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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Biden Sticking With August 31 Afghanistan Deadline But Wants "Contingency Plans" If Necessary; Poll: 60 Percent Support Students, Teachers, Staff Wearing Masks In Florida Schools, 36 Percent Oppose; Airbnb Will Provide Temporary Free Housing For 20,000 Afghan Refugees. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 24, 2021 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Chris is off tonight.

Topping this second hour of 360, the accelerating pull-out from Afghanistan, more than 70,000 people, in the last 10 days, according to President Biden, have been evacuated. He gave those figures, while announcing that the country would stick to an August 31st deadline.

The President did say however, that he asked the Pentagon and State Department to plan for the possibility, or contingency plans, for extending the stay, if needed. But he strongly suggested this would not be the preferred option.

One reason he said, concerns about what the local ISIS affiliate might do.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Every day we're on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport, and attack both U.S., and Allied forces, and innocent civilians.

Additionally, thus far, the Taliban have been taking steps to work with us, so we can get our people out, but it's a tenuous situation. We already had some gun fighting break out. We run a serious risk of it breaking down, as time goes on.


COOPER: The President did not say how many Americans remain in the country. That, he said, would be coming tomorrow from Secretary of State, Blinken.

To that question, though, one administration official telling CNN tonight that the number needing to be evacuated is probably lower than one might think, because this official says many left, in the weeks, before the country fell. More now, from CNN's Oren Liebermann.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tide of Afghan evacuees flowing out of Kabul is at a new peak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they all have passports?

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): As the effort to move as many people as possible enters its final seven days.

12,000 people flown out, in 12 hours, the U.S. alone flew out 6,400 people, averaging nearly 350 per flight. That's 15 times what the U.S. flew out a week ago.

Since August 14th, more than 70,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul. The airport, which once had 14,000 people in the field, waiting for flights, now down to about 5,000, though there are many more outside, desperate to get in.

But as the operation improves, the environment grows more tense. The military is monitoring threats from ISIS-K, and others, aware that crowds at the airport are target for terror groups.

And the Taliban warning the U.S. to be out, by the end of the month, telling Afghans they won't be allowed to pass the road, to the airport.

ZABIULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): We have indigenous doctors, professors, academics. They are talented people. They are talents of this country. They should not leave this country. They should work in their own specialist areas. They should not go to other countries, to those Western countries.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): One question the Biden administration hasn't answered, how many Americans are left in Afghanistan. The White House promised to evacuate every U.S. citizen, who wants out, but the Pentagon refusing to say how many that is.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think there's a perfect number that we - that we know with certainty, of all Americans in Afghanistan.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The sheer number of Afghans leaving the country has created its own set of problems, the lack of basic sanitation, at Al Udeid Air Base, in Qatar, the first stop for many of those fleeing Kabul.

KIRBY: We recognize that things were and, in many ways, still are not at the level of sanitation, and good hygiene that we want.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Meanwhile, Afghan evacuees beginning to arrive, in the United States. In the past 24 hours, four flights landed at Dulles International Airport, outside D.C., with more than 1,000 passengers. With the part of the operation, in the United States, just starting, the Pentagon has only days left, before it winds down the effort, in Kabul.

With 5,800 troops on the ground, and an August 31st deadline, to get them out, Pentagon knows the last 48 hours are critical, the focus, how to get out thousands of troops, who've made it possible to move tens of thousands of people.


COOPER: Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Pentagon.

So, the President mentioned contingency plans, possibly to adjust the timetable. Is there any detail on that?

LIEBERMANN: No. President Joe Biden didn't offer any detail on what those contingency plans might be. As you point out, though, he said it's in case the U.S. needs to adjust that timetable.

Biden has made it clear, as has the Pentagon that they want to be done with the evacuation mission, by the end of the month, by August 31st. But if that's not possible, it's obvious now, because of Biden's statement that they are planning to see, if there is wiggle room, or maneuvering room, or if they need more time to operate.

The catch here, and what makes this difficult, this basically needs to be coordinated with the Taliban. There has been constant communication with representatives, for Taliban commanders.

But they've now made it clear that they want the U.S. out by the end of the month. And moving that timeline even a little bit may be incredibly difficult.

A worst-case scenario, a firefight and exchange of fire, and the situation rapidly deteriorates.


The best-case scenario, past August 31st, isn't that much different from what we're hearing. It'll be very difficult, if the Biden administration decides it needs any more time. The goal is the end of the month.

