Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

New Photos Show Chaotic Escape From Kabul In Packed U.S. Aircraft; U.S. Choppers Evacuate Americans From Hotel Near Kabul Airport; WH Source: Full FDA Approval Of Pfizer Vaccine "As Early As Monday"; Hurricane Warnings Posted For Long Island & Southern New England; Team From World Central Kitchen Travels To Remote Regions Of Haiti As Desperation Rises. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 20, 2021 - 20:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: I'm Kate Bolduan. "AC360" starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with new developments in this country's difficult and still troubled pullout from Afghanistan. Evacuation flights are back up and running after being on hold part of the day. The first Air Force transport landing a short time ago at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

At the White House in what some saw is an effort to project resolve and competence after a chaotic week in Kabul and a punishing week in Washington, President Biden renewed his promise to get any American Home who wants to leave. He made a similar commitment to evacuating all Afghans who helped in the war effort.

Additionally, the President also revealed that U.S. troops yesterday went outside the airport perimeter to ferry Americans to safety. We have breaking news on exactly how that operation played out.

When asked today, the President said he is considering operations as well to rescue Americans and Afghan allies who might be stuck behind Taliban checkpoints. He also continued to portray the country's sudden collapse as unforeseeable, downplaying the internal State Department memo we reported on last night, which warned of such a fate as American forces withdrew.

We're going to have more on all that coming up, but first, I want to get to the reality -- the reality on the ground for so many people. CNN's Clarissa Ward and her team were among the evacuees today taking their place aboard a crowded Air Force C-17 transport.

Our producer Brent Swales took these photos, an estimated 400 people on board, most of them Afghan nationals, their destination tonight, Doha, Qatar.

Now we spoke to Clarissa a few hours before she departed on that plane.


COOPER: Clarissa, you're at the Kabul Airport. What are you seeing there?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): I mean, Anderson, it is just chaos. Right now, we're actually on the airfield, which is the privilege place to be, that means you've reached the final furlong, and you are in principle about to get on a bird and out to safety.

Although, we've now been here for well over 10 or 12 hours; others have been here two days, and still haven't managed to get on a flight yet. I'm looking around now. People sleeping on the ground, on the gravel. It's a very chilly night. A woman just came up to me and asked me for a blanket I gave her my scarf.

There are babies everywhere. And the situation with the washroom is not good at all. I had a couple of families come up and complain to me that it wasn't sanitary. They couldn't wash their children or keep them clean.

I'm looking around now, I've walked a little bit inside. There is an inside sort of processing area. There's just children lying all over the floor. Mothers desperately trying to stroke their backs and calm them. And this is what we've been seeing all day, only earlier, it was under the blistering hot sun.

And the only thing that the Marines had to give out were little strips of cardboard to be used as improvised fans to try to help keep them cool. These babies, one baby we saw had to be evacuated because it was a newborn baby and the sun was so hot, it was just dehydrated.

So, it's a desperate situation -- Anderson.

COOPER: The people who are around you, about how many people right now can you see who are just there waiting to get on flights? And are all of those people -- are most of them Afghan or are they people who have already gotten the visas? Are they people who have been expedited, do you know?

WARD: So in this area where I am, like by the flight path, there are hundreds of people, but there are thousands in other parts. There are many nodes in this process. You start out by that crush just trying to get in a tiny gate, which we had to do today, as soldiers kind of trying to pull you in, as the crowds push in on you to try to squeeze through.

And then you go through different -- different processing centers basically to get closer and closer to the flight path. You see a lot of people get turned away if their paperwork isn't sufficient.

All the people who were with now are Afghans and actually, as Americans, we were offered a separate flight out but we're traveling with some of our local staff and we didn't want to be separated from them. So, we're waiting to be able to get on a flight with them.

But the majority of the Afghans here who I have talked to, they do -- some have green cards, some have SIVs which are the special visa that you need. Their paperwork is in order for the most part. They worked as translators, a lot of them for the U.S. military, or for the U.S. Embassy, quite a lot of people affiliated with the U.S. Embassy as well.


COOPER: You heard President Biden today tell reporters that the U.S. government has -- and I'm quoting -- "no indication" -- that was his two words, that the Taliban had been preventing Americans from getting to the airport. He then later suggested he may have not understood the question he was asked. But in general, how does that square with reality?

WARD: The Taliban is trying to push everyone back from getting into the airport, and they have whips and truncheons, and they're firing into the air and they are an intimidating force. When we had our sort of run in with them a couple of days ago, they were willing to try to help us because they could see that we were Westerners, to try to help us get towards the front gate.

But here's what you have to remember, Anderson, is that a lot of the Americans in Afghanistan are dual nationals. They are Afghan- Americans, and the Taliban is not interested in letting them pass, they are not interested in letting them in.

