If the Americans have actually approached the Taliban headed by Mullah Omar, then yesterday’s announcement by Washington that it will enter peace talks with their long-standing foe is a major development.
You wouldn’t have guessed it today, though, after the rocket attack on Bagram Air base which killed four American soldiers.
If this is indeed the beginning of the end then someone needs to tell those who are doing the fighting.
America’s approach has angered Hamid Karzai also, who put out a statement denouncing the decision to enter talks without his presence.
The American’s have never liked the Afghan President.
Karzai has a reputation for suffering from manic-depression.
And his American backers have often wondered about his state of mind, so it’s probably no loss to them to let him go, if that means peace in Afghanistan, as well as more friendly ties with the democratically elected government of Pakistan, namely that of Nawaz Sharif.
And that brings us to the negotiating table at Qatar, and what each side will be expecting from the other.
The violence hasn’t ended yet and is not likely to until a deal has been struck.
The Taliban will claim to have the upper hand, although any of its demands will be tempered with the knowledge that if the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ is to succeed it will need major international help.
The Americans will negotiate hard, but they too know that by entering talks and withdrawing their forces, they have virtually admitted defeat and that there are long-term implications of this action, especially in the Islamic World where at the moment its is embroiled in Syria.
So, how will this pan out?
Taliban agree to curb out al-Qaeda, and to ensure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist haven, and to stamp out poppy production, in exchange for America’s complete withdrawal from Afghanistan including bases.
As for the other things – honoring the constitution, women’s rights – well, they may get a mention and nothing more.
Ultimately though, this will be down to the Taliban leadership under Mullah Omar and whether they have learned anything from being some twelve years in the wilderness or whether they will simply carry on as before.
Let’s hope they do indeed have the concerns of the people Afghanistan at heart.