Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Malala Yousafzai; Interview With Former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper; Interview with Billie Jean King. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 17, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Yet Biden puts the blame squarely on desperate Afghans. I ask former Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether there was a way
to avoid America's humiliating withdrawal.
Then: She was almost killed by the Taliban. Now Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai fears for Afghan women and girls.
BILLIE JEAN KING, FORMER U.S. TENNIS CHAMPION: We want more girls and women to be in decision-making positions.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King joins me with her new memoir, "All In," about her lifelong fight for equality on and off the court.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The Taliban laid on the charm offensive today, just two days after taking control of Afghanistan, holding a press conference in the capital, Kabul,
where they congratulated themselves and the nation for what they called their victory, and they promise that they won't hold grudges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN (through translator): And we don't want Afghanistan to be a battlefield. Today, the fighting is over. Whoever
was against the opposition has been given blanket amnesty.
The fighting should not be repeated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But many desperate Afghans simply aren't buying that.
Just take a look at this photo of some 640 civilians crammed into a U.S. cargo plane, which then transported them from Afghanistan to Qatar.
NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg has announced that it will be stopping support for the nation. And he also pinned the blame for this turn of events on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful
solution that Afghans desperately wanted.
This failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But is that in fact the whole story? And how will President Joe Biden's role be judged?
In his speech to the American people overnight, he showed no second thoughts about his decision, despite the Taliban takeover. And allies in
the U.K. and Europe are now asking themselves whether this might, in fact, be Biden's America first moment.
Joining me now in an exclusive interview is the former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He served under President Donald Trump.
Mark Esper, welcome to the program.
So much to ask you about, but, first, let me start with the obvious response to Joe Biden and perhaps Jens Stoltenberg as well. Was there a
choice between what Biden claimed would be an all-out war if the U.S. stayed any longer than Trump promised with the Taliban, or what actually
What do you believe could have mitigated a total takeover by the Taliban?
MARK ESPER, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, first of all, hello, Christiane. Good to see you again. And it's a pleasure to be here on the
show with you.
Let me say that, yes, of course, there were more options between the two binary choices presented by the president. Just better planning and
extending the timeline and taking a more thoughtful approach and not relying on simple assumptions would have prevented this disastrous outcome
that we're seeing unfolding behind us right now, before us right now.
It's a humanitarian crisis that I fear is only going to grow worse in the coming days and weeks.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a very pointed question.
Again, President Biden and the U.S. administration is putting the blame squarely on the Afghan government, now fallen, and the Afghan forces, which
you have spent, in terms of the United States, 20 years trying to step up, basically saying they had no will, it was their fault, we can't fight and
win for them if they're not going to fight.
Others have pointed out that the Afghan forces have fought and that, just in the last few years alone, they lost a total of 45,000 people. Do you
believe that it was entirely the fault of the Afghan forces and government?
ESPER: No, absolutely not, Christiane.
Look, clearly, the Afghan people deserve better political leadership than what they have had over the past 20 years. And we saw the Afghan soldiers,
many of whom fight bravely on the battlefield with the United States and allied support.
But to put this on them is just shifting the blame. The fact is, President Biden owns this. He owns the mess, the catastrophe that has been created
over the past several weeks, couple weeks, and should own up to it.
And really, at this point, we have to remedy the situation. We have to make sure that the airfield is secured, which I understand it is. But now we
have to think about, how do we go out and identify, locate and help bring back the up to 15,000 Americans who are in country, the State Department
and other U.S. government employees?
We have to think about, how do we bring back our Afghan partners, many who risked their lives for the past two decades to help the United States and
its allies? So the president could cut through this paperwork, bring these folks out of the country, and take them to another third country, take them
to Guam, wherever. But we need to take care of them.
And then we should think about, how do we organize an international effort to really put the pressure on the Taliban to mitigate this emerging
And then, finally, I would be remiss if I didn't say we really need to cobble back together our best intelligent asset -- intelligence assets and
resources to make sure we know what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan, so it doesn't once again become a safe haven for terrorists to
After all, that's the entire reason why we went there in the first place in 2001.
AMANPOUR: So, let me take a few of those points.
The Afghan spokespeople, their leadership, they have had very public press conferences. They are clearly trying to reach the U.S. and the
international community with all their promises, and they are seeking international legitimacy. So, to your points, they have pledged amnesty not
only to former Afghan forces, but to all of those civilians who are desperate -- and we have seen the pictures -- to get out.
They have also pledged not to allow Afghanistan to be a terrorist safe haven again, as it was when they were last in charge. Do you believe that?
ESPER: Well, I don't believe anything the Taliban says. We shouldn't trust them. But we need to do our best to verify everything that they're doing.
Look, it's clear, because some of CNN's folks have done some really good reporting from the streets of Kabul, but out in the city and the provinces,
people are scared. They're intimidated.
