that he and his wife Laura did it for the — partly for the safety and security of Afghan women?
MALALAI JOYA: These are shameless lie. These are big lies, that now, today, fortunately, it’s become like an open secret for the great people of the world, as well. In fact, they wasted the blood of their soldiers, their taxpayer money. Not only they betrayed Afghan people. The blood of Afghan people has no value for them, has now put more fuel in the fire in this situation by supporting these extremist terrorists.
No doubt that they must come to the International Criminal Court for the war crimes that they committed, all these warmongers — the criminal Bush, that Obama, that racist, fascist Trump, and now the Biden, who follow this disgusting criminal policy, that they don’t care about the wishes of Afghan people, how much they are tired. No doubt that the people thirsty for the peace. But this peace, this is not peace. This is more dangerous than the war. They push Afghanistan more toward Dark Ages.
It’s not only the situation of Afghanistan, what they did here, the war crime they committed. They waged this criminal war to Syria, to Libya, to Yemen, to Ukraine, to Palestine. What they are doing is heart-wrenching. This list can be prolonged. Not only the terrorists in Afghanistan, the ISIS, jihadis, Taliban, that they are supporting; also the Boko Haram, the Abu Sayyaf and al-Nusra. This list can be prolonged, that these other terrorist group, that the background of them —
AMY GOODMAN: Malalai, we just have 10 seconds. You continue to name names, as you did in the Afghan Parliament as the youngest person ever elected there, and then you were thrown out. What gives you the courage to continue to do this as you remain in Afghanistan?
MALALAI JOYA: Yes, the truth itself is enough to give me courage. The support of my people, this voiceless, suffering people of Afghanistan, the solidarity of the justice-loving great people of the world. That when we want the withdrawal of the troops, but we are asking, in the meantime, for the solidarity of antiwar movement, peace-loving, justice-loving secular movement, feminist movement, that they should not leave Afghan people and do not allow them to forget again Afghanistan and as these terrorists that bring them in power and this war they imposed on the destiny of Afghan people. We have no other way except of to do a struggle. From your tribune, I ask my people, men and women, that as I believe in equal rights, that this is the time that we put the secondhand issues aside, all together, to be united and organize to fight for our country, because, again, I repeat and insist that no nation can donate liberation to another nation. And this 20 years is another example that proved that foreigners were not honest for our people.
AMY GOODMAN: Malalai Joya, we thank you so much for being with us, women, human rights activist in Afghanistan, youngest person ever elected to the Afghan Parliament, suspended in 2007 for publicly denouncing the presence of warlords and war criminals in the Afghan Parliament. She is author of A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out.
Next up, we go to South Africa, where thousands have been arrested in demonstrations against poverty, inequity and the jailing of the former president. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Mbube” by the legendary South African musician Tsepo Tshola. He’s known as the “Village Pope.” He died today of COVID-19-related complications.