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WH Defends Withdrawal From Afghanistan: There Are Going To Be "Scenes Of Chaos" When A Civil War Comes To An End; Interpreter Who Worked For U.S. Military Scared For His Family Trapped In Afghanistan; Texas Governor Greg Abbott Tests Positive For COVID-19. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 17, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The pandemic is far from over. New York City has certainly come a long way, in the fight.

This Saturday, on CNN, don't miss "We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert." A lot of big names, Bruce Springsteen, and Andrea Bocelli, Jennifer Hudson, LL Cool J, to name a few, are going to be there. Again, that's Saturday, 5 P.M. Eastern Time, only on CNN.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?


I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

To all those in power, raising concerns that America failed in Afghanistan, focus on this. If you are worried about failure, don't just spend time, debating Trump and the Taliban, or Biden botching the exit. Debate how to get Americans out of Afghanistan.

The politics of our presence have always been deceptive and messy. The exit is too. Here's the reality. Trump made a rash deal with the Taliban, to leave by May 1st of this year. Biden agreed and had it go bad on his watch.

Here is how the current president explains the state of play.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That it would have taken a significant American troop presence, multiple times greater than what President Biden was handed, to stop a Taliban onslaught.

But the Afghan government, and its supporters, including many of the people, now seeking to leave, made a passionate case that we should not conduct a mass evacuation lest we trigger a loss of confidence in the government.

What you can do is plan for all contingencies. We did that.

When a civil war comes to an end, with an opposing force marching on the capital, there are going to be scenes of chaos.


CUOMO: Look, do you agree with that assessment? It doesn't really matter. That's politics, OK? What matters is how we do what we need to do right now.

Lawmakers, who want to dwell on who is bad, when we have something worse, staring us in the face, that shouldn't be OK with you. A 11,000 Americans have to be brought home. That's the damn job. That's what they should be shouting about.

Should it have happened first? Absolutely. But can you make it happen now? Can Biden do it?

Are both sides of the aisle on board with keeping this country's word, to upwards of 60,000 folks and their families, who literally risked their lives for America?

This is not hyperbole, OK? When people work with the U.S., in that region, against the Taliban, or al Qaeda, or ISIS, they are as good as dead, if they're not protected. And that's what they're told. "We'll protect you."

So, will Trumpers play the immigration game with these people? We've all heard the talk. Will they win over the Right side of the aisle, for people who literally risked their lives for this country?

Now, here's the latest. The White House says our Military has restored order at the Kabul airport, and is successfully evacuating U.S. citizens, along with Afghans, who have helped us, and other vulnerable Afghan citizens.

I don't know what that means. They have to explain the last part.

Here's what should matter to us. U.S. Military flights evacuated approximately 1,100 U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and their families, on 13 flights today. Now, these are big planes. That's not full freight on each plane. A total of 3,200, so far, have made it out, including our personnel, according to the White House.

Why am I playing with the math? Because it matters. The Taliban only agreed to give free passage until August 31st. Now, if that's the rate, that you're taking people out at, 14 days from today, may not be enough time.

Listen to the General.


GEN. WILLIAM TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE JOINT STAFF FOR REGIONAL OPERATIONS: Right now, we're looking at one aircraft per hour in and out of HKIA. We predict that our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers departing per day.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Look, if you can do 9,000 a day, for 14 days, you should be fine. But that's like optimal capacity. And what if things change on the ground, right? The General said that too. "Well, the Taliban could change them."

No kidding! I mean, these are the people, two weeks away, and they've only evacuated 1,300? The math is a concern. But the people you made the deal with concerns even more, OK?

The Taliban have no reason to keep their word to the United States. "Oh, they're afraid that we'll bomb them." That's what they live for, is to fight in the name of their faith. That's what it is for them. That's not fear. That is fuel for their zealotry.


Now, what are the logistical concerns? If we only control the airfield in Kabul, which is what the White House says, and there're only 1,300 on flights, now you have some concerns.

