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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: U.S. "On Pace" To Finish Afghan Operations By Aug. 31; Biden: G7 Leaders Agreed On United Approach To The Taliban; Biden: We've Helped Evacuate 70,000 Plus People Since August 14; Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) Is Interviewed About U.S. Withdrawal In Afghanistan; Biden: Any Evacuee Arriving In U.S. Will Have Had A Background Check; CDC Study: Vaccines Less Protective Against Delta Variant, But Still Reduce Your Risk Of Severe Infection By Two-Thirds; School Mask Mandates Provoking Violence Towards Teachers; Peloton Releasing Lower- End Treadmill After Safety Issues; Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts Dies At 80. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 24, 2021 - 17:00   ET



OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meanwhile, Afghan evacuees beginning to arrive in the United States. In the past 24 hours, four flights landed at Dulles International Airport outside D.C. with more than 1000 passengers.

With the part of the operation in the United States just starting, the Pentagon has only days left before winds down the effort in Kabul. With 5800 troops on the ground and an August 31 deadline to get them out, Pentagon knows the last 48 hours are critical. The focus, how to get out 1000s of troops who've made it possible to move 10s of 1000s of people.


LIEBERMANN: Any minute now we expect to hear from President Joe Biden and perhaps an explanation as to why he was unwilling to push delay or extend that August 31 deadline for withdrawal. A self-imposed deadline.

Remember the U.S. said it was ready to get out by 9/11. That was the original deadline. It was the administration that decided to move that up and has now decided there isn't any available wiggle room or room to maneuver. We expect to hear from the President an explanation as to why that is as well as perhaps what he heard from some of the U.S., his closest allies who are involved in Afghanistan operations and have said they can't stay any longer without the U.S., which means they're now in a scramble to get out as well.

Meanwhile, we learned a short time ago that the U.S. has begun withdrawing those last troops in Afghanistan. Just a few 100 out at this point, a defense official says of the last 5800 there that are there right now as part of the evacuation. The mission at this point remains that evacuation. It hasn't transitioned yet to the full withdrawal of those troops, but it'll be key at this point to watch how many evacuees are coming out.

Is it again once above that 20,000 peak that we just saw? Or do the numbers begin to come down? Either because there aren't that many who want to get out at this point or because the Taliban has begun severely restricting the number that can get out. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly live at the White House as we wait for President Biden to begin speaking, which should come any minute, we're told.

Phil, is the White House confident that this one week left is enough time to get out all the Americans and Afghan allies?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think when you talk to White House officials, they acknowledge how fluid things are on the ground. What they do point to right now is what Oren was laying out and that's the scale of the evacuation operation and how it is ramped up over the course of the last several days, something they think they can continue over the next several days, even as U.S. forces start to draw down.

I think when you listen to what officials read out from the President's private meeting with G7 leaders this morning, the point he made to those leaders is he believes the U.S. is on track to fulfill the objective that they laid out. However, he also made clear that if that objective is not met, he is asking his state department and Defense Department to draft contingency plans to potentially extend that deadline.

The reality here, Jake, is one of the key questions that needs to be answered is what is the actual objective in terms of numbers? We know there are still 1000s of Americans on the ground in Afghanistan. We know they're even more than that when it comes to Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas who are attempting to get out and no shortage of complications from the Taliban. Even though U.S. officials make clear they have been in constant consultation and coordination within to try and ease the transit process to Hamid Karzai to airport.

So, that definition is something that we're still waiting for at this point in time.

TAPPER: Because the President. Thank you so much, Phil. Here's President Joe Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before I update you on the meeting that I had leaders of the G7 earlier today, I want to say a word about the progress we're making on the Build Back Better agenda here at home.

Just got off the telephone with the leaders in the House. Today, the House representatives taking significant step toward making historic investment, it's going to transform America, cut taxes for working families and position the American economy for long term, long term growth.

When I became president, it was clear that we had to confront immediate economic crisis, the most significant recession we've had since the depression, or at least is Johnson. But we weren't going to -- but that wasn't going to be enough. We also had to make some long term investments in Americans and America itself.

The first thing we did was the right and pass the American rescue plan, and it's working. Our economy has added 4 million jobs in my first six months in office. Economic growth is up to the fastest has been, the fastest rate in 40 years, and unemployment is coming down. Right now, our economic growth is leading the world's advanced economies. But to win the future, we need to take the next step.

