UncategorizedScenes From Kabul as Taliban Tightens Control

Scenes From Kabul as Taliban Tightens Control


michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

On Sunday, the president of Afghanistan fled the country. The Taliban seized control of the country’s capital, and the American-backed government there collapsed.

In Kabul, chaos gripped the city as tens of thousands of people went into hiding or tried to escape. Among them is a 33-year-old woman, an outspoken critic of the Taliban who asked that we refer to her by the initial “R” for fear of retaliation.

In the days leading up to the fall of Kabul, R packed her entire life into six suitcases and started searching for a way out. Since Friday night, she’s been sharing her experience and fears with my colleague, Lynsea Garrison, as the Taliban closed in.

It’s Monday, August 16.

lynsea garrison

Hey, R. I know you are incredibly busy, but I was thinking that maybe you could record some voice memos and send them to me over the next few days. Anything that you’re seeing, anything that you’re thinking, if your situation changes, if you’re able to get out of the country, you can just record anything like that and send it to me. And I hope you’re doing OK, as OK as anyone can be in this kind of circumstance.

r

Today, we just — couple of hours ago, we learned that Logar collapsed, which is just 70 kilometer away from Kabul, which is so scary because now they are just very, very close to Kabul. And so there’s no way for my family and I to leave. But with the help of some friends, we managed to find a safer place for tonight.

So I’m moving with my whole family there. And we’ll stay there tonight. And we’ll see what will happen, because some people say that there might be fighting tonight. They might start attacking Kabul tonight or tomorrow.

So I have been just moving houses. I’m just on the way, taking my suitcases, packing up, moving from one place to the other. And yeah, it’s just so overwhelming, so exhausting and scary. I don’t know what to do. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.

[music]
lynsea garrison

Good morning. It’s late Friday night here and, I think, pretty early your Saturday morning. I just wanted to see if anything ended up happening last night and where you are.

r

It’s early morning and, gladly, nothing happened last night. So my sister and I, we moved to this house. And my mom and my brothers will join us today. So right now, we are just trying to find a way that at least all of us can be together.

But we don’t know. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We are just very hopeful and trying to be optimistic. And we just received messages that the Taliban are about to attack Kabul within 72 hours. I don’t know.

They have been confirmed by official sources, but I really don’t know what is the plan for the Americans and for the British because they already brought some troops, and they are bringing more troops today to evacuate their stuff and some Afghans.

I don’t know. I just don’t have a good feeling today. I think we just don’t have much time, but, I don’t know, I’m just praying that we will be out soon.

r (new voice memo)

I just walked to the main road. And the roads are busy. People are walking around. And they’re doing their business. It looks like a normal day. But the thing is I think maybe they have no clue that Kabul can fall any minute or any hour or any day.

I was told that they might attack Kabul today, so it’s better if I stay in this area so I don’t get stuck somewhere. And also, I was told that the commercial flights might stop tomorrow. I don’t know if it’s true or false.

I’m waiting for the Canadians to tell me if I am eligible, if they can put me on this list. The Americans say that there’s no guarantee, but they might be able to put us on the list and evacuate us, but they may not. So we are also — we are still trying to find ways out for myself and for my family members. Yeah, these are the latest updates that I have.

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The Taliban are advancing relentlessly across Afghanistan as the U.S. carries out the final stages of withdrawing all its troops. With international forces largely gone, the Islamist group is taking more territory from a demoralized Afghan military.

archived recording 2

Taliban tweeted out this video of its fighters celebrating on top of an armored Humvee as it drove through the streets, vehicles they captured from U.S. trained and equipped Afghan forces.

archived recording 3

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani spoke publicly today for the first time in days. He’s vowing to keep fighting.

archived recording 4

— a speech to his nation, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this morning vowed not to give up over what he called the achievements over the past 20 years.

archived recording 5

And as this has been happening, tens of thousands of people continue to flood into Kabul. And many of them have come with nothing, because they’ve come from cities that have been centers of fighting.

lynsea garrison

I’m just curious, what’s the mood like in Kabul right now? Is it quiet? Are people scared? Is it chaotic? I’m just curious what the city actually feels like right now.

r

I’m driving through the city, and I see fear in people’s faces. And people are rushing everywhere. And I saw hundreds of people lining up behind the banks to withdraw their monies and close their accounts, probably. And yeah.

And we just heard about this announcement that President Ghani is going to resign, even though he didn’t mention it in his statement, but it seems that he will resign soon. That is what I heard from my sources.

Now, everything is just even more complicated because — and even more unpredictable. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen anytime soon, but it’s just terrifying and worrying.

I don’t know. It’s been so tragic that I have been just carrying my suitcases from my place to other without even knowing if I would ever get out with them. But I’m just carrying them from here to there, hoping that I will find an exit ready.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

[music]
archived recording 1

We’re getting new developments from Afghanistan, where the situation is changing there minute by minute. [GUNFIRE]

archived recording 2

Tonight, the Afghan army is trying to hold back the Taliban in the north’s biggest city, Mazar-i-Sharif.

archived recording 3

On Saturday, the Taliban captured the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif after security forces fled to neighboring Uzbekistan, allowing the insurgents to march in unopposed.

archived recording 4

Another Afghan provincial capital just south of Kabul has fallen to the Taliban in an —

archived recording 5

Taliban fighters have captured the city of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province. It was one of two remaining government strongholds and, really, just a few hours drive away from the capital of Kabul.

r

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but — [SOBS]

— two major cities just collapsed.

