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Journalist In Kabul Says City Is Quiet, Internet Intact — For Now

DON GONYEA, HOST:

It has been a dramatic day in Afghanistan, as Taliban fighters entered the capital city of Kabul and effectively took control of the country. The Afghan president has fled and his government appears to have collapsed with the speed that has stunned observers, as the Afghan army proved unable to resist the Taliban's rapid advances.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And meanwhile, U.S. troops are rushing to evacuate Americans, rushing to evacuate Afghans who worked with the U.S. military. We have a lot to get to this hour as the situation in Afghanistan is changing our tower. And we're going to begin with the latest straight from Kabul. Journalist Ali Latifi is there. He's on the line.

Ali Latifi, welcome. Thanks for speaking with us.

ALI LATIFI: Thank you.

KELLY: I know it has been such a long day for you. I know it is well into the wee hours there. Is the city quiet? What are you hearing? What are you seeing right now?

LATIFI: The city itself is still very quiet. We have to remember that the deal that paved the - that allowed for Ashraf Ghani, the president, to leave, you know, became public after 6 p.m. So at that point, it was already starting to get dark. And people weren't really going out on the streets. So we don't fully know what, you know, life will look like until we go back out to work and to school and to, you know, the stores and everything tomorrow. But I can say that today, you know, there were probably like three different moods in the course of just a few hours.

KELLY: And what were they, the three, you went - you started where?

LATIFI: Sure. So in the morning, because I live above a bank - so in the morning when you walk down to the bank, you know, there is just crowds out the door. And, you know, people were arguing with the guards at the bank, why they couldn't get inside and why there wasn't money. And, you know, when you walked out on the street, there were just cars everywhere, just cars and cars and cars like you never seen before.

And then at a certain point around, I want to say, like - around 11, 12, there were rumors that the Taliban had made it into the city, that they were by the zoo, that they were in different areas of the actual city itself. And so you saw people running or you saw people rushing to get...

KELLY: Just pack.

LATIFI: And I'm talking hundreds of...

KELLY: Yeah.

LATIFI: Yeah, hundreds of...

KELLY: Yeah.

LATIFI: ...People in, like, different parts of the city and stores closing down and, you know, people just panicking to get home. And then later in the afternoon, maybe like an hour or so later, there came the news that the Taliban said, we're not going to have our fighters enter the city. We're going to wait for a negotiated settlement. When that settlement is done, then we'll have our fighters come into the city but only after that. Until then, they'll wait out at the gates, you know, to the entrance of the city of Kabul, the different entrances. So that, you know, sort of seemed to calm people down because they were at home. And they didn't have to worry.

KELLY: Right.

LATIFI: And then after that, nobody really went out, so.

KELLY: And where are people getting information? Who's controlling TV and radio stations? Are they broadcasting as normal?

LATIFI: So far, yes.

KELLY: Yeah.

LATIFI: But, you know, there's also - we have to remember that it's a different time from when the Taliban came to power in 1996. You know, I was just thinking about it. Like, right now we still have internet access, you know? So for a lot of us, you know, a lot of the news came from the internet. You know, there were a lot of rumors. There was a lot of talk.

And the first report that I saw, that the president had left came from, you know, the biggest private TV station. They posted it online. And then other networks and other agencies picked it up. And other places started to verify it. So in that sense, you know, it's interesting how different it is. Like, we still have access to TV and radios and, you know, things that weren't allowed in 1996.

KELLY: Wow.

LATIFI: So...

KELLY: So we just have - I'll just jump in with one more question. I heard you say, right now we have internet access - right now. It sounds like there's uncertainty. It sounds like there's a certain amount of dread as to what the dawn will bring.

LATIFI: Yeah. Exactly. It's a question of, you know, will they allow for these things to continue? Or will they try and go back to the way they were?

KELLY: That is Ali Latifi, a journalist, speaking to us from Kabul. We wish you well. Stay safe. And thank you.

LATIFI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.