After long 17 years of bloodletting by American leaders, particularly President Donald Trump, it seems that the US has finally come round to realizing the improbability of finding any other solution for the Afghanistan civil war than sitting across the table with the Taliban for a durable settlement of this festering wound in South West Asia.The war has brought disaster not only to Afghanistan but inflicted a heavy price on Pakistan in terms of human lives and economic losses. Brown University’s recent report ‘Costs of War Project’ has made painful revelations to the world and the American public that has so far been indifferent to the loss of American lives in wars waged in far off regions of South-west Asia and the Middle East. The report says that the number of war-related killings in Pakistan were as high as 65,000 in the past 17 years. This included civilians, security personnel, and 90 American contractors. As of October 2018, the fatalities in Afghanistan were over 147,000 people, encompassing Afghan security forces, civilians and opposition fighters. 6334 American soldiers and contractors, as well as more than 1100 allied troops also lost their lives in this rugged country between 2001 and 2018. The true number of the Americans injured, disabled, or inflicted with psychological diseases has always been kept a guarded secret lest it cause public unrest reviving the bitter reminiscences of the Americans’ outrage over the Vietnam casualties.The US has remained involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and many other countries, and has extended coalition support funds to its allies in anti-terrorist wars including Pakistan in the past 17 years. However, this financial assistance to Pakistan was stopped in 2017, because of differences between the two countries on the question of Afghanistan. According to Brown University’s report, the US has spent over $ 5.6 trillion on its war on terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The US funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan ranges between $170-180 billion. Most of these funds have gone towards arming security forces in both countries, while the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society was lost to corruption, fraud, waste and abuse of the leaders saddled with power by the US. Super powers do not entertain moments of introspection, or recognize their defeats.After killing and maiming over 507,000 people, the US has failed to achieve its obvious objectives in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. If the main objectives were to establish democracy, the rule of law, protection of human rights, extermination of terrorists, what the US has achieved after a bloody war of 17 years and huge expenditures in human lives and American taxpayers’ money is that Afghanistan is far from political stability, security of life and freedom from the marauding terrorist bands.Syria is trying to maintain a semblance of its status as a viable and sovereign state, whilst Russia, Iran and Turkey are deeply involved in the war against opposition groups which are militarily trained, and armed to the teeth by the US allied conservative states. Libya has almost disintegrated into three conflicting power centres. Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are teetering under the adverse consequences of the wars in the Middle East. Super powers do not entertain moments of introspection, or recognize their defeats. Pakistan has been steadfastly counseling the American leadership to recognize the ground realities and start direct talks with the Taliban to bring an end to this festering war. The Trump administration tried its policy of ‘maximum pressure and engagement’ on Pakistan. There was no dearth of rabid voices in the American Congress and Senate calling Pakistan one of the top ‘frenemies’ in American foreign policy, due to its tolerance of Taliban sanctuaries on its soil, despite its cooperation with the US in Afghanistan. They felt no qualms in cutting aid to Pakistan, maintaining over 70,000 troops along the Durand line to stop Taliban to use its soil as the springboard for attacks in Afghanistan, and finally stopped the disbursal of the coalition support funds to it. They also threatened to designate Pakistani individuals and organizations and sanction them, or strike Taliban targets within Pakistan without any restraint, whilst dangling the carrot of incentives offering more aid and free trade agreement if Islamabad restricted support to Taliban, or cut it off altogether.All these threats and inducements did not veer Pakistan from the Bajwa doctrine of not succumbing to any foreign pressure to compromise on the vital national interests of the country. Afghanistan being an immediate neighbor is vitally important to Pakistan. What Pakistan wanted was an Afghanistan-owned solution to the civil war. The Pakistani leadership knew that no durable peace would be possible in that country without the willing and mutually structured support of Taliban. The US leadership realized this ground reality after long years.The quest for peace in Afghanistan received an impetus by the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as the Special Envoy to Afghanistan with the mandate of starting the process of direct dialogue with the Taliban. The factors forcing the US’ leaders to alter their policy on Afghanistan were many; from the utmost failure of Trump’s troop surge to deter year-long Taliban attacks deep into the country further eroding the writ of Ghani regime to the inconsequential results of his threats and incentives to Pakistan to fight their war on its soil.The emerging consensus for a regional initiative – Moscow Format – as spearheaded by Russian with the support of China, Pakistan and other countries, for a durable negotiated solution to the protracted Afghan civil war, was not less significant in mounting pressure on the US leadership. They felt the sand shifting from under their feet.President Ashraf Ghani, in his recent address in Hopkins University showed confidence in the current process of dialogue – hoping to reach a peace deal to end the Taliban insurgency. Mr. Ghani, who shares power with Abdullah Abdullah as the Chief Executive of the country, intends to seek re-election in the coming year. With good neighbourly feelings, we share his hopes for peace in his war ravaged country. But there is a distance between the cup and the lips.The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two booksPublished in Daily Times, November 18th 2018.