Women shopping at a market in Herat, Afghanistan. Photograph: Jalil Rezayee/EPA

My life story might be summed up like this: I’ve travelled from one of the worst countries in the world for women to one of the best countries. I am an Afghan refugee in Norway. Adaptation is a process, and comparing these two countries would be totally unfair but I would like to share my insights into what it feels like to be an independent woman in both countries.

As I write, I find myself on the shores of the Skagerrak strait in southern Norway. I’m on a typical cabin holiday, sitting by the water and feeling the fresh breeze playing with my curly, crazy hair at six in the morning.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the military headquarters here where commanders oversee America’s longest war, an official explains in one sentence the U.S.-led coalition’s bottom-line objective: “Peace is a situation where we can leave, and we don’t have to come back.”

But how will the United States move toward this endgame, as U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad nears conclusion of his secret peace negotiations with the Taliban jihadists that America has been fighting for 18 years? Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is said to have complained late last week that a draft of Khalilzad’s agreement contains “mere promises”from the Taliban and major concessions by the United States, according to a knowledgeable Afghan source who talked recently with Ghani.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 7 — just hours after the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, declared an imminent peace settlement with the insurgent group that could be finalized as early as Sept. 1 — the Taliban launched an attack in Ghazni, Afghanistan, resulting in at least 12 deaths. The blast was yet another reminder of the gaps in the ongoing U.S.-driven peace process. The top-down political negotiations might be a relief for the United States, whose troops have languished there for nearly two decades. But to achieve a sustainable resolution for Afghans, the peace process will need to include a far more elusive negotiation — a social settlement that fosters reconciliation and trust between the population and the government.…  Seguir leyendo »

En la reciente Copa Mundial de críquet en Inglaterra, la animosa selección afgana (compuesta mayoritariamente por exrefugiados) sorprendió a todos con su excelente desempeño en los partidos, incluidos encuentros contra sus vecinos (la India y Pakistán). Por desgracia, no puede decirse lo mismo de otros dos conjuntos afganos (el de los talibanes y el del gobierno) que se reunieron este mes en Doha (Qatar) para acordar una “hoja de ruta para la paz”.

Los funcionarios del gobierno afgano que participaron en las conversaciones de Doha ni siquiera podían presentarse como tales, porque sus interlocutores (una banda de fanáticos asesinos) no reconocen al gobierno afgano.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban officials led by the movement's chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C, front) attend peace talks between senior Afghan politicians and Taliban negotiators in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What happened in Afghan peace talks in Doha?

Negotiations to end the Afghanistan war took a step forward on 7 and 8 July as more than 60 delegates, including Taliban and Afghan government officials as well as pro-government civil society representatives, gathered in the Qatari capital, Doha, for a peace dialogue. All participants joined the discussion in their personal capacities, which allowed the Taliban to continue refusing direct talks with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as the Afghan government is formally known. The format also circumvented longstanding concerns in Kabul about giving recognition to the Taliban’s preferred name for themselves: the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban meet Afghan politicians in Moscow for peace

Last year, when President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for negotiations to start between the US and the Taliban, nobody expected his patience to last very long. He could sabotage the American negotiating team at any time, many observers feared, by ordering an arbitrary pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government vulnerable to a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Nor was there much hope that, having decimated the State Department, Trump would ever play by normal diplomatic rules and depend on institutions like the intelligence community that does the leg-work in such negotiations, rather than his own Fox News-driven instincts.…  Seguir leyendo »

La historia geopolítica reciente de Afganistán puede dividirse en cinco fases. Ahora está al borde de otra transición, y las características que definirán la nueva fase todavía están por verse.

Durante la primera fase, entre 1974 y 1979, Pakistán empezó a dar refugio y entrenamiento a islamistas, para usarlos contra el gobierno de Mohammed Daoud Khan. Después, entre 1979 y 1989, Pakistán, Estados Unidos y Arabia Saudita financiaron, entrenaron y equiparon a los muyahidines que combatieron a las tropas soviéticas. De 1989 a 1996, Afganistán estuvo en transición, mientras señores de la guerra regionales fueron obteniendo poder, cercaron Kabul y derrocaron al presidente Mohammad Najibullah.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign on a car in Kabul last week showed a Taliban member beating a woman and read, “Afghanistan will not go back."CreditCreditWakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Trump’s announcement of an impending withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s declaration that the Americans and the Taliban have “in principle” agreed to a framework for a deal have been described by both sides as a leap toward ending the war in Afghanistan.