Today, the House of Representatives did just that. Today's vote in the House allowed them to consider my Build Back Better agenda, a broad framework to make housing more affordable. Bring down the cost of prescription drugs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for drugs. Make eldercare more affordable.

Provide two years of free universal high quality pre-K and two years of free community college. Provide clean energy tax credits, continue to give the middle class families the well-deserved tax cut for daycare and health care that they deserve. Allowing a lot of women to get back to work primarily. And provide significant monthly tax cuts for working families with children through the child care tax credit.


These investments are going to lower out of pocket expenses for families, and not just give them a little more breathing room. In addition, we're going to make long overdue much needed investments in basic, hard infrastructure to this nation. This scenario where we have broad bipartisan agreement to invest in our antiquated roads, highways, bridges, transit, drinking water systems, broadband, clean energy, environmental cleanup, and making infrastructure more resilient to the climate crisis, and so much more. And this is all paid for instead of giving every break in the world to corporations and CEOs.

By the, 55 of our largest companies in America paid $0 in federal taxes on more than $40 billion in profit last year. We can ask corporations and the very wealthy just to pay their fair share, they can still be very wealthy, they can still make a lot of money, but just began to pay their fair share so we can invest in making our country stronger and more competitive, create jobs and raise wages and lift up the standard living for everyone.

The bottom line is, in my view, we're a step closer to truly investing in the American people, position our economy for long term growth, and building an America that outcompetes the rest of the world. My goal is to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not just the top down. And that's we're on our way of doing.

Look, I want to thank Speaker Pelosi who was masterful in our leadership on this, and Leader Hoyer and Whip Cliburn and Chairman DeFazio, the entire House leadership team for the hard work, dedication and determination to bring people together so we can make a difference in people's lives.

I also want to thank every Democrat in the House who worked so hard over the past few weeks to reach an agreement and who supported the process for House consideration of the jobs and infrastructure plan, Build Back Better effort. There are differences, strong points of view, they're always welcome. What is important is that we came together to advance our agenda. And I think everyone who did that, I think everyone, everyone who did was there.

Look, I also want to thank everyone who voted to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. You know, advancing as an act to restore and expand voting protections to run voter suppression and screw the most sacred of American rights, the right to vote freely, the right to vote fairly and the right to have your vote counted, the House has acted.

The Senate also asked to join them to send this important bill under my desk. And the Senate has to move forward on the people's act, critical legislation to protect our democracy and the right to vote. We need both of those election bills.

But let me now turn to Afghanistan. I've met this morning with my counterparts in the G7 as well as heads of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. I express my thanks for the solidarity we've seen as we've stood up an unprecedented global effort.

I updated our partners on a significant progress we made in the past 10 days. As of this afternoon, we've helped evacuated 70,700 people just since August the 14, 75,900 people since the end of July. Just in the past 12 hours, another 19 U.S. military flights, ATC 17 (ph) and 1C130 carrying approximately 6,400 evacuees and 31 coalition flights carrying 5,600 people have left Kabul just in the last 12 hours. A total of 50 more flights, 12,000 more people since I've updated you this morning.

These numbers are a testament to the efforts of our brave service women and men, to our diplomats in the ground in Kabul and to our allies still standing with us. And we had a productive discussion, now with strong agreement among leaders about -- both about the evacuation mission underway, as well as the need to coordinate our approach to Afghanistan as we move forward.

First on evacuation, we agreed that we will continue to close our close cooperation to get people out as efficiently and safely as possible. We are currently on pace to finish by August the 31st. The sooner we can finish, the better.


Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops. But the completion by August 31st depends upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport for those who were transporting out, and no disruptions to our operation.

In addition, I've asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timetable, should that become necessary. I'm determined to ensure that we complete our mission, this mission. I'm also mindful of the increasing risks that I've been briefed on, and the need to factor those risks in. They're real and significant challenges that we also have to take into consideration.

The longer we stay, starting with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group known as ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, which is a sworn enemy of the Taliban as well. Everyday we're on the ground as another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.

Additionally, thus far, the Taliban had been taking steps to work with us so we can get our people out. But it's a tenuous situation. We're already had some gun fighting and breakout, we run a serious risk of it breaking down as time goes on.

Second, the G7 leaders and the leaders of the E.U., NATO and the U.N. all agreed that we will stand united and our approach to the Taliban. We agreed the legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold international obligations, including to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorism. And we agree that none of us are going to take the Taliban's word for it. We'll judge them by their actions. And we'll stay in close coordination on any steps that we take moving forward and response the Taliban's behavior.