We hear isolated examples of brutality by the Taliban. And we need to see how that develops. But, in the meantime, we can't wait. We need to
organize, again, an international effort to compel, to urge the Taliban to obey basic human rights and fundamental principles, and hold them to what
they're saying and verify that they will indeed do so.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Esper, I need to ask you, of course, the 10,000 million dollar question, and that is about the president who you served
under, Donald Trump, because this all began with Donald Trump wanting to pull all U.S. forces out by Christmas, and the whole Doha process.
In your tweets since the Taliban takeover, you have said that it's both Trump and Biden who own this. You have said: "By pressing for a precipitous
withdrawal of U.S. forces, rather than leveraging the military muscle to compel Taliban compliance with the 2020 peace agreement, both presidents
hastened the Afghan government's collapse. The outcome was not inevitable, which is why, as secretary of defense, I formally opposed Trump's push to
further reduce, then hastily withdraw U.S. troops last fall.
"I recommended we suspended our departure until the Taliban started meeting their side of the deal."
So, again, this was started under your administration, the president you served. Can you take us into the conversations that were under way that
even imagined that this would result in anything other than what we have seen today?
ESPER: Well, first of all, there were a series of United States presidents, certainly beginning with President Obama, who wanted to see
America withdraw from Afghanistan.
And I think, at the end of the day, that was the right policy objective and remains to be the case. And I said so. Second, just because negotiations
began under the Trump administration does not ignore the fact that, again, President Biden owns the situation, the implementation of his withdrawal
that we now see unfolding before us.
But, that said, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban in February of 2020. It was a political agreement that was based on
a premise that I and many others inside and outside of the government shared, and that was that the only way forward was going to be a political
agreement, not a military solution imposed by the United States and the Afghan government, but a political solution.
And the Taliban signed up to that. We agreed to make reductions in our forces. At the same time, they committed to not allow, as you mentioned
earlier, Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States. They made some other commitments as well.
And I was very clear at the time that this agreement had to be conditions- based. In other words, both sides need to meet their ends of the agreement.
Now, the good news for the United States military is, we were planning reductions anyways. At the time, we were above 13,000 troops. We had
planned to go down to around 8, 600 or so by the summer.
And so with those caveats and conditions in mind, we proceeded. I thought that, despite it not being a perfect deal or a great deal, it was a good
enough deal. And we actually had Afghans later in the summer talking to one another, which I thought was an achievement.
My concern was that President Trump, by continuing to want to withdraw American forces out of Afghanistan, undermined the agreement, which is why,
in the fall, when he was calling for a return of U.S. forces, by Christmas, I objected, and formally wrote in a letter to him, a memo, based on
recommendations from the military chain of command and my senior civilian leadership that we not go further, that we not reduce below 4, 500 troops,
unless and until conditions were met by the Taliban.
Otherwise, we would see a number of things play out which are unfolding right now in many ways. That, of course, was just a few weeks or a week or
so before I left office. But that's the state of play.
Now, that said, President Biden coming into office, he was not necessarily bound to continue the Trump plan. He was not necessarily bound to implement
the political agreement. He could have taken, as he did, a completely -- or a different path. He could have tried to go back to the table with the
Taliban and renegotiate.
He could have demanded, as I argued, that they agree to the conditions they established or that they agreed to in the agreement, and that we use
military power to compel them to do that. So, that gets back to your first question. I think there were more options available to President Biden and
his administration than simply continuing with the withdrawal of U.S. forces and doing it in such a precipitous and such a poorly planned way
that we now see this crisis right before our eyes.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get further down into the military miscalculations in a bit.
But, first, I want to continue to ask you about the president that you served, because this is relevant. Do you believe that President Trump had a
full understanding of what actually all this meant in the field, that he -- you know that the peace negotiations, and you have just said it, were with
the Taliban, cut out the Afghan government for the first part, and basically was just with the Taliban, undermining the Afghan government.
You also -- well, do you believe that Trump had an understanding of actually what was going on? And do you think or do you know whether there
were any election considerations, in terms of his desire to pull U.S. forces out even more rapidly?
ESPER: Look, I will just speak for myself and DOD.
And I will tell you that we were very clear-eyed about what we could do, about the credibility of the agreement, about our trust in it, and about
what would happen or not happen as we look ahead. So I think we had a very sober assessment of the situation.
We -- again, I was convinced that a conditions-based process was the way forward and also believed at the same time that a political solution was
the only way ahead, which is why I supported the agreement that we set forth.
And I think my counterpart Secretary of State Pompeo shared many of those same views. So I think we were very clear-eyed about the process, and also
about the way going forward and what it would mean for the United States, our security and the Afghan people.
Again, I go back to, at the beginning of the day, the reason why we went into Afghanistan was to was to remove al Qaeda and ensure that country no
longer became a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States. And we got to put -- give great thanks to our American service members, our
diplomats and others in the United States government and our allies, by the way, for -- who, 20 years, they protected our country.
They brought bin Laden to justice, and they made sure that terrorists did not have a safe haven in that country.
AMANPOUR: And since you haven't talked much about what you euphemistically call leaving the administration, you were, in fact, fired by the president.
