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Chaos Continues In The Kabul Airport As A Humanitarian Crisis Brews In Afghanistan

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

New protests have sprung up today in parts of Afghanistan against Taliban rule, and that is on top of other challenges already facing the militant group and Afghan citizens as the Taliban tries to govern the country. The U.S. and allies have cut billions of dollars in funding. ATMs have run out of money. There is a brewing humanitarian crisis, and thousands of Afghans are now trying to flee the country. NPR international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam has been following these developments and joins us now. Hi, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. So first, what can you tell us about the situation at the Kabul airport right now? Are evacuations running more smoothly?

NORTHAM: Well, the operation does seem to be kicking into gear. The U.S. says about 7,000 Americans and Afghans have been evacuated so far. And their - the goal is just try to get about 500 people an hour out of the country. But, Ailsa, the big problem is getting to the airport. There are Taliban checkpoints all along the way. And while it looks as though westerners are able to get through, armed militants are making it very difficult for Afghans trying to leave. There are reports of them ripping up people's documents that prove they should be able to leave. And, you know, there are some remarkable images on social media showing the chaos - you know, guns firing and militants whipping Afghans and, you know, people screaming and pushing. And there are videos of both the Taliban and Western soldiers, you know, shooting in the air, trying to maintain crowd control. But it's a very dangerous situation.

CHANG: Yeah. So is that chaos reflective of there being basically no government in the country right now? I mean, what are you hearing about that?

NORTHAM: Well, the only thing that really is clear right now is that the Taliban have said they are going to try and form a government that follows Islamic law, but that it will also be inclusive. And, you know, we do see former government figures involved in meetings, and that includes former Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

But one of the complicating factors is that various factions within the Taliban are looking for different things. You know, you have the political leadership in Kabul holding press conferences and trying to convince the West that this is a new, gentler Taliban. And that's to help keep foreign aid coming into the country, which is desperately needed. But, you know, you also have Taliban militants who have been fighting for two decades who likely want to go back to the past and follow an extreme interpretation of Islam. And, you know, the Taliban are going to have to find a compromise amongst the different factions...

CHANG: Right.

NORTHAM: ...And that may be what's slowing down the formation of a government.

CHANG: OK, so no government formed at the moment. But obviously, it appears the Taliban control the country now. They've consolidated power. That said, how firm a grip would you say the Taliban has on Afghanistan right now?

NORTHAM: Well, we are starting to see protests in, you know, various cities and towns. And there were a couple of demonstrations in Kabul - you know, people marching through the streets, waving the Afghan flag, trying to stare down militants who used deadly force to try to break up the protest. So there is some resistance. And we're also seeing an attempt...

CHANG: Yeah.

NORTHAM: ...To form armed opposition in parts of the country, but this is - this effort is really in its infancy at the moment.

CHANG: OK.

NORTHAM: And it's usure if it's going to stick.

CHANG: That is NPR's Jackie Northam. Thank you, Jackie.

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