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Professor to testify in Congress

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kroc Institute Professor David Cortright will try to persuade Congress to end the war in Afghanistan when he testifies before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission today at a hearing on the quality of life for Afghan women.

Cortright said the war in Afghanistan has done little to improve the lives of Afghan women.

“While women have achieved some gains since the fall of the Taliban, the war and the militarized policies are causing a setback to the status of women,” Cortright said. “Most of the women we interviewed want to see an end to the war.”

An end to the war will improve the lives of women in the country, Cortright said, and the recent death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden could be a key to closing the war in Afghanistan.

“I think it makes a stronger case now for ending the war,” Cortright said. “Al- Qaida is weak, and now it’s been further weakened with the loss of bin Laden … The reason we went into Afghanistan is because al-Qaida attacked America ten years ago. But al-Qaida is pretty much a spent force, and yet we’re waging this huge war. It’s time to declare victory and go home.”

Cortright said he was invited to speak because of his work on the Kroc Institute’s report titled “Afghan Women Speak: Enhancing Security and Human Rights in Afghanistan,” released in the fall.

“It’s been well-received in a number of quarters,” Cortright said, “And some of the members of Congress in Washington were interested in having us participate in this hearing.”

The hearing will address the effect of the war in Afghanistan on the lives of women in the country and analyze the benefits that would come from a withdrawal of troops. Members of Congress, congressional staff, witnesses and media representatives will attend the hearing.

“Many see [improving lives] as a reason why we’re fighting, supposedly to help liberate the women,” Cortright said, “And we wanted to look at that and really try to verify what are the facts and what do Afghan women themselves think.”

Cortright said he hopes his testimony will persuade legislators to withdraw troops.

“There are some bills before Congress urging the president to come up with a plan and a timetable for withdrawing troops,” Cortright said, “And certainly that would be the kind of legislation we would encourage.”

Cortright said withdrawing troops from Afghanistan does not mean the United States should turn their backs on the Afghan people.

“We need to maintain support for development policies in Afghanistan,” Cortright said. “As we pull out militarily, we need to maintain economic and social support. We shouldn’t be abandoning the people of Afghanistan when we pull out our troops.”

The other witnesses present at the hearing will be Rina Amiri, senior advisor on Afghanistan in the U.S. Department of State; Don Steinberg, deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development; Joanne Sandler, deputy director of UN Women; Dr. Massouda Jalal, physician and former Minister of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan; and Hon. Marzia Basel, founder and director of the Afghan Women’s Judges Association.

Cortright has testified before Congress in the past and said he understands his testimony will not necessarily translate into legislation.

“All you can do is try to present good analysis and facts,” Cortright said, “and hope that [Congress] will interpret it well.”