The Moscow talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s politicians cannot readily inspire optimism not the least because of the absence of President Ashraf Ghani’s representatives from the high table. Of course, the conference signified a measure of forward movement after last month’s talks between the US and Taliban negotiators in Qatar. Both sides had reached a draft framework under which the US would withdraw troops in exchange for guarantees that the country would not harbour terrorists. The major obstacle persists, however. Chief among these is the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with President Ghani’s government, which they consider to be America’s puppet. To the extent that the Moscow round of the Afghan talks was led by the former President, Hamid Karzai, there can be little doubt that the level of participation undermines its importance. Any major decision on ending the 18-year conflict must of necessity involve the incumbent administration in Kabul. Difficulties are bound to arise at the stage of implementation. While the talks are significant, peace may yet be a long way away. The comity of nations have repeatedly stressed the need for the process to be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”. Of course, a roadmap has been crafted to end the festering conflict; it is structured around the pullout of US forces from the country and the commitment of the fundamentalist Islamists to the fundamental rights of citizens. But the concluding statement was less than explicit. It has laid out a broad vision of a postpeace Afghanistan, calling for “trust-building measures” to advance talks between the US and the Taliban. The rights of man are no less important than the contemplated peace in a direly fissured country. Small wonder that women in Afghanistan are generally sceptical about the possible terms of an agreement, acutely aware these would essentially be unenforceable once the US troops leave. Fears that the notable gains in societal mores, that have been made, might get dissipated are not wholly unfounded. However, patriarchal values and misogyny are hardly unique to the Taliban. Its statement in Moscow is clearly meant to dispel the memories of women being beaten and murdered under its brutal theocratic rule, as well as forced into burqas and barred from leaving their homes without a male relative as escort. Yet this has been clothed in words that are far from reassuring, and are in fact a warning that “immorality, indecency and circulation of non-Islamic culture” have been imposed on Afghan society “under the name of women’s rights”. Despite Taliban pledges that they allow women’s education, schooling for girls generally stops around puberty in Taliban-controlled areas. Malala Yousufzai in the Af-Pak frontier is a cardinal example. The road from Moscow is bumpy, if paved with good intentions.