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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
U.S. Marine Killed in Kabul Attack Was Expecting Baby; Interview with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); U.S. Marine Killed In Kabul Attack Identified" Rylee McCollum, 20; WH: Biden Warned "Another Terror Attack In Kabul Is Likely"; CNN's Clarissa Ward Talks With ISIS-K Commander; Terror Group Claimed Responsibility For Kabul Attack. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 27, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with a name, Rylee McCollum -- the first of 13 names of 13 people that should never be forgotten.
Rylee McCollum was a Marine. He was just 20 years old. He was as old as the war he served and died in, a baby during the 9/11 attacks. His older sister tells us her brother had wanted to be a Marine his whole life, so much so that even as a toddler, he walked around with a toy rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots.
She says this was his first deployment that he was sent to Afghanistan when the evacuation began and had been manning the checkpoint when that suicide bomb was detonated yesterday.
Rylee, she said wanting to be History teacher and a wrestling coach when he returned to civilian life. He had a baby due in just three weeks -- three weeks.
She said he will be remembered by his family and friends and those who loved him -- and there are many who loved him and knew him -- he will be remembered for the way he made those around him stronger and kinder and able to love deeply.
Rylee McCollum from Wyoming, in the eyes with a big sister who loved him so much.
There are 12 other names, 12 other heroes whose stories are sadly yet to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We still believe there are credible threats. In fact, I'd say specific, credible threats, and we want to make sure we're prepared for those.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Specific credible threats. That's Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, preparing the public for possible new suicide attacks like yesterday's or other forms of attacks by ISIS-K fighters. It was a suicide bombing that killed 13 American service members and at least 170 Afghans outside Kabul Airport.
Today in Kabul, family members collected the remains of loved ones, many of whom died trying to get out of a country where they no longer felt safe.
Tonight, CNN's Clarissa Ward has an exclusive interview with an ISIS-K commander, which she did before she and her crew were evacuated.
Meantime, at the airport, with thinner crowds outside, the airlift went on. Officials saying U.S. and allied forces got another 12,500 people out and that includes about 300 Americans with more still waiting to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are approximately 500 American citizens we are currently working with who want to leave and we are communicating directly with to facilitate their evacuation.
That's the update from the State Department. They may have more details, given they have been overseeing the constant contact, which we went and did another round of contacts via e-mail, text, WhatsApp, phone over the course of yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She was also asked about the President's vow of retribution against yesterday's killers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When the President says, "We will hunt you down and make you pay." What does that look like? Is he going to order a mission to kill the people responsible? Or would he be satisfied if they are captured and brought to trial?
PSAKI: I think he made clear yesterday that he does not want them to live on the Earth anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ordinarily, such threats are conveyed using phrases such as "brought to justice" and are rarely stated so plainly. Then there are the quieter words of condolence. We learned that planning is underway for calls to families of the 13 service members. Rylee McCollum's family will be among them, of course.
A senior White House official telling us, they'll come once all next of kin notifications have taken place. There is a lot to get to tonight. We have a number of reports starting with CNN's Alex Marquardt at The Pentagon.
Alex, the Pentagon bracing for a likely second attack. What do we know about security measures to try to stop that from happening?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. The Pentagon has said that they are monitoring these very real threats in real time.
Obviously, the focus is around the airport. One of the things that they had already been doing in the lead up to the attack yesterday, as we knew this threat stream was coming in was to secure the perimeter, make it much stronger, and that obviously is continuing.
But, Anderson, one of the major things that they are doing is coordinating with the Taliban. The Taliban is obviously the most powerful force there on the ground outside the airport. The U.S. has asked the Taliban to extend the perimeter farther away from the airport. They've asked them to shut down some of the roads to prevent things like -- they're called VB-IEDs or vehicle borne IEDs from getting closer to the airport, to prevent those suicide bombers from getting close to the airport.
We know that there has been some level of information sharing between the U.S. and the Taliban about potential threat. Of course, this level of coordination is absolutely extraordinary, relying on an enemy for this kind of security, and of course, coming at the most dangerous time in this operation.
We know that people first go through a level of Taliban screening, but then they are screened by the Americans. And The Pentagon said very clearly that this is an intimate experience, if you will. They are right up close to these people with their breath, feeling their breath so that's as close as they have to get so the danger is still very real for these U.S. troops -- Anderson.
COOPER: We also had White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki say about those responsible for yesterday's attack, the President Biden quote, "Doesn't want them to live on Earth anymore." I mean, is there an actual hunt to find them at this stage, do we know? I mean, because the President had also previously had said it would be at a date and time of the U.S.'s choosing?
MARQUARDT: Yes. And there's obviously a demand by the American people to go after these attackers from ISIS-K. The President named the group, he said that: "We will find you, we will hunt you down. We will not forgive, we will not forget."
