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State Department: Under 200 Americans Left Behind after Afghan Pullout; 123,000 Plus Evacuated from Afghanistan before U.S. Withdrawal; Joe Biden to Address Nation Today After U.S. Ends War in Afghanistan; 1 Plus Million Without Power for Possibly Weeks Amid Scorching Heat; Louisiana Governor: No Confirmed Deaths After Hurricane. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired August 31, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: The State Department estimates now that between 100 to 200 Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan did not get out and neither did thousands of Afghan allies who risked their lives to help the United States during the 20 year war.
While President Biden will likely say that he followed through on his pledge to end the costly war, his foreign policy legacy will also be defined by the chaotic evacuation effort and of course, a brutal terror attack just five days ago that killed 13 U.S. service members and injured nearly two dozen others.
CNN's Phil Mattingly is standing by at the White House with more ahead of the president's very important remarks. Phil, what are you hearing about the president's - about the president's speech?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know Kate I just - this is such a symbolic moment for this White House and for this president. Obviously, you kind of hinted at the biggest point here, which is that the president has delivered on a campaign promise to get the United States out of its longest war, despite concerns about what the fallout from would be.
But despite concerns about repercussions, that has happened. We saw the last flight leave. And now the president has to talk about what happens next. But before he does that, I think he needs to answer several key questions, which I'm told will be a key component of the speech today.
And that is what the American presence or efforts in Afghanistan are going forward, particularly given the fact there are still more than 100 American citizens who want to leave the country that are still on the ground? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Afghan allies who wanted to leave the country who are still on the ground?
Obviously, we heard from the Secretary of State yesterday, Tony Blinken laying out the diplomatic efforts and the diplomatic process that the U.S. is launching and going to be engaged in and the days and weeks ahead, and the efforts to get those individuals out. I think there's a lot of concern on Capitol Hill, really from both parties, Republicans and Democrats.
Whether or not the administration's reliance or continued sighting of the Taliban, giving its word that those individuals will be able to leave whether or not that will actually transpire and occur? I think you're going to have the president talk about the leverage his administration and international partners believe they have particularly on the economic front, and on the international diplomacy front when it comes to the Taliban as they try and form their government as well.
But obviously, the president has no shortage of questions to answer about the last 16 days. It is an absolute fact that getting 120 plus 1000 people out of the country in those 16 days is something that's extraordinary by any account, but the fact that are still Americans there; there are still Afghan allies there.
And that it transpired at all in the way that it did is something that the administration will have to address both today and going forward Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Good to see you Phil, thank you for that. Well, the Taliban is very clearly celebrating the end of America's presence in Afghanistan. Sam Kiley -- CNN's Sam Kiley is in Doha where the final U.S. military flights landed. And Sam now the question is what the Taliban is going to do with this newfound power?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been quite a fascinating period, this interregnum, after the United States have left before the Taliban form, what they promise will be an inclusive government, not quite a government of national unity, because they say it will all be under Sharia law.
But on the airport itself, in within the grounds of the airport, you had Mullah Mujahid, the Spokesman for the Taliban, but he's a lot more than that is a very powerful figure within it, lecturing the Taliban Special Forces who come from the Haqqani Network, a network that is part of the Taliban, but also historically has had close ties to al Qaeda considered something of the Taliban Special Forces.
They are the people you've seen walking around at the initial stages on the airport just after the U.S. fell. We got Mujahid lecturing them saying two things. The first is we want to see a good and positive relationship with the United States in the future and also telling them and this is a repeated message they've been sending out to be respectful, and non-domineering towards fellow Afghans.
In other words, not to repeat the medieval attitudes that the Taliban struck when they came to power back in 1996, and also gave safe haven to Al Qaeda, which then went on to prosecute the 9/11 attacks.
So a very big effort being made in a very public way by the Taliban to try to be consistent with the demands being made by the international community and reinforced here out of Qatar that Qataris have arguably the closest relationship or bet its best relationship with the Taliban. And that is the message they are sending to moderate. BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Sam thanks so much. Joining me right now CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, David Axelrod, CNN Senior Political Commentator and Former Adviser to President Obama and Retired Colonel Peter Mansoor, Former Aide to General David Petraeus.
