The Doha talks have finally come after protracted parleys in the capitals of important countries, including USA, Pakistan, Afghanistan, France, Germany, Iran, Turkey, China, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE. It has been an arduous journey where no one was ever sure about the destination.

The war that ensued after the US invasion of Afghanistan, changed many colours. It was “a coalition of the willing” that at the end of a decade of attrition and bloodbath, turned into a coalition of mostly unwilling.

It seems that the superstructure of Nato was there just to prop up the dampening spirits of the invading forces. It was President Barack Obama’s second-term that mostly did the trick.

The economic meltdown and a trillion dollars deficit were enough reasons for President Obama to chart an entirely new course for the US war on terror, which embroiled many other countries of the world, irrespective of their proximity or distance from the conflict zone. He knew it would be an honourable course for the US to have some kind of settlement with the Taliban, alongside the committed withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, before 2014.

Islamabad helped Washington to achieve this goal. The assistance that came from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, France and Germany was also of immense importance. There would be many others who would claim the credit for facilitating the process of bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.

China has definitely influenced the Taliban to opt for talks.

Japan would not be lagging behind, considering its enthusiasm for hosting conferences on Afghanistan.

Iran too has its own strategic interests to watch and has successfully tried to keep a distance from the conflict and not burn its fingers by provoking Taliban outfits. It has also avoided muddling in the Hazara areas where Shias are in majority. This was a sane course.

Having said that, the European countries wanted to get rid of their involvement in the unending and inconclusive Afghan conflict. They have done every bit to placate the intransigent and often irreconcilable Afghan fighters. Their economies have also borne the brunt along with the sole superpower.

Furthermore, Turkey’s role would be very salubrious. Its government with Islamic leanings was a positive catalyst in helping start the process of negotiations for bringing peace in Afghanistan.

Qatar is the headquarters of Centcom and the location of the talks at Doha is a feather in its cap. Not only that, opening of a political office while giving it due recognition was akin to accepting the de facto legitimacy of the Afghan Taliban. 

Saudi Arabia must have helped prepare the ground. The Kingdom attracts all groupings of the jihadists and it also helps gloss over their differences by inviting them to meet at the holiest of places.

The UAE has that uniqueness to move things smoothly with its quiet diplomacy and the spirit of making things happen.

In addition, there has already been a public appreciation of the role played by Islamabad by the US State Department and most of the finger-pointing at Pakistan for allegedly harbouring jihadists, have, so it seems, disappeared in the shadows. Will India and its protégé, Afghanistan also learn a lesson and drop their blame game at the international fora?

Pakistan does not and has never believed in using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. America has been striving for a long time to engage the Taliban for eliciting concessions for its planned drawdown. Track 2 discussions in France. Germany and Qatar laid down the grundnorms for future parleys.

It certainly was the handiwork of patient, unrelenting, intense and focused political acumen that has made it happen in Qatar. The cost and benefit exercise must have been carried out by both sides. The Taliban now have an address. Much would have been decided before coming to this venue. The stakes that were high would have been lowered by now.

The Taliban also have some sense of destiny. Their strategic insight has prompted the sole superpower and an array of world powerbrokers to see the light of the day, and learn the inevitable lesson; the terrorists might have many guises, but when they become political, you have to perforce see them as a political entity, move on with dialogue and shun another Vietnam; or else you haven’t learnt the lesson.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.