He did suggest, Anderson, that they do have some information about who may be responsible specifically, but there is no doubt that this is a major test of what the military calls "over the horizon capability," a test of whether and how the U.S. will be able to carry out strikes against terrorists when the U.S. forces are no longer there.
The Pentagon would tell you now that they are fully able to and plan to keep carrying out strikes against terrorists that for now at least, they do have thousands of troops on the ground. They do have Apache helicopters, they've got drones in the region. They've got other forces in the region.
But of course, the capabilities have been diminished with these troops pulling out with Intelligence assets and officials pulling out. So, this is going to be a major test.
While the U.S. is still technically in the country of that over the horizon capability, this targeting of those ISIS-K fighters in response to that suicide bombing yesterday, and the White House is certainly feeling the political pressure to go after this group in response to this this horrible killing of 13 U.S. service members yesterday.
COOPER: And what do we know about how this is now -- or the security situation is affecting the evacuation operation?
MARQUARDT: Well, those evacuations as you did note, are still ongoing. We know that over the course of 12 hours today, that's kind of how they look at it and these increments of 12 and then 24 hours, there were evacuations of 4,200 people. That is down from the peak of around 20,000 people over 24 hours, but it's still well within the range that The Pentagon was aiming of around 5,000 to 9,000 every 24 hours.
So, the evacuations still are happening. In fact, the numbers are pretty are substantial and impressive. So far, we understand that 109,200 people have been pulled out in less than two weeks. So, this is a monumental task and a very impressive logistical operation under the most difficult of circumstances.
COOPER: Yes, and it's extraordinary that even on the same day that there was this horrific suicide bombing and the death of 13 U.S. service members and more than 150 Afghans that the evacuation still continued. They chose the professionalism of the forces on the ground there.
Alex, appreciate the reporting.
I want to go next to CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward in Doha, Qatar.
Clarissa, the White House said today that another terror attack in Kabul is likely. I know you've got some exclusive reporting coming up tonight on ISIS-K who claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack. Knowing what you know, how likely do you think it is that they will attempt more during this evacuation?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not just the U.S. who is saying it, Anderson. There are several Western allied Intelligence agencies all warning of the same thing that now is the time for increased attacks because at this moment in the evacuation, the U.S. is essentially at its most vulnerable. This is the moment where you're sort of finishing the evacuations of personnel and you're beginning the sort of picking up of your own equipment and departing, and that leaves you very vulnerable to attacks.
You heard Alex describe there about how the Taliban had been pushed back setting up that perimeter further away. You know, when we went to the airport just a week ago, Anderson, you
could just get by the Taliban by waving your documents and saying we have authorization to get through to the next checkpoint, which was manned by U.S. servicemen.
And even for Afghans, there was not always a clear pat-down. There was not a clear search for weapons. So, clearly a lot of things needed to change in order to improve the situation.
But as I said before, U.S. forces and Afghans who are trying to get to the airport, still very vulnerable. And from what we heard in our conversations with an ISIS-K Commander from before this attack, and indeed before Kabul fell to the Taliban, more broadly speaking, the country is still very vulnerable to attacks from this vicious terror group -- Anderson.
COOPER: Also obviously, there as much as possible have been changes in response to the attack, I assume. We don't know much exactly about that and there is a reason for that, they obviously don't want a lot of details out about any security changes they have made at the airport to their procedures, but at a certain point it does come down to American personnel or Afghan -- former Afghan Special Forces personnel having to search people before they can get into the perimeter.
WARD: And exactly, Anderson, and as Alex said, you know, we heard from CENTCOM yesterday, if you're going to do a proper search, you have to be close enough that you can feel the person's breath on your face. So, there is very little way to mitigate this risk and this threat.
And the reality is that on the ground, ultimately, this is really becoming the responsibility of the Taliban. And this is a moment for the Taliban to show, can they thwart these kinds of attacks? Can they stand up against the threat of ISIS-K? Because even beyond the immediate threat to U.S. servicemen and innocent Afghans, there's the broader question going forward, Anderson, of the whole premise of this withdrawal was predicated on the idea that the Taliban could assure that Afghanistan would never again become a safe haven for terrorists. And can the U.S. continue to take the Taliban at its word on this front?
Is the Taliban able to successfully quash groups like ISIS-K, especially when the U.S. has left and doesn't have, as Alex mentioned, eyes and ears on the ground to have a better sense of what these groups are doing, and some of their bases, as we know, Anderson, are in very rural and remote areas? It is simply not possible many fear for the Taliban to be across all these threats.
COOPER: Well, also, as you know better than anybody, the idea that the Taliban are going to be able to, you know, man checkpoints and, you know, operate in a manner, which trained forces usually do. I mean, these are thugs, these are, you know, many of them have very little education at all. They are used to just -- you know, they are fighters, they've been killing people for years, bullying people, you know, doing horrific things all throughout Afghanistan with impunity.
The idea that they are going to be able to kind of in an efficient manner, man checkpoints seems kind of just difficult to believe.
