The last time the Taliban were in the headlines, they had just claimed responsibility two attacks in Kabul, which had killed nearly 150 people. Many expected this heinous series of attacks to continue, but in a surprising turn of events the Taliban have published an open letter expressing a desire for peace talks and calling on the “American people” and “peace-loving congressmen” to pressurise the Donald Trump administration into negotiations.

Such an open invitation to negotiation is unprecedented. While negotiations have begun – and have broken down – countless times in the past the militant group has never shown such interest in a diplomatic solution. It would be easy to look on this letter with a fair-degree of well-deserved cynicism – but given the unchanging situation on the ground in Afghanistan perhaps it is time that the stakeholders in this war seriously consider this option as an alternative to further military conflict.

While that adage that war never changes is certainly true, Afghanistan has become an especially brutal reminder of this fact. Year after year, a makeshift Afghan government hangs on to control in the major cities supported by rapidly dwindling foreign support while the Taliban hold on to large swathes of land in the countryside. Over time the fighting has settled into a seasonal cycle, and the gains by both sides are piecemeal and temporary. Caught in the middle is an increasingly desperate Afghan population – which sees no way out of this bloody limbo it is stuck in.

America’s longest war – and the region’s most destabilising conflict – has taken its toll on the participants nonetheless. There is ubiquitous agreement that Afghanistan needs a negotiated “political solution”. Everyone, from the coalition allies to the various factions in Afghanistan, believes that the ultimate solution is a diplomatic settlement with the Taliban involving some sort of power haring – the only sticking point is when to settle.

The Trump administration has held out for a position of power; hoping to be in the best position to enforce its demands. However it increasingly seems that such a position will never materialize. The stalemate that exists now is here to stay barring any massive military investment from the US and its allies – investment that is highly unlikely in the “America First” era.

Two options stand before the global community, continue with military conflict and posturing in the hope of weakening the Taliban further, or to take this olive branch and make a sincere and concentrated effort for peace.

Given the daily sufferings of the Afghan people, there is only one real option to choose.