COOPER: Oren Liebermann, thanks very much.

Want to get perspective now, from someone on the ground, who knows Afghanistan well.

Nagieb Khaja is a correspondent for TV2 Denmark. In recent days, as you can see, he's been covering the Taliban, traveling with them, at times, as they patrolled the streets of Kabul.

Nagieb? So, Taliban spokesperson today said the airport road is now closed, to Afghans. Does that mean there is no chance for Afghans now, to get out? NAGIEB KHAJA, CORRESPONDENT, TV2 DENMARK: It's actually an ambiguous statement. It could also be interpreted as that they don't want Afghans to leave, you know? He's not being really clear about what he means. And I think the main reason why he's saying that is to put pressure on the Americans, so they can take and hurry up.

COOPER: President Biden today said that the U.S. is on pace, his term, to finish operations, by the August 31st deadline. He's also asked for contingency plans, to adjust the timetable, if necessary.

That also seems like it could be a warning to the Taliban. I mean the idea that they're going to have contingency plans, it seems like they're both, both the Taliban and the U.S., are trying to kind of negotiate with public statements.

KHAJA: They are. From an American point of view, which, it's a priority to evacuate all the people that they need to get out of the Afghanistan, and get as good terms as possible.

And from a Taliban point of view, from the leadership especially, it's about the pressure they get from the low-level commanders, who are not satisfied with the agreement with the United States of America. They wanted the U.S. to leave in May.

And actually, they had been talked. They have been convinced to, to accept that the U.S. is staying until the 31st. And it just doesn't look good for the leadership from Doha, that the Americans, they're not going to live up to this agreement.

COOPER: The Taliban have warned that there would be, what they say, are consequences, if the U.S. military had stayed longer.

You speak - you've spoken to Taliban fighters, in a lot of different places. What are you hearing on the ground? Because I've heard you talk before, about kind of divisions, within the Taliban itself. We think of it as this sort of monolithic group. But it's actually - it's actually not.

KHAJA: It's multifaceted group. You have different layers in this group.

You have the guys, who are living an international life, meeting political leaders, meeting people with different political opinions, in Doha and other countries. They're sitting together with women, conversating with them.

And then you have the guys living under the radar in - off the radar, in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan. And these guys are not as pragmatic and flexible, as the guys that we know from the media. And they are not as afraid of actually becoming a, you know, getting on bad terms with the United States.

They're used to fighting. They're used to - they're used to their friends getting killed, a lot of them, every year. So, for them, it's just like, "OK, we've been fighting all, for so many years. Why should it be a problem to fight now, at the end of the battle? Americans, they're fleeing. So, it's just business as usual."

And the other guys, who have fought, to get international recognition, for them, they're going to lose all that they have built up, for the past years. So, we have some clearly frictions.

COOPER: So, what Taliban takes over Afghanistan now? I mean, they have said, "We've learned from the mistakes from the past." Is that true? It seems hard to believe. I mean, they do have a very severely strict interpretation of Islam.

KHAJA: They have learned from the past.

But the thing is with the Taliban that, that you have, like, you have the guys from the South, who are the hardcore Taliban, and the ones, who look most like the old Taliban, from the 90s. And then you have some of the other guys, who are kind of a bit more progressive, the Taliban from the East.

I can give you an example of one of the experiences that I have, from on the ground. I went to a university, because I thought that they were opening a couple of days ago, and then I was told that the school vacation had been extended.


And I asked this Talib, if there were any orders from the top, about women. And he said, "Women, they can't get in." And he is obviously from the south. He was from Kandahar.

And later that day, I met some guys, from Logar, and I told them about this guy, who said that he would deny women access to the university. And they were like really angry, and said, "You know, he shouldn't do that. That's against Islam."

And like I followed up on the question, and asked them about their own sisters and wives. They were like "Of course, they can get an education. Of course, they could work, you know? This is a part of Islam to be educated."

So, it's a clear example of how you have different layer - different segments of Taliban actually, disagreeing here--


KHAJA: --about something.

COOPER: According to letters, obtained by CNN, the Taliban sentenced the brother of an Afghan translator, to death, accusing him of helping the U.S., providing security to his brother, who served as an interpreter, to American troops.

The letters contradict assurances the Taliban spokesman has been making, in press conferences, saying that nobody will be harmed in Afghanistan, and that there's a huge difference between us now, and 20 years ago.

Do you think reprisal killings are going to become common?

KHAJA: Nobody knows. There are different rumors.

