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tv   Foreign Correspondents Discuss U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan  CSPAN  September 3, 2021 8:59pm-9:59pm EDT

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of the war." he will be on washington journal to take your calls live wednesday at 8 a.m. eastern on c-span. next, a number of foreign correspondence from various news outlets share their experiences from reporting in afghanistan as well as their views on the impact the u.s. troop withdrawal will have on the people of the country. the national press club is a hose. host: welcome to the world's leading up --professional organization for journalists. i'm lisa nicole matthews, president of the national club and video assignment management with the associated press. thank you for joining us for today's have minor virtual events. we have a panel today of reporters and media executives who for years have reported from and on afghanistan.
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we welcome questions from our audience and i will ask as many questions as time permits. to submit a question, please email's -- email and make the subject line "afghanistan." the longest american war ended with the withdrawal of forces from afghanistan after 20 years. the official end to the forever war has begun in the aftermath of 9/11. the chaotic evacuation of the remaining americans and some of the afghans who worked with them as the taliban descended on the capital of kabul and the u.s.-backed afghan government crumbled, reporters witnessed shocking scenes of desperation as thousands of evacuees were shepherded to cargo planes that would fly them out. a regional group affiliated with
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islamic state truck with two suicide bombs at the airport, killing 13 american service members and nearly 200 others. the rapid withdrawal and its aftermath has sparked a bath clash of global criticism from america's allies abroad and concerns abound, a looming hit -- humanitarian crisis, the reconstitution of terrorist groups, and the rolling back of women's rights dominate the headlines. sharing insights from first-hand experiences and on the ground reporting is a distinguished panel. an international affairs analyst with nbc news. she spent nearly five years in afghanistan as a foreign correspondent for cnn and and busy news. she also set up nbc's kabul news bureau and covered military operations, secured nbc's first exclusive interview with the
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president in a decade. thank you so much for being here. our next panelist, tom, has worked as pentagon correspondent for national public radio since 2006 and previously covered the defense department for the bulk -- baltimore sun. with npr, he has traveled to syria and iraq and made dozens of trips to afghanistan with u.s. marines and soldiers. in 2010, edward r. murrow award for his coverage of taliban roadside bomb that killed two u.s. soldiers. kathy bannon, news director for afghanistan and pakistan the associated press and has covered the region for ap and correspondent its 1988. -- since 1988. she was the only western journalists allowed in kabul by the taliban in the wake of the british attack on afghanistan. she was wounded when an afghan
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police officer opened fire on the afghan army --where she was writing. and ap photographer attacked. -- captured the photo of the attack. finally, we are joined by the chairman and ceo of the mobi group. afghanistan's largest private media group in the first sleeper seven media network, owning the kabul based news which has continued to report and broadcast since the taliban's retaking of control. he served as economic advisor to the afghan government and has been risen that's recognized by time magazine --has been recognized by time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. thank you everyone for joining us today. as i mentioned before, i'm feeling very proud and humbled to have each of you here at the
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national press club, albeit virtually. i have seen you all doing talking heads on the network individually so it is fantastic to have a wealth of information gathered this morning. thank you. first question -- to everyone and i'm going to begin with kathy bannon because ap always gets the first question. that's talk about what we have seen this week and your initial thoughts and reactions to what we saw at the airport and just your thouhghts around it if you can lay that out for us. kathy: i think for me, the panic that has been generated among afghans, it is really for me a
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real bad indictment of the last 20 years in afghanistan of the international community so b ecause really, people have soviet -- little agency in the future of the country and i understand the taliban coming in , their role between 1996 and 2001, but i think for me, the desperation of people, that they would en masse run toward the airport, you have to keep in mind this is kabul. it is a country of 38 million people and so it is a small group but the desperation i think for me was a real
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indictment on the last 20 years and what we have accomplished or not accomplished and what was able to take root and not take root. people are so desperate to leave and that it evolved so quick and so in a way, for the afghans who were asked to fight to save the country from a takeover, they didn't feel they had the motivation to say -- stay in place. i think really for me, it is truly sad for afghans and afghanistan and for the opportunities lost over the last 20 years i think. ms. matthews: we talked about
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this beforehand and i heard you voiced some of the things -- same feelings. i should menton -- mention kathy is running out from afghanistan virtually this morning. she is running us from the west coast but if you want to continue. reporter: for the people i am talking to, i have been nonstop on the phone with people on the ground and they are desperate as kathy mentioned. desperate to get out, terrified. if ones i'm speaking with. i do think the desperation is indicative of the last 20 years as she mentioned but i think it is also a fear of losing some of the gains that were made. everyone talks about this being a failure but the last 20 years, we have seen a lot of gains and the fear lies in the fact that many of them feel they are going to lose it again. because of the history of the taliban, and i don't just mean
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1996 to 2001. i'm talking about the last 20 years as well. i have men crying on the phone begging for help to get out. men whose fathers and uncles had been killed by the taliban so they feel they will be targeted next so i understand some of the desperation. i will say that oftentimes, when i speak to the men, they are more optimistic than they want to speak to the women. i think they have the most to lose. it is unpredictable. we do not know what is going to happen. there is a lot of talk about possibilities of what the taliban might have changed but history also shows that in 1996, when the taliban came, they were reprieved. the afghans went through 10 years of the soviets, went for a horrible war there, so they also welcomed the taliban back then in the sense they welcomed them for peace.
