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March 9, 2021

As US mulls Afghan exit, activist sees long fight for women

World

March 9, 2021

KABUL: Prominent activist Sima Samar has been fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan for the past 40 years. She believes her struggle is far from over — especially at a time when violence is on the rise, peace talks between rival Afghan groups are stuck and the U.S. mulls a May departure from her country.

Samar, 64, worries about the future, noting that insecurity and instability in Afghanistan have reached frightening levels.“No one knows what will happen tomorrow,” she said in an interview at her home in the Afghan capital, Kabul, protected by blast walls, guards and a German shepherd, who races to his vantage point overlooking the street when a car even slows as it passes.

Yet much is at stake and “a lot of sacrifices have been made in these 20 years,” she said, reflecting the anxiety among civil society leaders as the U.S. searches for the best exit from its longest war.

Under a 2020 deal between the Taliban and the Trump administration, all U.S. troops are to leave Afghanistan by May 1. The Biden administration says it’s reviewing the deal, suggesting it may not meet the deadline.

Last week, Samar and other civil society representatives participated in a Zoom call with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. He assured them that Washington stands with Afghanistan’s civil society to protect the gains made in the past 20 years.

The call seemed last-minute to Samar — held just before Khalilzad was leaving Kabul for Qatar to meet with Taliban negotiators, following two days of face-to-face meetings with political leaders and warlords-turned-politicians. “I feel a little like history is repeating itself,” said Samar, questioning the prominence given again to warlords and a political leadership that struggles to win over the trust of Afghans.