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U.S. Intel Says, Russian Efforts to Interfere in 2022 Election Are Evolving; Major Afghan Cities Fall to Taliban at Alarming Speed; Texas Hospitals Running Out of ICU Beds as Cases Surge. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 11:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Just into CNN, new details about Russia's evolving and ongoing interference in U.S. elections. Those efforts are far more widespread than previously thought. And it is happening despite President Biden warning Vladimir Putin to stop.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live in Washington with more. And, Natasha, you and colleagues here have done tremendous enterprise reporting. Tell us what you've learned.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Dana, so what we're learning is that the U.S. Intelligence Community has been providing the Biden administration with new reports with evidence that Russia is continuing to interfere in our democracy and continuing to try to sow chaos ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Of course, this never stopped, this kind of activity ramping up to 2022, as Russians try to influence our elections one way or another. But one major part of this is the disinformation campaigns surrounding COVID and the vaccines.

And this is something that the Russians have really seized upon in the last year, particularly in the last several months as the vaccine has become available, to try to sow even more divisiveness in American society surrounding the vaccine. And that, of course, runs completely counter to what the Biden administration has been trying to do here, getting Americans to get the COVID shot.

So, what the Russians are doing is a very familiar strategy.


They are trying to divide America, sow tensions in western society but their tactics are evolving. And that is what intelligence officials and former intelligence officials are telling us, it is very common for the Russians. They kind of test what they are doing in 2020 and 2016 and then they evolve and they come up with new strategies and ways to try to insert themselves into our democratic processes. BASH: Classic Russia, and I encourage people to good online and read the full report that you and Alex Marquardt and others did because it is really important, especially as it relates to COVID information, because people are getting things wrong and it is not an accident, it is being done, according to your sources, by the Russians.

So, thanks so much for that report, Natasha.

And we're going back to our top story, Afghanistan on the brink of collapse, how America got it so wrong. We're going to talk to a retired army general who has an idea of an answer to that.

And also a quick CNN programming note, the CNN original series, Jerusalem, City of Faith and Fury, examines the U.N. partition and the founding of Israel, the effects of which we still see today. You can watch all new episodes. This one is Sunday at 10:00 P.M. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.



BASH: Breaking news. The Taliban is seizing control of Afghanistan at an alarming rate. Half of the country's provincial capitals have fallen in just days. The Pentagon will hold a press conference at 2:00 P.M. amid this escalating crisis, the final U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of the month ending America's longest war.

Joining me now is CNN Military Analyst, retired Major General James Spider Marks. General, thank you so much for joining me.

Just broadly, let's start here. It is America's longest war. How did it come to an end this way?

GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think what happened is post-9/11, we knew we were going to go after Al Qaeda, those that had brought this incredible tragedy to our shores. We knew where to go. We went into Afghanistan. Bear in mind that the Taliban controlled Afghanistan at the time but they only controlled what was in Kabul and a few of the provinces. Afghanistan has always essentially been ungoverned space. And so, Al Qaeda, not the Taliban, were able to develop their plans and execute quite effectively, sadly, the 9/11 attacks.

When the United States got into -- with the coalition -- but when the United States got into Afghanistan, we went in Afghanistan to defeat Al Qaeda and to defeat and remove the Taliban from power. Both of those happened, especially with the Taliban, very, very quickly. They were removed from power and we began the process of replacing them with a new government.

We then had to continue the effort against Al Qaeda and we got lost. This suddenly became a counterinsurgency, it was American hubris, history had told us that wars in Afghanistan and trying to convert a society that is essentially tribal, has always been tribal, and defined by the borders of its neighbors. There is no reason why Afghanistan, a land locked country, really kind of exists. It's just harboring a bunch of tribes.

And so we got lost. We suddenly got immersed in a bunch societal issues and we're going to advance women's rights and we're going to take care of all the children and we're going to try to build roads, and we got lost.

BASH: The ever unpopular term, nation building, it seems, is what you're describing. So given that, looking back over the past 20 years, do you think, militarily, there was a military moment the U.S. could have withdrawn and left a more stable and secure Afghanistan than we're seeing now?

MARKS: I do. I mean, not just second guessing the incredible leadership that has been in place for over two decades trying to get this right, but after the Taliban fell and after a new government was put in place and the United States helped and the coalition, not underestimate and understate their contributions, but led by the United States, a number of nations were there to help the Afghans stand up and to get this right. Well, what happened is we just completely got off another (INAUDIBLE) trying to make it right.