At the same time, we renewed our humanitarian commitment to the Afghan people, and supported a proposal by the Secretary General Guterres of the United Nations led international response with unfettered humanitarian access in Afghanistan.

Third, we talked about our mutual obligation to support refugees and evacuees, currently fleeing Afghanistan. The United States will be a leader in these efforts, and will look to the international community and to our partners do the same. We're already seeing our allies' commitment they're bringing to their countries, the Afghans who served alongside their forces as translators are in their embassies. Just as we're bringing the United States those Afghans who worked alongside our forces and diplomats, we're continuing that effort.

We're conducting thorough security screening, and the intermediate stops they're making for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check. And we must all work together to resettle 1000s of Afghans who ultimately qualify for refugee status.

The United States will do our part, and we are already working closely with refugee organizations to rebuild a system that was purposely destroyed by my predecessor.

Finally, we agreed to stay vigilant against terrorist threats that have metastasized around the world. We went to Afghanistan with our allies in 2001 for clear reasons. One, to get the people who attacked us on 9/11, and to get Osama bin Laden, and to make sure that Afghanistan was not used again as a base from which to attack the United States or our allies. We achieve that objective. We delivered justice to bin Laden more than a decade ago.

But the current environment looks very different than it did in 2001. And we have to meet the challenges we face today. We run effective counterterrorism operations around the world where we know terrorism is more of a threat than it is today in Afghanistan without any permanent military presence on the ground. And we can and will do the same thing in Afghanistan with our over the horizon counterterrorism capability.

Cooperation with our closest partners on our enduring counterterrorism mission will continue to be an essential piece of our strategy. In short, all of us agreed today that we're going to stand shoulder to shoulder with our closest partners to meet the current challenges that we face in Afghanistan, just as we have for the past 20 years. We're acting in consultation and cooperation with our closest friends and fellow democracies.


And I want to again, thank all of our allies and partners around the world who have rallied in support of our shared mission. We ended the conversation today by a clear a statement of all of our parts. We are going to stay united, locked at the hip in terms of what we have to do. We'll get that done.

And tomorrow, I've asked Secretary Blinken to give you an update and a detailed report on exactly how many Americans are still in Afghanistan. How many can got out and what our projection is.

So thank you again. And God bless you. And may God protect our diplomats and all those in harm's way. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you guarantee every American for being out before the troops leave? Can you guarantee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did sanctions come up at all?

TAPPER: You have been listening to President Biden speaking at the White House about his decision to stick with plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by August 31. That's in one week.

President Biden said the U.S. is on pace to finish evacuations by then. But he did not note exactly who those evacuations will include, whether it's just Americans or the Afghan allies who applied for Special Immigrant Visas, as well.

Let's get straight to CNN's Phil Mattingly live at the White House for us.

And Phil, President Biden made it clear withdrawing by August 31 requires continued cooperation from the Taliban. He also noted the concerns that we've been hearing about for roughly a week or so now about an attack by a terrorist group in the region called ISIS-K. The President also said there will be contingencies for keeping U.S. forces in Kabul longer than that.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and, Jake, I want to focus on those first two points you made. I think that's what's most critical when you talk to White House officials about the decision to stick to the self-imposed August 31 deadline as things currently stand, and that is there's a recognition about how integral the role of the Taliban is in terms of allowing transit or using transit for both Americans and Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas, at least according to U.S. officials who claim those pathways are still open.

And that post-August 31, based on what Taliban officials have said that coordination would likely cease altogether, throwing a major hurdle into those efforts, which is one point. I think the second point too, and we talked about this earlier, I think this is a critical point, particularly from the President's perspective, and that is the concern about terror threats, particularly -- specifically ISIS-K, it's an acute threat that White House officials have been discussing over the course of the last several days. They believe the threat increases by the day and would particularly increase in the wake of the August 31 deadline.

And when you talk to White House officials, they make clear the President is keenly aware of the possibility of one of the last U.S. troops getting on the plane serving as a casualty. One of the things they focus on right now is that more than 70,000 individuals had been evacuated from the country over the course of 10 days and there have been zero casualties. No U.S. forces have been wounded or killed. And that's something they would like to maintain and something they believe would be put into very real question if they went beyond that August 31 deadline.