Like what? What if you're coming from somewhere else? How do you get to Kabul, right? What if you're in Kandahar? How do you get through the checkpoints? The "L.A. Times" is reporting that the Taliban is already injuring, hurting people, at checkpoints.

And then, there's this push, "Well, we got to get them out of Afghanistan, get them to the United States." Why? If it's a processing issue, to try to figure out, who these people are, right, and to assuage some of the fears, about who you're letting in the country, take them somewhere else.

There are a lot of friendlies in the region, where you can get them out of Afghanistan, away from the Taliban, and then process them somewhere else, like in Guam, OK?

Because, think about it. What happens when the 31st comes and goes? What if Americans, what if Americans' families are still stuck in there, with the Taliban, on top of them, then what?

White House was evasive on that question, you know why? Because they don't know. And that's why lawmakers should be focused on making this right. How to do it? What are the assets? Getting the political will to get these people here. The threat to people, who help America, is a very scary aspect of this exit.

You're going to hear tonight from a hero, Afghan interpreter. He worked with our Military, and is very scared for his family, who are still stuck there. You will hear from him, what happens to people like him and his family? Listen to what he says he was told by Americans, when they asked him to work for them.

If you're worried about failure, if America's word means nothing, if with the region and the world watch, and you leave people, to be dealt with by the Taliban, that is failure.

Now, we're also not just going to play on the "Do it! Do it! Do it!" How? We're going to look at what it takes to get this done.

We have one of the people behind this now-iconic photo of the Kabul exodus. There's actually a story behind this photo that you haven't heard yet. You'll hear it tonight.

And again, I know it's about blame, "Failure, not a failure, Biden, this," there's plenty to go around, OK? This happened on the watches of four U.S. presidents. All of them told you, or suggested, or implied, we were trying to make Afghanistan a better place. It was never going to happen.

Who knows? No one knows better than my first guest. He worked for the one who launched "Operation Enduring Freedom," President George W. Bush. He was the Chief Counterterror Adviser, on the National Security Council.

Richard Clarke is a veteran of multiple administrations, and he is indeed a better mind on Afghanistan.

Welcome to PRIME TIME, sir.


CUOMO: What's your take on the exit?

CLARKE: Well, it's a mess. It was going to be a mess, but didn't have to be this bad. The White House can say they planned for every contingency. But the evidence seems to be the opposite. If they planned for it, why is it going so poorly?

You just did the math on getting people out. We're not going to get them all out. That's just it. We control the airport. We don't control anything else. And so, if the Taliban want to keep some of our people, or want to block them from getting to the airport, they're not going to get out.

As concerning to me is the fact that they released 5,000 terrorist prisoners, al Qaeda members, ISIS members, who were in prison, at Bagram Air Base. They were released by the Taliban.

So, the whole point about going in there, in the first place, 20 years ago, was to stop Afghanistan from being a base for al Qaeda. And now, they've released al Qaeda members. And we really have no way of knowing if al Qaeda organizes again.

The President said we're focusing on the terrorist threat with a laser. That's nice. The CIA Director was a bit more frank, last month, when he told me the Senate, "Once we're out, we're not going to know as much about what's going on in Afghanistan."

And so, al Qaeda, ISIS, others can re-form. The Taliban can help them to do so. A, we might not know it. B, there's not much we can do about it. CUOMO: What was the right answer? I know you're an Intel guy. But you've been around politics a long time. What was the right answer?

You have six to seven out of 10 Americans consistently say "Get us out. That place is a hellhole. It's a Graveyard of Empires. We've had 20 years without a major terror attack. Enough!"

CLARKE: Right.

CUOMO: What was the way to balance the want to get out--


CUOMO: --and the need to have a presence to stay safe?


CLARKE: Biden's decision was the right decision, at the strategic level. He handed it off to his principals, and they blew it. It's all a matter of implementation here.