So if you're looking for a timeline, maybe that is a year or a year- and-a-half in the United States then suddenly said, okay, guys, here is the timeline. You've got it from here. We've committed and we've sacrificed, you need to be able to make this happen from here. But it obviously, 20 years later, we're making the determination. And the sad thing about this -- I don't want to use the, word ironic, but the sad thing is that we might be leaving Afghanistan in an in extremis way on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. That is a horrible optic.

BASH: It sure is. But it seems as though it's becoming more and more of a reality.

As we talk, I just want to put up once again for our viewers the kind of big picture perspective of what we're talking about here for America's longest war.


$2 trillion spent, 352,000 Afghan security forces trained, nearly 2,000 U.S. service members killed in action. And here we are, General Marks, the Pentagon is announcing sending 3,000 troops to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Kabul. CNN is reporting that the U.S. is considering moving the embassy to Kabul airport. You talked about how sad it is, not using the word, irony, but talk about the symbolism of the embassy there, especially in historical context.

MARKS: Yes. The challenge, obviously, is the immediate image that comes to mind is April of 1975.

BASH: Exactly.

MARKS: And the evacuation, the in extremis again, the hurried and the defeated evacuation of the U.S. embassy from Saigon. We certainly cannot afford to have that picture or that image, but we're getting close to that. But also bear in mind where the ambassador is, is where the embassy is. Let's not try to split hairs here. If the ambassador and his counselor staff are at the airport in Kabul, that is where the embassy is. The building is irrelevant.

And the only function that we should really take care of right now is protect the noncombatants, have that military presence, they're going to be in country to make sure that the Taliban cannot range the airport to facilitate that evacuation. You can't range it either with personnel or long range fires. That is why the military is going back in to prevent that. But we have got to be able to get those troops out therefore.

BASH: Let's hope that we don't see that image again. Major General James Spider Marks, retired, thank you so much for joining me and giving us more context and perspective. Thank you.

MARKS: Thanks.

BASH: And coming up, more and more hospitals are overwhelmed in Texas, which is really straining staff. I'll speak with a nurse about the COVID crisis there next.



BASH: Texas hospitals are running out of ICU beds with more than 10,000 in the hospital with COVID, including many children. The headline in The Dallas Morning News captures the crisis. The Dallas Fort Worth is out of ICU beds for children.

Joining me now to talk about the strain all of this is putting on hospitals across the state is Serena Bumpus, the director of practice at the Texas Nurses Association. Thank you so much for joining me.

So, I have talked about the headlines, we have seen the pictures out of Texas. It's just stunning. Talk about what you're seeing on the ground as a nurse and what you're hearing from your colleagues who are dealing with this surge.

SERENA BUMPUS, PRACTICE DIRECTOR, TEXAS NURSES ASSOCIATION: And so I have the opportunity to hear from nurses across the state of Texas, and what I hear consistently is just how tired and exhausted nurses are right now with this third wave of COVID-19 patients coming through their facilities. And many are struggling to renew their passion and joy for the practice of nursing.

BASH: And is part of that because so much of what they're seeing was preventable? Because at the beginning there was no vaccine, now there is, and people are coming in so sick because they are unvaccinated?

BUMPUS: That's correct. So, many are frustrated because we didn't have to be this way. If we had taken the vaccine or for those who did not want to take the vaccine continued those precautions that we had early on in the pandemic prior to the vaccine becoming available, we could have avoided this third wave of patients.

BASH: And you've said it's time for the public to step up. What do you want people to do?

BUMPUS: And I think it goes back to really reevaluating getting the vaccine, that we have a 53 percent vaccination rate here in the state of Texas, and that is part of our challenge and why we are where we are today. And so it's reevaluating that choice to get the vaccine and to understand that this delta variant is no joke. We really need people to get vaccinated in order to prevent these hospitalizations. And if they choose not to, then at the very least, wear a mask when they're out in public, especially in areas that are indoors and they don't have the ability to be outside.

BASH: It doesn't seem like a lot to ask. Before I let you go, this week, the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston was the latest in your state to mandate COVID vaccines for employees, and your organization has come out in support of mandates like this. What is your position and what is your message to people who are nurses about them getting the vaccine?

BUMPUS: As nurses, we have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure the safety of our patients and of the public. And so it's up to us to model that behavior and get the vaccines so we can be available to our peers and our coworkers and most importantly to our patients so we can take the best care of them.

BASH: Serena Bumpus, thank you, and to all of your fellow nurses and other medical professionals who are doing so much hard work, and are, as you said, absolutely understandably exhausted. And thank you for joining me to tell their stories.

BUMPUS: Thank you.

BASH: And Inside Politics John King starts right after our break.