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throughout the years, the regime got more restrictive and more restrictive and more barbaric. i think the afghans have heard the stories. we have a young generation there now and i think they're worried the taliban are putting on a face right now. clearly those stock are hopeful there is a change but there is always the fear that not really. ms. matthews: you mentioned a little something about how quickly the government crumbled. can you talk a little bit about what you saw happen with the leadership in afghanistan and your reaction to that? correspondent: the leadership is totally disconnected to reality. the reality on the ground. on the 23rd and 24th, i saw him twice.
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of july. the second time was with the vice president. it was one-on-one. i felt he didn't realize what was going on. the frustrating thing was his unwillingness to listen to anyone. and he was in his own little universe, completely and totally delusional. the point i always try to stress is how afghanistan had changed and how the government had not changed. the corrupt government is inapt and unwilling to satisfy the needs and demands of its constituencies but the people have really changed. this country of 21 million people in 2000 one now has a population of 38 million. 65% of the population is under 22 or 23. they have never experienced taliban rule.
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you're talking about a totally different population. another generation of afghans, dumping like 70 or 75%, is literal. in 2001, it was 20 to 25%. you see a huge transformation and the younger generations of afghans. they are now living in major cities and have an experience. unfortunately, he managed -- the brand of the new order post 2001 and his brand became one. i think that did not help the cause. every time he betas -- gave a speech, it was because it weakened the cause. a lot of people were not going to fight for him and his regime. he did a great job and seven years of alienating everyone from tribalism to religious
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people, particularly rural afghanistan. it happened very quickly. i thought it would happen within months of the americans leaving. never thought it would be before september. it is a surprise but not i think it is a huge tragedy for the afghan nation but then again at the same time, it was an artificial environment in the sense that our economy was heavily subsidized. our safety nuts were there because of the international presence. it was freedom of expression or women's rights. that's funny because we are out there every day doing programs on women's rights and it is much more genuine because the people out there are not getting funded by international ngos. they are going out and saying we want our rights. it seems to be a lot more
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organic. i'm not going to say optimistic but i think it provides us with a unique opportunity of actually fighting for these values on our own and maybe there will be more sustained effort in terms of h olding onto gains of the last 2 decades. ms. matthews: i want to give tom an opportunity to pop in. if you're still there, if you want to turn your video back on and your audio, i would love to hear your thoughts about the kind of escape from afghanistan. and maybe he is not there. ok. well, we will keep an eye out to see if tom rejoins us because he was on his way to dulles international airport for the return of refugees. let's talk about the impact on
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the new generation of afghans. i know that i have heard people refer to the fact that -- and lots of blame going around especially in the u.s. -- about how america went over and gave the afghani -- the afghans, excuse me --a taste of democracy knowing they would not be able to take advantage of that. what is next for the afghan community there? kathy gannon. kathy: i think there is a lot for the afghan community. afghans are resilient. i am not sure that america necessarily needs to take the credit for giving them a taste. they did open up doors but i
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think you do have a young generation. it is sad to see such a strong effort of so many of these talented people leaving afghanistan and looking for a life outside afghanistan. i think this new generation has the potential to force a change. it will not be the change that perhaps in america they can say this is the steps but i think afghans on their own, maybe have a very good chance in my mind to push things forward. how that looks and how long it
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takes and what they say. for sure. it will not be an easy road but i think in many ways a lot of this previous leadership over the last 20 years was improving on afghanistan. the mosher dean groups -- m ujehadin groups were imposed on afghanistan. not heading them off from financial assistance in sanctioning them but with some assistance, i think afghans have a good chance of making their country -- i feel like they take
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time. i feel like there is a lot of potential. ms. matthews: you do look like you want to say something. tom: i agree with kathy. for example, world democracy, 30 -- certain things like that work well. for a civil society, we have great organizations, great leaders, media has been a huge success and if you look at eastern asia all the way to africa and even parts of eastern europe, there is no free market. in afghanistan, it has been an extraordinary journey for us and other players in the media sector. that has been a success. seven century bc thinking can really develop critically in two