But first of all, the leadership, they've clearly said that there is a general amnesty. And nobody should kill - nobody from the Taliban should kill anybody, who have worked, for the government, or foreign forces.

But the thing is that you have sub-level commanders, who are doing their own things, who are not listening, and obeying some of these orders. This is short-term.

Long-term, the question is whether all the people from the leadership, will continue this path. We don't know that, you know? We've seen this organization roll some of the things that they said, roll it back, earlier in the history. So, people, they hope that history won't be repeated.

COOPER: Nagieb Khaja, it's really a pleasure to talk to you. I really appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much.

KHAJA: Welcome. Pleasure to be here.

COOPER: More now, on how the President's words today, and his policy, more broadly, are being received by lawmakers, especially those who have had direct experience, fighting the war there.

Shortly before airtime, I spoke with two, Republican congressman, Brian Mast and Democratic congressman, Jake Auchincloss.


COOPER: Congressman Mast, President Biden cited the growing threat to U.S. troops, in Afghanistan, from ISIS-K, as a main factor, in his decision to adhere to this August 31st withdrawal deadline.

You served in Afghanistan. Is that justification enough for sticking to the deadline?

REP. BRIAN MAST (R-FL): There's a very dangerous situation going on there. We understand this bipartisanly. There has to be an objective that's met, in order to actually withdraw. Otherwise, you're just doing it for optics.

So, is our military safer? Is the world safer? Is our enemies debilitated? And if that's not the case, then we shouldn't move out of there. If our people aren't safer, then we shouldn't move out of there. And I don't think that that metric is going to be met.

COOPER: Congressman Auchincloss, the President was asked, if he can guarantee tonight that every American will be out of Afghanistan, before the troops leave. He didn't answer the question. In the past, he said that would be the case.

But how confident are you that every American will be evacuated by the deadline? REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D-MA): We're talking about withdrawing from a country, whose moniker is the "Graveyard of Empires." There's no guarantee.

But this is the military at its finest right now. They are evacuating 1,000 people every hour, more than 60,000 to date. On the current trajectory, we should be able to get all Americans out by August 31st.

But make no mistake, this president has been clear. Every American, who wants to leave Afghanistan, will leave Afghanistan. The Taliban do not have a say in that.

COOPER: Congressman Mast, what about the Afghans? Is that still - do you believe that's still a priority for this administration?

MAST: I don't think they ever truly were a priority for this administration, given the hearings that we'd had with the State Department, over the months past, but also would give you a historic quote from Joe Biden.

And he said this following the withdrawal from Vietnam. "We have zero obligation to withdraw foreign nationals, moral or otherwise, one or 100,000." That was his direct statement about foreign nationals, as it related to Vietnam. And I think we're kind of seeing that exact same mentality, as it relates to foreign nationals within Afghanistan.

Yes, if we can get a few out, great. But it's not by any means going to be their focus, to get out those that stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us.

COOPER: Congressman Mast, I know you've personally been involved, in trying to get Afghans, who assisted the U.S. war effort, out of Afghanistan. I'm just wondering how that process has been, in the people you're working, or have been working on?

Because I've talked to a lot of people, who - a number of former service members, who have been trying to get out, former translators and stuff, for years, and said that with the last administration, and this administration, the whole process, it just seemed like it was being slow-walked.

MAST: So, both of those statements are true.

There are been cases that we have been working, for years. And you're getting the message from the State Department, "This person fell through the cracks," or finally we're able to just get them through, because all of a sudden it hit, in emergency situation, cases that we had been working, like I said, literally through two administrations.


And then, there are cases that Veterans brought to us, because of the emergency situation, saying "This interpreter that I worked with, here's a picture of us together. Can you get their picture to the checkpoint? Can you get their paperwork through State Department? Can you get them out of Kabul? And can you get them into Pakistan, or Qatar, or anywhere else?"

Both situations were playing out, absolutely.

COOPER: Congressman Auchincloss, you also served. And it's remarkable how history repeats. I mean, we saw this in Iraq with trying to get translators out. We saw this certainly in Vietnam.

It seems like there is - I mean, obviously these are incredibly chaotic situations. Anytime a country is falling apart, a government collapses, it's a difficult situation. But it does seem like there is a track record of the U.S. not living up to its promises, to the people, who have helped them.

AUCHINCLOSS: This president and his administration have made clear that we are going to have a special priority, for Afghans, who worked as allied and interpreters.