And so the people we've spoken to are carrying small babies, and spending seven hours standing in a huge crowd with imminent threat of stampede with Taliban fighters brandishing truncheons and whips as I said, and I talked to one British soldier earlier, and he started weeping.

Within like 30 seconds of talking to me, and he said, you know, I did two deployments in Helmand and I've got worse PTSD from one week doing this job, watching people get trampled, watching mothers throw their babies over the razor wire to try to get them out safely to a better life.

I think that gives you a sense of just what you're dealing with here.

COOPER: The President also said that the U.S. will bring home his words, "any American who wants to come home." He said he is making the same commitment to any Afghans who want to get out.

It seems pretty clear, though. I mean, or maybe, I don't know, is it clear to you that he can actually deliver on that promise, given that the U.S. doesn't seem clear on how many Americans are in Afghanistan, let alone getting those Afghans who want out, who worked with U.S. military to the airport.

WARD: I mean, judging by what I'm seeing here at the airport, I don't think the U.S. right now is able to deliver on any promise, really, because despite whatever the best intentions might be, despite the hard work of U.S. military servicemen and women here, the reality is, it is chaos.

There isn't a plan in place that would streamline or improve this process. We were here for a period of at least eight hours where not a single bird flew out, not a single U.S. bird throughout. One -- only one, and it only had U.S. military personnel on it. It did not have any evacuees on it.

So, it is impossible in this environment where you can't predict five minutes into the future, let alone five weeks into the future to be making those promises and giving those assurances because they sound like vagaries when you're confronted with the reality of this gargantuan task on the ground.

And yes, and I think that's why so many people here are so frustrated. I was speaking to one Afghan woman who said to me, you know, this is an insult to human dignity, is what she called it. It's an insult to human dignity.

Another man came up to me and he says, I thought America was supposed to be the greatest superpower, what the hell is going on?

And you know, what do you say to that, Anderson? I don't have a good answer for them to be honest.

COOPER: There have been reports of British and French forces extricating some of their citizens directly from neighborhoods of Kabul, so they don't have to risk the journey to the airport on their own. Is that something that is an authorized part of the American mission? Because it seems right now that they seem limited to the airport itself.

WARD: To the best of my knowledge, I've not seen American forces operating outside the airport, that doesn't mean that it is not happening and there might be Special Forces operating outside, I wouldn't necessarily have knowledge of that. We have definitely seen some other NATO partner taking a slightly more proactive role in trying to hold people in even through those gates.

But look, it is a complicated situation for everyone here. There aren't any easy answers and it would be unfair to pretend there are. I think the main thing, you know, in terms of the resentment the people here on the ground feel, it's not so much that oh, wow, now that we're in this situation, it's really tough to deliver on our responsibilities, it is more that how does this situation come to be in the first place? Why weren't there plans for the worst?


WARD: As opposed to just for, you know, the best, maybe.

COOPER: And Clarissa, just finally, we're just -- we're watching some video of -- it is taken from inside the crowd outside the wall trying to get in, you can see the wall in the background, some women have fall on the ground, their at risk of being crushed. It is -- people are shoulder to shoulder pushing, trying to move.

How does somebody in that crowd who is -- and everybody is Afghan or at least, you know, they may be a U.S. citizen, but they're also of Afghan descent. How does somebody with -- even if they have paperwork in their hands, who do they show it? How do they get out of that mob and through a small door and through that wall?

WARD: You don't, Anderson. I mean, I was in it earlier today. Not as badly. I know exactly the video that you're talking about there. I was lucky, I was going in a gate and had a much smaller group of people, maybe 50 to 60 people.

But when you're in it and you're just being crushed from all sides, it's survival of the fittest, and you try to form a human chain and push your way in. And yes, there is no sort of my documents -- if people are holding up the passport, if they have U.S. or U.K. or NATO countries passport, but at the end of the day, it is who can push the hardest, who can scream the loudest and who can get in.

COOPER: And what -- I mean, is it a door opens in the wall and soldiers grab whoever is right in the doorway, or is anyone looking -- I mean, is there --

WARD: Yes, we have seen a lot of that going on. We've seen a lot of that going on. I mean, I can't comment really specifically on how we got in. But yes, there's a lot of that going on. A door will open very briefly, suddenly everyone will rush the door, and whichever forces are behind the door, if they know there are nationals outside would very quickly try to pull them in.

It's a very intense situation. A lot of shouting and screaming. Children screaming. I mean, honestly, I'm not -- you know, I'll never forget it. I'll never forget it.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward in Kabul, thank you for your reporting. Be careful. Thank you.

WARD: Thank you. Thank you so much.