And I guess I want to ask you, because, at the time, you said something like, God forbid, a yes-person replaces me.
What did you think a -- quote, unquote -- "yes-person" might do? Did the president ever ask you to do anything or make any decision or take any
action that you considered dangerous, reckless, or possibly even illegal concerning the military?
ESPER: Well, look, Christiane, I would never do anything that is illegal, immoral, unethical, and inappropriate as well, as best I could determine
each of those to be. And I never did.
I left the administration with my head held high. I was proud to serve my country once again. And I think we at DOD did everything we could to
advance America's security abroad and made good progress on that.
So, there will be future times to talk about deeper issues. And I will promise to come back on your show at some point and do that. But, like I
said, I'm very proud of DOD and what we did during my tenure and thought that we did a lot of important things to keep America safe and to protect
our country and to live up to our oath to the Constitution in the process.
And so I will just leave it at that.
AMANPOUR: All right, just a quick preview, because you say you will come back and tell me. You said you would never would do anything illegal or
I obviously believe you. Were you asked, period, end of story, yes or no, were you asked to do anything inappropriate?
ESPER: I was never asked to do anything illegal or what I considered immoral. So, again, we will have another time, another opportunity to dig
into those issues, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: OK. All right.
So now I want to ask you about the U.S. military. You have been, yourself, as we all know, a serving member of the Army. You were in the first Gulf
War. And you know a lot about the whole -- the profession and also the DOD.
What happened with the U.S. military? And did the U.S. military tell the president, many presidents in the last 20 years the actual truth about what
was unfolding on the ground with the Afghan military? We're hearing now, we hear from Craig Whitlock in "The Washington Post," we're hearing all sorts
of quotes that U.S. military privately harbored fundamental doubts that the Afghan forces would ever be competent.
Should the U.S. military have been more forthright with the political leadership?
ESPER: Well, I can't obviously speak for the last 20 years and four presidents and lord knows how many other folks involved in the decision-
making at the time, although I did have a seat from my years in Congress at the time.
And I will tell you that I never had a sense that anybody was lying about what was happening in Afghanistan, or trying to fool the American people or
the political leadership. I was there as early as 2001 on the ground, and then made multiple trips in between.
And you could see the steady progress of the Afghan army with regard to their capabilities. It was never fast enough. It was never good enough. But
they were making progress. And I think maybe it's the nature of the military to see the glass more half-full than half-empty. But I never had
any sense that people were trying to, again, fool the political leaders or to mislead folks. Just the opposite.
I think we were, again, very clear-eyed about what we could and could not do. And, look, at the end of the day, the United States military paid the
heaviest price of any of the Americans in that country or anybody in that country other than the Afghan people.
And I must say, our allies, NATO allies, paid heavy prices as well. So I don't think -- I have no sense that anybody approached it the way that you
AMANPOUR: But you are really shocked at the precipitous collapse, correct?
ESPER: Oh, yes, absolutely.
But it gets back to what I said up front, is the Afghan people never had good leadership, certainly at the top at the political level. And so if you
don't have good leadership, it's -- you see will, morale, all those -- the moral factors of war that, in many ways, are far, far more important than
the material factors of war, those things slip away.
And why would you expect the Afghan army to fight the way we would expect them to do when their leadership deserts them, literally, President Ghani
leaving the country?
ESPER: So, I was surprised by the speed at which it happened. But given the state of the leadership, it's not surprising to understand why.
AMANPOUR: So, what about the I think it's something like $83 billion that the U.S. poured into the Afghan forces, and that, in the fullness of the
total collapse, we have been told that, actually, some of the issues were that the United States tried to make a U.S.-style military force said that
depended entirely on U.S. equipment, U.S. maintenance, U.S. training, U.S. hand-holding?
Robert Gates, former -- one of your predecessors said: "The one thing they all had in common was that they all -- "this is various administrations --
"was they were all trying to train a Western army, instead of figuring out the strengths of the Afghans as a fighting people and then building on
That's a legitimate piece of analysis, right? I mean, you were trying to stand up, successive administrations, something that wasn't Afghan. It was
sort of attempting to be American.
ESPER: Yes, I think those are important questions that should be teased out that deserve a lot of closer scrutiny, and maybe we will do that, we
should do that over the succeeding months and years to understand that.
And, by the way, it wasn't just the United States training them. It was our -- again, our allies training as well. But -- and it just didn't apply to
the military realm. We also imposed a form of government that was more familiar to us, a centralized form of government, than it was a tribal
society such as Afghanistan.
So, there are a number of areas where we could look at and ask ourselves, did we make the wrong choice, or was the this the best of a few worst
choices? So I think that needs to be looked at. I think those are serious considerations.
But, at the end of the day, it just -- it doesn't explain what happened over the past week, week-and-a-half. Again, I -- we should have -- we
should have not -- and we should have done a better job anticipating and planning for the withdrawal of Americans, of our Afghan partners, and all
those other parts of this that right now have fallen apart before our eyes, and are leading to this humanitarian crisis on the ground in Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Esper, thank you so much for joining us from Arizona. Thank you very much, indeed, for being with us.
