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tv   Frontline  PBS  October 13, 2021 3:00am-4:01am PDT

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>> narrator: after 20 years of conflict... >> the taliban are back in charge... >> the united states and taliban are holding their first face to face talks in doha... >> narrator: for over a decade, reporter najibullah quraishi... >> (bang bang) >>...has gained unprecedented access to the group and its fighters. >> i never believed twenty years later i could come back with the taliban withe. i never imagined that one day this could happen. >> narrator: frontline investigates how we got here. >> their future is dark. this is not the moderate taliban. >> narrator: the threats from al qaeda and isis.
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>> takfir! allahu akbar! >> isis always wanted to show their power. >> the explosion has happened just by the airport everybody is running. >> isis-k has claimed responsibility for the kabul attack. >> narrator: the fear among the afghan people... >> i cannot protect her. i cannot protect any woman. >> does it make you feel sad? >> makes me feel angry. >> narrator: and the consequences - of the taliban takeover. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world.
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more at park foundation: dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler and additional support from koo and patricia yuen. and ashok k. moza foundation. ♪ ♪ >> i've concluded that it's time to end america's longest war. it's time for american troops to come home. >> afghanistan's government has fallen to islamist militants who make up the taliban. >> afghans are thronging to kabul's airport, desperate to get on planes and leave the country. >> the situation is growing increasingly dire for thousands
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of afghans trying to flee the taliban. >> pentagon just announcing that the last u.s. troops have withdrawn from afghanistan, marking the end of america's longest war. >> narrator: kabul, august 31, 2021. the last american flight had left the night before, after weeks of chaos. ♪ ♪ >> the u.s. troops left last night at 1:00, and today at 8:00, zabihullah mujahid called us to come for a press conference here inside the airport. >> narrator: with the americans gone, "frontline" correspondent najibullah quarishi is on his way to hear from the spokesman for the new taliban regime. >> look at the mess they left here.
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people were desperately trying to go inside the airport. they preferred to die inside the airport rather than being outside and seeing the taliban. these poor people, they couldn't take anything with them-- they just left everything behind. (sighs): it, it broke my, my heart, it made me really, really emotional. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: surrounded by taliban special forces, the new government spokesman, zabihullah mujahid, ushered in a new era. >> (speaking pashto and dari):
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(man and crowd, responsively): ♪ ♪ (horns honking) >> narrator: in the days just
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after the american withdrawal, the taliban were trying to impose order and quell violence that had been skyrocketing for months. in the streets of kabul, some expressed a sense of relief. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): (man): (man, shopkeeper repeats):
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>> narrator: the taliban were eager to project a new, more moderate image to the world. (guns firing) but on the ground, there were signs of the extremism that characterized their rule 20 years ago. >> (chanting in dari) >> narrator: women were among the first to rise up on the streets of kabul. (guns firing, women screaming) after one protest, najibullah met up with one of the women. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: young afghans like wahiza make up more than 60% of the country's population. >> (speaking dari):
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>> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): ♪ ♪ >> narrator: with most of the journalists leaving the country, it wasn't long before najibullah himself was confronted by the taliban. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: he was shut down when he tried to film at one of the protests. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari):
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♪ ♪ >> narrator: he was shut down again soon after he sat down to interview a young woman at a restaurant. >> (speaking pashto): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: the men appeared to be working undercover for the taliban to enforce their new rules. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: the next day, the woman, whose name is nargis,
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agreed to meet najibullah in a less public place outside the city so she could speak freely. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: as well as being a student, nargis is also a model. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari):