I remember when Jimmy Carter tried to rescue the hostages in Iran. That turned into a fiasco. The Secretary of State resigned the next day. I remember "Black Hawk Down" in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Secretary of Defense resigned two days later.

Chris, there has to be accountability here, because although the President made the right call, his people just aren't up to implementing it.

CUOMO: All right, they screwed this up. Let's just assume that for a second. I know I'll get all kind of phone calls about how angry they are that I just said that. But let's just assume it, for the sake of argument.

The cancel culture mandate of "You made a mistake. You got to be gone," why not just have them fix it? Can't they have a presence in either at that base, where they say--


CUOMO: --"Look, we're staying here. We're going to keep filling the number," of where someone, big brain like you, says, "This is how many we need to keep eyes on the ground there. And if they don't like it, they can go to war with us," and the Taliban won't do it.

CLARKE: Chris, it's very hard to maintain a base in the middle of a landlocked country. We need fuel at that base. That's got to come in over the roads. It's very hard to fly it in.

So, there's not a lot we can do inside Afghanistan anymore. Any counterterrorism work we do will have to originate outside Afghanistan, perhaps on the ships and sea, again, as we were forced to do in the 1990s.

Why should someone resign now? Why should there be accountability? Because I believe in government accountability. I believe when you screw up, at a high level in government, you should at least say that you did, you should at least offer to resign.

Now, I don't know, maybe some people have. But this didn't have to be this bad. We could have started moving people out, months ago. We could have continued to have airpower, to give the Afghan army, some spine, for a little while. None of that happened. And where--

CUOMO: How much spine were they going to have Dick--

CLARKE: --the worst possible outcome.

CUOMO: --when you made a deal - well, sorry, sorry to interrupt you, brother. But how much spine could you expect ISAF to have, or the Afghan forces, when you were negotiating directly with the Taliban? And now that they're so super empowered?

CLARKE: Well--

CUOMO: I mean, what can we expect the Taliban to do next? What are we going to watch in Afghanistan?

CLARKE: Well, we're going to watch to see if they let al Qaeda and ISIS create camps, terrorist training camps again.

But I think the application of airpower, during all of this, would have given some of the people, involved, some spine, and might have allowed the government to hang on to Kabul for a while.

But if you're out there in Mazar-i-Sharif, or someplace, Jalalabad, and you're surrounded, and you have no air cover, you're running out of ammunition, you're running out of food, you'll have no medevac capability, and you haven't been paid in months, and the Taliban come along and say, "Well just surrender, and we won't do anything to you," of course, you're going to surrender.

Let's remember, the Afghans lost tens of thousands of people in their army. They did fight. They fought for years. And they lost tens of thousands of their troops, fighting. But no one in their right mind would fight under these circumstances.

CUOMO: So, does this mean that the Taliban is now going to be seen driving around, in all this American-paid heavy Military equipment, and maybe even like fighter jets or something like that?

CLARKE: No, for the most part, the heavy equipment and, the few airplanes that they had, will stop working, because we won't provide supplies, and we won't provide contractors. A lot of the airplanes actually flew out to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

So no, they're not going to be flying around in our planes, or if so, not for very long. But they are going to have a lot of weapons, and it's going to be very difficult to ever get them out of power.

CUOMO: Last thing, if we don't get the families, and the people, who worked with the U.S. troops, out of that country, what are going to happen to those Afghanistan people?

CLARKE: Well, we don't know. The worst thing is they could go to re- education camps or they could be killed. That happened in Vietnam. They were forced to go to re-education camps.

The thing that we have to remember is the whole world is watching. The Koreans are watching. The Germans are watching. People who count on us, the Israelis, people in Taiwan, and our enemies in Moscow and Beijing. They're watching, and this doesn't look good for us.

CUOMO: Yes, if you don't keep your word to these people, the entire world is watching. That's failure.

Richard Clarke, thank you so much for the clear eyes. Appreciate it.

