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Don Lemon Tonight

U.S. Strikes ISIS-K Planner; President Biden Wants to Totally Eradicate ISIS-K; U.S. Embassy Warned Americans of Another Attack; Young Marines Killed in the Attack; U.S. Will Hunt All ISIS-K in Afghanistan; Justice Not Enough for Americans Killed in Kabul; U.S. Gulf Coast Bracing for Hurricane Ida. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 27, 2021 - 22:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties. And again, that is a quote.

That as we have more breaking news tonight on a new threat in Afghanistan. The U.S. embassy in Kabul just now again warning U.S. citizens at a number of gates at that airport to leave immediately. They are citing security threats. The alert advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates.

That just hours after the president, Joe Biden was warned by his national security team that another attack in Kabul is likely, not just possible, but likely. A White House official telling CNN, quote, "the next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date," the president saying this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- number of soldiers that we've lost. But look, the mission they performed is dangerous. And it's a -- now it's come with a significant loss of American personnel. But it's a worthy mission, because they continue to evacuate folks out of that region.


LEMON: The White House echoing the grim warning about the danger of the next few days.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The threat is ongoing and it is active. It is -- our troops are still in danger. That continues to be the case every day that they are there. Most -- this is the most dangerous part of the mission.


LEMON: The Pentagon warning that threats are credible and specific.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We still believe there are credible threats. In fact, I would say specific credible threats. And we want to make sure we are prepared for those.


LEMON: Press secretary Jen Psaki says the president, who in the hours after the attack, warned ISIS-K, we will hunt you down and make you pay, doesn't want them on earth anymore.


PSAKI: I think he made clear yesterday that he does not want them to live on the earth anymore.


LEMON: President Biden planning to call the families of 13 U.S. servicemembers, killed in the attack once of -- once of next of kin notifications, I should say, are complete and when the families are ready. The Afghan death toll rising tonight to more than 170 men, women and children killed, 200 wounded.

And we are learning more tonight about the ISIS-K terror attack. The Pentagon confirming there was only one explosion outside the airport. Not two, as they originally reported. A bomber wore suicide vest, blowing it up right in the vicinity of the Abbey gate followed by a gun battle with an unknown number of shooters.

In the wake of the terror attack there were fewer people on the streets near the airport today. Take a look at this. Afghan.

Afghan and foreign forces using flashbangs from inside the perimeter of the Kabul airport to disperse crowds outside. Some 4,200 people were evacuated from Kabul and 12 hours today on U.S. military and coalition flights, down from 7,500 yesterday, an Afghan family among those arriving at Dulles airport today.

So, we have much more to come on this. And we're going to talk about our breaking news as well. But I want to bring in now CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House and Alex Marquardt at the Pentagon force this evening.

Thank you both for joining us on this really big Friday, news night Friday. Alex, breaking just moments ago the U.S. has conducted an airstrike against ISIS-K. Please tell me what you know.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean obviously, Don, those tough words from President Biden vowing retaliation and now it appears to who have happened at least the first wave of it. We are hearing from CENTCOM, which is the area of command that covers Afghanistan. They are saying that they've carried out what's called an over the horizon counter-terrorism operation. That means that it came from outside the country. That mean -- they also said that it was an unmanned strike, meaning

that it was carried out by a drone. And the target was an ISIS-K planner. So not your low-level grantor any sort of facility that they were targeting. It seems they were targeting the specific individuals, that this specific individual was killed, and that no other civilians were harmed.


This is a major test for the Biden administration, Don, as U.S. troops leave the country, as intelligence capabilities are drawn down. The Biden administration needs to be able to show that it can continue to carry out these types of counterterrorism operations against the likes of ISIS-K and other terrorist groups.

So here you have this operation carried out by the U.S. military, a drone strike coming from, as they say, over the horizon against this ISIS-K planner. We have of course been talking about ISIS-K for days, the likelihood of an imminent attack, which then came to fruition just yesterday outside the Abbey gate.

And that came following the warning from the U.S. embassy and other foreign embassies, warning of an imminent attack, warning citizens and Afghans to get -- to leave those gates immediately. And Don, tonight we are seeing yet another warning like that from the U.S. embassy in Kabul, telling everyone to leave the vicinity of the airport, to get away from not just Abbey gate, but the four gates around the airport because they do fear another imminent attack.

