The GWOT in the Af-Pak region (APR) seems to be entering its final stages. The defeated US/NATO/ISAF Combine is on its way out of the region and Pakistan has finally decided to tackle its internal threats proactively. It has decided to enter into talks with the TTP, as a first tentative step out of this imbroglio.
What would the two belligerents want to gain from this incredulous exercise in “talks”.
The Government of Pakistan (GOP) has apparently overcome its crippling intellectual paralysis and has decided to give “peace another chance”. If the talks are successful it would be an historical achievement; else, the GOP could still launch the inevitable military operation and be morally and ethically justified in doing so. It perhaps finds itself in a rare win-win position.
The timing of these talks is critical and time, by itself, is at a premium for the TTP. It might actually be craving for an “operational and logistics pause”. It has suffered from the Pakistan Armed Forces angry responses to its latest (mis)adventures against them and may have been chastened a bit. It is trying to engage the GOP in unending talks to gain time and legitimacy. It clearly wants to forestall further military operations against itself in order to preserve its strength; which it would like to use to support the Afghan Taliban as the US/NATO/ISAF Combine egresses from Afghanistan. Together they would want to first acquire an advantageous position in post December-2014 Afghanistan and then combine their strengths against nuclear Pakistan to pursue their avowed aims of an Islamic Emirate in the Af-Pak Region(APR) and a Universal Caliphate.
We must appraise the “talks” and “military operations” in the correct strategic perspectives to come to logical and realistic conclusions including the correct order (military operations and then talks) in which these activities ought to take place! Talks from any position other than an overwhelmingly unassailable one would be foolhardy, self-defeating and against prudent statecraft; and the GOP appears to be committing this exact folly!
Is Mian Nawaz Sharif convinced that this offer of talks with the TTP will really lead to a true and tangible peace? And does he believe he will promptly come out the winner on the talks table? If he has not already positioned himself advantageously for victory then he is perhaps already too late for it. He appears to have been ensnared by the charms of “extreme right wing politics and politicians” and may end upnegotiating from a patently far inferior position than his opponents.
And that raises further questions.
Does the GOP truly believe that the laying down of arms, the establishment of an Islamic Emirate in the APR, a Universal Caliphate and the fates of its foreign fighters are “all” negotiable issues for the TTP? Will it forego its avowed aim of enforcing its version of Shariah in Pakistan and meekly submit to the Laws and the Constitution of Pakistan?
Will the Foreign Intelligence Agencies like the CIA, Mossad, MI6, as well as the RAW-NDS Combine allow their long term investments in terms of time, financing, raising, equipping, training and launching of the TTP go to waste on a negotiating table? Will they allow an end to the destabilization of nuclear Pakistan and give up their long term strategic designs for the region? To what end would all this mayhem, death and wanton destruction then have been if these terrorists (and their foreign masters and handlers by implication) were to just give up and capitulate without extracting their proverbial pound of flesh and more?
Or does the TTP actually expect the GOP to acquiesce enough to allow it to attain most of its aforementioned objectives without a shot being fired in anger?
Beats comprehension!
Further, the GOP’s Committee for talks just does not have the credentials and wherewithal to bring about the required massive paradigm shift in the TTP’s belief systems to achieve peace.
Are these talks then preordained to fail?
And who does the GOP intend to talk to anyway - the wily Mullah Fazullah and his notorious outfit? The nation and the people of Swat in particular have borne the effects of his savagery, ruthlessness and inflexibility in talks earlier as well.  The Government will surely have a very clear perception of his beliefs and his modus operandi. Furthermore, he is neither leading the TTP nor the talks from the front; rather he is doing both by proxy from his safe haven in Kunar-Nuristan.
Why must the GOP then walk the well-trodden path again?
The GOP may have faltered massively by “giving peace this chance at this point in time”. It should have pressed on with the military operations once it had the TTP on the back foot recently. A military defeat should have been inflicted upon the TTP first and thereafter it should have been forced onto the table - not vice versa, and certainly not for negotiations but for unilateral talks! 
Unfortunately, the GOP has taken the plunge at the wrong end of the pool!
Now, it will be an endless merry-go-round of pointless talks which will allow the TTP time to regroup, recruit, rest, retrain, re-equip and get ready for generating further mayhem in the APR. The GOP can still rectify the situation by laying down a short time limit of three to four months for the talks to be fruitful. Failing which, the balloon must go up!
The GOP and its Armed Forces need to be free, ready and prepared to deal with the even larger mayhem that is most likely to descend upon Pakistan in the wake of the US/NATO/ISAF egress from a fast disintegrating Afghanistan by the year’s end. Pakistan’s Armed Forces must not lose sight of this looming cross Durand Line disaster.
The GOP must act fast and resolutely in the national interest and consign all other thoughts and considerations to the dustbin.
Time and timings are critical factors in the conduct of statecraft in such circumstances.
So, what needs to be done, must be done! And it must be done, pronto!

The author is a retired Brigadier, a former Defense Attache’ to Australia and New Zealand and is currently on the faculty of NUST (NIPCONS).

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