CLARKE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Now, it's not numbers. It's people. It's families. It's dreams.


And I want you to introduce you to one of the people that we're talking about, OK? He volunteered to keep the United States troops safe, as an interpreter, called Terps, very, very important. They do a lot more than just language.

His family is trapped in Afghanistan. Some of his relatives won't even have a chance to leave for days. He is scared. I want you to hear why he's scared, what he was told, and what this will mean for him and his family. Next.








CUOMO: You're only as good as your word, right? The world is watching right now. America promised men and women, their families, "Hey, if you help us, I know it's like a death sentence, but don't worry, we'll protect you."


The concern and fear that we see expressed by U.S. Service members and veterans, extends far beyond themselves, and their American brothers and sisters in arms. They are worried about the thousands of Afghan interpreters, and other staff, who worked beside them. What will happen to them?

Retribution is a light word for what the Taliban has done in the past. Yes, they have made a pledge of "Blanket amnesty." These people are not known for mercy.

Hope for some is so dim that they are planning their goodbyes. Watch this.


KRISTEN ROUSE, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, NYC VETERANS ALLIANCE: I have, and Veterans are calling me, messaging me, telling me about they're getting - they're getting contacted by our Afghan allies, but also like we're getting goodbye notes. Afghans believe that they are about to die.


CUOMO: I want to introduce you to a former interpreter for the U.S. Military. He is scared. His former line of work in service to our country may have put his family even further into harm's way. We're going to call him, "Sam."

Sam, thank you for joining us, and thank you for helping America.

"SAM," INTERPRETER WHO WORKED FOR U.S. MILITARY, FAMILY STUCK IN AFGHANISTAN: Thank you for having me, Chris. Glad to be here.

CUOMO: Sam, tell the audience why you decided to take the risk that you did in helping American troops?

"SAM": Well, first of all, the working with the U.S. Military and Army was to helping my own country, which at that time, there was very little people knowing English at that time. And second of all, they promised us to save our life, as soon as, or whenever, they left the country.

So, that was the promise, which never made for some of the people, which I was one of the person, people, to be lucky enough to get out of the country. And I have still my family in a grave threat of retribution from these thugs, so-called Taliban terrorists.

CUOMO: So, you were able to get out of the country. Were you told that your family--

"SAM": Yes.

CUOMO: --would be able to get out also?

"SAM": Yes, I heard such a thing that while I was working with the Military, they told us, "If you can take your family right now with you, as soon as you became a U.S. citizen, you can easily sponsor all of them."

Right now, I'm an American citizen. But there is no way for me to evacuate my family, immediately, which they are in a great risk right now.

CUOMO: Why is there no way to get them out?

"SAM": Because there is a rush in the system to the U.S. embassy. And there is no embassy active right now. Whoever, I was - whoever I'm calling, to get help, for this matter, nobody answers.

I keep sending emails, different people, nobody respond me back. And I don't know what to do. I even reached out to my senator here. And then, they referral me to these links and lawyers, stuff like that, which is hard. It takes years to just get them out of the country.

But right now, the time is running out. There is not much time left to wait that long.

CUOMO: Is your family thinking about trying to get to the airport in Kabul? Is that an option for them?

"SAM": Well, no, not right now, because most of the country, well now, all of the country, is controlled by the Taliban.

The route out - my family live up north. When they go to the Kabul, so they have to pass through those provinces, that's heavily controlled by the Taliban, and that's not safe enough to do that. That's even dangerous than just staying at home.

CUOMO: What do you want people to know about what you believe the Taliban is capable of, if they find your family, and they find out that a member of the family helped the United States?

"SAM": Well, they just announced the national amnesty. But we all know they're not standing by their words. Whatever they said in the past, they just did not stand by words.

Now, in my neighborhood, I'm getting call from my people, and friends. And they're saying like they are actively looking into those village, counting how many people in that house, or how many people are used to work for the Military, or supporting foreigners?