The attack that we saw yesterday killing scores of Afghans, 13 American servicemembers, one of the deadliest days during this 20-year war in Afghanistan. The Biden administration clearly expecting more attacks by ISIS-K, which as we said tonight, they carried out their first strike against since that attack yesterday.

LEMON: Well, Kaitlan, we have retaliation. Right? It appears to be retaliation now. And we also have the warning now about possible terrorist attacks. So, the president vowed that he would hunt these terrorists down. right? So, what are your sources, what are you hearing from your sources tonight, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is fulfilling that vow with the strike tonight on this ISIS-K planner. Of course, we don't know that this person was specifically involved in the attack that happened this week, but we do know that the White House is worried there could be more of this to come.

And that is the blunt warning that President Biden and Vice President Harris got this morning when they were meeting with their national security team. They said another terror attack is likely. And President Biden had hinted at the idea that the strike could come yesterday in his remarks to us in the East Room, when he was talking about the fact that obviously he had those blunt words, saying he wanted retribution.

But he said he thought that they had a pretty good idea of where the ISIS-K planners were. And when people asked about that, he said he didn't know specifically where they were, but they thought that they had some pretty good intelligence on that.

Clearly, they did, given the statement that we are getting from CENTCOM tonight. And so, of course, that doesn't make the situation any less precarious over the next four days. That is what they've been worried about that it is going to be a situation where it is essentially the most dangerous point of this entire evacuation period is going to happen before this deadline on Tuesday.

That's because, Don, you're going to see them drawing down troops, drawing down resources and weaponry, and whatever is in that region still before Tuesday actually happens, because they don't want it to fall into the hands of the Taliban or into the hands of other organizations that are in Afghanistan.

And one thing we should note the Pentagon also told us today, they are not going to say how many troops are on the ground, they are going to provide regular updates like they've been doing for the last several weeks because they said they wanted to be judicious about that, given of course the security concerns that come alongside it.

LEMON: It's a really tenuous position that we are in now. And it could escalate as we get to that Tuesday deadline, especially now. This could really escalate, Kaitlan, because now you may have ISIS-K wanting to retaliate further retribution from the United States. It's a tough position that the administration is in and the military there.

COLLINS: Yes, and it's actually -- there was a question of whether or not this strike, this retaliation would come while those troops were still on the ground. Because what the Pentagon told us earlier today was that there was still about 5,000 there. Of course, as I noted that could change. It likely will over the next few days as they start doing fewer evacuations and focusing more on the drawdown of this.

But that is something that likely they had to weigh when they were making decisions for President Biden who we are told did approved the strike of course when they were deciding this, is that there are still U.S. forces on the ground.

And also, as Alex is saying, this is an over the horizon strike. That is what they have been saying since President Biden announced in April that he was going to drawdown. That they would rely on as an effective measure for the United States to respond.

And there have been some people who raised questions about how effective that response could be, given of course you are operating hours away than what you typically would have before with troops still on the ground. And so, this could be a testament to that. Of course, it really remains to be seen if more follow this. What does it look like in the next few days? Of course, they will be watching closely as that deadline approaches.

LEMON: And Alex, the sad and solemn part of this news, it's just horrible news. CNN is now learning the identity of three of the service members killed in that Kabul attack yesterday, heartbreaking. What can you tell us about them?

MARQUARDT: It really is, Don. We're getting this information from the families themselves, not from the Pentagon. The Pentagon hasn't yet released the names. They of course want to notify the next of kin before they do that. We will expect more names from the Pentagon tomorrow.


But we have gotten three names. And Don, as a so often the case, what hits you when you see the information about those who have been killed, the soldiers, is how young they are. And you know, these are in at least two of the cases, men who were young children, when this war started 20 years ago.

I want to go through the three names and the three individuals who we do know about tonight. The first one is Rylee McCollum. He was one of the 11 marines who was killed in this suicide blast yesterday. We've heard from his sister who said in a statement that he was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just three weeks.

He was just 20 years old. He was a baby himself when this war started. And his sister said that he wanted to be a marine his whole life. So much so, that even as a toddler, he carried around a toy rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots.

And then there is Corporal Daegan Page, also a marine. He was 23 years old. His family said in a statement that he had a tough outer shell but a giant heart. That he had planned to become a lineman once his marine enlistment was finished. And that he loved hunting and spending time outdoors.