WARD: I mean, that's the real fear here. Up until a few weeks ago, the Taliban was best known as being a vicious insurgency, a guerrilla warfare group. And now, they are in charge of governing an enormous country with a huge variety of complex threats that face it. And the reality is, as they concentrate on one area, such as you know, keeping the electricity going, maintaining law and order on the streets of Kabul, making sure that the Ministries are operating, are they really having time also to focus on these kinds of militant jihadist groups like ISIS-K, like al-Qaeda, that some worry could pose, maybe not in the near term future, but in five years or further along a more broader global threat?
And the answer to that is, we just don't know. It is worth mentioning, though, Anderson, because some people get confused about this, that ISIS-K sees its primary enemy right now, as being Taliban forces themselves. They believe the Taliban is not implementing Sharia law in the way it should, that it has become too pragmatic, too diplomatic in its approach, particularly towards international communities, and they want to see a much stricter and more brutal, if you can imagine that, interpretation of Islamic law introduced.
So, the Taliban is going to have to be putting out multiple fires, and as of yet, unclear if they have the wherewithal to do that -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, Clarissa, we'll see you again a little bit later on in the program for more of your exclusive interview with that ISIS-K commander.
Right now, we're joined by Richard Clarke, who served as senior counterterrorism official under Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He is currently Chairman of the Middle East Institute.
Richard, thanks for being with us.
If Intelligence suggests that another terrorist attack is quote, "likely." What does one do? I mean, what tools do you have in a situation like this to keep Afghans from dying, to keep U.S. service members from dying?
RICHARD CLARKE, CHAIRMAN, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, not enough. I think it's pretty clear that the U.S. and its allies have some sort of Intelligence stream coming from ISIS. They are somehow tapping into ISIS.
They know what they're planning. They know what they're talking about. But that doesn't mean you can do prevent it. You might know what is going to happen, you don't know when, you don't know how, which is very frustrating.
[20:15:07] CLARKE: If you know who, you can try to track them down. Now, the U.S.
can't track them down very readily, but the Taliban might be able to do.
And the bizarre thing, Anderson, about the way the U.S. has chosen to leave Afghanistan is that we have become dependent on the Taliban, dependent on them to allow people into the airport, dependent on them now, to help with our own security. And when that last plane takes off, when there are no U.S. troops on the ground, we are going to be dependent on the Taliban to maintain security at the airport.
COOPER: With only a few days left before the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, I mean, what concerns you most at this point among the huge platter of things that could possibly go wrong?
CLARKE: Well, you and Clarissa was just talking about bombs at the airport, you know, people wearing a suicide vest and truck-borne, but what if they -- what if the ISIS people have mortars? What if they can stand off a ways from the airport and drop mortars onto the runway, as our planes are trying to take off? That's a horrific scene, but you can imagine it.
So, we're very much dependent on the Taliban to find these people, Taliban want to, of course, but I still consider it rather bizarre that the way in which the Biden administration has done this has meant that the United States is dependent on the Taliban for our own security, for our own ability to extract our people.
COOPER: And not only dependent, in some cases, it seems giving information to the Taliban, such as you know, we're concerned or we have information about a vehicle-borne explosive device, perhaps. So, you know, look at cars more. I mean, it is strange bedfellows to say the least.
CLARKE: Well, I think we're sharing -- yes, well, we were enemies last week, and this week, we're sharing Intelligence and we are giving them lists of Americans who need to come through their checkpoints. It's very, very odd.
But it could lead to a better outcome. It could lead to a situation where the Taliban moderate their behavior and the United States in turn -- this is after we leave -- the United States and our allies in turn, provide them access to Afghanistan's money and provide them access to some of the technology they need to run the country.
The country is in very bad economic shape and will collapse economically, unless we cooperate with the Taliban.
And Bill Burns, the C.I.A. Director said that to the Taliban military leader. I think we both know we need them and they need us. It's become a very strange codependency.
COOPER: The Taliban, though, I mean, it does not seem to -- from everything I've read and talked to people about, it doesn't seem that it's just this monolithic organization, that there are like with any organization, there are competing factions, different mafia bosses, you know, different ideological, you know, viewpoints or perspectives.
CLARKE: That is true, but there is a ruling Shura, which is probably monolithic. There is also Pakistan. Pakistan is behind the Taliban, to a very great degree. The Taliban rely on Pakistan and we need to be putting pressure on Pakistan and I'm sure we are, to moderate the Taliban's behavior and to get Taliban cooperation.
Right now, the Taliban want to become part of the community of nations. They have said that.
Well, there are certain preconditions. Even after the evacuation is over, they have to let people out, whether that's in buses over the Pakistan border, or up to Uzbekistan, or whether the Turkish military come in, which is a possibility and manage the airport on behalf of the Taliban, and then we can continue to get people out.
Our precondition for any cooperation going forward has to be that people are allowed to continue to leave, even after the airlift.