And it’s so devastating to see that my country’s just falling on her knees, and no one is just taking any action, just the whole world just watching this happen.

I just can’t sleep. I’m like, if I sleep, I’m going to miss something. So I’m just trying to stay awake all night, having my family with me and just checking on my friends and just trying to see what I can do for them, what I can do for my family.

And honestly, I feel embarrassed. And I feel ashamed on behalf of the world, on behalf of the countries that claim that they are human rights defenders, women’s rights defenders and they are here to establish democracy and freedom of speech, women’s rights, and all these bullshits. And now they are just decided to just leave and let us die.

To the world, it’s just a city that collapses. But to me, it’s not just a city, because I know with every city, there are thousands of souls that collapse. There are thousands of millions of dreams that collapse. There are our history, our culture, our art, our beauty, our life that collapse. And that is why every time I hear that a city collapses, I collapse again and again.

And I don’t know what’s — what is next.

They are close to Kabul, and then they are going to take over Kabul. But I just keep telling myself that I have to — I have to — stay alive. I have to be strong because I need to document all these things. I need to record everything. And I need to do something because I don’t want this to be forgotten.

It’s so painful. It’s so devastating. It’s backbreaking.

And I feel so miserable, because I feel so hopeless and powerless because I cannot do anything.

I wish I could do magic. I wish I could do something that this country would grow wings to just fly away from all this bloodshed and just save her children. I don’t know. Or I should — if I could grow or expand my arms to just hold this country and its people and just protect them.

It’s so devastating. It is so unfair. But what I know, the history will not forget it. The history will remember every name, every face that was involved in creating this [INAUDIBLE] mess for us.

[music]
archived recording 1

NBC News has confirmed that the president, President Ghani of Afghanistan, has left the country.

archived recording 2

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s departure signals the government has all but handed power to the Taliban.

archived recording 3

The question now is what happens next.

archived recording 4

We are back now with our rolling coverage of the situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban are saying they have ordered their fighters to enter the capital city of Kabul.

archived recording 5

There are images online coming out right now inside Kabul, the presidential palace overrun by the Taliban. Bagram Air Base, where there were more than 5,000 prisoners held — among them not only Taliban insurgents, but also Al-Qaeda fighters.

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They’ve released prisoners, thousands of them.

archived recording 7

5 to 7,000 of the most hardened Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

archived recording 8

Certainly, a concern to the civilian population in Kabul and across Afghanistan, who will see very quickly the Taliban reinforce their ranks and then ultimately, as the group has made clear, reinforce Sharia law across the country.

r (new voice memo)

Hi, Lynsea. It’s been such a long, exhausting, terrifying day. So much happened just in one day. My brain still cannot process this whole thing because earlier this morning, all the roads were fully packed.

And just in the matter of half an hour, all the roads were empty. There were gunfire, and then people were just rushing, running on the streets, to find somewhere to hide somewhere. And yeah, it’s just — I just can’t believe — I think it’s going to take some time for me to believe what’s happening now.

I just can’t believe that they gave up a whole country this easily and just forget about the sacrifices that we made, the things that we worked so hard for. And now it’s just a matter of just saving your life.

I think it’s the worst day of my life to see what I’m seeing.

Yeah. And I don’t know, I just feel so disappointed. I feel so disgusted. And I feel so enraged, that it’s like a joke. What is happening is like a joke. And I can’t believe.

And by now, they are inside the city, I think, because I just heard that two minutes ago, they entered the city. And yeah, we lost so many things.

And I’m just losing everything.

And now, I lost my house. I lost my belongings. I lost my city. I lost my country. I lost my dreams.

Today is Monday, 16 August. And we were about to leave to the airport an hour ago, but there were about two helicopters to come and take us. But for some reason, it was canceled.

And then we learned that the civilian side of the airport is now under the control of the Taliban. And if you want to go to the military side, you have to pass through civilian side. And there is no guarantee if you can reach there safely.

So now we are back to where we were staying last night. We are just waiting to see how things move on and if we will be able to make it to the airport sometime soon. I don’t know.

lynsea garrison

So you’re basically stuck?

r

Yeah, we are stuck. They are negotiating. The Americans are negotiating with the Taliban. And maybe we’ll be able to go to the airport soon, but let’s see.

michael barbaro

On Sunday night, during a ceremony at the presidential palace, Taliban fighters celebrated the rebirth of what they’re calling the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan — the name the Taliban used until their ouster in 2001 at the hands of the United States.

archived recording

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael barbaro

In a statement, the Taliban said it had ordered its men not to harm civilians in Kabul, saying, quote, “Our forces are entering Kabul with all caution.” But signs of change arrived quickly across the city. Workers raced to paint over advertisements featuring women in accordance with Taliban rules.

As of this morning, R is still in Kabul and still trying to get out.

[music]

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael barbaro

Rescue workers are searching for survivors of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Haiti over the weekend, killing nearly 1,300 people. The quake snapped water lines, blocked roads, flattened stores and damaged hospitals. It was the latest blow to an impoverished country already in political crisis since the assassination of its president last month.

Today’s episode was produced by Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown and Rachelle Bonja, with help from Stella Tan. It was edited by Larissa Anderson and M.J. Davis Lin, contains original music by Dan Powell and engineered by Chris Wood.

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.



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