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Interview With Former CIA Director David Petraeus; Taliban Takeover: Roe vs. Wade in Danger?. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 02, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The abortion movement isn't going anywhere, and we will continue to show up and fight for Texans.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The Supreme Court refuses to block one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. What does this mean for women's
reproductive rights and the future of Roe vs. Wade?
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: War is hard. It's vicious. It's brutal. It's unforgiving. And, yes, we all have pain and
GOLODRYGA: As the Taliban finalizes its new government, what failures by American officials allowed them to reclaim power? Investigative journalist
Craig Whitlock on his groundbreaking reporting in "The Afghanistan Papers."
And retired General David Petraeus talks to Walter Isaacson about what the end of the Afghan war means for America's role in the world.
ADY BARKAN, ACTIVIST: Yes, I had received a death sentence, but it renewed my passion and commitment to reducing injustice elsewhere.
GOLODRYGA: He was a young father diagnosed with ALS who embarked on a fearless fight for public health care. My moving conversation with activist
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back tomorrow.
And assault on women's rights, that's how President Biden described the Supreme Court's ruling overnight allowing Texas' new abortion law, one of
the strictest in the country, to take effect. Dissenting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also blasting the law, calling it a breathtaking
act of defiance, as the High Court voted narrowly to keep the six-week abortion ban in place.
So, now, in America's second largest state, most abortions are illegal before many people know that they're even pregnant. The prevailing justices
stress that they weren't voting on whether the law is constitutional, but instead argued that abortion providers didn't prove their case.
The law also allows private citizens to sue anyone assisting a patient. That could be a doctor, a counselor or even an Uber driver taking someone
to a clinic. And after the law took effect, providers across Texas drastically cut back on their services, fearing lawsuits.
This fall, the Supreme Court will hear a separate case from Mississippi that could deal yet another blow to Roe vs. Wade.
For more on all of this, let's bring in Shefali Luthra, correspondent for The 19th, an independent new site focus on gender, politics and policy.
Shefali, thank you so much for joining us.
So let's be clear. This is not the first state to limit abortion access. But what this ruling and what this law does is something unique to Texas
alone, in that it is very confusing. It's very hard to challenge in court.
And am I right when I say that is its intent, right?
SHEFALI LUTHRA, THE 19TH NEWS: That's what a lot of legal experts are saying, right, that this law could essentially have a chilling effect,
right, because you don't really know what this aid and abet clause that you alluded to really means, right? What does it mean to help someone get an
abortion after six weeks?
Does it mean answering the phone at a call center? Does it mean giving the money? And if you are subject to a lawsuit, then what happens to you next?
And the idea behind that right is to really cut off the support network for folks who might otherwise have sought an abortion later on in pregnancy,
which, as you mentioned earlier, is the vast majority of folks seeking abortions.
GOLODRYGA: Because, as it is written, you -- it cannot be enforced by state officials, right? It can be forced by any citizen living in the state
really deputized to sue someone who is trying to get access to an abortion for at least $10,000.
GOLODRYGA: How is that going to work in a court?
LUTHRA: That's a really important question, right?
And the law, what it does, as you just said, is it creates this army of private citizens, right? Texas Right to Life, one of the major anti-
abortion groups in Texas, has already set up a hot line for folks to send in tips, saying, I suspect someone has broken the law. And then Texas Right
to Life can go ahead and try and file suit against these people.
If you win your lawsuit, you get $10,000. You get your attorney fees reimbursed by the state. And what this does is, it does two things, right?
It creates this potential entire network of private people who can then enforce the law. It also seeks to sort of circumvent some of the
restrictions put in place on what states can and can't do to limit abortion access.
And that very private citizen component of the law appear to be what has sort of stopped the Supreme Court from blocking enforcement so far.
GOLODRYGA: And it's that fear factor, right, because Texas legislators who voted for this law, who drafted it say, listen, you can go to court and if
you are found innocent, then that's it. Then the defendant can go on scot- free.
But, no, they have to pay their legal fees, right? And I actually read that any abortion provider, a doctor, has to permanently have this attached to
LUTHRA: Some might even have to close their doors altogether, right?
And as a result, we are already seeing the impact. Virtually every abortion provider -- in fact, every abortion provider in the state of Texas has said
they're absolutely going to comply with this law, right? They are terrified of what could happen to them if they are subject to a lawsuit, many of the
abortion funds too, right, which they raise money for people seeking abortions who can't afford to pay for them on their own.
They are so scared of what it would mean to be subject to one of these lawsuits and have this $10,000 fine, right? Even the legal fees alone,
that's going to drain money from what they would normally spend their time doing, which is helping people get abortions.
GOLODRYGA: And, Texas, as we mentioned, the second most populous state in the country, currently has 24 abortion clinics. That's down from roughly 40
back in 2013, when the state legislature imposed different round of restrictions back then.
What does this mean for everyday women on the ground in Texas? And let's talk about specifically who these women are. These are women of lower
income, right, and mostly women of color.
LUTHRA: I'm so glad you brought that up, right?
And 2013 is so instructive, because the provision that took effect, right, it was this hospital admitting privileges, right? It required doctors who
performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
That was struck down several years later, but by then it was too late, because clinics that had been forced to comply, many of them closed their
doors. That's why abortion access is so much more limited in Texas. What we're expecting to see now something similar, which is, even if this law is
undone, it will be too late for many clinics that are forced to, as a result, close their doors.
