U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) meets with Afghan women Maria Bashir (L), Fowzia Koofi (2L), Dr. Sima Samar (3R), Samira Hamidi (2R), and Nargis Stanikzai during a Civil Society round table discussion at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on October 20, 2011. (Kevin Lamarque / AFP)
KABUL, October 20, 2011 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday she was hoping to get a "reality check" on the future of Afghanistan by holding talks with Afghan women, politicians, youth and opinion leaders.
"I'm here to have a reality check. I want to hear what people in Afghanistan are thinking about the way forward," Clinton said as she met the group in Kabul ahead of talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Among the group was Salahuddin Rabbani, son of murdered peace broker Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose September 20 assassination has derailed Afghan government efforts to reach out to the Taliban to broker a deal.
"He was a brave man and trying to do the right thing," the chief US diplomat told Rabbani, who is the acting head of his father's Jamiat-e-Islami party.
Rabbani replied: "We will make sure we continue his vision."
Clinton is in Kabul to step up a diplomatic drive ahead of international conferences aimed at ending the 10-year war.
As a powerful Tajik and leader in the Northern Alliance that fought the former Taliban regime, Rabbani's killing raised fears that Afghanistan could return to civil war after NATO winds down its combat mission in 2014.
Clinton has been a vocal advocate of women's rights in Afghanistan but rights activists fear that any political settlement with the Islamist Taliban movement could undo gains made throughout the past decade.
Other members of the group she met included Sima Samar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Nargis Sanikzai, an English student at Kabul University, and Salam Rahimi, who heads the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.
Clinton said their efforts to contribute to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan were "a life's work."