Prominent advocates, for the rights of women and girls, journalists, those who face risk of Taliban reprisal, they have been part of the evacuation, to date. They will continue to be evacuated. And this president is going to keep America's promises.

Not every Afghan, who wants to leave Afghanistan, is going to be able to, just like not every Somalian, who wants to leave Somalia, or every Syrian, who wants to leave Syria, is going to be able to leave those countries. That's why it's so important that America be a global beacon for democracy and human rights.


AUCHINCLOSS: So that we can work to improve.

COOPER: But Congressman Auchincloss, I mean, the Taliban today said that the road is closed for Afghans, to get to the airport.

So, how confident are you that that's not the case, or that - I mean, if there's a week left, before the August 31st deadline, if that road is closed, what options does the U.S. have?

AUCHINCLOSS: It's important to remember the United States retains significant leverage over the Taliban. We have 90 percent of their assets in U.S.-controlled banks.

75 percent of Taliban governing resources come from the International donor community. The United States has leverage over the Taliban, to ensure that we can continue to work with NGOs, for evacuations.

And it's also important to remember, the Taliban are inheriting a country that has made significant progress in the last 20 years. Literacy rates have doubled. Infant mortality has halved. Access to electricity has increased. There are 4 million Afghan girls in schools right now.

The Taliban may not be able to govern as brutally as they did in the 1990s.

COOPER: Congressman Mast, do you buy that?

MAST: I would say this point. Maybe in the long-term, we have an advantage over the Taliban, because we can control banks, monetary funds, things like that.

In the short-term, we went from a situation, where the Taliban were our hostages, to a situation, where Americans, and those that helped us, are now basically the hostages of the Taliban, within Afghanistan.

COOPER: Congressman?

MAST: In my opinion.

COOPER: Congressman Mast, Congressman Auchincloss, I appreciate your time. Thank you both.



COOPER: A lot more ahead tonight, including a look at the legacy of America's longest war, what 20 years in Afghanistan has, and has not, accomplished, and what happens next.

Also tonight, will new polling on the popularity of mask - of mandating mask-wearing in schools have any impact, on Florida's governor, who remains bent on forcing school districts, not to do just that, even as cases and deaths reach new highs, in the state.



COOPER: "Remarkable," is the word, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling used, in the previous hour, to describe the evacuation effort that we've been seeing, that President Biden this evening said had already gotten more than 70,000 people out of Afghanistan.

"Miraculous" is how he described the outcome, if the effort continues at the pace, it's now going.

That said, however smoothly or not, this evacuation turns out to be, it's just one chapter, in a 20-year story. And given the reconstitution of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other bad actors, it might not even be the final one.

Joining us to talk about all of it past, present and future, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, the latest edition seeking to answer the question, on the cover, "Who Won The War On Terror?"

Dan, thanks for being with us.

It's a really fascinating issue that you put out here. I mean, the war on terror was central to U.S. policy since 9/11. What - how do you think history is going to see the U.S. involvement, in Afghanistan, in terms of what was actually achieved?

DANIEL KURTZ-PHELAN, EDITOR, FOREIGN AFFAIRS: So, if we go back to those days, and weeks, and months, in the immediate aftermath, of the September 11th attacks, there was this real sense of moral clarity, the sense of mission and purpose that had really taken over American foreign policy. President Bush's rhetoric, at the time, was the clearest example of this.

But it was really this broad sense that there was this newfound mission for the country, and for American foreign policy. But we never really reckoned with what we were trying to achieve in that process. We never really figured out what it would mean to win.

And the 20 years of our involvement in Afghanistan are in some ways, the starkest example of this, with this shifting sense of objectives, of what the mission was. We never really settled on that.

In some ways, if you could go back, if we could go back and talk to our, September 12 selves, and tell them that in the next 20 years, there'd be something like 107 American citizens killed on U.S. soil, if you remember the fear, in those days afterwards, that would seem like a remarkable achievement.

But if we went and told our September 12 selves, that we would have gotten involved in these two wars, about the trillions of dollars spent, the thousands of lives, we would see the war on terror, is this catastrophe.

So, it's this - it's such a murky record in the same way that we've seen in Afghanistan, over these 20 years.

COOPER: Also, I mean, in Afghanistan, there are so many layers, in that society, as there are in all societies.

And when you're coming from outside, and think you can, nation-build, there are unintended consequences, for all sorts of, for actions that you take, you think it's going to have one consequence, and has another.