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decades. ms. matthews: let me question you about that because again, i am so surprised when i hear the optimism because the reporting around afghanistan has been in itself chaotic and dramatic. i am hearing like this little thing of optimism from you and kathy about the future of afghanistan. can we talk a little bit about --? tom: i'm not talking about the future. i'm talking about as things stand right now. ms. matthews: go ahead. tom: you can't put the genie back in the bottle. when a young afghan woman can express herself and wants to go to university or wants to work, it is very difficult to
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deprogram that person in terms of her thinking. i think the media has helped in terms of facilitating social change. if we fast-track the inevitable, kids can see for themselves and the war is over. i don't think we should exaggerate the role of the media but i think we play perhaps an important role but we will have the ultimate say. it is for the afghan willingness to change. the interesting thing is these young people -- we had a meeting with the telephone -- media council came into our offices and set down and had a 2.5 hour debate about women's role, role of the media, moderating some other policies. this is what is painful for us to do with this much opacity. -- capacity.
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these debates would not happen if the smartest afghans leave here i have no right to tell anyone to stay in afghanistan. we lost 120 employees who we helped get to the airport and get away from afghanistan. this is one of the painful things. it will take another decade to recover from. ms. matthews: just thinking on that because when you went in, you embedded that she set up a whole bureau. what is your thinking about the next steps for journalism at the stage in afghanistan? correspondent: i want to touch on this optimism. it is great that there is optimism here but that also comes from our privileged standpoint to have this kind of optimism. they afghans do not have some of the privileges but a lot of us have.
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i want to point up the fact that the afghans do not want an enduring war. they have suffered 40 years of war. there is no afghan who says yes, continue the fighting. they want peace but they did expect an enduring friendship. that was the one thing i feel has, when you hear the word betrayal from any afghans, that is what they mean when for the last 20 years, they have been told we are here and we will never abandon you and are your friends and allies and are working together and helping you build up your country. i want to clarify that to anyone who is watching and listening because there is a misperception amongst americans that the afghans wanted us to stay for the fighting purposes and that is not the case. they suffered. there were a lot of americans internationally who suffered dearly in the last 20 years afghans have the most when you look at the numbers of civilians
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and security forces. that said, the last 20 years had amazing progress. i have always said it was very fragile. very fragile progress. that was one of the core issues of what is happening right now is the fragile progress was shattered the mission that instance american decided to stop supporting the allied countries followed suit. we are also forgetting the fact that america and nato might be gone but there are other countries that are going to want to have a say in afghanistan whether it be pakistan or china or iran or russia. afghanistan will still try to be used by other countries that they have been in the last 20 years. ms. matthews: we heard nikki haley on fox news the other day express her concerns about
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russia going into of gunnison, about china moving into of gunnison -- afghanistan, about china moving into afghanistan. help us understand the structure that is left in afghanistan now. how the taliban operates and whether we are seeing, i don't know, a charm offensive on the part of the taliban to receive some level of acceptance on the international stage. kathy: they've been negotiating for three years. since they took over power. they have been to moscow. they have been to china. they have been to iran. pakistan, of course. i mean, it is not -- they have been negotiate -- negotiating
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during the trump administration and then the biden administration. i think the taliban -- their interaction has been over several years. they are now trying to come up with the government. i think everybody is looking at them to try to see what that government will look like, how that will reflect the laws and regulations and the time of governance and i think the international community is looking at that. i think the international community is also trying to figure out what is their interest. russia is worried about the islamic state which includes uzbekistan. the chinese are worried about
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the charter stand movement. -- kzyrgystan. everybody will be looking to manipulate the situation for their interest. from the taliban's perspective, i think at this point what you see is indo hop -- in doha, the germans and british met with them. they reached out to the chinese. i think they are the government in afghanistan today or the new rulers in afghanistan and they are trying to figure out how to go forward and have recognition. they recognize between 96 and 2001. they had recognition of three countries could is a very different country.