Now, the key caveat, as you noted, Jake, and as the President made clear to G7 allies this morning in the closed door virtual briefing is that he has directed the State Department and Pentagon to draft contingency plans if they believe that they would need to stay beyond August 31 and what exactly that would entail.

One other key point that I think the President alluded to, which would be very interesting to see tomorrow, he has directed Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to brief the public on how many Americans are still in country, how many Americans have been evacuated from country, what the general numbers are. We know roughly 4000 Americans and their family members have been evacuated according to the State Department up to this point. We have no sense of a hard number of how many Americans are still left and need to get out by August 31. So, any sensor insight into that would be valuable as these operations face a very quickly closing window, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

CNN's Sam Kiley is live for us at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

And let us take a moment right now, Sam, just to acknowledge President Biden said the U.S. has helped evacuate more than 70,000 people from Kabul just since August 14, the exact numbers more than 70,700. Are you still seeing a quicker flow of people in and out of the airport? Obviously, what the US military has been able to do in securing the airport there and getting people out of that country has been an unbelievable task.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been an unbelievable task, it's been unbelievably busy here over the last 48 hours, at least when this whole operation seemed to go into a completely different gear. I think following the logjam at the beginning of this process when there were 20,000 people on this airbase, they're now as of a couple of hours ago down to about 4000, and they're moving them out at a rate of close to 1000 an hour or at least they were.


So if that goes on, they are in danger, actually running out of people to evacuate. But the problem is that people are not managing to get to the airport necessarily. And then when they do, getting in is a very slow process. It is a process that the U.S., which is running the perimeter, are trying to be much more sophisticated with, with opening different gates at different times, trying to avoid log jams, identifying individuals, bringing them in, there are covert missions to bring others in as well.

And then we've just had this announcement, Jake, from the Taliban saying that they did -- they were going to block Afghans from getting to the airport, that they are closing the road to Afghans and only foreigners can get out.

How -- whether or not that really actually applies to people carrying the Special Immigrant Visas remains to be seen. The strong suspicion, I think, is that they probably will get through with a legitimate U.S. visa. I think what they're trying to do is prevent a large number of others with different kinds of paperwork, particularly, perhaps those who worked with other coalition members from getting out.

And the Taliban also saying that they didn't want to essentially shorthand (ph) it. But they said they didn't want to brain drain, they wanted to keep their doctors, their engineers.

They are conscious of two things. First of all, they got to run a country that is fractious and has been riven by war for 40 years. And on top of that, they want to become part of the international community. They want the aid and the trade that will keep the wheels of state running. They claim to be a very different group than they were back in 1996 when they came to power last time around driven out after 2001 and the attacks on the twin towers and other -- attacks in Washington by Al-Qaeda.

So in that context, Jake, they are trying to mutate. And I think it's very interesting indeed that the G7 have said that they are going to have a unified response in looking for actions, not words from the Taliban in the future, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sam Kiley at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

Let's bring in our panel. And I want to start with Nic Robertson, because you heard the President there talk about the meeting that he had with allies with the G7, with NATO, with the European Union, talking about how they felt and they agreed on some issues. He emphasized obviously the positive.

Tell us about how these meetings went, how that call went?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the preamble to this was, of course, the G7 allies, particularly the Europeans wanted more time to get their nationals out. And I think one of the key things that has come out from it, and this is framed by the British Prime Minister, who of course, is the G7 president at the moment if you will, hosted that virtual meeting.

He has said that the relationship with the Taliban going forward. And I think this echoes what the President said thus far that the Taliban are working with us, thus far the President said. But we're now getting to that pinch point where we heard from Sam that the Taliban aren't allowing Afghans to get to the airport, that they aren't allowing them to get there because they say that Afghan nationals should stay in their country, that the country needs the doctors, needs the engineers, needs the academics, it doesn't want to lose this big raft of intellectuals who have been helping the coalition who feel that their safety is guaranteed only by leaving the country. So, you have this pinch point emerging.

So, British Prime Minister framed it this way. And I mean, he said, and let me just credit precisely here. The number one condition we're setting as the G7 is that they, the Taliban, have got to guarantee the right of way through to the 31st of August and beyond for the safe passage of those who want to come out. So we seem to have a direct confrontation now between the agreed position of the G7 and the Taliban.

And I think this is going to be a real test for the G7 on this commitment to be united and to line up behind President Biden. But the underlying feeling at the G7 was the United States is getting out too fast. But they recognize as nothing that they can do without the United States there.

