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World

How Afghans Are Reacting To Peace Deal Negotiations

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The U.S. is trying to negotiate a peace deal between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. They hope that an agreement between these two groups could open the door for American forces to leave the country after 17 years of war. Many Afghans have strong feelings about this. Shoaib Sharifi has been getting reaction from people around the country. He's the BBC's Kabul bureau chief. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SHOAIB SHARIFI: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: A deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government is still a long ways off, but do most people that you've talked with view this possibility with more excitement or fear?

SHARIFI: There are mixed feelings particularly in the cities, but in rural areas - because in the last 17 years, a lot of people in rural areas have had to deal with literally nonstop conflict, there is a hope, not a mixed feeling. There's a hope that come - no matter what happens, a return - if the return of the Taliban means an end to current conflict, it's a big achievement for those people on the ground level.

SHAPIRO: And then compare that with the attitudes in cities like the capital, Kabul, where you live. What is the attitude there towards the possibility of a peace deal between the government and the Taliban?

SHARIFI: In the northern city of Mazar, I talked to a female painter who has a shop in the city. And she's worried that under the Taliban regime, women were not allowed to go out of their homes without being accompanied by a male. And even painting was forbidden under the Taliban. So for her, a return of the Taliban with the same strategies and approach they had 20 years back would mean immediate loss of her profession and, as she put it, imprisoned in the - in their homes.

So overall there is a feeling people are trying to digest that maybe the Taliban has also transformed in the last 18 years, and people hope the Taliban understand that there have been a lot of progress in terms of education and human rights overall. So it's hope that it's a new Taliban with a new approach, with an understanding of new realities in Afghanistan.

SHAPIRO: You know, people who were born after the U.S. invasion are almost adults at this point. And so there are people who don't remember life under the Taliban. How realistic is it that a power sharing agreement that included the Taliban today would be more accommodating to minority and women's rights than Taliban rule was 20 years ago?

SHARIFI: The Taliban - a lot of manpower, the fighting forces on the ground are not the Taliban who were fighting 20 years ago. They're also the new generation. We found that they were more keen on taking selfies and filming people with mobile phones. In fact, a female colleague of mine and I talked to this Taliban, and he didn't seem to mind and talk to her. So somehow...

SHAPIRO: Her face was not covered. Her hair was not covered.

SHARIFI: Her face was not covered. She even had makeup. And this is the first time after 18 years people saw the Taliban on the streets of Kabul. So somehow this new generation of Taliban - they have also been affected - technological progress as well as overall progress in Afghanistan in the past 18 years.

SHAPIRO: As you know, there have been talks before, and they've never led to an agreement. Do people in Afghanistan think this time might be different?

SHARIFI: Well, yes, and this is not because the Taliban are serious. It's more because this time, the American side of the table is more serious to take the talks to a more practical results. And all of that is sort of overshadowed by that mixed feelings of what kind of a deal, what sort of a deal the two sides would agree on. And what would it mean for conflict as well as for what this country has achieved in the last 18 years?

SHAPIRO: Shoaib Sharifi of the BBC speaking with us on Skype from Kabul, thank you very much.

SHARIFI: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.