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you cannot go back to 1996 or 2001. people have expectations. they are not going to be compliant the way they were between 96 and 2001. the economy -- even before they came in, it was 64%. people are not going to be satisfied to be ordered just a quiet. that is not the afghanistan of today. the taliban is trying to figure out how to manage going forward. atia: i think kathy made some great points and i think the taliban do want to be a legitimate internationally recognized government. i think the u.s. is now trying diplomatic efforts to negotiate with the taliban. i think that is under the assumption the taliban want to negotiate with the americans and the west. i know that they also feel like
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they do not need police around their neck from america or the west when it comes to money and they don't want that perception either so they have other options and they will look at those options as well. i think in the end, they might continue to meet the diplomatic relations for other reasons. that also said, the taliban has struggle within itself at the moment. they are a mixed group of different organizations. you have those who have gone to doha and a negotiated team in doha and the taliban sophisticated who had sophisticated discussions with foot soldiers on the ground and different provinces and the haqqani network. i was speaking to a woman was who was ahead of an organization in kabul and she was caught by the taliban and said --
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continue working. she went in and was fined on the third day, someone else came in and said you no longer work here. thank you for your efforts. i am in charge now. she went home and got a call from the taliban and said, why didn't you go to the office? she said they have taken over my job. he is like no you are going into the office tomorrow. she is like, i cannot go. they have said they have taken over. i know who did this. i will call you back. he offered to send 20 taliban fighters with her to make sure she was safe. he never called her back so clearly there is some discrepancy in how they want to move forward. that is the uncertainty lisa: so are we seeing a resistance movement on the ground? are you reporting on any
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resistance to the taliban or whether it is islamic state or were it is just regular people written in group that have decided they want to fight or want afghanistan to be what they want it to be. are we seeing that on the ground? kathy: in the valley north of the city, there is an actual anti-taliban movement, anti-taliban fight going on. i do not know you can call it a movement at this point, but it is a group that is led by the son of one of the warlords between 1992 and 1996 that was part of the destruction of kabul when they were fighting among themselves. he was lionized as an anti-taliban fighter.
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after being killed in asuicide bombing. so his son now is leading the charge, but it is indicative to the one area. it is certainly very strong. within that area they are you fighting. the others, in terms of the islamic state, that is a militant terrorist group that is a operating both in pakistan and afghanistan and includes different groups. i in terms of an anti-taliban movement or anti-taliban fight, i think that, right now, from what we can tell here, is that it is restricted at this point to within that area. that lisa saad, you are quoted : saying "we know what the taliban stands for." and to be honest you are "surprised we are still up and running."
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could you talk more about what you meant when you said that, what the taliban stands for? atia: it is a movement -- they been fairly transparent in their views of the media. both news networks and entertainment networks. we are surprised they are showing tolerance but it is important to note this is -- they are not in charge fully in terms of they do not have a cabinet, we do not know what their media outlaws -- media laws look like, they have not issued directives. once they are fully on, they will have a prosecution, a judiciary, so for us, it is -- this is the calm before the storm. there is little doubt it will be more restrictive but how restrictive? and how much freedom what we -- will we have because they are the ones representing god and the koran. and what as we as a news organization can challenge them remains to be seen.
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so i think it is early days. i mentioned before i am not necessarily optimistic, but we as afghans, and as operators of a media group that employs 500 people, but more importantly reaches 60% of the afghan population that consumes media, and we have a responsibility. we can't necessarily give up. we have to be engaged in discussions with the taliban with its leadership and to the , media to have debates and discuss. two nights ago, i was watching a debate on what is transpiring. we interviewed people from the opposition come up we interviewed the taliban, then we have a roundtable people , supporting the two let's call them factions. then we had a discussion on women's rights. we had a taliban representative respond. i think even if the impact is
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1%, it is worth giving it a try. i'm not being necessarily optimistic but we have an obligation to do something about it and not sit back. lisa: it sounds like journalism can actually possibly exist under -- at least for now. saad: we have seen this before. we had similar challenges in the past. people say what about your journalists beaten up at kathy -- that kathy has reported on? three months ago, we also had two journalists beaten up by police officers who were members of the ashraf ghani administration. we complained to the interior ministry and nothing was done. the taliban have taken it seriously. it is a bad neighborhood, bad things happen, and the perpetrators are from all sides. what we have to do is i think we have to watch this space.