COOPER: Richard Clarke, I really appreciate you being with us tonight. Thank you.
CLARKE: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, the latest on what the President's advisers are telling him as they brace for these dangerous final days. We're joined as well by a Republican lawmaker who saw action in Afghanistan.
And later, we go back to Clarissa Ward for her exclusive interview with an ISIS-K commander in this live two-hour edition of 360 continues.
COOPER: The President tonight is facing what most Presidents eventually do, namely a situation, which even perfect Intelligence planning and decision making might not be enough to head off a disaster.
In this case, another disaster. That's what we've been talking about, the warning from his National Security team that another attack in Kabul is quote "likely." CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us tonight.
So Kaitlan, the team apparently warned the President another attack is likely. What more do you know about the Situation Room briefings?
COLLINS: Well, basically, their argument, Anderson, is that these next few days of this evacuation mission, even though there's only four days left could be the most dangerous of the entire time that these troops have been on the ground in Kabul trying to get these Americans and these green card holders and legal permanent residents and Afghan allies out of there, and that is because of the nature of what's expected to happen over the next few days where you are seeing fewer U.S. troops there. They are going to be taking their resources and their weaponry when them when they go.
And so of course, a smaller presence, according to the White House translates into a higher risk, and especially given what happened yesterday that is of high concern here at the White House.
And so, this was a meeting that President Biden had with his National Security team this morning. He has had one every single day this week, and we are told they are expected to continue throughout the weekend.
But they are saying, yes, we do expect another one of these is likely, and Anderson, we should note these are kind of similar warnings that we were hearing from officials before the attack happened this week.
COOPER: We are just starting to learn more about some of the 13 service members who were killed in the suicide attack. Rylee McCollum is the first name we have from his family. He was 20 years old. He has a baby do just three weeks from now. It is just devastating.
Do you have any updates on whether or not the President has made calls to some family members of those? I know there was talk of making sure everybody had been notified first, obviously.
COLLINS: Yes, that is a pretty delicate situation. And so, the White House says, he does intend to get in touch with them. He hasn't called anyone yet as of what a senior official told me just a few moments ago, Anderson, but I think a lot of that has to do with the next of kin notification process that's going on.
And also what Jen Psaki said earlier today, you know, when these people get this news from people, as Rylee's father did earlier today, as he was saying to -- telling "The New York Times," it's the worst day of their life finding out this news.
And so Jen Psaki was saying, they are not always ready for a call from the President immediately. So, they do plan to facilitate those calls. Of course, they may not happen immediately. We should expect some of them to happen throughout the weekend.
And then the next question is what happens with the dignified transfers at Dover Air Force Base? Does the President go to those? Of course, because this is the first time that troops have been killed since President Biden took office, it is obviously a situation that is very close to him, given he often pulls out that little card that he carries around in his pocket that notes the number of forces that have been killed.
And of course now, there are unfortunately more added to that list.
COOPER: Yes, 13. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.
Joining us now, a Republican lawmaker who is not, we should say, a reflexive critic of the President, Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, he is however sharply critical on this episode as well as the decisions leading up to it in the past administration, and as a veteran of the war, a current Air National Guard member, he speaks from experience. [20:25:11]
COOPER: Quoting now from his piece today in "Foreign Policy" Magazine, quote: "The Taliban cannot be trusted, not before, not now, not ever. It's shameful that our past President Donald Trump negotiated a deal with the terrorist organization. It's appalling that our current President, Joe Biden, underestimated the impact of his withdrawal announcement and the chaos that would ensue."
"Worse, the lack of strength being shown by our Commander-in-Chief is embarrassing."
Congressman Kinzinger, thanks for being with us.
But before we get to the foreign policy, what you wrote, I just want to talk to you about this fallen U.S. Marine that we're learning about tonight. It's really the first person whose name we know. His families spoke to CNN, Rylee McCollum is his name. His wife has a baby due in just three weeks, wanted to be a Marine his whole life, so much of that he carried around a toy rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots, as a toddler, which I loved the image of that. This was his first deployment.
You know, when you see it in black and white who this person was and the devastation that his family will feel for the rest of their lives, it is just -- it's just another -- it's just horrific.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): It is obviously incredibly sad, and as we get the rest of the names, it is going to be repeated over and over, and our sorrow will pale in comparison to the families. You know, it is a reminder, I'd heard somebody earlier mention, you know, while it's extremely tragic that these 13 people were killed, you know, what were they killed doing?
They were killed saving lives, saving American lives, saving green card holder's lives, saving the lives of people that, you know, worked with us in Afghanistan. And so while of course, we certainly, you know, wish this was far different, I think it's important to note that this was something that, you know, people often say, is that death in vain? It is a death, we certainly wish didn't happen.
But I think you can look at what we were accomplishing and say there are many lives that are going to be touched in generations because of this.
