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Afghanistan Peace Talks Open in Qatar, Seeking End to Decades of War

The troop withdrawal began on the Taliban’s promise that they would negotiate with the Afghan government and not let terrorist groups use Afghan territory as a haven and staging ground for international attacks. But in the months since, some international observers have questioned the Taliban’s commitment to that vow to abandon their allies in Al Qaeda and other such groups.

The government side’s 20-member team includes only three women — not five, as earlier believed — underscoring how Afghan women have struggled for equality since the Taliban were driven from power, despite various promises that often proved hollow.

Their careers reflect the hard-fought gains that women have made in Afghanistan’s patriarchal culture — gains that they must now convince the Taliban to accept in a future system. One delegate, Habiba Sarabi, was the first female governor of an Afghan province. Another, Fawzia Koofi, a single mother, fought her way to the deputy speakership of Afghanistan’s Parliament; the third, Sharifa Zurmati, was a journalist before switching to politics and entering Parliament.

The Taliban team includes some of the delegates who negotiated the deal with the United States. But they have brought in a new chief negotiator: Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani, an influential religious scholar who has led the Taliban’s network of Islamic courts in recent years.

Guests arrived in Doha for the opening ceremony on Friday, Sept. 11 — 19 years to the day after the Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States that led to the invasion of Afghanistan, a stark reminder that most of the American hopes for a safe and stable Afghan democracy remain unfulfilled, and perhaps untenable any time soon.

Still, Mr. Khalilzad — who was an adviser to the American government during the Cold War, as the United States was funding insurgents to push Soviet troops out of Afghanistan — said there was still an opportunity for the country to reach some sort of equilibrium.

“The Afghan tragedy has been not being able to get to an agreement on a formula and then stick to it,” Mr. Khalilzad said. “There was a great victory after the Soviet departure, the Afghans had this great victory. The rest of the world benefited from it a lot: we became the only superpower, Eastern Europe got liberated, Central Asia got freed. But Afghanistan continued this disintegration. The Afghans — they won, but they lost.

Source: NYT > World News

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