Immediately, it means people are already being turned away when they seek abortions, or they are having to look elsewhere. They're already making
appointments in neighboring states, right? Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, we have clinics there already saying they're hearing from people in
Texas who needed an abortion and are calling there.
But, as you mentioned, it's going to be people who have the means who are able to travel, who don't need child care, who aren't necessarily
marginalized by income, by race, by immigration status, by all these other factors that can make it harder to travel further for care, to get time off
from work to go get that care.
GOLODRYGA: And we should note that the recent data shows that up to 85, even 90 percent of all abortions performed currently in Texas occur after
six weeks, right? Most women don't know that they are even pregnant at six weeks.
So this really will have an impact on any woman having the right to choose, given that the majority at six weeks don't even know that they are
Let me ask you what you make of the Supreme Court's decision not to weigh in on the constitutionality of this law, but because the abortion providers
did not make their case clear enough. What does that mean?
LUTHRA: It's always very difficult to speculate what the Supreme Court means when they say anything, right?
And they were very careful to say that their ruling does not indicate their thoughts on the constitutionality of a six-week ban in and of itself,
because that kind of ban clearly goes against what Roe v. Wade would allow.
But what it does do is, it potentially emboldens other states to say, hey, Texas was able to build a six-week ban as long as they had this deputizing
structure for private citizens, they went the civil lawsuit route, instead of a criminal punishment.
And what we can expect to see, what we're already hearing is that other states that have hoped to have six-week bans will see the Supreme Court's
decision here as a sign that maybe this is a more viable path forward.
GOLODRYGA: And we should say that this law does not include women who were raped, right, incest. The only clause is if a woman's life is in jeopardy
and threatened, but a woman could become suicidal, right?
A woman could seek counseling. What if the counselor offers her these options? I mean, could all of these people be implicated? I mean, I guess
this is the reason it's so vague, but are we going to really have to see a real-life case play out in front of a court to see where this ends up?
LUTHRA: We probably are. And we don't know what that's going to look like, right? Because truly anyone who encourages someone or even suggests or
makes an abortion an option, they could be vulnerable under this statute.
That's just -- this is so unprecedented. We really don't know what it's going to look like in the coming months and even days.
GOLODRYGA: So, Shefali, what does this mean as far as a precedent for other cases, right, and for ultimately Roe v. Wade?
We know that the Supreme Court is going to be taking up the Mississippi case, which bans abortions, I believe, at 15 weeks. How many other states
are looking at what Texas is doing right now and perhaps trying to replicate the same thing?
LUTHRA: Any state that has tried to pass a six-week ban within the past couple of years is absolutely going to be looking at Texas as a model for
what they could potentially do next.
The 15-week ban could also, if it is upheld, eliminate or severely weaken the Roe v. Wade precedent. And all of that as well will give us more
avenues to see states that are already anti-abortion put more restrictions in place.
This is so far from an isolated incident. It's really just the beginning of what is one of the most important health care access stories of our current
GOLODRYGA: And we heard from the president that he is going to be directing his White House counsel to launch a -- quote -- "whole-of-
government effort" to respond to this decision.
So, obviously, this is a fight that's going to continue, but a huge crisis for many women in Texas as this law goes into effect.
Shefali, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
LUTHRA: Thank you for having me.
GOLODRYGA: We're going to move next to Afghanistan, where a stampede at the Pakistan border has left at least one person dead.
It underscores a reality that is, frankly, still hard to grasp. The Taliban are forming a government now. And there's this gut-wrenching reality
confirmed by the State Department. The majority of Afghans who helped America were likely left behind.
Our next guest says the chaotic evacuation caps a long-running campaign of deception by multiple American officials.
"The Washington Post"'s Craig Whitlock has turned this eye-opening series "The Afghanistan Papers" into a book. And he's joining me now from
Craig, welcome to the program.
I'm halfway through the book. It is stunning. It's a great read. But it's also heartbreaking to see what played out in real life over the course of
20 years with the U.S. in Afghanistan. Given the research and the interviews that you have conducted for this book, were you surprised at
all, as so many in this country, including in the White House, apparently were, to see how the evacuation unfolded so chaotically?
CRAIG WHITLOCK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I was surprised.
I was surprised at how quickly the Taliban was able to sweep through the provincial capitals of Afghanistan, and really waltz into Kabul in a matter
of days. I mean, I didn't see that coming that quickly.
But, certainly, most of the documents we obtained for this book, "The Afghanistan Papers," show that U.S. officials have known for years that the
Afghan guard -- Afghan army was not a competent fighting force, that it was plagued by corruption at the top and a lack of motivation in the ranks, and
that there was real fear that it could collapse against the Taliban in a matter of months.
This happened much quicker than people anticipated. And so the evacuation, there really wasn't any planning done ahead of time. And so it was very
chaotic, and happened in a very haphazard way.
GOLODRYGA: And you -- so, you noted your surprise in how quickly the Taliban was able to take over. And that's something that was echoed by the
president himself, the rate at which the Afghan forces just fled without even a fight.
Let's take a listen to what he said about this a few days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces that we had trained over the
past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the Taliban.
That assumption -- that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown -- turned out not to be accurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Craig, that's an assumption that not only President Biden, but his predecessors and those advisers and commanders on the ground had
believed as well.
