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The Taliban Enter Kabul, Seeking Transition Of Power

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Next, we're going to hear from our reporter Jackie Northam. Jackie, welcome back.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Thank you.

CORNISH: We just heard from a journalist there in Kabul that there's essentially been silence from the elected leadership of the Afghan government for the last couple of days. Is there anything you've found in your reporting that's come out of Ghani's office or elsewhere?

NORTHAM: No, not really. We don't really know what is happening with President Ashraf Ghani. After the Taliban encircled Kabul, we heard that he held emergency talks with the U.S. representative for the region, Zalmay Khalilzad, and other top NATO leaders. But, you know, it's pretty clear - it's very likely that his government will not last. And he'll have to resign and, I imagine, get out of Afghanistan, as well. Audie, these are really fast-moving developments coming in right now. Nobody knew Kabul was going to fall quite this quickly. There appear to be furious negotiations taking place in Kabul, and there's some talk that an Afghan delegation will go to Doha for more talks. But it appears there's going to be a transitional government and we're just going to have to wait to see what that looks like.

CORNISH: Have the Taliban given any indication of when they want to assume power or how it's going to happen? We just heard there that the reporting is that they've - the soldiers have been told not to use force as they approach Kabul today. But is there anything else we know?

NORTHAM: Right. We're only getting what we know from a Taliban spokesperson. And they're talking that they want to take - you know, they want a transition of power as soon as possible. And then they said in the next few days. They're already giving us an idea, though, of how they're going to govern. You know, they say that they want an inclusive Afghan government where all Afghans will have participations and that women will have access to education and work and allowed to leave their homes, you know, and that there's going to be guaranteed freedoms for journalists in the media.

And if you recall, the militants, last time they were in power, didn't even allow TV. They had one radio station that only had religious chants. You know, so given the history of the Taliban, they're making all these statements that it's going to be an open sort of - and, you know, free society. But, you know, that's hard to believe. It was a brutal, brutal regime that they had for the years that they were in power. At the same time, they have also made it clear they do not want to become a pariah state again. You know, in large part, it needs money. So we're just going to have to see. But I think any signs that it's going to be, again, an open society really have to be taken with a grain of salt.

CORNISH: I understand you've been speaking with some people in Kabul. Who have you reached? What are they saying?

NORTHAM: I've spoken to a couple of people, yeah. And one resident I talked with - she was describing the mood in the city. And we're not going to use her name, as you can imagine, for security reasons, but here's what she had to say about what the mood is like right now.

UNIDENTIFIED KABUL RESIDENT: Right now, the thieves, robbers, all the looters are out and trying to loot cars whichever are traveling right now. My father was just speaking to one of his friends, and gunshots everywhere. And right now, the people - we have, like, a - and our neighbor - we have this guard with a gun. He also just shot at someone because people are trying to loot houses and whomever is passing by the road.

NORTHAM: Audie, you can just hear the fear in her voice. You know, she says she and her family are huddled in one small room in their house. Listen to what she had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED KABUL RESIDENT: So right now, we don't know. I was just talking to my dad. He has a gun. So I told him - I was like, just keep it ready if the thieves are trying to - they're going to come home, so we can defend, you know?

NORTHAM: There's just so much uncertainty in Kabul right now, Audie, so - with the Taliban coming back in power. So I think, you know, she's probably indicative of how a lot of people are feeling, particularly in Kabul right now, if not throughout the whole country.

CORNISH: We're going to be hearing from our White House correspondent, Franco Ordoñez. But earlier, you mentioned that the Taliban do not want to be a pariah state again. Can you just remind us what these talks in Doha have been?

NORTHAM: They've been trying to, you know, come up with some sort of peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and they really - they haven't gone anywhere. The Taliban do not engage in these talks at all. You know, they're playing a double game. You know, they're saying, yes, yes, yes in Doha, but the fighters - you know, the militants were just sweeping across the country. They might try to get some negotiations going again, but so far, it hasn't gone well.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Jackie Northam. Thank you.

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