tv Foreign Correspondents Discuss U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan CSPAN September 4, 2021 6:00am-7:00am EDT
the national press club is the host of this hour-long event. good morning. welcome to the national press club. it is leading organization for journalists and the plays were news happens. i am lisa nicole matthews, president of the national press club and video assignment manager for the associated press. thank you for joining us for debate and this virtual event. we have a panel, who for years have reported from, and on
afghanistan. we welcome questions from our online audience. i will ask as many questions as time permits. to submit a question please email headliners at press.org, and place afghanistan in the subject line. on monday, the longest war in american history ended with the withdrawal of u.s. forces from afghanistan after nearly 20 years of conflict. the fee of -- the official end of the war that had begun in the aftermath of 9/11. chaotic evacuation of the remaining americans and some of the afghans who worked with them took place as the taliban descended on the capital of kabul and as the u.s.-backed afghan government fell. reporters witnessed desperation as marines shuttled thousands of an vacuum ease.
regional group affiliated with the islamic state, strapped with suicide bombs, killed 13 american service members and nearly 200 others. the rapid withdrawal in the aftermath has sparked a backlash of global criticism from allies abroad. concerns abound. it is a humanitarian crisis. the ruling back of women's rights dominates headlines. here to share with us insights from there on the ground reporting our distinguished panel. our first guest set up the kabul news borough. she also secured nbc's first
interview with president hamid karzai. our next panelist work for the baltimore sun. it is current role with npr, tom has traveled to iraq and made dozens of trips to afghanistan. he embedded with united states marines. in 2010, congress gave him the edward r. murrow award for his coverage of a roadside bombing. next is kathy bannon. she serves as the director of afghanistan for the associated press. she's been a bureau chief since 1988. in the weeks before the 2001 u.s. f guinness and bruce offensive. she was the only western journalists allowed in kabul by the taliban.
she was seriously wounded when an afghan police officer opened fire on the afghan convoy she was riding in. she is also the author of the book i is for infidel. finally, we are joined by the chairman and ceo of the mobi group, afghanistan's largest private media group, and the first 24/7 media network. it owns the news network and continues to report and broadcast since the taliban's retaking of control. he has been recognized by time magazine among its one most influential people in the world. welcome and thank you everyone for joining us. as i mentioned before, i am feeling very humbled to have
each of you at the national press club, i'll be at socially. i've seen you doing your talks on the networks is fantastic to have such a wealth of information this morning. thank you. let us talk a little bit about what we have seen this week. your initial thoughts and reactions to what you saw could you lay it out for us. >> i think the panic has been generated among afghans is
>> we have talked about this a little beforehand and i heard your voice some of the same feeling. i should mention kathy is joining us from afghanistan this morning, virtually from afghanistan. atia is joining us from the west coast. if you want to continue. i think for the people i am talking to, i have been nonstop talking to people on the phone and on the ground. they are desperate as kathy mentioned. desperate to get out, terrified. the ones i'm seeking with -- speaking with. i think the desperation is indicative of the last 20 years 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 gains. the fear lies in the fact that many of them feel they will lose it again. and because of the history of the taliban, and i do not mean 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 often times when i speak to the men, they are a little more optimistic than say when i speak to the women. because i think they have the most to lose. but it is unpredictable. we do not know what will happen. there is a lot of talk about possibility of what the taliban might have changed, but history also shows us that in 1996 when the taliban came in, they were reprieved. the afghans just went through 10 years of the soviets, went through a barbaric civil war, so they also welcomed the taliban. they, back then, they welcomed them for some kind of peace. throughout the years, the regime
got more restrictive and more restrictive and more barbaric. so i think the afghan stories, we have a younger generation now, and we are worried the taliban is putting on -- and they are worried the taliban is putting on a face right now. those that are stuck are hopeful there is a change but there is a fear that, not really. as far as you mentioned a little something about how quickly the government crumbles, can you talk about what you saw happen with the leadership in afghanistan and your reaction to that. the leadership was totally disconnected from reality's the ground. as a matter fact, i saw the president on the 23rd and on
the 24th, twice, of july. the second time was with the vice president and the first time was one-on-one. he just did not realize what was going on. the frustrating thing was, and i've known ashra for a long time, his unwillingness to listen to anyone. 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 stayed corrupt and unwilling to satisfy the needs and demands of its constituencies. the people had really changed. 21 million people in 2001, today they have a population of 38 million people. 65% of the population under 22 are 23 have never experienced taliban rule. you
are talking about a different population. of the younger generation of afghans, a clear majority, something like 70% or 75%, and into thousand 1 -- 75% are literate. and you see a huge trend of that in afghanistan. organized cities were having an organized experience. i think we have been let down by our government. unfortunately, ashra managed -- the brand of the new order post 2001 and his brand became one. i think that really did not help the cause. he felt every time he gave the speech, it would weaken the cause. a lot of people were not willing to fight for him and his regime. he did a great job and seven years of alienating everyone from tribal to religious people. so
it happened quickly. i saw it happening within months of the americans leaving, never thought it would be before september. it is a surprise and not a surprise. i think it is a huge tragedy for the afghan nation. at the same time, i think it was an artificial environment in the sense that our economy was heavily subsidized, safety nets were mostly there because of the international presence, but when it was freedom of expression or women's rights. we are out there doing everyday on women's rights -- doing programs on women's rights and it is much more
