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Don Lemon Tonight

The Biden Administration Is Expected To Advise Booster Shots For Most Americans Eight Months After Being Fully Vaccinated; President Biden Says He Stands 'Squarely' Behind His Decision To Withdraw U.S. Troops From Afghanistan; Why Did The Afghan Military Fail?; Man Stabbed At Vaccine Protest Outside L.A. City. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 16, 2021 - 23:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): So far, health officials have said that most Americans do not need a booster at this time.

But we are learning now that as soon as this week, top health officials in the Biden administration could announce that they are recommending boosters for most Americans. And the way this would work and the ideas they're coalescing right now is that Americans should get a booster shot eight months after becoming fully vaccinated. And currently, this guidance is revolving around those of us who got two- dose vaccine shots.

There are three vaccines, of course, authorized in the U.S. right now under emergency authorization. Two of them are two doses. One is Johnson & Johnson, which is one dose, and they are still compiling data for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, whether those people need booster shots.

But right now, we are expecting this week that they could recommend most Americans to get a booster shot eight months after becoming fully vaccinated.

And Don, we should note that the plan right now would start in mid-to- late September. But all of this is contingent upon authorization from the FDA. Of course, they are the ones who make the actual changes to how these vaccines are authorized. Then the CDC votes on recommending those authorizations and that's when the ball gets rolling on this process.

But it is significant given that so far, many, many times we've asked this question, they have said right now the general population does not need them, but it does appear that is about to change.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: If you're just joining us, Kaitlan Collins is joining us now with our breaking news here on CNN. I just want to read the beginning of Kaitlan's reporting here. I just got the wire to stop. Health officials and the Biden administration are coalescing around an agreement that most Americans should get a booster shot eight months after becoming fully vaccinated. That's according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Kaitlan Collins is reporting this. Kaitlan, my question is when is the Biden administration going to announce this? Do you know?

COLLINS (via telephone): It could be as soon as this week. We're always cautious with timing on announcements like this given they do depend -- they're not just policy or political decisions. They depend on the experts and top health officials to actually make these recommendations and these authorizations.

But right now, what we are hearing internally is that this could come as soon as this week. And if that is the plan, if that is what actually goes forward, they don't believe this would actually start happening until mid to late -- early to mid-September, I should note.

And the question I think next is, well, if I just got vaccinated, how does this work? Right now, they are saying that you should wait about eight months --

LEMON: Eight months.

COLLINS (via telephone): -- after your second vaccine shot. So, of course, naturally, if you look at who was first vaccinated in the U.S. when the supply was low, those were nursing home residents, health care workers, and the older population. They were all first in line, so they would be the first ones to get the booster shot.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

COLLINS (via telephone): We should note that this does come as Pfizer did submit data to the FDA about their -- what they're saying the clinical data behind why they think people do need booster shots --

LEMON: Yeah.

COLLINS (via telephone): -- at this time.

LEMON: So eight months after the shot. They will do it incrementally with people. The most in need will be getting the booster shots first. Breaking news reporting from CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much for the update.

COLLINS (via telephone): No problem.

LEMON: So I want to bring in now CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner and also Dr. Peter Hotez. He is the co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and the dean of National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Doctors, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

I'm going to start with you, Dr. Hotez. This is real. This is big news. People have been wondering. People have been asking me. Are we going to get a third shot? When are we going to know about a third shot? Some Americans are already coming on, up to their eight-month shot period, right? So what does this mean for them now? PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR OF THE TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, FOUNDING DEAN FOR THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, AUTHOR: So Don, this really follows a trend that we've been following out of Israel and there was also a recent Mayo Clinic study that has been showing what looks like waning immunity after six, seven, eight months.

For a while, we didn't know if it was true waning immunity or whether there was a specific issue around the delta variant or maybe a combination of the two. It looks like there is indeed waning immunity, especially in older populations.