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♪ ♪ >> narrator: with fears rising, najibullah sought out one of the most prominent advocates for women's rights in afghanistan, mahbouba seraj, who had recently passed up the chance to leave the country. >> once i was forced to leave this country. and i couldn't really help it in those days. and that was 1978. and i was young. and i couldn't, because they were going to kill me. the communists were going to kill me. today, i want to, i want to give it to the afghan people, whatever, whatever i have-- my time, my love, my belief, my knowledge... everything. >> narrator: she said despite the taliban's quick moves to
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clamp down on women's rights, she wants the new government to engage with her on the issue. >> i cannot tell you how much i want to really talk to them. i am here in afghanistan i want to tell them and i'm not going anywhere. i'm sitting right here. because the women, the 18 million women of afghanistan, are not dead, and 18 million women of afghanistan, they really need a voice. and i will be that for as long as i can. and i would love to sit down with them and talk to them. i would really love to. >> narrator: while najibullah was at her office, a visitor came in seeking help. she was concerned her granddaughter had been abducted by the taliban. (phone ringing) >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari):
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>> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: she told najibullah that her granddaughter had been hoping to leave the country before the taliban took over. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> you can't do anything? >> no, nothing. what am i supposed to do? >> narrator: she was worried the woman would be out after dark and encouraged her to stay home. >> (speaking dari):
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>> i cannot protect her, najibullah! i cannot protect any woman. >> in the previous regime, you had power? you could have do something? before the taliban, if... >> yeah! >> if somebody had such problem? >> yeah, of course! i could have called, i could have got them in touch. i could have called the minister of interior. i could have called the chief of police. i could have called everybody and said, "what is going on?" now there's nothing i can do. >> if you see such type of cases every day, they're coming to you. they think there's only one hope. it's you, and you're hopeless. >> i'm hopeless. >> this make you feel sad? >> makes me feel angry. not sad. this is not the time to be sad, this is the time to be angry, if i can do something-- i want to do something! the's nothing i can do.
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there's nothing i can do. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: the fear and desperation was spreading beyond women. najibullah had also started hearing that the police were becoming increasingly violent. ♪ ♪ he met a student who told him he had been stopped by the police on his way home from university. >> (speaking dari):
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♪ ♪ >> narrator: at that time, no one in the government would talk to najibullah about the specific allegations he had been aring.
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>> (greeting in arabic) >> narrator: but in an interview before the americans left, the taliban's chief spokesman insisted they were not going to govern like the taliban of the 1990s. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: najibullah wanted to see how the taliban were ruling in other parts of the country. the taliban invited him to the northern city of mazar-i-sharif, where, in august, they'd scored a key victory on their way to taking over. >> news in afghanistan, sources
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saying the taliban have taken the northern city of mazar-i-sharif. it is a major blow to the government, which had promised to defend afghanistan's fourth- largest city. >> the key of the north is mazar-i-sharif. if you take over mazar-i-sharif, it's mean you can take kabul without anything, peacefully. this is what has happened with the taliban. they took over the north because they knew, once they took the north, it's mean they took the entire country. >> narratothe taliban's new head of media for the north escorted najibullah through the region. he was quick to convey optimism. >> (speaking pashto):
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>> (speaking pashto): ♪ ♪ >> narrator: this region holds special significance for the taliban. they fought fierce battles against the u.s. here 20 years ago. najibullah was taken to a fortress outside the city, where they were eager to show him something.
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>> (speaking pashto): (men speaking dari) >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: it was a trip back in time for najibullah, who was
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here filming in 2001 when the u.s. controlled the fort and taliban prisoners staged a bloody uprising. it lasted three days and ended in the deaths of hundreds of taliban. >> this area was, all the taliban were lying everywhere. they're handcuffed and killed. i was filming from there. the u.s. forces came there and they were literally shooting the taliban, w, they were here, where i'm standing. so i was just on the top of that hill. >> narrator: the bloodshed that took place here 20 years ago marked the beginning of the end for the taliban regime. >> the pentagon says the leadership of taliban forces in afghanistan has been effectively broken by the military action there. >> the defeated taliban militia can no longer play host to the al qaeda network in afghanistan.