But a hasty American withdrawal will jeopardize for Afghans the future of hard-won gains such as constitutional rights, freedoms of citizens and democratic institutions. The United States must recognize that the absence of war — the focus of current talks — alone will not translate to peace in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban and the signs of an American withdrawal have bypassed numerous Afghan voices and increased fears among the most vulnerable of them — women, ethnic minorities and civil society — about the loss of security and freedoms that Afghanistan’s young and flawed democracy afforded them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hunt took this photo of a street scene in Afghanistan during a visit in 1998, while the country was under Taliban rule.

After September 11, the United States justified deep engagement in Afghanistan in part due to the Taliban’s harsh repression of women. Now, after sustaining 2,351 deaths and more than 20,000 injuries, and spending north of a trillion dollars, the United States is negotiating peace with the draconian regime it once abhorred.

Like ISIS in the Middle East and al-Shabaab in Africa, the Taliban often uses ultra-conservative interpretations of the Quran to force women into cruel marriages with huge age differences where wives may be abused. Worse yet, women are barred from working outside the home, learning to read, or appearing in public without head-to-toe coverings.…  Seguir leyendo »

A convoy of Soviet armored personal vehicles crossed a bridge in Termez, during the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1988.CreditCreditVitaly Armand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Feb. 15, 1989, a column of Soviet armored vehicles crossed the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan into the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan. In a theatrical gesture, Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, who was overseeing the withdrawal, dismounted and walked the final few feet to Soviet soil. There was not a single Soviet soldier left in Afghanistan, General Gromov told waiting journalists.

Since the first troops crossed into Afghanistan in December 1979, the Soviet Union had tried to help the socialist government in Kabul fight off a constellation of insurgents, the most impressive of whom received aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia, working through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian Peace Efforts in Afghanistan

Despite the direct talks between Taliban and the US, the Russian peace efforts are establishing “new channels” of communication, which in turn will help setting the framework of a regional solution to Afghan problem. Taliban’s reaffirmation to continue to commit for a peaceful solution is very clearly attached to several conditions including direct talks with the Afghan government and withdrawal of all foreign forces. The ensuing analysis of this idea also suggests that a firm commitment from present Afghan government is crucial to materialize any mechanism for peace.

However, it is still unclear as to how and when US is going to withdraw its troops.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai headed a Taliban delegation at meetings with Afghan opposition leaders in Moscow this week.CreditCreditMaxim Shemetov/Reuters

The United States and the Taliban made progress in peace talks in late January after coming to a basic understanding about withdrawing American troops in return for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for transnational terrorists. An agreement between the United States and the Taliban has been long overdue — as part of a broader settlement also involving the Taliban’s Afghan opponents — and is the way out of a war without victory.

The fear of Afghanistan-based terrorists attacking the United States has been the key reason for keeping American troops in the country and keeping the Taliban out of power, but it is rooted more in perception than in reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, second from right, in Moscow on Wednesday. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

The Taliban and the United States are negotiating over the future of Afghanistan. You might expect me, as a woman, to say that’s wrong. But these talks are a positive development — as long as they ultimately clear the way for a truly “Afghan-owned” peace process. Let me explain what I mean.

Over the past 40 years, no era has been entirely safe for Afghanistan’s people, let alone for its women. Having left the country for the United States in 1989, I gradually began to travel back to my homeland, until I returned for good in 2008. I visited during the civil war, during the years of Taliban rule, and during the era that began with the presidency of Hamid Karzai in 2002, when 140,000 foreign troops enabled the Afghan people to experience a glimpse of freedom.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani (C) talks with US special representative for Afghan Peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (top L) during a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul. Handout / Afghan Presidential Palace / AFP

How significant were the U.S.-Taliban talks?

