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New Taliban rulers face difficult economic and security challenges

Afghanistan was poor and dependent when the Taliban ruled it in the late 1990s.

They inherit a more developed society, with a small and educated middle class. However, the economy has been destroyed by war and corruption. Even before the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15, the unemployment rate was higher than 30%, and Afghans were living in poverty despite decades of U.S. intervention and billions in aid.

Taliban are trying to reassure Afghans they have changed since 1996 when they had a strong hand. Women had to cover their heads with the full-length burqa, while men had to grow beards. Girls were not allowed to receive education or access to entertainment such as music and television.

Many Afghans are haunted by the past and fear that the Taliban of the past lurk beneath the new government. This is keeping many people from returning to work, despite promises from the Taliban. It has also prompted thousands of Afghans to look for a better future.

Torek Farhadi, an ex-advisor to the Western-backed government that was toppled in Afghanistan, stated that "The Taliban's greatest problem is to... embrace other governments in governing Afghanistan."

Farhadi stated that "they feel they have won a military victory" and that it may seem odd for their ranks to now have to give positions of power to other people.

He said that a new government will only be successful if all Afghans feel included.

Many of the Taliban leaders now in Kabul were once part of the harsher 1990s regime, but their lives in exile have made them more comfortable.

Mullah Abdul Ghani baradar was content to remain in Kandahar, a southern provincial town, when he didn't want to travel to Kabul. In recent years, Baradar has become the most prominent political negotiator and resides in Qatar, a Gulf Arab country that had a Taliban office. Baradar stood alongside high-ranking Russian, Chinese, and even U.S. politicians.

The Taliban of today are conciliatory. They encourage former enemies to return to their country and promise not to exact revenge.

The formation of a new government is their first major test. Although they have said it would include non-Taliban leaders, it isn't clear if it is willing to share power.

A more inclusive government could help slow the exodus of Afghans, especially the young and educated. It would also encourage the international community's continued support for the country in its desperate need.

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