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>> large numbers of taliban and al qaeda leaders are still on the run. >> i never believed one day, 20 years later, i could come back to the same area with the taliban with me. i never believed that. i never imagined that one day this could happen. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> narrator: in the years after the taliban's defeat, najibullah returned time and time again to afghanistan. (gunshots) he would chart the group's resurgence, as they fought to regain control and restore hardline islamic rule. >> (speaking afghan language): >> i have filmed with the taliban so many times over the last 20 years. i've tried to document how they
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think, howy operate, how they rule over areas they control. and i think to make sense of the taliban now, you have to look back. >> fire! (mortar fires) >> this past year in afghanistan was the deadliest yet for american troops. (gunshots) >> for american soldiers, this war will get worse before it gets better. >> to succeed, we and our friends and allies must reverse the taliban's gains. i've already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops. these soldiers and marines will take the fight to the taliban in the south and the east. >> angle the vic north! >> narrator: by 2009, the u.s. had spent nearly a decade trying to support the afghan government and keep the taliban at bay, deploying tens of thousands of troops. (explosion) but on the ground, najibullah was seeing the determination of the group, and the depths of the insurgents' sway with the population. on a trip through villages in
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the north, he visited a hospital and a school built and paid for by the united nations, but under the control of fighters aligned with the taliban. and throughout the region, the villagers were paying their taxes directly to the insurgents, not the u.s.-backed afghan government. >> (conversing in dari): >> narrator: at the time, najibullah also got a rare view into how the taliban continued to maintain its ties to al qaeda and other extremist factions. >> al qaeda was inside and they were monitoring. it was very clear to me. they were giving order to them. and they were following whatever they were saying, especially on the bigger decisions.
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>> narrator: the fighters were from a faction called hezb-e-islami, led by this man, commander mirwais. he claimed to have 4,000 fighters under his control. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: najibullah was with them as they prepared for a mission. and possible martyrdom. >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: over his time embedded with the group, najibullah watched as fighters built the homemade bombs known as i.e.d.s. >> (speaking dari):
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>> narrator: that would become a signature of their insurgency against american forces. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: and the fighters took him to the frontlines where they targeted afghan government forces as well. (rocket-propelled grenade fires) (gunfire) >> most of the characters we had on the film has been killed, simply because they didn't have much experience. in another hand, they were ready to die. >> narrator: last month, najibullah found one of the fighters who did manage to survive-- commander mirwais. >> (speaking dari):
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♪ ♪ >> july was the deadliest month for u.s. troops in afghanistan since the war began in 2001. 43 american service members were killed. >> narrator: during the years of the obama administration, the u.s. would continue to try to combat the taliban and bolster the afghan army. >> as commander-in-chief, i have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 u.s. troops to afghanistan. >> narrator: but the taliban continued to grow. >> the taliban have been unprecedented in their numbers this year. >> narrator: as would the other extremist forces that have continued to destabilize afghanistan. >> for the first time, islamic
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state has moved into afghanistan. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: in 2015, najibullah was among the first to document isis's challenge to the taliban and al qaeda for territory and influence. >> once isis took footholds in afghanistan, they captured more areas, and they were offering the taliban, as well, to join them. afghanistan is a really poor country. if you have money, if you have wealth, then you can have everything. so that group was very, very wealthy, and they were receiving money from different parts of the world. >> narrator: an isis cell had granted najibullah access to their territory in the district of saigal, which they had seized from al qaeda and the taliban. >> i was waiting for over eight months to get access to isis. i was very excited as a journalist that i was going to meet this group, but i was
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remembering my wife, my sons. then i was thinking, "maybe you won't come back again. they might kill you. they might kidnap you. they might do something wrong." >> narrator: the local commander told najibullah that he'd been in the tiban, but defected after isis declared a caliphate. >> (conversing in pashto): >>arrator: najibullah saw how isis fighters lived among the
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locals and seemed to control every aspect of village life. they had local wives, collected taxes, and even ran the village school. the fighters claimed that all local children were educated by the islamic state from the age of three. >> (speaking pashto): >> it was a really, really shocking moment for me to see the childrens of afghan learning jihad, learning ak-47. >> (conversing in pashto): >> learning how to shoot with pistol. (dry fires)