genuine because people out there, they are going out and saying these are our rights. it seems to be a lot more organic. i'm not necessarily optimistic but i think it provides us with a unique opportunity of actually fighting for these values, perhaps on our own. and maybe that will have a more -- that will be a more sustained effort in terms of holding onto the gains of the last two decades. thank you. i'm not sure if we have lost tom completely but if you are still there, if you want to turn your video back on and your audio, 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 when tom joins us because he was on his way to the international airport this money for the return of more refugees. let's talk about the impact on the new
generation of afghans. i know that i have heard people refer to the fact that -- and lots of blame going around, lots of blame game in the u.s. in particular about how america went over and gave the afghani -- the afghans excuse me, it taste of democracy, knowing that they would not able to take advantage of that. what is next for the afghan community there? kathy gannon. i think there is a lot for the afghan community actually. afghans are hugely resilient. i'm not sure america necessarily needs to take the credit for giving them a chase of it. it did open up doors and aspects,
but i think, as so rightly said, you have a younger generation. it is sad to see a strong effort of so many of the talented young wanted to leave and leaving afghanistan and looking for a life outside of afghanistan. i think that this new generation has the potential really to force a change. it will not be the change that perhaps in america they could say this is success or -- but i think afghans come on their own, as saad said, maybe we will have a very good chance in my mind to push things forward. how that looks and how long it takes and
what hurdles they face for sure, it will not be an easy road, but i think in many ways a lot of the previous leadership over the last 20 years was imposed on afghans, and during the soviets again, the groups were imposed on the afghans. and maybe as said, on their own with assistance, not cutting them off from all financial assistance and sanctioning, focusing on assistance. i think afghans have a good chance of making their country -- the way the west
might think is the way. but i think it will take time. there is a lot of potential. you look like you want to say something? i agree with kathy. for example, while it was a democracy, i think certain things worked out well. as far as civil society is concerned, we have great organizations and organiza -- great people and organizations. even parts of eastern europe, if you look, there is a free market. dangerous, but free, in afghanistan. it has been an extraordinary journey for us and other players in the media sector. that has been a success. i think this backward country, seventh century sinking -- seventh century bc thinking developed quickly in two decades.
let me just question you about that. i'm so surprised when i hear the optimism because the reporting around afghanistan has been in itself chaotic and dramatic and i hear from -- i'm hearing like this little thing about optimism -- thing of optimism from you and kathy about the future of afghanistan. can we talk a little bit about -- i'm not talking about the future, i'm talking about as things stand right now. even as things stand right now -- you can't put the genie back in the bottle. ok. when a young afghan woman can express yourself and one's to go to university or ones to work, -- wants to go to university and
wants to work, it is hard to deprogram their thinking. the media works with facilitating change. the world is open now, kids can see for themselves, they can see on social media for themselves. i don't think we should exaggerate the role of media, but we should perhaps play not a significant but important role. it has been afghan nation's willingness to change and it has changed for the better. these young people -- we had a meeting with the taliban media council that came in and sat down and they had a 2.5 hour debate about women's role, the role of the media, moderating some of their policies. the importance, and this is what is painful for us to lose this much capacity with 100,000's of the smartest afghans is these debates will not happen if the smartest
afghans leave. i have no right to tell anyone to stay in afghanistan. we have lost 120 employees who we have helped get to the airport and get away from afghanistan. but this is one of the painful things we are witnessing is this brain drain will perhaps take us another decade to recover from. just thinking on that, because when you went in, you embedded with troops then. what is your thinking about the next steps for journalism at this stage in afghanistan? i also want to touch on this optimism. it is great there is optimism here but that comes from our privileged standpoint, to have this kind of optimism. the afghans don't have some of the privileges, clearly, a lot
of us have. i want to also just point out the fact that the afghans do not want any enduring war. they suffered through 40 years of war. there is no afghan who says continue the fighting. they want peace but they did expect an enduring friendship. that was the one thing i feel -- when you hear the word betrayal from any afghans, that is what they mean. for the last 20 years, they have been told we are here, we will never abandon you, we are your friends, your allies, we are working together and helping you build up your country. so i just want to clarify that to anyone 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 in the last 20 years but afghans have suffered the most. when you look at numbers of civilians as well as security forces. that said, the last 20 years as saad was mentioning, it did have amazing progress. i always thought it was very fragile progress. that was one of the core issues of what is happening now is that that fragile progress was shattered the instant america decided to stop supporting. when america decided to stop supporting, it meant the other allied countries had to follow suit. we are also forgetting the fact that yes, american nato might be gone but there are other countries that will want to have it stay in afghanistan, whether it be pakistan, china, iran, russia. afghanistan will still try to be used by other countries as they have been in the last 20 years. we did here nikki haley the
other day on fox news express that her concerns about russia going into afghanistan, about china moving into afghanistan. help us understand, atia and kathy, the structure that is the left in afghanistan now, how the taliban operates, and whether we are seeing like, i don't know, a charm offensive on the art of the taliban to get -- to receive some level of acceptance on the international stage. they have been negotiating for years. it has been since they took over power. they have been to moscow, to china, they have been to iran, pakistan of course. and they have been negotiating with the trump administration, following into the biden administration. so i
