Ahead of the first ever peace talks between the Taliban and negotiators picked by the government, it is clear the Taliban is trying to soften its image, especially about women.
“I think in all of the meetings, the Taliban delegation declared several times that they would protect all the women’s rights and human rights here in Afghanistan, but within the Islamic teachings and the national culture here in this country,” according to Mullah Abdul Hakim Mujahid, currently a Taliban member of the peace council and a former Taliban Ambassador to the U.N.
The first line of defense against the Taliban is the Afghan National Army. Basic Training is now taught by Afghan officers. Equipped by Americans, they outnumber the Taliban 10 to 1 but often melt in battle. The Afghan army is plagued by desertion, illiteracy, and a basic failure to obey orders.
Without the backbone of 14,000 U.S. forces on the ground, few believe this Army could hold off determined Taliban fighters for long.
Other challenges could prove more difficult for the Taliban, most notably trying to gain control of the capital where their medieval views are not shared.
When the war first started there were just 1.5 million people here living in Kabul. Today there are four times that number and that could be trouble for the Taliban. How will they ever be able to control this urban population if they do take power?
For the past 18 years, girls and women in Kabul have been able to study, work, travel, which they were not allowed to do for the five years of Taliban rule. The new generation says it is not afraid of the Taliban.
“Not at all, because I think the Taliban can’t do anything now," a psychology student at Kabul University told Fox News. "No we are not, we won’t be silenced anymore.”
These girls parents pay $30 a month for their daughters to learn math, chemistry, English and Islamic studies alongside boys through seventh grade. They are safe — for now.