Now, I think the game changer is not only is it waning immunity against infection. You know, it had gone down to as low as 40, 45, 50 percent against infection, but it was still holding up against hospitalizations. Now, we're starting to see more breakthrough hospitalizations. I think that was the trigger to say now we have to boost Americans.

In some ways, it was actually both predicted and predictable because, you know, when these vaccines were released through emergency use, it was imperative to vaccinate as many Americans as we could quickly, and it was only a three-week interval, for instance, for the Pfizer vaccine between the first and second dose. And that's not usually enough to give longer lasting immunity, so you often need to space things out more.


HOTEZ: So by giving this third immunization, I think it is going to give really robust protection and that may be it for a while. We may not need annual boosters. This could be the third and done.

LEMON: Oh, well, let's hope that that is the case. Dr. Reiner, while some Americans are eager to get a third shot, millions of Americans still haven't gotten their first shots. So are you concerned that this could make the vaccine hesitant even more hesitant?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION PROGRAM AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Well, it shouldn't. I think the messaging from the CDC should be that we have excellent data showing that a third shot of particularly the MRNA vaccines produce really a very robust immune response.

And as my old friend and colleague Dr. Hotez has said, it is also possible that this third dose will actually create a much longer lasting immunity. So I think this should be both reassuring and should underscore the need for folks in this country who have not been vaccinated to start the process now. Get your first shot now.

And I think this has to -- this doesn't have to be a very complicated process. Everyone in this country who has been vaccinated has received a vaccine card. And the process is going to be simple. We've already done the sort of -- we've gone through the steps to sort of triage people by risk earlier in the year. So the people who will come up first eight months after their second dose are either the elderly or health care providers.

It's interesting. The timing of eight months is interesting to me because this gives the FDA time to approve these vaccines for booster doses because the first people who will be available won't be available, won't be ready for their shot until about the first week in September now, because third shots, the three-week shot after the first Pfizer dose, wasn't administered in this country until the first week of January. So that takes us up to the first week in September.

LEMON: Dr. Hotez, can I go back to something that you said? You talked about the third shot might be the last, right, and that we may not have to get boosters every year. Is that because the virus keeps mutating? The more people who don't get their shots, who are not vaccinated, it allows the virus to continue to mutate. And so, you know, we get a flu shot and the flu shot is updated every single year. Many people thought it would be the same way with a COVID shot. But why are you saying that?

HOTEZ: Well, with influenza, there are really dramatic changes to the structure of the virus and it is really a completely different virus that undergoes this process known as antigenic shift, which we're not really seeing COVID although you are seeing new variants. It may be the case if you get really jacked up levels of virus neutralizing antibody. That will be sufficient and provide the extra level of protection that we're going to need.

We don't know for sure. We'll have to continue to watch it. The fact is that I think we will get a pretty robust boost with this third dose spaced eight months apart. But look, it is going to require a lot of situational awareness and we will have to continue to follow it. It is great that we had that data coming out of Israel. Hopefully, we will continue to follow it here in the U.S. as well.

LEMON: Dr. Reiner, you know I've been asking you about getting a third shot for quite some time now because I thought, hey, maybe we should all be doing it. If Israel got it, maybe we should be doing it now as well.

But I want to talk about young folks. I get a lot of questions about that, Dr. Reiner. The FDA still hasn't formally approved the vaccine for kids under 12. They can't get it. Will those approvals convince more people, do you think?

REINER: Well, I certainly hope so. It looks like Pfizer is expecting to file for EUA for 12 and under sometime towards the end of September. We'll probably see that also in tiers. Probably five through 12 would be the first group and then two through five and then six months through two years of age.

Look, we already have this vaccine approved for 12 and up and only about a third of our adolescents have been vaccinated. So we still have a tremendous amount of work to do to get everyone who is eligible, which soon in the United States will be basically everyone, vaccinated.

LEMON: Do you think -- do you really think FDA approval will make that big a difference when -- in convincing people to get the vaccine?

