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For Afghan peace talks to succeed, attacks must end

The United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that peace negotiations would fail unless the country's escalating violence stops

UNITED NATIONS (AP) —

The United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that peace negotiations would fail unless the country’s escalating violence stops, and that any peace agreement should reflect the fact that half of the country’s population was born after the Taliban’s defeat in 2001, when women rose to positions of economic and political power.

Deborah Lyons told the United Nations Security Council that these Afghans are now the majority and deserve to have their voices heard during government-Taliban peace talks, as well as to play a role in the peace process “an active and substantial role in Afghan society after a peace agreement is concluded.”

A US-led coalition deposed the Taliban in 2001 for harbouring Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. A peace deal brokered by Washington with the Taliban and signed in February 2020 led to negotiations with the government in Qatar, which began in September.

Women were not allowed to go to school, work outside the home, or leave their homes without a male escort under the Taliban. Afghan women have increasingly risen to strong positions in a variety of fields, despite the fact that they still face many challenges in a male-dominated society, and many are concerned that the current talks will jeopardise their gains.

The Taliban have promised that women will be able to go to school, work, and participate in politics, but only if they do so in accordance with Islamic principles — without specifying what that means.

The Trump administration agreed to withdraw the last of its forces from Afghanistan by May 1 as part of the deal with the Taliban. The government, on the other hand, blames the Taliban for the uptick in violence, and it’s unclear if the May 1 deadline will be met.

On his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday that the Biden administration wants to see “a responsible end” to America’s longest war, but that the level of violence must drop for “fruitful” diplomacy to have a chance.

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