COOPER: Well, and also, I mean, I do think it's important to point out as well, that they were standing there exposed knowing that there was a likely attack. I mean, knowing that there was very specific Intelligence. In fact, the U.S. had warned Americans to get away from that area because it was not safe, and yet they were standing there. If the images from days past are any indication, shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Marines and others, knowing what, you know, any second could happen in that crowd.
The White House is saying that President Biden has been warned another attack is likely as the mission enters its most dangerous period. How concerned are you about that? And is there anything you think that
can be done that may not be being done?
KINZINGER: I don't know if there is anything that we can do that we're not kind of looking at where we are in this moment. You know, unfortunately, having to rely on the Taliban, there's a series of bad choices that led us to this moment.
But it is a very real threat. I've heard from people on the ground there, as well as of course, what's being reported in open source and this is very reminiscent of what we were hearing a day or two prior.
Now, hopefully, with the knowledge of this with a perimeter that has been extended a little more, you know, and with knowing how it happened last time, we may be better prepared. But this is certainly probably as you know, you've been saying here one of the more dangerous moments probably in the entire Afghanistan war in the next few days.
COOPER: After this attack, some people in your party have called for President Biden to be impeached or resign. Most of those people never spoke up when President Trump made the deal that President Biden has been following through on.
But I do want to ask you something you said earlier today on CNN that some people on his National Security team should resign. If they don't resign, should President Biden fire them in your mind?
KINZINGER: Yes, I mean, look, I think there needs to be accountability. And I think frankly, President Biden needs to take better ownership of this. You know, people have used the Kennedy Bay of Pigs analogy where he took full responsibility, and actually his poll numbers recovered, because that's what Americans want. They want leaders who take responsibility.
So, a firing or removal or resignation of a National Security leader team should not be, you know, kind of a scapegoat. I mean, ultimately, President Biden owns this, but we need to know what happened.
And as far as you know, my party's knee jerk reaction, look, this is tragic. I agree that there was a ton of things done wrong. Calling for the impeachment of a President is not in line with what the Constitution prescribes. And secondarily, let's give it at least a potato or two, you know, before we start focusing on that only.
I've been very critical of President Biden in this moment, because my hope is through that criticism, we would be able to change kind of how we were doing things. I've been very critical of the prior President.
But this country really needs to get back to where we see ourselves as Americans before party members and unfortunately, I think that is flipped around at this moment.
COOPER: Yes, you are consistent in your criticism and your praise, which speaks to your favor. I do want to read something that from your op-ed, for Foreign Policy, you said we have the strength, power and fortitude to stand up for freedom. And we must take that stand now by pushing back on the arbitrary deadline the President has set for withdrawal, securing the airport, expanding our efforts to ensure the safety and security of all Americans, Afghans with special visas, and our Afghan allies in danger, anything less is unacceptable and un- American.
What would you do differently at this point, I spoke to, you know, Chairman, former chairman, Mike Rogers yesterday to talk about expanding the perimeter to me, and I'm certainly no expert. But that that only seems to I'm not sure what that actually does on a tactical level, it seems to just expose need more. First of all, you would need more American troops there, you would expose them to just a greater number of people over a greater massive area. What do you think should be done?
KINZINGER: Yes, I mean, look, you're exactly right, in that all you're doing is basically pushing out the potential work where people gather. Look, I mean, if I could go back, you know, two weeks, I would have basically secured the city of Kabul and told the Taliban not to come in, they weren't going to come in until the government collapse until we had everybody out. But given where we are now, and given that there's already a wind down detonation of American equipment, we're running out of options.
But I think the bottom line is as botched as this has been the one way we can redeem a really bad situation and not redeem it, but I guess try to try to do something good is to say that every American that needs to get out can get out and every Afghanistan SIV. Look, I may be wrong here, but the indications we're getting on the ground have been very different than what the administration is briefing, they keep talking about, we're still adding Afghan SIVs in. And what we're hearing from people on the ground is that Afghan SIVs are being kicked out of the airport. And there actually are planes sometimes with open seats.
So look, and we'll be able to figure out what's going on in a few weeks when we have hearings and stuff, but I certainly hope I am wrong, and that they are still allowing these folks in the airport to leave as long as we have time to do that.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Kinzinger, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
COOPER: Up next from CNN's Clarissa Ward, her exclusive interview with an ISIS-K commander, the break way terror group is claimed responsibility for the attack on American troops and hundreds of Afghan civilians.
COOPER: We heard from CNN's Clarissa Ward earlier with the latest in the situation Afghanistan, as we reported before she left Kabul she secured an exclusive interview with an ISIS commander at -- ISIS-K commander. This was before the city felt the Taliban. It is an offshoot devices which until a few days ago, most Americans have never heard about. Here's Clarissa's report.
CLARISS WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two weeks before the attack just days before Kabul fell to the Taleban, we were in touch with a senior ISIS-K commander who set the group was lying low and waiting for its moment to strike. Words that turned out to be eerily prophetic.
