“All wars have to end politically.” This was a recent statement by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as he referred to the Taliban conflict in his country; a conflict that has shook the core of international relations in the world since it started. The war in Afghanistan with the Taliban has been ongoing since 2001, and in these seventeen years, we have seen the tragic cycle of constant attempts at peace and their inevitable failure. Now however, as the conflict enters its eighteenth year, President Ghani has hope that the war may finally see its end.

The Afghan President expressed this hope in a video appearance at Johns Hopkins University. He voiced confidence on reaching a peace deal to end the Taliban insurgency, saying it was a question of “when”, not “if”. Ghani stated that he was offering unconditional talks and pointed to an unprecedented ceasefire with the Taliban in June as a hopeful sign.

It is easy to view Ghani’s hope with a pinch of salt. Peace seems far-fetched when Afghanistan has seen many attacks in recent months, with the Taliban carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces as well as coordinated assaults on major cities. It is notable to remember that Ghani is running for reelection in 2019 so this renewed hope could just be an attempt to boost morale and faith of the Afghan people in the government.

Yet it might still be that Ghani’s prediction is not off the mark, and the tide, after more than a decade, might truly be turning. On Monday, Pakistan released two Taliban officials, the timing of which is revealing considering that US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is currently on a visit to the region, pointing to the possibility of a US-Taliban breakthrough.

More strikingly, it appears there is a new player in the region, as Russia has indicated its interest in bringing about peace with the Taliban. Russia hosted a landmark peace conference on Afghanistan in Moscow last week, which was attended by a five-member group representing the Taliban and the Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) - an Afghan body whose members have been nominated by the government to reach out to the Taliban. While there has been no news as of yet on any successful result of the meeting, the entry of Russia in the region means a significant shift of dynamics of the peace effort- a change that might just be the push it needed.