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Taliban attend U.N. talks meant to normalize Afghan ties but women are excluded

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Right now, not one country in the world officially recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate ruler in Afghanistan. The group took control in 2021 after the U.S. withdrawal, and now Afghanistan is internationally isolated. So can the Taliban find a way to have relations with the outside world? That's what a United Nations-led meeting in Qatar was considering. It was the third round of talks on the topic, this time with the Taliban. Nilofar Sakhi is an Afghan scholar and lecturer at George Washington University, and she joins me now to talk about the country's future. Good morning.

NILOFAR SAKHI: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So this meeting in Doha just wrapped up. Does it look like this process is creating a path for Afghanistan out of international isolation?

SAKHI: Well, thank you for having me. The Doha 3, which we are calling it - it was initially a Doha process - it was meant to create a political roadmap for Afghanistan with through an inclusive process, through bringing all Afghans together, and particularly women and all the different other factions, and just because the political stability in Afghanistan is not in place, and that has to be meant to create a political roadmap. But now we see in the Doha three. Doha 1 was kind of hopeful. Doha 2 was not, again, hopeful in that - in those terms. But Doha 3 was kind of different. It was - from my lens, I don't see it so effective. And I don't see it also according to its own initial mandate. It wasn't organized according to that mandate. First, because it excluded women. I mean, it's the U.N.-led, U.N.-facilitated platform...

FADEL: Yeah, and that was the Taliban's demand to participate, to exclude women.

SAKHI: Of course, that was demand by the Taliban. And it seems U.N. bowed ahead and then accepted what Taliban conditions were to participate in that, and that was to exclude women. The main part of the process which many of us have been advocating since Day 1 of the Taliban takeover. The women should be important part, an important element in this important talks. But actually, that was not there. They were excluded. Civil society was excluded - not only women, the broader civil society, which could bring a lot of value into such platforms, which could raise the voices of the people. Those were excluded from the process. So, of course, the agenda was not very - was confusing for some.

FADEL: Right.

SAKHI: Not clear at the very initial stages, yeah.

FADEL: Women, civil society excluded in a process that you hoped would be inclusive. In the meeting, the Taliban also said the West just has to look past its treatment of women and girls in the interest of foreign relations. Is that something the world will just accept?

SAKHI: Well, what we have seen recently, Doha 3, that at least U.N. accepted, you know, UN accepted in a sense that they excluded women from such process because Taliban wanted that to happen. So Taliban clearly mentioned that the West, including, I mean, the international community should not intervene in the local affairs and the national affairs, and the internal affairs of Afghanistan. And women's issue is an internal affairs, but it's not only internal affairs at this point, it goes back to the a whole concept of the international solidarity for women of Afghanistan. So I think this is not really an internal issue, which the international community should really intervene. But Taliban, they don't want the international community, including the West to intervene in the - what they call it is internal affairs of Afghanistan.

FADEL: Nilofar Sakhi is a lecturer at George Washington University and a fellow at the Atlantic Council. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.