Following a remarkably successful few months on the battlefield, the Taliban have recently sustained some military setbacks which have raised hopes they will be more interested in peace talks. Late last year, the Taliban briefly captured the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz before being driven out by government forces with considerable assistance from the United States. The Taliban have also successfully mounted an offensive in southern Helmand province but are now reportedly being pushed back. Meanwhile, Afghan forces have retaken Darqual in Takhar province near the northern border with Tajikistan.
So there was optimism when it was announced that representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China would meet in Islamabad January 11 to discuss restarting the often-aborted peace talks with the Taliban. Negotiations had broken down in July 2015, in part because the Taliban appeared to have lost interest as they made ground gains and in part because of dissension within their ranks. It had just been announced that there revered leader, Mullah Omar, had died — but two years earlier and not everyone accepted the declared new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
Regrettably, the January 11 talks — in which the Taliban did not participate — produced no breakthrough. The best they could do was agree to more talks.