You think, we come into the country, and start pouring money, into the country, and the people we end up dealing with, are often, if they're not shady, or skimming money, they're, you know, they all have their own agendas. And you start to see McMansions popping up in Kabul, owned by generals and shady businessmen.

And Afghans on the ground suddenly have a changed version - view of what the U.S. is, of like the money we're giving to these people, there's still widespread corruption, and any interaction between an Afghan and the government is usually involving some sort of payment.

So, it's such a fraught, such a difficult thing to do. And I don't know if we did a good job or not. But certainly a lot of people worked very hard to try to make it work.

KURTZ-PHELAN: You raise a really good point.

I worked in the State Department, about eight years, after the war in Afghanistan had started. And even then, we were struggling to define what our basic objectives were, and what our basic metrics were.

And there were times, when you could look at the numbers of, say, girls and women, in school, or the numbers of new NGOs starting in Kabul, and you could see indicators of success.

But we never really addressed the rot, at the government, the corruption, you mentioned. We never really had a good handle on just how many troops there actually were, how many Afghan troops there were--


KURTZ-PHELAN: --in this army, we were building, at huge cost.

And so, you saw, over the course of multiple administrations, right, this goes back to Bush, and then Obama, and Trump, and now Biden, trying to figure out just how to measure progress, even as we didn't really have a clear sense of what we wanted to achieve.

And Biden has now gone back to this very minimal sense of what we wanted to do. We killed bin Laden. We addressed that very basic threat.

But we've kind of given up on all of the grand rhetoric that was really central to the American mission, in Afghanistan, certainly at the beginning, in those days, when we thought we could build this new nation and, really transform, not just Afghanistan, but the region more broadly.

But even through subsequent administrations, when we thought there was something taking hold, and had a really hard time, as outsiders, having a sense of just how profound the problems were.

COOPER: I mean, I remember Helmand Province, going out with Marines, on patrol, and going, driving to some village, and Marines risking their lives, to get to this village, tiny speck on a map, meeting with elders, who are kind of on the fence, and not sure who to side with.

And I mean, there - it was nation-building without calling it nation- building. And I still can't get over the fact that every time I went, I was told that we're standing up the Afghan army, then, we're standing up the Afghan police.

But, to your point, we were never sure. If everyone said, "Oh, there's 300,000 Afghan National Army Forces," well, no one was sure if there were actually - that's what the number is on the rolls, but if some commander, in some province, was just patting the books, and taking the money.

KURTZ-PHELAN: That's right. And there were times, as you know, as well as anyone, when we were perfectly aware, of what was going on, but felt so incapable of dealing with it, that there was this inclination, again, across multiple administrations, to sweep that under the rug.

If you go back, though, to those first years in Afghanistan, I mean, that is really the moment, when we probably had the best chance, to commit to a nation-building mission, in a more serious way. And we failed to.

And we failed to, in part, because it's much harder than we imagined at the time. We also failed it because we turned our attention to Iraq. But we spent many years trying to recover from those mistakes.

And then, the last few years, you've seen American foreign policy, just really want to wash its hands of all this, that wants to turn to new threats, to China and Russia, and great power competition.

And what's happening in Afghanistan now is just a reminder of how profoundly this reshaped American foreign policy, American power, and the United States, over the last 20 years.

COOPER: Yes. Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, I really appreciate you being on tonight. I really look forward to talking more in the future. Thanks so much.

KURTZ-PHELAN: Thanks so much.

COOPER: Just ahead, Florida school districts' fight, against the governor, over mask mandates. At least two not backing down, in new letters, with new polling suggesting the voters are on their side.

The Superintendent, of one of those districts, joins me next.



COOPER: There's multiple breaking stories, out of Florida tonight, all concerning the fight surrounding mask mandates.

First, just moments ago, Orange County said it will enact a 60-day mask mandate, for students and staff. A doctor's note will be required to opt out.

Also breaking tonight, a new poll that suggests Florida voters may be at odds with Governor Ron DeSantis' opposition to mask mandates, in schools. According to Quinnipiac University, 60 percent of Florida voters say, they support requiring students, and teachers, and staff, to wear a mask. 36 percent oppose.

Just this week, two districts say they will not comply with the governor's order for a parental opt-out. The State Board of Education is threatening to withhold School Board members' pay.

And as part of their responses, the School Boards in Broward and Alachua counties forwarded information about members' salaries, demonstrating they're not backing down from this fight.

Alachua's Superintendent said in her letter that universal masking will quote, "Help us keep our students in the classroom and out of the hospital." Carlee Simon joins me now.

