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Afghanistan Ambassador To U.S. Discusses U.S. Security Talks With The Taliban

Aug 19, 2019
Originally published on August 19, 2019 7:21 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And for the Afghan government's perspective, we hear next from Afghanistan's ambassador to Washington. She is Roya Rahmani. I asked for her assessment of these peace talks now underway.

ROYA RAHMANI: Well, the talks are between the Taliban and the U.S. government so far. So for us, the peace talks will obviously start when the Taliban come and sit with the representatives of the Afghan people.

KELLY: As you know, the U.S. position at these talks is President Trump is weighing possibly withdrawing all U.S. forces - all the U.S. forces that have been in Afghanistan for 18 years. The U.S. would like to see the Taliban agree to a permanent cease fire in exchange for some kind of role in your country's political system. Does the government of Afghanistan share those goals?

RAHMANI: Of course there is a convergence of goals between the United States and the Afghan government. That means we are moving towards self-reliance. That would be in the security field, economic field. As a part of that evolution, we could work together to assess and see what is the number of troops needed on the ground in support of our forces.

Let's not forget - the fight that we are faced with today is a global fight. It's not only our responsibility. And this is why, unfortunately, we started 18 years ago. And that takes us today where we are. We ended up in this place together. So having said that, the drawdown of the troops could take place as long as it is in a responsible way so that it would secure our interests and your interests.

KELLY: What leverage does your government have for influencing these talks?

RAHMANI: Well, right now we are not in the talks. So the leverage that the government has is the will of the people. The government is representing the people.

KELLY: And I understand the point that you have been making that the Afghan government is not currently involved in the talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, that you see this as laying the groundwork for that to happen. But these talks are in the service of some potential for the Taliban would come in and share the government in some future national government in Afghanistan. How do you feel about that?

RAHMANI: It depends on the context that they would come. The Afghan people have demonstrated their resilience, their greatness. The fact that they are forgiving and they are saying, for the sake of peace, we are willing to basically go beyond our griefs and we would like to negotiate and have a peace deal is immense. Within the system of republic, the Taliban could be reintegrated in our society. Taliban should recognize and understand where Afghanistan today is and that they cannot bring the very barbaric views and push us back.

KELLY: Although if these talks do proceed and eventually the Afghan government were to be on the other side of the negotiating table, these are the people you would be negotiating with.

RAHMANI: This is why I spoke to the greatness and resilience of our people. We want a way out. I mean, of course we do not want to be stuck in a situation that this conflict goes for ages. I am a person that, my entire life, my country has been in a conflict. I do not want my daughter to see the same thing.

KELLY: How old is she?

RAHMANI: Four-and-half.

KELLY: It does sound as though you have a very personal stake in women's rights and human rights. You're here not just speaking as the representative of a government but as a parent.

RAHMANI: Yes. I want to share something with you. When I was posted here, one of the biggest compliments I received was from my colleagues who told me, your appointment to Washington gives us hope. They said that they never thought that a woman that is not a royal, a woman that is not belonging to a political party, per se, a woman that doesn't come from a very powerful family is being appointed to one of the most important diplomatic missions. And this included young men who came and said actually now we are hopeful.

KELLY: Roya Rahmani is Afghanistan's ambassador to Washington.

Thank you so much for coming by.

RAHMANI: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.