Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed to hold talks with US and Chinese officials next month aimed at restarting stalled peace talks with the Taliban. The first round of talks in July collapsed amid Taliban infighting. The announcement came after army chief General Raheel Sharif met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on Sunday.

The Taliban are strong yet divided. With the announcement that the Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar had died two years earlier, and the subsequent appointment of Mullah Akhter Mansoor as the new commander, the Islamist organisation has experienced serious infighting. A faction led by Mullah Dadullah has challenged the authority of Mansoor and pledged allegiance to the “Islamic State” (IS), which is making inroads into Afghanistan.

Afghanistan needs Pakistan to play a positive role in any Taliban peace process, but Kabul has long remained suspicious that Islamabad is playing a double-game. In a sign of how deep Afghan distrust runs, the country’s intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil resigned this month after Ghani met with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in recent weeks to discuss reviving peace talks. This distrust will make the talks collapse, and any blame will be put on Pakistan. The Afghan attitude has been so hostile that tensions at the border allegedly caused Afghan security forces to commit more than 130 border violations in which 18 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Maybe a better course of action should have been for the military to just focus on closing the porous border so that no terrorist could move between the countries, and than assure an end of to the Pakistani Taliban and leave the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan people to their own devices. Yet we have our finger in the pie, and continue to be led on by the Taliban terror- still believing in the traditional doctrines of strategic depth.

The situation is further complicated by Russia, back to raise the ghosts of the Afghan War. A senior Afghan militant commander has claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin held an unpublicised meeting with Taliban chief Akhtar Mansour to discuss possible Russian support for the insurgents to balance the IS threat in the region. A Taliban commander said that his group had been promised Russian arms and financial support only weeks before the province of Helmand fell under Taliban control. If Russia plays this game, it will definitely bring the IS horde closer to home, as well as open up a new market for Indian and Russian arms. This should be the real reason why talks with the Taliban need to be happen- to disarm them before the Russian invasion.