COOPER: We're now in the military mission, which as we learned today has already involved operations outside the airport perimeter, and as the President today said, could potentially extend behind Taliban checkpoints.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from The Pentagon with more. So Oren, you heard what Clarissa said about Americans trying to get to the airport, which is different than what President Biden said today. What's the latest from the Defense Department?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, The Pentagon certainly isn't as unequivocal as President Joe Biden was in his wording. PRESIDENT Joe Biden saying Americans can get through. The Pentagon says, look, the vast majority of Americans, as far as they know are able to get through. There are some limited reports of the Taliban giving Americans problem, and that's where the on the ground daily, almost constant communication between a representative for Taliban commanders and the U.S. commanders there helps at least to try and move that along and make sure Americans can get through.

But The Pentagon acknowledges that have seen some limited reports of this, but their information isn't perfect, because their entire presence is focused at Kabul International Airport.

But from what they're seeing there, the vast majority, most reports are of Americans being able to get through to get to the airport to get out. But again, they acknowledge their information isn't perfect.

COOPER: I was surprised to hear the President saying that 169 Americans were at a hotel in Kabul and were extricated from the hotel by U.S. forces. I mean, I assume those are the kinds of things you usually wouldn't necessarily announce, because it then makes it more difficult to do that again in the future.

What more do we know about it now that he talked about it?

LIEBERMANN: Look, we were surprised as well that Biden simply came out and said that during his press conference earlier today, but we have learned much more information about that.

There were 169 Americans at the Baron Hotel, which is very close to the airport, but it's on the south side where the U.S. military are on the north side. The original plan was for them to simply walk through a gate that was only about 200 meters or 600 feet away, the abbey gate, as it is called.

But as you can imagine and as Clarissa described, there are a tremendous amount of Afghan civilians trying to get through any gate especially the moment it opens. Instead, the local commander on the ground there decided to make a last second or on the spot call to send in three CH-47 Chinook helicopters, very large helicopters to get these 169 Americans from where they were at the Baron Hotel, an area that is secured by a third country that the U.S. won't identify and bring them back to the airport.

It was done quickly and safely according to The Pentagon. It was a decision made on the ground there and not one that was checked all the way up the chain to the White House. But as far as we know from what we're hearing from The Pentagon, that is the first and only time that Chinooks, these helicopters have left Kabul International Airport to go pick up Americans and bring them back.


LIEBERMANN: There have -- and I'll point this out quickly, Anderson -- been a very limited number of instances where Americans have gotten to the airport, gotten to essentially the barrier there and been helped over by U.S. troops according to The Pentagon.

COOPER: There has also been mixed messaging from the administration about the threat that al-Qaeda could pose from Afghanistan. What are Pentagon officials saying?

LIEBERMANN: Well, Biden basically said in his press conference unequivocally that there is no al-Qaeda there, and that's not at all what we've heard from The Pentagon, either today, or in the past.

Al-Qaeda is there. They've acknowledged that. It's simply not at the level they say, where al-Qaeda is able to pose a threat, either to the U.S. homeland or to the homeland of its allies. Here is Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We know that al-Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan and we've talked about that for quite some time.

We do not believe it is exorbitantly high, but we don't have an exact figure for you.

What we don't think is that -- what we believe is that there isn't a presence that is significant enough to merit a threat to our homeland, as there was back on 9/11 twenty years ago.


LIEBERMANN: The question, of course, is how fast can al-Qaeda reconstitute to a level where it could pose a threat? The initial estimates before this last bit of withdrawal happened was, it could be two years. Now, without U.S. troops throughout the country, they don't have the Intelligence gathering capability, now that the Taliban has taken over, it could -- al-Qaeda that is -- could reconstitute faster and pose a threat that is obviously something The Pentagon and the administration will try to keep a very close eye on moving forward here.

COOPER: Well, there is also, obviously seen images of the Taliban, getting their hands on weapons the U.S. provided to the Afghan military. What do we -- is there any kind of sense of exactly what they have now?

LIEBERMANN: Look, over 20 years of a U.S. presence there trying to build up an Afghan military, the U.S. has given a lot to the Afghans over the course of that time. What the U.S. is trying to figure out is exactly how much is left.

Over the course of not only the last couple of years or so since the Trump administration's agreement with the Taliban, but even before that, as the U.S. brought troop levels down from the peak, nearly a decade ago, seven, eight years ago, the U.S. has been bringing equipment out of the country, destroying some, yes, of course, some of that was handed over to Afghan militaries in the hopes that they would fight back against the Taliban.

But the U.S. was aware that the Taliban could overtake the Afghan military, they just never expected it to happen this quickly. Defense officials have told us that as the U.S. was conducting some of those last strikes three or four weeks ago, some of those strikes targeted U.S. military equipment that as the Taliban was making this advance, the U.S. didn't want it falling into the hands of the Taliban.