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they were trying to make them ready for the for the future of afghanistan. so now these children could be 15, 16 years old, i'm sure now they have weapon, they are ready to fight. >> (speaking pashto): ♪ ♪ >> narrator: after leaving the isis village, najibullah traveled to nangarhar province, just a few miles from a pakistan border. >> (conversing in dari):
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>> narrator: he saw how even back then in 2015, afghan forces were struggling against isis and the taliban. he went to the frontlines with a local police unit. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: the police chief said resources and equipment werecarce. enemy lines were just a few hundred yards away. >> (speaking dari):
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>> narrator: he said he was willing to use brutal tactics against the taliban and isis. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: the afghan government would eventually claim it had done the job, and driven isis out of the country. but on his repeated trips here, najibullah documented the group's continued presence. >> (speaking dari):
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>> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: while isis would remain a threat... >> in the past few months, the ministry has lost control of more than 20 areas to taliban ghters, who seem able to strike anywhere. >> narrator: 2019, the taliban claimed to control more of afghanistan than at any point since the u.s. invasion in 2001. two years before their takeover, najibullah saw the extent of the taliban's reemergence on a trip to the city of ghazni. >> (speaking afghan language):
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>> (speaking dari): >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: they let najibullah and his team fly a drone over the valley as the fighters performed military drills out in the ope >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: another commander led them to one of the villages under taliban control. there were few people on the streets. but after the taliban escort left, one resident approached him. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking dari):
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♪ ♪ >> narrator: for najibullah, what he saw on the trip in 2019, was a turning point in the taliban's insurgency. >> this specific group i met, they were completely different than previous groups i have met before. normally, when i was embedding with a group of the taliban, they were preparing for fighting, to block the road. but this group was completely different. they didn't have anything to make them worry. because the entire area was belonged to them. >> narrator: the trip waalso a vivid confirmation of what u.s. military leaders had privately been conceding for years-- that they'd lost the war. >> tonight, newly released documents raise serious questions about whether the american people were lied to about the progress of the war in afghanistan. >> narrator: an assessment that would finally go public in late
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2019. >> for the last 18 years, senior u.s. officials have been misleading the american public about the war in afghanistan. >> narrator: the trump administration was now facing the harsh reality of defeat and directly negotiating a peace agreement with the taliban. >> it's a war washington is struggling to finish, and donald trump says peace lies in the hands of the taliban. >> u.s. and taliban negotiators met in qatar for peace talks aimed at ending america's longest war. >> narrator: as the peace talks were going on, najibullah got an exclusive interview with the taliban's top negotiator, mullah baradar, who was widely seen as a future leader in a taliban government. >> mullah baradar is a very, very big person within the taliban rank. he was the co-founder of the taliban, the person who has been very, very close to mullah omar, the main leader of the taliban
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who died some years ago. he has been in prison for eight years in pakistan and he has been released in 2018. >> narrator: najibullah pressed the mullah about whether the taliban would moderate its hardline practices, especially against women. >> (speaking dari): >> narrator: his answer was ambiguous, but foreshadowed what was soon to come-- women would have rights, he said, but only according to the taliban's interpretation of islamic sharia law. >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: mullah baradar also promised that the taliban would uphold the key component of a
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peace deal with the u.s. that they'd prevent isis and al qaeda from using afghanistan as a haven. >> (speaking dari): >> (speaking afghan language): (explosion) >> narrator: mullah baradar's promise evaporated a few days before the last u.s. troops left on august 31. >> the pentagon confirming there has been an explosion outside kabul airport. >> the explosion has happened just by the airport. >> narrator: najibullah was nearby when an isis suicide bomber struck a gate outside the kabul airport. >> everybody is running. i got myself away.
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like, i'm literally a kilometer away now. >> we can confirm that a number of u.s. servicemembers were killed at the kabul airport. a number of others are being treated for wounds. a number of afghans fell victim to this heinous attack. >> isis-k, or the islamic state in the khorasan, has claimed responsibility for the kabul attacks. >> isis in khorasan always wanted to show their power. even in the last moment, they managed to kill 13 american forces. this is a big succeed for them. this is a big threat again for the taliban. they are showing how brutal are they, how prepared are they. >> narrator: the bombing fueled clashes between taliban forces and isis. (explosion) and heightened u.s. concerns about the country once again becoming a staging ground for terrorists.
