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Taliban Control Half of Afghanistan Provincial Capitals; COVID- 19 Takes a Toll on Chinese Economy; Evia, Greece, Residents Coping with Devastation. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 02:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up, city after city, falling to the Taliban's lightning advance. We are on the ground in Afghanistan, with an exclusive look at former U.S. bases, now, in enemy hands.

Massive wildfires, burning through Siberia on a scale difficult to comprehend, bigger in the fires in North America and Europe, combined.


HOLMES: Welcome, everyone.

Increasing fear gripping Afghanistan's capital this hour, as Taliban forces continue their relentless and largely unimpeded advance. Major city after major city falling to the group and the Taliban controlling half of the provincial capitals, all taken within the past week.

The country's second largest city, Kandahar, among the latest to be captured. Many observers, see that as the beginning of the end for the U.S.-backed government. There are fears Kabul is being effectively surrounded and could fall.

Two signs of that concern as U.S. embassy staff are being told to destroy sensitive materials and numerous countries, making preparations to evacuate their diplomatic staffs.

The Taliban, making a full use of American military equipment, seizing from Afghan forces or that American troops, as they withdrew, simply, left behind. They are eager to show off their spoils of war.

They granted our Clarissa Ward exclusive access to a former U.S. base, that they now hold. And it is raising disturbing questions about what America achieved in 20 years of conflict.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what remains of the U.S. presence in much of Afghanistan, the hollowed-out skeletons of sprawling military bases now under the control of the Taliban. Once there were hundreds of U.S. and NATO troops at FOB Andar in Ghazni Province. The last Americans left a couple years ago but their memories still lurks, ghostlike.

WARD: It's just so strange to see this, you know.

WARD (voice-over): The Taliban granted access to CNN, along with award-winning Afghan filmmaker, Najibullah Quraishi, keen to show off the spoils of war.

WARD: So we're just arriving at another U.S. base. And already I can see a large number of military vehicles over there.

WARD (voice-over): According to the Taliban, Afghan forces here surrendered three weeks ago when their food ran out, leaving weapons and ammunition and more.

WARD: When the Americans were here, were you and your men attacking this base a lot?

MUHAMMED ARIF MUSTAFA, TALIBAN COMMANDER (through translator): Yes, many times we attacked this base when America was here. We did operations. We were using IEDs.

The Americans had their helicopters, weapons and tanks on the ground. We Mujahideen resisted very well.

WARD (voice-over): Now they roam through what's left of the tactical operation center. Anything of value will be stripped down and sold.

WARD: Walking through what's left of these American bases, you have to ask yourself, what was it all for?

WARD (voice-over): America's great experiment with nation building now vanished into dust.

MUSTAFA (through translator): It's our belief that, one day, Mujahideen will have victory and Islamic law will come not to just Afghanistan but all over the world. We are not in a hurry. We believe it will come one day. Jihad will not end until the last day.

WARD (voice-over): It's a chilling admission from a group that claims it wants peace, despite continuing a bloody offensive.

Since the U.S. began its withdrawal in May, the militants have advanced across the country at an alarming rate on the backs of American pickup trucks.

On the Ghazni Highway, we pass base after base, all flying the militants' flag.

At the Andar bazaar, it is a similar sight. The days of underground insurgency are over and the Taliban is poised to reestablish the very emirate America once came to destroy.

But Taliban governor Mawlavey Kamil insists the group has changed since then.


MAWLAVEY KAMIL, TALIBAN GOVERNOR, ANDAR DISTRICT (through translator): The difference between that Taliban and this Taliban is that the Taliban of 2001 were new. And now, this Taliban has experience, disciplined. Our activities are going well; we are obeying our leaders.

WARD: A lot of people are concerned that if the Taliban takes power again, women's rights will move backwards.

How can you guarantee that women's rights will be protected?

KAMIL (through translator): We assure this to people all over the world, especially the people of Afghanistan. Islam has given rights to everyone equally. Women have their own rights. How much Islam has given rights to women, we will give them that much.

WARD (voice-over): That is clearly open for interpretation. Next to the mosque, we find a classroom of young girls. But their teacher says they will only receive religious education and will not attend regular school.

At night, I am separated from my male colleagues and sleep in the woman's part of the house with the children.

WARD: I've been talking to some of the women in this room and I promised that I wouldn't show any of their faces. But it's interesting because, you know, the Taliban talks a lot about how it's changed and girls can go to school now.

But I asked if any of these girls will be going to school and I was told, "Absolutely not. Girls don't go to school."

