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Reporter Jane Ferguson Discusses The Latest From Kabul

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After a day of rumor and speculation, the Taliban have issued a statement, saying they have entered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

This essentially completes the militant group's territorial takeover of the country. And the Taliban say it is negotiating a transfer of power with what is left of the Afghan government. PBS NewsHour correspondent Jane Ferguson is in Kabul and joins us now.

Welcome to you.

JANE FERGUSON: Thanks again for having me on.

CORNISH: We've been hearing the sounds of helicopters in the backgrounds of many interviews today. Can you talk about what is happening right now in the city, where I believe it is evening?

FERGUSON: It is. It's almost 9 p.m. here in the city now, and it has been an incredible day of a series of events that have been going on for weeks now, really coming to a head. We have the constant hum of the helicopters that are continuing to do the rapid evacuation of Americans and foreigners from the city. Where I am is very close to the airport. And those helicopters are flying in and out, as well as charter planes that are...

CORNISH: Can I...

FERGUSON: ...Landing and taking off very quickly.

CORNISH: I want to jump in here and ask about that because we are hearing a lot of information now about what is happening around the airport. What have you learned? How has that affected this process for orderly evacuation?

FERGUSON: Well, amidst the chaos of the day, I can tell you what I've been hearing and seeing, which is that I've - we're hearing occasional sporadic gunshots from the airport compound. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean there are any gun battles or fights, you know? There are different protocols for landing and taking off with military aircraft. And some of those will have, for instance, anti-rocket procedures. Or you'll hear, like, booms from different flares that might go off, or you might hear a gunshot that come from jumpy security guards.

The atmosphere in the city right now is so tense that takes just one or two gunshots for people to feel like a gun battle must have broken out. But in reality, we're hearing - we're not hearing any credible reports of serious fighting in the city or near the airport. Now I have...

CORNISH: Right. We heard earlier journalists talking about the idea of celebratory gunfire and/or...

FERGUSON: Yeah.

CORNISH: ...Thieves and that kind of activity in the city.

FERGUSON: That's a big concern. The Taliban themselves are saying that they're sending their troops in. They're sending their fighters into the city to try to prevent that. I mean, let's not forget that, tonight, Kabul isn't really ruled by anyone, you know? The - President Ghani has left. And the Taliban are largely in control, but they - they're not really present on the streets yet. So it's a dangerous, dangerous time. And the city's extremely vulnerable to looting, rioting, violence.

So as I was heading towards the airport just before sunset, we actually saw the Taliban entering into the city. We saw Taliban fighters - some of them armed but many of them not - in cars, in the back of pickup trucks, some of them in the back of Afghan security forces' vehicles either - that they had either captured or were being given a ride. We also saw Afghan national security there, special forces and commandos within the vicinity of the Taliban, which is a pretty surreal scene for someone like me, who's been reporting on these two sides warring one another for so long.

So there seems to be a coordinated effort in handing over. It's haphazard, and it certainly has the residents of the city pretty terrified. But it is happening tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.