Exactly 19 years after the US military intervention in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attack, Taliban and the Afghan government are sitting down for peace talks in Qatar. The conflict in Afghanistan is the longest in US history, killing tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 American troops.
But despite the US-led war on terror, Taliban have survived, aided by the support and strategic depth they have received in neighbouring Pakistan. In February the Donald Trump administration – which was anyway keen to bring back American troops, preferably before the US presidential elections – reached an agreement setting out a timetable for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from Taliban.
While the peace negotiations will be tough, the Islamist group and its Pakistani benefactors do seem to have the upper hand here. After all, Pakistan has never given up on cultivating Afghanistan as strategic depth against India. And through the Haqqani network – the hardcore wing of Taliban – Islamabad can continue to target Indian assets on Afghan soil.