The situation in Afghanistan after four decades of war and chaos and is likely to enter into a new phase after the United States’ (US) withdrawal and the peace deal between the US, Taliban, and the Afghan government. On various grounds, questions are arising about the future set-up in Afghanistan that it might plunge into a situation where it was during the Civil War in the 1990s. But why is this peace deal coming so late? What will be the future set-up be? What would be the implications of the US withdrawal and how will its result would be different from that of the Soviet withdrawal? What role the Taliban would play in the Afghan parliament? Would the future set-up where the Taliban would a part of the government or at least a political force be successful having no fear of a Civil War as witnessed in the 1990s after the Soviet withdrawal? What would be the input of the regional countries to the upcoming political landscape of the Afghan theatre? All these questions need answers where most of the experts, in one way or the other, are in disarray vis-à-vis the future political set-up in Afghanistan. When the US invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban regime, the world assumed Afghanistan would now go into an era of peace and stability as the latter’s efforts — either of war or peace and reconstruction — had the support of international community, world powers, and regional countries. However, this did not happen. Afghanistan did not stabilise. The US-led coalition forces could not provide peace to this war-torn country. The US approach to the Taliban and other associated groups was solely military. It wanted to eliminate through force all those elements that were a threat to international peace. After the US invasion, many times, Pakistan suggested that the US strike a peace deal with the Taliban, however; the US ignored these proposals and continued with its militaristic approach to cope with the situation. When the Neo-Taliban emerged and the insurgency intensified year by year after 2004, the US accelerated the search operation and expanded troops to many additional areas. Nonetheless, when Obama assumed office as president in 2009, Afghanistan was in his main focus — in order to handle the situation and push it towards a solution. His policy, in one way or the other, was pragmatic. He surged the troop’s level on one hand and ordered his Special Representative, Richard Holbrook to contact the Taliban for a peace process on the other. The US made its first-ever contacts with the Taliban in 2009. The Obama administration had realised the Afghan war couldn’t be won by military means only so it would be better to add the peace process as well. Later on, the establishment of the Qatar office and other actors’ role contributed to the peace process, which in the current situation is a ray of hope not only for Afghanistan but also for the regional countries and the world at large. Moreover, the current developments are much more important for Afghanistan, where all the three main parties of the Afghan conflict: the US, Taliban and the Afghan government. All are serious about creating a peaceful Afghanistan by compromising on some of their own interests. Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani since last four years has been making herculean efforts for peace, nevertheless; he didn’t succeed until the US too became serious. The Trump administration, though very tough on Pakistan in his early days, realised the sensitivity of the issue. Without a deal with the Taliban, he can’t ever bring peace to Afghanistan. Besides, the Taliban showed flexibility and keenness for the peace process. This resulted in positive developments after the round of six-day talks in Doha last month. Both the parties — the US and Taliban — have agreed to draft a peace deal which will result in the US withdrawal and mainstreaming of the Taliban. The Taliban have also agreed not to allow Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group to use Afghan soil in the future. On one hand, if hopes are high for a peace deal, on the other hand, skepticism is also there in various circles that the future of the Afghan theatre might be volatile after the US withdrawal. The country might witness another Civil War, much like in the 1990s after the Soviets withdrew. However, the current situation is quite different from that of the post-Soviet withdrawal period. During that time, three factors played their crucial role in the eruption of the Civil War and the subsequent fall of the Najibullah government — the central government, the internal actors (anti-government Mujahideen and warlords) and the external actors (the most active players like the Soviet Union, Pakistan, and the US). At that time, though the Soviets withdrew, their aid continued for a couple of years. The Soviet-backed Najibullah government survived until the Soviet aid continued. However, after the downfall of Gorbachev and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Najibullah could not cope with powerful warlords who were now armed with weapons that had originally come into the country for the Mujahideen. Najibullah resigned from presidency ten days before the Peshawar Accord was signed by the Mujahideen on April 26, 1992. The Taliban are tired of war. Having taken stock of the situation, they know they can’t rule Afghanistan alone, so it is better to stop fighting and accept a slice of the pie In addition, internal factors — such as an anti-government coalition of Mujahideen — were strong enough to compel Najibullah to resign. Besides, he had no external financial, military or political support to sustain his power. The external powers role also contributed to the fall of the Najibullah government. The most active players in the Afghanistan issue; Pakistan, the US, and the Soviet Union, changed their roles. The Soviet Union withdrew and later ended its