Afghans harboured furtive hopes Sunday that talks between the United States (US) and Taliban leaders could end decades of conflict, despite fears an American withdrawal might unleash even more violence.

American negotiators and the Taliban said Saturday the two sides had made substantial progress in the most recent round of talks in Qatar, promising to meet again to continue discussions that could pave the way for official peace negotiations.

The length and apparent progress in the ongoing talks are unprecedented, signaling that both Washington and the Taliban might see a path forward.

Afghan civilians, who have paid a disproportionate price in casualties since the US invasion of 2001, were cautious in their hopes.

“I don’t believe the Taliban will make peace but if we have peace it will be so great. There is nothing better than peace,” says a Kabul resident Rajab Ali.

The Afghan government has yet to release any statement on the talks after complaining of being cut out of the process, following repeated refusals from the Taliban to engage with Kabul.

In the capital, Afghans watching from the sidelines said a deal between the militants and the government was vital to bringing an end to the more than 17 years of bloodshed.

“It will never be stable if Taliban and the government keep fighting each other and killing Afghans,” says Kabul resident Sharbatullah.

“They kill 45,000 of us, and then we are not allowed to talk to them?”  wrote Facebook user Matiullah, referring to the number of Afghan security forces that have been killed since September 2014 according to President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban are widely believed to want to return to power and reimpose their own strict interpretation of sharia law.

They already have the upper hand on the battlefield, where Afghan forces are taking what experts have described as “unsustainable” losses and have shown no interest in sharing power with the current government in Kabul.

With the US expressing clear eagerness to end its longest war and the Taliban holding fast to their demand that international troops withdraw, many Afghans feared an escalation of violence.

“Darker days awaits Afghanistan,” wrote Ashraf Sultani on Facebook.

“Once the US is out, the Taliban will issue a fatwa for continuation of their war and the country will plunge into another bloody civil war again,” says Ashraf Sultani.