(on-camera): So this commander has said that he'll do an interview with us at a hotel here in Kabul and he says it's no problem for him to get through checkpoints and come right into the capital.
(voice-over): To prove his point, he led his film his arrival into the city. Abdul Moneer (ph) as he asked to be called, is an ISIS-K commander from Kunar, the heart of the terrorist groups operations. He agreed to talk on the condition that we disguise his identity. In a Kabul hotel, he told us he's had up to 600 men under his command, among them Indians, Pakistanis and Central Asians. Like many of his foot soldiers, he used to fight with the Taliban, but says they've fallen under the influence of foreign powers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We were operating intelligence ranks, however, these people were not aligned with us in terms of belief. So we went to ISIS.
WARD (on-camera): Do you think they're not strict enough with their implementation of Sharia?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): You see, they can't present one example where they have been forced fixed Islamic law punishments, where they have caught off a thief's hand, have stoned to death and adulterer, have stoned to death a murderer. They cannot enforce fixed Islamic law punishments, because they are under other people's control, and they implement their plans. So we do not want to implement someone else's plans and we only want to enforce Sharia. If anyone gets along with us on this, he is our brother. Otherwise, we declare war with him, whether he's Talib or anyone else.
WARD (on-camera): So have you carried out public executions, suicide bombings, things of this nature?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Yes, I have too many memories where I was present myself at the scenes. One memory is that the Pakistani Taliban had come to the (INAUDIBLE) district. And during the fighting, we captured five people. Our fighters became overexcited and we struck them with access.
WARD (voice-over): It's that chilling brutality that made ISIS-K a primary target for U.S. forces. In recent years, airstrikes and Special Forces operations have ruthlessly targeted the group in Kunar and Nangarhar. (on-camera): Has your group engaged in any fighting with U.S. Special Forces?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Yes, we have faced them on many occasions. We had close combat with them too. They used to land in ancient (ph) and Kunar they carried out airstrikes, we have faced them a lot in firefights.
WARD (on-camera): Are you interested ultimately in carrying out international attacks?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): This point is higher than my level, I can only give you information about Afghanistan.
WARD (on-camera): With U.S. forces out of the country and the Taliban potentially in control. Do you think that will make it easier for you to expand?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Yes, this exists in our plan, instead of currently operating we have turned to recruiting only to utilize the opportunity and to do our recruitment. But when the foreigners and people the world leave Afghanistan, we can restart our operations.
WARD (voice-over): That moment has now come as the world saw all too clearly on Thursday, a brutal attack on an already battered country. And the threat that is not going away as U.S. forces complete their withdrawal.
COOPER: Clarissa, I mean, considering his main issue with the Taliban seems to be they're not strict enough in what they call their interpretation of Sharia law. Why did the commander of ISIS-K agreed to sit down and speak with a woman?
WARD: Well, I think first of all, Anderson, it's important for our viewers to understand that there's always a lot of hypocrisy with these Jihadist groups. I've experienced it many times before, what they say and what they do are very different. The irony here is that this commanders group this ISIS-K branch actually released a propaganda video today in which it was specifically chastising the Taliban, for doing interviews with women and for having conversations with women. And yet, as you saw, he was willing to meet with me privately in a room, there were very few of us in that room. I was not completely covered because it was a secure location in Kabul and this was before the fall of the city.
I think it's fair to say that he agreed to meet with us because he had a very specific message that he wanted delivered. At the time, I don't think we could I understood the gravity of that message and the seriousness of it. But given what we now know about how closely U.S. intelligence has been tracking that threat, it's clear that the ISIS-K danger is very real. And we saw that yesterday and in such an ugly and brutal fashion. And the fear now becomes, are we going to see more of it. [20:40:22]
Terror analysts say, Anderson, you know, he wouldn't be drawn on the subject of transnational attacks, they say, you know, we're five years away from potentially having to worry about a group like ISIS-K carrying out some kind of an international attack. But the threat for the people in Afghanistan remains, and the question of whether the Taliban can counter these groups, or whether Afghanistan becomes a safe haven for terrorists again, these are all very pressing questions that are now rising again to the fore, Anderson.
COOPER: Has the -- has ISIS-K really been able to hold territory at any point so far?
WARD: I mean, we know that they have a base in Korengal Valley, in Kunar Province, Kunar and Nangarhar, they're kind of strongholds. But up until now, they basically have been lying pretty low, and their focus is less on holding territory and governing. And it's more on staging these incredibly bloody, gruesome attacks that send a very strong message that frightened people. And now their primary focus Anderson is on undermining the Taliban at every single chance they have.
They know that the Taliban's main calling card or its main source of popularity with certain swaths of the population is the fact that it can provide some degree of law and order where we haven't really seen that in a coherent way over the past couple of decades. So what they want to do now is show that the Taliban can provide law and order and we can continue to create chaotic situations with these splashy, hideous attacks in cities like Kabul. We've seen them in cities like Jalalabad and no sense now, Anderson that they are going away anytime soon.