Now, of course, as we have said, many are skeptical of the Taliban claims to protect the rights of women and girls, despite their promises at the
Violent and deplorable treatment is something my next guest, Malala Yousafzai, has suffered firsthand. The Nobel Peace Prize winner from
Pakistan was just a teenager when the Taliban shot her in the head for going to school.
And, since then, she's founded the Malala Fund to advocate for girls education worldwide. She's also graduated from Oxford University. And she's
joining me now.
Malala Yousafzai, welcome back to the program.
I guess let me start by asking your feelings, your sense of what might become of Afghan women and girls today now that the Taliban are in charge
of the country?
Malala, can you hear Christiane Amanpour?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: I am -- yes, I can. Yes.
What do you think is going to happen to Afghan women and girls? What are your thoughts today?
AMANPOUR: I can hear you. Carry on.
YOUSAFZAI: I'm (AUDIO GAP) and the education, about their future, about their job (AUDIO GAP) Unfortunately...
AMANPOUR: We are going to try to fix that audio, and we're going to try to get Malala back in a second.
But, in the meantime, it is hard to describe the level of fear and desperation gripping so many Afghans right now. Pictures like these from
the airport in Kabul, as we have been discussing, speak 1,000 words, despite Taliban promises of amnesty for all people, climbing over each
other in the last-ditch attempt to board a flight out of the country.
Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in Kabul, and he's taking a look at their frantic efforts to escape.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): This is the only way out for so many, the airport road jammed, chaos. Over
a trillion dollars spent, and this is what the end looks like. Walk where you can't drive.
(on camera): Just ahead of us is the gates into the airport. And this is the panicked scene of many people still moving there, despite how hard it's
(voice-over): At the entry to the last bit of Afghanistan America controls, there is panic.
(on camera): They're shouting "Tanks," right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they say that...
WALSH: Let's turn around.
(voice-over): "Tanks," someone shouts.
But who is doing crowd control outside America's evacuation spot? The Taliban, with vehicles they have taken from the Afghan army paid for by
America now used to keep the desperate crowds back, people whose only hope is to get out, possibly with American help, crowding at gates, trying to
clamber walls originally built to keep an insurgency out, at one time pushing en masse and being sent running.
Nearly every gate with a crowd fueled with the idea this is their only way out. This afternoon, U.S. troops at the perimeter shot dead two Afghans who
they said were armed, but later admitted were not Taliban.
But inside the airport, the great escape was not going according to script, and check-in security had collapsed, Afghans, convinced the promise of a
flight out was their only life ahead, clambering over walkways and tarmac the U.S. spent billions on to maintain its presence.
And then a startling image, one of the U.S.' largest cargo planes taxiing laden with Afghans who did not want to be left behind.
Later, a plane takes off. And what you're about to see is disturbing. As the plane ascends, two objects, or people, appear to fall from the
fuselage. But the sheer scale of those who needed help meant it was even harder to come by, civilian flights canceled. Even the Americans had to
pause operations until they could regain control, these images from satellites in space showing just the volume of people thronging in and
around Hamid Karzai International Airport, the symbol of the United States' billions spent in a 20-year project.
The U.S. always wanted to win hearts and minds here, but their swift, unconditional departure has instead filled them with panic.
AMANPOUR: Nick Paton Walsh reporting there.
And we have got Malala Yousafzai back. She is going to join us by phone. And we want to go to her, because she has so much to say about this
situation in Afghanistan.
Malala Yousafzai, you have been watching what's unfolding in Afghanistan? What do you think? Having heard what the Taliban have said today, promises
they're making to the women and children, what do you think is going to happen to them? What are your thoughts right now?
YOUSAFZAI: First of all, I'm deeply concerned about the safety and the future of our Afghan sisters.
We have heard in the press conference that the Taliban have expressed support towards girls education and women's rights. However, we are not
sure that they will follow these words. And it's just too early to say that they would guarantee that.
And I still don't understand the narrative of the Taliban when they say that it has to be according to the Sharia law, because there are dozens of
Muslim countries around the world where there is no issue with girls education, women in jobs, women in journalism. So I'm just wondering how
they will define their own Sharia law, because the Sharia law that we saw back in 1996 that they implemented, that did not allow women any rights.
That treated women as unequal. Girls were not allowed to be in schools, but also -- and the Taliban have admitted it themselves -- that they made
mistakes previously. So I'm worried, how many more mistakes are they going to make for women and girls this time?
AMANPOUR: So, Malala, let me ask you this, because, as we said, in 2012, you yourself were attacked by Pakistani Taliban. You come from Pakistan,
and it was the Pakistani Taliban that shot you in the head.
Just remind us of how intense was the disregard for girls and women like yourself, that they would climb aboard a school bus and try to shoot you
and kill you for just wanting to go to school. Just remind us of that reality that existed back then.
