After years of deriding Afghanistan’s government and army as corrupt tools of Western occupiers, the Taliban have begun publicly airing a softer vision for the country’s future, with senior insurgent leaders saying the militants are willing to govern alongside other Afghan factions and even to
adopt the current American-financed army as their own.
That message was delivered over the past few days by Taliban envoys during private meetings with Afghan officials and opposition politicians near Paris, according to officials close to the talks, and the softer approach has been echoed in recent interviews with Taliban figures loyal to the group’s nominal leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar.
Together, it is the furthest that the Taliban’s senior leadership has gone to express in some official way that the group would be willing to operate as a mainstream Afghan political faction rather than aiming to return as conquering rulers after the end of the NATO combat mission in 2014.
But with the Taliban there are always questions.
The group is increasingly divided by power struggles, according to some Western officials and Afghans close to the Taliban, and there has sometimes seemed to be a disconnect between conciliatory statements from the top and the aggression of field commanders.
As well, Afghan and American officials trying to open peace talks with the Taliban have long struggled with whether any offer of compromise could be seen as legitimate or just tactical maneuvering to gain public support. NYT