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The Taliban Think They Have Already Won, Peace Deal or Not

The Taliban, who governed most of the country from 1996 to 2001, are not interested in true sharing-power, Mr. Kohistani said. “They are planning to restore their Islamic emirate,” he added, “and they will punish all those involved in corruption and land grabbing.”

Antonio Giustozzi, a leading Taliban expert, disputed the idea that the Taliban are necessarily bent on reimposing a similarly hard-line Islamic regime. “As long as they can get to power through a political agreement, between establishing the emirate and democracy, there are options,” he said. “The aim would be to become the dominant power.”

The Taliban know that Afghanistan, an aid-dependent state, 80 percent of whose expenditures are funded from international donors, cannot afford the isolation of that era, analysts say.

Just as the Taliban have become increasingly sophisticated in their use of social media, online propaganda and a pugnacious English-language website — though they still often ban smartphones in areas they control — so has their language evolved to reflect the current moment.

With the decisive shift in their military fortunes, their words have become assertive and victorious, a posture that would have been impossible a mere three years ago, analysts say.

The corollary to such posturing is the Afghan government’s insistence that it expects a deadly endgame with the insurgency. Government officials rarely claim that they and not the Taliban are the victors, because they can’t. Evidence of Taliban ascendancy, in the insurgents’ steady offensive in the countryside, their systematic encroachment on cities and their overrunning of military bases, is too prevalent.


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