Even if - how many women in the house, married, unmarried, there are reports, and from the people that I communicate with, they're saying they are trying to find those women, and they're trying to marry them for their jihadi fighters, or Taliban terrorists, which is just not acceptable for us, Afghans.

We are people of - over there, people are very restrictive about being - with the - the dealing with the women and the stuff. But things like that could just even take things to a very different level, if they force people to marry with their fighters and stuff.

CUOMO: What is the hardest time for you, Sam?

"SAM": So. CUOMO: What is the hardest thing for you in dealing with this emotionally about your family? And what it means that America promised you?

"SAM": Well the hardest thing for me is, I feel like we were - we were abandoned.

I have a brother. My older brother, he worked over a decade with the - with the German forces. Right now he's in Kabul. Somehow he arrived in Kabul, took all of those risks.

He has his visas and passport in his pocket. But he cannot catch no flight. No flights are leaving Kabul going to Germany. It's all Military flights. There were one or two commercial flights. But those are all mostly charter flights, for foreigners.

CUOMO: Right.

"SAM": So, it's just heartbreaking for me, he's there. And then, all of those checkpoints are controlled by the Taliban, surrounding the airport, not inside the airport. And then whoever can get closer to the airport, so they have to pass them down, then search them for any things.

If they find out that he was working with the Military, or foreigners, and has the visa and passport in his pocket, so that's just a legitimate target for them, so they could just arrest (ph) I can't sleep at night just for that - just thinking like he has another week to leave, what's going to happen that week.

CUOMO: Sam, we're going to stay in touch. You're going to have my number. You can use it whenever you want. Tell me which way you're trying, who you're talking to. And we'll help.

And I appreciate you telling your story to the American people, so they know what is at stake.

"SAM": Definitely. I'm glad to talk about this. And thank you for you guys for covering such a chaotic situation in Afghanistan, which not many people are covering this, not many outlets. So, I'm glad you guys covered it, and then have me talk about this stuff.

CUOMO: That--

"SAM": Thank you very much, Chris.

CUOMO: That's the job. And we owe you. Thank you for what you did for this country. I'll talk to you soon.

So, look?

"SAM": Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: You hear Sam's story about his brother, his family. There's desperation all over the place. The Taliban is not dealing with some sovereign. They're not just like a fringe political group. These people have a history of very, very horrible actions.

That's why these people were running for their lives in a way that made this photo now part of our history, crammed onto that U.S. Air Force jet, little but they're close. Our next guest got a hold of that image, and says there is a story behind it. Next.









CUOMO: You've seen the image that's driving home the reality of the challenge in Afghanistan, 640 terrified people, packed on board an American C-17, a decision made in the moment by a skeleton crew of airmen. They were not supposed to do this.

And when you hear the Air Traffic Controller's side of the conversation, obtained by "Defense One," they didn't even take time to count. They just knew they had to help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, how many people do you think are on your jet?

800 people on your jet?

Holy (BLEEP), holy cow.


CUOMO: The 800 was apparently an overestimation in the chaos. The crew's decision to help is one of the few things that Left, Right and Reasonable can agree on.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I hope there's awards that are going to go to the crew of that C-17 because they violated basically every Air Force regulation, in packing that many people in there. And in the long run, that's going to end up saving a lot of people's lives.


CUOMO: Look, the problem is not over-packed flights. If anything was done to those pilots, that's someone who should be held to account, anybody who takes action against people, who saved lives.

The Pentagon is saying they're hoping to put 300 people on each C-17 heading out of Kabul. Flights are leaving, not that full.

Tara Copp broke the story of the packed flight. She's the Senior Pentagon Reporter for "Defense One," and joins me now.

Thank you very much for sharing the image, and telling the story. What should people know?

TARA COPP, SENIOR PENTAGON REPORTER, DEFENSE ONE: Chris, thank you so much for having us on.

