Clinton warns on women's rights in Afghanistan
KABUL -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday added a U.S. "red line" to conditions for Afghan government reconciliation with Taliban insurgents--no political deal to end the war is acceptable if it means a step backward for women's rights in Afghanistan.
"I don't think there is such a political solution, one that would be a lasting, sustainable one, that would turn the clock back on women," Clinton told reporters here after attending a conference of Afghanistan's international backers.
Although women's issues have long been a priority for Clinton, the subject seemed to take a far back seat as the war effort faltered last year. Even as the fighting escalated, Afghan President Hamid Karzai began to talk of negotiations with Taliban leaders who agreed to lay down their arms, sever ties with al-Qaeda and respect Afghanistan's constitution.
The possibility, however distant at this point, of at least some Taliban leaders returning to power has concerned Afghan womens groups, who fear the reimposition of draconian restrictions during their five-year rule in the late 1990s, when girls were forbidden to attend school and females were banned from public and professional life.
"I know of the concerns many of you have expressed about the reintegration and reconciliation process," Clinton told a group of Afghan women she met with Tuesday morning. "We understand why you have concerns," she said.
Clinton said she had scheduled the meeting to take place before the conference so that she could raise the issue at international gathering. If women's groups "silenced and moved to the margins of Afghan society," she said in her speech to the conference, "the prospects for peace and justice will be subverted."
After the conference, she told reporters traveling with that any reconciliation effort would be an "Afghan-led process." But human rights and equality were enshrined in the Afghan constitution extremists would have to promise to respect, she said.
As far as the United States was concerned, Clinton said, "we've got our red lines, and they are very clear."
| July 20, 2010; 11:27 AM ET
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