YOUSAFZAI: The Pakistani Taliban actually emerged from the same ideology of the Taliban that started in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have a long history. They have many leaders. And they have many small groups. And, overall, they work on the same ideology of the so-called
spreading of Islam, bringing in their own Sharia law, and actually just silencing women and using force and violence.
And that's what -- exactly what they did in Swat Valley when they came in 2007. And they started imposing restrictions on women to go to market, to
do jobs. They announced a ban on girls education. I was 11 years old at the time, and I could not go to school. I had to hide my books under my scarf.
I could not even wear my school uniform because of the fear that, if they recognized me as a student, they might attack me, they might throw acid on
my face. And there were many bomb blasts, firings every night. So those two years were one of the -- were some of the worst years of my life. Those
were the darkest days.
And it also displaced so many people in Swat Valley. Hundreds and thousands of people became displaced internally within Pakistan because of the
military operations that were required after on. And the Pakistan army then pulled out the Taliban from Swat Valley.
But the damages that they caused took years and years to recover, to -- and the rehabilitation and reconstruction process is a long process. And that
worries me about Afghanistan as well, because Afghanistan has suffered for four decades.
That's 40 years from one war to another, from one geopolitical war of some countries are involved in, and then other countries are involved. Then
other global powers are involved.
YOUSAFZAI: But the people who suffer the most Afghan people. And I'm worried, you know, it will take years and years for the Afghan people to
recover from this.
AMANPOUR: So, Malala, I want to ask you this because you are and you have built yourself a global position as an activist on behalf of women and
children. Your own prime minister has commented that the Taliban in Afghanistan have "broken the shackles of slavery." He believes that the
Taliban have come to rescue the Afghan people.
Now, my question to you is, would you engage the Taliban in your official international role and persuade them to keep the promises that they are now
making publicly? We heard from the press conference that they want Afghan women to join the work force, to join the government, to come back. They
say they are a vital, obviously, constituent of Afghanistan. We know that UNICEF is staying in Afghanistan. They say they have had productive
meetings with the Taliban and feel that they can continue their work on behalf of children, including female children. Do you believe that you or
others could engage with the Taliban in Afghanistan to hold them to their promises?
YOUSAFZAI: I think, first of all, regarding breaking the shackles of slavery and atrocities, I think Afghanistan people are getting those
shackles. They are suffering from one party and then another, either from terrorist groups or from global wars, either/or from proxy wars. So,
people, the innocent people of Afghanistan are still in shackles. They have not seen any freedom yet.
Regarding the government of the Taliban, I think they are seeking legitimacy right now and they want international approval that is why they
are making good statements. And I think it is important for us to remember that we must bring pressure on the Taliban. And whether we accept their
government or not that is a separate question and that is up to world leaders. I am not in that position. You know, I am a girl just like other
girls around the world who want to ensure their rights are not denied to them just because of their gender and that they can go to school, they can
go to work, they can do their jobs, they can do their professions and nobody is dictating to them how they should live their life.
That they have -- and this is the freedom that has been guaranteed to them within Islam. So, you know, there are just a group of men who will say that
no, let us interpret Islam or you, I think that is something that Islam does not allow either. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Let me play this soundbite from the press conference regarding what they said about Afghan women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): There will be no violence against woman, no discrimination against woman. Of course,
based within the framework of the Islamic law, our sisters and mothers which have been said in Sharia law, our God had said, which is our value,
which woman is an important core tenant of our society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Malala, I think he's saying women are an important part, as I described to you. And also, at the press conference, a female journalist
stood up and asked very, you know, professionally for them to guarantee rights and what it would look like, et cetera. We've also seen the female
anchor back at her studio on TOLOnews actually interviewing a Taliban spokesman in the studio. We've seen certain Afghan female reporters in the
streets in Kabul and actually reporting the news. Does that give you hope?
YOUSAFZAI: I think right now the Taliban are admitting that they have made mistakes previously and they have recognized that Islam cannot deny women
their rights and their choices, that they have to be involved and they can have access to education. I think it is just too early to say that they
will stick to these promises. It may be that they are either -- they (INAUDIBLE) hear about it or maybe that in the coming months it might
So, I think it is important that we keep on building pressure on the Taliban to stick to their promises. I think -- I hope that what they say,
they show in actions as well and that no one in Afghanistan is stopped from her dreams and her future. I think, you know, regarding -- I think I there
are few things. Firstly, you know, whether they are saying the right narrative in words, yes, that is correct. But then again, they sometimes
talk in very (INAUDIBLE). They say, you know, we will allow women but within Sharia law.
And as I mentioned earlier, like how are they going to define that Sharia law. It varies slightly. There are other countries which have Sharia laws
as well. Afghanistan was already an Islamic country. So, I'm wondering how they are going to redefine Islam in Afghanistan. And I think that is
something of a concern and we have to wait how they do that.
