The swiftness with which Taliban fighters have captured territory in Afghanistan as the United States and its allies withdraw military support of government forces has caught many by surprise. Ten of the country’s 34 provincial capitals have already fallen to the group, prompting authorities to consider arming civilians and cooperating with warlords to prevent its return to power. There are renewed fears of an upsurge in killings and another civil war such as that in the 1990s. But Afghans have endured enough suffering, and instability will harm the growth and development of the nation and region, so pledges for peace talks have to be fulfilled to ensure consultation leads to a genuinely inclusive political system. Western-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani mistrusts Taliban intentions and contends that talks hold no hope for a positive outcome. Most foreign troops have already withdrawn ahead of an August 31 deadline agreed with Taliban negotiators in return for dialogue with the government to end hostilities and keep Afghanistan from being a base for terrorists. But talks last held on July 17 have not resumed and the group, ousted by the American invasion almost 20 years ago, has stepped up its struggle to seize power and reimpose strict Islamic law. Its battlefield gains and the increasing likelihood it will have control of the country sooner rather than later has prompted an increasing number of nations, China, Russia and Pakistan among them, to recognise it as a legitimate political force. Boosted by China ties, Taliban now faces tough call on ETIM crackdown China hosted Taliban leaders in Beijing last month , a pragmatic move aimed at ensuring stability in Afghanistan after the US pull-out. It does not want fanatics crossing into the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang , or its Belt and Road Initiative and other interests in central Asia threatened. A joint military exercise of Chinese and Russian forces in China’s western autonomous region of Ningxia this week sends a message from both nations to extremists seeking to capitalise on the Afghan withdrawal. Taliban successes have their limits; the United Nations and a growing number of governments have said there will be no international recognition if power is gained by force. The group should return to peace talks so that there can be a negotiated deal.