REINER: I think there are all kinds of ways to get more people. I think FDA approval will sway the people who are -- some people who are on the fence. I think mandates -- more and more corporations now are mandating vaccines.


REINER: I think venues, restaurants, music venues, potentially even airlines -- we've seen in Canada, you can't fly in Canada without being vaccinated. All of these incentives or even negative incentives or sticks, essentially, will convince more and more people.

Look, we tried carrots. We tried reasoning with people. We tried lotteries and giveaways. I think it may be that ultimately, we'll get more people vaccinated by basically telling them that there are things they will not be able to do if they don't get vaccinated.

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Reiner. Thank you, Dr. Hotez. We were lucky to have you guys here to talk about this breaking news coming from the White House. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

President Joe Biden addressing the nation today about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, saying he stands squarely behind his decision to withdraw U.S. troops and that there never was a good time to leave, admitting the collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban easily retaking control of the country happened a lot faster than his administration anticipated.

The president is angry Afghanistan leaders gave up and fled the country, and that the country's armed forces did not put up a fight against the Taliban.

Kabul's international airport is a scene of utter chaos as thousands of Afghans are desperate to leave the country. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground for us.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Inside the airport, the great escape was not going according to script and check-in security had collapsed.

Afghans convinced the promise of a flight out was their only life ahead, clambering over walkways in Tarmac the U.S. spent billions on to maintain its presence.

And then a startling image. One of the U.S.'s largest cargo planes taxiing, laden with Afghanis who did not want to be left behind. Later, a plane takes off. What you're about to see is disturbing. As the plane ascends, two objects or people appear to fall from the fuselage.

But the sheer scale of those who needed help meant it was even harder to come by. Civilian flights cancelled. Even the Americans had to pause operations until they could regain control.


LEMON (on camera): CNN's Clarissa Ward reporting for us inside Kabul, where the Taliban are now firmly in control.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taliban fighters have flooded the capital. Smiling and victorious, they took the city of six million people in a matter of hours, barely firing a shot.

(On camera) This is a sight I honestly thought I would never see, scores of Taliban fighters and just behind us, the U.S. embassy compound.

(Voice-over): Some carry American weapons. They tell us, they're here to maintain law and order.

Everything is under control, everything will be fine, the commander says. Nobody should worry.

What is your message to America right now?

America already spent enough time in Afghanistan. They need to leave, he tells us. They already lost lots of lives and lots of money.

People come up to them to pose for photographs.

(On camera): They're just chanting, death to America, but they seem friendly at the same time. It is utterly bizarre.


LEMON (on camera): Yeah. So joining me now, CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and distinguished fellow at The Woodrow Wilson Center, Robin Wright. She is also a columnist for "The New Yorker." I'm so glad to have both of you on this evening. It is really -- it is a blessing that we have you guys here.

Robin, I'm going to start with you first. Twenty years, more than 2,300 American lives lost, tens of thousands wounded, $2 trillion taxpayer dollars all spent, ending in a humiliating mess. What message does this send about the United States to the rest of world? That's the question.

ROBIN WRIGHT, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW AT WOODROW WILSON CENTER, COLUMNIST FOR THE NEW YORKER: This is an epic defeat for the United States when you consider that America is arguably the world's most powerful nation. It stood against the mighty Nazi war machine 80 years ago as well as the formidable Japanese empire and won with its vast air, sea and land power.

In Afghanistan, the United States couldn't prop up a military to defeat a ragtag militia with no air power, no armor, and only 60,000 fighters in a country the size of Texas. This is -- it is not just humiliating. It will have, I think, a profound impact on America's standing in the world, on the future of Jihadism which the United States had thought it had won by eliminating the leaders of al-Qaeda and ISIS, helping defeat the Islamic state.


WRIGHT: And, you know, the danger is, down the road, what nation will want to align itself with United States, commit troops and resources, whether it is for the kind of massive alliance, 132 nations that fought in Afghanistan, or the coalition of the willing that invaded Iraq.