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listen, you know, i have my doubts and we are so very nervous and concerned about the safety of our people. we have to give this a go but i think there is an opportunity for afghans to come together. i think that was what we had been pushing. we have been pushing for this peace deal since the leader took over in 2018. i can't remember, it has been a long time. i think there's a window of opportunity. the opposition, i think a lot of people are watching what is going to transpire in the weeks ahead. the taliban have to be careful. they have a great number of risks. a, the fragmentation of the movement itself is a point of that. just differing views on how to govern and rivalries within the taliban. then, afghanistan is a big country with different interests. i think it is important for them to not just satisfy the demand
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of their own constituency, which is about 10% to 15% of the population hard-core , conservative constituency, they have to broaden their appeal. that is where they have to have more inclusive views in terms of governing. there is the international community. afghanistan is an impoverished, poor country. double the size what it was in 2001. and with a population that has expectations different to those that they had in the 1990's. so the taliban have to be cognizant of all of these. we will see in the weeks ahead on what they do in terms of their government and in terms of directives, how they treat women and minorities and how they treat free media. lisa: is it time, though, for media organizations to seriously start planning for a withdrawal
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of western journalists from afghanistan? if you are running the newsroom, would you feel safe? would you feel your people are safe on the ground now to operate? atia: if i was running the newsroom, i would not feel that way. as a journalist, what you want to do is go there. it is great kathy is there and there are a few western journalists there as well. i do think that western media did run. there were a lot of western journalists that did leave. because the people in charge were thinking about the safety issue. i think this is becoming a time where we will become more and more reliant on afghan media. i have been watching two of them and luckily we live in a globalized environment where i can watch local news here in the safety of my living room in afghanistan. we have social media where we can keep in touch with people on the ground. unfortunately, i think there will be less of a western
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presence, at least in the beginning, until people figure out what the next steps are. but i do think that -- i'm terrified of the western media again forgetting about afghanistan. and that happened. history has shown us about we will have brave journalists that go there and suddenly the interest will wane. the new hot topic will be on the news. unfortunately, the second that afghanistan is forgotten about, the people are often forgotten about. it is not up to the world to save afghans because afghan people are strong, are resilient, and we need to try. meaning there are voices out there, there are women marching on the streets despite their fears, because they know they have to speak now and if they wait they might lose that opportunity.
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but it is -- i feel like our duty to support them. after 20 years of involvement and whether it be good and bad results, depending on the people you talk to, to abandon afghanistan again is what brought us to afghanistan in the first place. we also have to keep in mind that this is an afghan issue. the taliban will need to figure out what to do next, but we also see people from outside of afghanistan, from various countries, people who are fundamentalists in thought looking at a place to go to. so the taliban will also have to deal with these people who are going to try to come in and use their country as they did prior to the 9/11 attacks. there is a lot to consider for the taliban government. they are going to be the government, no denying that. anyone that has the delusion, what else other than the taliban? this is their country now, it
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was handed to them so they have a lot on their plate and to make sure they can protect their people, they can feed their people, and hopefully give them the basic rights that every human being deserves. lisa: kathy? kathy: can i just say yeah, 100% right. i respect very much that she is so right on everything she said. afghanistan before 2001, i have been covering afghanistan when the taliban came in 1996 when the other group came on -- when the other group came in 1992. who were those same people that destroyed kabul from 1992 to 1996 were those brought back. by the u.s. coalition. the people who brought osama bin laden to afghanistan are those who were aligned with the u.s. led coalition side of the group.
