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Biden Vows Revenge Against ISIS-K For Kabul Attack: "We Will Hunt You Down And Make You Pay"; U.S. Representative Defends Surprise Kabul Trip Amid Evacuation Efforts; Supreme Court Throws Out Biden Administration Eviction Moratorium. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 26, 2021 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Remember them. Imagine being their families. If you know any of them, help them. If any of them are watching, right now, please know we all owe you, for what you and your loved ones gave for the rest of us.

And know this. You are not part of the problem that surrounds this situation. You are the one aspect that all can agree on, and appreciate, as part of the solution, not the problem. So, think of our men and women, who are still there, valiantly carrying on, in a horrible situation.

Here is what the President of the United States said about this shameful tragedy.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These American service members, who gave their lives, it's an overused word, but it's totally appropriate, were heroes.

The lives we lost today were lives given in the service of liberty, the service of security, in the service of others.

To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.

We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.


CUOMO: But how will it be changed to reduce the risk that this happens again?

Now, not since a chopper crash, in 2011, have we seen death, on this scale, of our own, 13 dead, 18 others injured, some very badly. 60 Afghans may have been killed. More than 100 Afghans injured as well. We don't know the real numbers because we don't control the area.

And no, what happened today was not inevitable. The chaos was not inevitable. This did not have to go this way, and only this way.


CUOMO: For instance, why were we using soldiers, Marines, to form a human barrier, at this gate? This clearly was not a smart move. Will it be changed now?

And if you want to assess this, in terms of blame, there is plenty to go around. Biden has not played his hand well. But he got the cards from Trump. And they were bad cards. It was a bad hand.

So, enough, with the blame game, none of you have high ground. The idea that "If the other is worse, you are first," has to end, because it makes nothing better. Look at the instant circumstance. What has been improved by any of the drama and the coverage of the same?

I challenge those, so invested, in saying, who's wrong, to apply their genius, to helping figure out better ways, to get Americans and Allies out of there.

And I want you to see what "Over there" is. Yes, the images you are about to see are disturbing, but better to watch them at home than to be living it moment-by-moment.

This is what ISIS-K did to those desperate to leave.


CUOMO: This is where Americans, now more, than were there, because more was sent in, thousands more, crammed into that tight area, this is what happened hours after our embassy warned Americans to leave the airport area immediately.

The Pentagon says ISIS gunmen also opened fire, on civilians, and military forces. And according to the President, their leadership should expect our response.

Will the threat of being bombed, wherever they're from, in Khorasan, stop more suicide bombings? These are people, who are willing to die, to send a message.

Will Biden's words bring comfort to any of you here, at home? He said he would send more forces to Afghanistan, for the mission, if needed. Is that what we need, to add to the 5,000, now crammed in there?

Military leaders have indicated to him, they want to continue for now, as designed. Completely as designed? You're not going to change, like having your men and women form human barriers that are the precise point, where, someone can blow themselves up?

Now, does that mean finish the job by Tuesday, or ignore what really is an arbitrary deadline? Remember, where did August 31st came from - come from? The Biden administration, where, they had started at, by September 11th, and Trump had said May 1st, and then Biden extended that, then moved it back. It's all arbitrary. And it leaves us with a very simple premise. There can be no endpoint, if Americans or Allies are left to die. Can there be? Does not today prove the urgency? Does not today prove, that the Taliban isn't in control of anything? They can't be trusted as a partner.


The Pentagon approximates around 1,000 Americans may still remain. Who knows how many thousands remain, that helped us? They don't know the numbers. Will stories of them being routed out, and tortured, and killed, if left behind, will that hurt less than today? Will it make it more acceptable, as an outcome?

And how likely is another suicide attack? This was threatened and then executed. What has been done to make it any less likely of happening again?

Let's get to the latest on the ground with our Sam Kiley. Now, he's in Doha, Qatar. And live on the ground, in Kabul, is Najibullah Quraishi, an Afghan investigator - investigative reporter.

Najibullah, Sam, thank you very much.

Najibullah, let me start with you. In terms of what you know about the situation, around the airport, since the attacks, has it changed?

NAJIBULLAH QURAISHI, CORRESPONDENT, PBS' "FRONTLINE": Well, it has been very quiet now, after the first attack, and the second, third, fourth and fifth. Obviously, the fifth one was played (ph) by American with the Taliban spokesman just posted his position, saying this was something American doing inside the airport.