COOPER: Yes. Clarissa Ward, appreciate it. Thanks. Incredible reporting. Thank you.
As we reported earlier, we now know the name of one of the U.S. servicemen killed in the suicide bombing Thursday, Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum. This video taken from near the spot of that attack just a few days earlier ahead, we're going to talk to the to the reporter for PBS who shot this video about what the scene at that checkpoint was like before the attack.
Later, an update on hurricane Ida, now category four storm headed toward the Gulf Coast.
COOPER: Earlier we told you about one of the Marines who was killed in Thursday suicide bombing outside the airport in Kabul, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum was a dedicated Marine according to his sister, a father with a baby due in just three weeks. I want to show you now video similar to some we showed you last night it's roughly near where that blast occurred. It was taken before obviously the blast and days before to show you the kind of mission that Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum and other U.S. service members are engaged on, the difficulty of it, the close quarters. This comes from PBS NewsHour correspondent Jane Ferguson. She recorded it days before the attack.
She says it's the entrance point to abbey gate at Karzai International Airport. And that the detonation occurred a few feet behind from where this video was recorded. She says Taliban are in the front trying to sort through the crowd. U.S. also has troops they're totally exposed, obviously risking their lives for this mission. And very little separating them and Afghans from potential terrorists.
Jane Ferguson, the PBS NewsHour correspondent who shot that footage joins us tonight. Also with us, is retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, former Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs.
Jane, appreciate you being with us. The video that you took, I mean, it's so important, it's so important to see this, it really gives you a sense of just the close quarters, the sheer number of people and the lack of any real safety for U.S. troops there. Can you just explain I mean, was there actual screening being done by the Taliban because I can't imagine that folks who were walking around with, you know, pieces of pipe to beat people with are necessarily great at screening people.
JANE FERGUSON, PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it wasn't really a screening or any kind of security screening by the Taliban. What we really were watching was crowd control and a deeply crass, violent kind of crowd control, where as you say, they were beating people with sticks, they were firing guns in the air very, very often, whenever the crowds would get, would get too intense and too panicked and push towards them.
But really in all my years of covering the conflict in Afghanistan, I've never seen anything like it. U.S. forces just standing, essentially in the street, surrounded by civilians. And of course, with the Taliban just down the street, supposedly controlling the flow of those civilians, they were hugely exposed. It's worth pointing out that it would have been impossible to screen these people. This was a mass crush of panicked civilians. I mean, at this point, people were just trying to keep them alive. It was incredibly hot. It's August in Afghanistan, and you saw people fainting every day. Seven people last weekend died in the crushes were stabbed, or basically crushed to death or crushed underfoot by panic crowds.
So at that point, it was really a case of worrying about sometimes the safety of the crowds themselves of the women and children, especially in there. And so the soldiers were absolutely at the forefront face to face with people who were extremely stressed and traumatized and desperate to get into the airport. I also interviewed the chaplain for the 82nd airborne, who was there, she said that she had never ever been as busy as overworked on an assignment she was getting basically three hours of sleep a night because so many people needed to talk to her, because it wasn't just physically dangerous. It was emotionally deeply grueling for their soldiers. COOPER: General Kimmitt, I mean watching that video, you know, U.S. Marines and troopers in the 82nd airborne and others. You know, shoulder to shoulder trying to figure out who's who and who should get through. I mean is there a better way to do that or is that what it takes?
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, RET. U.S. ARMY: No, listen, you've been in Baghdad, you've been in the war zones, coordinators. And you know how we set those checkpoints up. These had to be set up differently rather than having two or three men at the outer perimeter, because of the crowd control responsibilities. You saw a lot of Marines on the ground that, frankly were there for no other reason than crowd control. The Taliban let those huge numbers of people through, unfortunately, the people were rushing through and pressing towards the gate, because we've pulled everybody when we're leaving. So they know, they only have a few days left to get through those barriers.
And because we had so many people out there doing both security and crowd control, that is what led to the target being so dreadfully high. And in terms of how many troopers we lost. I hate to say it the wrong way, but we would normally lose two or three during one of these IEDs, packs. But that's not when you were doing crowd control, as well as security.
COOPER: And what is depending on analysis, that they're taking what they call maximum force protection measures, obviously, you know, there's stuff that probably shouldn't be said publicly and use your judgment on that General Kimmitt, but what -- I mean, what more can they do at this stage?
KIMMITT: Well, the most important thing to do is, as was said, by Jane, they need to push the perimeter route. So they have as few people exposed as possible. Now, you're right, there are other tactics, techniques and procedures we don't want to be talking about. But what you want to do is have the minimum number of people at the explosion site if there's an IED going to come.
But I'd also remind your viewers that this is where soldiers and Marines have been doing for 20 years.
KIMMITT: They've been in a target rich environment for terrorists for decades. And this is what our soldiers are exposed to almost every day they've operated in Iraq and Afghan.
