March 12th, 20103-11-10 My purpose in this blog is to be your eyes and ears on the ground, to report what I see and hear. My agenda is to seek out things that are going right, that are working, that can give one cause to hope that in a few years or decades, life for Afghans will be improved. This must also be balanced with other things I see that go in the opposite direction. Afghanistan is a perfect example of the story of the elephant and the blind men who, each feeling a part of the elephant and suppose it to represent the entire animal. I will share the bits and pieces that I discover and leave it to you to draw conclusions, knowing that even this is but a small window into the entire scene. We met with Professor Akhram of the National Independence Peace and Reconcilliation Commission whose plan for peace is to integrate Afghan Taliban into society. First, he divides Taliban into the (bad) Pakistani Taliban and the (mostly good) Afghan Taliban. Five years ago he (and his cohorts) began meeting with 23 thousand tribal elders all over the country. These elders know how to talk with the villagers to persuade them not to send their kids to join the Taliban and to persuade the Talibs from their villages to give up fighting and join the peace movement. Of the nine thousand who turned in their weapons, 25 of them were high-level Taliban. Those who join get a paper stating their new status which they can present to US soldiers in order to avoid trouble with them. He claims that 85% of the Afghan Taliban are reconcilable, that they agree to schools for girls (as mandated by Islam) and for women to work outside the home. This last is a moot point in the villages. The downside is the 6,000 Pakistani Taliban (out of 30,000) who are interfering with this peace process and who are funded and controlled by the Pakistani ISI (intelligence service). The Taliban in Marja are of this sort. We got to meet with Professor Ramani, an ex-Talib, third or fourth from the top, who is now a senator in the parliament. He believes in women’s rights to school and says that as long as the religious conditions are met, women should be allowed to work. He himself has no problem working with women. He said that many of the Taliban excesses were from “wrong thinking because of war times”. I got to meet with Prof. Akhram a second time and when I mentioned Prof. Ramani to him, he said that he didn’t trust him because he has property in Islamabad, Pakistan, and a whole network of Pakistanis. When I asked the house guard here at the guest house, he told me that most of even the Afghan Taliban are “bad guys”. Others say that unless they are integrated into society and given jobs, there will be no peace. I will be asking about this throughout my other interviews.