The Taliban are many things but stupid isn’t one of them. The events of the last week are testimony to that. Their takeover of much of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul was in effect a masterclass in hybrid warfare.

At a local level the Islamist insurgents fought when they had to, but also coerced, cut deals, bribed and used whatever else it took to ensure they eroded the Afghan government’s provincial infrastructure and security apparatus from the inside. Afghan Army commanders, warlords, governors, all were on the Taliban’s check list to ‘win over’.

This was no overnight process much as some news headlines would have us believe. Sure, the endgame when it came was rapid, but this was the culmination of a protracted strategy that had been going on long before the US-led coalition’s hasty and ill- considered withdrawal.

Over the last forty years of covering Afghanistan’s seemingly interminable wars, I’ve seen for myself how adept the country’s fighters can be when confronted with this kind of conflict.

Be it those mujahideen guerrilla fighters and resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s or more recently with the Taliban, hybrid warfare has become something of an Afghan specialism in a country whose inhospitable terrain and complex mix of religion, ethnicity, tribal politics and cultural customs poses real challenges to outsiders.

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As the American global affairs writer and historian Jeremi Suri rightly observed this week “tightly bound kinship networks aren’t vestiges of the past. They’re a modern - and effective - form of political organisation.”

But the Taliban have revealed another face of late that could yet turn out to be either just another weapon in their hybrid warfare armoury or mark the evolution of the Islamist insurgents into a new role.

The group’s leaders know full well that the world’s eyes are on them and given such a global audience are going out of their way to present themselves as a legitimate government that seeks to stabilise Afghanistan.

This ‘new’ face that the Taliban are keen for the world to buy into is evident right now on the streets of Kabul where their cadres are under strict orders to prevent looting, not to molest civilians and encourage them to go about their daily business as normal.

“Life, property and honour of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,” said the Taliban’s Doha-based spokesperson Suhail Shaheen on Monday, reinforcing their message to Afghans that they would be safe.

It’s evident too in the Taliban leadership’s pledges to create an open and inclusive government. Only yesterday the Afghan television channel Tolonews ran an interview with a Taliban commander conducted by a female news anchor, something that would have been inconceivable in the past.

That said, eyewitness reports continue to surface from more remote districts and provinces detailing Taliban atrocities, and their enforcement of strict religious rule curtailing the rights of women and ethnic minorities like the Hazara community.

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Which brings us to the central question to which the international community now must seek an answer.

In short, which of these two faces of the Taliban is the true one and which will likely prevail in their future running of Afghanistan? Or to put this another way will they shape a new government and rule through consensus or force?

The answer to this question very much depends on who you ask, with veteran Afghan watchers largely split on the issue.

“The Taliban face a dilemma. If they don’t go for inclusion, then that will be a lack of legitimacy from the start of their regime,” observed Ali Yawar Adili, country director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

“It remains to be seen if they enter negotiations to try and get consent from the society. The second question is what kind of governance system they will establish,” said Adili, speaking from Kabul by phone with the Financial Times.

Should the Taliban choose to go in the direction of greater inclusion and seek to engage as a government with the outside world then it will want to maintain Western aid and crucial humanitarian provision to avoid stoking fears and possible resistance at home. It will look also for the continuation of international investment which will be vital to the Taliban’s credibility.

Then there is that other thorny issue of whether the Taliban will allow Afghanistan to once again become the sanctuary and hub of Islamist inspired terrorism and groups like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS) and others. The Taliban’s takeover after all is a huge propaganda boost for the global jihadist terror network.

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All these questions, and whether the Taliban have learned some lessons in the post 9/11 years is what matters now in proving if indeed what we are seeing is a ‘new’ face.

Ultimately, what will determine the outcome of all of this depends on the extent to which the Taliban’s central command that have expressed their commitment to reform can keep the more zealous field commanders on the ground in check.

Based on my many years of experience of the country, its people and its conflicts, I’m going to stick my neck out here and suggest that this just might be the key weak spot in terms of any Taliban change for the better.

It’s one thing for the Taliban leadership to sit in Doha and talk of inclusion, women’s rights and having no truck with jihadist terror groups, but there are undoubtedly many within the Taliban’s ranks who will not see it that way.

Might I even posit the possibility that a split might occur within the movement which could easily spark another round of a wider civil war in Afghanistan.

For the moment, what we are seeing and hearing from Kabul might all be window dressing by an increasingly media-savvy Taliban. Then again, their claims to have changed might indeed be genuine and play out.

Whatever the outcome this will be no consolation right now to countless ordinary Afghans who have already suffered at the hands of the Taliban and still cower in fear. It is as they say, early days.