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these people were the ones who brought osama bin laden's afghanistan down in 1996. in may 1996, we made statesmen of people who -- and i saw this in 1992 to 1996, who raped and scalped women in kabul. so i guess, she is so right in terms that she is so right in terms of losing sight and forgetting again. i'm hearing things like it is the first time, and maybe if there would be more attention paid to afghanistan and a little more understanding of its history, some of what is existing today may not. i think afghanistan went through before guest: c-span is your unfiltered view of government c-span is your unfiltered view
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2001, and i think it will go through after 2021. we need to make sure it is not forgotten again because the u.s. is no longer involved in the west is no longer involved. i just want to throw that out there. atia: i didn't mean afghanistan did not have a history before this. i think we all know they have had a rich history. kathy touched on a really important point. knowing back to your question earlier, lisa, about mistakes made, there are a lot of finger-pointing to be had both inside and outside afghanistan but one of the biggest is the fact that the u.s. and nato allies did support these warlords who terrorized afghans. there was a point where the taliban came in in 1996 it was a reprieve for these people and those people were brought back in and fueled a lot of the corruption. the afghan people even today are saying when the taliban forms this government, we hope they do not do what the last government did. one other little point, a story
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i will mention, a short i one. remember interviewing a top international official in afghanistan, and when the camera was off, he started giggling and talking about how he and the other ambassadors have their favorite warlord and that is the warlord they support and it is their action figure toys and they play with each other. that is how afghanistan was treated. one of the fingers that could be pointed as to the failure of the last 20 years. lisa: because we took the time to get tom bowman to participate as a part of this panel, i understand he is back with us with audio only. tom, if you could -- can you hear me? tom: yes, i can hear you loud and clear. lisa: fantastic. we have been talking in general about everything, about the way the war ended, reactions to it. i know you have been listening.
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your chance to weigh in with a few comments here. tom: it is all kind of bittersweet. i'm out here at dulles airport trying to meet some of the afghan refugees and i'm with my producer monica in south v.a. how. we had a fellow journalist and interpreter five years ago we came under an ambush out by marcia. he was killed along with our seal team. and now we will talk to afghan refugees and her husband will help us translate. it has come full circle for us personally, this story. we have been at it for many years. it is heartbreaking to see what is going on now in afghanistan and the people reaching out to
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us. i'm sure everyone on the panel, how can i get out, can you help me? it is devastating. as far as how it all happened, what should have been done, should not have been done, i've been talking to people for the past three to four years. if you had to do it over again, what would you do? these military people, state department people, intel people all sorts of folks. a lot of them say we should have gone in with small numbers of troops and state department people and kind of help out the country. they overdid it by sending in tens of thousands of troops, many billions of dollars in the corruption, working with the warlords was a mistake. i asked a senior official what , would you do if you had to do it over? this person said break with the warlords and go after the safe havens.
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others said just plant trees and go home. another said i think we have to ask ourselves, what are our interests in afghanistan. when you hear a response like that, it is basically this guy saying -- it was a senior official, a lot of people think it was not worth it or the u.s. did too much or through so much -- threw so much money around it lead to corruption. you look at someone like hamid karzai that we all dealt with. he was seen as quite dirty. working both sides of the fence. for all of us, everyone on this panel, there is a lot of memories or heart ache, a lot of if you could done it over again, what would you have done. and again, i keep thinking of my
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friend claudia here and her three kids are here with her, wonderful kids. they are playing soccer and going to school. i think for all of us, it is just a really tough time. lisa: i want to be able to ask and get a full response from each of you on my final question, but before i ask the final question, let me take a moment to thank the organizers of today's event. our headliner's team leader donna and lori russo they do a fantastic job every day. our club membership director, coexecutive director, and today's headliner event coordinator who was really on top of this and encouraged us to put this panel together. so thanks to everyone involved,
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and of course the team at our broadcast operations center with whom i cannot do this without. i would also like to tell you about our upcoming headliners event next week. on wednesday, september 8, we we will host a headliners luncheon, it will be in person so if you have not gotten your , tickets, please get a ticket. this will be fantastic. the roman catholic archdiocese of washington, d.c., the cardinal william gregory, i am looking forward to interviewing him. a final question for each of you and we have 10 minutes left in the program. i want each of you, begin with -- beginning with tom because you are on the phone and we have not heard much from you, can you share with us one event that happened during the course of your coverage of afghanistan that really stuck with you.
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and maybe impacted your reporting in general on afghanistan. then also, if you could tell us how you think the future of journalism looks on afghanistan. -- in afghanistan. so i guess it is two questions. if you could put two into one response that would be great. tom: i will start with journalism in afghanistan. a new station, what they have been doing is heroic. i hope they continue and i hope we get other voices, other journalists to report what is going on with the taliban regime, but as far as memories of afghanistan, clearly it will be when our photographer was killed. we were told everything is ok,
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we took small arms fire, and we did not realize our friends had been killed until they pulled in to the outpost with the truck. that stays with you. again, we are just so thankful we could get [indiscernible] another memory is we were in province, number of years ago, and it was a massive roadside bomb that exploded and killed two soldiers and there was a striker unit. all i could think of, i am a father too, we know that their sons are dead before they did and they are 12 to 15 hours away. i think those two memories will always stay with me.