Superintendent Simon, thanks for being with us.

Before I even get into this battle with Governor DeSantis, and the Florida Board of Education, I want to give people an idea of why this mandate - mask mandate is so important in your district.

It went into effect because you had positive cases, even deaths, amongst your staff. And even with the mandate in effect, COVID is still, it's a big issue in your schools, right?

CARLEE SIMON, SUPERINTENDENT, ALACHUA COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Yes. So, we lost two of our employees. Actually, before we even had our teachers, start coming back to campus, the week before, we had our actual classes start.

And we were noticing as well, beyond the two employees, who passed that our positivity rate, for our employees, was increasing quite quickly, and we were having projects having to be shut down, because of the amount of people, who tested positive.

Now, we are running into - our students are on campus. We're in our third week of classes. We have over 360 students, who've tested positive, and we have the quarantines that are going on. We also have over 60 faculty and staff, who are also testing positive.

And we're just running into the logistics of being able to run our school system, so we can have face-to-face. I worry had we not had mandatory masking, we would be considerably worse than we are right now.


COOPER: The letter that you received from the Florida State Board of Education, accused School Board members of violating parents' rights, and called not allowing parents to opt out, of the mask mandate, quote, "Unacceptable behavior." What's your response to that?

SIMON: So, we believe we're in compliance with the laws. The Governor and the Commissioner of Education, excuse me, they requested that the Department of Education, and the Department of Health have rules.

And one of the rules that they applied was a voucher that would allow families to opt out. And we see that as compliance with the rule. We also have the medical exemption for individuals, who have a medical need that requires them to not have a mask.

And so, we actually believe that we have two options, for families to opt out. And we are following the rules of the state.

COOPER: And as far as punishment goes, I mentioned the Board of Education threatening to withhold a portion of School Board members' salaries. Do you expect if the money is withheld that the federal government would reimburse those funds?

SIMON: So, the federal government has already reached out, and they said that they would support us financially. They're also looking into supporting us through legal means, as well as political means.

And they're helping us, and offering their support, associated with us managing the actual COVID situation, from testing to just helping us keep our schools open. We want to make sure we have face-to-face and we need their support.

We also have had lots of support from our local governments, as well as many members in our community, as well as the country.

COOPER: Now that the FDA is given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, for people ages 16 and up, will your district issue vaccine mandate, for all teachers, and for students, who are eligible?

SIMON: I believe we're at the place where we need to have serious conversations between the Superintendent, and our Board members.

We have been trying to offer carrots, and incentives, for people to get vaccinated. But it's not having the type of impact that we would prefer. When our faculties specifically are not able to come, because of not being vaccinated, and they get ill, it has a huge impact on the system.

And so, we're running into just the logistics of needing to run our business. In our organization, we need people healthy, and we need people that work. And because of how fast this disease is spreading, we can have multiple people, who need to quarantine, for an extended period of time.


SIMON: And it really impacts our human resources.

COOPER: Yes. Do you know--

SIMON: Human resources too.

COOPER: Do you know what percentage of teachers are not vaccinated?

SIMON: We don't. We're in the process of getting the actual information, from the Department of Health.


SIMON: But that's taking time.

COOPER: Right.

SIMON: But I'm estimating somewhere around 50 percent.

COOPER: Wow, that many! Wow! All right. Superintendent Simon, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

SIMON: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Still ahead, I'll speak with a nurse, who contracted COVID, while she was pregnant, last fall, before the vaccine became available. We'll tell you what happened to her, and her baby. She has a message for pregnant women, next.



COOPER: A Missouri nurse is urging pregnant women to get vaccinated. Vanessa Alfermann, she got COVID, last fall, while pregnant. Then sadly, she lost her baby, a boy named Axel, when COVID caused a blood clot, to form in her placenta that eventually erupted. This is months before the vaccine became widely available.

Vanessa Alfermann joins me tonight.

Vanessa, you contracted COVID, back in November, before the vaccine was available. You were pregnant at the time, I think, at 20 weeks pregnant. Can you walk us through what happened?

VANESSA ALFERMANN, NURSE WHO LOST HER BABY TO COVID-19 COMPLICATIONS: Yes. So, I'm a registered nurse, at a hospital, working around COVID patients. And my hospital protected me. They gave me all the PPE we needed. Other nurses would help take more COVID patients, just to protect me.