And when I said why don't girls go to school, they said, "Taliban says it's bad."

WARD (voice-over): Here, what the Taliban says goes. This is now what Afghanistan's future looks like, far from what the U.S. once envisioned and what so many Afghans dreamed of, as the Taliban pushes on towards an all but certain victory -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.


HOLMES: Cyril Vanier is tracking the latest developments in Afghanistan for us, joining me now from London.

Cyril, the Taliban's onward march, continuing, largely unimpeded.

What is the latest?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael, I think you use the words lightning speed in your introduction and those are absolutely appropriate. The Taliban holds half of the provincial capitals. They are at their

strongest that they have been, since the beginning of the war in the last 20 years; that's a U.S. assessment. It doesn't take being a spymaster to see That they hold the, second and third largest cities.

And a senior administration official in the U.S., familiar with the latest intelligence assessment on Afghanistan, telling CNN, Kabul could fall within 1-3 months. So we are not there yet.

But the Taliban are making rapid gains. They are pushing, especially in the south and we don't see a lot of resistance from that, even though the Afghan national army has said that it is ramping up its air raids against the Taliban, especially in the south.

For the moment, it's hard to see whether that's having an impact. All the momentum, is with the Taliban, Michael.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, what do we know about the situation for civilians?

VANIER: Well, it's a dire situation and the United Nations has already told us that 10,000 internally displaced people have fled their homes, just since the beginning of the month. They have come to the capital of Kabul. Others, going to large cities, for fear of retribution and for fear of Taliban violence.

You saw in Clarissa's piece, the Taliban say they are now chastened, reformed, disciplined. And yet the United Nations secretary general says that 1,000 civilians have been killed, since the beginning of the month, in wanton acts of violence against civilians, especially in southern provinces, the Pashtun heartland of the insurgency.

People are fleeing; women and girls, making up 80 percent of the nearly quarter of 1 million people who have fled since late May. Personally, I have reconnected with an Afghan interpreter, who worked with U.S. forces.

He is among those who has the most to fear. He has several, children a wife and his children haven't got to school in 5 years, since the Taliban knocked on his door and came looking for, him because of his association with U.S. forces.

So for him, for people who've been associated with Western forces or associated with Afghan security forces and government, it is a dire situation. There is a very real threat that the Taliban could target them and even murder them. So those people are hiding and some of them, when they can, try to flee.

HOLMES: Yes, it is extraordinary. Not 10 minutes ago, I got an email message from a translator, whose father is still over there and who worked for the Americans and cannot get one of these special immigrant visas. It is just tragic. Cyril, I appreciate, that thank you so much.


HOLMES: Cyril Vanier there. Now as the Taliban swiftly gained ground, hundreds of thousands of Afghans are desperately searching for safety, as Cyril was just outlining there. The United Nations saying, nearly 400,000 Afghans have fled their homes, because of the surge in violence.

Officials say, nearly a quarter of 1 million people, having been recently displaced since May alone. An overwhelming number, as again Cyril said, are women and children. The U.N. secretary general, saying the humanitarian needs are growing by the hour.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: Even a country that has tragically known generations of conflict, Afghanistan is in the throes of yet another chaotic and desperate chapter, an incredible tragedy for its long-suffering people. Afghanistan is spinning out of control.



HOLMES: Bill Roggio is a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, he is also the editor of the terrific "Long War Journal."

It's great to have you and your knowledge here, Bill. Even if the Taliban find it difficult to take Kabul militarily, it will imminently control the territory around the city, choke it off, create a siege situation.

What do you think is the trajectory of events as you're seeing it?

And is there any way for it to be stopped?

There seems to be zero incentive for them to negotiate.

BILL ROGGIO, EDITOR, "LONG WAR JOURNAL": Yes, thanks for having me on, Michael. And yes, the situation is dire right now. Just before we got on this call, I'm receiving word that the Taliban very likely took control of three provinces outside of Kabul, including Wardak and Paktika.

So this is -- they are starting to seal the approach to Kabul. I just don't see how the Afghan military can withstand this Taliban onslaught at this point in time.

HOLMES: And it's interesting when we look at your research, the maps on the "Long War Journal," the map of Taliban control -- and we can play it now for folks. And it is just so incredible to see the speed with which it swept the country.

And people are seeing now the map turn red, which is Taliban control.

When you see what's unfolding, are you in any way surprised?

Or was it entirely predictable after the West pulled out and pulled out with such speed and with no agreement in place with the Taliban?

