Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Outline Path Forward in Afghanistan Tonight; Rare Eclipse of the Sun Starts Soon. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:44] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is set to lay out the path forward for the U.S. in Afghanistan. He will announce it tonight in his first formal primetime address to the country.

Joining me is the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANITAN: Great to be with you. Happy eclipse viewing to you and to your viewers, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Thank you. We will be watching.

I want to ask you this. You've had vision on the Afghanistan war for many years under President Bush and since then and prior to that. Do you believe that an increase in U.S. troop numbers there, if this is what the president announces tonight, do you believe that's necessary?

KHALILZAD: I think that the president has inherited a difficult situation in Afghanistan. He has done a comprehensive review, by all appearance and reports, looking at U.S. objectives and the strategy for pursuing that objective. If the objective is to help Afghanistan be able to deal with the threat of terrorism and extremism, and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a sanctuary for terrorists and extremists, yes, based on the recommendations of the commanders, a significant increase of 4,000 to 5,000, as they've asked for, is prudent to prevent the situation from getting worse as it is right now. As part of a comprehensive strategy. I say the review was comprehensive. I hope the president's strategy also will be comprehensive.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. If it's just 4,000 or so troops, up from the 8,400 there now, why would that solve the problem if some 40,000, 50,000 troops that President Obama ordered in a couple years ago did not or the significantly higher number of U.S. and coalition forces that were there in the years after the U.S. invasion in 2001/2002? Why would a handful, by comparison, of U.S. troops make the difference now if those much larger deployments did not?

KHALILZAD: Those much larger deployments did have an effect, although I was critical of President Obama's increase when he increased the number of troops to about 100,000, but then he immediately announced the date for their return. I think those increases and those circumstances prevented Afghanistan from falling apart, becoming under the control of the Taliban. Now it's a sign of success that a more modest number is recognized or regarded by the military to be necessary to prevent that. With the substantial and dramatic and quick reduction against the advice of the military by the previous administration, the Taliban thought that they could break the Afghan force. They have not been able to break the force, but they've made progress. Now the military says that they need a modest increase, relative to past increases, to be able to hold Afghanistan together while other elements of the strategy -- and I emphasize comprehensive necessity for a comprehensive strategy -- is made to work. Without security, everything will be at risk in Afghanistan. That's a key requirement but not the only requirement. We need a regional approach, an approach to Afghanistan's internal issues as well.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. One question the president will have to answer tonight is how long. I remember I was in Afghanistan a number of years ago, interviewed General McChrystal, who was commanding forces there at the time. I asked him that question. His answer to me was, don't we still have troops in Germany and Japan, decades later. Is that what the U.S. faces in Afghanistan, an almost endless deployment of U.S. forces to keep the country from becoming unstable?

KHALILZAD: I don't believe so. Although General McChrystal's point was a valid one. If you telegraph to the enemy that you're going to be there for a short time, unfortunately, you help them to sustain themselves to outlast you. So while we shouldn't be there in an open- ended fashion in Afghanistan, it's very important to signal the desire that you're prepared to stay there for as long as it takes. That you're prepared for a long-term commitment in order to affect the calculation of U.S. adversaries, the Taliban, or regional players like Pakistan. It's a dilemma. It cannot be open-ended. It has to be based on conditions. But it has to signal, however, that we will be there as long as we have interests to protect in that region.

[11:35:46] SCIUTTO: Understood.

Ambassador Khalilzad, thank you very much for taking the time.

KHALILZAD: Great to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, a stunning new report on the Secret Service under President Trump. Apparently, the president travels so much with so many family members that it has already busted the Secret Service budget for the year. Details on that story ahead.

Plus, we're just moments away from a solar eclipse, 99 years in the making. What to watch for and how to do it without hurting yourself.


[11:40:36] SCIUTTO: The size of the president's family and the volume of their travel for work and vacations is putting a strain on the agency charged with protecting them. The director of the U.S. Secret Service tells "USA Today" that more than 1,000 agents have already maxed out salary and overtime that was supposed to cover the entire year. The president, of course, is a multiple homebody. He has taken weekend trips almost every weekend of his presidency so far to properties in Virginia, Florida and New Jersey, as well as overseas. But 18 other members of his family get protection as well. It turns out, they travel a lot, too.

