Speed Reads

skepticism

Has the Taliban really moderated?

"The reports from Kabul are probably reassuring to those unfamiliar" with the history of the Taliban, The Atlantic's Graeme Wood writes, referring to the fact that the group has promised amnesty to Afghan government officials and assured women they can contine their education, among other things that signal moderation. But you "should probably not read too much into" those words, he adds.

That's because they may be part of the Taliban's strategy to "avoid anything that resembles chaos" after launching a rapid offensive to regain almost all of Afghanistan. Indeed, the messaging is similar to what was put out when the Taliban first took control of the country in 1996 — it ultimately didn't hold over the course of their five-year reign. 

Wood cautioned that the new iteration of the Taliban may actually be more repressive. An Afghan living in Kabul told Wood that they are "much more strict, much more hard-line," and outside of Kabul — which Wood notes is "to say, away from the eyes of the world" — there are reports of summary executions and other forms of violence. 

Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Jon Allsop reports that a lot of this may stem from the fact that the Taliban has been developing an effective public relations campaign for years even as the reality "belies this softening of the group's media presentation." Though he acknowledged that the Taliban is also more varied than it's portrayed and different leaders have different views, Allsop pointed to Khadija Amin, a prominent female Afghan journalist, who was suspended from her job after the Taliban rolled in. "They have not changed," Amin said Tuesday.

For now, the Taliban is "telling the world what it wants to hear," RFE/RL's Frud Bezhan tweeted Tuesday. But when the global focus shifts away from Afghanistan, he has the sense that things may change quickly. Read more at The Atlantic and The Columbia Journalism Review.