But, at the moment, the city is quiet. The people, who are around the airport, they try to escape somewhere safe. So, at the moment, is everything is calm and quiet.

CUOMO: All right. And what our understanding is, just for you at home, two attacks, and then three controlled explosions, so, different category behavior.

Sam, in terms of things being done differently, because of these attacks, as we were pointing out, earlier, video, I've seen you speaking about that, it was U.S. troops, creating a human wall, in front of people trying to get in.

Any word that that's going to be changed to make things safer?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they were actually doing was searching people.

They were out, beyond the gates, effectively, searching people, before they came in, as the first line of security screening, for a process that then would mean that they would go on, and get screened, as to who they are, the assumption being that they were not carrying any weapons at all. It's very difficult to see how that could be done, if, as was in the past, the Afghan Special Forces are no longer there. And Chris, I've seen them being withdrawn. I've seen some of them, when I was evacuated yesterday.

Some of them were on flights, around about the same time, waiting to be processed themselves, many of them still in uniform, at Doha airport, at the military, at Al Udeid Airport, rather, in the U.S. base there.

So, they were the people, who were doing that initial screening. So, they would have been the people, who would have died, in this explosion, alongside so many of their fellow Afghans. But because they've clearly been withdrawn, it was U.S. Marines doing this. This is a process that has gone on, at the other gate, sporadically.

Have to say, I'm personally surprised that they were, in that environment, out in front of the gate, so soon after the threat warning had gone out, for the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and others, telling their people, to get back, precisely because, there was detailed knowledge, of an active ongoing plot, to attack Afghans, and the gates, in these very, very dense crowds.

And the location that they picked was the densest of the dense crowds, and the most contained, because it was a long line of blast walls that lead, to this crossing point.

So, the point of extreme vulnerability, Chris, but also a point of extraordinary goodwill, from the United States, in stepping forward, those men and women, presumably women, with them, who were out there, searching people, before they could come in and get evacuated.

CUOMO: Right.

KILEY: There's no other way of doing it really.

CUOMO: Najibullah? Is there any more word about concerns, about more attacks?

QURAISHI: Well, there are actually - we were allowed some three days, four days ago, and that's why I raised this question, from the Talibani spokesman, which I - which I met him yesterday, and the day before yesterday.

I brought the subject up. I said, "There are some reports that the ISIS is inside the Taliban. They have noted, and they could have do something." He said "No. The situation is under the control. Anything could be - nothing could be happen."

So, the reality is, according to the sources, I have, around Afghanistan, they are inside that the ISIS is inside. They are the same - they look same, similar. And it is really, really hard for anyone to identify them. It could be more attacks in the next coming days.

[21:10:00] CUOMO: And how are people now, under Taliban control, and understanding what you're saying, which is that the ISIS-K may be in, and among them? How much anxiety is there, among the people, who fear they're going to be left behind, and left to them, Naj?

QURAISHI: Well the reality is the public don't know what we know basically. The public all, they're just listening, what the spokesman, or what the Talib - the Taliban's killing them.

But in Kabul, there is life. There is a little bit crowd, people going here and there. They're OK.

But if you go, for instance, to another provinces, like a friend of mine, came from Mazar-i-Sharif, today, he told me the city is like a dead city. Nobody's in the road. Nobody's in the street, very quiet.

Everybody's afraid. Either the people leave the city, or they came to Kabul. But the entire city, you cannot find few people. There is no more vehicle. So, this is - it belong to all the cities, I mean, all the cities are very quiet.

Kabul is a little bit crowded, mainly because of these people. They wanted to go, wherever they wanted to go, either to U.S. or Europe, and trying to leave the country, as soon as possible.

CUOMO: Right.

QURAISHI: All the hotels, for example, the hotels I'm in, is fully packed, packed of children, women. They all escaped, from that incident, from the airport, and trying to find some safe places.

So, the situation, in Kabul, I think, from today on, because it's still early morning, is going to be quiet again. I'm sure people don't want to be out of their house. They want to be in, as much as they can. So, at the moment, I cannot say anything until daylight.

CUOMO: One way or the other, the threat of the attack, or the attack itself, only makes the mission harder.

Sam, Najibullah, I know it's very early in the morning there. Thank you for being up. Stay safe, you and your teams. And thank you.

QURAISHI: Thank you.

CUOMO: I want you to make sure to catch Najibullah's documentary that airs October 12th, for "FRONTLINE," on PBS. It's going to cover everything happening, on the ground, in Afghanistan.

