Women protesting in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 2015
Ahmad Masood / Reuters

When U.S. policymakers debate the future of Afghan women, they often frame a binary choice. The United States can either abandon them—as collateral damage of a foolhardy Western experiment imposed on an archaic society—or fight a forever war to protect them. But the notion that Afghan women must be either forsaken or defended in perpetuity is based on an antiquated view of Afghan society and on a misunderstanding of the path that Afghan women envision will sustain and protect their rights. 

As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, it must strive

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