On a sunny Washington afternoon this week, a group of Afghan women crowded around a wooden conference table in a bare room on the State Department's ground floor. They were there to talk about the high stakes of the troop drawdown from their country, scheduled to begin in July.
“The fear is that with withdrawal, all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan,” said Samira Hamidi, head of the Afghan Women's Network, a nationwide umbrella organization of women's groups. “People are afraid, and they don't want history to be repeated,” she said, referring to the power vacuum left in 1989 following the Soviets' pullout from Afghanistan.
Hamidi and the other women are in Washington to speak with senior White House, Pentagon, and State Department officials, along with members of Congress, about the imminent scaling back of the international presence in Afghanistan. The trip is hosted by the Institute for Inclusive Security, a nonprofit that focuses on ensuring women's presence in peace talks around the world.