And then finally, Don, there is the Navy Corpsman, Maxton Soviak. Navy Corpsman are the medics for the marines. And he told his mom over face time when he was saying goodbye that don't worry mom, my guys has got me. They won't let anything happen to me.

And today, the statement from his family says, his mother realized that they had all just gone together. Maxton Soviak had 12 brothers and sisters.

Don, as I mentioned, we will expect to hear from the Pentagon with a more full list of names tomorrow. But again, among the 13 servicemembers who were killed, there were 11 marines, one army soldier, one navy soldier and we do know tonight we're told by the army that the soldier was a member of special forces. Don?

LEMON: Wow. Rylee was 20, Corporal Daegan was 23 and what did you say, Maxton was, how old was Maxton?

MARQUARDT: We didn't get the age, but again, --

LEMON: You didn't age of Maxton.

MARQUARDT: Maxton Soviak was a navy corpsman.


MARQUARDT: So, he was in charge of keeping them safe and attending to them if they got wounded. And he never got that opportunity.

LEMON: Wow. I mean, really, children, 20 years old when we went to Afghanistan, Rylee was just being born. Alex, the Pentagon is warning that there are still specific credible threats. It's a race against time to get people out. About 500 Americans still trying to get out. Do you know the latest? What's the latest on these evacuations?

MARQUARDT: Well, the lingering question for the past few days has been how many more American citizens are left in Afghanistan, because that obviously is the priority for the Biden administration to try to get them out. We did hear from the State Department today that it is 500 Americans, who they are in contact with, who have expressed a desire to leave, and so the administration has been in touch with them trying to facilitate that evacuation.

There are also hundreds more that the State Department said, who have not said that there are certain that they want to leave. You can imagine these are people who possibly, and I'm just speculating here, who have family members there, who might not want to leave their family behind.

And so, according to the State Department, it's under 1,000 Americans who remain in Afghanistan, 500 of whom who had expressed desires to get out of the country. The State Department spokesman today also saying that in the past 24 hours, that was from this afternoon that 300 Americans had been evacuated. And so far, we know that around 109,000 people all told, have been evacuated.

Of course, the emphasis for the Biden administration is to get those Americans out and to also get those special interest visa holders out. Those who have worked with American forces and American diplomats over the last several years, but we can't forget that there are so many more who are trying to get out.

People who have worked with aid organizations, for example, people who are being targeted by the Taliban, and who are desperately trying to get on those planes at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. I think all of us have been covering this story over the past few days have been inundated with messages from people on the ground asking, pleading with us to try to help them to get out of the country.

It is extremely of course a desperate situation, not just for the hundreds of Americans who are trying to get out, but thousands, tens of thousands more. Don?

LEMON: Yes. Yes. Thank you for the year reporting. And Kaitlan, thank you so much. And our hearts go out to the family members. We are running the names of three of the folks tonight, all in their 20s.


We don't know the age of one of them, but 23 and 20 years old. I mean, boy, o, boy. I appreciate your reporting. We'll see you soon. Thank you so much.

This is our breaking news tonight. The U.S. has conducted an airstrike against an ISIS-K planner. Initial indications are the target was killed. That as the U.S. embassy in Kabul just now, again, warning U.S. citizens at a number of gates at the airport are saying to leave immediately.

We've got more on all of this. We're going to take a very quick break. We'll be right back with our breaking news.


LEMON: We have big breaking news on a Friday night. The United States has conducted a strike against the ISIS-K planner. Initial indications are the target was killed. An official says President Biden approved the strike on the ISIS-K planner, that as there is another new threat, a new threat in the Afghan -- Afghanistan tonight.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul just now again warning U.S. citizens at a number of gates at the airport to leave immediately, they're citing security threats.


I want to bring in now CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, thank you very much. So here we go. You know, we've got retaliation from the U.S. military approved by the President of the United States. They're calling it an over the horizon counterterrorism unmanned air strike.

Initial indications here according to Central Command is that the target was killed, no civilian casualties. I mean, this was incredibly quick. What does it say that the U.S. about our capability and that we are responding this quickly?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Don, first of all, to say that, you know, as we talked about the threats the other day that preluded the suicide bombing at the airport, whenever you have that kind of distinct possibility of an attack, it's because you have the information.

And I'm sure that the Department of Defense had some information garnered by all sorts of intelligence that said there was going to be some type of attack but they didn't know what kind but it was leading to someone who was planning that attack.