TAPPER: And of course we know that the Taliban are stopping Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants from going to the airport. I mean, we know that from talking to them, and we know them from talking to people who are part of the evacuation effort and the Taliban has said as much.

David Chalian, President Biden obviously careful today to avoid sounding as though he's accepting terms that are being dictated by the Taliban. What do you think are the repercussions about the deadline if the U.S. military were to leave and there were, let's say, that he gets all the Americans and green card holders out but leaves behind the U.S. military leaves before all of these Special Immigrant Visa applicants can get out which seems likely. What repercussions will they'll be, if any?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, I don't think, again, just looking through domestic political calculation here, Jake. I don't think there will be many domestic political repercussions for that, assuming he gets a whole bunch of those Afghans, those SIV applicants out that helped the U.S. in this 20-year effort or as many as possible.


And you can see in the numbers, clearly, I mean, many more non- Americans are getting out than Americans in what we see in the ratios of what is coming out of Afghanistan in this incredible evacuation effort that's underway.

But I think what the President did today in his remarks, there were two things that I think sort of gives us real insight into his thinking on this right now. One, in terms of playing up the real acute threat from ISIS-K and giving real voice to that. That was a -- to me, I read that as a real rallying cry for America to gather around that this is the right decision to get out of Afghanistan now.

And that this growing threat, he said, growing by the day, every day longer that they're there, this threat increases, sort of proves his point that this is the time to go. And he knows that Americans are with him on that. And I think he's emboldening that position.

The other, actually, is the connection, the first third of the speech, I think, which was actually about not Afghanistan, but what was happening in the House of Representatives today and his Build Back Better agenda, because I also think that gave us insight into the President's thinking that Americans for his own sort of political future.

And again, there are larger things here than politics, but that Americans are more keyed into sort of kitchen table economic issues. And that's why I think he led with that whole progress being made on his Build Back Better agenda, reminding Americans that the economy is growing right now, that jobs are being added, that he's making progress on those bread and butter issues here.

TAPPER: And Susan, we should just take a moment, another moment to acknowledge the U.S. helping to evacuate more than 70,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14, including at least 4000 Americans. That's a remarkable achievement.

The big question, of course, is how many Americans are still in Afghanistan trying to get out? And that's a number we do not know. As of now, we're told that Secretary of State Tony Blinken will give that number tomorrow. But as a general achievement, this is something to take note of it is remarkable.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right, Jake, I think you're seeing the, you know, the incredible power and might of the U.S. military kicking into gear. This may end up being -- they're saying the largest evacuation of this kind ever conducted. And clearly, it was ramping up from almost nothing. This was not anticipated the rapid fall of the country to the Taliban and the fall of Kabul, and the Afghan government was not anticipated. And you know, normally when you start out behind the eight ball like that, you know, it makes it all the more remarkable that they've been able to ramp up their capacity so quickly.

I think the big questions for the State Department and for the Department of Homeland Security will be what happens to all those people now. You have 1000s of people in Doha, Qatar and in other U.S. bases. And incredible diplomatic effort has also been assembled and applied. These were not preexisting plans that they've just taken off the shelf, they've actually had to assemble in just a few days from a standing, start an enormous diplomatic effort to underpin this.

And there's 2,000 people who are going to be taken here in this country and another 2,000 in Jordan. And it's really an enormous international effort that you're seeing right now. But of course, so many questions remain.

I did not hear from President Biden today a firm 100 percent were out by August 31. But there was very little and even decreasing wiggle room, I would say on that.

TAPPER: Colonel, do you agree with that that August 31. Do you expect that that will actually be the final deadline?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it does sound like that, Jake, you know. And I think that, you know, Susan's point is really a good one. However, there's, you know, there's little piece of if the Taliban do something, if they do something against us, then it's going to be met with force. You know, I think that was implied, he didn't say that directly. But there is a warning to the Taliban there and hopefully, we won't have to go in that direction. But that is definitely a possibility.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to everyone on the panel.

Let's talk now to Republican Congressman Mike McCaul from Texas.

He's the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He's also a member of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives.

Congressman, good to see you.

President Biden says that he's not going to extend the withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan. It's August 31.

You have said that he has blood on his hands because people will die, people will be left behind. So, when do you think the U.S. should pull out?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE.: Well, I think we should be talking to the G7 or NATO allies. We know the Brits, the Germans do not want us to evacuate on August 31. They would prefer we extend that. I think what the President's done now, by solidifying this in stone, this is the absolute last day. I can tell you we had our classified briefing with the Secretary of State, Defense, Chairman, the Joint Chiefs. We don't even know how many Americans were in there. They can't even give us a precise number. And many Americans don't register with the State Department.

