This is not your father’s Taliban. I say this with cautious optimism, despite the Armageddon-like analysis and dire predictions emanating from many quarters. Here’s my view. The current crop of Taliban from their leaders to rank and file, have so far demonstrated amazing flexibility and diplomacy as they raced towards their relatively peaceful blitzkrieg such as the takeover of Afghanistan. Reports of the way they are dealing with their former enemies, both Pashtun and non-Pashtun, including Shia Hazaras, speaks, at least for now, a different approach. The latter is particularly surprising. The Taliban’s display of amity, coordination with the Shia Hazaras, former arch enemies, divided by sectarian differences and a history of blood laden conflict is indicative of how the Taliban want to create a more inclusive environment, and not just a short term tactical ploy to take over areas, without a fight. Based on this, I do not think they will resort to the 1994 harsh, cruel, exclusivist Taliban world of irrational, rigid, dogma driven governance. So how did this happen? One factor that hugely influenced this is that once the vast majority of the families of Taliban leadership had to leave Pakistan, under US pressure, they were provided safe havens in Iran by the Iranians. The phrase ‘Shia Taliban’ is becoming more and more common. And that is how Iran came to acquire significant influence over the Taliban leadership and now can play a major role in arranging a rapprochement between the Taliban and the Shias as well as advising the latter not to fight the former. The ease with which Shia majority provinces fell to the Taliban, Bamyan in Hazarajat, for example, indicates the success of this strategy. Interestingly as the Taliban flag flies from a nearby fortress, there is also the Labbaik Ya Hussain Shia Flag fluttering in the background. Pictures of joint Taliban and Shia judges in recent weeks are all over the place. The phrase “Shia Taliban” is becoming more and more common. Stranger still is the Taliban’s undertaking to the Shias of Ghazni city to provide security to them in the month of Moharram as they mourn the Shahadat of the Prophet’s family. This is clearly a different Taliban leadership who thinks very differently from the Mullah Umar days. Mullah Baradar and Sirajuddin Haqqani as potential senior leaders in a new Afghan government are the consummate diplomats who realize that only inclusiveness will overcome the Afghan’s natural penchant for warlordism. Hence, it seems unlikely that we will see the re-emergence of the previous Taliban scenario. The elephants in the room are the highly rabid groups such as the TTP and splinter groups emanating from Daesh and Al Qaeda, uncompromising in their religious worldview towards those who do not subscribe to their belief system. Given the above, the current Taliban may find themselves in conflict with these groups which possibly may have a negative impact on terrorist activities in Pakistan, but nowhere near what we witnessed decades ago. Cautiously optimistic! But one thing is clear. These are not your father’s Taliban and the USA, EU etc. must wake up to this reality and give Afghanistan a fighting chance to rebuild itself. Stay away, US! The writer is a geopolitical commentator. He tweets @HaiderKonsul.