But a perfect answer to that question, what does the Taliban have? We're not likely to get that one -- Anderson.

COOPER: Oren Liebermann, appreciate the reporting. Thank you. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also gave an update today on the baby

who has handed to Marines at the airport. You saw that video last night. He says the child was ill and after being treated at a hospital on airport grounds, was returned to the father. Kirby said he did not know whether parent or child were Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

Perspective now on the larger mission from CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, first of all, were you surprised to hear the President talk about rescuing 169 Americans from an area outside the perimeter of the hospital? I mean, you know, it's very -- I assume those kinds of things might happen. I wasn't -- I was surprised to hear the President acknowledge it publicly.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I was, too, Anderson. That's not something that, in my view, he should have addressed at the podium. But I think it probably was just meant to say, hey, we're doing more things and a lot of people think we're doing as bad as this thing, this NEO operation, this noncombatant evacuation operation looks.

There are some success stories, and there will be more. I think that was his intent. But yes, it did certainly surprise me that he mentioned it during the conference.

COOPER: So, the President has said that he has seen no indication that Americans are having trouble, you know, getting to the airport. Obviously journalists at The Pentagon are saying something different. Now, the White House is trying to walk back his comments.

Can you just talk about how -- what is the military facing here in an operation like this? I mean, they have to secure their part of the airport.


COOPER: And then figure out who is who in the crowd and get the right ones in?

HERTLING: Yes, what I'll tell you, Anderson is a NEO, a noncombatant evacuation operation which Clarissa has just gone through from front to rear and she is now heading, I guess, to Germany is an incredibly tough op to execute.

The facts and the environment change daily. It's just not a normal operation. When a military force goes out, they are driven by Intelligence about the enemy and the terrain. They know the maneuvers.


HERTLING: But with NEOs, there are so many unknowns, and most of the unknowns are never resolved. It is, you know, things like a permissive versus a contested environment. So, what kind of support are you going to get from the government or the host nation security forces? What does the enemy look like around the NEO operation? Is the weather going to change to affect the aircraft?

What's the priority of evacuation? Who's going out first, second, and third? How do you work with the State Department? And they are perhaps changing dynamics.

But most importantly, and this is a critical piece, how many people do you need to get out? No matter what you anticipate that figure will double, triple, quadruple. You know, there was a story today about an Afghan interpreter who had all the paperwork and then he said, well, I also want to bring my 23 family members. That throws planning factors and aircraft seats out the window.

I once planned and prepared for and started to execute a NEO in a country that I can't talk about, and I got to feel as a commander how crazy it was. And I've got to tell you, it was the toughest mission I ever faced to include multiple combat.

COOPER: What do you do when somebody says they want to bring 23 family members?

HERTLING: Well, that's where the heart wrenching -- and I think Clarissa has reported on some of these things. When you get somebody with 23 family members or someone comes up to the gate and says, hey, I want to get out of here, but they have no paperwork, they have no proof of working with the Afghan government, they just want to get the hell out of the country. That's the tough call.

And unfortunately, because you have a set number of airplanes, a set number of seats, you have to turn those people away. There are plenty of people, I guarantee you in that crowd outside of Karzai International, who just want to get out of Kabul. They want to get out of the country because they're afraid of what's going to happen next.

Not all of them have, in fact, I would say, probably just a small percentage of them have worked for the U.S. government or part of our allies, and it is separating those who have the so-called paperwork. And by the way, that paperwork has been thwarted by our government for the last several years, we haven't processed the SIV paperwork, so that adds another dynamic.

You know, you want to bring these folks in, but it is so incredibly tough.

COOPER: You also have a situation where it's people who are fearful Afghans who are fearful of the Taliban, with good reason, you know, reports of Taliban going to houses, looking for people who work for the U.S. government, particularly ones in high positions.

But they have -- those Afghans who are afraid of the Taliban and are leaving because they worked for the U.S. against the Taliban, they actually have to go through the Taliban, and somehow get past the Taliban, explaining to them why they deserve to get pass to go to the airport to be evacuated, when it's clear why they deserve to go to the airport to be evacuated, which is they were working against the Taliban. HERTLING: Yes, no, exactly. And, you know, to that point, I've heard a

lot of pundits say today, that we just have to expand the perimeter, or we just have to go out and get the people.

When you talk those things from a military perspective, it's a good idea. But, and by the way, it can be done, but it requires a significant amount of forces to expand that perimeter outward, and to potentially fight the Taliban while you're doing it.

You know, they have the perimeter outside the airfield. So, if you're going to put a force out there that says, hey, we want to expand out to give more room for people to come in, the Taliban probably won't see that in such a good light.