Late this - this photo was taken late Sunday night. And just for all of it, this has been so fast-moving, just to put it in context. That was the day that the flag came down at the embassy. Panic had started to set in.

And this aircrew, as you mentioned, the skeleton crew, fewer than five, their C-17 was on the ground, as part of that kind of initial wave, as the Military was thinking that this might be an orderly withdrawal, an evacuation, which quickly spiraled out of control.

The crew's C-17, the call sign, Reach 871, out of Dover Air Force Base, their back door was partly open. And a crowd of Afghans started to crowd the airplane, and load themselves on, pull themselves up, and then pull others up.

And this small crew had to make a quick decision. Did they follow the regs, and did they push back, and they tell the Afghans, "Don't board the plane," because as your previous call mentioned, this is definitely against regulations. Nothing about this was normal.

And instead they made a decision, as a crew, to load up as many people as they could, and take off as quickly as they could. So, it's a very, very different situation. These aircraft, as you mentioned, normally, can carry about 300, when there's a seat or bench configuration.


And what they did here is they had everyone sit on the floor, in a floor-loading configuration. The only other time, that I've seen this happen, was in 2013, in a typhoon rescue. But even then, it was more orderly, where they were cargo straps across, so everyone could hold on to the cargo straps.

This was just everyone taking every available space they could. And then once they had their full load, they took off. And just what I have learned, since my initial story came out, is the crew decided to just kind of sort this out in the air.

That aircraft, the destination was Qatar. And that country did not anticipate that many evacuees landing either. So, it was a surprise on both ends. And it was a complete judgment call by this crew, to help save those lives.

CUOMO: Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. And they were keeping their principles, if not the regs, intact.

Please tell me Tara that there's no word that anything's being done to the crew.

COPP: Nothing is being done to the crew.

CUOMO: Good.

COPP: There's no investigation. In my follow-ups of what I've learned is that this crew has - it's been determined that they followed the Commander's intent, which is to save lives, to get those Afghans out of harm's way. And that's exactly what the crew did. And that crew is actually back flying evacuation missions.

CUOMO: Tara Copp, thank you so much for the story, for the coverage, and for the truth. I appreciate you.

COPP: Thank you.

CUOMO: We got to all be like that flight crew. Everybody who has any kind of power or agency, where this mission is involved, you have to be like that crew, because that's how you keep your promise.

Now, to the fight at home, one of the main faces of the resistance to measures that can help get this pandemic under control just tested positive for COVID himself, the Governor of Texas. We wish him well.

What he's saying tonight about his diagnosis, next.









CUOMO: Sorry to report that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for COVID. Don't want to see anybody getting sick for this. And I really hope nobody out there sees it any differently, to be honest.

Good news is no symptoms, as far as we're told. Now, that is likely because he has been vaccinated. Take a listen.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and that may be one reason why I'm really not feeling any symptoms right now. I have no fever, no aches and pains, or other types of symptoms.


CUOMO: Hey, thank God. I hope it stays like that.

I hope the only change he feels is in what he wants to tell people about masks, because he was in this jam-packed mask-less event last night, where a lot of people may not have been vaccinated.

Now, I'm not saying he obviously didn't get COVID Last night. I don't think you can build up enough load, that fast.

But let's get after what this means for the governor, and for us, going forward, with former Biden White House Senior Adviser for COVID Response.

Andy Slavitt, thank you so much for joining us.


CUOMO: What do you make of the news that Governor Abbott of Texas has tested positive for COVID, in a breakthrough infection, meaning he's fully vaccinated?

SLAVITT: Well, it's unfortunate. And I hope he's OK. I understand he's getting monoclonal antibodies, which, should that be just reserved for important and famous people?

And let's hope he takes heed. Thank God, he got vaccinated. I'd tell you, if he'd gotten this infection, without having gotten vaccinated, given his other medical condition, I'd be very worried for him.

CUOMO: Now, do you believe this sends a message that people should think more about wearing masks, and about being careful, even if vaccinated?