The repercussions from this are not just playing out in the tragic scenes at Kabul airport. It really, I think could be end up being what historians look at as the book end on the American era of power.

LEMON: Can I ask you something, Robin? Even after devoting 20 years, do you think the images coming out of the airport will be the deciding factor in history or with our future allies about whether to form a coalition with the United States of America? I mean, the United States, we did slog it out for 20 years before pulling out.

WRIGHT: It's not the scenes at the airport. It is the fact the Taliban walked into Kabul and then walked in to the presidential palace that the president fled at. A military that the United States had invested $83 billion in building an army simply melted away. These are the things that will have an enduring impact.

Is it worth -- what are the circumstances where it will be worth other countries joining in a coalition to fight militarily?

LEMON: Yeah.

WRIGHT: I think this weakened America's image. I don't want it to be, you know, I'm an American, too, but I think that the repercussions from this are only beginning to be felt and are likely to be felt for decades to come.

LEMON: General Hertling, I just want you to weigh in on this because more than 20,000 Afghans who helped the U.S. have applied for special visas. We've moved about 2,000 of them out. But you say that there are actually many more people to evacuate. I want you to talk about this and also reply to what Robin just said.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, FORMER ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL: I'm not sure I agree with Robin on the gloom and doom of the rest of the world. I'm old enough to remember when the Soviets left Afghanistan. It was pretty devastating to them. For a while, there were repercussions in terms of the states that aligned with the Soviet Union at the time. They had also been defeated by a so-called ragtag Mujahideen.

What I suggest though is that the United States was not defeated by the Taliban. What happened, I think, is we got into the mission overreach. Multiple administrations made mistakes, did things differently, changed the policies. There were mistakes from the military and mistakes from the intelligence community that all contributed to a mission extension that had us trying to build a government in our image that was never going to be a government in our image.

And with that, when you have a government that is not trusted by its soldiers, and that was what was happening. There were some very good Afghan national army soldiers that fought for their country. Quite a few of them gave their lives. The special operations forces within Afghanistan were very good, but they lost faith and confidence in their government. And that, Don, is a recipe for disaster, when that happens.

Getting to Robin's point about the United States being anathema around the world right now because of what happened primarily today, I'm not sure that's true. When President Biden went to the NATO summit in June, at the time, NATO countries had about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, as we were drawing down from 13,000 to 2,500 under the Trump orders.

Those countries like Germany, the U.K., Turkey, Georgia, Romania, and Italy at the time of the NATO summit were upset that President Biden had not coordinated with them as much as they thought they should have in terms of the draft drawdown.

But in talking with these partners, several members in the military and government because these were my former partners as U.S. army Europe commander, they all were in agreement with the drawdown. They welcomed it. They were ready for it. They thought it was time.

They also had spent 20 years in this country and they were seeing, hey, it is about time that we take the so-called training wheels off and let the Afghan army defend their own country, let the Afghan government run the operations that they needed to run in order to protect their women and their populist.

But unfortunately, down within the last week, we saw that just flat out didn't happen. That contributed significantly to the chaos we saw today.


LEMON: Robin, I have time for a quick response, if you want to.

WRIGHT: First of all, remember that the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan led to the demise of the Soviet Union or contributed mightily to it, as well as the end of communist rule. I didn't say anathema. The United States is still the major power but it is going to take a lot for other countries to commit, to create a kind of coalition to fight alongside us. This is a moment you need leadership and United States looked like it is political, diplomatic, military, economic plan for Afghanistan failed.

LEMON: Yeah. Plenty of discussion points that we need to hit on and we will as we continue. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Why the Afghan military failed so dismally and why did the U.S. ever believe that they could defeat the Taliban as the country sinks into chaos?


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know my decision could be criticized. But I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States yet another one, a fifth one, because it is the right one, it is the right decision for our people.





