The Taliban suspended peace talks with the United States last month, setting back the Obama administration’s efforts to end the war in Afghanistan before U.S. combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
The U.S. and Afghan governments have laid down three conditions for the peace process. The Taliban must renounce al Qaeda, disarm and respect the Afghan Constitution.
The Taliban have refused to recognize Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, which they refer to as a “puppet,” and have shown no inclination to abide by the Afghan Constitution.
Karzai’s commitment questioned
There is a risk that the gains made by women “can be traded off for short-term political gain,” said Sima Samar, chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Karzai’s own commitment to these freedoms is also a cause of concern for some women.
He has signed laws that protect women’s rights but also has made comments that have alarmed defenders of those rights.
Mr. Karzai ignited a firestorm last year when he attempted to bring all women’s shelters in Afghanistan under government control.
“Mr. Karzai abandoned the effort in the face of international pressure, but he had made his point: to illustrate to the Taliban that women’s rights can be disposed of.”
Last month, Mr. Karzai endorsed a statement from the country’s top religious council that women should not interact with men in schools, offices, universities and shopping centers.
The council also said that women should not travel without male relatives and must respect the right of men to polygamy.
“It is Talibanism all over again, and Karzai did nothing to fight it,” said Ms. Hyneman. “He was supportive of rules against women’s freedom that go totally backwards.”
The Karzai administration has set up a High Peace Council to lead the reconciliation process with the militants. Nine of the 69 council members are women, but critics complain that the women’s presence has been largely symbolic.