SLAVITT: Yes, I think that - I think there's no question. And hopefully, he'll come back and have a change of heart, and believe that too.

It really is, you know, we have the kind of protection with this virus, now with Delta, which reacts so quickly, it brings such a high viral load that our B cells and T cells are able to mount a response to protect us.

But sometimes, that response isn't quick enough to prevent some early symptoms and a cold. So, the way to prevent that from happening is just to wear a face covering. And kids in Texas in schools should be no exception.

CUOMO: Third booster. Let me play you some sound that adds to the confusion about this issue.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Right now, they are certain that no Americans need boosters.

FAUCI: We don't need boosters right now for otherwise healthy people, who have been vaccinated, but it is entirely conceivable, if not likely, that we're going to at some time.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: It is likely that boosters will be needed for a broader segment of the population. What we are trying to figure out right now is the right timing.


CUOMO: Criticism.

"You guys should have just said nothing, until you knew we needed them, because the "No, not yet. No, not yet," then when you say you need them, people now cast doubt, and say, "Oh, they were just saying we don't need them." Now we need them. You can't trust these people. They don't know what they're talking about."

SLAVITT: Who's "You guys" here, Chris? I'm not part of that administration.

No, look, they're doing something smart, I think, which is they've learned a lesson that you have to lay the groundwork, when you're going to make a big change.

And so, what they've - what they've done, in the last couple of weeks, by saying, "Hey, we're going to need them in the future. We might need them. It looks like we're going to need them. At some point, we're going to need them," is better than where I think they've been criticized for before, which is just coming out with a change, without making people all aware that it was going to come.

Now, not everybody pays equal attention. But what I think they're going to say tomorrow, when they announce this, is that "We are getting ahead of the problem. We are trying to prevent the problem from becoming worse. We've studied the data."


Hopefully, they're going to share the data. They have told me they're going to share the data, which will tell people, "Hey, here's what we're seeing. And because we're seeing this, here's what we're recommending."

CUOMO: Right.

SLAVITT: And we should look long and hard at that.

CUOMO: Two points of resistance.

One, "Get this thing FDA-approved, and then tell me to put another shot in my arm."

And the second one is, "Whoa! The problem is the unvaccinated. It's not the vaccinated, who are spreading Delta. So, this sounds like us just trying to make money for Big Pharma. Let's deal with the unvaccinated. Don't put a third shot in my arm."

SLAVITT: Well there's a couple complex issues here. The reality is that, my mother, who's 80 - she will be very unhappy, if I said her age on the air today, but around 80.

CUOMO: Don't.

SLAVITT: She said to me today, "You know, should I get a booster, when one is ready?"

And look, I think all of us individually want the maximum amount of protection. And what a booster will do is it will prevent, it will reduce the amount of time we get sick, and will reduce the amount of time we get these sort of asymptomatic infections, where we - that we can spread. So, there's a positive benefit for that.

But if you - but there's another important point, which is that what the - what we really need to do is we need to stop the proliferation of this virus. And the way we stop the proliferation of this virus is by vaccinating not just the unvaccinated in the U.S., but the vaccinated - unvaccinated around the globe.

And so, I really hope that we in the U.S. commit to doing both saying, yes, we're going to protect people individually, that may need some protection.

But if we don't vaccinate the globe, and quickly, then we will see the next iteration, after Delta, and the next wave, and the next wave, and that that couldn't be more important.

And so that is the U.S., as a global leader, has to do both things.

CUOMO: Last question. 10 countries are using 90 percent of the vaccine right now. That is not a good equation for stopping the spread of a pandemic.

And all over this country, kids are going back to school. Almost all of them are not vaccinated. Too many of them are in households, where somebody is not vaccinated. Isn't the reality that we are going to be dealing with this pandemic for months and months to come?

SLAVITT: Oh, at least. And look, the job now is unfortunately to do many things at once, vaccinate kids, give final approval to the FDA, get ready for booster shots, vaccinate the globe, all of those things have to be done.