And again, what we're hearing here that "You know, the Taliban, oh, they hate ISIS. They're going to hate ISIS-K." It's not what he just said. And it's not what other reports are, on the ground.

And there's an understanding that the ISIS-K guys used to be Pakistani Taliban guys. So, are they really enemies? Did they really do things to stop today, or did they do nothing? He doesn't trust the Taliban. But even now, our president is echoing that, and saying, the jam we're in is that we do have to rely, on the Taliban, somewhat. Is that a tenable position?

A member of the Trump-era team that negotiated the Taliban deal is back tonight. Will our shaky alliance hold, to get payback for this attack, or is that just tough talk? Next.









CUOMO: It was just days ago that the President issued this dire warning.


BIDEN: We've made clear to the Taliban that any attack, any attack on our forces, or disruption, of our operations at the airport, will be met with swift and forceful response.


CUOMO: Now, Biden finds himself in a position to carry out that vow of retaliation.

But oddly enough, in this moment, it's not the Taliban that's our target. It's the Taliban's "Sworn enemy," ISIS-K. Why do I put it in quotes? Because I don't know that we know that.

Lisa Curtis, who helped facilitate Trump's Taliban deal, joins me now.

It is good to have you.

The idea that ISIS-K is the sworn enemy of the Taliban, and then we hear from a reporter on the ground that ISIS-K members may be insinuated, into the Taliban, and that it is not as much of an inimical situation, as suggested, what do you think?


ISIS-K is a breakaway from al Qaeda. And in about 2015, they came on the scene, in Afghanistan.

When we talk about the "K," it's Khorasan, Khorasan Province, which actually is an Islamic reference to the region, to Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan. But when they came on the scene, in 2015, they set up shop, in Kunar Province, in Eastern Afghanistan.

Now, U.S. and Afghan forces were able to beat back that base in Eastern Afghanistan. However, ISIS-K remained very capable in Kabul. And they've conducted numerous attacks, against, in particular, the Hazara Shia minority, in Afghanistan.

So, they certainly have different goals than the Taliban. And they are opposed to each other. Now, that's not to say that ISIS-K might draw from Taliban, or Haqqani network elements. And so it's - they confused it--

CUOMO: Explain to people what the Haqqani network is, because many people think that they are the biggest concern in the region.

CURTIS: They are. The Haqqani network is essentially part of the Taliban, yet has its own separate base. They were very established in Eastern Afghanistan, going back into the 1980s.

And when the Taliban took power, in 1994, Jalaluddin Haqqani was actually the Tribal Affairs Minister, in the Taliban government, and basically controlled the Eastern part of Afghanistan.


So, they've always worked hand in glove. It's kind of like a distinction without a difference, when you talk about the Haqqani network, of the Taliban. But the Haqqani network is a very capable terrorist organization. They're responsible for some of the worst terrorist attacks, in Afghanistan, over the last several years.

So again, there could be sharing of networks, of suicide bombers, trainers, financial networks that get all mixed up, between ISIS-K, Haqqani network, and Taiwan.

CUOMO: Is there any reason to believe that the Taliban can control, and create a safer situation, than what we saw in the last 24 hours?

CURTIS: No, I don't think that we should ever think that the Taliban can secure the country. That is not going to happen.

And I think the, at this particular moment, I think the President was right, when he says it's in their interest, for the U.S. to be able to safely evacuate.

They're trying to demonstrate. They've just come to power. They're trying to show their best face to the world, to the international community. They want access to financing. They want diplomatic recognition.

So, the leadership is trying to put on this good face for the world. So, it probably is in their interest that attacks like this would not happen.

But we cannot trust them. They don't have the capability. They don't have the discipline, in their ranks, to be able to prevent this kind of attack. So no, I don't think we should be feeling any safer, moving forward.

And it's just a terrible day for the United States. But I do think that the President gave very strong and resolute remarks, and made clear that we're not going to allow the terrorists, to intimidate us. The U.S. will remain committed to getting American citizens out, getting our Afghan allies out, and will continue the mission.

CUOMO: Lisa Curtis, thank you very much. Appreciate you.

Two U.S. lawmakers are catching a lot of flack. Is it fair? They made an unauthorized trip to Kabul. They're both veterans. They both know the terrain. They both know the country. They both have contacts there. And they went there, they said, in their position, for oversight, over the Executive.

One of them is with us tonight, Congressman Seth Moulton, of Massachusetts. What does he think about the criticism? What does he think about the state of play there? Does he believe that these attacks are going to be repeated? Next.









CUOMO: While U.S. forces are racing, to get as many people, out of Afghanistan, as possible, earlier this week, two U.S. congressmen insisted on getting in.

Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, and his GOP colleague, Peter Meijer, made a surprise trip, to Kabul, on Tuesday, stunned some leaders in Washington, but also, reportedly, military leaders, on the ground, who've been focused on evacuation efforts.

How do they justify the time and the attention? What did they learn, when they were there that made it worthwhile?

Congressman Seth Moulton, again, a veteran, did multiple tours in Iraq, joins me now.

Thank you for doing so.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Thanks, Chris. Good to be here.

CUOMO: First, let's deal with the "We." Then we'll get to the "Me."

In terms of what you saw on the ground, and in light of these attacks, what you believe the future holds, what's your assessment?

MOULTON: Well, Chris, let me just speak for a second at what these amazing Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen were doing, when they were killed.

I was at Abbey gate, where the attack occurred. And they were given a truly Herculean task. It is the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen in my life.

Over four tours in Iraq, I never saw anything like this. Marines out there, sifting through this literal sea of humanity, trying to pluck out our Allies, who trusted us, to get them out of this mess, with their families, their wives, their husbands, their sons, their daughters, that reminded me of my own.

And it wasn't what I expected. It wasn't a gate with Marines, on one side, and Afghans on another, because they couldn't find them that way. So, the Marines had to go forward of our lines, out, yards from the Taliban, with their horsewhips, to find our people, and to give them a ticket, to freedom.

So, they were putting themselves at tremendous risk, and saving thousands, thousands of lives, in the process. It was - it was actually - it was absolutely extraordinary.

And I've seen a lot Chris. I've been through a lot. I've never been more proud to be an American than I was that day, at Abbey gate, seeing what these Marines were doing, for us, for our values, for upholding what America stands for, for these Afghans trying to get to freedom.

So, everybody needs to know that these Marines and sailors died as absolute heroes. And their legacy will be the thousands of Afghans, little girls and little boys, who are alive today, because these U.S. Marines put their lives on the line for them.

CUOMO: What is the hardest thing for you, emotionally, and knowing that while these Marines were willing to do it, that they were put in that position, despite the threat?

MOULTON: This thinking that, as a Member of Congress, I didn't do enough that we didn't fulfill our role to make sure stuff like this doesn't happen.


When I was on the ground, in Iraq, I felt abandoned by our Congress, because I saw countless decisions, made by people, in Washington, who had no idea what it was like, on the ground, had no idea what positions we were being put in, as Marine infantrymen, no idea, the sacrifices that we were being asked to make, because I didn't know what was going on.

And I vowed that I would not be a Member of Congress, who left our troops behind.

CUOMO: Do you think that we have to adjust now, and that you can't have Marines, out there, in front of the lines, so vulnerable to more suicide attacks? Because there's no reason to believe that the same agents of this kind of evil can't do more of this.

MOULTON: One of the most amazing things about these Marines is they want to go out there again, because they know how important this mission is, because they see in the eyes of these Afghans, the lives that they are saving, from certain death. So, they want to keep doing it.

But what we have to come to terms with, as a country, is that we're not going to get everybody out. With the timeline we have, we are not going to get everybody out. That's one of the most important things that I learned on the ground there did--

CUOMO: But why do we have a timeline?

MOULTON: Well, look, Chris, I'm not going to go into the history here. I think you've done a good job.

CUOMO: No. But I'm saying why should we have one at all?

Now that you've been there, and the military leaders tell you the same thing there that they're not going to be done by the 31st, why should the 31st be a real ending?

MOULTON: Well, that's exactly what I thought before I went over there.

But what I heard from the commanders, on the ground, is that because, even if we delayed, till September 11th, which was the original agreement, we're not going to get everybody out in time. And so, we have to have a productive relationship, with the Taliban, going forward.

As bizarre as that sound, we have to have a productive relationship with the Taliban, going forward, if we have any chance of getting the thousands that we leave behind, when we do go, out in the future. And the only way we can do that is if we abide by the agreement that's been negotiated, at this point, which is to leave on August 31st.

It's heartbreaking. But that's the position that we've been in. And that's the position that people in Washington have put our troops in.

CUOMO: So, some of the people, on the committee that you're on, and Nancy Pelosi, are miffed that you went over there.

You didn't tell anybody. You said "We weren't there to grandstand. Nobody knew we were there, until we left." The pushback is "Yes, but then the military on the ground had to protect you guys. And that was reckless of you."

What do you make of the criticism that you shouldn't have been there?

MOULTON: Look, I mean, people - I don't care what people are saying in Washington. What I care about is saving lives.

I care about doing my job, by the Marines, and soldiers, and sailors, and airmen, out there, on the ground, and by the Afghans that we're trying to save. Last--

CUOMO: But did you learn anything, by going there that you didn't know already?

MOULTON: Absolutely. I just went through how I learned, where we have to go, going forward that my opinion on the 31st was totally changed, by my time there.

I learned that all the work that, my colleagues, and I have been doing, in Congress, where we think that we're helping, these troops, by sending names forward, even though we can't get answers, that's actually what's distracting them, from the mission.

Because there's no system in place, to handle these thousands upon thousands of requests, from individuals, all over America, through congressional office, to get Afghan friends that they know.

And that was - that had been my experience. Last week, Chris, I stayed up all night, one night, just trying to get four small families out.

And I was sending hundreds and hundreds of text messages, between the Afghans, and troops I happen to know, on the ground, between their friends, and advocates, in America, just trying to get them to the right place, to hang on.

"I know your kids are practically dying of dehydration. But please stay, stay a little bit longer, because someone really wants to come and help you."

And, at the end of the night, I'd gotten one, one out of the four families out. But when I saw a picture of them, on the base, and I saw, there's this heroic Afghan journalist, his wife, and two little girls, just about the same age as mine, I knew it was worth it.

And if I could get on a plane, to figure out how to save a few more families, then, I'm sorry, Chris, I'm going to do that.

CUOMO: Congressman, I appreciate you coming on, and the candor, about what you saw, on the ground, and what you think of the politics surrounding it, and your recognition of what you believe, is a realistic end, in this mission.

Appreciate you taking the opportunity.

MOULTON: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, let's turn to another veteran. How does the military community feel about staying, or leaving, in Afghanistan, and how it's being done, especially in light of these attacks?


This is a man, who served this country, who's constantly in contact, who's, part of monitoring what has become a "Digital Dunkirk," of veterans, like him, trying to help get people out, and being very frustrated, with the results. Next.








CUOMO: The President today, striking a somber tone, a moment of silence, honoring our heroes killed in Kabul, the reality of which reminds Americans of the sacrifice our troops, and their families, make every single day. We all know the expression. They have to live it. "War is old men talking and young men dying."

Let's check in with a friend to the show, and to me personally, the Founder, of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veteran Paul Rieckhoff.

P.J., what did today mean to you about the reality of this situation?



I feel like today was a, day where I heard from more civilian friends, from people, who don't normally watch the news, who maybe were on vacation, for the last couple of weeks.

Our community has been furious. It's been heartbreaking. It's been agonizing. Today was a gut punch. It was really shattering, for many people.

And I think it's one of the most dark, and tragic days, for the modern military that I can remember. Because we were watching it unfold, it felt like we could feel it coming, and we dreaded that it could come. And today, it came.

And I just want to echo what, my friend Seth, said. This is about those families, right now, and about those heroes. And if we're looking for a way to rally, as a country, we need to rally around those Marines, and that, corpsmen, and their families, and our Afghan friends.

We've also got to continue to demand accountability from the government. That's got to be a part of this.

So, this is a very, very tragic day. And I hope we can find a way, to rally around those families, and force our President, especially, to find the best path forward, out of this mess.

CUOMO: What has to change?

RIECKHOFF: Look, I think the President has got to have a plan. I mean, I think a lot of people are asking him, "What the hell are you doing right now?" It seems like he's talking out both sides of his mouth. "We're out. We're in. We might extend beyond the August 31st deadline. We might not."

I think number one, we got to ensure that every one of our service members is safe. The question is not their integrity, or their heroism, or whether or not they're up to the task.

The question is always the president, whether it's Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or Barack Obama, or George Bush. And too often, the politicians fail. The politicians put us in untenable, dangerous situations, and leave us there.

So, the question now is how long is this going to go on?

CUOMO: Right.

RIECKHOFF: How are you going to keep our people safe? And also, the thing you keep hearing, how are you going to get our people out?

I disagree with Seth. We need to stay there until they're out, get all our Allies out, because that message cascades far beyond Afghanistan. And that's what you're hearing, in a chorus, of bipartisan veterans, military families, and folks on active duty, who can't talk in public.

CUOMO: But look, I mean, I don't have to tell you this. But if we were worried about whether or not we can keep our troops safe, we wouldn't go in any of these situations.

And we haven't even heard yet, whether or not they're going to stop this protocol of having Marines - look, I get - I get Marines. And I get how brave they are. And I get how servicemen and women want to do the job, no matter how dangerous. That's why you guys are the best of us. But that doesn't mean you should be put in that position.

RIECKHOFF: Yes. That's it.

CUOMO: And certainly, we shouldn't see any more footage--

RIECKHOFF: That's it.

CUOMO: --of service members, in the crowd, with no protection, where a suicide bomber can basically walk up, and give him a hug, because we have no guarantee it's not going to happen again.

But Congressman Moulton's point, P.J., to respond to, is this.

You have to get out. You need a deadline. And then just try to make a deal with these bad guys, the Taliban, to allow some type of productive continued exit, because you'll never get people out. And you'll keep getting your guys, and women, hit by suicide bombers, and other threats there, the longer you stay.

RIECKHOFF: Look, I think there's a false choice here that we got to either get out right now, or throw our people into increased danger, exponentially.

I mean, anybody, who watched this footage, over the last couple of weeks knew that our Marines and service members were exposed. This was a terrible, soft target. We had been warning folks in government about this for a long time.

Sometimes, our presidents got to save our military from themselves. They're going to be brave. They're going to do anything you ask them to do.

But we've got to ask President Biden, was this, the right situation to put them in? Was that a risk level that you're accepting and that we should accept? I don't think that was clearly laid out, for the American people, until today.

Now there're going to be hard questions. Now there's increased pressure. And I hope, there's more candor. Because they can't spin how many babies were born on a plane anymore, how many got out today.

Now they've got to address how many Marines have died, and how many of our friends will die, if we pull out, and when.

CUOMO: The problem for them is, if they had an easy, good answer, we would have heard it already.

But P.J. Rieckhoff, Righteous Media, I appreciate you. I appreciate your service. And I appreciate your clear eyes on the situation. I know you're working with all these other veterans.

I referred to the "Digital Dunkirk." If you go online, and you use that hashtag, you'll see the network of concerned veterans that are trying to get people out. It is just a frustratingly and desperate situation.

Be well, brother, and thank you.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Ahead, we're going to turn to someone, who is proof of this desperation and frustration. I introduced you to Ismail. He decided to take upon himself, to leave his family, to try to go to Afghanistan. He couldn't get there.

So now, he's back in Seattle, desperately working, with a group of friends that he's brought together, trying to get people out. And these bombings scared the hell out of him, because his family was waiting in line.

Where are they tonight? What does it mean for getting out? Next.









CUOMO: Amid the chaos, followed by a deadly terror attack, President Biden is maintaining that the U.S. will get our Allies, as well as all Americans, out of Afghanistan.


CUOMO: As you can see in this video, even after the attack, Afghans packed the airport, desperate to get out. They're all being forced into basically a single checkpoint. This wasn't a smart way to do it. It's probably not the best way to do it. But the question is, now, is it the only way to do it?

Our next guest spent six years, alongside U.S. troops, as a translator. He got out. His family is not. They were waiting, at that chokepoint, for days, in the hot sun. And then, Ismail heard about the bombings. And he couldn't reach them. And he had to track them down. And he was terrified.

You may remember his face, because we've had him on. Let's bring him up right now.

And Ismail wants to show us, what he's been doing, out of his apartment. He's conscripted his own friends, to help make phone calls, and try and push paperwork, and deal with the bureaucracy that is the biggest obstacle.

Ish, it's good to see you. I'm - basically, I have mixed feelings about you not making it to Afghanistan. I know you wanted to be there. I know you wanted to be with your family. But I was worried about you.


So, show us what you're doing there. And then, let's talk about what the challenges are.


You can see my friends behind me. It's basically, I turned my house into a Command Center that we have been talking to a lot of folks, in Afghanistan, getting the data, all the information that we get, and we put it in an Excel sheet that I got from Senator Patty Murray that her team send it out to me.

We have been doing that for the last two weeks. We have been sending it to State Department. We have been sending it to Senator Patty Murray now. And I'm kind of stuck in a place that I do not know where the - those form goes, and who is making plans, who are executing, and when those people are going to get out.

CUOMO: All right.

KHAN: I do not hear anything back.

CUOMO: All right, so we'll check. You're saying Senator Patty Murray, right? That's who you've been dealing with?

KHAN: Yes.

CUOMO: All right.

KHAN: Yes.

CUOMO: So, let's just clarify this a little bit for people. So, Ish, you have been taking forms that they gave you, and connecting with people, who want to get out, in Afghanistan, whom you believe are qualified, for the SIV, and getting their information, and then putting in the forms.

So then, there are now two problems. One, where do those forms go? And two, how do the people, even if they qualify, even if the forms are going somewhere, and they're being accepted and approved, how do those people show that, and get to where they have to be, so they can get out?

KHAN: Exactly. And those are the challenges that I've been faced - facing, and trying to find out like, "Hey, where are these form going? Who is execute - like, is there any plan? When those people are going to get out? Is there a safe zone that they go?"

I was chaperoning with Task Force Pineapple, who are volunteers, working on the ground, in Afghanistan. I was chaperoning four families, including mine, to get to that airport.

For 48 hours, those people with kids, they finally made it to that gate. And suddenly, I got the report that there is a bomb threat, everyone needed to get out of there. And it was upset situation that I lost comms with most of the families on the ground. And I couldn't get to them for about two hours.

I've been up for last 48 hours. Most of those kids, who were out there, for two days, to make - were hoping to make it to the inside the work (ph). Most of them are in the hospital, dehydrated, and struggling, and they couldn't make it.

CUOMO: Have you been able to help anybody get through the barrier yet?

KHAN: There were - so Task Force was - are able to take out 500 people, inside the work (ph), last night. So, it is a huge success for them. But most of the people are still left behind. And we are trying everything that we can to put families in.

CUOMO: Where's your family now? And what are their prospects? What are their chances for getting out?

KHAN: Their chances are about zero. The chaos that you see in the Kabul airport, there shouldn't - there should be a safe way for them, like it's a chaos, look, like they spent 48 hours, to get to that gate. And they were so close. They were so close. They were about 10 meters away, from the gate, and they couldn't make it.

CUOMO: Do you believe, or do they believe that the Taliban, after the Americans leave, will allow there to be an exit for them?

KHAN: Negative. I do not believe. There won't be any exit.

Talibans are still stopping people. They're beating them. They've put checkpoints. They are stopping people from going to the airport. And when people make it somehow, then there is no entrance way, so they can make it to the airport.

So, the people are basically dealing with two different - or two different governments. Talibans are not letting them in, and so does the U.S. government. When they get - when they make it to those gates, it's almost impossible to go through.

CUOMO: Ismail, I promised you that we would stay on your story. And that promise is going to be kept, until the end. So, as you get information, you know how to pass it along. We've been texting all along. And I'm here for you, OK?

KHAN: Thank you. Thank you so much, Chris. I really appreciate your help.

CUOMO: Ismail Khan, you're the one who's helping.

KHAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: And I know your family appreciates it, and many others. Be well, stay safe.

We'll be right back.

KHAN: Thank you.



(END VIDEO CLIP) [21:55:00]





CUOMO: CNN will be staying, on Afghanistan coverage, throughout the night.

But there is another story, breaking on our watch. The Supreme Court, this evening, just ruled to block the Biden administration's eviction moratorium, during this COVID pandemic.

The unsigned opinion, by the court, says, "If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it."

Now remember, the court already effectively blocked this ban once. Biden decided to test it. He lost. This was an extension that we were talking about.

Keep in mind, the President admitted this month that most constitutional scholars didn't see him winning, though the liberals on the court dissented, and sided with the White House.

But this isn't just about the law. It's about the practicalities. The Conservative sway on this court is well-known.

Think about the millions of people, in this country, who now have to worry about what's next, on a night, when the entire nation, also wonders, what's next for our troops, overseas. That's the state of play.

Thank you for watching. We'll be back live, tonight, Midnight Eastern, for continuing coverage, of the Kabul terror attack.

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

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: No way else to put it. Sad day! Awful day! Awful! Awful! Awful!

CUOMO: Yes, it doesn't get much worse. We haven't seen anything like this, in 10 years.

LEMON: It's a helicopter crash.

CUOMO: And we have not been told what will make it any safer.