ROGGIO: Yes, the -- I was not surprised that the Taliban launched this offensive. The Taliban had -- the West and the Afghan government have relied on diplomacy to try to resolve the situation. We keep hearing, their only solution is a diplomatic solution.

The Taliban disagrees. The Taliban has a military solution and it is implementing it right now. I have been tracking the Taliban's military operations for well over 1.5 decades and how it fights, its tactics, its strategy. So this didn't surprise me.

The only thing that is surprising has been the last 7 days and that is the speed of the -- I'm sorry -- the last eight days. That is the speed of the Taliban taking over the provinces. They've taken over -- this makes what the Islamic State did in Iraq in 2013-2014 look like child's play.

HOLMES: Yes. You've been following their movement for 10 years, which brings me to this, the speed and breadth of the advance, breathtaking. But you tweeted something, which speaks to why it shouldn't have been a shock. And I want to quote part of it now for people.

You said, "U.S. military intelligence leaders are directly responsible for the biggest intelligence failure since Tet" -- meaning Vietnam -- "in 1968.

"How did the Taliban plan, organize, position and execute this massive offensive under the noses of U.S. military, CIA?" et cetera.

And it is indeed on the face of a catastrophic failure of U.S. intel to misjudge Taliban capability and intent.

What does a failure on that level along with the naivete of even thinking the Taliban would share power, what does a failure like that mean?

ROGGIO: The U.S. particularly and NATO in general has to ask some very hard questions now.

How did this happen?

If what happens in Afghanistan stayed in Afghanistan, you could trump this one off and say, well, we had a bad showing and we will walk away and better luck next time.

If the United States could be fooled by a third rate militia like the Taliban, what happens if the U.S. actually has to come into conflict with China or Russia or some other adversary, that is actually sophisticated?

If you just watched what the Taliban was doing, as I have been doing for the last decade, plus, you would know that this was coming. Even if you don't have direct intelligence on it, you should've been able to predict that this was going to happen.

HOLMES: That is a great point about what it portends if there was a different conflict with a bigger foe.

I want to ask you this before we finish. We've seen the Taliban in its negotiations with the West, basically will lie about a lot of things but in particular its relationship with Al Qaeda.


HOLMES: Instead of cutting off ties, they are in many places fighting shoulder to shoulder.

Do you see the Taliban giving Al Qaeda -- and perhaps ISIS -- freedom to operate, at the very least?

What leverage does the West have to stop that happening?

ROGGIO: The leverage -- the West has zero leverage to end the Taliban- Al Qaeda relationship. Right now the Taliban and the Islamic State, they're enemies.

There's some reporting out there including within the U.N. that the Taliban keeps the Islamic State on a leash so it can carry out attacks and give -- more heinous attacks and give it plausible deniability. But I think that once the Afghan government issues a settlement with the Taliban, the Taliban will turn on the Islamic State.

The West has no, the U.S. has no leverage whatsoever to stop the Taliban-Al Qaeda relationship which is as strong as it ever was. A recent United Nations report limit sanctions and monitoring team said that Sirajuddin Haqqani, who's one of few deputy emirs of the Taliban and the man behind this military operation, they named him as a leader within Al Qaeda.

What does that make the Taliban?

He is the most powerful Taliban leader, more so than the Taliban's emir.

If he's a member of Al Qaeda, what is the Taliban, what does that relationship -- how is the Taliban going to continue to support Al Qaeda?

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

HOLMES: I wish we had more time; we don't. A fantastic analysis.

Follow Bill on Twitter and "Long War Journal" if you want to keep an eye on what's going on in Afghanistan. Bill Roggio, great to have you on, thank you.

ROGGIO: Thank you, sir, it's a pleasure.


HOLMES: More restrictions making a comeback in China as the nation fights its worst COVID outbreak since last year. Still ahead, face masks become a must at many places again. (MUSIC PLAYING)



HOLMES: Israel is battling back against a surge in COVID numbers by expanding the age group getting booster shots. They began giving a third dose to people in their 50s on Friday, as well as offering it to some medical workers, prisoners and prison staff.

This comes just two weeks after the decision to give extra doses to ages and 60 and up. That made Israel the first country in the world to begin offering booster shots.

China's economy is starting to take a hit from the COVID outbreak as the Delta variant now affects more than half its provinces. Investment bank Goldman Sachs is slashing its third quarter growth projection for China, by more than half.

As David Culver now reports from Beijing, some tough restrictions not seen since last year are now back in place.



DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest Delta linked outbreak of COVID-19, bringing life for millions right here in China to a halt and threatening China's economic growth.

Not only are there strict commercial travel restrictions in place but also, right now, a portion of the world's third busiest port is shut down. That's because just one freight worker -- just one -- at that port tested positive.

Now that shows the drastic measures underway to stop this recent spread. And local leaders are feeling the heat, too. State media reporting in this most recent outbreak, some 70 local officials, who hold leadership positions in the cities that have seen a significant jump in cases, have been punished; some of them fired.

And in one of the cities, seen as a hotspot for this virus, a teacher was punished. That's because he posted online a suggestion that the city in which he lives should experiment coexisting with COVID-19 rather than implement China's strict zero case approach.

That did not go over well. It got him detained for 15 days and he apologized for his comments.

Given that for the past year or so, life right here in China had gotten back to near normal, the national health commission had to change the guidelines on Friday to reimpose facemask requirements in more places. They're now required for indoor spaces like malls and supermarkets and some outdoor spots, like crowded parks. All this as China published for the first time the number of people fully vaccinated. It's more than 777 million people and that is about 55 percent of the population, according to health officials.

Now in places like Beijing, 93 percent of the residents 18 and older are said to be fully vaccinated. Despite these vaccinations, though, this Delta variant has targeted lockdowns and strict contact tracing back in place, as officials try to reduce the daily case count, aiming for zero once again -- David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


HOLMES: Canada has one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in the world but for the past two weeks, new cases in the country have doubled and hospitalizations are on the rise. Officials taking steps now to keep the virus from spreading even further. Paula Newton with that.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: In what could prove up to be a controversial move, Canada will be one of the first countries to ban passengers from traveling by air, rail or, in some cases, on the water, if they are not fully vaccinated.

In an announcement today, Canada said it wants to incentivize those Canadians that are still on the sidelines and that it wants to make sure that it builds on the current momentum.

Canada has already a very high vaccination rate; more than 71 percent of those eligible in Canada are now fully vaccinated. And yet, the Canadian government says it is necessary to take this move. And they are taking it not just for travelers.

But they will also mandate in the fall that all federal employees will have to be fully vaccinated. Take a listen.


OMAR ALGHABRA, CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: Canadians don't want to go back to lockdowns. Canadians don't want to go back to travel restrictions. Canadians want to go on with their lives and go back to normal as quickly as possible.

And, you know, it's not uncommon for government to play a regulatory role when it comes to protecting the overall health and safety of Canadians.


NEWTON: In terms of mandating federal workers to be vaccinated, it's an interesting move. But again, when it comes to education and health care, it's actually the Canadian provinces that will determine whether or not those employees need to be fully vaccinated.

And several provinces have said that they will not be mandating those vaccines. Canada is in the middle of a fourth wave at the moment. Cases have doubled in the last two weeks, although hospitalizations have only creeped up just a little bit.

Still the Canadian governments clearly still concerned about a fourth wave in the country and willing to try its mitigation strategy through more vaccinations -- Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


HOLMES: Venezuela's government and opposition leaders say they are trying to end the country's long political crisis. They signed an agreement on Friday to hold good faith talks. Other countries like Norway, Russia and the Netherlands will also be at the table.

Venezuela has been locked in a political stalemate since the presidential election in 2018. Socialist Nicolas Maduro declared victory but opponents say that the vote was rigged. The U.S. and other countries recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president since 2019.

Russia has joined the list of countries experiencing extreme wildfires this year. We'll have details on the ferocious fires burning across Siberia, coming up.


HOLMES: Also Greece saw catastrophic devastation from the wildfires. We will speak to one resident who says his entire livelihood is now ashes.




HOLMES: Huge areas of Siberia under a state of emergency as intense wildfires burn across the vast Russian province. In fact, more acreage is burning there than in most of the world's other major fires combined.

And there are a lot of them at the moment. Thick smoke blanketing towns, cities, even reaching the North Pole. CNN's Kim Brunhuber shows us the impact the Siberian wildfires are having.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Charred whiskers, burned skin, a victim of the wildfires tearing through parts of Siberia. As the fires ripped through this village in the Yakutia region, people fled their homes in a rush, leaving their pets behind.

With no time to spare, these rescuers are on a mission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We did not have time for emotions, we just running around trying to pick them up as fast as possible. They had been sitting there for a day already, calling for help. They were hurt and in pain.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Fueled by extreme heat and record drought, wildfires are burning across northeastern Siberia. A forestry expert with Greenpeace Russia says the fires are larger than those fires burning in Greece, Turkey, Italy, the U.S. and Canada combined.

