Once more, it seems, Pakistan and Afghanistan are headed for talks. Or their leaders are, at least. Clearly some ice was broken in Paris, where Nawaz Sharif and Ashraf Ghani agreed to talk; a departure from Kabul’s position since the breakdown of the Murree talks. Some pressure from the US has played a part, no doubt. The Americans, just like the Afghans, were unhappy, to say the least, when the news about Mullah Omar’s death came out. Suddenly they went back to the ‘do more’ awkwardness. But since then the realisation that this winter lull might be the last chance to leverage peace seems to have dawned on Washington.
America is suddenly having to recommit to its wars of the last decade. The Da’ish outbreak in the Middle East and the Levant has got all sorts of international powers, including America of course, dropping bombs in and around Raqqa. And last year’s Spring Offensive in Afghanistan, the most potent of his long war, has made President Obama seriously reconsider the drawdown announcement. In practical terms, it seems, the best way out is talks about possible power sharing. The Afghan government wants desperately to end the war. The Taliban, too, are weary after a long and exhaustive war. They are also losing ground and men to Da’ish – another factor pushing some among Taliban ranks to push for peace.
However, the only certainty about the possibility of new talks is that Ghani will continue to face intense pressure at home; not just from the opposition, but also from the Abdullah Abdullah faction of the coalition government. The old Northern Alliance still counts Pakistan as the bigger enemy, and is not in favour of any talks that will include Pakistan. Yet hoping for wholesome negotiations without taking Islamabad on board is also not practical. Therefore, despite the opposition, there is every likelihood that there will be some forward movement on the issue. The particulars, however, will take a little longer coming to light.