So, when you have something like that, you put together a target package waiting to see what happens, you monitor the situation perhaps with overhead imagery either satellites or air breathers above the target and then watch what happens. And then watch the people scurry afterwards.

So, I think, you know, whereas the suicide bombing was horrific and terrible, it probably was the last bit of information that was needed to strike this target. Truthfully, Don, I'm not surprised that this happened this fast.

In fact, I was talking to someone at CNN off the air this afternoon and they said when do you think there might be a strike that the president said? I said next couple of days. And they were shocked when I said that. Because whenever you have intelligence that said there is about to be a strike, it usually means you have a whole lot more information than your giving out about who is conducting it and where they are.

LEMON: So, no surprise to you. But just before we learned about the strike against ISIS-K, General, the U.S. embassy in Kabul they put out this warning to U.S. citizens to leave the airport gates immediately.


LEMON: You know, they did that warning yesterday or the day before and then we had, you know, the explosion at the airport. Do you think that's connected in any way?

HERTLING: Absolutely. yes, I'm going to guess, yes. I don't know for sure, Don. I'm not privy to secret intelligence anymore but that's the way it has always happened in my experience when I was in combat. You know, you have one piece of intelligence. You track it down and then you start getting more.

And whether that was coming from signals intelligence, they were reading their mail, human intelligence on the ground with them, overhead intelligence, the very different kinds of intelligence. I'm sure the warning of the embassy tonight, and in fact, that's what kind of piqued my interest when I saw another warning.

It told me we're -- they've got the crosshairs on someone who is planning an attack and whereas they want to get people out of the embassy or -- excuse me, out of the airport quickly. They're still drawing a beat on the individual that's either planning or executing the target. And I'm glad they got -- they got one of the planners.

LEMON: Well, I want to ask you because I posed a similar question to Kaitlan earlier. I mean, you know, you have to weigh things when you're planning to retaliate, right?


LEMON: How much more harm does it might it put people in who are there? How much might it take off, you know, ISIS-K and upset them and maybe they want to strike out again? So, should the U.S. be worried at this point? I'm sure the answer is yes but I want to talk about it, about reprisal.

HERTLING: Well, I think things are spinning up, certainly. You know, this was in Nangahar, which is to the southeast of Kabul, the capital of Nangarhar province is Jalalabad. We've heard about that. This is an area that borders Pakistan and the Pakistan and the federally administered tribal area.

So, this is a crossroads for ISIS-K coming in and out of Pakistan and they get a lot of other terrorists that are part of this group, folks from Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Russia, India. This is truly a Star Wars bar scene of bad dudes as part of ISIS-K.

This is, by the way, Don, this is the location or the province where in 2017, President Trump made the big deal about dropping the large non-nuclear bomb, the so-called mother of all bombs, the MOAB. So, this is not -- and by the way, this is also where Osama bin Laden hid out before he went in to Abbottabad.

So, this is -- this is the bad lands. This is really bad. What we're seeing, though, is, you know, when you're talking about Kabul, ISIS-K has mostly operated for the last several years in the rural areas. They are now going into the urban areas and they are using Kabul as one of their bases.


We'll probably learn more tomorrow about where this strike hit but I would suspect, I'm guessing now, that it wasn't in Jalalabad but it was probably in one of the rural areas of Nangarhar province.

LEMON: You think we'll see more strikes, U.S. strikes?

HERTLING: Yes, I think it's a possibility because wherever you strike one target like cockroaches, they scatter and they also start sending out more intelligence. So, you know, when I was in combat, we always like to strike and see what happened immediately afterwards. If the lines lit up, if the cell phones lit up, if the couriers start flowing, we could then track to other locations.

And that's not a secret technique or procedure, that's just what counterterrorism forces do. So, yes, I think we may see several more targets hit within the next couple of days because I think the president wants to show he's serious about, you know, the over the horizon capability but also countering --

LEMON: Let me --

HERTLING: -- any kind of threats to the air field.

LEMON: Let me ask you something, another quick question here, which is, you know, when we talked about reprisal. You said, you know, that the phones lines lighting up and probably they're getting more intelligence and more information. But what --


LEMON: -- ISIS-K, what are they -- when a strike like this, does it concern them? Does it, you know, inflame them? Like what happens if the U.S., you know, does what they do now, they hit their targets, do they at some point maybe say OK, we need to stop this or let's go get them?