Now, Kaitlan, the President is and the administration made a promise to Americans and Afghan allies, these SIV applicants in Afghanistan that they would get them out. And yes, they got a lot of people out, biggest noncombatant-evacuation in U.S. history, but they still fundamentally broke their promise. How are they going to deal with that?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and President Biden is someone who has said he wants to be measured against his own word and the promises that he makes and that is something and assurance that he gave earlier or just a few weeks ago when he was doing an interview.
And he was asked will troops stay in Afghanistan until every American who wants to leave his left?
COLLINS: And what we heard from the Commander of Central Command yesterday was saying that there are still Americans in Afghanistan who do want to leave who were either unable to make it to the airport, they said they could not accommodate them. It's not really clear what the details were for the people.
But the Secretary of State Antony Blinken did say it's about closer to 100 people they believe that are still there. And obviously the situation to getting them out is a lot dicer now that the U.S. military has left.
And what we've heard from them is saying that there are assurances from the Taliban publicly that they will still continue to let people go in and out. But it's not even clear how this is going to work with the airport and who is controlling the airport and how that works?
Given it was the United States military running it up until midnight in Kabul yesterday? And so that's been a big question for them. And yes, they can certainly count the 6000 Americans that they got out, they can certainly talk about the warnings that they repeatedly offered to Americans since April, saying that they needed to leave Afghanistan.
But also you have to look at what the president has said and what has actually transpired? And that is going to be a big part of it. I imagine the White House is well aware of this and that they will have President Biden address it this afternoon.
BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, Colonel, between the uncertain rule of the Taliban now and the growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan, I mean, what kind of threat of the people who were left behind under it - this in - under and in at this moment? COL. PETER MANSOOR (RET.), FORMER AIDE TO GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, they're in far greater danger to ISIS-K, which would love to do nothing more than take some Americans hostage. That's the real threat.
I think the Taliban actually does want to play nice in terms of getting third country nationals and Americans out of the country. There's no reason for them to keep them. And it would give them some goodwill going forward when they're - when they go forward and ask for financial assistance and economic assistance and development assistance and, and so forth. So the real danger is ISIS-K, which is what we've seen in the last week as well.
BOLDUAN: And how real that danger early is? David, how important is this moment and this speech that Joe Biden is about to give?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, this is an - this is an important moment in American history. And he is delivering on a promise to extricate America from Afghanistan extricate our troops from Afghanistan.
The question is, we're done with Afghanistan, is Afghanistan done with us? There are all of these lingering issues about people who remain who we need to get out, also about the humanitarian implications of this withdrawal?
And finally, the national security and anti-terrorism implications, the opponents of the withdrawal, argue, as they have for 20 years if we pull out that Afghanistan will revert to become a center - a centerpiece for terrorist organizing.
And the question is, how are we going to confront that with the over horizon forces that the president says he'll marshal? That remains to be seen. But Kate, I think that he will have to deal with some of these issues in his speech, what they very much want to do.
And I think this is why they waited for him to speak today is focused on the larger issue. We have been there for 20 years. I was in meetings 12 years ago, when the military was arguing if we just surge now that, you know, we can hand this over to the Afghans, and then we can - we can come home?
That was 12 years ago. And Biden was very much on the other side of that argument. And I think that he'd heard enough of those arguments. And most Americans agree with him on that point. That is where he's going to want to focus.
I think, you know, in his remarks that are where he liked the focus to be. It's hard the short term issues are hard. The breach of faith with Afghans a difficult issue, the breach of faith with allies who feel that this was abrupt and not well handled is problematical.
But at the end of the day, the larger issue is - are we in are in Afghanistan or not in Afghanistan, and I think that's where he's going to want his focus to be.
BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, David raises an interesting point and something I was wondering ahead of the speech as well. It feels like maybe a little bit that Biden's speaking today is almost like putting a button on this or wrapping up this crisis, right?
America is no longer in Afghanistan after two decades. But this is obviously not going away. David said it more eloquently than me. We might be done with Afghanistan, but Afghanistan has not done with us, does the White House accept that?
COLLINS: I think that they accept it in the sense that there is a lot of uncertainty about what's to come with Afghanistan. And one thing that stood out to me from Secretary Blinken's speech last night was he was saying that they had been relying on the Taliban as a matter of practicality over the last several weeks when it came to letting people actually get to the airports since it was the Taliban that was securing those perimeters, those checkpoints outside the airport.
