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Afghanistan hopes continued support from international allies will curb Taliban violence

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to Afghanistan, where the president's decision to withdraw American forces reverberates across an exhausted and worried nation.

    And, as Amna Nawaz reports, come September, a weakened Afghan government will soon face the Taliban with little international assistance.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The day after President Biden announced all U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by early September, his top diplomat arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit.

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Afghan leaders to reassure them and explain the decision, his first stop, Meeting president Ashraf Ghani.

  • Sec. Tony Blinken:

    I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and to the people of Afghanistan.

  • Ashraf Ghani:

    We respect the decision and are adjusting our priorities.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Blinken finished his with Ghani's former governing partner, Abdullah Abdullah.

  • Abdullah Abdullah:

    We are grateful to your people, your administration, and the decision about the — moving to the next phase and the next chapter.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Blinken finished his eight-hour visit with a speech at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

  • Tony Blinken:

    The United States will remain Afghanistan's steadfast partner. We want the Afghan people, countries in the region and the international community to know that fact. It's also a very important message for the Taliban to hear.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    President Biden's Wednesday announcement grew from a deal struck last year by the Trump administration and the Taliban. That agreement included a May 1 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal.

    Biden pushed that to September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. U.S. officials say their exit plan was coordinated with allies in NATO, which said troops from its member nations, around 7,000, would also leave. Coalition partner Australia, not a NATO member, said today it, too, would pull out its last 80 troops.

  • Scott Morrison:

    In line with the United States and our other allies and partners, the last remaining Australian troops will depart Afghanistan in September 2021.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But, as Afghan civilians process the news, many are uncertain about what happens next.

  • Bilal Sultani (through translator):

    It's a worrying situation. And people believe that, if the foreign troops leave the country, there will be a civil war.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The Taliban have pledged to renew attacks on NATO and U.S. troops if they are not out by the original May 1 deadline.

    I'm joined by Roya Rahmani, the Afghan ambassador to the United States. She's served in this role since 2018.

    Ambassador Rahmani, welcome back to the "NewsHour." And thank you for making the time.

    You just heard in that report from Bilal Sultani. He's a student in Kabul. He said he is worried, when the U.S. leaves, the country will go into civil war.

    Do you share that concern?

  • Roya Rahmani:

    I am concerned about the continuation of violence.

    However, for 20 years, Taliban have been justifying the war of violence because of the presence of foreign troops. So, now that all foreign troops are leaving, if the war continues, if the violence continues, that is on Taliban. And that is not a gesture that they want a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.

    Having said that, our forces would continue to defend our people, our gains, our rights and dignities as long as it takes. We mostly in active defense mode since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

    However, we have seen an increased level of violence by the Taliban. So, while I am worried, but I am really also hoping that, this time, Taliban would know that the reason the — the main reason for their violence is addressed, that they would put a stop to this and come to the negotiation table.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you, Ambassador, because many of their attacks have been targeting Afghan targets, civilians and Afghan forces.

    As you mentioned, those forces are fighting, but they're losing. The Taliban now control or contest more territory across Afghanistan than at any other point in the last 20 years.

    And in recent months, they have closed in around major capital cities. So, I wonder, without U.S. help, without coalition support, can you hold them at bay?

  • Roya Rahmani:

    It has been the Afghan forces that have been at the forefront of the — this fight against terrorism.

    Of course, the U.S. support and our NATO allies' support has been critical to this fight. But we would continue to do what it takes to defend ourselves and our nation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Ambassador, let me ask you, though, because the Taliban say they will not negotiate with you.

    So, how do you get them to the table, especially once the U.S. is gone?

  • Roya Rahmani:

    We have been very disappointed by the — their reactions that has — is obviously not constructive at all towards finding a peaceful settlement to this conflict.

    One of the commitments that we have been hearing, both from United States and our international allies, have been their diplomatic support. And we are hoping that that diplomatic support would be channeled in a way both from their side and to our regional partners that would compel Taliban to come to the table and negotiate.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you about the way that the peace talks have unfolded so far, because the U.S. largely went around President Ghani. They seemed to see him as an impediment or an obstacle to that process.

    Do you think that the U.S. treated President Ghani fairly in this?

  • Roya Rahmani:

    The partnership between U.S. and Afghanistan has always been a foundational one. It has been a respectful one.

    And in terms of your comment regarding President Ghani, I have to tell you that President Ghani has been the one who has demonstrated the most commitment towards peace. It has been his platform of election.

    And at the same time, he has taken very difficult and risky steps in order to move forward towards a peace process. The United States, yes, stepped in to facilitate the peace process. The first phase of it was negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban, but then it has also led to an opportunity that the Taliban and the Afghan government could discuss and try to find a solution together.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Ambassador, let me ask you.

    If the Taliban do agree to negotiate with you, what does a political solution right now even look like? Can you share power with a group that doesn't even believe that women should have rights?

  • Roya Rahmani:

    We understand that a peace process is a process, number one, a negotiated settlement, where there's not winners and losers, but there would — hopefully would be an overall winning situation for the people. It requires give and take.

    But in regards to the rights of the women, any process that neglects 50 percent of the population or of their rights and dignities, that would not lead to a sustainable peace. That is not peace. It could be a settlement, but it's not doable and it is not peace.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But, Ambassador, I must press you here. That's exactly what's happened. In the area that Taliban control, girls are not allowed to go to school, public lashings of women have continued.

    What leads you to believe that they would change?

  • Roya Rahmani:

    What gives me hope that they will change, if they come to a settlement, a negotiated settlement, is the respect to the will of people.

    Polling has shown just last year that, for the peace process, one of the top priorities is preservation of women's rights. That's the will of people. When you go against the will of people, that does not work.

    And, unfortunately, we have seen for so many decades what that results to, a war.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Roya Rahmani, ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States, thank you very much for your time.

  • Roya Rahmani:

    Thank you for having me.

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