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Government Of Afghanistan Falls As Taliban Fighters Arrive In Kabul

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Afghans are trying to get out of Kabul right now. Yesterday, in the course of just a few hours, President Ashraf Ghani fled. Helicopters then flew diplomats from the U.S. Embassy to the airport, and Taliban fighters were seen inside the presidential palace. The Biden administration acknowledged that the Taliban's victory happened more quickly than anticipated. Joining us now from Kabul is Susannah George with The Washington Post. Susannah, what are you hearing and seeing in Kabul this morning?

SUSANNAH GEORGE: Well, the scenes out of Kabul airport are incredibly distressing. It is thousands of Afghans who've descended on the airport over just the past day and a half. These are people who are desperate to get out of the country. Many of them are people who had applied for these special visas and were uncertain about whether or not this final withdrawal of U.S. forces would include some sort of a mass airlift to bring them out. Initially, there wasn't any security at all at the airport, and so it allowed people to move onto the tarmac, sit under planes, start dismantling some of the landing gear of planes. And this caused the airport to almost completely shut down to commercial flights over the next two days. Then we heard that gunmen moved into the airport. We don't know exactly who these people are. And five civilians have been killed as the gunmen tried to contain the crowds.

MARTINEZ: The Taliban has promised a general amnesty - no revenge killings. Do Afghans believe them?

GEORGE: Well, it really depends who you ask. I think there's mixed feelings on this. A lot of Afghans, I think, would like for government employees to accept these amnesty deals. They'd like for the country to kind of get back to work. Right now nothing is really (inaudible) - no government services are operating. But a lot of other Afghans have heard reports and these are reports that The Washington Post (inaudible) - and other forces have (inaudible) - only to be killed. And it's often in mass executions.

MARTINEZ: Susannah, President Ghani fled the country, said he did it to avoid clashes and bloodshed with the Taliban. What's the reaction been to what he did?

GEORGE: Well, again, it's mixed. Some say good riddance. They see Ghani as the source of much of what went wrong here in Afghanistan. But others say, you know, that, really, the United States set Ghani up to fail, and they believe that the blame rests on the U.S.

MARTINEZ: One more thing, Susannah - what's the biggest change you've noticed in the past couple of days?

GEORGE: The biggest change is that there are Taliban fighters out on the streets in Kabul. They're setting up checkpoints. They're driving around, searching cars. Most of their interactions with civilians that I've seen have been pretty amicable. I've seen some fighters in a pickup truck pull civilians over, ask them to get out of the cars, ask them a few questions. And no major violence in other parts of the city.

MARTINEZ: OK, Susannah George is with The Washington Post in Kabul. Susannah, thanks a lot.

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