When you're talking about making runs downtown to different caches of where people are hiding out, that brings some certain danger as well, when you're talking about a combat mission. That would be the equivalent of, you know, the non-doctrinal term of thunder run that we used in Baghdad a long time ago of having a force just shoot out to an estimated location where a bunch of people in or grab them up, bring them back through enemy lines, basically.

So all of those things can be done, but they're all extremely difficult and require significant amount of forces, which right now, we probably have the right amount of forces on the ground to secure the airport -- the inside of the airport -- and that's about it.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, anybody who has seen the movie "Black Hawk Down" or read the book, "Black Hawk Down" knows the difficulty of, you know, just going into a city center to try to reach a given area and bring some people out. It's not easy, especially when the forces now know, oh, the U.S. is actually thinking about doing that or has done that in some cases.

HERTLING: Yes. And by the way, we're -- you know, people tend to forget, too, the Taliban are still involved in an insurgency. This has not been, you know, the dynamics are such that they are still in combat. The thugs we're seeing on the street with the Taliban gear, I mean, these aren't security force officials.

COOPER: Right.


HERTLING: These are not members of the new government. These are the pipe swingers who have been out in the rural areas killing people for a while, so of course, they are beating folks and acting like the thugs that they are.

COOPER: Yes, General Hertling, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

HERTLING: No problem. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Next, unique insight into the President's thinking on Afghanistan, the roots of his desire to close the book on it and how he sees his role on the world stage, a conversation with Biden biographer, Evan Osnos.

Later, breaking news on COVID on what could be the one thing, at least some people hesitant to get vaccine are waiting to hear. What we're learning about what's being called imminent full F.D.A. approval, not just emergency use authorization for one of the vaccines.


COOPER: As he tries to make up for numerous tactical, logistical, and policy missteps in the pullout from Afghanistan, President Biden today also appeared to be softening his tone.

On Monday, the message to Afghans was unsparing.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.

It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan's own armed forces would not.

The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down.


COOPER: To whatever degree that's true or not, the word struck some observers as ungrateful, with little regard for Afghans, many of whom can't leave and are now facing a grim future and many who died on the battlefield. Contrast that with his words today.


BIDEN: The past week has been heartbreaking. We've seen gut-wrenching images of panicked people, acting out of sheer desperation. You know, it's completely understandable. They're frightened, they are said, uncertain what happens next. I don't think anyone -- I don't think any one of us can see these pictures and not feel that pain on a human level.


COOPER: Joining us now, "The New Yorker" Magazine's Evan Osnos, who wrote the book on how this President sees the world. The title is "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run and what Matters Now."

You know, Evan, it is interesting, because when he was talking to George Stephanopoulos on ABC the other day, George Stephanopoulos talked about, you know, the images of the packed plane and the people running on the runway and people falling from the sky. It wasn't -- President Biden's immediate response was not, you know, it's heartbreaking. It was, "That was four days ago."

There was clearly frustration there. He is clearly trying to soften that tone. What do you make of that?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, frustration is the word, Anderson. I mean, I think what we began to hear at the beginning of the week, and all the way through that interview with George Stephanopoulos was sort of accumulated frustration of a President and before that, a Vice President who has had serious differences about managing this war, how it was -- how it was led both at the political level and at the military level.


And you heard, you know, this, I think what they clearly recognized in the last 48 hours was what the President was saying was simply not matching up with what Americans were seeing on their television screens, what they're seeing around the world, what people like Clarissa Ward had been reporting with some just absolutely heroic reporting on the ground.

And there was simply no way for the President to be able to persuade the American people that this project is something that we have under control, if he did not explain it more, honestly, more accurately, and acknowledge the fear, the heartbreak, the devastation, and ultimately, the cost not only to the United States, but obviously and desperately to the Afghans on the ground. And I think that's what you've begun to hear over the course of the week is a more realistic recognition of just how difficult this really is, how painful this is.

COOPER: It is interesting, because obviously, this administration has kind of sold itself on being an administration of competence, and that they are, you know, experienced people who know how to do things. The vice -- President Biden was, you know, involved in conversations on Afghanistan, as you pointed out, had a difference of opinion with the President Obama's policy and U.S. policy there. But it does sort of, if this is his first foreign policy crisis, it certainly doesn't reflect well, on this administration.

OSNOS: Now, you know, there is a saying in politics that a week is an eternity in a war zone, it's longer. And in Afghanistan, we have elements of both of that. And over the course of the last six days, this has been a very painful reckoning for the White House and I think for senior leadership, who have a lot of experience in Afghanistan and in these issues, and they've had to come to terms with the fact that they simply were flat footed.