HERTLING: They'll continue to try and attack. There is no doubt about that. But it does hinder their capability of planning because you have to realize, Don, it isn't just like in the military you have a commander that tells a unit go do this, take this hill.

And an organization like ISIS, you not only have the leaders of the organization, but you have the planners, the money people, the imams who bless the attack and several other authority figures that before you can conduct a suicide attack like occurred at the air field, there's several layers of people that bless off on it.

So, it takes money, it takes, you know, and we heard today 25 pounds of dynamite allegedly on the suicide bomber that hit the gate. That's a big suicide vest and it's hard to get, sometimes hard to get that kind of explosives to do these kinds of things, plus getting the willing martyr to go up to the gate and blow him or herself up.

All of these are factors of consideration. but you know, trust me, this strike isn't going to stop ISIS from continuing to attack. But I will say one other thing.


HERTLING: This strike against ISIS-K is going to make the Taliban very happy because they're not big fans of ISIS. They are mortal enemies. So this will be another interesting dynamic as the sunrises in Kabul tomorrow.

LEMON: We are fortunate to have you to give us that information. Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you very --


HERTLING: Don, do you mind if I say one more thing?

LEMON: Go ahead, general.

HERTLING: Because Oren Liebermann, Don,

LEMON: Sure.

HERTLING: -- just a minute ago and he mentioned the three -- two marines and one navy corpsman. And it really struck my heart and I got emotional because he talked about Maxton Soviak, the navy corpsman who is a medic. Right before the last time I went to combat, I was meeting with a group of medics and one of the medics asked me, sir, you're going to bring us home, aren't you?

That's the kind of weight that commanders and leaders carry. And when Oren, you know, commented that he told his mom don't worry, my guys will take care of me, that really struck me as the great young people we have serving. So, God bless all of them and may they all rest in peace.

LEMON: I agree with you a 100 percent. And I'm glad you're here to really pay honor to them. And you know, these young men pay -- paying the ultimate price and we're going to learn the names of the other 10 members of our military who did, as well.

I've got to go back and ask you something and bear with me for -- sorry about that.


LEMON: When you said that the Taliban, it's going to make the Taliban happy that the U.S. carried off this successful strike against ISIS-K. So then what happens? Does it cause them to fight or just -- it just makes the Taliban happy? Is there any sort of interaction --


HERTLING: No, I mean, --

LEMON: -- or something that could happen there on the ground?

HERTLING: When I say that, what I'm talking about is they are going to attempt to govern now. They are shifting from a counter -- counterinsurgency force to a governing force in Kabul. They have been fighting ISIS-K for three years and we got to harken back for those who haven't watching Afghanistan for a while.

Every time ISIS-K conducted a suicide attack in Kabul, which they've done many over the last two years or any other province, the people of the provinces blamed the Afghan government for not providing security.


So, when the Taliban knows that big planner of suicide attacks has been killed by the Americans, even though they still consider us the great Satan, they are going to be very enthused about having another one of their enemy wiped off the battle field. It's the so-called the enemy of my enemy is my friend for a while. So, I don't know what that will generate --

LEMON: Is my friend, yes.

HERTLING: -- yes, I don't know what will that generate in terms of diplomatic relations with the Taliban over the next few days as we continue to get out, but it could generate some goodwill potentially. I don't know. That's a guess.

LEMON: Yes. Well, again, as I said, we're very fortunate to have you here and I'm glad you paid tribute to the service members. Thank you so much, General. Stay close. We may need you.

HERTLING: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. So, this is breaking news I was just talking to the general about and there's lot of it on this Friday night. The U.S. military announcing air strikes against the ISIS-K planner. Initial indications are the target was killed. So, stay with us for more on our breaking news. We'll be right back.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Here's our breaking news at this hour, the U.S. carrying out an attack against an ISIS-K planner. The spokesman for U.S. Central Command saying initial indications are that the target was killed. An official says that President Biden approved the strike on the ISIS-K planner. News of a strike coming moments after the U.S. embassy in Kabul warned American citizens to the leave the gates at the airport immediately.

Joining me is the former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary Cohen, thank you. We are happy to have you here as well to talk about this breaking news, this air strike.