But one thing is clear, there's no way, in seven days, we can remove all American citizens, much less our Afghan partners. You and I have talked about the interpreters for many months now. And when that door shuts, I still stand by my statement, he will have blood on his hands, because they will execute them upon our withdraw.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think that the U.S. should stay at the airport until every special immigrant visa applicant, every Afghan ally, who has applied to get into this program is out?

MCCAUL: Well, that is what the Secretary of State told us, it's classified briefing, so we're going to get them all out. That's obviously not going to happen with August 31st deadline. I've always thought, Jake, it should not be timetabled, but rather mission-based. If the mission is to remove and get all American citizens out, which should be the case, not leaving at the hands of the Taliban. And, you know, these interpreters, they have a bull's eye on their back, it should be mission-based not on a timetable.

Seven days, Jake, even the retrograde itself, they'll be lucky to get that done in seven days. They're going to leave all these people behind. And it's really hard to watch this.

TAPPER: As you know, Biden is concerned, I'm sure we all are, about losing any more American service members in Afghanistan, the idea of extending the duration of time under which the United States presence would continue in Kabul, that would exacerbate the risk. You've heard Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, talk about the real terrorist threats that they're picking up, especially when it comes to ISIS-K, which is in Kabul and Afghanistan. What do you say about that?

MCCAUL: So I think that's real. ISIS-K is real, the Taliban really doesn't control them. When I was chairman of Homeland Security, ISIS- K, one of the biggest external operation groups. Now they're going to thrive in Afghanistan.

You know, my point is that, why are we letting the Taliban dictate the date that we evacuated out of Afghanistan. It should be the other way around. But now, I think, because they didn't plan, they didn't have a strategy, there's so much chaos at the airport.

Jake, I'm getting, you know, we're having a clearing house, the Foreign Affairs Committee, getting thousands of these people out of there. But sadly, a lot of the interpreters that have their SIV documents, get to the airport, the Taliban apprehends them, sends them back to their home, executes their children and family and then they execute them. And I've heard countless stories of this happening, the airport is a absolute disaster. When the Taliban is controlling the gates, these people are being turned away, they're being killed. This is not the American way. And I think, you know, we should have had a strategy here, but since we didn't, and now we're worried about ISIS- K, we're going to let the Taliban dictate our foreign policy. TAPPER: Let me ask you because you've been talking about this issue of the Special Immigrant Visas for years. And you and I have been talking about it on this show for months. There are a number of other voices in the Republican Party that are already, whether on television or on tweets, or whatever, starting to talk about, starting to demonize Afghan immigrants, starting to talk about this is Biden's plan to put more Muslims in the country, starting to insinuate that these are bad people, they're terrorists, et cetera, et cetera, really rank bigotry. What's your reaction when you see it because it is -- I wouldn't say it's the prevalent voice in the Republican Party, but it's getting louder.

MCCAUL: Well, look, all Afghans will go through a screening, vetting process at a country and I think that's very important, when the Syrian refugee crisis was happening. We didn't have a databases, Jake. We didn't know who they were. We didn't have intelligence. Jay Johnson Secretary told me that. I was very much against that. This is a very different situation, particularly, when we talked about the interpreters.

Talk to any veteran who worked with an interpreter. They were one of their own. They put their lives on the line against fighting the Taliban with our U.S. soldiers, our special forces.


You talk to any of our special forces, any of our veterans, they're like brothers. They were vetted to become a part of the unit themselves, put their lives on the line. And for God's sakes, if you're going to do that with our American troops, and we made a moral obligation promise to them, promises made, promises kept. And now with this August 31st, that promise will be violated and that sends a really bad message across the world.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Mike McCaul from Texas, I know you're working hard to get a lot of these Special Immigrant Visas as well as American citizens and green card holders out and to safety. Best of luck with that and thank you for joining us today.

