It looks as if peace may finally tiptoe to Afghanistan. The US and the Taliban have resumed talks in Doha “from where they broke off”. Their talks came to an abrupt end last September when the two sides appeared to be on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen the US troops withdrawal in return for security guarantees by the Taliban. Provoked by the killing of an American soldier, President Trump cancelled a planned secret meeting with Taliban and declared the demise of talks with insurgents. But his outrage, as expected, did not last long, and his special negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad was soon back on the odyssey, selling hope that the US-Taliban talks are still quite possible. He visited a number of world capitals, including Islamabad, but what lent weight to his call for a US-Taliban conclave is the captive swap in which Taliban released an American and an Australian academic whom they had held hostage for three years, following the release of three Haqqani militants, including a younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy leader and the son of the Haqqani network’s founder, Anas Haqqani, by the Afghan government. In a way, this was the first contact, though indirect, between the Taliban and the Kabul government. The sceptics, however, doubt if this exchange of prisoners a good enough reason to trigger resumption of talks with Taliban. They insist President Trump wants to clinch a peace deal with Taliban to bolster his electoral prospects – similar to drastic reduction of US troops in Afghanistan that landed re-election in Barack Obama’s lap.

Strangely, while Khalilzad was talking to the Taliban about reducing violence, the US airstrikes killed 37 Taliban and Afghan security forces another 22. If death of one American soldier prompted President Trump to say talks were “dead”, what then stops the Taliban leadership from opting out of peace talks? But they haven’t – not because they are weak, but because their stakes in a peaceful Afghanistan are heavier than others’. During his surprise visit to Kabul last week, President Trump said Taliban “want to make a deal”, but they also want the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. By accepting Anas Haqqani as part of the Taliban team, the US seems to have won the Taliban’s agreement that Afghan government too can be part of talks. Kabul’s main demand is ceasefire, a call expected to be one of the main agenda items at talks in the Qatari capital. But the Taliban may agree to it only after Washington gives a timeframe of its troop withdrawal. Once foreign troops are withdrawn there is every possibility of direct negotiations between Taliban and the Afghan government.

Pakistan has warmly welcomed resumption of US-Taliban talks, arguing that it could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and ultimately to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Pakistan encourageous all parties to the conflict to engage constructively as shared responsibility. “Pakistan has always maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” the FO spokesman said, adding, “an inclusive peace and reconciliation process, involving all segments of the Afghan society is the only practical way forward.” That seems to have started happening. While the US has returned to peace talks and the Taliban have a Haqqani as one of the members of their team, an air of co-existence, if not fuller cordiality, is expected to permeate the ongoing Doha round. What comes as pressure for national reconciliation is undoubtedly undying public cry for peace. But the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan constitutes a pressing compulsion for all the parties to be together and stay united. That all three – the Afghan government, the Taliban and the US – want to save and secure Afghanistan against the rising tide of Daesh is a fact. Obviously, the latest Doha engagement must succeed to avert a sure apocalypse.