And I want to go back to what you point out in the book. In June of 2004, Lieutenant General David Barno, the commander of U.S. forces in
Afghanistan, boasted to reporters that the Taliban and al Qaeda were scared of fighting the Afghan army -- quote -- "because, when they do, the
terrorists come out second best."
How do you square that with the examples that you lay out extensively throughout this book about how ill-equipped the Afghan army was and how
difficult it was for U.S. troops to train them?
WHITLOCK: Well, Bianna, you can't square that.
And -- but this is what we heard time and again over the last 20 years from American generals and presidents and others, was that they kept boasting in
public that the Afghan army and the paramilitary police that we were training and equipping, at a cost of over $85 billion, they said that this
force was going to take it to the Taliban, that they would be able to defend their government, and this was the key for U.S. troops being able to
leave the country.
But in the documents I obtained for the book, you hear time and again from U.S. military trainers and other mid-level officials who had no confidence
at all in the Afghan army. They said they couldn't shoot straight. Most of the recruits were illiterate. Many of them couldn't count. They couldn't
even tell their colors.
And many of them were high on drugs or would steal fuel and other equipment. They reserved most of their scorn for the Afghan commanders, who
they described as incorrigibly corrupt, and that they were pocketing a lot of this money and equipment that we were sending over there.
So, U.S. military officials knew full well that the Afghan army wasn't much of a match for the Taliban. But, again, they kept telling the public the
GOLODRYGA: But the U.S. Army -- and let's go back to those first few months that the U.S. had been in Afghanistan, because the U.S. Army had
been a match, a great match, to the Taliban and had been very successful in defeating most of the Taliban in those early few months of the war.
Many now question, why didn't it end just then?
WHITLOCK: Well, the main reason it didn't end then was because Afghanistan was a devastated country. It had been ruined by decades of war.
Even though the Taliban had been removed from power, there was no infrastructure left. There was real concern about a famine. There were
millions of refugees. And the United States had a responsibility to try and stabilize the country.
But in those early years of the world, what -- the biggest debacle was the U.S. took its eye off the ball and was focused on moving to Iraq and
planning for the invasion of Iraq. And you see this in memos obtained for the book, in which Bush administration officials admit that they stopped
paying attention to Afghanistan.
That general you quoted earlier, General Barno, said it became extremely difficult to get officers to staff his headquarters in Kabul, and that the
Army back in Washington just wasn't interested in giving him resources. So, early on, that was probably the biggest mistake.
GOLODRYGA: You also quote on that point about what would have happened had we kept our eye, had the U.S. kept its eye on Afghanistan and not moved so
quickly to Iraq.
You quote General Lute, and who served as the war czar under Bush and President Obama. And he said that: "If we had started the ANSF in 2002
through 2006, when the Taliban was weak and disorganized, things may have been different. Instead, we went to Iraq. If we committed money
deliberately and sooner, we could have had a different outcome."
How big of a factor was the Iraq invasion in the outcome now in Afghanistan?
WHITLOCK: Well, an enormous one. It's really hard to calculate just how big of a debacle that turned out to be, not just in Iraq, but for
Afghanistan as well.
You quoted General Lute. I'll give you another example. It's not just the forces and resources that got diverted to Iraq. It was really the high-
level attention. There was a memo that Donald Rumsfeld wrote in -- just a year into the war. He was recounting how he had visited the White House in
the Oval Office to meet with President Bush.
And he told Bush: I have got two generals in town this week who want to meet with you. One is General Tommy Franks, who is in charge of operations
in the Middle East in Iraq. And the other was General McNeill, who is in charge of operations in Afghanistan.
And Bush replied: Well, sure, I want to meet with Tommy Franks because he's in charge of Iraq, but who's General McNeill?
And Rumsfeld said: Well, sir, he's the general in charge of the war in Afghanistan.
And Bush replied: Well, I don't need to meet with him.
So, here you have the president of the United States didn't even know the name of his commander in Afghanistan and had really just stopped paying
attention to what was going on there.
GOLODRYGA: Just to give our viewers a sense of that episode and that exchange and encounter between President Bush and Rumsfeld, that was how
you close the first chapter, right, of the book. And we obviously see the cascading of events in the chapter subsequent to that.
President Bush, he ran on the campaign, right, of not nation-building. We don't nation-build. The United States has learned its lessons, he said,
right? He chastised President Clinton for doing just that.
And yet you look at the amount of money that ended up being invested in Afghanistan allocated for reconstruction, $133 billion in aid programs.
That's more money, you calculate, than the U.S. had spent in Western Europe with the Marshall Plan. That's inflation-adjusted, real-day present value
So how did we get from a point where a president specifically saying, from a policy perspective, that we do not nation-build to spending that enormous
amount of money?
WHITLOCK: Well, Bianna, each of the presidents boxed themselves in rhetorically.
They knew that this idea of nation-building wasn't real popular with the American people, who have a lot of needs at home. But, as you pointed out,
Bush campaigned on this idea of no nation-building. Suddenly, he finds himself in Afghanistan, where it needed nation-building more than any
country on Earth, yet he knew he had already made this promise.
So he was reluctant to spend it at a time when Afghanistan really needed it, but eventually found that he had to put the country back together.
President Obama really did the same thing. And when he first came into office, he also said, we're not going to be doing nation-building in
Afghanistan, because this was a time when there was a terrible recession in the United States and there were many needs at home.
But he actually spent more in Afghanistan than Bush did trying to build roads, schools, highways, you name it. But they spent so much money in
Afghanistan, it was more than the country could absorb. And it just led to corruption and other unintended effects.