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(phone dialing out) >> narrator: in the wake of the airport attack, najibullah sought out an expert on isis, or isil, and other terror groups. >> hi, najibullah. >> hi, hellosir, how are you doing? >> i'm very well, thanks. how are you? >> narrator: edmund fitton brown coordinates the united nations monitoring team that assesses the global threat from isis and al qaeda in afghanistan. >> isil has been a strategic rival of the taliban. it's obviously much smaller than the taliban. but i think what isil is intending to do is to present itself as the party that wants to continue the fight, that makes no compromises. and they want to accuse the taliban of having, in some way, sold out. and isil is clearly making an effort to embarrass and attack and harass the taliban. and that will be obviously a challenge to the taliban, it will be... i'm not certain how easily the taliban will be able to suppress that challenge.
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>> narrator: fitton brown also told najibullah that al qaeda, despite being weakened over the years, remains a threat too. >> al qaeda has a very close historic and trusting relationship with the taliban and al qaeda is present in afghanistan. i think the taliban have signaled very clearly that they are not going to do anything to break with or suppress al qaeda. what's been difficult for al qaeda has been to have a stable, uninterrupted place where they could regroup, recruit, train, raise money. and it may be that this change in afghanistan presents them with a new and better opportunity than they have elsewhere. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: a recently surfaced video has only added to the concerns about al qaeda. osama bin laden's former security chief, amin al haq, was
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seen returning to eastern afghanistan. (horn honks) publicly, the taliban have continued to insist they will not harbor terrorists. (man speaking afghan language) but when the new government was formed in early september, key posts went to some of the most extreme figures closely associated with al qaeda. like sirajuddin haqqani, now the interior minister, whose infamous haqqani network was behind suicide bombings and attacks on coalition forces. he is still on the state department's most wanted list, with a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture. his uncle, khalil haqqani, also part of the new cabinet, has been linked to al qaeda terror operations. >> (speaking afghan language):
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>> narrator: even mullah baradar, the co-founder of the taliban, appears to have been sidelined by the haqqanis. neither side would talk to najibullah about the power struggle, but the rift has intensified concerns that afghanistan could erupt in factional violence. ♪ ♪ those fears are especially high among the millions of shia muslims, known as the hazara, who've long been the target of taliban attacks and have been forming their own armed militias, some supported by neighboring iran. shortly before the takeover, najibullah went to central afghanistan, where most of the hazara live. at a hazara cemetery, najibullah met a woman who said the taliban had been launching deadly attacks on their community.
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her grandson was killed in the fighting. >> (conversing in dari): >> narrator: nooria's husband was killedy the taliban just weeks earlier, leaving five children behind. >> (speaking dari):
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>> narrator: the hazars desperation has only increased in recent weeks. (car horns honking) in kabul, najibullah met a hazara journalist and human rights activist, ishaq akrami, who had fled the countryside. >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: he described an event just days earlier where 13 hazaras, most of them afghan security forces, were killed.
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>> narrator: amnesty international investigated the incident and shared this footage with "frontline." this is the first time it'been aired. >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: shortly after the interview, ishaq was able to get out of the country.
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>> in the wake of the taliban takeover, the country is struggling through severe food shortages and the collapse of basic public services. >> the afghan people are in desperate need of support. >> narrator: najibullah is now among the few journalists continuing to report on the deteriorating situation inside afghanistan. >> washington now closing off its support pipeline to the taliban. other major western governments also plan to stop sending aid. >> the consequences are on track to devastate the population, especially its most vulnerable residents. >> narrator: amidst economic freefall and a growing humanitarian crisis, the taliban have continued to tighten restrictions on women. >> day by day, women in afghanistan have been learning they are less free. >> in many ways have been completely erased from public life. >> schools reopened for boys; middle school and high school girls are still at home.