Here we are now six days in. And we know a couple of things. There are the beginning of a couple of things becoming clear if you're not ironclad, but the outlines of next steps, like for instance, making U.S. military bases more available in Germany, in Kuwait, in Qatar, they're going to run out of space pretty soon, we may see other bases drawn in. That's a way of sort of building waystations for evacuees.

But the fundamental point Anderson is they simply had to pick up the pace they over the first six days, they've evacuated about 13,000 people, but they have to get up to between five and seven, five and 9,000 a day. This is six days in and they have a very difficult few weeks ahead, I'd say. COOPER: Robert Gates, who served under a former President Obama's defense sector said of Joe Biden in his 2014 memory, the Biden has, quote, been wrong in nearly every major foreign policy national security issue over the past four decades. Gates also called Biden a man of integrity, we should also point out.

But I also saw a video of then Senator Biden talking about the Vietnamese who had worked for the U.S. in Vietnam and whether or not, you know, huge effort should be made to get them out. And he seemed to not, that was not a priority for him it. Is this just, I mean, is that a -- is it a blind spot? Or what do you make of the Gates' comments and also the way President Biden viewed this in Vietnam?

OSNOS: Well, this reservation, which I think you rightly identified, that goes within President Biden's conception of America's obligations abroad, runs very, very deep, meaning that he really does draw limits around what the United States owes to its partners in places like Vietnam all the way back in 1975. He was saying that he wasn't convinced of how much the United States could do there for the South Vietnamese, as he said, they have no chance of holding off ultimately, being overtaken by the North.

And in this, in the current moment, he has been saying and in fact, has been sitting across the table from then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during the Obama administration, they had some bitter fights about whether in fact it was strategically rational, whether it was safe, whether it was winnable and that was bitter fight.

And I've spoken to President Biden about his about the criticism from Secretary of Defense Gates at the time, and he said, you know, Secretary Gates has had his wrong calls, too. And he listed off a series of them going back in his mind to Vietnam, I eventually asked somebody a sort of impartial referee on this to say, what do you think it he said, nobody bats a thousands. But nobody bats zero either. And both of these two have some things right, and something's wrong.

But I think one thing Anderson, is that this runs really deep for Biden, he, even in 1972, when he was running for the Senate, he talked about the idea that Americans had been told that the war in Iraq was winding, the war in Vietnam was winding down, and then they saw the casualties continued to come home.

You heard a version of him say -- a version of that today where he said, you know, I could not imagine a world in which I didn't have to send your sons, your daughters back to Afghanistan. He put this in personal terms.

COOPER: Yes. Evan Osnos, appreciate it. Thank you.


Just ahead, breaking news about a major development regarding the Pfizer vaccine that could pave the way for vaccine mandates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: More breaking news to report on a major development in the efforts to get more Americans vaccinated. A senior federal health official tells CNN that full FDA approval the Pfizer vaccine is imminent with the Biden administration, official saying full approval of the two dose vaccine could come as early as Monday no date is scheduled.

But another source tells CNN that the FDA is decision inspected early next week. So, all three vaccines are now under are now used under an emergency authorization full approval would allow public and private organizations including schools and hospitals to mandate vaccines.

Health officials also hoping it may sway some vaccine holdouts. The news comes the same day the CDC report in more than a million doses were administered Thursday, the second day in a row that's happened there the first million dose days we've seen since early last month.

The White House says even states for low vaccination rates like Oklahoma and Louisiana have seen a rise in new vaccinations outpacing the national numbers. Overall, the CDC says more than 200 million people in the US have received at least one dose.

Let's get perspective now from Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital. He's also the author of Preventing The Next Pandemic Vaccine Diplomacy In That Time Of Anti Science. And former Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Appreciate both you've been with us.

Dr. Adams just last month, he tweeted that U.S. citizens were dying while the country was waiting for full approval of Pfizer vaccine. Approval now said to be imminent. What are your thoughts? And how important do you think it'll be for the FDA to explain how and why they came to this conclusion?

JEROME ADAMS, FMR U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, right now, as you mentioned, this is still just to conjecture but I'm praying, I'm really praying Anderson, that this comes to pass because this will pave the way for organizations to pursue more aggressive tactics in terms of getting their employees or people who they interact with vaccinated. To put it plainly, it will make it easier for these organizations to come to a decision to mandate these vaccines.

COOPER: Dr. Hotez, what happens once the FDA gives approval? I mean what is the next step?

PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I think it's important to point out that the FDA doesn't unilaterally just do this. I think there's some steps they're going to have to or will consult with the VRBPAC Committee the Vaccines and Related Biologics Committee for their input and take their advice. So I think that's a step.


