Trio of senators visit Afghanistan, Iraq
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Monday that based on what she heard during a trip to Afghanistan, she’s encouraged that female leaders there are pushing hard for peace.
The New Hampshire senator talked to reporters by phone from Iraq after she and two fellow Democratic senators spent two days in Afghanistan. During their trip, they met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, U.S. military officials and prominent Afghan women, including an award-winning film producer and director and the chairwoman of the Afghan Women’s Network.
Shaheen, the first woman to serve as both a governor and U.S. senator, said she’s particularly encouraged by how active women have been in planning demonstrations ahead of peace talks with representatives of the Taliban.
“There’s a significant presence of women who are going to be part of that demonstration,” she said. “Women have led dozens of events around the country, urging peace. So it was encouraging to me to hear that women were being so engaged in the peace process, particularly in Kandahar, which has been the home of the Taliban.”
The Afghan government said last week that talks with the Taliban will take place Friday, in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The meeting is seen as a significant step toward finding an end to Afghanistan’s protracted war and the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Afghan government representatives are participating in talks as part of a larger group of prominent Afghans. The Taliban say they will speak with the government representatives but recognize them only as “ordinary” Afghans.
The other members of the trip were Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Doug Jones of Alabama. All three are members of Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees. Shaheen, who last traveled to Afghanistan several years ago, said she was surprised at the high level of interest in peace.
“When I met with the women leaders, they talked about what they were hearing. They wanted to see a cease fire, they wanted the fighting to end, they wanted to make sure that women continue to have rights. They also wanted to make sure that women have not just the constitutional rights, but the ability to feed their families and to make sure they weren’t losing loved ones, children or husbands in the conflict,” she said. “To hear the amount of peace activity that was going on in the country was surprising to me.”