So, this was a problem. All the presidents, including Trump, all promised no nation-building in Afghanistan. But we ended up, as you point out,
spending more in Afghanistan on that than in Europe after World War II.
GOLODRYGA: I'm not going to sit here and ask you to sort of look ahead and give us a general outcome of what the future holds for the assessment,
history's assessment of how the war was handled.
But I do want to end by talking about this theme of promises, because I feel, from the beginning of the book, the -- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was
asked if he promised to be honest with the American public. He said yes. President Biden says he pre-ran on a promise to end the -- America's
involvement in Afghanistan.
There were so many promises made. Many were not kept. But what is your takeaway, from all of the work that you put in and all the research you put
in to this book, about the promises made and the lasting impact of that for America's legacy and the world?
WHITLOCK: Well, so, Afghanistan, as you recall, Bianna, at the beginning was a very popular war in the United States. People supported Bush's
decision to send troops to Afghanistan, because it was seen as a war of self-defense.
Because of what happened on September 11, people were terrified that there would be more terrorist attacks. And they supported Bush's decision to take
military action to try and capture or kill al Qaeda's leadership.
So, within six months, people thought this war had been won. The Taliban was gone. People thought this was a victorious, successful military
campaign. But things started to slowly go downhill under Bush. They went -- became worse under Obama and under Trump. But you have to remember, what
American president wants to admit that they're slowly losing a war that Americans once thought they had won, a war that was seen as a just cause
No president wants to admit they failed. So, over those two decades, they all failed to tell the truth and failed to level with the American people
what was going on.
In my estimation, that led to the war dragging out longer than it should have. If they had just been honest with Americans earlier, I think we could
have pulled out U.S. troops a long time ago.
GOLODRYGA: Maybe could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Craig Whitlock, it is a fascinating book. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
WHITLOCK: Of course.
GOLODRYGA: And we continue our coverage of Afghanistan now with one of the most recognizable faces from the war on terror.
Retired General David Petraeus spent nearly four decades in the U.S. Army. In 2010, President Obama made him commander of forces in Afghanistan. And
he then went on to become CIA director.
Here he is speaking with our Walter Isaacson.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Bianna.
And, General Petraeus, welcome to the show.
DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be back with you, Walter.
ISAACSON: We have been talking all week about the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, but I want to take you to the last 20 years in Afghanistan.
Was that a failure? And, if so, what was the cause of the failure? Was it a policy failure, an execution failure?
PETRAEUS: Well, look, I'm sure that we made mistakes at probably every level, tactical, operational, strategic, policy, you name it.
But we also achieved a great deal at every single level, not the least of which, of course, was ensuring that the al Qaeda sanctuary in the 9/11
attacks was removed from Afghan soil, along with a regime that allowed them to have that sanctuary and then refused to remove them from it.
And for 20 years, frankly, the Afghan people -- and I have had a lot of e- mails from Afghans that I know who said at least we had 20 years of real freedoms, of real opportunities, of the ability to -- for women to go to
university, and all the rest of this.
But, certainly, there were setbacks. I actually stated back in 2010 that we hadn't done the inputs right in Afghanistan for the first nine years that
we were there. We were always shooting behind the target. We were always reacting to what the Taliban was doing when it regrouped, then when it came
We were very slow to develop Afghan security forces and institutions. And for those that say we shouldn't have been in nation-building, if you don't
do nation-building, how do you actually leave? You have to hand off the task you're performing, security tasks and other governance tasks.
ISAACSON: But wait. That didn't work. I mean, the counterinsurgency strategy, everything that you're talking about, even in the past 10 years,
we started to hand things off, and the Taliban just came right on in.
PETRAEUS: Well, I would take some issue with that, I think, Walter.
Certainly, the security situation in recent years did erode. But, certainly, during the time that I was privileged to command the
International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces there, we accomplish the missions we were assigned, halt the momentum of the Taliban,
roll them back in key areas, accelerate the development of the Afghan security forces, who, by the way, fought and died for their country in huge
I think a lot of us have taken issue with these accusations that they wouldn't fight for their country; 66,000 of them died over the years, most
of them in the last six years or so since we transitioned fully the front- line fighting, by and large, to Afghan security forces.
ISAACSON: But were you surprised that they crumbled so badly at the end?
PETRAEUS: Not entirely.
In fact, if you look at the record some months prior to that collapse, I said, as did others, that were worried about the psychological impact, not
just of the U.S. withdrawal of its forces, but with the withdrawal of our airpower, and the ability to bring that airpower to bear on the enemy in
critical locations, and the withdrawal of the 8, 500 coalition forces who couldn't stay if we didn't, and, perhaps even more important, but often
overlooked, the withdrawal of the 17,000 or 18,000 contractors that kept the sophisticated U.S.-provided helicopters and planes operational.
And as soon as Afghan forces knew no one had their back -- keep in mind, early on in the offensive, Afghans were fighting. They were bringing
commandos out to those battles and so forth. They were providing close air support, but they eventually flew their own air force into the ground. It
couldn't be maintained at the operational tempo without our contractors.
And they knew that we couldn't come to the rescue anymore. Even if we could bring airpower overhead, we didn't have the joint tactical controllers and
liaison teams and their headquarters, drones, over time to actually bring that to bear.
