'Turned upside-down' by the Taliban: Afghan-Kiwis fear for their families' lives after terrorist takeover

A trio of Afghan-Kiwis who fled to New Zealand from the Taliban in the 1990s say they have grave concerns for their families back home amid the latest resurgence of the terrorist group.

Cousins Zahra and Batool Akbari both moved here as children, and say they're worried for family members whose "whole life has been turned upside-down" in the last few days.

It comes after Taliban insurgents claimed control of capital city Kabul, causing Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to flee and bringing the militant group close to taking over the country.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Defence Force was being sent in to help hundreds of Kiwis and Afghan allies stranded in Afghanistan escape.

But Zahra told The Project host Laura Tupou she has concerns for the safety for all Afghans.

"Just talked to my auntie - they see the Taliban walking around and everything. They're okay at the moment, but I don't know what's going to happen next with them," she said.

Batool worries for her older sister, who lives in Afghanistan with her husband and children.

"I've spoken with her. She's scared for her life, her kids' life, the kids' future. They can't even go out at the moment - that scares us. We're here but we feel their pain.

"We want safety for our family, we want them to have the life we have now. We're scared for their life."

Laila*, an Afghan refugee who spent four years under the Taliban regime in the 1990s, says she was only able to speak to family in Afghanistan until about 8pm (NZ time) on Sunday, when the phones stopped working and the internet connection was interrupted.

She says her family had not been allowed to leave.

"Roads were closed, there are [traffic] jams… in fact I heard people were leaving their cars and walking because it was a traffic jam everywhere."

Zahra urges Immigration New Zealand to urgently look into the cases of Afghans who have applied for visas here - "before it's too late".

"There's lots of families who have applied for their families to come here and have a better life, the way we did. We just want them to have the same opportunities as us."