LEMON (on camera): So President Biden today trying to explain why Afghanistan failed to -- fell to the Taliban so quickly.


BIDEN: I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am president of the United States of America and the buck stops with me.


LEMON (on camera): He says the buck stops with him. So why is he blaming so many others? Joining me now is CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. Doug, good evening to you.

First, I want to get to former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush just issuing a statement on the fall of Afghanistan and it says in part, the United States government has the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crisis. And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay. Our most stalwart allies, along with private NGOs, are ready to help.

So the Bushes have a long history with Afghanistan. This is personal for them.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Absolutely. I mean, George W. Bush has gotten a lot of criticism and rightfully so for his managing of the war in Afghanistan, listening too much to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But what you just read is just exactly right. Here, ex-President Bush is calling it straight. We at all costs have to bring our Afghan allies into the United States. These are the people who fought for democracy. They're our friends.

And whether it is 20,000, 30,000 or more, I think history will determine how this (INAUDIBLE). This is our longest war. We could all be saying, Don, look, the war ended. This is a good thing. But the contingency plans unravelled. Nobody knows what's going on. It's chaos. We might be able to turn this into a positive if we show we don't leave people behind like Gerald Ford did during the Vietnam War, bringing the Vietnamese, our friends, into America.

LEMON: Before the president spoke today, Douglas, the former defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said that he should take responsibility like JFK did after the Bay of Pigs. Biden did say the buck stops with him but only after a lot of finger pointing. How will history remember this speech?

BRINKLEY: It was not much of a speech. It was very bland. It is not going to be soaring oratory. But he said the key thing with the buck stops with me, meaning I will take the blame. John F. Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs could have blamed Eisenhower's CIA, Allen Dulles, but instead, Kennedy took the blame. He went up in public opinion polls and then he latched on to going into space with the moon shot and went up in the polls after that.

So I think Biden should -- he did the right thing. He took that (INAUDIBLE) Kennedy-like --

LEMON: Can I ask you something? Do you think I framed the question properly? Do you think that there was a lot of finger pointing? I said that. I don't know if that was your assessment.

BRINKLEY: I didn't think it was sort of finger pointing except I don't think President Biden was kind enough to our Afghan allies. He seemed to be blaming the army there and I didn't like that part. But it was an opportunity today to really thank the men and women who had been fighting for 20 years for democracy. But instead, he just wanted to do that personal buck stops with me and then head back to Camp David.

I thought it was a missed opportunity today. And he's going to have all sorts of ugly political ramifications and spooling on him because of the chaotic withdrawal. But I thought it was solid that he is at least saying I'm responsible. The American people that want out of there, 70 percent will like that. A lot of them will.

LEMON (on camera): More of the president. Listen.


BIDEN: How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan's civil war, when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery? I'm clear on my answer. I will not repeat the mistakes we've made in the past.



LEMON (on camera): So Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times" says that that reminded him of LBJ back in 1964. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.


LEMON (on camera): So, listen, you just mentioned it in your answer before about the 70 percent of people wanting the polling, showing that Americans want to get out of Afghanistan. I am wondering if that is going to -- if that will hold up after this, and if the president continues to take a stand, saying I stand by my decision, then what -- I don't think there is anything much for anybody else to do. If he stands by his decision, he stands by his decision.

BRINKLEY: Stand by the decision, secure the airport in Kabul, and make sure that we get these Afghani friends. People have (INAUDIBLE) with us into the United States. You know, Don, in the 19th century, the British were in Afghanistan. We've been there longer than the British. We've been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviet Union was.

At some point, we were going to have to find an exit strategy. It is just so sad that they didn't seem to be choreographed. If anything, it reminded of Jimmy Carter's dessert rescue during the Iran hostage crisis where Carter used to say, I just needed one extra helicopter.

