Afghanistan’s top envoy to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal, expressed his government’s willingness to offer unconditional peace negotiations with the Taliban insurgents. According to him, contact has been established with the Qatar office as well as a number of influential individual Taliban leaders and commanders to begin the dialogue process even though no formal negotiations have taken place yet.

The Afghan government has tried many an extreme measure to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. Earlier, Afghan officials were pushing to create a “safe zone” for Taliban insurgents in order to draw them out of their sanctuaries inside Pakistan, in a radical strategy to de-escalate the conflict. While that failed to materialise, due to the Afghan government and more importantly the US Army’s failure to ensure their safety on Afghan ground, it is prudent that the Afghan Government is walking into the talks with no preconditions. The Taliban negotiators on the other hand, have a long list of demands, sensing that the ball is in their court at the moment and used the opportunity to demand that their political office in Qatar be opened, UN sanctions on their senior leaders be lifted and their detained members be released.

The real deterrent factor of peace in the region is perhaps the continued presence of the US Army. While the US may claim that it is fighting Al Qaeda and Daesh in Afghanistan, it is clear that the real battle it fights is against the Taliban and its control over the country vis-a-vis America’s control in Kabul.

Both the Taliban and the US are stuck in this cycle of power struggle, egging the Taliban on to continue its hostile offensive and the latter with the much needed excuse to prolong its stay in the country, and expand the military’s advisory and training missions. The Afghan Government has said as much that a peace deal could mean the departure of the Americans, but it is uncertain whether that can really happen under the Trump Administration.