When Afghans detect a shift in the wind, and they see others surrendering around the country -- to be fair, the Taliban had quite a good offensive,
simultaneous all around the country, to which the Afghans could not respond adequately.
And as soon as those soldiers realized that there's no one coming to the rescue, there's no aerial medevac, emergency resupply or close air support,
they did what soldiers in Afghanistan have done over many, many centuries of empires and other countries washing across their land. They cut a deal
and so did the local leaders in those areas, in coordination with those military commanders.
So, again, I very much reject the idea that nothing was accomplished and that it all was for naught. And, again, we also brought us Osama bin Laden
to justice. There were numerous other accomplishments during that period in Afghanistan in the greater effort against Islamist extremists.
ISAACSON: How much harder is it going to be to fight this battle against the extremists without having some foothold right there to do it over the
horizon, as people say?
PETRAEUS: Very much harder, obviously.
Again, everything that is going to be overhead is going to have to fly off a carrier that's parked off Southwest Pakistan, which we just can't afford
to do. That needs to be in the Indo-Pacific. That's where the focus needs to shift. The whole rebalance to the Indo-Pacific was one of the rationales
for leaving Afghanistan, to get this off the Situation Room table, so that other, more important endeavors could be on it.
I don't think that has worked, frankly. They have done nothing but sit at the Situation Room table for a number of weeks and months.
But, otherwise, it has to come from the Gulf states. And that's a very long flight. Just in very simplistic terms, it could take as much as 60 percent
of the flying time of our top-of-the-line drone, the Reaper, just to get to and from Afghanistan.
And those aren't refuelable right now. Our fighter bombers will have to be refueled several times to get them there, keep them on station and return
them. It's publicly known that we blew up Eagle Base, a spectacular CIA base that was quite near to the airport in Kabul, a number of other
locations. Surrogate forces are gone.
All of this will have to be cobbled back together in some fashion, a very different one, to be sure. And, certainly, we have capabilities now that we
didn't even dream of prior to 9/11 when it comes to all of the advances that have to do with social media, connections to the Internet, cell
phones, and you name it.
But it is going to be vastly more challenging, unless the Taliban are true to their word that they will not allow al Qaeda and the Islamic State to
have sanctuaries on their soil. So, again, we have to see, what will be the nature and the character of the governance of this regime?
And as we were discussing just before we came on, I think we may have considerably more influence with them now than we have had certainly since
we had that abysmal negotiated agreement in the previous administration, where we basically negotiated
PETRAEUS: -- influence with them now than we have had certainly since we had that abysmal negotiated agreement in the previous administration where
we basically negotiated our own departure, excluded the Afghan government from the negotiations, and forced the Afghan government to release 5,000
Taliban detainees as part of an agreement, again, to let us do what the Taliban wanted us to do, which was to leave.
Now, they're broke. The U.S., Japan, a handful of other donor nations, but predominantly the U.S., had traditionally provided somewhere around 75
percent of the Afghan budget. Obviously, that's all frozen. That assistance is just on hold. All of their reserves around the world, by and large, are
frozen, the biggest in the U.S. The IMF and the World Bank have on hold what they might have done there, very considerable assistance projects. A
lot of the international organizations have thinned down or gone home.
So, they're in a very serious situation, a country that imports a lot of its electricity from neighboring nations, generates electricity with
refined fuel products that they import and a whole host of other goods and services. They run a massive trade deficit every year because of this. And
again, we have been the ones that typically have made up the difference.
And I don't think that you're going to see China, Russia and Iran, three countries that could provide some assistance, and Pakistan, come anywhere
near to making up that difference. It's just not in their repertoire. And even if China were to do a project there, in the Belt and Road, it would be
probably, we'll loan you money to build this bridge, our engineers and workers and others will build that bridge. So, they should be desperate
ISAACSON: But wait. Wait a minute. Your argument here that we may have more leverage over the Taliban after this withdrawal, isn't that ironically
sort of an argument that we should have done this earlier?
PETRAEUS: No. No, I mean, I don't think you can construe replacing, however imperfect and flawed and (INAUDIBLE) frustratingly, whatever
corrupt or what have you the previous government was, I don't think you can construe its replacement with the Taliban as anything other than, frankly,
disastrous. But we are where we are. And you now have to look forward.
And as you do look forward, we do have enormous influence, and of course, we're already exercising it. To its credit, the administration moved out
very quickly, U.N. Security Council already passed a resolution, that you will have seen, the group of 100 countries passed -- signed off on another.
And so, the Taliban, I think, will realize that if they want to survive, if they want to keep the lights on in Kabul, I think it's that basic, they are
going to have to change the way they governed in the past. That will be (INAUDIBLE) and we'll see if it's even possible, because, again, there are
a lot of individuals all throughout the country that will interpret this their own way.
And then we have to pursue our very near-term objectives of ensuring that the remaining U.S. citizens in Afghanistan can get out if they want. Same
for green card holders. And then, this category that we really don't have a full accounting of how many made it into that pool of 120 some odd
thousand, a number of which went to other countries. Of course, it's not strictly that which came out on the U.S. airlift. But what about the
special immigrant visa holders or applicants? These are individuals who spent two years on the ground with our men and women in uniform to earn
that as battlefield interpreters, sharing risk and hardship. We have a moral obligation to them.
