As The Taliban Aim To Establish Relations With Nations, Skepticism Remains

Sep 1, 2021
Originally published on September 1, 2021 7:15 am
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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Afghans woke up to a new reality for the first time in 20 years, one without U.S. troops. The Taliban is now in full control of the country. Yesterday, President Biden defended his decision to end the war in Afghanistan.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.

MARTINEZ: As the Taliban forms a new government, the group wants to establish diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, but many remain skeptical. Joining us now from Kabul is TRT World reporter Ali Mustafa. We should mention that TRT is funded by the Turkish government. Ali, you were on the tarmac at Kabul's airport when the last U.S. plane left on Monday. Can you describe that moment for us?

ALI MUSTAFA: Well, it was something out of a post-apocalyptic movie almost. There was garbage all around. There were bullet rounds and shells on the tarmac. There were a lot of Taliban control - a lot of discarded vehicles and a lot of damaged or tampered-with military transport vehicle, aircraft essentially, which the Americans destroyed or partially damaged or took sensitive equipment from as they left the airport.

MARTINEZ: The Taliban has now been fully in control in Afghanistan since the U.S. left on Monday. Any visible changes that you see so far?

MUSTAFA: There's - the tension on the streets seems to have eased, especially in and around the airport, obviously. It would take us about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the airport from the city center when the Americans were here and those evacuations were taking place, and now it's taking 15 minutes through and through. The area, all of it, has been cleared. They're in charge - (inaudible). It's about 40 - (inaudible) - anxiety in the city, given there's an economic crisis that this country is staring at.

MARTINEZ: Ali, you dipped out for a second there. When it comes to the airport, does the Taliban plan to resume operations and reopen that airport?

MUSTAFA: Absolutely, that's one of their first priorities. They want to ensure security and economic progress, but they are also aware they have pressure, especially from Qatar, to restart the airport, restart - resume commercial flights and let people leave if they want to leave, who have proper documents. They have agreed to this, but in order to do that, they will need technical expertise. And they're in talks with Turkey and Qatar to form sort of a consortium to run the airport and provide internal security, maybe Turkish contractors or something. Outside, they'll be in control.

MARTINEZ: Now, you've spoken with the Taliban. How do they plan to govern and address the many challenges right now, including food shortage issues and a humanitarian crisis?

MUSTAFA: Well, as I mentioned earlier, they have two priorities at this stage - ensuring security for peace. They say there can't be any peace without security. And secondly, to try to come up with a plan to alleviate the economic suffering. The value of the local currency - the economy has plummeted. One dollar is equal to a hundred afghanis now almost. Essential food prices have gone up - the price of everyday commodities. There's a limit on how much money people can withdraw from banks, up to $200 or 25 afghanis. That's creating a challenge for businesses to pay their employees, for example.

MARTINEZ: Taliban leadership - really fast - has said that Afghanistan won't allow terror groups to flourish in Afghanistan, but those claims were undermined last week by the attacks at Kabul airport. How will they ensure safety and security in the country going forward?

MUSTAFA: Well, they said that they - if they could weather 20 years of what they call the American occupation, they can take care of these disparate groups. But it'll be a struggle for them, so we'll have to see.

MARTINEZ: TRT World reporter Ali Mustafa reporting from Kabul. Thank you very much.

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