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At Least 100 People Allowed to Leave Afghanistan; World Bank Freezes Afghanistan Assets; President Biden Unveil His New Plan to Curb Pandemic; Top Health Expert Feel Frustrated; Taliban Remain Consistent with Their Policies; Canada's Federal Election Less Than Two Weeks Away; Super Typhoon Chantu Headed to Taiwan. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada, and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead on CNN Newsroom. The Taliban allowing foreigners to fly out of Afghanistan but there's growing evidence they are restricting the rights of Afghans.

Joe Biden's new plan to compel Americans into getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and how some Republicans are pushing back.

Plus, we are tracking a super typhoon headed for Taiwan.

It's just past 11.30 a.m. in Afghanistan where more flights carrying four nationals are expected to leave Kabul in the coming days. More than 100 people were flown out of the country Thursday on a Qatar Airways charter. They included American, Canadian, British, and German citizens. The U.S. State Department says that some Americans chose to stay.


NED PRICE, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: We have said that we have been in regular contact with American citizens and others to whom we have a special responsibility in Afghanistan both before the end of the U.S. government led evacuation effort and after.

And so, as part of that, we invited more than 30 American citizens and LPRs to be on this flight. Now not all of them ultimately chose to depart Afghanistan today.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): An aviation source tells CNN Afghanistan's two main commercial airlines plan to restart flights soon. But Qatar's foreign minister says reopening the airport will be a gradual process.

CNN's Nic Robertson and his team traveled overland into the Afghan capital and filed this report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It was interesting today that Qatari officials praised the Taliban for allowing that Qatari Airline flight where there is 113 people on board to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport.

It does seem that the Qatari's want to sort of encourage the Taliban to do more of this, keep good on their commitment to the United States who met no more than 30 U.S. nationals got out on that flight today. There were Canadians, there were Germans, Ukrainians, 13 Brits got out on the flight as well. Indications are there may be more of these in the coming days.

Interesting for us as well, coming into Afghanistan today, not flying because we couldn't get a flight in, of course, because this was the first flight, the Qatari flight since U.S. forces left, this was the first flight leaving today. Our driver across the country really instructive about what's happening under Taliban control.

Erie and strange I've got to say to see many of those former U.S. military bases around the country, many that I've visited over the years who had been embedded with troops now flying the Taliban banner on the battlements of those forts. That was weird, but also, you know, a strange sense of deja vu looking back to the Taliban years in the 90s. Because on the streets of the towns and villages very few women.

The one thing that has changed significantly the roads. Beautiful tarmac roads. And that was, is, thanks to U.S. forces and their engagement here.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): The Taliban's new restrictions on protests appear to be keeping people off the streets of Kabul for now. But we are getting a look at what happens to those who disobey. Two Afghan journalists were hospitalized on Wednesday after they were detained and beaten with batons and electrical cables. One says he was told he was lucky he wasn't beheaded.


TAQI DARYABI, JOURNALIST (through translator): For about 10 minutes about seven or eight people were beating us as much as they could. They would race sticks and beat us with all of their strength. After they beat us, they saw that we had passed out. They took us to lock up in a cell with a few others.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): CNN's Anna Coren was in Afghanistan just last month. And she remains in touch with a number of sources there. Anna, you know, one hopeful sign they are allowing this flight possibly more on the other hand. I mean, more brutal crackdowns. What's the latest? ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim. You've got the Taliban

saying, you know, taking this first step to re-connecting with the world where we're cooperating with the United States to get your citizens out of the country. And yet, they are brutally, you know, crushing any form of dissent.

We've seen, you know, people take to the streets, predominantly women, day after day defying the Taliban. Yesterday we were expecting huge protests. This was to honor Massoud Day, which is a very important day in the national calendar. But it was a reason to get out there and protest. Protest against this Taliban caretaker government that is not inclusive, that has no women, that has no ethnic minorities.