MCCAUL: Thanks so much, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a brand new study on the effectiveness of vaccines. How are they performing against this new Delta variant? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, a new study from the CDC shows that COVID vaccines have become less effective in terms of preventing infection as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads across the country. But getting the shot will still reduce your risk of infection by two- thirds. And as a general note, unrelated to this study, the vaccine remains highly effective and keeping you out of the hospital, or the graveyard. Let's get right to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen who joins us live. Elizabeth, this study is consistent with others from the U.S. and around the world. What is the bottom line for Americans? What do they need to know?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line for Americans, Jake, is get vaccinated. This vaccine works well against the Delta variant, not as well as previous variants, but still works. And that's why we're going to get third shots starting next month, because it works OK against Delta variant, but not nearly as well as anyone would like.

So let's take a look at this study that was done with thousands of healthcare and other frontline workers. They looked at more than 2,300 vaccinated workers and more than 480 unvaccinated workers. They followed them through August through the middle of this month. And here's what they found, is that before Delta, the vaccine was 91 percent effective, but after Delta became the predominant strain, it was only 66 percent effective. Still reduces your risk by two-thirds, but not as good as anyone would like.

However, what you're looking at here is infection. What you're looking at here is hospitalization. So, the vaccine still, even if it didn't always keep people from catching COVID, it reduced the risk of hospitalization, 25 fold, reduce the risk of death, 25 fold. As you said, it keeps you out of the hospital and keeps you out of the graveyard. So again, bottom line is this vaccine does work well against the Delta variants, but not as well as anyone would like. That's why third shots are being lined up starting next month. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Dr. Marrazzo, I want to get your reaction to the CDC study. Should vaccinated Americans be concerned?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UAB: It's good to be here. A couple of important things about the study. I do think vaccinated Americans should be concerned but with some really important caveats. You heard that the efficacy against the Delta variant for fully vaccinated people was 66 percent. That's still incredibly high.

Remember, we were really aiming for a vaccine originally that had somewhere around 65 percent or 70 percent. So that actually is still quite good. That said, we would like it to be more like 90 percent. The thing that you don't need to be concerned about or as concerned about if you're fully vaccinated is you're going to be greatly protected from hospitalization.

Separate study also from the CDC yesterday that you mentioned, showed that your risk of being hospitalized is almost 29 times higher if you're unvaccinated. We're seeing that here in Alabama, most of our patients in the hospital here 84 percent are unvaccinated. And all of the pregnant women we're seeing here are unvaccinated. We've got 40 pregnant women here now at UAB, 10 in the ICU, seven on a ventilator, all unvaccinated.

TAPPER: I want to talk about that in one second. But let's talk about Alabama, your home state, which trails the country in vaccinations, only 36 percent of residents of Alabama are fully vaccinated. Do you think the FDA approval of the vaccine, of the Pfizer vaccine, will help move the needle or do there need to be vaccine mandates in your schools and your businesses and restaurants and more in order to save your citizens?

MARRAZZO: I think it will move the needle. The question is going to be how much, right? There are varying estimates that say maybe as many as three in 10 people or maybe as many as one in 20 people. My sense here is that it's going to be on the lower end. But at this point, anything we can do to keep one more person out of the hospital is absolutely critical.

I'm not sure if you saw the data from today, but we have a deficit of 60 ICU beds in the state. We are not accepting patients at our tertiary care center. Most tertiary care centers have absolutely no ICU beds and that's for anything. Over 50 percent of the patients in ICU beds in the state are COVID patients. So, if it's just 10 more people that get vaccinated, that still means that one of them won't come into the ICU. So I'm really, really hopeful that more people will actually get the shots.

TAPPER: Let's talk about your concern about pregnant women who have COVID. This morning, CNN spoke with a woman in Texas whose daughter died of COVID just days after going into labor. Her daughter was unvaccinated, the pregnant woman, because she didn't want to get the shot while pregnant. Take a listen.



ROBIN ZINSOU, LOST 32-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER TO COVID-19: She thought that there wasn't enough information or data out there to say that she could confidently get vaccinated without harming the baby. She kept saying no, I'm going to wait until after (ph) the baby. She was afraid she would harmed the baby. So that's why she didn't get vaccinated.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: And you were worried all along?

ZINSOU: Yes, I was. It was my worst fear.


TAPPER: And her daughter never got to even hold her baby. You -- as you just noted, you've been seeing an uptick in pregnant women in your hospital in Alabama. What do you say to them and what's your message for pregnant women out there?

MARRAZZO: So, unfortunately, if you're sick enough to be hospitalized for COVID as a pregnant woman, it doesn't look good. The prognosis, as I mentioned before, is not good. And we know that pregnancy is a bad time to get infected with respiratory viruses. We've known that for influenza, even though it's a different virus family for many years, right? Influenza can kill you if you're pregnant.