Let's discuss with former Secret Service agent, Larry Johnson.

Agent Johnson, as you look at the demands being placed on the Secret Service -- obviously, they have a job to do. They protect the president and his family. That would be true for any president, whether he had a bigger or smaller family. But as you look at the travel the president does on weekends, the travel overseas, his children do, et cetera, do you see the agency being overwhelmed by this?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Of course. I think the director is correct in addressing these issues. If I go back to my time in the Secret Service, there are a couple years when I was on the president's detail that I was in the same situation. I worked over 200 days away from my home. The max-out rule has been a problem for agents in working overtime for a long time.

The one thing that I will point out is back when I was in the Secret Service the mission was so important that agents didn't pay attention to how much they were paid or were not paid in a given year.

SCIUTTO: You make a good point. You draw attention to it. The way the rules are, the Secret Service cannot pay an agent above a certain total annual compensation, even if they end up working many, many more overtime hours on top of that.

Just for the sake of our viewers, I want to give some statistics here. Each trip that the president takes to Mar-a-Lago, each weekend trip, that's $3 million total per visit. Of that, $60,000 alone on golf cart rentals. Think of all those Secret Service agents following the president around on his golf rounds. This applies to his children's trips as well. Eric Trump went to Uruguay a short time ago. And just on hotels, the bill for the Secret Service there, $100,000.

If the Secret Service cannot pay these agents for the rest of the year because of this budget going over the top, what do they do?

JOHNSON: Well, it becomes a morale issue. So you have to address the morale. Before you can travel and do your job, you have to have that type of attitude where you're not worried about whether you're getting paid or not.

I will mention that presidents have always traveled. They always will travel. It's hard to budget two years in advance for how much the president will travel. Eighteen protectees for President Trump is quite a bit. During the Clinton and George W. administrations, there were other protectees that were added after the budget year had already started. So you cannot project costs when you keep adding protectees. SCIUTTO: I imagine folks at home, they hear you talking about morale,

people being stretched, agents not being paid. But you know the commitment of these agents. Could this somehow compromise the level of protection that the president and his family get?

JOHNSON: I -- I don't believe so. Basically, because training is so intense that you are constantly in a zone. You are always doing your job. There's always the pressure that one misstep, one bad advance, one mistake will -- you'll be in front of Congress testifying like Agent Johnson, how could this have happened under your watch. There's a lot of pressure but agents are taught and trained to control that pressure.

Typically, Jim, what they're getting paid, because of the mission, really doesn't get into the mind of the agents, so that you let your guard down based on the fact you maxed out for the year.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's an extremely important mission. We know they take it seriously, as you did, Larry Johnson, former agent.

Thank you very much.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Jim.

[11:45:12] SCIUTTO: From protecting the president to protecting yourself for the eclipse today, 99 years in the making. Coming up, we'll tell you when and where to watch the big event. I'll do the same thing, trust me. This is important, also how do it safely. Stay with us.


[11:49:53] SCIUTTO: A total eclipse of the sun, 99 years in the making, is just about to start. Just minutes away. What you see will depend on where you are. A map here shows you, in that yellow line, where you'll see it 100 percent. People from Oregon to South Carolina, they're in that so-called path of totality. They will get to see a total solar eclipse. I hope all of you in that band have your glasses ready.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is along that band and joining us from Salem, Oregon, a prime location for totality.

You're 10, 15 minutes away. Tell us what you will be doing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPODNENT: We are about 14 minutes away from when this thing starts, and we will eventually be at totality in about an hour, an hour and a half or so. We're on the grounds of Willamette University, across from the grounds where we were earlier.