We needed a plan and it wasn't actualized. So Biden is going to take a black eye through that. But on the other hand, in the long sweep of history, you know, that ladder of the American Embassy in Saigon that we watched, it was a symbol of American shame when that happened. But today, that ladder is in the Gerald Ford Museum and it stands for American not leaving its friends behind.

So what George W. Bush said at the outset of our talk here, Don, is the exact right message right now. Biden needs to run a humanitarian effort out of Afghanistan like nobody's business and he started that process with an executive order that happened just a couple of hours or less ago.

LEMON: I appreciate our conversation. Thank you very much, Douglas. I will see you soon.

BRINKLEY: Thanks, Don. Bye.

LEMON: The Afghan military crumbling at a rapid pace as the Taliban swept across the country. And in many cases, shots weren't even fired. What went so wrong?




LEMON: I'm back now with Carter Malkasian. He served as a civilian adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a senior adviser to General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2015 to 2019. He is also the author of the book "The American War in Afghanistan."

Carter, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining me this evening. You spent so much of your career focusing on Afghanistan, especially the Afghan military. Why did they fail so miserably?

CARTER MALKASIAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you for having me on tonight, Don. So one of the reasons, there are many reasons, but one of the reasons we should focus on just from the get go is that the United States and Afghanistan were centrally occupiers.

The Afghan forces were fighting alongside us, fighting alongside and for a government that was very connected to us. As you know from Afghanistan history, resisting occupation is something that has been a part of their history. That helps motivate people to do things. It helps to find what means to be Afghan. I don't think this is terribly hard to understand. This is characteristic of many countries but it is certainly evident in Afghanistan.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

MALKASIAN: So when it came to who is going to fight the longest? Who is going to stick it out the longest? The Taliban often had the edge. That is a kind of base reason. There are more things that have happened over the past two weeks or so that go in addition to that, but I label that as the base reason for what we've seen.

LEMON: You have been trying to answer the question, how did we lose this war? In "Politico," here is what you write. You said corruption was part of the problem. As is well-known, the effectiveness of soldiers and police suffered because government officials or military commanders pocketed their pay, hoarded their ammunition and diluted rosters with ghost soldiers. A stronger explanation was that the police and soldiers did not want to put their lives on the line for a government that was corrupt and prone to neglect them.

I mean, you know, that is pretty strong there. Check out the Taliban taking over the palace this weekend. As president of Afghanistan fled, as we see these images, did the Afghan people, did they not feel a connection to their government?

MALKASIAN: So in many places, the connection to the government was thin and it is troubled by corruption, some other factors such as the one I mentioned. But the other thing to remember is what we've seen happen over the past two weeks is additional factor and additional magnification of the problems that exist.

So not only did they have these problems with corruption and fighting alongside occupiers, but there was also by that time the problem of facing defeat after defeat after defeat. That just worsens morale and that drags things further down.


MALKASIAN: If the expectation is that there is going to be another defeat in the future, then that is going to incline forces to run. By the time the Taliban got into Kabul, the army had seen defeat after defeat. It is like the stock market crash. Everyone ran. Everyone stopped investing.

And earlier on, two weeks before this, even a week before this, we still had many incidents of Afghans fighting hard. But as things got worse, it just all fell apart.

LEMON: Yeah. I'm going to put this image up of this cargo plane jammed with hundreds of people trying to flee. It is devastating to look at. We're told others are hiding in their homes, too afraid to leave. Who is responsible for failing these people?

MALKASIAN: That's a hard question at this point. To some extent, yes, I think we all hope the Afghan elements, Afghan army and Afghan leaders would have fought harder. I think we'll have to, over the next days and weeks, look at ourselves to see what extent we think we might have done something that is wrong there or might have made some mistakes there.

And then some of it, of course, is that there were hard decisions to make as some of your other previous commentators kind of alluded to, hard decisions about U.S. strategic interests. And pursuing those hard decisions and pursuing U.S. strategic interest is going to involve costs. Right now, we have to feel those costs.

LEMON: Carter Malkasian, thank you very much, sir. I appreciate you joining.