My husband came home from work, and he started having symptoms, and we decided he should get tested. So, he was positive. And then, the next day, I started showing the symptoms. So, the next day, I tested positive. I did feel good, at that point, for those first couple days.

COOPER: Then you - it started to get worse. What happened with the pregnancy?

ALFERMANN: I started getting weird back pains and front pains. So, I went to the local OB. And they sent me home, said it was a side effect of COVID. They didn't check me or anything. So then, that night, they sent me home because, at that point, I was stable.

So, at that point, I went home. That night, I started getting some bleeding. And the pains became more. But it wasn't till the next morning, around 1:30 in the morning, I woke up, and I realized I was in labor. So, yes.

COOPER: And do you - at what week was this, in the pregnancy?

ALFERMANN: I was 22 weeks, five days.

COOPER: You lost your baby?

ALFERMANN: Yes. And I wasn't really saying what I thought was going to happen. But I knew. We got to the hospital. And they checked me out. And they said "We got to get you upstairs now. You have membrane showing."

So, I mean, they rushed me upstairs. And, at that point, they realized I was fully dilated. My placenta - or my bag was protruding, and Axel was coming, no matter what, so.

COOPER: I can't imagine what you have - you and your family have gone through. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

You - when you got the COVID vaccine finally, and you wrote on Facebook, you said, "I didn't do it because I'm a nurse, and it is the trend. I did it for every person I walked by. I did for every person I take care of. I did it for all my friends. I did it for my family. I did it for you.

I'm hopeful that this vaccine will prevent another death of a grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, son, and daughter. Every person deserves not to lose someone to COVID. This is for my Axel!!!"

Axel is the--


COOPER: --the boy that died.



COOPER: What was that day like for you, to get that vaccine?

ALFERMANN: It was - it was a very emotional day, you know? I was working a 12-hour shift that day.

So, I just went upstairs, in the bathroom, and just cried, because I thought, "Man, if this was last month, I would not be in this situation I am." So, it's very bittersweet to get that vaccine. But, it's too late for my story, so.

COOPER: What is your hope in sharing, what happened to Axel, what your family has been through, what you've been through?

ALFERMANN: My hope has always been that someone else doesn't have to be me, you know? These vaccines are here. And I'm not pushing like the mandate. I'm pushing people to talk to their doctor, to talk to medical professionals.

Do not do this hearsay, or, all this stuff that gets spread so easily, when it's not really the medical facts, because these lies are killing people. And we are tired of seeing people die. And I'm just tired of COVID happening again, especially after what I've gone through.

And, I thought when we got this vaccine, there was going to be fresh hope, we were going to get a rest, and we were going to get back to our lives. And now, it's just, it's come back worse than it was.

COOPER: And when, if - when you were pregnant, if you had been able to get the vaccine, if the vaccine had been out there, you would have - you would have gotten it, because it's safe, for pregnant people?

ALFERMANN: Yes. We had been - we had been talking about it. My husband was not really thinking he would. But I knew I was, because I see COVID, and I did not want to risk. At that point, before I had my son, I was worried about my father-in- law, everyone that I love. And I was going to get that vaccine to save others. So, it's now the time, for people, to do their research, and save themselves, because they're going to be asking to be helped, and it's too late.

COOPER: Vanessa, I appreciate talking to you. And again, I'm so sorry for what you have gone through, and so thankful that you are telling your story, and also what you do every day. I mean, working 12-hour shifts, and more, in the hospital, helping people, who, in many cases, have not taken a vaccine that they could have.


COOPER: Vanessa, thank you so much.

ALFERMANN: Thank you so much, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, there's more ahead, what the CEO of the travel community site, Airbnb, is saying tonight about helping thousands of Afghan refugees. That's next.



COOPER: One of the many enduring questions, in the wake of the mass evacuations, of Afghan refugees, from Kabul, is where exactly they'll go. American military base, of course, are only one answer.

Tonight, the CEO of Airbnb says his worldwide network of homes will be available, free of charge, to house those refugees, up to 20,000 of them. Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, joins me right now.

So Brian, this is a really cool thing that you're doing. Why did you decide to personally step in, to try to help resettle these Afghan refugees?

BRIAN CHESKY, CEO, AIRBNB: Well, we've been doing things like this for the last 10 years.

With Airbnb and, we've been providing housing, for people in need, whether it's people displaced by a disaster, or starting four years ago, we started housing refugees. We've housed about 25,000 refugees.

And so, when it came over the weekend, we were housing - we've housed about 200 refugees, over the course of this past weekend. And we started realizing, there's going to be a much greater need. And we thought maybe we can add a couple zeros to this, and really make a huge impact.

