Khan is temperamentally not a person to take such kind lying down. He responded through a sequence of tweets highlighting the role that Pakistan had played and the damage it had suffered because of being a part of the US war on terror: “No Pakistani was involved in 9/11, but it decided to participate in the US war on terror. It suffered 75,000 casualties and over $123 billion was lost to economy. US aid was a miniscule $20 billion. Our tribal areas were devastated and millions of people uprooted from their homes. Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications. Can Mr. Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?” He went on to say that “instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat of their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why despite 140,000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before?” Having found a befitting match in Khan, it was time to change gear. And what a turnaround it has been since then! The people who were accused to deceit and duplicity were approached for helping out with finding an exit. The ones perceived to have violated their oath of being an ally in a war were looked upon as potential saviours. A war that seemed unending, a war that most pundits predicted would drag on to the continued suffering of the Afghan people and the region, has since been moving slowly to an orderly closure. Dubbed negotiations for peace in Afghanistan, the ongoing parleys between the Taliban and the US can more appropriately be called piecing together a document of surrender. In its eagerness to leave, the US is virtually offering it all on a platter. For, think as one may, what is not contained in the broad outline of the proposal which was not on the Taliban wish list? They have everything. They’ll get it which will then be used as the rationale for them to get more, even all. They will, ultimately, emerge as the rulers in Afghanistan unless a restraining mechanism is put in place to offset that. It is not clear yet whether that could come by way of the positioning a UN force, an Islamic force or prolonged US forces’ stay. That Pakistan has been able to do it this time around reflects the contours of a new country emerging. The painful dithering and lack of certainty that it perpetually suffered from, even absence of a policy altogether, has given way to an approach marshalled by clarity, courage and conviction. It seeks peace along its borders without unduly ruffling its stakes and objectives and is willing to exhibit a high level of grit, daring, even brinkmanship in its pursuits Pakistan has played a slick game which it construes will be to its ultimate benefit. It is looking for peace along its western border and it wants India decommissioned from playing a subversive role it has been accusing it of doing in the past. That can happen only with the Taliban commanding the post in Kabul. But, in a crunch situation, things may not remain that simple. The recent attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir is but an apt warning of the potential for trouble that it may breed. With a possible Taliban rule in Afghanistan on the cards, how much of a gain such a drastic development can accrue in the long run and what are the possible pitfalls and caveats that Pakistan will have to face and endure in its quest for peace on its terms? There is also no tailor-made assurance that an end of conflict may necessarily lead to the advent of peace in Afghanistan. That, inter alia, may require a few other undertakings. In the event some of the contenders to power in Afghanistan are not in congruence with the terms of the potential agreement for peace, the prospect of a plunge into civil war remains a possibility. Let’s not forget that Afghanistan has seen this happen in the not too distant past. It cannot be ruled out. It also remains to be seen whether the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other regional countries can actually converge around a grand master plan for peace. That Pakistan has been able to do it this time around reflects the contours of a new country emerging. The painful dithering and lack of certainty that it perpetually suffered from, even absence of a policy altogether, has given way to an approach marshalled by clarity, courage and conviction. It seeks peace along its borders without unduly ruffling its stakes and objectives and is willing to exhibit a high level of grit, daring, even brinkmanship in its pursuits. Pakistan has moved on to establishing its centrality in the resolution of conflict in Afghanistan. This resurgent confidence augurs well for playing a role that would be commensurate with the state’s genuine and sustainable political, economic and strategic stakes – along its borders, and in the larger region. The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute – an Islamabad-based think tank Published in Daily Times, February 19th 2019.