May 14, 2010 in Nation/World

Clinton vows U.S. support of Afghan women

Anne Gearan And Anne Flaherty Associated Press

No ‘massive military action’ in Kandahar

 WASHINGTON – American-led military operations in and around the Afghan city of Kandahar in the next months will look markedly less militaristic than this year’s offensive in Marjah, top U.S. officials said Thursday.

 Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said that Kandahar would not require an overt military push into the heart of the city, and said there would be no “D-Day” kicking off military operations.

 “Kandahar is not in fact controlled by the Taliban. So it’s not a case of having to recapture an area under enemy control, as Marjah was,” McChrystal said at a news conference at the Pentagon.

 Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, appearing alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai before a Washington think tank audience later on Thursday, said the effort in Kandahar would not be “a massive military action,” with “tanks rolling into the city.”

 “This is not Fallujah,” she said at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON – Women’s rights will not be sacrificed in any settlement between the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Taliban militants, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

Clinton ruled out U.S. support, or at least her own, for negotiations with anyone who would roll back advances for Afghan women achieved since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the militant Islamic Taliban movement from power in 2001.

“There are certain conditions that have to be met” to hold talks with insurgents about laying down arms, Clinton said during an appearance with Karzai. Karzai and a large delegation of government ministers and advisers, including several women, were finishing four days of talks in Washington.

Among the conditions for peace talks, midlevel Taliban leaders would have to renounce violence, cut ties with al-Qaida and its affiliates, and abide by Afghanistan’s laws and constitution, Clinton said.

“And on a personal note, they must respect women’s rights.”

Karzai nodded beside her but did not address the women’s rights aspect of possible talks with the Taliban. The other conditions apply, he said.

The Taliban regime forced women to wear a traditional head-to-toe covering called a burqa, forbade school for girls and beat women seen walking outside the company of a man.

The Taliban has rebounded over the past several years to become a persistent insurgency seeking Karzai’s overthrow. Insurgents and their sympathizers routinely intimidate or attack women who work outside the home, wear Western dress or try to attend school.

Clinton, whose bid for president in 2008 got further than any American woman before her, made a similar point when she met with Afghan women earlier Thursday at the State Department.

“We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always,” Clinton told three senior female Afghan officials who were part of Karzai’s delegation. The trip ends today with a visit to Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the 101st Airborne Division that is going en masse to Afghanistan.

Clinton said it was “essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled on in the reconciliation process.”

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