A week into negotiations, and the optimism surrounding the peace process in Afghanistan looks to have waned a little. There are reports that both sides are finding it hard to agree on the most basic issues. Predominant among them of course is agreeing to a ceasefire, but from the Afghan Taliban’s perspective, talks on the cessation of violence must come after other outstanding issues have been resolved.

The Afghan government on its part, is reportedly having issues with agreeing to a way forward on the dispensation of rights in the country. The government and civilians rightfully do not want the progress made in the last two decades to be overturned due to this peace; after all, this is exactly why the country has been embroiled in violence since 2001.

There are of course, some positives as well. Consistent dialogue with the US negotiators has made the Afghan Taliban more willing to break any stalemates as they arise. But this discussion-savvy team will also give the government a harder time convincing the Taliban to make concessions where possible. The Taliban barely gave an inch to the US dealmakers, it is unlikely that they will change a winning formula.

Quite naturally, the gains made in fighting an even a consistent stalemate on the ground and in negotiations favours the Taliban more. The longer they hold out, the likelier it is that the US will want to leave Afghanistan to its own devices. President Trump has already categorically stated that another 4000 troops will be withdrawn in little over a month. And whatever concessions the two sides make in the talks, the US must consider revisiting this deadline as well; or at the very least, keep it flexible. If the talks do not lead to any headway being made and a peace treaty being signed, removing even more troops exposes civilians to violence. All stakeholders should remember that the average citizen must be prioritised over all else in this process.