Taliban face growing problems running Afghanistan as talks begin with the U.S.

U.S. and Taliban representatives met in Doha, Qatar, this weekend for the first direct talks since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The talks will reportedly focus on terrorism, evacuations and a growing humanitarian crisis as winter approaches. Wall Street Journal reporter Saeed Shah joins from Kabul.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Representatives of the U.S. and Afghanistan's ruling Taliban government are restarting talks in Doha, Qatar this weekend. Issues reportedly on the table include terrorist groups operating in the country, evacuations and a growing humanitarian crisis.

    I spoke with Saeed Shah, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who is in Kabul about conditions there six weeks after the last U.S. troops withdrew.

    Saeed, right now, it seems the Taliban have already started staking out positions in their conversations with the United States, they're saying that they are not going to work with or help the United States per se in tamping down the IS or Islamic State forces that exist in the country. That was one of the tenets of the deal that the Trump administration struck with the Taliban is to make sure that Afghanistan was no longer a safe haven for terrorists.

  • Saeed Shah:

    Well, the deal they struck was that Afghanistan would no longer be a safe haven for international terrorists. The local branch of Islamic State has, so far anyway, hit Afghan targets both that it used to hit the former government, used to hit the Shiite minority. Since the Taliban has taken over, it's also been hitting the Taliban pretty hard as well. So the Taliban's point of view is that we can handle the ISIS threat here.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tell me a little bit about the situation in Afghanistan right now. You've been reporting from different parts of the country. Is the Taliban different depending on where you travel to?

  • Saeed Shah:

    There are some differences, in Kabul, you notice there is a huge amount of discipline among both the leadership and the rank and file, and they are smartly turned out in uniforms, patrolling, manning check posts and so on. Further away from Kabul, most are not uniformed. And we've seen in places, for instance, that they've done public hangings, which has not taken place in Kabul. So overall, it seems that they are following orders very strictly. And you know, it's the nature of an insurgent movement that they are extremely disciplined.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of the big concerns has been the fate of those Afghans who helped American forces that are still stuck in the country. I know there are volunteers from around the country here who are still working to try to get them out.

  • Saeed Shah:

    It's very difficult to get out of Afghanistan. Essentially, the land borders are closed to Afghans to countries like Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan. Flights are not properly going. There are few flights which are heavily booked out and extremely expensive, unaffordable for most ordinary Afghans, and the Taliban is reluctant to see a further exodus of people.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You had also reported a little earlier about the kind of economic and humanitarian crisis that is facing the country right now as you head into winter.

  • Saeed Shah:

    It is a essentially a crisis situation with the takeover by the Taliban. International aid was cut off and the economy was entirely dependent on it. So there is growing hunger, there is joblessness. There's a lack of shelter because a lot of Afghans were displaced as a result of the war and there are only a few short weeks left before winter really bites. The international community has pledged $1 billion in emergency assistance for Afghanistan, but it essentially has not arrived and aid agencies are saying time is running out. The international community is extremely concerned that this money doesn't fall straight into Taliban hands, and it is worried that women will not benefit from it, or that women aid workers will not be able to work in the field. And the Taliban has not been able to give the sort of assurances that the international community wants on that.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Saeed Shah of the Wall Street Journal joining us from Kabul tonight. Thanks so much.

  • Saeed Shah:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment