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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
"L.A. Times" Report Taliban Beat People To Control Crowd Near Airport; Evacuations From Kabul Airport Continue As Thousands Try To Flee Taliban; Interview With Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO); Texas Gov. Abbott Tests Positive For Covid-19 As Hospitalizations Spike In His State; Biden Expected To Address Need For Covid Booster Shots And Share First U.S. Data On Waning Immunity; "Restrepo" Filmmaker Sebastian Junger On War's End; Haiti Earthquake Death Toll Climbs To 1,941. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 17, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Vaccinations are essential, but even those who are vaccinated can get long COVID and precautions are still necessary.
Thanks for joining us. "AC360" starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. A lot happening tonight including a look ahead at President Biden's planned announcement tomorrow on COVID booster shots for most vaccinated Americans.
We begin though with Afghanistan. We learned late today that the President spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the situation there including the safe evacuation of Westerners and Afghan nationals. To that end, another thousand troops have landed in Kabul since we left you last night with another 2,000 or so on the way.
According to the White House 100 to 800 Americans, Afghans, and other foreign nationals managed to leave the country today. That said, the goal is more like 5,000 a day; however, just getting to the airport may be difficult or impossible for many. These next photos explain why, but we have to warn you first, are very tough to see. If you have children in the room, you might want to have them turn away now.
These photos were taken by "Los Angeles Times" photographer and foreign correspondent named Marcus Yam on a road near the airport packed with people trying to leave. You can see an injured child there on the right. His head bloodied apparently unconscious in a man's arms lying on the pavement, a woman also bloodied, also with injuries to her head. He says, Taliban fighters use whips and sticks and sharp objects and gunfire on the crowd and says at least half a dozen people were wounded while he was there.
And we should point out that Mr. Yam does not know why the Taliban fired into the crowd and we don't know how badly they were injured.
Jake Sullivan, the President's national security adviser was asked about such reports. He said, they are taking it up and talks through a channel with the Taliban. Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby was also asked about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do those discussions with the Taliban include talk about allowing Americans or Afghans through some of these Taliban checkpoints or even potentially expanding the perimeter around the airport so more people can get there safely? That's one of the things that we're hearing is that people can't get through these Taliban checkpoints and they can't even get to the airport to leave.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, again, without going into the details of communications of which I'm not a part. As I said, there is -- there is -- there are interactions down at the local level. And as the General said, we are processing American citizens to get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, he did not get any more specific than that saying only, quote, "The results are speaking for themselves," unquote.
As for Taliban promises today of amnesty for their one-time opponents and commitments to protecting women's rights under their version of Islam, the National Security Adviser had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Like I've said all along, this is not about trust, this is about verify, and we'll see what the Taliban end up doing in the days and weeks ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we also got another grim reminder today of the desperation to leave the country, not only were people clinging to departing transport jets, the Air Force today said that human remains were found in a wheel well of one of the C-17s on arrival from a flight out of Kabul.
There was also of course another round of finger pointing today, some of it partisan, some of it not on what a mess the pullout has become, but we want to keep the focus right now on what matters most right now, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
Clarissa Ward is in Kabul for us tonight. So, just how quickly have things been changing now that Kabul is under Taliban control?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is surreal, Anderson. Within a couple of days, normal life is sort of starting to creep back in.
The Taliban announced yesterday that government workers can return to their positions. We saw traffic policemen for the first time in days guiding traffic on the streets today. But you know, what we really wanted to get at in our reporting today was this idea of people who weren't out on the streets, people who were too frightened to get out there and to show their faces, and that you have to look a little harder for Take a look.
WARD (voice over): At the Central Kabul market today, stores were open and people were back on the streets, or at least some people. It was impossible not to notice that women here seem to have largely melted away.
One store was doing better business than usual.
For more than a decade, Muhammad has been selling burqas, the head to toe covering once imposed by the Taliban. "Business was good, but now it's even better," he tells us. "More sales."
WARD (on camera): Why do you think you're selling more burqas right now? "Because the Taliban took over and all the women are afraid," he says. "So that's why they're all coming in and buying burqas."
WARD (on camera): Do you feel abandoned?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.
WARD (voice over): In an apartment downtown, we saw that fear firsthand. Until last week, Fazila (ph) was working for the U.N. That's not her real name, and she asked we not show her face. She is petrified that the Taliban will link her to Western organizations and says she hasn't gone outside since they arrived in Kabul.
WARD (on camera): You look very frightened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. Too much stress. It is not easy for a person to work a lot with international organization having more than 10 years' experience of working with international and now, no one of them helped me, just sending e-mails to different organizations that I've worked with you, but now, no response.
WARD: Are you angry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not angry, but as a person that have worked with them, now, I need their support. It is not fair.
WARD: You look very emotional as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because I'm thinking about my future, my daughters. What will happen to them if they kill me, two daughters with beat up mother?
WARD (voice over): The Taliban says they have learned from history and that women's rights will be protected. But many fearful Afghan women remain to be persuaded.
WARD (on camera): We're on our way down to the home of a prominent female Afghan politician. She has told me that there are Taliban fighters outside her front door. So, she has asked that I go in alone. WARD (voice over): Fawzia Koofi was one of the Afghan government
negotiators during peace talks with the Taliban and has dealt with the group a lot. She says that promising change is not enough.
FAWZIA KOOFI, AFGHAN POLITICIAN: They have to really prove it in the provinces across Afghanistan. They have to show it by example. It's very easy to issue statements, but people need to see that in practice.
WARD (voice over): Koofi has every reason not to trust. Last year, she was shot by unknown gunmen, the Taliban denied they were behind the attack.
WARD (on camera): You have children?
KOOFI: I have two daughters.
WARD: And are they here?
KOOFI: They are in Kabul.
WARD: And are you concerned for them? Or --
KOOFI: I am concerned for my daughters and all the girls of Afghanistan. I don't want history to repeat itself on them very brutally.
WARD (voice over): Twenty years of progress for women in Afghanistan now hangs by a thread.
COOPER: Just logistically, if somebody -- you know, some of the people you interviewed who some of them may have contacts, some of them may already be approved for a visa or be in the process, can anyone get -- can somebody get to the airport, if that -- one of those women wanted to try to leave? Could she actually get to the airport?
WARD: You can get to the airport, but it's incredibly difficult. And our colleague Nick Paton Walsh, just did it today. He tried yesterday, he tried again, today, managed it, but it's insanity. It's pandemonium there.
They say the situation is better, it's calmer than before, which I think gives you a sense of just how terrible the situation was before, but it is still incredibly dangerous, incredibly difficult, choked full of cars, angry crowds, then you had people who are just kind of malingering, and taking advantage of the chaos and pickpocketing and you know, this kind of rapid criminal activity on top of everything else.
So yes, for an ordinary Afghan woman with small children, is that a road that you're willing to try to navigate at the moment? Yes, potentially, if you believe that the alternative is a very real threat to your life. But that's not an easy decision to make. And I should just add, Anderson said that for most people, they'd be
ready to take that airport road and try their chances and push through checkpoints and get beaten by the Taliban. Their problem is getting the paperwork together.
Their problem is, as you heard Fazila (ph), as we called her, say in the piece, that these international organizations who are so overwhelmed by Afghan employees desperately appealing for help at the moment, or not even answering their calls or their e-mails, and that's why they feel that they've been abandoned.
COOPER: I want to play something the U.S. -- the Pentagon Press Secretary, John Kirby this morning. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: I just wanted to ask you, because obviously, I'm the one who is here on the ground talking to Afghans every day, who worked with the U.S. military, who worked with the U.S. Embassy, who worked with American NGOs or journalistic organizations. I'm the one who has to look them in the eye. Can I offer them your assurance that everyone who has worked with American organizations will be got out of this country safely?
KIRBY: I would ask you to tell them that there is a process that they can apply for through the State Department to get onto the list and get on to the manifest. I can assure them and you can assure them on our behalf that we, in The Pentagon, we'll do everything we can to help get them out of the country over the next couple of weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, it's been more than 12 hours since you asked that question there. You've been talking to people in Kabul. I mean, have Afghans been able to do that? I mean, they talk about this process to get on the list. Does that require an internet hookup? How would you -- what is this?
WARD: It's not just an internet hookup, it requires letters of recommendation. It requires security checks. It can take years to get through that bureaucracy. And I know plenty of people who have been calling me -- my phone has been burning up, Anderson, for the last couple of days. And they tell me, oh, my SIV application was rejected because of some discrepancy about this or that or they didn't receive this or whatever, a myriad of different reasons that you can get for an online forum being suddenly rejected.
How do I restart the form? What's the next step? Where do I go to? How do I reach this person to get my recommendation letter? Even though I did have a recommendation letter, I still didn't get approval. And so what do you tell these people? Where are they supposed to go now?
They have no recourse, Anderson, and they thought that they had longer to prepare for this moment. They didn't realize that within a matter of hours, their lives would be turned upside down and within a matter of weeks, the U.S. would essentially have washed their hands of this.
COOPER: Yes, Clarissa Ward in Kabul. Thank you. Be careful.
Now, the "LA Times" photographer whose photos we showed you at the top of the program, we will be showing them again in the course of the conversation. So again, a warning, they are graphic.
I spoke with Marcus Yam just before airtime.
COOPER: The photographs you took, these are people who are trying -- are they trying to get to the airport, and they're being stopped by the Taliban?
MARCUS YAM, "LOS ANGELES TIMES" PHOTOGRAPHER AND FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): So, these are people basically who are waiting outside the airport, you know, there are thousands of Afghanistan people essentially lingering contact the airport, waiting for an opportunity or waiting to hear about, you know, an opportunity basically, trying their chance to try to get into the airport.
Some actually, you know, have kids and most that I talk to don't, and they are just waiting, because I think a lot of them read on Facebook that the Americans were picking Afghans and then taking them out of the country. So, they did just want it to try their luck.
And this was on the road on the side of the airport, outside the airport, when this was going on. So, the Taliban basically were in crowd control. I've watched several Taliban fighters walk around with sticks with rubber hoses. They've even used the butt of their rifles to hit people and chase them around and just basically shoot everybody. They just wanted everybody off the streets.
And in Afghanistan, that's really hard, because you know, practically, they are a little different here. People just jay walking in masses, basically, right? And everybody is trying to get on to the airport side of the road to see what's going on and crowd around the fence. And that's what the Taliban fighters are trying to get people to not do.
COOPER: It's pretty -- I mean, it's obviously ominous given the Taliban's history and what we know about them and their ideology that they feel so emboldened to just beat people on the streets and leave them there. There's nothing -- I mean, there's no -- there's no recourse anybody has. The Taliban can do whatever they want.
YAM: I mean, from all the stuff that I'm hearing and monitoring, they have law and order, peace and security. I mean, they say they're a different regime now. But what I saw was completely different. I mean, it was really pretty violent scenes. The violence was indiscriminate.
I mean, like, you know, it seemed like, they were just doing whatever they wanted.
I even watched one Taliban fighter after firing some shots, you know, in the general direction of the crowd smiling at another Taliban one fighter as if though it was a game for them or something, and it was just shocking to watch, like, people get wounded and especially that woman and child.
I -- you know, I heard shots and I was actually in the middle of an interview on the other side of the street when I just heard like, repetitive shots, and I was curious, and I just ran towards it. And I could see, like, you know, I could see her on the other side slumped over and there was a kind of like, you know, several men tried to, like, get her out and carry her over towards me on the other side of the road.
COOPER: The difference between what it was a couple of days ago before the Taliban arrived and what it is right now, what does it tell you about what's going to happen down the road?
YAM: You know, I'm fearful for the Afghan people. I mean, you know, to have -- you know, because if this is -- yesterday was a pretty crazy day, in terms of -- in terms of intensity, and you know, in terms of despair and also desperation, right? And today's crowd at the airport were a lot more calmer. Everybody seemed a lot more tired.
They were also resigned to maybe not leaving, but they just wanted to hang on for hope of maybe exiting the country.
YAM: So, with that said, you know, to see so much indiscriminate violence, it doesn't bode very well and I'm really, really, really, really worried.
COOPER: Marcus Yam, please be careful. It's extraordinarily brave what you're doing and I appreciate it and I appreciate you talking to us. Thank you.
YAM: Thank you for having me on. Appreciate it.
COOPER: Marcus Yam and Clarissa Ward and all other reporters in their teams in the country risking their lives.
Much more ahead on this, next, including the President cutting short his stay at Camp David heading back to the White House to handle the crisis as the administration also tries to do damage control.
And later, there is breaking news on the chief executive of one of the hardest hit states for COVID. Texas Governor Greg Abbott now himself infected with the virus. That, and the latest on booster shots and how soon COVID immunity might fade for the vaccinated.
COOPER: I kind of laid out the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, especially the signs already that there's nothing especially new or enlightened about this version of the Taliban. We want to focus on how the White House is responding to it, whether it's with crisis management or attempts at damage control.
President Biden we've learned is returning shortly to the White House from Camp David and earlier today spoke by phone for the first time since the crisis began with a foreign allied leader, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Our Kaitlan Collins joins us now with more.
So, President Biden coming back earlier than planned, what's the latest we know about his handling of all this?
Well, they're still defending the exit, but they are coming under increasing scrutiny tonight, Anderson, about how this exit went down, and that's not just from their critics, it is from Democratic lawmakers as well, who are typically their allies.
And so right now, they are focusing on how this departure is still underway, and they are saying that is their primary mission, it is making sure they get everyone out of there safely, given the conditions on the ground that you just saw from Clarissa.
And we did just get an update from the White House. They say today that they did evacuate 1,100 U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents and their families on 13 flights. They believe now that they've established that flow, they've got flights actually leaving the airport after being temporarily suspended. That is only going to go up from there, Anderson.
And so I think this is a critical role that the White House is playing right now in trying to make sure that they patch up a lot of the fallout that has happened, given the way that this takeover by the Taliban happened and just how quickly it surprised the White House.
So, they are trying to ramp this up, though, of course, we should note there are thousands more to go because the estimates of how many Americans are still there have ranged from 5,000 today from The Pentagon to potentially 15,000 based on what the White House is telling lawmakers, and so that remains to be seen how this is going to go, how quickly it's going to go. But we know they are trying to move quickly ahead of what they believe they have right now, an August 31st deadline.
COOPER: So, that they have an August 31st deadline, that's what they're saying. Is that just for American citizens? What about for the Afghans who have been working with the U.S.? Same -- that's the cut off?
COLLINS: So far, that has been their agreement that they had had of when they were going to have complete everything drawn down done completely with Afghanistan. This is something the White House was pressed repeatedly on today, which is would you continue can consider sliding that deadline. If you don't have everyone out by then, given how many people there are to evacuate, not just Americans, but these endangered Afghans as well.
And given the issues we're seeing that people are having getting to the airport, they're scared to go to the airport. They just have now secure the airport. And so those are big questions that are still facing the White House.
But they're also facing questions, Anderson about how this went down in the first place. And Jake Sullivan, the National Security adviser did tell us today they will be conducting a review of the U.S.'s role in how this was handled, the weak spots that they had. He said it's not a what-went-wrong review, but they are going to be looking at essentially what went wrong and the holes that he says essentially need to be filled.
They have committed to sharing that, so that will be something that not just we are looking at, but Democratic lawmakers, including the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who say they want to know what went wrong, and how they are going to address these shortcomings.
COOPER: And what about -- what is the President saying to U.S. allies -- do we know -- about the chaos in Kabul? Obviously, many allied countries have been trying to evacuate their own personnel as well. And, you know, didn't think it would be like this.
COLLINS: And that's what makes it so interesting that it wasn't until this afternoon that he had his first phone call with an ally, someone who of course, is involved in this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He had not spoken to a world leader since Kabul fell on Sunday.
Obviously, the President has been busy, so as his team. They have been speaking to their foreign counterparts, but world leaders do typically talk to each other pretty quickly when something this grave in nature has happened, and so they did speak today.
According to the readout that we got from Downing Street, it was notable because Prime Minister Johnson said that he wanted to make sure the gains that he believes the world, the Western world has made in the last two decades in Afghanistan are not erased by the last few days and the chaos and deteriorating situation that you've seen take place.
And so, we expect more conversations with other world leaders, but it is notable that it took this long for the President and another ally to speak.
COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan Collins, I appreciate it.
Joining us now Colorado Democratic Congressman Jason Crow, former Army Ranger in Afghanistan and a combat vet. Congressman Crow, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
First of all, just as a veteran, I'm wondering -- of Afghanistan -- what's going through your mind about what is happening there right now?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Hi, Anderson. Thanks for having me on. I'm still processing the events of the last five days to be honest with you. I have been so focused on the mission that we have on hand and that is to save American citizen and our Afghan partners and allies. I've been receiving hundreds of e-mails, texts calls. In fact, just a
few minutes before coming on here live video from the line of people trying to get into the airport in Kabul. It is, of course, a disaster that continues to unfold. It had been heartbreaking.
CROW: My message, though to veterans is that all my fellow veterans should be very proud of their service. You know, there's this reaction that a lot of veterans are going through right now questioning the nature of their service, trying to conflate what it means and associating their service with the politics and the policy of this war. Don't do that.
You know, my fellow veterans stood up, raised their right hand, and answered the call of service that this country put out after 9/11, and you should all be extremely proud of that because I am proud of you as well.
We will debate the politics and policy of this for years to come.
COOPER: What -- do you understand -- I mean, how is the U.S. going to live up to the promises that were made to Afghans, interpreters, others who have been working for the U.S. for so long? I mean, it seems like there's a whole bunch of people who can't even get to the airport. Secondly, who are sort of just still in this process, which is a bureaucratic process, understandably, there have to be checks, and there have to be background checks and references and stuff. But it doesn't seem like this is the time when that can actually really take place.
CROW: Yes, Anderson, you know, the Taliban respect Allah, and United States has him. Now, granted, they control the government now, but we have the power and the capability to combat power and the troops and the resources to actually accomplish this mission. But we have to have the will to do it and we have to make the commitment to do it.
That's why these arbitrary deadlines of August 31st, I don't believe in that. I think we should say we will do this until it's done. We will accomplish this mission because we have the resources to do it.
The Taliban have never defeated us on the field of battle, and they know that. They might have won the long term battle here, but that's different from the ability to take us on face-to-face. We have the ability to make sure we secure that airport, that we open up lines of communication, lines of movement to that airport, establish safe zones, and do it as long as we need to, to get everybody out.
We have the ability and capability to do it, we just have to do it. That's why I've been calling on administration to make that commitment.
COOPER: The other thing is, I mean, how long -- I guess, you could -- there are different sides of this. The Taliban could be motivated to allow the U.S. to evacuate the Afghans it hopes to evacuate because they may want foreign aid in the future, or foreign relations in the future.
The flip side of that is, do they really want, you know, educated Afghans leaving the country because, you know, somebody has got to make everything run.
CROW: Yes, I'm not really concerned about what the Taliban want. I think I could care less at this point. This is what we need to do.
We have an obligation, a moral one. We have a national security obligation. We have an obligation to provide the same level of security and commitment to our Afghan partners that they have provided to us over the last 20 years. But we also have the resources and capability to follow through on that commitment over the next couple of weeks.
So, I think we say what we're going to do. And you know, we work with the Taliban to the extent that we can are able to, but you know, they understand that we have a mission that we have to accomplish, and that we have the ability and resources to accomplish that, and I think if we show that power and will, I would be surprised if they tried to prevent us from doing so.
COOPER: I want to warn our viewers about some disturbing photos and we've shown them earlier. If you have kids, you may want to send them out of the room for a bit.
They are taken by a "Los Angeles Times" journalist in Kabul, showing what he says are Taliban using gunfire, whips, sticks, sharp objects against Afghans waiting outside the airport in the airport road, trying to get to the airport or kind of milling around.
How -- I mean, to see these images, it gives you a sense of the -- you know, the freedom the Taliban certainly feels to do whatever they want to people, to beat people to, you know, I should -- I don't know if this lady was shot, I believe the photographer said she was shot, she survived according -- as far as he knew, a child was hit as well.
I mean, this is what they're doing now, as they're trying to establish control. There's no telling what they will do. And it's pretty clear what we know from the past of what they'll do when they do establish control.
CROW: Yes, that's right. I mean, I know the Taliban well. I fought them during both my combat tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. They obviously are extremely brutal, immoral group of folks. That's why we have to make sure we're doing what's necessary.
Flow of the troops and the combat power and the resources in, take total control of that airport.
Extend the security perimeter beyond the airport, establish some corridors to allow safe passage and make sure we're transporting American citizens first and foremost, but also our Afghan partners and allies and get them out. I mean, we have tens of thousands of folks that we need to get out. It's not going to happen overnight. But we have to make the commitment to do that. And I don't think we set a calendar deadline. I think we do it as long as we need to do it to get it done.
COOPER: You said, establish corridors, though. But I mean, if you're unless you are in control of the city itself, doesn't the Taliban control who gets access to those corridors?
CROW: Well, I mean, you have to establish lines of communication and open up some roads and the extent to which we do that the extent to which we forbid we expand those out to the city, how far we expand those out, obviously, is going to be a consequence of the security situation and how many troops we have on the ground. I'm not saying this is easy, right? I'm saying that we have to do it.
But I know the operational challenge. I know the (INAUDIBLE) of doing this, I know how dangerous and complicated it is. And, you know, I'm certainly very upset that we're in this position, because we actually didn't need to be in this position at the administration started the evacuation back in April and I and others prefer to call for, we could have had most of these folks out. And this would be a very different situation.
CROW: But that's not going to help us now. What we need to do is be singularly focused on the mission of getting folks out, we have the ability to do it. I don't think 5,000, 6,000 troops is going to do the job, I think we're going to have to send in some more as well, some additional assets, to make sure we're extending that perimeter out now.
CROW: It also opened up some (INAUDIBLE). I just got a video actually five minutes before coming on here, sent by a friend of mine of the line, trying to get into the airport in gunfire and the chaos and the Taliban checkpoints. And then the things that you described until pictures of can't allow that to happen. We have to extend that perimeter out. I don't put up some mechanism for folks to get to the airport.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Jason Crow, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
CROW: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead, the governor of Texas has fought mask mandates for his states. The follow up from that decision for him, next.
COOPER: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for COVID according to a statement from his office, he is vaccinated, has no symptoms and is receiving Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment. The Governor's banned mask and vaccine mandates in his state as you probably know. This was him last night at a Republican fundraiser the original video was posted by his campaign on his Twitter feed. It shows him maskless and posing for pictures of the attendees who are also maskless.
Hospitalizations as you know in Texas are spiking. Houston's mayor says that hospitalizations at Texas Medical Center the highest since July of last year.
On Monday, Texas officials told CNN they'd requested five mortuary trailers quote, in case they need them. This follows separate breaking news according to sources, the TSA plans to extend the federal mask mandate for places like airports and train through at least January 18th. It's scheduled to expire next month.
All of this as we mentioned, as President Biden tomorrow is expected to speak for the White House on booster shots for most Americans. And as the CDC reports today, that the Delta variant now accounts for nearly 99% of all new cases.
Want to get perspective now former chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director for the vaccine -- the Center for Vaccine Development at Houston's Texas Children's Hospital and author of Preventing The Next Pandemic Vaccine Diplomacy In A Time Of Anti Science.
So, Dr. Hotez, Texas leads a nation with the most children hospitalized for COVID. Your reaction to the governor testing positive?
PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I certainly hope he does OK. I understand right now he has no symptoms and, and wish him and his family all the best. And as we say, in Yiddish, he should live to be 120. So I hope he does well.
But you know, it is really concerning what's going on here in Texas right now the level of transmission is just screaming, I just didn't think we would get to this level, the highest that we've seen since the summer of last year, which was so horrible. And it's not just cases, Anderson, its hospitalizations, and a lot of young people. By some accounts, the median age in our Texas Medical Center, is there are people in their 30s and 40s. And that really worries me, it upsets me.
And as you reported, a lot of kids now are getting sick. And here's the really bad news, school hasn't even started yet. So, we are opening schools across Texas, many without masks. And I don't see how those numbers don't just keep climbing in terms of young people in adolescence and kids.
COOPER: Sanjay, we learned today that the governor is tested every day for the virus, most people, you know, aren't tested weekly, or even monthly for that matter. This Regeneron that he's taking, is that something that that most people would be treated with? SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, where to begin here Anderson. I mean, first of all, I wish the governor does well as Peter was, was saying. So you have a situation here where the governor is railing against masks, but he himself we learned doesn't -- is not wearing a mask in that setting, even though he should have been is getting tested on a daily basis instead of wearing a mask and then goes and gets Regeneron while he's asymptomatic after having been vaccinated. It's really there's not a lot of logic here, instead of wearing a mask, daily testing $1,500 worth of antibodies and still not wearing a mask after that. I'm not quite sure what the message is here.
What the CDC says to your question specifically is if you've been vaccinated, you have a known exposure, you should get tested within three to five days after that exposure, and wear a mask for 14 days or until you test negative.
But this is a situation that we're hearing over and over again, we're having this in Florida as well. We're not going to talk about masks. But instead we're going to advocate for these very expensive, effective but very expensive, monoclonal antibody treatments. So , hat's a situation that's unfolding with the governor. It sounds like again, no mask, but daily testing Regeneron all of that.
COOPER: The hypocritical thing about it too, is you know, he's preaching no mask, and he's, you know, he's not wearing a mask, were in that room full of people. I'm not sure if they are aware that he's being tested daily, and also then has access to Regeneron even though he's asymptomatic.
I don't know how many people in that room have the ability to be tested daily or have access to, to that sort of treatment. But it does seem like it's clearly he doesn't want to be seen wearing a mask because of the, you know, the rhetoric he's been using and yet he has all this backup that, you know, we didn't know about before.
GUPTA: Right? I mean, that's exactly I mean, look, this is going to sound familiar, right? I mean, this happened with President Trump as well. No masks, but getting regularly tested and then having access to all these sorts of treatments, which is great.
Like Dr. Hotez said you these treatments exist, maybe they will provide him benefit. I'm not sure there's a lot of data on using Regeneron in a vaccinated person who's also asymptomatic. But regardless, it can potentially be an effective treatment.
What is befuddling I think is, you know, $1 mask is not being advocated for instead daily testing and $1,500 antibody treatments, that can't be the way this goes. Most people do not have access to that, it defies what the CDC's guidelines are and that's -- you've gotten a glimpse now into what exactly is happening.
COOPER: Yes, I mean Dr. Hotez to be, you know telling people not to wear masks or you know, promoting not having a mask mandate not encouraging people to wear masks. And yet they don't have access to the same kind of stuff that this guy does.
So, just moving on from that the fact that the TSA is expanding his mask mandate until January 18th. Not much of a surprise given it accomplices the holiday travel season. Do you think once the vaccines received full FDA approval, there could be vaccine mandates travel as well, Doctor?
HOTEZ: You know, I would certainly hope so. Again, you know, when you have this level of transmission, especially here in the south, I mean, we're right now in Texas, we're averaging about 14,000 new cases a day, you know, what are our two best tools, our two best tools or vaccines, number one, and masks are right up there.
So, you know, we have to use every tool at our disposal when you've got a virus agent. That's this transmissible. And not just focus on the airlines and the businesses. Look what's going to be happening with schools right now, we're already hearing about schools opening and shuttering because of so many breakthrough COVID cases.
And again, with this level of virus accelerating, we haven't even begun to do what's really needed. I mean, the truth is Anderson, as schools start to open, so here in Houston Independent School District, we're opening August 23rd, next week, if you're really serious about protecting the kids, that means every person who goes into that school has to have a mask, maybe possible exception, some of the special needs kids who can't do that. And everybody over the age of 12 has to be vaccinated. That's the only way otherwise the whole thing is going to fall apart. And you know what? I can prove it. It's already starting to happen.
COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, I know you spoke with a senior federal health official today about tomorrow's White House announcement about booster shots. What do you learn?
GUPTA: I learned that, you know, this is not a slam dunk. I mean, there's a lot of back and forth here. You know, you've heard just last week from the CDC that the data that they were talking about last week, and I talked to some of these officials myself last week, the data here in the United States looked good in the sense that the vaccines were working well. And there wasn't discussion or a plan for boosters, just last week out of the CDC.
What they say tomorrow, this announcement, Anderson is that there will be more data presented, some of it U.S. based data, not just data from either Israel or the UK, and they say it's going to make the case that there is evidence of the vaccine effectiveness waning people becoming seriously ill despite having been vaccinated.
So far as you know, the vaccine has been very protective against hospitalizations and death. They say that there they are going to present some evidence to make the case that boosters are necessary about eight months after someone's been initially vaccinated.
COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, Dr. Peter Hotez, appreciate it. Thanks.
Still to come, More on the breaking news out of Afghanistan, filmmaker and journalist Sebastian Junger joins me to talk about the veterans the Afghan war, his chronicle for more than a decade and how they're reacting to how the Afghanistan War ended.
COOPER: Matt Zeller is in Afghanistan veteran. He's worked to help get Afghan allies out of the country and tell CNN his frustration about the end of the war, saying, quote, all the friends I lost in Afghanistan, what were their deaths for or were their sacrifice for if this was the end state. Hundreds of thousands were deployed there over two decades, their sacrifices, perhaps the most memorably recorded in the 2010 documentary "Restrepo" who spent one year with one battalion in an isolated outpost in Afghanistan.
Want to show you a clip and then spend some time with one of the co- directors Sebastian Junger. It's intense and violent, but we want you to see it to understand the motion so that so many are now experiencing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up, get up sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to get up. We got to (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Extraordinary look at the war in Afghanistan. We're joined now by journalist and filmmaker Sebastian Junger, who along with Tim Hetherington shot, directed and produced the award winning film "Restrepo." He's also the author of the book, Freedom.
Sebastian, thanks so much for joining us. But as someone who spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, how do you -- when you look at the images of what's happening, when you see what's happening on the ground, what do you think?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, JOURNALIST: You know, I think it must be very confusing for soldiers and veterans is like it is for journalists who have worked over there. I mean, you establish relations with Afghans and some feeling for that country. And it's very confusing. I think it's hard. It would be hard to generalize about veterans and soldiers. I think some are like, you know, it's gone on long enough, no one else would die over there. The Afghans aren't appreciating us, you know, whatever type of leave. There's a lot of that. But then there's a lot of what was it all for.
I think there are some tentative answers about what it was all for. But it's many of them -- those answers, I'm not sure well, emotionally satisfied people that have, you know, suffered in combat.
COOPER: The, you know, the Marines who, in Helmand Province were fighting, you know, in so long there. And so, I mean, it was so tough. And that notion of trying to get Afghans off the fence and try to convince them that U.S. was there for the long haul, which the U.S. was longer than just about anybody else has been there. It really was nation building, even though the U.S. wasn't saying it was nation building.
JUNGER: Well, yes, and I think there was some pretty clear logic to that. Right. I mean, al-Qaeda formed a base in Afghanistan, because it was a failed state. And they did not have extradition treaties with other countries, international terror groups could form they're basically in safety. So the idea was if you rebuild Afghanistan, so that it can be part of the community of nations, that can't happen again.
The problem is that we really went about it wrong. We left 15,000 troops there after we defeated the Taliban. A drop in the bucket. Right. We completely ignored the corruption that was endemic in the in the government that we formed. And, you know, it was just a government that was not worth fighting and dying for and the Afghan soldiers clearly felt that way. Because they basically did not fight the Taliban in this last surge, that wound up with the Taliban in Kabul.
COOPER: Were you surprise it, the speed with which things, things fell apart?
JUNGER: No, I mean, I was there in 1996 when the Taliban took over initially and you know, I was in Jalalabad, and I was staying at the one hotel in town, the Spinghar and, you know, the Taliban delegation was across the breakfast room, sort of glaring at me suspiciously and they were negotiating the handover of Jalalabad, there wasn't any fighting and it happened very quickly.
And so, you know, the Taliban didn't fight their way across Afghanistan, except for a few locations like it was all negotiated. And this -- the Afghan soldiers who weren't supplied with ammunition or even food or salaries, because all that stuff was getting stolen by commanders. You know, they were told by the Taliban, look, if you give up, we won't kill you. And so of course, they did. Like, it totally makes sense.
So no, it didn't surprise me at all. And once, you know, once they were outside Kabul the right, you know, there was rioting and looting and the Taliban went into keep order. You know, if people say they took Kabul, it wasn't being defended, like they didn't really take it in that sense.
COOPER: It is remarkable when you look at you know, over the years going to Kabul you would see McMansions kind of popping up, and you'd ask around about who owned this and had some Afghan general or, you know, the amount of corruption is something that I don't think was, I mean, there was a lot of reporting done on it. But it certainly contributes, as you said, to a lack of desire to fight for a government that's siphoning money instead of, you know, paying to give you bullets or food.
JUNGER: Yes, it was a completely corrupt criminal cartel, basically. And, you know, I mean, when I was there in '96, I was in Kabul, in July and the Taliban frontlines were right on the edge of town, and we got shot at by a Taliban gunner.
And we got to cover and the Afghan that I was with, he said, you know, we hate those guys, Afghans hate the Taliban, you know, they're they were trained and, and backed by Pakistan, it's basically a foreign invasion of this country, we hate them. But we're going to let them in because they promised to clean up corruption, and in fact, and indeed, they did in their brutal way.
And so, we, you know, we didn't remember that lesson, like we went in with a huge amount of cash, and just dumped it all over the place without any oversight at all. We basically ramped up corruption enormously by bringing in that much money without any oversight. And so, it was doomed. You know, those U.S. policies doomed this war from the beginning, no matter how hard they've been American soldiers fought, and they fought very hard, as you know.
COOPER: When you hear the Taliban now saying that they've changed, they've learned from the mistakes in the past. You know, we saw the pictures just today from the L.A. Times the Taliban fighters, you know, beating people with whips and sticks and firing people standing around on the airport road, what do you think happens now?
JUNGER: I mean, there's plenty of Western countries use physical force against demonstrators. I mean, you know, like, it has to get a little worse for me to think they've gone back to -- I mean, I love the Taliban, but just let's be real here, you know, that they weren't opening fire with machine guns, like many U.S. allies have done against protests.
So, you know, what I would say is that they're brilliant strategic thinkers, or they wouldn't have won this war. And that, of course, they learned from their mistakes, like any strategic thinker does. And I think I'm guessing they don't want to cycle back into 20 years of conflict with the U.S., or with other insurgent groups in Afghanistan that are protesting them, I think they probably don't want to cycle back into another 20 years of that.
And I'm guessing they're going to at least try to give the appearance of playing nice. So I know someone who's knows about this stuff and is involved in it. And, you know, he said, they really want good relations with the international community. And they know exactly what that means that there are certain red lines if they crossed them, that they will be a pariah state.
And my guess is, at least for the time being, that they're going to see if they can have an Islamic State like Iran is and maintain some kind of normalize relations with the with the rest of the world. That's really what they're shooting for.
COOPER: Sebastian Junger, I appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.
Still ahead tonight, there's breaking news from Haiti on the rising death toll from the quake and the punishing tropical storm (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: More breaking news. The death toll has climbed even higher in Haiti after the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake over the weekend. Authorities now saying nearly 2,000 people have died and nearly 10,000 others are injured. Adding to the misery what is now Tropical Storm Grace, which has dumped heavy rains on parts of the disaster zone.
Tonight, CNN's Matt Rivers is in one of those hardhead coastal towns in southwest Haiti about 80 miles from the quake epicenter, where the needs are great and the devastation is everywhere.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As soon as we arrived to the hospital, so did this man on the stretcher. First responders brought him to the main hospital in the city of Jeremie, a facility that in reality has no room for him.
Inside, Haitian doctors and nurses are doing what they can to manage an influx of earthquake victims. So many have come in every single bed is full, so some are simply laid on the floor. There are broken arms and legs, crushed wounds from falling debris. And in the case of 22- month-old (INAUDIBLE) a shattered femur.
My daughter is suffering her dad says and I don't want her to lose her leg. I'm so sad she is going through this. Even since dad says he pulled her out of the rubble himself. I love my daughter very much and I almost lost her. I'm very grateful to these doctors working with their bare hands. It's horrific for everyone.
Not far from the hospital, there is destruction on every block. Here, ordinary people are clearing this debris because underneath was a grocery store. Food supplies are thin right now so anything they can find will help. Hundreds had died here. Many remain missing and thousands were injured far more than the small health system can handle.
At the hospital, there is only so much these doctors and nurses can do on a normal day official say they treat 10 people here, when we were there 84 people were waiting for treatment and more were coming in.
We are totally overwhelmed says the hospital director. The patients keep coming in and we don't have the means to take care of them all.
A doctor on scene told us at least a third of these people need to be moved to better equipped facilities. If they're not, it could lead to everything from losing limbs to losing lives. It's what even (INAUDIBLE) dad fears the most. He's doing his best to just keep it together because he doesn't know what else to do.
RIVERS: And Anderson, this is not an easy place to get to right now. We actually hitched a ride with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to get here. Access remains a very difficult problem right now for authorities, earthquake damage along the roadways, violence, a lack of good infrastructure to begin with the end result of all of that is that the aid, the outside aid that is desperately needed in this part of Haiti simply has not materialized yet. It's going to need to get here things are going to get better.
COOPER: Yes. Matt Rivers, I'm glad you made it. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Well, the pandemics far from over. New York City's 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 -- LL Cool J to name a few are going to be there. Again that's Saturday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time only on CNN.
News continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?