An End to the War in Afghanistan by Jeffrey Stacey - The National Interest
For the first time in history, Afghanistan's neighbors have joint interests in seeing the country become stable.
… Yet several key factors appear to be making some form of ceasefire and/or peace possible, if not necessarily fully probable. First, the Afghan special forces are actually fairly effective. While they do not constitute a large percentage of Afghan forces, they are well trained and well commanded (evidence supplied by the fact that the Taliban never hold large towns or cities for long). Second, most of the country’s thirty-five million people are not just tired of war, but they are expressing their discontent in novel ways. For example, the breakthrough ceasefire in June also coincided with a young-person-led “Peace Caravan” that traveled from Helmand province on foot to Kabul to demand a cessation to the conflict, laying blame for the long war’s continuance directly at the feet of Pakistan, Iran and Russia—the three major funders of the Taliban.
Third, there is fresh evidence that a significant percentage of Taliban commanders and fighters have also grown weary of the carnage (and to a degree disloyal to their feckless and resented leader). Strategy shifts in the Taliban ranks have been the most surprising variable. Not only fighters, but even a modicum of the Taliban’s operational commanders have evinced a newfound propensity toward peace. Some of them have even talked openly of allowing the present configuration of Afghan national institutions to remain largely in place, subject only to their integration into the Afghan military and police forces.
Fourth, the United States and its allies have not only increased their attacks on the Taliban as of late, but it has for the first time in the conflict engaged the Taliban directly at the negotiating table—with Washington also naming a new special envoy for the conflict in the seasoned diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad. The United States had long maintained that it was proper for the Taliban to deal diplomatically only with the Afghan government.
Finally, and perhaps ultimately what may prove most decisive of these factors, the notorious Great Game—in which outside powers have intervened in and jousted over Afghanistan for a century and a half—is proving surprisingly propitious in terms of a rare coinciding of the interests of these countries. Specifically, it appears that the stability of Afghanistan is now squarely in the interests of all of them, including the United States, Europe, Turkey, China, India, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and the Gulf countries…