I want to show you this. This is really cool. This is a sun spotter. It's like a fancy pinhole camera. On this, you can actually see the sun spots on the sun right now. When the sun goes full eclipse, you will see the entire thing on this. I've been looking through these binoculars with solar filters on it, and that is just about as good as this. This is really nerdy. The other thing to keep in mind is, this is not the -- the solar

glasses, they're not like regular sunglasses. These are regular sunglasses. You can see me through those. Right? These are the solar glasses. Literally, you can't see a thing through them unless you're staring directly at the sun.

There are serious, eclipse -- the eclipse nerds are out here at Willamette University. We have 36 members of the Astronomy Club from Cork, Ireland, right over here in the red caps. You can see them. They have an array of different scientists out here presenting all sorts of stuff. This is one cool thing they're giving out here. I've got to get one of these things. Shows the sun from the National Solar Observatory.

People are really looking forward to it. Millions of people lining that path of totality. People here lucky to be in it -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: You're lucky to be in it. I'm a little jealous. But enjoy it. We'll be watching your coverage. Put up a lot of photos. Ok?

MARQUEZ: Will do.

SCIUTTO: As if you're not totally geeked out, and I'm definitely in that group, I'm joined by astrophysicist, and eclipse chase, Hakeem Oluseyi, host of "Outrageous Acts of Science" on the Science Channel. He is in Casper, Wyoming, which is also in that crucial path of totality.

Thanks for joining us.

This is a remarkable moment. You've chased eclipses in Ghana, Australia, and the island of Munguia in the South Pacific. Is the eclipse of the century, visible from here in the U.S., is it special in some way?

HAKEEM OLUSEYI, ASTROPHYICIST & ECLIPSE CHASER & HOST, OUTRAGEOUS ACTS OF SCIENCE: Well, it's special in the sense it's going to cover the entire United States going coast to coast. So there's a line of totality where people get a total solar eclipse. But if you're not on the line, everywhere else in the U.S., you will get a partial eclipse. It hasn't happened in the U.S. for 99 years when you had a coast to coast eclipse. So this is pretty special.

SCIUTTO: I'll make a confession. I chased an eclipse about 20 years ago in 1977. Happened to be on my birthday and I went to northern Mongolia to see it. I think we've got some pictures of that at the time. At the time, it was whiteout conditions. We I had to go up in a helicopter and I had to hold my life in my hands for a moment while in the helicopter. That one right there.

What I remember was the sort of other worldliness of that moment when it reaches totality, and that it wasn't quite nighttime dark. It looked sort of end of days. That feeling. Can you describe to viewers what it will look like? And I'm also curious how nature reacts to it, animals and that kind of stuff. OLUSEYI: Yes. As the eclipse is unfolding, one of the things you'll

notice, you can actually see the shadow of the moon racing across the landscape at over 1,000 miles per hour towards you. As the moon begins to cove the sun -- the moon is not just a smooth orb. It has mountains, valleys, craters, crevices. The edge of the sun doesn't get covered all at once. There are few craters and valleys that still show the sun when the rest is covered. It appears as a series of beams around the edge of the sun -- around the edge of the moon. We call those Bailey's Feet (ph). And then, as the sky darkens, the light around the sun will get brighter. There is one last valley remaining. That one last valley looks incredibly bright and the rest of the moon has a thin ring around it. So it looks like a diamond ring. So we call that the Diamond Ring. Then finally -- well not finally. You see a red material right around the edge of the sun due to hydrogen emitting gas. And we call that the geosphere (ph). And finally, complete totality and the corona emerges. One of the things to note, when you see pictures or video of the corona, it's not what you see with the naked eye. What you see with the naked eye is much more fabulous than you get on camera. It's really worth it to travel to a total eclipse and see it for yourself.


[11:55:14] SCIUTTO: You can see why people a long time ago looked at these and imagined the world was ending or the gods were angry or something.

Hakeem Oluseyi, thank you so much. I hope you enjoy your experience.

OLUSEYI: Thank you for having me. I can't wait.

SCIUTTO: You can experience the eclipse live in virtual reality at A great way to watch it.

Coming up, the other huge event for the day, tonight, the president makes his pitch to the American people on the way forward in Afghanistan. What to expect after 16 years of war there. The details, just ahead.