Aww: Taliban trying to "soften" image

In recent public statements, the Taliban have made an effort to appear a more moderate force, promising peaceful relations with neighboring countries and respect for human rights. The big unknown is whether this new rhetoric represents a meaningful transformation—or is merely designed to sugarcoat the Taliban’s real aims…

Such a future Taliban government would be gentler and wiser than its 1990s incarnation, insurgent officials insist. “As a movement gets older, it becomes more mature, and makes positive changes,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says. “During the past Taliban regime the government would make some hasty decisions, but now we are careful and deliberate.”

A key difference would be an effort to include all of Afghanistan’s tribes and ethnic communities, he adds. The old Taliban regime was dominated by Pashtun clerics from southern Kandahar province, and discriminated against the Shiite Hazara community and other minorities. This time around, “every group of the nation will be equally represented and privileged,” Mr. Mujahid says…

A future Taliban administration also would seek to establish “good coordination” with the international community in the fight against narcotics, Mr. Mujahid says. Since 2001, opium has become an increasingly important source of income for the Taliban insurgency, and for several power brokers and former warlords in Mr. Karzai’s administration, according to Western government officials. The Taliban, diplomats say, are highly unlikely to get out of the drug business as long as the war goes on.