That's what I want to start with. And what CENTCOM is saying that it believes that the target is dead and they don't know if any civilian casualties. What do you make of this response to yesterday's attack?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think it's a case of President Biden saying basically that the long arm of justice is going to reach out and touch you wherever you are. It's not quite justice, frankly. We lost 13 and many wounded, and 170 or more Afghans killed, as well. So, taking out one or two people is certainly important but it's certainly not justice, either.

I want to say just a word you had General Mark Hertling on just a moment ago and he said how personal it was to him. It's personal to me and my wife, as well. We remember the USS Cole and the Cole was the navy ship that was hit by a terrorist boat blowing a hole below the water line, it killed 17 sailors and wounded 37 others very seriously.

And I remember being at the ceremony a year later we paid tribute to them and the father of a sailors he stood up and he put his hand up and said remember The Cole. We've never forgotten The Cole. We have never forgotten those who parents we had to speak with and try and bring comfort to.

So, this is personal to all of us who had anything to do with the Pentagon and the young men and women who are serving us. Many of whom weren't even born when I was there. So, it tells you how young they are, how brave they are, how willing they are to put their lives on the line to save other people, to save their freedom.

So, we have to remain grateful every day of the year, every day of the week that we see them telling them how thankful we are.

LEMON: Yes, 20-year-war, Rylee McCollum who died, one of our servicemembers, 20 years old. So, I mean, these -- and they are kids, they are children at that age, very young men.

Secretary Cohen, there is another frightening warning today about an immediate threat to the airport. American citizens are told to get away from the gates. How dangerous is this situation right now? Can you put it into context for us?

COHEN: Well, I think it's highly dangerous. I think we had the same warning just a day or two ago now and we saw the result of that. Part of the challenge is going to be those Americans and other Afghans who have helped us who want to get out.

President Biden has made it clear he's not changing the date and if you don't change the date, that means the great possibility that a number of Americans are going to be stuck in Afghanistan and then we're going to have to have contingent plans on how do we get them out and when can we get them out?

So, I think we're going to come into a real crisis mode here very shortly unless we can either open up the gates or have a way to have Americans on the ground who are able to ferry -- to get those Americans and Afghans to the airport to get them on those planes, otherwise they are going to be going into hiding and trying to exit Afghanistan in other means. It's a real challenge for this administration for all of us.

When you set a deadline and that's one of the problems, whenever you set the deadline, you hand your bargaining power over to the enemy and once that deadline is set, the enemy is calculating, they want you saying, we can be here a long time and you can't because the American public is tired of this war.

So, we're in a rather difficult and dangerous position right now and as the thing is winding down and we're looking at how many troops are we going to put on our own aircraft, how much equipment on our aircraft, as well as remaining Americans who are at the airport, the remaining Afghan whose helped us around the airport, how do we retrograde this? How do we spin this down in a way that more and more troops are leaving that makes us more and more vulnerable?


So, I suspect we're going to have a lot of overhead capability not only with drones and aircraft and other overhead capability to make sure that we do the best we can to make sure that we don't have to take fire on the way out. So that's -- we're in a dangerous spot right now.

LEMON: Yes. Secretary Cohen, thank you, sir. I wish we were speaking under better circumstances but again, we are very fortunate to have you here as well and your voice and your expertise. Thank you very much.

COHEN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: So, this is our breaking news tonight. The U.S. air strike against an ISIS-K planner, early indications are the target was killed, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, approving the strike. That as a U.S. embassy in Kabul warns U.S. citizens at a number of gates at the airport to leave and do it immediately, citing security threats.

Stay with us.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: We are following breaking news tonight. The U.S. carrying out an air strike against an ISIS-K planner. Early indications are the target was killed. This coming just a day after President Biden vowed to hunt down the terrorists responsible for the Kabul airport bombing that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and more than 170 Afghans.

Joining me now, Matthew Dowd, he is a former chief strategist for President George W. Bush. He is also the author of "Revelations on the River." It is coming out September 7th but can be preordered on Amazon now.

Matthew, thank you for joining. Air strikes tonight. Biden vowed revenge. This is fast.

MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, you know, I think the president has shown that he's capable of saying what he means and then following through on it and doing multiple things simultaneously that I think some of us aren't used to in leadership.

So, he said he was going to get out the people out of Afghanistan and it's gone better that expected from what people said at the beginning of this. He said he was going to go after the terrorists that committed this act against our troops and he's doing it. So, you know, bravo to President Biden. He says what he's going to do and he does it.