ISAACSON: If I heard you correctly, and if I'm wrong, tell me, you've said, and you just said earlier in the show, that as soon as we announced
our withdrawal, as soon as we were starting to pull out, that let loose this wave of the Taliban being able to come back. I don't get it. Is that
an argument that we should have just stayed there indefinitely?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think we had alternatives. And again, we've stayed indefinitely in lots of other countries around the world. Certainly,
they're not at war the way the Afghan situation was. But there was an alternative of 2,500 to 3,500 troops. It was put forward by our military
authorities, Pentagon, it obviously was not adopted.
ISAACSON: But wait. What would have happened if we had left those troops sitting there and the Taliban had started to advance?
PETRAEUS: Well, they were advancing. We aren't on the front lines. We hadn't been on the front lines for some years. So, the idea that all of a
sudden we -- you know, we have had fewer battlefield casualties not just in the last 18 months, but in the last several years, all around the world,
our battlefield losses have been far less than the number of training accident losses.
So, again, we've dramatically changed how we're able to fight because of the proliferation of drones. Drones have truly changed what we have done.
You saw this, of course, Walter, when we did go back into Iraq. We had to because the Iraqi government, not the U.S., the Iraqi government took its
eye off the Islamic State, which had been destroyed, al-Qaeda in Iraq was destroyed during the surge. But if you take your eye and pressure off an
extremist group, it will reconstitute.
So, again, one can ask, what has been achieved by the "war on terror or the fight against Islamic extremists," which is still ongoing and will be
ongoing for some time? That I think is the most significant metric on which to focus. But I think we have learned how we have to deal with them. And
above all, we recognize, I think, that we have to keep an eye and pressure on them, albeit always where we can, through host nation forces rather than
by our own men and women on the front lines, unless it's absolutely necessary.
ISAACSON: The "Washington Post" has published what we call now the Afghanistan papers, like the Pentagon papers, that shows over the past 20
years the amount of misinformation and somewhat misleading and, at times, false information we kept getting given. What is your response to that?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think there undoubtedly is something to those allegations or those statements, those criticisms. I will tell you that I
did go back and look at what I said publicly to Congress when I was the commander of the U.S. Central Command, the commander in Afghanistan and
then the CIA director, though you don't do too much publicly as a CIA director.
Bob Kagan did the same thing and actually went back, and I was very qualified in what I said. I specifically said at various points, I told
members of Congress, we're not going to be able to do in Afghanistan what we did in Iraq. We can't drive violence down by 85 percent as we did during
the surge. We're not going to have this huge successful reconciliation effort. It's just different. The enemy has sanctuaries in Pakistan, we
can't reach their headquarters and their leaders. We can't put the pressure on them that we could in Iraq. The country has no money, it has very
limited infrastructure, it's highly illiterate, it's mountainous.
You know, we used to say in Iraq, the human terrain is the decisive terrain. Well, you know, when you're in the shadow of the Hindu Kush,
that's fairly significant and decisive as well. So, it was just a very different context. And interestingly, although the violence levels in
Afghanistan were really quite a good bit less than those in Iraq for most of the time, nonetheless, the challenges, the context of Afghanistan was
vastly more difficult.
But, look, I think there's some of that that is natural that people come in and, again, they're invested in it and you end up with a slightly more rosy
picture. It's why leaders have to insist on objectivity and speaking truth to power and all the rest of that.
ISAACSON: One of the many really interesting things you've said in this interview is that we now may have more influence on the Taliban, and you
said that China won't be able to step in as easily, even with its Belt and Road projects, to fill the gap there. China says that it's going to
recognize the Taliban government. Can you imagine that perhaps the United States should give formal recognition to that government sometime in the
PETRAEUS: Well, I would qualify, again, there need to be conditions. Ideally -- and military men always would like to see conditions met before
you take certain actions, and I would hope -- and I'm sure, actually, that this administration will establish certain conditions, certain metrics by
which it will judge Taliban rule and governance. And if those metrics or conditions are met, it's not unconceivable.
And again, this is where we need to understand that, again, the past is past. That's over. You can, you know, keep thinking that this is a bad
dream, as I have for several months now, particularly the past several weeks, as many veterans have who were highly invested and committed to
this. But you wake up and it's not a dream. It's not just a nightmare. It is reality. OK, this is reality, and now, how are we going to adjust our
actions in accordance with the reality?
And, again, I think the administration has already moved out pretty smartly in that regard. Secretary of State Tony Blinken has spoken about this on
several occasions already, as has the president. And that needs to be the thrust. And, of course, our embassy, if you will, has displaced to Qatar.
That is where the negotiations traditionally were held with the Taliban.
I actually think -- I suggested a week or two ago that, you know, why are we leaving this embassy, $450 million worth of beautiful infrastructure,
when it's very clear that the Taliban have what they want? They won. They own Afghanistan, for better or for worse. They don't want to kill Americans
at this point and give us a reason to unleash our military on them. And I suspect that we are ALSo evaluating that and determining what would be
necessary to mitigate the risks of putting our diplomats, development workers, military attaches, intelligence officers and so forth back in to
that beautiful embassy structure, that is ALSo, of course, not that far from Kabul airfield.