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especially the kids. we have them over for thanksgiving dinner and stay in touch with them. i'm sure everybody on the panel has stories like this that will stay with us forever. lisa: atia, your thoughts? atia: going back to journalism in afghanistan, i hope it has the continued bright future that i think what saad and other afghans have created in afghanistan have been one of the most amazing things we've seen in last 20 years, afghans having a platform to express themselves and find out what is going on. i hope that continues. i hope it continues freely especially. especially. , we have seen in other countries that if a government is ruling by a fist, it becomes intimidating and you don't have free press. i am hoping that does not change.
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intimidation has been around for 20 years and they have been strong enough to fight through it. as for memories, i do not think there is one memory from afghanistan that i can look back on and say that was not a big deal. everything was a big deal. you learned every moment that you are there speaking to different people, different perspectives, but as tom was mentioning, the ones that stick out are the ones that you see a loss-of-life, whether it be friends, strangers, whether they be on one side of the battlefield or another. often times young children as well. and innocent civilians as well. i think that it is just a reminder of the brutality of war, families suffer all over.
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those things really stick with you when you talk about war in the future. when there's is more discussion about more war. those of the things that stick out, but honestly also the women stick out to me. and the girls, they are the strongest and toughest women i have met from all over the world. to see them standing up right now, trying to protest their rights, i'm not surprised because of how strong they are. i think what makes some of us so fearful is that strength being hidden away eventually and i hope that does not happen. i hope people will listen to them and give them the opportunity to shine. these women in the last 20 years have made such progress and such differences. they have been fighting for their rights for the last 20 years so it is not like they are on the streets today. they were on the streets yesterday, five years ago, 10 years ago. i remember covering them fighting for their rights and i hope they continue to be able to achieve those rights.
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lisa: kathy gannon. you are having a problem with your mute. are you good? kathy: yeah, sorry. journalism, let me do that first. yeah, there is not enough [indiscernible] and what they continue to do. really, it is also nurturing journalism. it has been real nurturing from what i've seen. that really makes a difference. i think too, the idea of reporting on all sides and time to take a deep breath and be neutral, i think this has been a real moment that they have shone
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now that the taliban are here and going out and doing what they did before. so i think that depends on what kind of restrictions come down in the future, but i think the fact it is a different generation and i'm not sure that they will be able to impose as they did before. i do not think they will let them, so i do not know if right is the word i would use but i certainly think it will be there -- there journalism in afghanistan will be there. i hope the journalists do not all leave, the afghan journalists, they stay. because i want to stay, so i need them here. and memories, i have a lot. for me, it is people. these are people who are so close to my heart, so i guess for me, that [indiscernible] lisa: saad, finally your thoughts? saad: thanks to everyone for the
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words of encouragement. we have been so lucky to have allies and friends like atia, kathy, and tom. and so many others. just in the last few weeks we , realized how many friends we have around the world who have reached out to us to help us. it has been an extraordinary journey and i hope one that continues. we have paid a heavy price. we have lost 13 colleagues since 2016. many injured, many handicapped permanently. it has really scarred us but at the same time, the institution itself continues, and we have lost 120 individuals who have left the company over the last two weeks, which is extraordinary.
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some of the on camera individuals, behind the scenes, production people, editors, technical people. the biggest threat for us was not the taliban, it was because we do not have people in the controls. there are there at 9:00, 10:00 at the airport on the flight to get out. which we had to secure for them. because that is what they wanted to do. but then, we admire the people who have worked for us. many of them worked for other stations, some have left. we understand why they felt this need to leave. we are also inspired by the people who have stayed on, who could have left, and ensuring that 38 million people who will remain in the country get their news and entertainment. i'm nervous for them, they also have their fears, they are also very nervous with no safety nets, none. there are no safety nets in
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afghanistan, unlike previous -- the pre-august 15 period. this is courage. i am inspired by these individuals, 400 strong. i hope we can continue as well. i am pretty sure we will, either in or outside of the country, but i think media is here to stay in afghanistan. lisa: wonderful. again, i want to thank each of you, kathy gannon, saad mohseni, atia abawl, npr's tom bowman. each of you brings so much depth to the coverage of afghanistan. please continue what you do. the word courage that saad just mentioned is in each of you and here at the national press club, we wish you continued peace and safety. thank you for joining us.
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