COOPER: Well, Jane, I mean, it's one of the things I think it's such an important point. And we've said this earlier, but it bears repeating that the those who died that that day yesterday, they knew that there was a very real threat. In fact, they had warned, you know, Americans have been warned to leave the area. And yet, I mean, it just shows the, you know, the dedication that they have, and the, you know, the sense of mission that they were still there exposed, knowing full well, there was a very likely chance there would be an attack, and that there were still people that were trying to get out and they were going to continue the mission.
FERGUSON: Absolutely. You have to remember that these soldiers weren't just trying to find and save their country, men and women from Afghanistan and get American citizens out. But it was very deeply personally important to many soldiers and veterans groups that, that their partners in the battlefield were brought in that that the promises were kept, that, you know, those Special Immigrant Visas, essentially, that were promised to interpreters and those who worked with the U.S. military, that, you know, people waited years for those and suddenly an announcement that America is evacuating people, but we'll be gone in days, led to so many people who were somewhere along the way, in that process, whether they had the visa, or they had some sort of paperwork, they had an acknowledgement of the application, but it was quote, in process.
You know, for the soldiers to the American soldiers there, they understand that, you know, they don't want to leave behind those who really did risk their lives and will continue to take even more risk in their life if they have to live under the Taliban. So, you know, I spoke with a veteran today who had done several tours in Afghanistan. And, you know, many veterans, of course, in the wake of Afghanistan struggle with the idea of, you know, what was it worth, what did we achieve, but he said that, you know, part of the sort of way to cope with that for many veterans has been to make sure they don't leave these people behind. That they bring their battlefield partners with them.
So for every young soldiers standing at the gate, they're aware that they could be surrounded by people who, who have made sacrifices for the United States and they do want to bring them across and put them on flights.
COOPER: Yes. Jane Ferguson, retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
Now to another emerging threat in the United States, Hurricane Ida, headed toward the U.S. Gulf Coast were mandatory as well as voluntary evacuations along the Gulf are already in effect. Spokesman for the National Weather Service said quote, this is going to be a life altering storm for many people.
For more than a trajectory and the impact, let's go to meteorologist Allison Chinchar. So where's the storm now? Where's it headed?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right so it's just basically made it second landfall over Cuba just recently still kind of crossing over the island as we speak, sustained winds of 80 miles per hour gusting up to 100 miles per hour. Now we have hurricane warnings and even tropical storm warnings in effect along the Gulf Coast here in anticipation of this storm in the coming days.
Here's a look at the track, we anticipate that this is going to strengthen even further, really once it gets over the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it's expected to get not only in a major hurricane status, but a category four strength and that's unfortunately what it's also expected to make landfall as a category four storm sometimes Sunday afternoon in Louisiana. Now from there, it will continue to push farther inland and that's where we'll start to see a very heavy rainfall.
Here along the coast, however, the biggest concern is really going to be the storm surge, the pink color there 10 to 15 feet, the purple six to nine on the western side, seven to 11 feet on the eastern side of that flank, very gusty winds even for inland Jackson, Mississippi, likely looking at 60 mile per hour gusts, obviously higher along the coast itself. But that's why power outages are really going to be a major concern, widespread you can see in this orange color here. But even the lighter yellow still looking at some pretty decent amounts of power outages expected as well as some trees down.
The rainfall however, that's going to be the biggest widespread concern just because of how far that reach of impacts will be. Heaviest rain is going to be closer to the coast where six to 10 inches is not out of the question. But even areas of Kentucky and even southern Ohio, Anderson likely to pick up several inches of rain from this storm.
COOPER: We should also note Sunday is the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that made landfall 16 years ago this Sunday. Do we know how similar the path that that this storm may take is to what happened in Katrina?
CHINCHAR: Right, so there are some similarities. But then there's also a few things that really separate these two storms. For starters, Katrina started well out over the open Atlantic just to the east of Florida, this one Ida really coming up from the Gulf of Mexico. Now both are anticipated to hit Louisiana albeit a little bit farther apart. But one thing to note was Katrina was a category three at landfall, sustained winds about 125 miles per hour, Ida is expected to make landfall as a category four winds in excess of 140 miles per hour possibly.
So with Ida, the winds are certainly expected to be much stronger. But the real question for so many people who live through Katrina is the flooding. That's what a lot of people want to know. And the one thing we'll really have to keep a close eye on Anderson with Ida specifically is the forward speed. The slower this storm is at landfall, the more likely it is to produce tremendous amounts of rainfall because it can sit over that area for much longer periods of time.
So these are the things that we'll have to keep a close eye on at least over the next 36 hours.
COOPER: Yes. Allison Chinchar, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up next, we'll have much more in the still precarious situation in around Kabul airport, the first confirmed death of a U.S. Marine and I've talked with Los Angeles Times reporter Marcus Yam who was beat up by a member of the Taliban. All that and more when "360" continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)