Although a peace deal has not yet been signed, the Afghan Taliban’s acceptance to reduce violent operations to provide safe passage for foreign troops is a very positive step towards cessation of hostility. While this is not exactly a ceasefire, a drawdown of violence will help being some much-needed calm to Afghanistan, alongside becoming an important indicator of whether all parties are willing to amicably resolve the impasse going forward. Both sides have admitted that a deal is close – possibly even signed at the end of this month – which means that dealing with the Afghan government comes next.

For obvious reasons, the details of any ceasefire agreement are currently being kept under wraps, although the main demands of both sides are clear. For the US and the Afghan state, an end to the violence in both the short term and the long term is paramount to ensure that Afghanistan heads towards normalcy and away from this drawn-out war. The Afghan Taliban want a pull-out of foreign troops before they begin speaking to the Afghan government about which direction the country heads in once a peace deal has been signed.

As they edge closer towards a middle ground, it is hoped that both sides understand the importance of the progress made these negotiations, and why backtracking now would lead us back towards hostility and bloodshed. The Afghan Taliban must cease violent attacks, not just against US forces, but also the Afghan state and the citizens of the country, to ensure that the US does not have an excuse to stay in the region for any longer than necessary. Conversely, the US must also avoid pulling out of talks at the last minute, as it has on past occasions. As the last two decades have shown, the only way out is through diplomatic engagement, and the longer this process is delayed, the more lives are lost.

Additionally, while a foreign troop pull-out from Afghanistan is essential for any lasting peace, a hasty extraction without a firm deal in place, with the necessary checks and balances in tow will only lead to further instability later. The objective here is to leave Afghanistan with a clear roadmap of what comes next, how much of a stake the Afghan Taliban will have in governing the country and why diplomacy must replace violence in any political transitions moving forward. This has been Pakistan’s stance from the beginning and it is positive that the Foreign Minister is actively looking to help wherever possible. A peaceful Afghanistan will change the geo-political situation of the region for the better. We can only hope we get there soon.