UNITED NATIONS - Hillary Clinton said Tuesday a sustainable peace will take hold in Afghanistan only if it is inclusive, and that foreign troop withdrawals must be conditioned on the Taliban meeting their obligations under the recently signed peace agreement.
“Afghans from every walk of life have made it clear they want peace, and they want an end to violence and casualties,” the former U.S. secretary of state told an event at the United Nations promoting the inclusion of women in Afghanistan's peace process. “Yet it is difficult to have an agreement when you leave out the government of the country you are expecting to uphold and live under that agreement.”
She also stressed that certain concessions must not be made to the Taliban.
“From the very beginning, the Taliban said they would not talk to the Afghan government, but we must simply not accede to those wishes, leaving the Afghan government on the hook,” Clinton said.
The former presidential candidate, top diplomat and women’s rights advocate was also emphatic that Afghan women must be an integral part of any negotiations, warning that if they are sidelined in the process, the prospect for lasting peace is slim.
“It is difficult to sustain an agreement if you leave out half the population in forging it,” she said.
On Feb. 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement in Qatar. It calls for Washington to withdraw its roughly 13,000 troops over the next 14 months and in exchange, the Taliban agreed to no longer harbor terrorists and to engage in a political reconciliation process and power-sharing agreement.
Clinton said troop withdrawals must be conditioned on the Taliban implementing their part of the deal.
“The troops on the ground remain an important lever to persuade the Taliban to end the violence,” she noted.
Afghan women have expressed growing concern that they could lose hard-won rights in a political settlement with the Taliban. In a video message to the meeting, Afghan first lady Rula Ghani sought to reassure them.
“I would like to assure all Afghan women that no decision regarding the peace process will be made in their absence or behind closed doors,” she said. “All negotiations will be shared with the Afghan people clearly and transparently.”
The U.N. Security Council was set to adopt a resolution later Tuesday welcoming the move toward a political settlement in Afghanistan. British Ambassador Karen Pierce told the meeting that she is pleased that the U.S.-drafted text “has some very good, strong language” on women, peace and security, and women’s rights.