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What Life In Afghanistan Will Be Like Under Taliban Rule

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The Taliban raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace yesterday - the same day that the world marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile, the United Nations says the country is at risk of a total breakdown economically and that close to 97% of Afghanistan's population may drop below the poverty line as the repercussions of the Taliban takeover continue. Kathy Gannon is the longtime news director for Afghanistan and Pakistan for The Associated Press, and she joins me now from Kabul. Welcome to the program.

KATHY GANNON: Thank you so much, Lulu. It's a pleasure.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, the symbolism of the Taliban flag being hoisted on September 11 can't be overstated. I mean, what is the mood right now in Kabul?

GANNON: You know, I think for most people, there's a great deal of uncertainty but also a sense of desperation. The banks have just opened, but they're not able to distribute money freely. They have - a lot of it has been frozen, so the funds are not easily available. People are only allowed to take out $200 every week. Foodstuff is becoming increasingly expensive. The Taliban have asked people to return to work, but they don't have money to pay them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Has armed resistance against the Taliban ended? I mean, we heard news that the brother of the former Afghan vice president was killed. His death is perceived to be significant because of the fighting in the Panjshir Valley where he was shot, so they had mounted an initial resistance to the Taliban.

GANNON: Exactly. I mean, that was sort of that last pocket of anti-Taliban fighting that was going on. And it has largely died down at this point. You know, the Taliban do have control over the valley. There remains still fighting in some of the smaller villages, but for the most part, I think the control is there with the Taliban.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But civil protest has been continuing and has faced a harsh response from the Taliban. Are people going to continue to take to the street, do you think, in the face of that?

GANNON: I was talking to a woman who is a taekwondo competitor yesterday. She was just shopping. And she was among the protesters, and she had been protesting, and she was determined that if they continued, she too would continue. But she said, you know, the reality is is that most men will not join those protests. And there was - the owner of the store was a man and he nodded, and he said it's true because many men in Afghanistan do not necessarily strongly disagree with the Taliban's edict toward women, and that they are probably not likely to come out in any great numbers in support of the women. And that makes it difficult for the women and also as well - a lot of the older women leaders are not in the country, and certainly they're very strong and very powerful, but most of the demonstrations has been the younger, you know, 24-, 25-year-old students. Whether they'll be able to maintain that momentum and gain more momentum and more support from the men in the country I think is really what would make the difference, and certainly talking to some of the women, they don't see that happening. And talking to many of the men, I don't see that they're going to come out in large numbers that would force a change for women's rights. They may come out if the economy continues to deteriorate and people can't afford to feed their family, they don't have an income. That will make people increasingly desperate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Obviously, there has been a lot of discussion around what kind of government the Taliban will form. They announced a sort of interim government pact with Taliban senior leadership. What is the status of those negotiations? Does it look like possibly there might be a more inclusive regime in Afghanistan?

GANNON: Well, I mean, I think they gave a bit of a fig leaf, you know, to the international community by making it a caretaker. So it opens the door that in fact there could be other groups represented in the Cabinet - women. I think people feel that the non-Taliban will have secondary roles for some time as the Taliban attempts to sort of consolidate and figure out how to run the country. I mean, the higher education minister had a press conference today. He said women will be allowed to go to university, pursue their degrees. It remains to be seen what the face of the Taliban will be this time around. I think they're certainly also trying to sort out how to move forward, how to govern Afghanistan. It's a very different country than when they last governed. And so I think it's still in the process, and it's really not clear what the end result will be or when it will actually come about.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Kathy Gannon, news director for Afghanistan and Pakistan for The Associated Press - a legend - thank you very much.

GANNON: Thank you very much, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.