But regarding how the Taliban came into power, I am for democracy and I think, for me, you know, it has to be the decision of the people through
their vote who they want to be elected, who they want to govern them. So, I think that is something in itself and we need to talk about that separately
because, you know, it is important that we recognize that it should be the right of Afghans -- the people of Afghanistan that they decide for
themselves who should be ruling them and it is not just, you know, a group of people holding guns and occupying their cities, their towns, making them
displaced to tell them that now they will bring the -- you know, somehow a better government for them.
AMANPOUR: OK. And I just want, you know, to your point, one of the Afghan journalists, female journalists, Anisa Shaheed, expressed her concerns,
particularly for journalists. Because under last 20 years, actually, information has flourished, journalism has flourished. Women have really
been part of that, you know, huge new profession in Afghanistan that's built over the last 20 years. Here is Anisa Shaheed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANISA SHAHEED (through translator): I am worried that the hard work in the past 20 years by the media and the people of Afghanistan whose greatest
achievement has been the freedom of expression, will be lost. My biggest dream is that I could travel to all the provinces of Afghanistan and report
about the beauty, reconstruction and development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Very briefly, Malala. For anybody who is afraid, and as you have seen so many Afghans trying to get out, what do you think Europe and the
United States should be doing right now to help those most at risk?
YOUSAFZAI: I think, first of all, we stand with the women and girls of Afghanistan. The safety of the Afghanistan people should be top priority
right now and I have spoken to some Afghan activists and they are raising these concerns that they are at risk, that they need safety. And I ask the
International Community that they have a responsibility to these individuals and their immediate families. I am calling on the U.S., the
U.K., U.N., others to urgently commit to substantial relocation and settlement programs for the protection of those imminently under threat.
They need urgent help. And I also request all the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, including Pakistan, Iran and Turkmenistan to open their
borders to the Afghan refugees. They need safety. They need protection. They have been displaced. And they are looking for a place where they can
feel safe. And I ask other countries, globally as well, to open their doors and this is a call to humanity right now.
AMANPOUR: Thank you for making that call, Malala Yousafzai. Thanks for joining us.
Now, my next guest also knows firsthand the difficult and often perilous struggle for women and girls' rights. She's not an Afghan woman but she's
America's own Billie Jean King. The veteran tennis champion and tireless social activist who refused to accept unequal treatment for women or people
of color from the very start of her brilliant career.
King has a new memoir called "All In" and it is out today. In it she rights, early on, what was most apparent to me was that the world I wanted
didn't exist yet. It would be up to my generation to create it. And so, Billie Jean King joins me now from New York about how she helped create
Welcome to the program, Billie Jean King.
You know, you have been listening to this program and Malala and you have been watching what's unfolding. And in a way, in a very extreme way, it
kind of reflects what you have tried to do all your life since a child for women and girls in the United States. Has that resonated with you over the
last couple days?
BILLIE JEAN KING 39-TIME TENNIS GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: Oh, for sure. We -- but all the women and girls and people that have been our allies in
Afghanistan, we've got to worry about their safety first just like Malala said, and protect them and offer them ways to get out. I know -- I think it
is land locked, if I have it right. So, it's not like they can go out to see or try to get that way that way. So, we have to figure how to protect
them, but also for the future of the country, women have to be an integral part of every phase of the country just like in government, journalism, et
cetera, they have to be. Jobs whatever.
AMANPOUR: So, look, let me ask you then because, you know, talking to Malala and now you, she started as a young kid but you did as well. You
know, you wanted to be a sports girl. You wanted to be a tennis champ. But you also early on identified a world that didn't look like the one you
expected it to be, particularly for girls and their opportunities.
AMANPOUR: And even while you were, you know, sort of perfecting your sports prowess, you got all sort of sexist questions about when would you
settle down and get married and have kids. How difficult was it for you as a young girl?
KING: Well, compared to women in other countries, I would say it wasn't difficult. But it was difficult in my own small world. And that I knew I
was a second-class citizen very early at school. Boys were always called on. Always -- everybody put all their focus on the boys. There are very few
sports available to girls. I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Well, only men can play baseball at the professional level. Even today. So,
I got very, very lucky, Christiane, when Susan Williams in 5th grade asked me, do you want to play tennis? I go, what's tennis?
So, anyway, she got me to it. Then I went out to the public parks where they -- with Clyde Walker where they gave free instruction and free access
to the courts, and that is the day that changed my life. At the end of that day, I knew I wanted to be the number one player in the world. And then if
you fast forward one year when I was 12, when I'm starting to play in tournaments for rankings, I was daydreaming and realized that everybody who
played had white shoes and white clothes, played with white balls and everybody who played tennis that I knew at that time wore white. And I
asked myself, where is everyone else?
And that was my epiphany and the moment I decided I would fight for equality the rest of my life. And in you are own little microcosm of life,
tennis, we had a lot to do to correct that. It's been a long haul just to croquet that. But it also reflects what's going on. And tennis being
international has an opportunity to affect the whole world.