They talk about representing all Afghans, and yet what you have is this new Taliban that really is just the same as what it was back in the 1990s. So, what we then saw was the Taliban out in force. You know, numbers really scaring people off. In the city of Herat there was a convoy of Humvees driving around the city. You know, these are scare tactics, and clearly, they worked.

The other thing that was going on yesterday, Kim, in the city of Kabul was that the internet was down. There were mass power outages as well. Obviously, the idea being that they stop any of these images, these incredibly powerful images from getting out to the international community. But certainly, from the women that we've been speaking to, Kim, they say they will not be silenced. They will continue to protest. That it is their right, their duty even if they have to die.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thank you so much, Anna Coren. I appreciate it.

The United Nations is appealing for money for Afghanistan to prevent what it warrants could be a total collapse of the nation's economy, much of the Afghan Central Bank's $10 billion in assets currently frozen overseas so the Taliban can't touch it. But the U.N. special envoy on Afghanistan told the Security Council Thursday this will lead to a severe economic downturn and could drive millions more Afghans into poverty.

China also pushing for the release of those frozen assets. But the Afghan ambassador call on the council to withhold any recognition of a government that's not based on the freewill of the people.


GENG SHUANG, CHINA'S DEPUTY U.N. AMBASSADOR (through translator): The international community should help Afghanistan tap into its advantages and natural endowment, geographical location, human resources, carry a regional cooperation, and internet connectivity activities, promote economic and social development, and improve the well-being of its people.

One of the major reasons for these current economic difficulties in Afghanistan is the freezing of the Afghan overseas assets. These assets belong to Afghanistan and should be used for Afghanistan. Not as leverage for threats nor restraints.

GHULAM M. ISACZAI, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. And we are learning more about the true and unchanged nature of the Taliban every day. Despite the Taliban's total blockade of the Panjshir valley we have high eyewitness accounts of Taliban's widespread atrocities perpetrated with support of foreign terrorist fighters and foreign intelligence and military assets.

They have performed targeted executions, cut off communication lines, and imposed a humanitarian blockade which is preventing food supplies from entering the province. The members of this council have rightfully said that you would not judge the Taliban on their words but on their actions. They have now acted and the council cannot be silent in its response.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): Hameed Hakimi is a research associate at Chatham House, and he joins us now from London. Thank you so much for being here with us.

I want to just start, you know, you have family still in Kabul, I understand, and how have they've been coping since the Taliban took over?

HAMEED HAKIMI, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, CHATHAM HOUSE: Good morning. I have relatives but I have wider contacts who speak to people who are not just relatives but people who I know through years of work and on Afghanistan. The picture is mixed in terms of the kind of violence that we get reported on.

But it is a picture where there is a huge amount of anxiety, people are very confused and shocked still with the way the Taliban were able to take over the country so quickly, but also about the future of themselves and not their country because it is an environment where poverty is a very visible.

Where, unfortunately, for many people, for a lot of people who have jobs even before the Taliban took over in an environment which was, you know, you're talking about nearly 50 percent unemployment rate. And even that very few people who were lucky to have jobs are now jobless in predominant numbers.

So, there is this incredible amount of pressure, mental, psychological, physical, and I think incredibly, you know, stressful economic situation for millions and millions of Afghans.

I think, very briefly, I think this morning what we heard from some reports and findings by the U.N. that if the situation doesn't change and it continues in the direction that it does at the moment, that you could potentially have nearly 100 percent of the population falling under the poverty line in Afghanistan. And that would be very catastrophic. You're talking about a population of over 35 million people.


BRUNHUBER: Yes. And for all the economic anxiety much of the anxiety I imagine must be due to their tactics since taking over. I mean, you know, for all of the talk about the Taliban 2.0 and the need to gain that international recognition and acceptance, it hasn't really taken long for those and their actions to fly in the face of all of that, whether it's, as we just heard the crackdown on women's rights, on journalists or if you are looking at the makeup of the caretaker government so far.

