Clinton: We support Afghan women
Kabul - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday assured Afghan women that they will not be forgotten amid fears that peace efforts and a scaled-down foreign troop presence will bring Islamist extremists into the government.
Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told Afghan women leaders in Kabul that the West will not allow Afghanistan to return to the days of Taliban rule, when women's rights and issues were severely restricted and ignored.
"We understand why you have these concerns," Clinton told a group of about 15 women's rights activists ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan's future, at which Afghan leaders are to outline their plans to reintegrate militants into society.
"This is a personal commitment of mine. I don't want anyone to be under any mistaken impression."
'We support you'
Peace in Afghanistan "can't come at the cost of women and women's lives", she said.
Ashton echoed that sentiment on behalf of the EU.
"We're not going away," she said. "We are going to support you."
The prospect of a Taliban role in government has alarmed many Afghan women, especially as President Barack Obama has declared his intention to begin withdrawing US troops from the country next year amid growing unease in America about the course of the war.
Fouzia Kofi, a former Afghan legislator, told Clinton and Ashton she understood it was difficult to convince Westerners of the importance of the issue given deepening fears of a "never-ending war".
"They need to realise that peace here with the Taliban and bringing Taliban on board with a compromise of basic human rights and women's rights means taking this country back hundreds of years," Kofi said.