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How Afghans Are Reacting To Breakdown Of Peace Talks


The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for 18 years. Leaders of many different political opinions agree that U.S. involvement cannot and should not last forever. But how to end America's military presence there? Why has the Taliban been resurgent? And what kind of Afghanistan will finally take shape? Orzala Nemat was an adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani before joining the University of London. She joins us now from the BBC in London. Thanks so much for being with us.

ORZALA NEMAT: Thank you.

SIMON: President Trump said talks with the Taliban were ending. They did not include the Afghan government. How serious were these talks?

NEMAT: Whether the talks were serious or unserious, the talks supposedly was about the faith and the future of 30 million people who live in Afghanistan. It was disappointing from the perspective of Afghans, ordinary Afghans in Afghanistan that no Afghan presence was there in these talks between the United States of America and the Taliban, who are a group who use terrorism as a weapon or as a means to gain their political or ideological aims. And for that reason, it was criticized, and it was not fully and entirely trusted from the very early stages. And what was kind of about to happen was a kind of a deal that was just, you know, handing over Afghanistan and its future into the hands of this group of people who could not be seen as the full representatives of the country.

SIMON: For those of us who covered the war in Afghanistan, I remember speaking with so many women who lived in fear under the Taliban. How could they be making a resurgence, a comeback in Afghanistan?

NEMAT: Well, Afghan women lived in fear, but they had their own forms of resistance even during the most oppressive and the most darkest time of the recent history. I myself in the late '90s have formed home-based literacy classes for women. And we were trying to show our disagreement, our protests to such an oppressive regime even at the time when they were in power. So the resurgence of Taliban has a different story. From a very local sort of aspect, it is much more the failure of the governance that's resulted in the resurgence of the Taliban. What is really ahead of us is more of a concern for a lasting, for a more sustainable peace. I can say that most of the people in Afghanistan fully agree that this war cannot be over by further escalation of, you know, bombings and military operations.

SIMON: Ms. Nemat, I have to ask. There are U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan who were infants at the time of the attacks of September 11. What would you say to those Americans who say, we just got to get out? I don't care what happens. We did our best. We have to bring young men and women home. It's not our part of the world. It's not our business.

NEMAT: Well, let me say that as an Afghan, I have a sympathy to the individual soldier who is serving his or her country. In my opinion, the United States of America did not intervene in Afghanistan to stay there forever. In my opinion, they also did not intervene to save Afghanistan. There were strategic and there were very precise objectives to be achieved. If you ask me as an Afghan, even back then, I didn't fully agree with the intervention in the military sense. I was more expecting as an Afghan living and operating and working under the Taliban regime, as I mentioned - I was expecting a more kind of developmental intervention from the U.S. and its allies. But as it turned out - and it was out of the hands of my people in Afghanistan, it turned to be a very military intervention. So when the intervention happened, i caused with lots of issues besides, you know, providing revival, kind of life to our national security forces. Besides doing that, it also created a lot of, you know, dependency. And now my desire is not to see a young American who was not even born during the 9/11 incidents serving in my country. My desire is not to see them there forever.

SIMON: Orzala Nemat, thank you very much for speaking with us.

NEMAT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.