So, once you're in the hospital, there's not much we can do. We certainly can't vaccinate you. We really can only support you and try to get the baby delivered if you are near term safely and try to keep you alive. The key thing is to get vaccinated and I would emphasize that the data for safety and pregnancy are actually amazingly robust.

And this whole misinformation thing started because somebody wrote a letter to the European FDA saying that the spike protein of COVID looked actually like something in the placenta, which is not true. So, again, a lot of misinformation creating a lot of unnecessary heartbreak and frankly tragedy.

TAPPER: Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

Health experts say it's one of the most effective weapons we have against coronavirus, but for others, masks are inspiring, nothing short of rage. We'll show you next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, a face mask, a small piece of cloth, a life-saving measure has enraged some Americans so much that they are resorting to violence and many educators are bearing the brunt of this. In Texas, a parent ripped a teacher's mask off and screamed at the teacher in California. An angry dad beat up a teacher so badly, the teacher ended up in the hospital.

CNN's Rosa Flores takes a look now at this hideous trend.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to masks in schools, it's some parents who are behaving badly, having face-to-face confrontations and even burning masks. The tension and division mostly fueled by misinformation.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Let them breathe. Let them breathe.

FLORES (voice-over): In Texas, a parent ripping off a teacher's face mask at school last week, according to the school district's superintendent.

DR. TOM LEONARD, SUPERINTENDENT EANES INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, TX: I don't want these mask wars being fought in our schools. I don't care right now what you believe.

FLORES (voice-over): In Northern California, an elementary school teacher had to get stitches for cuts and lacerations to his face when an argument with a parent over masks turned physical.

TORIE F. GIBSON, SUPERINTENDENT OF AMADOR COUNTY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, CA: The female principal intervened to say, hey, it's time to go, like you stop. FLORES (voice-over): Now the parent facing multiple charges including battery on a school employee, according to the district attorney. The rage spilling into school board meetings for months now, like this one in Utah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I taught junior high school and you don't scare me.

FLORES (voice-over): In Pennsylvania --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop, stop, please.

FLORES (voice-over): Tennessee and Wisconsin too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enough. This is inappropriate. These folks are your neighbors.

FLORES (voice-over): With some meetings abruptly ending in the midst of screaming protests.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): No to mask! No to mask! No to mask!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I move that we adjourn this meeting.

FLORES (voice-over): And public officials openly threatened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are. No more masks.

FLORES (voice-over): How to combat this war over masks? This dad who says his five-year-old understands the concept of wearing face coverings --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's disappointing that more adults around here can't seem to grasp it.

FLORES (voice-over): -- is pleading for civility in the national conversation.


FLORES: Here in the state of Texas, the fight over the mask mandates is in the courts, with most of the largest school districts in this state suing Governor Greg Abbott over his executive order on masks which bans mask mandates. Governor Abbott going straight to the Supreme Court hoping that the High Court would rule in his favor. But the justice is saying, not so fast, you've got to go through the appeals process.

And Jake, that's why some of the largest school districts here are able to have mask mandates because the lower court decisions stand for now. Jake?

TAPPER: Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

In our money lead, if you're tired of jogging through the August heat and humidity, and I have about $2,500 to spare, here's your chance to stay indoors and run to your heart's content. Peloton just announced its latest treadmill rolls out next week. The treadmill was supposed to debut in May as you may recall, but the release was put off because of safety problems. With Peloton's high-end machines, they had to recall 125,000 treadmills last spring.

Because the treadmills were blamed for one child's death and 70 other injuries, Peloton developed a software fix which is on the new machines that locks the treadmill after a short period of inactivity and requires a four-digit code to use it again. The company says that they took a substantial financial hit from the recall about $165 million in lost revenue during this quarter.


Finally from us today in our pop lead.



TAPPER: He played the drums on Gimme Shelter and more than a half century of other hits from the Rolling Stones and today we bid adieu to Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones was 80. He played with the band since 1963. According to variety, Watts survived throat cancer in 2004, and recently pulled out of an uncapped coming stones tour citing the need to recover from an unspecified medical procedure. A statement from his publicist did not give a cause of death, but that said Watts passed away peacefully at a London hospital, surrounded by his family.

Just minutes ago, President Biden spoken his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan within a week. CNN is live in Kabul as the first U.S. troops begin the exit. Stay with us.