Now, the U.S. has taken the lead in vaccinating the globe. The U.S. is paying for vaccines for the Southern Hemisphere of the World. The problem is, it just can't be done quick enough. And right now, the G7 countries have said that it's going to take until the end of 2022, to get 70 percent of the globe vaccinated. And I'm afraid, based on what people tell me that if that's the

reality, we will be dealing with this for a long, long time. If we can accelerate that, if we can deal with that, if we can vaccinate the globe, during the first part of 2022, it will make an enormous difference.

And it's going to take U.S. leadership. It's going to take G7 leadership. It's going to take G20 leadership. It's going to take cooperation with Russia and China. Those are big priorities right now.

CUOMO: One of the few times in my life, and your life, where America's message to the world will be, "Don't be like us. Get the vaccine as soon as you can."

Andy Slavitt, thank you very much for speaking reason.

SLAVITT: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: We'll be right back.









CUOMO: Delta variant is now nearly 99 percent of all U.S. COVID cases. This is where we are with hospitalizations around the country. Florida is leading the way with the worst.

Harry Enten is here to break down the numbers. Worst means what? How bad?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, look, it's bad and getting worse. We've seen worse cases than we did a week ago. We see worse hospitalizations than we did a week ago. We see worse deaths than we did a week ago.

Look at that, 17,000, nearly 17,000 people in the hospital right now. I mean, perhaps the one good piece of news is maybe the growth rate on cases and hospitalizations isn't nearly as high as it was. But still we're growing. So it's no bueno down in Florida.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what scares me is that they are also a window into the future of everybody going back to school. Take a look at their school situation. ENTEN: Yes. I mean, their school situation, again, not particularly good. Look at the 15th largest districts, what do we see? New COVID cases, and remember, schools just started last week, nearly over 3,000 new cases among students, over 1,000 among staff, nearly 15,000 right now in quarantine, isolation.

And I should point out this doesn't include Miami-Dade or Broward, the two largest school districts in that state, because they haven't even started school yet.

So, the numbers are bad. And schools just started there. It's most likely going to get worse. And this is just a continuation of what we've spoken about previously, where we're seeing more and more cases, and more and more hospitalizations, among minors, in the State of Florida.

CUOMO: The GOP governors, who are going after masks, how does it work with people?

ENTEN: It doesn't work. Ron DeSantis is one of those governors, right? Just talking about Florida, you talk about Texas, as well with Greg Abbott.

Look at this, in terms of mask mandates, in school, do you support them in your own district? This is a new poll, fresh-out, 69 percent, overall, yes, Republicans at 44 percent less than majority, but that's still a fairly high proportion.

And there's this movement to try and have state laws that prohibit mask mandates on the local level. Look at that. Just 33 percent of Americans support that, just 16 percent of Democrats. Even among Republicans, it's not a runaway winner with just 57 percent.

So, this idea of mask mandates? It's popular. The idea of stopping them? Very unpopular.

CUOMO: Harry Enten, I appreciate you going through the numbers with me. We got to keep an eye on this. We got to see what's happening, and where, because eventually, it will be all of us. The Wiz!

We'll be right back.









CUOMO: I really do believe we're in one of those "What are you about?" moments, in our collective cultural development.

Afghanistan, did we win? Did we lose? Hey, there hasn't been another 9/11 for 20 years. Did you make Afghanistan better? No. But anybody, who told you that we were going to, wasn't telling you the truth.

You can fight about that. But how can you do it, when there's all that desperation on the tarmac, when there are people like Sam, and his family, who gave to this country, who risked, and now sit there waiting, when the world is watching?

What are we about? What do we want to mean to the rest of the world? What will we do?

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" with its big star D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Those are good questions.

And wait till you meet the truck driver, the Afghani truck driver, who now lives here in the United States, and is completely worried about his family, back home, trying to get them, here to the United States.