Every time a player becomes good and people notice them, they have a chance to help their village, they have a chance to help their town, their country
and to be leaders. And they found even in business, women who are in the C suites, most of them, 94 percent identify with being an athlete. So, we
need more CEOs. We need more of everything out there. And women have to be educated just like the boys and everybody else. And no matter how you would
-- you know, how you identify with gender, everyone should be educated, everybody should be a represented in all aspects of society.
AMANPOUR: You know, clearly from your book and from your life story, it is obvious that you believe sports was also political. So, you have explained
a little bit about how that was your vehicle. I mean, we're going talk about the record-breaking championships and your amazing achievement as a
tennis player. But you've also become, I would say, you know, legitimately, one of the great social and political activists of the 20th and 21st
century for your country.
You start your book though with this really important observation. And you quote the great Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You say that
she said, fight for the things that you care about, but do it in way to lead others to join you. So, how difficult was it for you to do it in a way
that would lead others to join you? You knew what you wanted to create but you couldn't do it on your own.
KING: No, you cannot do it on your own and I always felt like I've been on a tight rope, which I think a lot of women and people that felt that they
are trying to lead and trying to lead change. Change is difficult. There is no question. People don't like to change. And I was chosen as a leader,
really. The women tennis players said, no, you lead. You lead. I happened to be number one in the world that didn't hurt. But I said, no, no, you do
it. You do it.
And finally, I just said, you know, I'm going embrace the fact that I am going to be the leader of this change. And in 1979 it was signed a one-
dollar contract with Gladys Heldman, that is the birth of women's professional tennis. Any time you see a woman get a check or have this
platform to talk about issues that are important to them it is because of that moment in time because it is still relevant today. So, every time a
tennis player woman gets a check it is because of that moment in time that we were willing to give up our careers.
And the three things that we are willing do for the future generations was that any girl born in this world, if she was good enough to finally have a
place to compete that we would be appreciated for our accomplishments, not only our looks. And number 3, most importantly, to be able to make a
living. Because we all remembered how it was as amateurs making $14 a day and we never wanted that to happen again.
We also fact fought for equal prize money in the majors, we got that. Why did we fight for that for the rest of the world? Because it sends a
message. It is not just about the money. It is about the message of equality for everyone and in every girl, every person in the world should
have a chance to experience it.
So, what's going on in any country, first safety, protection, but let's get women educated. Let them be in positions of leadership. And one thing is a
challenge is that when women lead -- this is really what irritates me as well. When women lead, they think we're only leading for women. And that is
not true. When women lead, they lead for everyone. Just like when the male leads. And when a male leads, they never say, oh, he just trying to help
men. He's a leader for everyone. Same with women. We'll never have a president of the United States. We'll never have more prime ministers and
more women at highest of height unless we think like that. Women lead for everyone not just girls and women.
AMANPOUR: You know, again, just to quote, you say, I had heard about the American dream, and I thought it applied unconditionally to me. But I
realize no matter how good I was, my life would be limited because I was female. And, you know, we all know about the battle of the sexes. That was
the most incredible thing. It swept people's imagination. You beat Bobby Riggs, the famous Egyptian litter that you used to enter the arena, the
piglet in terms of male chauvinist pig.
And as you said, this was more than a tennis match. What was on the line and what changed for your sport and political activism for women after
winning that match against Bobby Riggs?
KING: Well, it is the exposure I got. It was 90 million people worldwide. So, people knew who I was. And first time they had ever watched tennis for
many people. But for in the United States, we'd just passed Title 9 a year welfare before in 1972. And for those who don't know what that is, it was
the first time that a school, high school or college or university, private or public received federal funds. For the first time, they would have to
spend it equally for girls and boys. And that changed everything. Because people followed the money.
A lot of schools that were single gender schools became coed quickly because they wanted the money. Also, classroom quotas were finally
dismissed because before that if you want to go to Harvard and get a medical degree, only 5 percent of the classroom was allowed to be women.
That is why we had so few lawyers and doctors as women back in the '60s, in the '70s. So, that was diminished.
We didn't -- in 1973, we still couldn't get a credit card on our own. So, it is -- those kinds of things broke down because of that match. It was
about social change. And we did have it. Also, from a sports point of view, you could not get on a tennis court after that match. Which meant, tennis
as a sport just exploded. People wanted to be a part of it. They wore tennis clothes all day long when they went to the grocery store or whatever
they were doing. It was very in and it grew like crazy.
But the great thing about tennis and like other sports, some other sports, not all, is that it is global. You could -- and that is why we have a
chance to effect things because we are global as a sport. And it is important that our top players speak out, which they do. You see Naomi
Osaka. You have seen Simone Biles. You have seen all the different women athletes speaking out. But women's tennis has always been the leader. We've
always led in so many ways on just trying to improve life for everyone.
So, we're going continue to do that. We are the leaders in women's sports tennis. And -- but we have a long way go still. A very long way. But sports
are microcosm of society. We are a microcosm of the society. If you see what's going on in Afghanistan, you hear people talk. That is a reflection
of how far we still have to go to improve a girls and women's opportunities.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. So, look, let's just get back to the equal pay issue. You started the first women's pro tour. And then came equal pay. And in the
book, you describe an encounter with the -- I guess, the director of the U.S. Open somewhere around 1973 in which you negotiated with him while also
trying to, you know, win more titles. And you were successful in calling his bluff to an extent over the issue of equal pay. Where do you get the
cojones to lay down these negotiating tactics, as well as also playing your game?
