Although unofficial, they managed to agree a roadmap with the Taliban on how they could reach a peace agreement. And the most important. They agreed at once that soft targets – the schools, women and children who should not normally be part of a conflict, but are in the longest war in America – are currently suspended.
Why is this development important? This is the first time that Afghans have made such an agreement. And it comes after weeks of tougher preparation: the direct talks between the Taliban and the United States about the conditions and pace of a troop withdrawal. The Taliban has always insisted that direct talks with the Americans must come first, and Washington resisted until recently.
At this moment, you can read the basic fact that the Taliban and Americans were able to find enough of the common ground they considered worth bringing in to the pro-government Afghans. In short, despite all the pledges of US President Donald Trump, "in the end we will win," the commander-in-chief has seen the war for the stubborn mess it is and seems to talk itself out
Why is Afghanistan doing? Matter? A quick review: It is the longest conflict in America and one of the most enduring causes of violent deaths on the planet. It is also the IS's newest playground and is adjacent to the atomically armed rivals of India and Pakistan.
The peace book has been complex so far. The US had always insisted that talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban be held. But the Trump administration recently dropped that reservation and started talking directly to its long-time enemy. The Taliban had insisted that the "occupier" must agree to the conditions under which he would leave before speaking to the "puppet" government in Kabul, who supported the US. Now that Afghans are talking to Afghans, the prospect of a real US withdrawal plan is emerging.
And now? Talks with the US and the Taliban continue. Representatives of the Afghan government could meet the Taliban officially in Norway later this month. Most people who ask you think that a peace agreement is really coming. Trump definitely wants one. His Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo hopes that an agreement will be reached by 1 September.
Ordinary Afghans want the fighting to stop, no matter what is needed. And oddly enough, the Taliban, while militarily on the march, also want one. Without the fig leaf of a pro-Western government as a partner in Kabul, analysts have suggested they will have difficulty getting the international aid the country needs to stay afloat.
However, a big problem is being brushed aside: the Afghan presidential elections are long overdue. The argument for delaying the elections is that the current government would be too lame to hold peace talks with elections around the corner. The counter-argument, however, is that the Taliban will have difficulty agreeing on a government in Kabul that they know will soon disappear.
However, the Taliban and the US settle for leaving this aside while investigating a withdrawal schedule. In fact, it can be dealt with later and will be less of a problem if a peace agreement requires the formation of a transitional government, sharing positions between the enemies.
The next steps will be slow, but could be significant. A government that has promised to win in Afghanistan will reach an agreement that will allow them to leave slowly, their heads not high, but at least upright towards the exit.
The Taliban – who fought the military superpower of the world to a standstill – could end up in a unity government with Afghan liberals, who once called them puppets. The US military may announce that they will be leaving their longest war ever behind them, albeit with a significant presence in the US Embassy or hiding in bases across the country.
All this did not stop the violence that escalated during the peace talks – as an attack in Ghazni over the weekend that saw dozens of schoolchildren injured and one killed and both sides are seeking better negotiation.
It is difficult to measure to what extent the Taliban have risen lately. The numbers of casualties among the Afghan security forces that once served as a benchmark were classified and, according to US officials, the percentage of the country the government or the Taliban was influential on was no longer assessed. We do not know much about the war, except that it goes badly, and there are peace talks.
The good option before Afghanistan? These peace talks continue, and the Taliban are uncomfortable moderating to keep international aid going and using peace to generate a broad public mandate for a common government.
The bad option? That the US retreats further behind fortified walls and watch the two sides – or many more – in the Afghan war, torn apart by years of brutality and armed to the teeth.
Either way, we will most likely see a peace agreement in Doha and the unprecedented hope, however short-lived it may be, is not going to war in Afghanistan.