Afghanistan: Is the return of the Taliban shaking up the geopolitical landscape?

The Taliban's 1996-2001 rule was marked by harsh sharia law, with many political rights and basic freedoms curtailed and women severely oppressed. Afghanistan was also a hub for anti-Western militants, and Washington, London and others fear it might become so again. As the Taliban seek new allies and a softer image, Kabir Taneja, Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, reminds us that "the Taliban are still the Taliban. Ideologically, they have not changed anything ... on the face of it, they're saying all the correct things ... the propaganda is being done in a very slick manner and unfortunately alot of people are buying into it." Mr. Taneja acknowledges, nevertheless, that "they may find new allies, in places such as China and Russia, who are very happy to see the US influence leave from the region. But that does not mean that the Taliban will change for the Afghan people. It's still going to be the same organization and the same ideology."