COLLINS: But he was saying now going forward, their talks with the Taliban would be dealt with only when it is in America's national interest and strategic national interest. And I thought that was a notable comment given, of course, that is a big question of how does this work going forward and are they recognized?
And I think with President Biden here, it was interesting, he wasn't one of the first people to speak yesterday. They let the Pentagon announced this and confirmed that the last military flight was gone, then they let the Secretary of State speak to say that this is a diplomatic mission now, and we are focused on what this is going to look like.
But there is no diplomatic presence in Kabul to be clear. They are going to be operating out of Joe Hall, which gives you a sense of just how much this situation at hand has changed. And so now when we hear from President Biden, it will be bigger picture and it will focus on his promise to bring Americans home from Afghanistan, because that's what aides think, is the most important.
But that doesn't mean the questions about how it was handled, will go away, certainly not from lawmakers who have raised it repeatedly.
BOLDUAN: Yes. You know, some of there are many enduring images that came out of this final exit Colonel, but one of them is going to be this video that we've seen in the pictures we're now seeing of Taliban fighters wearing what appears to be U.S. military fatigues inspecting U.S. military aircraft left behind.
The Pentagon has stressed a kind of repeatedly that they have demilitarized the equipment, they have made it inoperable. But I wonder what you think kind of if seeing this imagery and what that actually really means?
MANSOOR: You know, I think it's to be expected. We shouldn't make too much of it, though. The Taliban isn't going to use that equipment to invade a neighboring state. The war there is over except their war with ISIS-K. So this, this is a lot like what happened in Vietnam in 1975, the North Vietnamese captured a ton of U.S. equipment and used it for decades thereafter.
But yes, and they actually did have wars with China and with Cambodia, but I think the Taliban, you know, they'll strut around in the U.S. uniforms. They'll parade around in our vehicles. But in the end, it's -- it doesn't mean a whole lot because they've accomplished their goal already.
And the equipment really won't do them much good. And when it comes to governing the state, which is the next major task for the Taliban.
BOLDUAN: Yep, which is a huge, huge question, if that is - if they're going to be possible and capable of that? Colonel thank you David, thanks so much and Kaitlan thanks for sticking around. I really appreciate it.
Coming up for us, more than 1 million customers are without power in Louisiana and Mississippi. Now on top of that a dangerous heat warning. We're going to go live to New Orleans for an update on the damage from Hurricane IDA.
And an army veteran dies from a treatable condition because he could not get an ICU bed with hospitals packed with Coronavirus patients. The doctor who desperately tried to save his life joins me live.
BOLDUAN: More than 1 million customers in Louisiana are facing another day without electricity in the wake of Hurricane IDA. And it may be weeks before power is fully restored. That is a huge problem of course - of course in any aftermath, but now a dangerous heat advisory is in effect reports of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Overnight in Mississippi, two people were killed 10 others were injured when part of a roadway just washed away, essentially disintegrating leaving a massive hole that swallowed up seven cars this from the effects of IDA. CNN's Nadia Romero is live in New Orleans with the very latest for us. Nadia, the governor has offered an update on recovery efforts in Louisiana. What did he say?
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Kate, the Governor is talking about all the things that they're able to do now that the storm has passed. So they're working on getting more fuel. They worked on helping people being rescued in Laplace, Louisiana, but they're also asking for patience for people to continue to be patient with them as they continue those recovery efforts.
And we've been through some neighborhoods around here. You can see this pole behind me that slanted over power lines that are - have fallen the power is still out. I just talked with a woman who has a transformer on top of her car. She says she hasn't seen anyone not the power company, no one from the city or their parish asking her what they can do to help.
And that is part of the delay the governor asking for patients there. So we know that neighbors are helping neighbors Kate and this is something that you always see after a natural disaster. It's really the bright spot after a natural disaster. We met a woman named Kappa Horn and you might remember this name.