LEMON: You know, this war has been going on for 20 years. This is, I want to play what the president said yesterday and then what the former president, former President Bush said after 9/11. Watch this.


BIDEN: We will respond with force and precision at our time at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.


LEMON: That's pretty similar, right? I mean, what does that say about the war on terrorism, Matthew?

DOWD: Well, I think what it says about the war on terrorism, at times we conducted it well and at times we didn't conduct it well at all. And Afghanistan is a perfect example of both. We, you know, we obviously pursued the Taliban, removed them because they were harboring Al Qaeda and then we got Bin Laden but then we stayed and tried to nation build, which was a drastic mistake as Joe Biden has said and other presidents have said and including Donald Trump has said in this.

So, I think when we stay out of the idea that we're going to take over countries in pursuit of something bigger and go to the specific thing of taking out terrorists, we do it well. When we do it in a laser like focus and take out terrorists that benefits the American public. When we go something broader, we use up the resources and the blood of men and women in our country and it only makes a mess.

LEMON: Yes. You know, Matthew, there are Republicans calling for the president to resign. I mean, there used to be a time when we didn't talk about politics in the same day when American lives were lost, when we lose American servicemembers.

Same thing with not talking about the gun control issue on a day of a mass shooting, you know, Republicans always say now is not the time to talk about gun control. Clearly, that's not the case today because they're talking about the president resigning on the day, very same day we lost servicemembers.

DOWD: Well, the Republican Party and most of the Republicans in Washington have shown themselves to have just no shame on everything they do. For one thing, they didn't ever want to pursue impeachment against Donald Trump who create -- who did force worse acts against our democracy and far worse things related to other foreign adversaries like Russia and like other countries than this president has ever come close to doing.

So, I know hypocrisy everybody sort of, smiles and grins at the hypocrisy in Washington but Republicans have taken it to a whole new level. And I think they should have actually spent their time asking the former president who they seem to want to be close to why he made the decisions on releasing the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, on leaving the Afghan government out of the negotiations, on all of those things that led us up to where we are today.

Granted, I think, President Trump made the right decision that we're going to pull out of Afghanistan. But Republicans ought to spend their time instead of making these political points in a ridiculous fashion because there is nothing President Biden has done that would justify impeachment, and worry about their guy they're trying to be buddies with sitting down in Mar-a-Lago.

LEMON: Matthew Dowd, thank you very much, sir. Always a pleasure. I appreciate having you.

So, we have more breaking news.

DOWD: My pleasure.

LEMON: So, we have more breaking news. Huge breaking news tonight on this Friday night with U.S. air strikes on an ISIS-K planner and new warnings for the U.S., for U.S. citizens to leave Kabul airport and do it immediately. There is more, OK?


A category four storm barreling down on Louisiana almost exactly 16 years after hurricane Katrina. The latest forecast right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Pay attention, everyone. Especially you folks down the south. Hurricane Ida bearing down on the Gulf Coast, expected to make land fall as a category four storm.


Louisiana and Mississippi now facing both hurricane and storm surge warnings.

Here with the latest now is meteorologist Karen Maginnis. Karen, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining. I understand that you just got the latest from the hurricane center. What can we expect from this storm?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So, our latest information from the National Hurricane Center says this is still a category one hurricane. But there is one huge difference, Don. And that is now it's out over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. So, there's going to be rapid intensification.

Right now, the wind associated with it at 80 miles an hour. As it moves in the Gulf of Mexico, it is going to intensify. And for the folks who live in coastal Louisiana, but not just there, but either side of Louisiana, we are looking at the potential for devastation. In what form? Power outages, storm surge, that will be the big one.

We're looking at localized flooding. It could be devastating for weeks in fact, if not months. There you can see it as we go into Sunday. Category three that's when it's right on shore. The water temperature here is very warm. Some of the warmest that we've seen all summer. With temperatures in the mid-80s and upper 80s that is going to cause this to intensify and grow, possibly to a category four before landfall on Sunday. Don?

LEMON: Well, and we will be watching. Karen Maginnis, our meteorologist, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Our breaking news tonight. The U.S. airstrike on an ISIS-K planner and new warnings for U.S. citizens to leave the Kabul airport immediately. A hundred and five thousand people evacuated so far. But time is running out, days away from the deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan. We're going to have the very latest right after this.