The Taliban did not entirely expect the success of its recent surge in Afghanistan as the United States continues its withdrawal from the country, The New York Times reports, citing documents and interviews with insurgent commanders and Taliban officials. The surprise may be in part due to the fact that taking districts in Afghanistan in recent weeks hasn't always required sheer military force for the Taliban, per The Times. Instead, some fell due to poor governance, rivalries between local leaders, and "low morale" among Afghan security forces.
Because the group has apparently gained ground more quickly than anticipated, Taliban leaders are reportedly trying to capitalize on their victories "haphazardly" while focusing on avoiding bad publicity as they attempt to "rebrand as capable governors," the Times writes. So far, they've reportedly received a "somewhat warm reception" from their new constituents in some areas, but there's a lot of uneasiness about the changes, and the group's hardline rules, like banning music and forbidding women from working, are falling back into place. Read more at The New York Times.