And then of course, there will consult with the Centers for Disease Control, and the advisory committee and Immunization Practices, DCIP. So, this is not a one day thing. I think it's going to take a little bit of time to move all those processes through. But I think, eventually will happen, and it's going to have very important implications, certainly as Dr. Adams points out, but I think there's another really important piece here. That is, it's a tremendous validation for the work of the FDA.

You know, the FDA was under tremendous pressure last year from the president, President Trump then and, you know, they really worked hard to closely approximate the emergency use process to make it as close to full approval as humanly possible in order to expedite this quickly and save lives. They did it. And the fact that this is moving towards formal approval, I think is this is a credit to the FDA, you know, and we're so critical of our of our federal government. This is this is a time when I think Americans could be proud (INAUDIBLE) --

COOPER: Dr. Adams --

HOTEZ: -- their service.

COOPER: -- and just yesterday, schools in Culver City, California mandated that all eligible students 12 and over be vaccinated by mid November. Now that full approval is imminent, do you expect more school districts and corporations for that matter to follow suit?

ADAMS: Well, I absolutely do. You know, the fact is, we already mandate a number of different vaccines in order for students to attend school so that we can keep them open safely. And you may have seen that I recently tweeted out a story from Hillsborough, in Florida, Hillsborough County, 10,000 Anderson, 10,000 students out on quarantine right now, this is about keeping our kids in school this year and getting them in education.

And to all of those people who said they've been waiting for full approval. I hope. I hope you'll go to this weekend and make your appointment for next week. Because again, it's coming. What you asked for is coming. The FDA did their job as Dr. Hotez astutely points out, and so it's one less reason to avoid your vaccination.

COOPER: And Dr. Hotez, I mean, once the Pfizer vaccine receives full approval, what's the possibility of off label use? For example, would a pediatrician be able to write a prescription for a child under 12 years old? Or would a person who received the Johnson& Johnson vaccine be able to get a prescription for a dose of Pfizer?

HOTEZ: Yes, all of the above. And I think you're especially going to see, you know, I can't tell you how many calls I'm getting from people who've got the J&J vaccine and feel abandoned. They want to know what to do and, and I think you will see a lot of physicians right uses for that.

I think we're also going to see a lot of physician approvals for third immunizations, not waiting for September. And I think you will see some pediatricians write prescriptions, especially for the 11 year olds who are a year away from being eligible for vaccines.

And I think it's going to be really important that the FDA and CDC not ignore this, that they come up with a system in place, maybe create a registry to follow what's going on, and not have blinders on to pretend that it doesn't occur, because there's a enormous amount of information that could be collected because of this, and it's going what's already happening, right? People are throwing away their vaccine cards to get extra doses. You can imagine what's going to happen now.

COOPER: And Dr. Adams -- yes, go ahead.

ADAMS: And Anderson, incredibly important as Dr. Hotez points out the communications aspect of this, we've seen some less than ideal communication in the past with major announcements it is going to be critical that the FDA, the CDC, the White House, really lays out what this means and how people should go about getting vaccinated in the future through different routes because the hesitancy that's out there, it's not going to be overcome unless they explain why this is happening, how it's happening and what it means for you.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Jerome Adams, appreciate it. Dr. Peter Hotez as well, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

We have more breaking news ahead. A new advisory from the National Hurricane Center about a Tropical Storm Henri that's expected to become a hurricane and the serious threat it poses to parts of New York and New England.



COOPER: More breaking news. A hurricane could be headed to New York New England as early as Sunday. Hurricane warnings are in effect for parts of Long Island New York and southern New England as Tropical Storm Henri makes its way north in the Atlantic and gain strength. Last time a hurricane made landfall in this region was Hurricane Bob way back in 1991.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray joins us now from the CNN Weather Center. What is the latest on the storm?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson the 8 o'clock advisory came out and it's still a strong Tropical Storm but nearly a hurricane could become a hurricane sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. New York City is now in the forecast cone. And the hurricane warnings have been issued for New England as well as parts of Long Island.

So here's the latest, 70 mile per hour winds gusts of 85. The storm is moving to the north at seven miles per hour, it should pick up a little bit of forward speed over the next 24 hours becoming a category one storm. Could be a category one storm, by the time it makes landfall, looks likely that it's going to make landfall along Long Island or even portions of say Rhode Island could be portion of the landfall as well. So, still yet to be determined. There's still a little bit of uncertainty there. But it does look like we could see a hurricane impacting the northeast and New England as early as Sunday afternoon.

We'll start feeling the impacts though earlier. And you can see all the watches and warnings in place right there. Anderson.

COOPER: How far inland (ph) could affect be fellow after it makes landfall?