ISAACSON: General David Petraeus, thank you so much for joining us.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, Professor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: We turn now to a very different kind of battle, a young father's war on America's health care industry. In 2016, Ady Barkan was
diagnosed with ALS, an incurable disease that robs him of basic abilities most of us take for granted. But instead of surrendering, he started
fighting, launching a crusade for public health care. His inspiring story is told in the new documentary "Not Going Quietly." Here's a clip from the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADY BARKAN, DOCUMENTARY SUBJECT, "NOT GOING QUIETLY": The knowledge that I was dying was terrible, but dealing with my insurance company was even
worse. I wanted to spend every moment I had left with Rachael and Carl, but then Congress came after our health care. I couldn't stay quiet any longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I recently spoke with Ady, who had a tracheotomy in 2019 and now, communicates with the help of technology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Well, Ady, thank you so much for joining us. Watching this film, I was just blown away at what an inspiration you are as a citizen, a
father, and a husband. How are you feeling these days? How is your health at this moment?
BARKAN: Thank you for having me on the show. My heart is full and I am grateful for all the interest in my story and the movement for health care,
just as we've been able to build as a result.
Since undergoing a tracheostomy, a procedure to implant a breathing tube in my windpipe, I require a ventilator to breathe. As a result, I rely on a
team of caregivers for 24-hour home care, which I am extremely fortunate to have. I no longer have my natural voice, but I have not lost my ability to
speak. I am able to communicate using miraculous technology that follows the movement of my eyes. This technology allows me to use my tablet
computer to type out these answers to your questions. It's an exceptionally slow way to communicate, but the difference between communicating slowly
and not at all is everything.
GOLODRYGA: It's everything, especially because we are so desperate to hear your important words. The film starts with footage of you before your ALS
was apparent. Take us back to those days. How did you realize that something was wrong and how did you react to the initial diagnosis?
BARKAN: When my left arm grew weak, I never imagined that it could be something as insidious as ALS. At most, I thought I had carpal tunnel or
the weakness was the result of holding our newborn baby so much. But after a series of doctor visits, I was told I have ALS, a terrible neurological
illness that has coursed through my body and left me nearly completely paralyzed.
I went from feeling like the luckiest person I knew to the unluckiest overnight. At first, I ask myself, why me? But then I realized this wasn't
a useful or productive endeavor. There is nothing I can do to change the fact of my ALS. Instead, I began to ask myself, why not me? Millions of
people meet fates far worse than mine simply due to circumstance of their birth. It isn't fair or good or right, but I started to have more of a
sense of perspective.
Yes, I had received a death sentence, but it renewed my passion and commitment to reducing injustice elsewhere, because too many communities
across our country face death sentences in different ways, whether at the hands of police or white supremacist hate crimes or impacts of climate
change that hit black and brown communities the hardest. I learned to put my suffering in perspective and use it to do what I could to leave the
world a little better off.
GOLODRYGA: Your wife, Rachael, is right there at the center of the film with you. You two were college sweethearts. How did she react when you were
diagnosed and how has she supported you throughout these years after?
BARKAN: We were both stunned. How do you react to that? I was only 32 when I was diagnosed with ALS and Rachael had just given birth to our beautiful
son, Carl. On every front, the wonderful life we had long imagined and built for ourselves had just begun to sprout. We didn't have very much
sometime to process the death sentence that I was given, but the weight of my diagnosis certainly wore heavily on us as we scrambled to adjust.
The cruel hand that we were dealt demanded that Rachael be a mom to our newborn, and professor to her students at UC Santa Barbara, but now a
caregiver to her husband. Our current situation has since changed as a result of the years spent fighting with our insurance company and because
of my network of very generous friends who helped pay for my care. Now, I get to live a beautiful and full life at home with my family and watch my
kids grow up because of 24-hour home care.
Home care saved my marriage, as Rachael and I got to be partners and co- parents again, instead of patient and caregiver. But my reality is the exception. Even good health insurance does not cover the full-time care
that living with ALS requires. Because of this, many others with ALS are placed in nursing homes where patients are merely warehoused and isolated
from their loved ones.
To be honest, I don't know if living in a nursing home would provide a quality of life that I would be willing to tolerate. President Biden
promised a $400 billion investment into home and community-based services to provide the disabled and aging community the opportunity to live at
home. My team at Be a Hero is working hard to ensure Biden makes good on his promise, so at the very least, the 820,000 seniors and disabled people
on waiting lists for Medicaid's home care program aren't forced to live in unsafe nursing institutions, and instead, can live safely and with dignity
GOLODRYGA: At home with your family, and we get to meet Beautiful Willow at the end of this movie. But tell me about Carl, your son. How important
has he been to you throughout all of this, and does he understand now the reality of your condition?
BARKAN: My first goal when I was first diagnosed with ALS my first goal was to see his first day of kindergarten. I'm overjoyed that I got to
celebrate this milestone with him last week. We've had some tough conversations with Carl, and understandably, he doesn't like consuming
content related to ALS. But a few weeks ago, he shared a newfound interest in seeing the film, probably because everyone who has seen it, the doc
keeps telling him how smart and funny he is.
He certainly is, but I wish Carl would share how he bewitched the editors because they extended him a very generous edit. Everything is worth
fighting for because of Carl and my daughter, Willow. As a father, I'm working to leave behind a kinder and gentler world for my kids so as they
grow up, there will be enough fertile ground for them to grow or a more just and equitable world.
GOLODRYGA: It's clear how much Carl loves his abba, Hebrew for father, for you. You have a great line early on in the film, and that is, the knowledge
that I was dying was terrible, but dealing with my insurance company was even worse. Can you tell us why it was so bad and how that led to you
campaigning for Medicare for All?
