On a warm spring afternoon, the coffee shops and outdoor restaurants in Kabul are usually crammed full of young people. It is a far cry from how the city was under Taliban rule in the late 90s – here, women and men can mingle, chat, even go on dates. But these days, the conversation has turned serious as US troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan. Many fear that the Taliban will gain power and that the country could once again be flung into civil war with many of its warlords still vying for power. Young women worry they could be subjected to the old cruelties their mothers and grandmothers endured under the Taliban's 1996-2001 rule. Human rights organisations warn that women’s fundamental freedoms can’t be compromised. The Taliban remain deeply misogynistic, explains Heather Barr, interim co-director in the Women's Rights Division for Human Rights Watch. “Women have suffered deeply during Afghanistan’s 40 years of war, and they desperately long for peace. They have also fought ferociously for equality in the years since the fall of the Taliban government and have made great progress. Today there are women ministers and governors and judges and police and soldiers,” she says.