KING: Well, first of all, back in the old days, Larry King my former husband, not that Larry King, he and I owned tournaments. So, I started to
learn the other side of the business not just playing tennis but also running events.
And in 1972, I said to the U.S. Open people, I know I won't come back next year and I'm going talk to the women about not coming back next year unless
we get equal prize money. But then I thought about it and I thought, well, what can we do to help ourselves? And so, I went to different people and
talked to them behind the scenes about sponsoring and making up the difference in the prize money and Bristol Myers came through.
And so, when I went to speak with Billy Talbert, the tournament director, about equal prize money, I brought him the money to make up the difference.
Not I did. Bristol Myers did. And I was able to -- and I could tell that changed everything when he heard that, well, I've already got a sponsor.
You won't have to go out and get any more money. We're going to make it easy on you. And Billy Talbert was fantastic. He spoke up and he said,
we're going to do it. A few months later. And it happened. And I don't even think they voted on it at the USGA, the governing body of tennis in the
So, thank you Billy Talbert for doing that. I wish you were still alive I could thank him in person. But anyway, we had equal prize money in 1973. We
were the first major tournament -- Grand Slam tournament to do that. And then, it took another 34 years, we finally got Wimbledon and the French in
AMANPOUR: Incredible. What a journey. Let's talk little bit more personally, because not only are you an activist for women's rights but
also now for LGBTQ plus rights. And you yourself grappled with your own sexuality. There was -- you mentioned you were married, of course, for a
long, long time of course. And then you were outed after an affair with your hairdresser/assistant, and it is laid out in graphic detail in your
book. And it is quite shocking. You were outed. You didn't choose, at that time, to come forward. And you suffered all sort of mental health issues,
eating issues, disorders, you went into rehab.
But let me just read this what you say, still you describe dealing with your sexuality as "the hardest, longest lasting challenge of your life."
You lost your corporate sponsors overnight back in 1981 when you were outed. Give me a sense of how traumatic that was for you and how you still
talk about, sort of, deflecting still that particular issue despite being out and proud and a major prominent activist for gay rights.
KING: Well, it has been -- it's been very difficult for me personally. I finally got comfortable at the age of 51, which I talk about in the book.
The thing that is good is that when people come to talk to me and with me is they are being challenged themselves and having trouble. We talk about
the shame-based part of this. And this is what gets in the way.
Any time you are shame-based or any time there are secrets, it doesn't work. And I've had a lot of therapy, and thank God for my therapist, my
different ones that have made such a different in my life. So, all the therapists out there, thank you. And the support systems that are out
there. But -- so, I think I'm a good sounding board. I'll listen. But I really want people, when they are ready, to come out. But only when they
are ready. I don't think it is really a very fun thing to out people. Some people like to do that. I would not do that.
Things are so much better now than they used to be in most countries. Not all countries, but it is so much better. In United States, it is definitely
a lot better. Now, most of our issues are on our transgender friends and also the youth. 40 percent more suicides than other groups. And we have a
lot of -- but it comes back to that shame-base. And we must keep changing that and that people don't judge us by our sexuality only and that people
Because most people have somebody in their family who is gay, even if they don't know it. There is usually somebody in their family. And it really
should not be impediment in somebody's life that we should be able to be happy and everyone should be happy in whoever they are and how they
identify by gender or sexuality. Everyone deserves to have the best that life has to offer.
AMANPOUR: And in the meantime, in the book you revealed that you married in secret while secretly, privately -- not secretly, but privately.
KING: Privately. That's all right.
AMANPOUR: Your four-decade partner Ilana Kloss. And I'm wondering why you decided to make that so private and not reveal it until this book has been
KING: Well, we wanted something that would just belong to the two of us. Because we're so public all the time. You know, we have part ownership in
professional teams. We're always out there. We're always, you know, just with a lot of people all the time. And it is like, we said to each other,
let's just -- let's get married. And we definitely wanted Mayor Dinkins who I -- you know, we adored. He just passed away not too long ago, he and his
wife. And we wanted him to marry us.
Because every time we'd see Mayor Dinkins, he would say, if you ever get married, I'm the one. And so, we said, you are the one. And we just loved
him so much. So, we definitely wanted to get married. I wanted to married because I didn't want anyone to think that I wasn't total committed to
Ilana who I adore and love very much.
And so, I was just like, let's just go for it. But Ilana and I decided together to keep it private. We wanted something just for us.
AMANPOUR: And it is a great story and it is a great book. And we haven't even talked about the tennis but everybody knows you are a great champion
of all time. So, Billie Jean King, "All In." Thank you so much for joining us. With the back story.
That's it for now. Of course, you can always catch us online, on our podcasts and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from