Images captured by NASA shows smoke from the wildfires have reached the North Pole more than 3,000 kilometers away, a first in recorded history, releasing more than 450 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

The wildfires forced the evacuations of at least two villages. And people living in cities cannot escape it, either, as smoke engulfs skylines. The deputy head of the Russian federal forestry agency first described the situation as controllable and manageable.

But now the air quality is so poor, the leader of Yakutia is urging residents to stay home from work for health reasons.

Firefighters are doing their best but strong winds and smoke are hindering attempts to put out the flames and lack of resources is making their job even tougher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are short on aviation, we are short on local fire units, we're short on people. We lack constant monitoring. It all costs a huge amount of money. For some reason, the region just doesn't have enough money for this.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The fires in Siberia happen every year. But climate experts are worried about the scale of these wildfires. They fear that the intense heat could thaw Siberia's permafrost, sending even more carbon into the atmosphere.

Civilians are joining the effort to put out the fires; armed with shovels, some have jumped in to save what they can -- Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


HOLMES: After wildfires ripped through forests in Greece for more than a week, some residents are now returning home to scenes of utter devastation. Eleni Giokos spoke to one man on the island of Evia, who said that his livelihood and the industry he represents are in ruins.


VANGELIS GEORGANTZIS, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF RESIN GROWERS OF EVIA (through translator): This is the only resin bog (ph) that survived.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the last tree standing.


GIOKOS (voice-over): Vangelis Georgantzis has lost 9,000 resin producing trees in the wildfires in Evia. GEORGANTZIS (through translator): We are finished. There is nothing


GIOKOS (voice-over): A raw material for wine and paint solvents, locally known as retsina, resin is a mainstay for the island. He says it's over for him. He will never produce resin in his lifetime again.

GIOKOS: How many people worked in the resin industry in Evia?

And how many people lost their jobs?

GEORGANTZIS (through translator): In Evia, around 1,200 to 1,500 families who work in the industry. The situation is now critical in northern Evia (ph) because of the burnt forest land. Eight hundred families will be out of a job. On top of that there were two resin factories in the area.

The forest is our income stream and it's known as resin producers. It's a value chain.

GIOKOS: How important is the resin industry to Greece's production?

GEORGANTZIS (through translator): Evia produces 85 percent of Greece's resin. Right now, 70 percent of production has been wiped. Out as a, result Greece's resin production will be halved.

GIOKOS (voice-over): These trees take between 20 and 40 years to mature. Bark is stripped off and these bags collect the resin. Now this industry has been obliterated. The wildfires destroyed more than 50,000 hectares of land in northern Evia.

GIOKOS: Do you think that the forest will ever return to what it was before the fire?

GEORGANTZIS (through translator): If the government allows us, the locals, who grew up here to work and take care of the forest the way we know how, then, in 20 years, we will deliver a healthy forest. Otherwise, it could take 200 years to heal. If we are not the ones to revive it, it may never be what it was again.

GIOKOS (voice-over): A stark warning from him and the people who know the forest well -- Eleni Giokos, CNN, Evia, Greece.


HOLMES: Still to come here on the program, our coverage out of Afghanistan, continuing as the Taliban seizes half of the nation's provincial capitals.

What does this mean for the future of the capital, Kabul?

Plus, there are growing concerns over how the group's massive territorial gains will affect Afghanistan's neighbors. We have the details on that, after the break.




HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

Our top story, of course, the Taliban now controlling half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals, following a rapid advance, that has left many stunned. All 17, captured in just the last week. That includes Afghanistan's second largest city of Kandahar.

The vast majority of the territorial gains, coming since the beginning of America's troop withdrawal in May. U.S. officials, maintaining the full drawdown will be completed by the end of the month.

Now hundreds of thousands of Afghans, fleeing their homes during the Taliban's relentless push for control, many, trying to seek safety in Kabul. But as Nick Paton Walsh reports, the Afghan capital may, soon, no longer, be a refuge.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): A Taliban victory lap through the streets of Kandahar, with horns blaring. Men and boys, piling onto a crowded vehicle, amid the fall of yet another domino in Afghanistan, the country's second largest city, now belonging to the Taliban.

It is the biggest advance, so far for the militants, retaking their spiritual stronghold. After a week of shockingly swift military gains, that has left them in control of several major cities and roughly two- thirds of the country. But it's what comes next that is of increasing concern.

ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we couldn't predict was the lack of resistance that they were going to get from Afghan forces on the ground. And as you heard the president speak just a couple of days ago, what is really needed is for political and military leadership in Afghanistan. No outcome here has to be inevitable.

WALSH (voice-over): One U.S. intelligence assessment, saying the country's capital, Kabul, could be isolated by the Taliban in the next 30 to 60 days. The U.S. sending 3,000 additional troops, helping get its people out of the embassy and to safety.

Many of the countries, like U.K. and Germany, also drawing down their embassy staff. The U.K. defense minister, warning that a failed Afghan state could have serious global consequences and unleash a new wave of terror in the world.

BEN WALLACE, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: Al Qaeda will probably come back and certainly would like that type of breeding ground. That is what we see. Failed states around the world lead to instability and lead to a security threat to us and our interests.

WALSH (voice-over): The U.N., also sounding the alarm, saying that Afghanistan could become a humanitarian catastrophe. Over 10,000 displaced people have recently streamed into Kabul, believing it to be one of the few places safe from the Taliban's reach.

Tent cities are popping up in parks. Many families with horror stories of how they got there.

"Taliban militants forcibly evicted me at gunpoint," one woman said.

"They killed my sons and forcibly married my daughters-in-law. We had to leave."

But the militants have full momentum and there may soon be no place left to run -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Now the intensifying crisis in Afghanistan is not contained just within its borders. It is a tough neighborhood, so let's take a closer look at who is in that neighborhood.

You have got Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, all countries with close links to Russia and, therefore, its interests. Last year, in fact, the U.S. released a report saying that Moscow was working with the Taliban to gain influence in Afghanistan and expedite America's troop withdrawal.

And then, you have Iran over here, already hosting hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban's violent push for control. And there are concerns there of spillover issues and sectarian tensions as well.

Then Pakistan has long been accused of providing shelter and support for the insurgent group and also competes with longtime foe, India, for influence in Afghanistan. That is, often an uncomfortable dynamic.

And then, finally, you have China, which has growing economic interest in the region. It wants a relationship with the Taliban government but, at the same time, China is wary about the possible export of cross-border terror, in support of China's Muslim Uyghurs.

As we said, it is a complicated neighborhood, with many competing interests in play. Now let's get more on all of this, with CNN's Sam Kiley, joining me now from Suffolk, in England.

Good to see you, Sam, tell us more about the neighborhood, the risk of regional instability with the Taliban takeover.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the first thing to remember, very importantly, when it comes to looking at the Taliban, is that they have no record, at all, of themselves, conducting international terror attacks.

[02:40:00] KILEY: They do have a sort of branch inside of Pakistan but that is involved in internal Pakistani attacks and affairs.

So the first thing to recall is that the Taliban have, historically, no record themselves of being a source of instability. Of course, they were the ultimate source, perhaps, by hosting Al Qaeda during the 9/11 attacks, which led to the U.S.-led invasion of that country.

We have now seen the strategic failure of the, predominately, Western world in Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Taliban. This would be causing great unease within Pakistan in particular, because whilst elements within Pakistan, particularly the security forces, in the form of the intelligence services, have a long history of backing or even running elements of the Taliban, inside of Afghanistan, they, are also, quite anxious about the effects that it would have, internally, of a large, massive, Taliban nation, right on their doorstep, in terms of the effects it could have on their own domestic politics.

And then more widely, Pakistan, very paranoid, indeed, about Indian influence inside of Afghanistan. They would see a Taliban victory there, over Kabul, for example as being actually a step forward. That is the Pakistani perspective.

Of course the exact opposite will be seen from India. As you point out in your introduction there, also, Iran, very anxious. They were quite enjoying, if you like, the Iranians, watching the West lose men and women and bleeding large amounts of their national treasure into the center of Afghanistan. They liked to see their rivals and enemies, weakened.

But they also don't want to see a chaotic nation on their doorstep. Arguably, from the perspective of some of those regional players, a complete takeover of the Taliban would be a lot easier to deal with, with what is much more likely to be in prospect, which is an ongoing civil war, perhaps with a siege of Kabul in the Panjshir Valley, dominated by the Tajiks in Afghanistan. Michael?

HOLMES: Great analysis. A really good picture painted for us there. Sam Kiley, thank you so much, I appreciate it.

And thank you for spending part of our day with me. I am Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA," starting after a short break. I will see you in about 15 minutes.