She was the owner of a restaurant, the very first one to open up after Hurricane Katrina and she prides herself on being there for the people of New Orleans. Today we found her outside of another restaurant that she owns handing out food to people because she said she just didn't want it to go to waste. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAPPA HORN, OWNER, HORN EATERY: I was raised by Catholic nuns, you give when you have plenty. And I do believe that. What if you do good, it comes back to you tenfold. And at this point in time, it's what you do. You do good and it comes back to you. After I do this I'm going to go home and clean my neighbor's yards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMERO: And that is exactly what people are doing taking out their brooms their rakes and helping each other out. Unfortunately, though, Kate, we did see the other side of people that comes out that small nasty element that tries to take advantage of storm victims.
There were reports of break-ins at some of these stores. Remember, it's pitch black at night, no one has electricity. And so the police officers have been set up on different blocks around New Orleans, making sure that no one's looting or going into stores or homes where they shouldn't be Kate.
BOLDUAN: Well Nadia, thank you very much, I really appreciate it. One of the hardest hit areas is - from this hurricane has been in Grand Isle, Louisiana. It was pounded by torrential rain and it got some of the worst of those fierce winds.
We're going to show you a new video showing some of the damage that was left behind it was shot by Josh Welsh, who is still stuck in Grand Isle, had to ride out the storm on a boat. Joining me now for an update of where things are and where things are headed is Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Shang?
Thank you so much. You have been working around the clock. What is the latest from your parish? I mean, I know a feat in Grand Isle with major concerns yesterday so much damage that we see in the first damage is coming out?
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT: Yes, I mean, actually, some of the first images I've seen on the news today of Grand Isle, I didn't even know there were people on the roofs. The Mayor probably didn't either, because yesterday, he told me he thought everybody had made it to the multiplex.
You know, he was able to just get in; I was able to talk on the phone with him because he got to the top of a bridge and we had some connection. So it wasn't until this morning that I realized some of the people actually stayed at their home in Grand Island.
I think I'm hearing that they were on, on the roofs of their homes. So very tragic situation you know, this is the rescue effort is very difficult when you don't have communication. You don't have you know, you don't have access in we couldn't even land a helicopter there yesterday.
So very difficult circumstances to do a rescue and to get people the very basic needs that they have is, you know, protection from the sun and food and water and medical care. And this is what we're up against in some of our communities.
BOLDUAN: Yes, it's that basic in terms of the needs right now. You mentioned that you were able to connect with the Mayor down in Grand Isle briefly. What are communications like? And most importantly, what is the Mayor telling you?
SHENG: Well, the Mayor wants to help us people, you know, and I mean, it was very difficult. I know yesterday he wanted to helicopter we were trying to get him a helicopter to get in but the helicopter had nowhere to land.
You know, you have from the footage I've seen on national media, it seems like you know, the roads are clear, very different situation from another part of the parish we have called Lafayette, they are underwater. I haven't been able to get out there yet. Today, I will try to look at it today at some point.
I don't know how much the waters receded. But I know it hasn't because we're trying to de-water that that's one of the big issues that we're trying to get to today is get some more pumps out there to get the water out and massive amount of water miles and miles of water. So it's not just a little section.
And you know, the search and rescue continues today. There we have boats going in into that community as well. And then up here where we're in the hurricane protection system, we're dealing with power outages, you know, water supply, that is fragile sewer supply that is fragile.
My concern is that humanitarian aid is going to increase as the days go by. So we're looking at shelter operations to get people outside, I can't take care of people if you can't take care of yourself. If I don't have electricity, I don't have clean water, you know, so we're going to have to get some of those people on buses to a couple hours away to get their basic needs met.
BOLDUAN: Stick with me if you could because the Louisiana's Governor John Bel Edwards, he's giving an update right now on rescue and recovery efforts, let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): --storm was every bit as advertised. And the damage that we have seen here, and that they're dealing with is just catastrophic. And it was not just surge, but you got plenty of surges. It was not just when but you got plenty of that.
But also some of the heaviest rains that fell anywhere in the State of Louisiana fell on St. John the Baptist Parish. 80 percent of all the rescues done in the State of Louisiana were done in St. John the Baptist Parish yesterday.
Very resilient and hearty people, many of whom have decided not to leave. I expect that that's going to change over the coming days, because they're going to find out that their homes are not going to be repowered anytime very soon, and they got damaged. And so we have shelter operations, more than 30 shelters now across the State of Louisiana.
