Recently, the Karzai-Taliban Peace talks has gained significant press coverage.
Yet few stories tell anyone how the peace process occurs, and what is a likely timetable of peace negotiations.
Only a few men on the planet know the answers, and almost none of those men are in the media headlines. It is unclear why the media has overlooked this story, one can only speculate.
Fox News did report US were protecting the Taliban for the peace talks, but reports are confusing.
Recently, I went to Afghanistan and met with one of the most important man in Afghanistan who is unknown to most Americans. His name is Minister Muhammad Askram. He is an Afghan attorney assigned to chair the Taliban Peace and Reconciliation Committee. Unbeknown to many, Askram knows exactly what has to happen, who must be involved, and he is fully aware of the complexities. With the exception of one NPR interview, the press has overlooked the meaning of Askram's position and his profound importance.
While in Kabul, I traveled inside his highly guarded compound with two men standing next to me fully strapped with Kalashnikovs. At every door way, two more guards provided additional security. After going through four checkpoints and passing two dozen former Taliban guards, I entered Minister Akram's residence/office.
Minister Askram greeted me, "Salam Alyakum", and we began to talk about the Taliban Peace and Reintegration Process. Passionate and stern, Minister Askram said,
"Peace is possible, but the US must stop combat operations." Askram continued
85% of the Taliban can be brought into the peace process within six months, if combat operations are stopped.
I pushed back, and said, that it did not seem likely to me, and asked him to provide some evidence. He opened his 3-inch thick binder with the hundreds of cell phone numbers. Each one of the cell numbers was direct contact to Taliban Leadership.
Askram asked me:
Who do you want to call?
I can get in contact with anyone.
I know the Lieutenants, the Captains. I know everyone of them
I asked him:
How is that possible? In the US, we are told, the Taliban are enemies of the Afghans and the enemy of the US and we need to fight for our national security and for yours. How can you simply pick up the phone and call them?
The Taliban are Afghans, they are family members of ours. I knew them when they were in power. I knew co-founder of the Taliban Taliban Mullah Barader. I saw Mullah Omar, and the others on a daily basis. No one liked the Taliban, but they are Afghans and we can bring peace if Afghans lead the peace talks. [Afghans] know how to do this, Afghans have never quit a fight unless other Afghans plead with other Afghans.
Poignantly, Askram stated:
15% of the Taliban that wont join the peace process. However, hay is such a small amount of people. That 15% are the extreme religious people, and they can be dealt with by Afghans. Mullah Omar, the Quetta Shura leadership, and the Haqqani Network are not sizable to take over Afghanistan like before. If I am given a tinny amount of money and real estate to provide them, we can make peace. We have brought 25 UN blacklisted leaders to the peace table, and over 9,000 militants. Afghans are not Al-qaeda we like peace, the Taliban militants are different that Al-Qaeda.
I asked Askram:
What about bin Ladin and Al-queda then, they are surely resting in Pakistan, what is the US supposed to do?
Lets assume you are correct, what are the coalition forces supposed to do about the Al-queda networks in Pakistan?
"Pakistani ISI knows where bin Ladin is, and they helped him escape in 2002," claimed Minister Askram. "Do you really think that the US, as powerful as it is would let one man can hide for so long"? Askram said to me, "walk around this place and see if it makes any human sense to you. He is in Pakistan, ISI knows where he is, and that is why the US has not found him."
I asked him, "have the US military leaders have met with you"
Askram said: "I have been waiting months for a return phone call"
We discussed many other details regarding the integration and peace process. However, according to Askram there is four points of discontinuity with US operations and the Counter-Terorism efforts and the Taliban Peace Process.
- Al-Qaeda operating in Pakistan is an ISI/CIA relations problem.
- The Taliban will come to the peace process without a continued fight. The continued military efforts are no longer necessary.
- Afghans want peace, and they are not afraid to talk to the Taliban.
- The US can stop combat operations and Afghans might be able to sort out their own peace operations without the US.