I mean, I think this is obviously one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our lifetime. Thousands of people need homes. We have thousands, actually millions of homes around the world.

COOPER: So, how does this work? I mean, you don't own the properties, obviously.


COOPER: I guess a host has to volunteer to host a refugee?

CHESKY: Yes. So, I'll explain it.

So, we're working with resettlement agencies, the International Rescue Committee and the Church World Service. So, they work with the Department of State, and different governments, to receive the refugees.

They do all the screening, make sure the refugee families are ready to find housing. Then, what we do is we match those refugee families, with our hosts. Thousands of hosts will open their homes.

Just to give you an example, last year, during COVID, 225,000 hosts opened their homes, to frontline workers. So, we're confident we're going to have more than enough homes.

And then what we're doing, Airbnb and is we're going to pay for it. So, we'll pay the hosts out of our pocket. They use our technology, our cost, so the host doesn't have to come out of pocket for this.

COOPER: And how long can you do this, for, or will you do this for?

CHESKY: We'll do this for as long as they need housing. This isn't permanent housing, obviously. Most host families can't host refugees on a permanent basis. And most of these refugee families do want to have permanent settlement. But we'll go wherever the need is.

So, we're taking guidance from these resettlement agencies, which is also why we're not even certain what the cost is going to be. We don't know how long they'll need housing. But so long as people need housing, we don't want to turn people away. We want to make sure they're housed.

COOPER: So but - so just so I'm clear, these are people, who have been cleared by, or gone through IRC, or the other agency, you mentioned, and they've done processing and things like that?

CHESKY: Yes. That's their expertise. We're not the ones screening the refugee families. Those organizations that have around for obviously, a very long time are doing all the screening. They match to us. And then we work on the host side.

COOPER: And are you doing this in countries, around the world?

CHESKY: All countries around the world that will receive refugees. So, obviously, United States here, but we're in 220 countries and regions. And so, I expect us to be able to, our hosts to be able to, receive refugees, and refugee families, in countries all over the world.

COOPER: There are those who might be concerned that the evacuation process has been rushed, and some of these refugees may not have been fully vetted. Some of them are not necessarily people, who had been through the SIV process, for long periods of time.

What do you say to any potential person, who might be willing to open up their home?

CHESKY: Well, we've housed hundreds of thousands of people, over the last 10 years, through a variety of disasters, a variety of resettlement issues. Every one of these is a last-minute scramble.

I have total confidence in our partners, on the ground, International Rescue Committee, the Church World Service, and we're also here, 24x7, to be able to help. And we're going to be there, each step of the way, with our host families.

COOPER: And I mean, if somebody ends up having to - a family needs, ends up for six months, I mean, tied up in some sort of red tape, can you house somebody for six months?

CHESKY: A host family, I presume could host them for as long as they want. But we're not going to expect anyone to house people longer than they can.

So, what somebody should do is if you want to host somebody, they go to, and they host for as long as they can. If they can't host the guest anymore, we will take it out of their hands, and we'll find another family suitable for them.

COOPER: Wow! Brian Chesky, it's cool that you're able to do this. Thanks for being with us.

CHESKY: Well thank you very much.

COOPER: All right.

CHESKY: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it. Thanks.

Just ahead, we remember a legend, the drummer for perhaps the most legendary Rock and Roll act ever.



COOPER: We end tonight with a celebration of the life of Charlie Watts. The drummer, for the Rolling Stones, died today. He was 80- years-old.

No cause of death announced, though the Stones announced earlier this month that Watts would miss part of their upcoming tour, after undergoing a medical procedure, for an unknown condition.

Bandmates Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger, today, both posted images, on social media, commemorating Watts' life, with Richards' photo showing an empty drum set, and a sign that reads "Closed." Messages poured in from Watts' peers. Elton John wrote, on Twitter, "Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer." Paul McCartney calls Watts "A fantastic drummer, steady as a rock."

In 1979, Keith Richards told the "Rolling Stone" magazine, "Everybody thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn't doing what he's doing on drums, that wouldn't be true at all. You'd find out that Charlie Watts is the Stones."

A remarkable life!

The news continues with Don Lemon and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Hello, everyone. Here we are. Thanks for joining us. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.

And we have a busy news night ahead with major developments, on everything, from Afghanistan, to COVID, to a big win, for the President, on Capitol Hill. And we're going to catch you up on all of it.