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…

In an obvious attempt to answer some of the harshest criticism of the group’s brutal rule from 1996 through 2001, the envoys said that in a new Taliban-led government, women would have the chance to go to school in “an Islamic way,” according to the text of a speech the envoys delivered in France that the Taliban sent to news organizations on Saturday.