BARKAN: Rachael and I wasted away so much of that early precious time after I had been diagnosed on the phone with our insurance company,
navigating infuriating insurance bureaucracies that are set up to deny us and enrich the CEOs. My insurance denied me a ventilator, stating that it
was experimental. And then two weeks after that, they denied me access to an FDA-approved ALS drug. The experience of pleading for my life was
completely dehumanizing and it is a feeling I carry forward with me to fuel the advocacy I do every day.
Before I was diagnosed with ALS, I spent my 20s in a struggle for economic and racial justice, fighting against powerful special interests as a young
lawyer in New York City. There, I helped a federal judge end a racist policing program of stop and frisk. I co-authored the New York City Paid
Sick Days Law. I led a national campaign to reform the federal reserve's so that our economic policies would actually reflect and support the lives of
But as the bills piled up and the need for care intensified, the focus of my work naturally shifted and the lines between my personal life and my
career began to blur. Because of the greed of our for-profit health care system, too many Americans today either go bankrupt or delay much needed
care. Our system is beyond repair. And though I always supported the movement for Medicare for All, I decided early on this fight for health
care justice was the fight to which I would dedicate the rest of my life.
GOLODRYGA: With your Be a Hero campaign, you went on a 48-day 18-state tour to flip the house, enough to tire anyone out.
BARKAN: I am willing to give my last breath to save (INAUDIBLE). What are you willing to give?
GOLODRYGA: And you were apart from Rachael and Carl. Yet you met many people who were inspired by you, often with their own disabilities. I'm
thinking of Jake, a young man with ALS, and a child on the way, who said that what you're doing and what you're doing is a labor of love. Where do
you draw your inspiration from?
BARKAN: That's a good question. And I think Jake was right in saying my work fighting for health care justice is a labor of love. And it is from
that love that I source my inspiration. Love, above all, for my family and my two young kids, Carl and Willow, even though the bus tour took me away
from them for longer than I would have liked, I embarked on that trip because I want to do everything I can with the time I have remaining to
leave this world better for my children and I found it.
I'm inspired too by a love for democracy and the pursuit of a more just and equitable world where everyone can live with dignity and has the basic
resources they need to thrive. Through collective struggle, I've also made great friends and met some people, some in passing, who have risen up like
a wave to preserve our democracy. I love all of my comrades and I draw inspiration from them.
GOLODRYGA: Let me ask you, do you think COVID and the enormous and, at times, indiscriminate suffering that millions of Americans have endured has
changed how the country views health care, given the massive stimulus, both the Republican and then bipartisan Congress passed in its wake?
BARKAN: Yes, I think the pandemic has shown the true breadth of cruelty possible in our for-profit system. Death rates in black, indigenous and
Latinx communities from the coronavirus were over twice that of their white counterparts. Millions lost their jobs. And as a result, their health
insurance. Over 133,000 disabled people died from the coronavirus in unsafe nursing institutions. Hospitals that primarily serve low-income patients
shut down while private insurers saw their profits double because Americans delayed much needed care.
Our health care system is clearly broken and I think people realize that now if they didn't already before the pandemic. The real question is
whether that shift in views will translate into policy change. The stimulus was a much-needed start, but more is required for Congress to deliver the
transformative change Americans desperately need.
Right now, we need Congress to pass President Biden's proposed $400 billion for home and community-based care to provide the 820,000 seniors and
disabled people on Medicaid's waiting list with the home and community- based care they need to live safely and with dignity. We also need to strengthen and expand Medicare to cover hearing, dental and vision care and
include everyone 60 years and older.
GOLODRYGA: Do you have hope about health care in America?
BARKAN: I do have hope. But for me, hope is not passive. Hope is a spur to action. Hope is not a lottery ticket that we cling to. It's a hammer that
we use in an emergency to break the glass, sound the alarm and spring into action.
So, yes, I'm hopeful that the American people can rise to the challenge of transforming our broken health care system, but it's up to all of us
whether we will take up that call. It's up to all of us right now to contact our elected officials and tell them, we support both funding for
home and community-based care. It's up to all of us to continue to speak up, organize, and vote for health care justice in America.
GOLODRYGA: You're fighting for health care justice for the country as a whole, and obviously for yourself at home, and one of the things you
dreaded most about your diagnosis was the inevitable decision you would have to make about getting a tracheostomy. But without it, you wouldn't
have had the opportunity to meet Beautiful Willow and spend more time with your family, even seeing your son going to school. Have you come to terms
with that decision now?
BARKAN: Only 10 percent of Americans with ALS choose to get a tracheostomy and go on a ventilator because it requires 24-hour care, which most
insurance plans don't cover. In Japan, where long-term care is guaranteed 90 percent, choose to get the surgery. That's why this fight to fully fund
home care for every senior and disabled person who needs it is so important. Our time on this earth is the most precious resource we have,
but our failing health care system is stealing years from people and families.
So, yes, my illness progressed to the point where I needed a tracheostomy to survive. And Rachael and I decided early on that our hope was to try and
get one for me. And, as a result, I get to watch Carl and Willow grow up. I'm extremely grateful I have the resources to get a tracheostomy and have
the home care today that enables me to live safely with my family.
GOLODRYGA: Ady, Thank you so much for the time. Thank you for not going quietly. This country needs your voice. Thank you so much. Best of luck.
BARKAN: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I just have to say Ady is one of the most inspiring people I've ever had the privilege of speaking with.
And that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching. Good-bye from New York.