To be fair, nobody expected the road to Afghan peace to be a walk in the park. Getting the two warring sides, the government and the Taliban, to talk, especially in the presence of the Americans, each with its own axe to grind, was never going to be easy. And it’s really no surprise that it is running into roadblocks at every corner. Yet the important thing is, as Pakistan has repeatedly pointed out since the negotiations weren’t even finalised, that everybody is finally sorting out their differences as much, if not more, on the table as in the field. That the fighting still gets a little out of hand at times is unfortunate, but that is just the situation everybody has to deal with.
If anything, the road ahead will be even steeper. For one of the issues that have forced everybody to put their heads together to find an out-of-the-box solution is the fate of the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and even more importantly, the present Afghan constitution. The Taliban are now more eager for an interim government than at any point so far. And since such a development would most definitely send Ghani home, it is no surprise that the government is having none of it, at least at the moment. The Taliban are most likely waiting it out till the Americans leave. Since they are the dominant force on the ground, the probably feel that they would be able to talk with more strength once it’s just the two of them, Taliban and the government, left to sort everything out.
And that is bringing both Kabul and Washington back to Islamabad with increasing frequency once again. It was, after all, Pakistan’s leverage over the Taliban, or what was still left of it, that enabled the talks in the first place. So there’s every reason to believe that Pakistan’s government and its security agencies might still retain some ‘pull’ with the insurgents. Islamabad has repeatedly clarified that it has no such influence but that has not stopped others from trying so far. Yet regardless of any such influence Pakistan is one of the foremost stakeholders in all this, so it will no doubt do what it can to help everybody overcome the obstacles. So far Islamabad has been right about most things. That should be enough for others to follow its lead.