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Updates From Kabul After The Attack At The Airport

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

The Pentagon says it's begun to draw down U.S. forces at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul. U.S. citizens and some Afghans are continuing to be evacuated, but these final operations are taking place under extremely dangerous conditions. President Biden is warning that another terrorist attack in Afghanistan is highly likely. This follows the attack on Thursday at the Kabul airport that killed at least 170 Afghans and 13 American military service members. Nabih Bulos is a foreign correspondent with the Los Angeles Times and he joins us now from Kabul. Good morning.

NABIH BULOS, BYLINE: Hi, how are you? Thanks for having me.

KHALID: Thanks for joining us. So let's start with the situation at the airport. Who is currently in charge? Are people still showing up in the hopes of being allowed on flights?

BULOS: Well, so since the blast, which happened a few days ago as you know, there has been a wider perimeter that's been established. So whereas before people could get right up to the gates, now they can actually only get to the road leading up to it. So it's - I mean, it's quite far away from the actual gates themselves. Now, sometimes people still do manage to make it through, but overall, the Taliban have done a good job in terms of stopping people, you know, in cars from actually getting closer. Today, I actually went to the airport again and we were able to go quite deeply inside with the Taliban, and what this means is that now the Taliban are the ones who are in charge of security around the perimeter of the airport, as well as the areas that are just outside the spot where the Americans are operating. So the Americans are operating in a very specific site, you know, called the military side of Kabul airport, and that area still remains to be under the Americans. But anything, you know, beyond that is basically now all the Taliban, right? So all the sort of previous things that you would see, like the CIA-trained militias called the 0-1s, these American allies that you would see before - they've all been withdrawn and now it's mostly the Taliban. And you actually even get to see the Americans coordinating with the Taliban as well.

KHALID: I see. You know, we were mentioning earlier this attack that took place at the airport. I'm curious if you're hearing from Afghans any response to the U.S. drone strike against the group that claimed responsibility for that attack, the group called ISIS-K?

BULOS: I mean, of course, the main thing here is skepticism. I mean, it's worth noting that drone strikes in the past in the U.S. - I mean, despite all the trumpeting of results and despite the Afghan National Army back in the day also doing the same thing in terms of how many Taliban they've killed, et cetera. For most Afghans on the ground these drone strikes have never had a real effect - well, other than killing Afghans, right? I mean, civilians all around, I think, at this point, are really quite doubtful of an intelligence situation where they were able to figure out the quote-unquote facilitator and planner within a day and kill them. Like, the most common response is, you know, if they were able to find them so quickly, then how come they didn't, you know, find them before the attack? Which I think is a fair question.

KHALID: You know, the day of the attack, you tweeted out that a doctor that you spoke with at one of the hospitals who's been dealing with casualties described seeing bodies that bore signs of gunshot wounds. Is there any clarity thus far on who was doing the shooting there, what was actually happening? And I ask this in part because, at yesterday's Pentagon briefing, we were told here in the U.S. that this is all still under investigation.

BULOS: Well the fact of the matter is - and I don't want to make allegations that aren't substantiated because it's not clear to me. But we have talked to a few people and they seem to indicate at this point that it was - you know, the shooting was mostly from the Americans, right? I mean, there are sort of disparate reports of someone else shooting as well - you know, like, one of the people with ISIS shooting and then blowing themselves up. But really, that's not clear. I mean, what we have heard from other Afghans is that, in the panic of the attack, the American soldiers started shooting. And when I spoke to the doctors, they were mentioning to me that a lot of the people had injuries to the upper part of their body - you know, in the neck, in the head, et cetera, which would indicate that they were being fired upon from a higher position. Now, again, I mean, it's worth noting that, you know, we need to do much more research on this just to make sure.

KHALID: That's Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent Nabih Bulos. Thanks again so much.

BULOS: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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