Felicity Gerry QC leads a group of international lawyers and experts on women, peace and security in a submission to the UK Defence Committee Inquiry into the Withdrawal From Afghanistan.

On the deadline date for submission (14 October 2021), a group of international lawyers and experts on women, peace and security, led by Felicity Gerry QC, submitted in writing to the UK Defence Committee Inquiry into the Withdrawal From Afghanistan that it can be properly inferred that the NATO withdrawal was not planned with the effect on women and girls in mind and it should have been delayed pending a meaningful peace process in which women were involved and human rights for women and girls were taken as core requirements for peace and security.

They submitted that the second question of the Committee’s inquiry should be amended to read: ‘What plans were made for the evacuation of Afghan nationals who had worked with or for UK Armed Forces and other Afghan nationals at risk, particularly women in positions of power and responsibility’?’. They also said that the option of remaining without US forces was plainly not considered with women’s issues or positions in mind, that such plans as were made for the evacuation of Afghan nationals at risk do not seem to have prioritised women such as judges and human rights defenders, nor the knock-on effect that the removal of women in power would have on women and girls more generally in Afghanistan. In addition, they suggested that delaying withdrawal would have allowed the peace process, to continue and to include women in that process and take the opportunity to engage on women’s issues.

They submitted that it is obvious that the withdrawal and chaotic evacuation have been an utter failure for the women and girls of Afghanistan and that if it went according to plan, the result is shameful: It is abundantly clear that the evacuation of United States, NATO and allied nations resulted in disaster for the people of Afghanistan. Acknowledging that the US-Taliban Agreement was the impetus for the withdrawal, they said that despite a general condition that the level of violence be reduced, it was devoid of protections for the people of Afghanistan, notably the safety and freedoms of the women and girls of Afghanistan and that the people of Afghanistan have been left defenceless and completely vulnerable to the Taliban forces who have begun to implement rules and policies like those imposed when they were last in power in the 1990s.

The group consented to the submission being placed publicly by the Committee.