MALKASIAN: Thank you.

LEMON: Emotions running hot over masks and vaccines. One vaccine protest in Los Angeles getting so heated, someone was stabbed.




LEMON (on camera): Okay, you guys have to watch this. A protest against vaccines and masks at Los Angeles City hall devolving into an all-out brawl after counter protesters showed up. One person stabbed. Others injured. No arrests have been made. But the investigation is ongoing. Here's what happened.


UNKNOWN: Unmask them! Unmask them! Unmask them!


LEMON (on camera): What is wrong with -- joining me now is a reporter who was there, James Queally, staff writer at the "Los Angeles Times." James, good evening. My goodness, my goodness, how did this get so violent?

JAMES QUEALLY, STAFF WRITER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: So this started out a couple days ago. L.A. City Council and L.A. County Board of Supervisors both started considering vaccine mandates for entry into a few places and this rally starts to be organized, mostly against vaccine mandates and really just generally against the idea of a vaccine.

Probably about 200 people on one side of First Street in downtown L.A., on the city hall lawn. A few dozen counter protesters have organized on the opposite side of the block.

I didn't see the initial exchange of blows but the two groups start fighting in the middle of first and spring. And then where that video picks up that you just showed, I'm standing right in the middle of that as it happens. The two groups square up again and you start hearing people screaming about Antifa and the one gentleman screaming, unmask them all. They charged and that's when all hell breaks loose.

You can see the videos. Things they saw that day. People getting gang tackled to the ground. Punched and kicked. One person was stabbed and seriously injured. LAPD remained hospitalized. It just exploded pretty quickly and unfortunately this is a pattern we've seen at a few other protests around L.A. going back to January 6th, these kinds of ideologically-opposed groups just breaking down street brawls.

LEMON: So do people come ready to fight? Did they come in this one?

QUEALLY: In the moments before that video starts, I was walking around the edge of city hall and there were definitely people among the anti- vaccine rally functioning as de facto security. At least one of them has showed up in other pictures wearing Proud Boy merchandise. It has been suggested there were other Proud Boys there.

They were kind of talking over walkie talkies. On the other side, yeah, you saw people with knee pads, people with helmets on. I don't know their motives. I don't read minds. I can't say they came there dead set on violence. But there were people definitely wearing clothing that would suggest they were at least prepared for combat.

LEMON: Yeah. What did police say about the attack? So far, no one has been arrested, right? Is that correct?

QUEALLY: No one has been arrested. The LAPD just put out an image a few minutes ago of who they believe is the stabbing suspect. I only got a chance to take a quick peek at it. It is just a picture of a person there with a black hoodie on. Yeah, they have not made any other arrests or not described any other suspects in relation to this yet.

LEMON: Is it getting worse in the short time we have left? Is this only going to get worse? What do you think?


QUEALLY: I mean, I can't predict the future but there are a lot of tensions around the vaccine rules. In L.A. right now, there is a lot of frustration on one side of this equation. The counter protesters are very frustrated with the way the LAPD has responded to some of these right-wing protests. They accuse them of giving these groups too much leeway, like the anti-vaccine group.

So, you know, both sides are furious with one another and at least one has little to no trust in the police department that's supposed to be to be responding to these situations. So, the potential is there.

LEMON: Good luck, man. You be safe, okay? James Queally of "L.A. Times," thanks so much.

QUEALLY: Thanks.

LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.




LEMON: So, before we go, I want to make sure that you know about the "We Love New York City," the homecoming concert. Make sure you join us for this once-in-a-lifetime concert event, this Saturday, starting at 5:00 p.m., exclusively on CNN.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Today, President Biden seeks to defend his attempt to close the book on this country's involvement in Afghanistan. Tonight, we'll look at what happens now to all those still struggling to get out and to how or if the U.S. will live up to its promises to them.

We begin with the final fiasco. The images we have been getting all day tell the chaotic story.