Taliban Peace Talks In Moscow End With Hope The U.s. Exits, If Not Too Quickly
Many Afghans worry that an abrupt exit could let the country spiral into vicious fighting similar to that which followed the Soviet Union’s departure after nine years in 1989, when rival Afghan groups leveled large parts of Kabul. And even some hard-line Islamist figures who have spent much of their lives resisting foreign forces voiced qualms about a hasty American exit.
“Don’t stay forever, but don’t rush,” Wahidullah Sabawoon, a former commander of the anti-Soviet Islamist fighters known as mujahedeen, and a participant in the Moscow talks, said of the American military.
Mr. Sabawoon said it would take time to rebuild the country without foreign troops to ensure at least a measure of security.
“I hope the withdrawal will go slowly,” said Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Afghan Parliament and one of only two women at the talks. She added that she hoped for continued “foreign involvement” after a withdrawal to monitor and help enforce the terms of any agreement.
She noted that the Taliban said it had accepted “the Islamic rights of women” but had a very different and constrained view of women’s rights compared with less hard-line Islamic scholars. During the years it held power before 2001, the Taliban closed schools for girls and confined most women to their homes.
Further fueling concerns of what could happen after an abrupt American withdrawal, the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, said in an interview last month that the Afghan armed forces, more than 300,000 strong and built at enormous cost, would have to be disbanded after a peace deal.
His comments drew widespread condemnation across Afghanistan, and Afghan participants said the clarifications from the Taliban side at the Moscow talks had brought some ease.
“There is commitment to the system, the national institutions — they do not want their collapse and paralysis, but they want their reform through consultation and their protection and strengthening,” said Mr. Zakhilwal, the former cabinet minister. “They expressed commitment to women’s rights, to media, to fundamental citizens’ rights.”