financial support. The US, having achieved its interests, also washed her hands and went off the scene. Pakistan remained in the game, being a next-door neighbor; its interests in Afghanistan were long-lasting. Pakistan relations were not good with the Afghan government due to many reasons so it wanted to have some other pro-Pakistan force in Kabul. After the fall of Najibullah government, Pakistan was supporting the Mujahideen, however, in late 1994 when the Taliban emerged, Pakistan cashed in on the situation by supporting them and they subsequently dominated Kabul in September 1996. If we compare the current situation, it has a similar nature to the previous Civil War. Here too, three main actors are there: internal actors (such as the Afghan government and the US); external actors like Pakistan, China, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and some other countries. All these actors will play their role now as well as in the future. The internal actors are serious about negotiations and a future peace settlement. The US and Taliban have almost inked a deal which will allow the Afghan government to enter a peace deal with the Taliban or make the Afghan government a party to the agreement. Such kind of agreements did not exist in the 1990s. Moreover, some influential entities would be the guarantors of this deal so it would be difficult for the parties to break it. Each party is gaining something due to the deal and they are happy about it. The Taliban being seen as just another party creates a win-win situation. On the one hand, the US will withdraw from Afghanistan, which has been one of the top demands of the Taliban and they will become a part of the political process as well. These gains, materialising after a long struggle, are very favorable to them. They are tired of war. Having taken stock of the situation, they know they can’t rule Afghanistan alone, so it is better to stop fighting and accept a slice of the pie. Furthermore, being natives, they want their country to move on. As far as the external actors’ role is concerned, it’s too important to have a positive input to the future Afghan set-up in shape of support after the US withdrawal. Pakistan being the most active and involved in Afghan affairs since long, has a crucial role. It has often been said that the path to peace in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan. Without Pakistan’s support, any political settlement in the Afghan affairs would be futile. If we look back to the Bonn Conference of 2001 on Afghanistan, Pakistan was misrepresented, which had greatly affected the Afghan settlement. For more than one decade, Pakistan has suffered because of terrorism. It wants to overcome this menace, for which regional peace in general and Afghanistan’s peace, in particular, is very important. Besides, by becoming a political force, the Taliban would become instrumental in shaping Pakistan’s interests — which is to block any anti-Pakistani move in the Afghan parliament. Furthermore, China also stakes in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan would have manifold positive outcomes for China. It would serve a huge market for China; will help China tackle the Xinjiang insurgency; provide China an opportunity to exploit Afghanistan’s natural resources, and most importantly would open Afghanistan up to OBOR (One Belt, One Road) which will connect China with Europe and the rest of the world. For Iran, a peaceful Afghanistan and mainstreaming of the Taliban would be a good development due to many reasons. It would bring stability in Afghanistan, which directly affects the neighboring countries. Secondly, due to the US’ opposition, Iran is in the process of developing contacts with the Taliban beside them providing support. Moreover, ISIS, which is a threat for Iran would also be curtailed by the Taliban by becoming part of the Afghan government. Iran’s relations with the Taliban have been rocky since the Afghan Civil War when the Taliban assassinated the Iranians diplomats in Mazar Sharif. However, the current situation is different; Iran does want the Taliban mainstreaming — for its own interests. For India, peace in Afghanistan is a great development, however; it wants to have an active role. A peaceful Afghanistan would not serve as a breeding ground for terrorism in Kashmir and India. Two regions have been provided a ground for terrorism in Kashmir: Afghanistan and Pakistan’s former Tribal Areas. In case Afghanistan becomes stable and peaceful, Pakistan would no longer be able to use it against any state for its strategic interest. Last but not least, a peaceful Afghanistan and US withdrawal would serve Russia’s and Central Asia’s interests. Chaos in Afghanistan has also been a threat to Central Asia and Russian interests in the region. Besides, Russia is entering to the Afghan peace process in order to build its clout in the region. The US withdrawal would provide Russia an opportunity to fill the vacuum. In essence, the interests and priorities of the main actors who are involved in the conflict in addition to the historical shreds of evidence prove that the upcoming peace deal in Afghanistan would be a successful one to bring peace to the war-torn country. Huge skepticism persists in various circles about the future of Afghanistan. However, the current situation is quite different from that of the post-Soviet withdrawal which led to the Civil War. I don’t see the failure of the peace agreement because there is only one insurgent group who has a chain of command and works under a proper structure. When the Taliban observed a ceasefire last year on the eve of Eid, not a single bullet was fired. There were a number of groups and factions which didn’t allow Afghanistan to be stable after the Soviet withdrawal. Nonetheless, the current situation is very different. The writer is a Quaidian Published in Daily Times, February 19th 2019.