The attack on the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad on Wednesday is the third direct attack on a foreign mission in Afghanistan in 2016, and the second direct attack against Indian installations in Afghanistan. This incident coincided with the conclusion of NATO’s change of command ceremony. While no group has claimed responsibility as of yet, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has stuck to the inflammatory stance of his time in power and has pointed the finger at Pakistan. His claim of this attack being an attempt to affect the friendship between India and Afghanistan cannot be taken seriously, because the active participation of Pakistan in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) would then be absolutely redundant. Not only that, but his accusations ignore a similar attack on the Pakistani Consulate in the same city in January.

President Ashraf Ghani met COAS Raheel Sharif on the same day, and was assured of Pakistan’s support in the talks’ process. The Afghan government looks prepared to accept almost all of the demands made by the Taliban; from removing names of leaders of the UN sanctions list to releasing prisoners and amending the constitution. This is a positive step, but it must also push for its demand of ceasefire to be accepted by the Taliban before any boons are granted.

The confirmation of Mullah Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan, as stated by the Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan comes as a surprise to no one. More shocking is Sartaj Aziz’s public admission about the presence of key Taliban leaders and their families in Pakistan. Not that this was a secret either, but the government’s change of tack reflects an unexpectedly honest stance, which indicates a genuine willingness to facilitate the peace process across the western border. The government now needs to apply pressure, like it has admitted it can, to ensure that this round of talks is a direct interaction between the Afghan government and the Taliban. With reports of mass desertions in both the police and the Afghan army surfacing, fighting is clearly not going to help in establishing the writ of the Afghan state over the country. The significance of these talks cannot be overstated, and indeed a lot rides on the talks to bear some fruit before the Taliban’s spring offensive begins. Last year’s fighting led to the deaths of over 11,000 civilians and if an agreement of ceasefire is not reached in March, the country can expect more bloodshed.