With talks between the Afghan Taliban and the government finally commencing today, there are mixed opinions going into the discussions. This is primarily because on the eve of the talks, according to Russian sources, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility over attacks on two checkposts which led to the death of 16 soldiers of Afghan security forces. This is exactly the tone that was not needed in setting the groundwork for the talks between the Taliban and the government to finally commence.

For the Afghan government and citizens, the cessation of violence—and not a mere reduction—is the only real way forward for any reconciliation process to begin. This is going to be the primary demand of the government’s team of negotiators, and they might just be bringing this issue up more forcefully now that so many lives were lost in a day.

The Taliban on the other hand, know that their success on the battlefield might not necessarily work in their favour in any discussions of the way forward, unless violence is kept as a constant threat and a means to exercise leverage in the talks. This is why they have so far not agreed to any demands to stop acts of terrorism.

And herein lies the main stumbling block. For Afghanistan to be peaceful—which is the end-goal of this round of negotiations—warring factions must lay down their arms and discuss what power-sharing formula is to follow. Naturally, the ceasefire cannot be one-sided. Finding some middle ground becomes all the more important because the US pullout draws ever nearer, and there is speculation in Washington that the November elections will not change the outcome or even schedule of the US troop withdrawal. As of now, in two months, another 4000 US soldiers are expected to be brought back home. Both sides must be cognisant of the fact that the clock is ticking.