We have the transportation - along with us. So we have a lot of work ahead of us and no one is under the illusion that this is going to be a short process. We have the entire National Guard mobilized much of that presence is right here in Louisiana. I'm sorry in St. John the Baptist Parish.
We have additional law enforcement that will be on the ground to help you Sheriff state troopers both from Louisiana but probably from out of state we have Wildlife and Fisheries Officers. We will be moving National Guardsmen in as well just for basic security functions. So we're going to be with you all for the long haul.
EDWARDS: What I'm trying to make sure people understand is many of the life supporting infrastructure elements are not present. They're not operating right now. So if you have already evacuated, do not return here or elsewhere in Southeast Louisiana, until the Office of Emergency Preparedness tells you it is ready to receive you.
The schools are not open, the businesses are not open, the hospitals are slammed, there's not water in your home and there's not going to be electricity. So let's get you where you can be safe and somewhat comfortable. And if you need a hospital, we can get you to a hospital. Please don't come home before they tell you that it's time.
And the last thing I'm going to say before I asked the FEMA Administrator to come up is most deaths. Right now we have two confirmed deaths across Southeast Louisiana because of the storm. I expect that numbers going to rise.
But historically, we know that most people are injured and killed because of the response, not the storm itself. Carbon monoxide poisoning for generators driving through water that turns out to be deeper or having more current than you realize using power equipment that drone accustomed to falling off routes when you're cleaning up.
And heat exhaustion. It's going to be their heat index will be 100 degrees for the next two weeks and sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that's insane. EDWARDS: Yes, at this point in time, even though I told you 80 percent of the rescues that were done in the state were in St. John the Baptist Parish, we don't have a single confirmed death. And I want to thank all the law enforcement people, all the first responders who have done a tremendous job. But that also means the people of St. John the Baptist Parish have done something right too.
But now is really the most dangerous time over the next week, couple of weeks. And so we're asking people to be patient. We're asking people to be careful. And please be good neighbors; check on that elderly couple who live across the street from you. Check on your elderly parents or your grandparents or something for special needs families.
And we have 911 operating here. So call 911. So at this point, I'm going to ask the FEMA Administrator to come up. She's going to tell you that the president signed a major disaster declaration that turned on individual assistance for all of Southeast Louisiana, including St. John the Baptist Parish.
But we also have 100 percent for the next 30 days on all the costs associated with debris removal, and emergency protective measures like sheltering and other things that we need to bring to bear in order to stay in this parish back up. And we really appreciate your presence and the good news that you're bringing to us. So if you would come on Deanne.
DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you, Governor. Good morning, everybody. On behalf of the president, our thoughts go out to everybody that has been impacted by this devastating storm that went through Louisiana.
As you heard, we understand many people are away from their homes and want to get back in their homes. But I strongly encourage everybody; please listen to your local officials. Please listen to when they tell you it's safe to come back home.
We also understand that many of you did stay behind and you're now seeing the damages across your neighborhoods and your own personal homes. As the Governor mentioned, the president did sign a major disaster declaration, which means that if you do have damages or you are displaced from your home, you may be eligible for assistance from FEMA.
So if you haven't already, you can register, you can go to disasterassistance.gov. You can go to our FEMA app, or you can call 1800-621-FEMA. I also understand that many of you don't have communications right now. We are also going to be bringing in teams that will be walking around your neighborhoods.
They will be able to register you as well. And so if you haven't been registered or if you have questions about your registration, you can find somebody that's wearing a FEMA shirt and they'll be able to help answer your questions or help you get registered if you haven't already. We've been embedded here with the state since before the storm made landfall. We've have such a great partnership with our state and local officials in Louisiana, and the federal family that comes to be part of this response as part of that disaster declaration.
FEMA is just one small piece of that. We have brought in the Coast Guard. We have brought in the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense, Fish and Wildlife, many other federal agencies that are here on the ground that are supporting you.
We staged a number of resources ahead of the storm. And now we are moving those into meet the needs and the requests from the local officials to help them address their immediate concerns. I'd like to just also say it's been a rough 24, 48 hours and the first responders have been amazing.
They work so hard to make sure that they're keeping their community safe and many of them at the same time struggling with their own losses to their own homes and so just wanted to give a big shout out to the first responders across Louisiana for all the hard work that they've done and all the work that they're going to continue to do over the next days and weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)