GRAY: Well, the interesting thing about this storm is it is going to slow dramatically. And so, that's going to lead to a lot of rainfall across the Northeast in New England. Well inland, we're talking about anywhere from two to four, maybe six inches of rain inland. And this is an area that's been incredibly saturated.

So when you have any additional rainfall or it's going to lead to flooding, we could have a flash flood threat here and that is just from the rain alone. That's not even counting the storm surge. Also the winds, you'll have longer duration of strong winds with a slower moving storm and so you're definitely going to see some trees come down, power outages, a lot of the trees will have the leaves on them which makes it heavier.

You can see the wind threat here. Hurricane force wind of course, right around where the storm makes landfall, but very strong winds will be far reaching. Three to five feet of storm surge. Also to note this storm is happening on a full moon day and so the tides are going to be running higher than normal.

So we could see higher storm surge than we would typically see on a storm like Henri, so we could see some pretty significant storm surge especially along Long Island we have some very vulnerable coastline across portions of New England. Anderson.

COOPER: There's also going to be the big concert that we're covering tomorrow in Central Park in New York on Saturday. Is that -- is there going to be rain?

GRAY: We could see some indirect rainfall was like a surge of moisture ahead of the storm. So yes, we could see some rain during those hours for sure. So stay posted.


COOPER: Jennifer Gray, appreciate it.

Coming up, remarkable report out of Haiti, CNN's Matt Rivers making it to a part of the country hammered by the earthquake the government hasn't yet reached. What he saw, next.


COOPER: As the death toll in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti rises about 2,000, rescuers still haven't been able to reach some of those affected in the in the most remote parts of the island nation.

But CNN's Matt Rivers along with the team from the aid group World Central Kitchen were able to make it to one such area. Here's Matt's report.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our chopper takes off with no clear destination in mind, flying with charity group World Central Kitchen or WCK, we want to find remote villages in Haiti that still need help. A week after this earthquake just finding out where the needs are, remains a challenge. A tip led us to Grande Cayemite an island off Haiti's coast.

On the ground, we're told damage is actually a bit further west, which it is seen from above. Dozens of structures were damaged and the contact in town told us no one has come to help them yet, but we can't either.

(on-camera): So there was damage in that town and the people there clearly wanted us to land and the problem was there was no safe area for us to touch down and that gives you an idea of how difficult it is to access these places. Just because you want to go somewhere doesn't mean that you can at least right away.

(voice-over): Another tip leads us back into Haiti's mountains and the remote town of Minish. Destruction greets us as we land and the charity starts to assess the damage.

(on-camera): In terms of figuring out exactly what needs what you really need to go to the ground?

JEAN MARC DEMATTEIS, BOARD MEMBER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Correct and unlock these areas are remote for the cell service has been knocked out and due to damage from the earthquake. So there's no substitute for just getting out there and on the ground.

RIVERS (voice-over): There team fans out and so do we, the damage is as bad as anything we've seen. Entire blocks destroyed, near some damage lead distinct smell of bodies lingers. Amidst all the rubble there is grief.


Rose Mika Fontus' mom died when her home collapsed. My mom was everything to us, she says, and now she's gone. We're just waiting for help.

Rose is now homeless, saying the government has yet to visit her town, they've had to make do with what they have not easy in such a remote place. That's where charities like WKC are trying to help fill the gap. People crowd around as the team drops off a few 100 sandwiches now that they know where to go, aid workers save thousands more meals will likely follow soon.


COOPER: And Matt Rivers joins us now from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. What about other hard hit areas around the country? I mean, are the roads passable yet, is aid getting in? RIVERS: Really depends on what you're talking about Anderson. But unfortunately, there are a lot of places that are just like Minish, the place where we went. And even when you're talking about Minish, it's an amazing thing, right that World Central Kitchen was able to identify, OK, this is a place where we want to be, they start figuring out what the exact needs are, but actually getting those substantive supplies in there to start feeding those people. That's a different challenge entirely.

Essentially, what we did today are just the first few steps. We did actually talk with the chief of the UN Development Program. He told us that he does see a lot of challenges here on the island, but he also hopes that the recovery efforts will speed up over the next few days as the government tells us somewhere around 60 or 70,000 structures across the island Anderson have been affected damaged in some way by this earthquake.

COOPER: Matt Rivers appreciate your reporting. Thanks very much.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: At the bottom of the screen there's a countdown clock for We Love NYC The Homecoming Concert. A lot of big names and music taking the stage tomorrow night. You can watch it from home here on CNN. Celebration of the city's resilience in the fight against COVID. Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, LL Cool J, Journey, Barry Manilow to name just a few of the performers. Again, you can see right here only on CNN tomorrow night at 5:00 pm Eastern Time is the start.

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You know, Anderson, you have a big night tomorrow night with the concert.