think the taliban, their interactions have been over several years. what is the structure, they are now trying to come up with a government. i think everybody is looking at them to see what that government will look like, will it be inclusive? how will that then reflect the laws and regulations and kind of governance. 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 obviously is worried about the islamic state which also includes the islamic movement of uzbekistan, the group in central asia, the chinese worried about the turkestan movement. everybody
has interest. everyone will be looking at what their interest is and how to manipulate the situation for their interests. from the taliban's perspective, i think at this point what you see is in doak, the british foreign secretary -- or the british representative on afghanistan met with them, the germans met with them, they met up with the chinese. i think they are the government in afghanistan today or they are the new rulers in have an estate in. and they are trying to figure out how to go forward and have recognition. because they recognize between 1996 in 2001 they had -- and 2001 they had no recognition and no money to operate. afghanistan now is a different country. you can't go back to 1996, you can't go back
to 2001. people have expectations. they are not going to be compliant they way they were between 1996 in 2001. there is the economy -- and 2001. the economy, before they came in, it was 56%. people are not going to be satisfied to be ordered to stay quiet and not to respond. that is not the afghanistan of today. i think the taliban is trying to figure out how to manage going forward. atia? i think kathy made great points. 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 and continue to negotiate with the americans in the west. i know
that they also feel they do not need a leash around their neck from america or the west when it comes to money, and they do not want that perception either. they have other options and will look at those options as well. i think in the end, they might continue to need these diplomatic relations for other reasons. that also said, the taliban has struggled within itself at the moment. they are a mixed group of different organizations. you have brothers and that went to doha, the negotiation team in doha, this sophisticated taliban who has met with saad's team that have these sophisticated discussions, but you have foot soldiers on the ground in different places. i was speaking to a woman, the head of a high-level organization in kabul, and she was called by the taliban and said continue to go to work, we
want you to continue working. she said she was shaken the first day but went to her office. the next a she went in and was fined area 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, the person she had been talking to, and said why did you not go to the office? she said they have taken over my job. he was like no, you are going into the office tomorrow. she said i can't go, they have said they have taken over. on the phone he said i know who did this, i will call you back. he even offered to send 20 taliban fighters with her to make sure she was safe. he never called her back. clearly there is some discrepancy in how they want to move forward. i think that is the uncertainty that is causing fear. so are we seeing a resistance movement on the ground? are you reporting on any resistance to
the taliban or whether it is islamic state or it is just regular people in group that have decided they want to fight or want afghanistan to be what they wanted to be -- want it to be. are we seeing that on the ground? 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. that is after being killed in suicide 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 fighting. the others, in terms of the islamic state, that is a militant terrorist group that is operating both in pakistan and afghanistan and includes different groups. in terms of any 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. saaad, you are quoted saying -- 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." could you talk more
about what you meant when you said that, and what the taliban stands for? it is a movement -- it is a movement. they have been fairly transparent in terms of their views of the media. both networks and entertainment networks -- 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 rules 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 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. 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, it 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 taliban, then a roundtable, people supporting the two let's call them factions. then we had a discussion on women's rights. i think even if the impact is 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. it sounds like journalism can actually possibly exist under -- at least for now. we have seen this before. we had similar challenges in the past. people say what about your journalists beaten up at 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. 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 of their own constituency, which is about 10% to 15% of the population hard-core conservative constituency, they have to broaden their field. that is where they have to have -- have to be more inclusive in terms of governing. there is an international community. afghanistan is an impoverished, poor country. double the size what it was in 2000 no one -- 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. is it time, though, for media organizations to seriously start planning for a withdrawal of
western journalists from afghanistan? if you are running the newsroom, if -- 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 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. 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
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.
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 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 i will mention, a short one.
i 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.
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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, 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. 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. , 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. 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. 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.
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 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 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. 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
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. tom: thank you. ♪ c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we are funded by these television companies and more. >> the world changed in an instant, but mediacom was ready. internet traffic soared and we never slowed down. schools and businesses when virtual and we powered a new reality. >> mediacom support c-span as a public service along with these other television providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. coming up this morning, wall street journal labor economics reporter eric moraz joins us. then matter of honor -- then medal of honor r