Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S. Looks Toward A Future Without U.S. Troops
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Among those absorbing the news of the U.S. decision to pull out of Afghanistan by this fall are Afghans. President Biden says it is time to end America's longest war. The departure of the Americans after two decades on the ground in Afghanistan will mark a new chapter for that country and will raise hard questions, including - might civil war erupt? Will the government hold? And what happens to the women of Afghanistan? Questions we want to put now to Roya Rahmani. She is Afghanistan's ambassador here in Washington. Ambassador, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
ROYA RAHMANI: Thank you for having me.
KELLY: I'll be direct and just cut straight to the fear among those who argue that U.S. troops should stay longer, that this is the wrong decision. And that fear is that Afghanistan is not stable, that the Taliban will take over again, that terrorist groups will dig in and that Afghanistan will collapse. So I will put that directly to you. What reassurance can you provide to Americans that that won't happen?
RAHMANI: Well, the reality is that there is an ongoing conflict. We are very disappointed by the reaction of the Taliban to this announcement, saying that they are refusing to come to the table to discuss and negotiate. They are not taking the path to peace. So as the announcement comes, there is a continuous conflict going on on a daily basis. The violence is very real. And people continue to get killed every day. So we don't have much choice except to continue to defend our people, our nation, their rights, their dignity, as well as the rights of women and our democracy.
KELLY: Yes. And if I may, Ambassador, I think the concern that I'm raising is that the violence will not just continue, as you note, but will get worse, that Afghanistan will collapse when the U.S. pulls out. Does that worry you?
RAHMANI: Indeed, it does. I am worried about that. But I am also encouraged by the statement of support that was made by President Biden, reiterated by Secretary Blinken, by Secretary Austin that this does not mean the end of our partnership. So as they have decided to withdraw the troops, regardless of the conditions on the ground, we respect their decision. But then we are hoping that with their support, we would be able to continue to protect and defend ourselves.
KELLY: Is it clear to you what that partnership will look like after September? I, too, was following as President Biden said the U.S. will keep providing assistance to Afghanistan's defense and security forces, will continue to train and equip those forces. But is it clear to you how that will work? Who will be training Afghan forces if the U.S. is gone?
RAHMANI: I - my understanding is that this is an ongoing discussion. As we are speaking, there has been a visit by Secretary Blinken to my country, and that has sparked the beginning of such discussions.
KELLY: Let me turn you to Afghan women. How worried are you as an Afghan woman for the women of Afghanistan?
RAHMANI: Needless to say, the women of Afghanistan are very worried, extremely worried. It does not seem that the Taliban has moved very much from their position when it comes to how they treat women in Afghanistan. And we have seen many examples and evidence of that in the areas that fall under their control. So, yes, women are very worried and so am I. This is a very real and legitimate concern.
And I would like to also say on this point that to support women of Afghanistan, it's not just a humanitarian issue. It is a national security issue. We have seen and it is proven that for nations to be stable and successful, the rights of women must be respected. So, yes, it is a very big concern for women as the primary victims, as those who will be losing the most, but also for overall security in society.
KELLY: You're reminding me of the last time I interviewed you, Ambassador, which was a couple of years ago. And you talked about your daughter. She was 4 then, as I remember. She must be - what? - 6 or 7 now?
RAHMANI: You're absolutely right. By your memory, she is 6 years old now.
KELLY: Six years old. It struck me. And the reason I remember it is that it was so clear listening to you that when you talk about women's rights in your country, it's very personal for you, that you were speaking not just as the representative of a government, but as a mother. And so I wanted to ask you today, one mother to another, do you believe the Afghanistan your daughter will know will be a free country where she's able to study and work and raise her own family one day without fear of violence?
RAHMANI: That's my biggest desire. And as a citizen, as an individual, as a mother, I will do whatever I can to help that situation. And I believe that every citizen of my country needs to bear that responsibility. And we need to work together. But at the same time, I must also say that I have real concerns knowing that what is happening in my country has regional and global roots. It is a situation of global and international terrorism. And I am - I will continue to work with this hope because I cannot afford to be hopeless for her future, for my future, for the future of all the mothers and their daughters and sons and families and the nation.
KELLY: I mean, I hear in your voice there's obviously so much uncertainty ahead, many risks for your country. But I want to stick with a word you used, which is hope. Do you also feel hope that, for better or worse, going forward, Afghanistan's fate will be determined by Afghans?
RAHMANI: Yes. And the source of my hope is the will of the people. It's our new generation. It is the human capital that, with the help of the United States and our allies we built over the past 20 years, it is this younger generation of Afghans who want a peaceful Afghanistan, an Afghanistan that could be a constructive partner to the world and an Afghanistan that would be able to chart its own future. I also hope that the international community does not give up on their own investment, on their own blood and treasure that has gone in over the past 20 years because there is much to be earned and gained from it.
KELLY: That is Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, thank you for your time.
RAHMANI: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.