Last week’s six-day talks between the U.S. and Taliban were the clearest sign yet that the U.S. is intent on withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan, and that the Taliban and its regional allies perceive that intent as an opportunity. It is early to draw conclusions but the signals from Doha inspire optimism about ending America’s longest war. A U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal has long been the Taliban’s top demand and the driving rationale for the insurgency. The Doha talks also were the first time that the U.S. has publicly acceded to the Taliban’s insistence that bilateral negotiations on terms for a troop withdrawal precede any peace negotiations involving other Afghans.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a bomb blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Jan. 26. (Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

President Trump’s willingness to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan opened the way for peace negotiations between the Taliban and U.S. officials. Trump deserves credit for discarding the Washington dogma that the United States must maintain an indefinite military presence in Afghanistan in pursuit of an ever-receding position of strength. As of this week, a framework agreement on U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban counterterrorism guarantees seems to be emerging from the talks.

But avoiding the recurrence of bloodshed will require more than that agreement and the negotiations with the Afghan government that must follow. It will also depend on reliable international assistance and cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbors.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former insurgents surrender their weapons during a reconciliation ceremony in Herat, Afghanistan, on Jan. 23. (Jalil Rezayee/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The handmaiden of peace is exhaustion. We are seeing that lesson in the killing fields of Afghanistan and Yemen.

Fragile peace agreements are emerging in both conflicts, thanks to skillful diplomats. There are a hundred reasons each negotiation may fail, and in assessing Middle East conflicts, we should remember that, unfortunately, “pessimism pays,” as my former Wall Street Journal colleague Karen Elliott House observed nearly 40 years ago.

But a process has started: Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy, said Monday, “We have a draft of the [peace] framework that has to be fleshed out.” A senior Gulf official told a Washington gathering Monday night that because of U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan soldiers being trained by Americans in 2016. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

On Thursday, the Taliban appointed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who founded the movement with Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1993, as the chief negotiator in the peace talks with the United States, being held in Qatar.

Mr. Baradar, who was also appointed as deputy to the Taliban chief Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to travel soon to Doha to join the peace talks with the American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mr. Baradar is revered among the Taliban as a charismatic military leader and a deeply religious figure who still reflects the origins of the Taliban movement, when it was founded to end the Afghan civil war and warlordism in the mid-1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

American military advisers at an Afghan National Army base.CreditCreditJames Mackenzie/Reuters

President Trump may be a controversial and disruptive president. But in regard to Afghanistan, his frustration with the 17-year war differs little from the sentiments of President Barack Obama or most of the rest of us. Reportedly, he has asked for a precipitous cut of up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there, early this year.

That would be a mistake. There is still a strong case to sustain America’s longest war — especially if we redefine it, away from nation-building and toward something more like an enduring partnership with the Afghan people against regional and global extremism. Indeed, Washington should stop looking for an exit strategy and view Afghanistan as one pillar in a broader regional web of capabilities against Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and related movements that show few signs of dissipating.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando se designó a Zalmay Khalilzad como Representante Especial de Estados Unidos para la Reconciliación de Afganistán en septiembre de 2018, finalmente parecía vislumbrarse el fin de la guerra más larga de Estados Unidos. Ahora, tras el repentino anuncio de fines de diciembre realizado por el presidente Donald Trump sobre que Estados Unidos retirará a 7.000 miembros de sus tropas de dicho país, la presión sobre Khalilzad con respecto a garantizar la celebración de un acuerdo con los talibanes hasta la primavera de este año ha aumentado dramáticamente. Muchos temen en la actualidad que Trump quiera irse de Afganistán sin prestar algún grado de atención a las consecuencias de su retiro, y aún menor atención a aquellas consecuencias que afectaran a las mujeres del país.…  Seguir leyendo »

Después de más de 17 años, llegó la hora de aceptar dos verdades importantes respecto de la guerra en Afganistán. La primera es que no habrá ninguna victoria militar del gobierno y de sus socios norteamericanos y de la OTAN. Las fuerzas afganas, si bien son mejores de lo que eran, no son lo suficientemente buenas, y es poco probable que alguna vez sean capaces de derrotar a los talibán. Esto no se debe simplemente a que las tropas del gobierno carezcan de la unidad y muchas veces del profesionalismo para imponerse, sino también a que los talibán están altamente motivados y gozan de un respaldo considerable en el país y de parte de Pakistán, que ofrece apoyo y refugio cruciales.…  Seguir leyendo »