This question kind of reminds me of the Syria questions that some of us began forecasting in 2015. The actual question was, "Will Bashar al-Assad cease to be president of Syria by [date] (the dates changed over the course of three questions).

The most important factor in forecasting those questions was not the number of conferences that were convened to hammer out some agreement between (or among) the combatants. What it came down to was that the Assad regime, regardless of how much it talked, was interested in *winning*, not in finding a negotiated solution. So the Geneva talks, Astana talks, various Gulf state-sponsored talks, were all just window dressing. (This is not even taking into consideration that the "rebels" had no military or political cohesion, and no common program.)

It seems to me that it is a similar situation with the Taliban. Prior to 2001, they controlled most of Afghanistan. The current Kabul regime was created by, and arguably continues to exist, because of the Americans. Once the Americans are gone, there is no reason to think that the Kabul regime can last on its own, because it was not created organically from any Afghan political constituency. Of course, by now some constituencies exist that would prefer the survival of the Kabul regime. But you'll notice that a fair amount of soldiers don't have enough invested in the regime's survival to actually fight to preserve it, and I doubt if they will in the future. The weaker the regime gets, the less likely it is to survive at all. And it strikes me that the regime is not negotiating from a position of strength or even parity.

As for regime officials, or people above a certain level who don't want to live under Taliban rule, they don't have to. They can make their way to Europe or the United States and will almost certainly be admitted as refugees. Even comparatively poor Afghans can cross a border and very possibly be passed on until they reach Europe. There are already large numbers of Afghan refugees waiting to get in. I'm sure not all of them were high-income individuals in Afghanistan.

So the long and short of it is, nobody in Afghanistan has any real incentive to risk anything to keep the Taliban out of power, and the Taliban has no incentive to make any permanent or meaningful concessions to opponents who either won't fight at all or will bolt the minute things get tough. This doesn't mean there will be no fighting, but the fighting will be increasingly one-sided, and the Taliban will ultimately win.

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So rare to agree with your commentary, in toto.

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