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>> narrator: girls are effectively banned from attending school pass 6th grade for now. outside a school in kabul, najibullah attended a protest of the ban by a small gup of women. carrying guns and whips, the taliban threatened the protestors. they fired their guns in the air... (gunfire) ...and ordered journalists to leave. >> even for me it has been changed. now they got really strict. you cannot film certain areas. they are not agree for the interviews. whatever you do they just sh you their weapons, their ak-47, they just point it on you.
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(student speaking afghan language) >> narrator: a few days later, najibullah visited an elementary school. a class of 4th grade girls were facing the prospect of being near the end of their education. >> (speaking afghan language): >> narrator: with the conditions worsening, najibullah wanted to check back in with the women's rights activist mahbouba seraj.
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(conversing in afghan language) she told him not to come to her office. she wanted to talk by phone instead. despite the situation, she remains unbowed but diplomatic. >> so let's see what happens. i mean, right now, what the taliban wants is that they want to get, you know, they need time, which i told one of them that time is not something that they have, because we are almost like a runaway, runaway train going towards a human disaster. i am hoping that they also understand that with the way they are going, treating the women, that's not going to last long. and that's not going to be accepted by the world. and i want the world to know that. because, you know, afghanistan as... it's really a changed country now. so, you know, we'll see, we'll see what we can do, how much we can take, how much we can live with. there some compromises we can make. there are some compromises we cannot.
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>> are you worried about the civil war in afghanistan? >> uh, yeah. as always, yeah. >> i'll be leaving afghanistan very soon. why don't you just leave the country? >> well, you know, i'm sure by leaving afghanistan, you know, you can do a whole lot. a lot of work out from outside much better than inside. the same way i believe that i can do a whole lot of work much better from inside than outside. so i think we are both doing something for the love of this land. you're doing it in one way and i'm doing it another way. >> so you are committed to stay in afghanistan? >> i am committed to staying in afghanistan, absolutely. the reason is the love of... my love for this land. i'm not going to leave it again. i'm going to have a say and i'm going to have a do as far as making it a beautiful place for the people of afghanistan. ♪ ♪
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>> narrator: najibullah left the country while siraj stayed, one of millions of afghans waiting to see what life will be like now that the taliban have taken over. >> go to for more of our reporting on america's longest war. >> i was filming from there, the us forces came there and they were literally shooting the taliban... >> and with talks resuming in do, a look at how the afghan people are impacted by the freezing of foreign aid. >> the consequences are on track to devastate the population... >> connect with frontline on facebook, instagram and twitter. and watch anytime on the pbs video app, youtube or >> “drop the gun!” >> narrator: in utah - a record number of police shootings. >> when you start gathering data, the patterns start to become clear. >> it's a problem throughout our whole state.
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>> narrato frontline and the salt lake tribune investigate training. >> do not hesitate. >> gun, gun, gun! >> narrator: accountability... >> sometimes police are required to use force to protect the public. >> narrator: and racial disparities. >> we want to know why police officers are using this power. >> shot fired. suspect down! >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, veant and peaceful world. more at park foundation: dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues...
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and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler and additional support from koo and patricia yuen. and ashok k. moza foundation. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other "frontline" programs, visit our website at ♪ ♪ frontline's, "taliban takeover" is available on amazon prime video. ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ you're watching pbs. be more pbs. ♪ ♪ be more pbs. ♪ ♪
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-this program was made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. -if you're a parent with young kids in the united states, chances are this child-care center looks familiar. maybe you dropped off your kids at a place like this this morning. maybe you left them with a grandparent or a friend or a sitter while you went to work. and after this first pandemic year we all lived through, with child-care programs of every size and shape uttered and kids stuck at home all day, that drop-off probably felt like a welcome slice of normalcy, like the system was working again. but the truth is for millions of families, the system has never worked, long before covid. the pressure of the pandemic made undeniably clear how precarious and how dysfunctional the u.s. child care system really is.


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