HAKIMI: I mean, to be frank with you, you know, I've been studying and working as a researcher for over a decade now on Afghanistan. Sometimes this kind of distinctions and labels are things that we prefer to use vis-a-vis, you know, movements and groups like the Taliban. They have a completely different ecosystem.

As far as they're concerned, for instance, they were very open recently this week, I believe, with regard to this question of diversity. The Taliban don't see diversity in the same way that we would like to see diversity. They don't have the same understanding or application of inclusivity the way that we would like to see those things.

So, I think as far as the Taliban are concerned, they do what they have always done. They have been consistent. But I feel that their biggest challenge will be the changed Afghanistan not the changed the Taliban.

And obviously, how does an insurgent group, a successful insurgent group that has arguably defeated all the state corridors on the ground and is victorious, you know, or so they see themselves, how can they transform themselves from that insurgent entity to a government entity?

I think that will be one of their biggest challenges. But as far as these particular types of acts of violence and aggression against journalists and these things are concerned, I feel unfortunately that that will continue because the Taliban will do these things if they feel threatened.

Their cohesion and their unity and their own internal structures are way more important for the Taliban than any kind of external considerations that they would have to do if it threatens them internally.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Following up on that internal threat. I mean, you talked about the poverty that Afghans themselves face. But what about the Taliban government itself? I mean, we talked about all those funds, the international funds that they're not getting.

Is there a danger there for the Taliban themselves that if they don't get enough international aid, if they're not able to raise taxes because people aren't earning any money, that a lot of their support might desert them, that the fighters themselves might desert them because they're not getting paid? HAKIMI: This is a very good question and I think it's a complicated

one. I'll try to answer it. And I think the way I look at it is this. This has been a cohesive insurgency even if it has had its internal fragmentations because they have a much bigger enemy to fight. So that enemy that they wanted to fight in their minds, the United States led international coalition and the Afghan government which has now collapsed. All of that has dissipated.

And so as far as the Taliban are concerned and their fighters, I think they will be able to ride on this rally and this call of victory for a while. But I believe that within a couple of months, you know, there might be considerations as to how do you pay those Taliban loyal, you know, foot soldiers and those Taliban, so- called volunteers who, you know, arguably have their own families and their own survival at stake?

So, I think the economic situation will become dire not just for Afghans but also for the Taliban fighters. But I'd also argue that the continued sanctions and isolation of the Taliban is not going to hurt their leadership because they are very much, and you know, capable of surviving that. They've done that for over a decade, or arguably two decades.

So, I think the economic situation will be one to watch. And it's going to unleash a lot of difficulties but I believe that the sanctions will not hurt the Taliban leadership.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. We'll have to leave it there. Hameed Hakimi, thank you so much for your expertise. We really appreciate it.

HAKIMI: Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: Well, with COVID again overwhelming many U.S. hospital strict new mandates could force millions of Americans to finally get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. And some Republican lawmakers are furious about it. That story straight ahead.

Plus, Canadian party leaders have been squaring off and trading jabs in the last debate before voters go to the polls. We'll explain why the prime minister is under fire for holding the snap election. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER (on camera): Tens of millions of American workers who haven't been vaccinated may soon have to choose between getting the shots or losing their jobs. President Biden on Thursday unveiled tough new measures to get more people vaccinated. And he's directed the U.S. Labor Department of push large private companies to do more as well.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has the details.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden's frustration was clear as he unveiled these new measures to try to encourage tens of millions of Americans to get vaccinated. Saying that he believes those 80 million Americans who still have not done so have, quote, "failed to get the coronavirus vaccine."

The president making an appeal to those talking about the safety and the efficacy of these vaccines but also talking about areas where they may not have a choice but to get the vaccine. One of those is a new vaccine mandate for all federal workers.

Previously, they had the option to test out of that requirement, they could take a test instead of being vaccinated but now that has been eliminated. And all federal employees or contractors who do work with the federal government will have to be vaccinated within the next 75 days of the president signing this executive order.

His second step he took involves the private sector where the Labor Department is going to issue a rule according to officials in the coming weeks. It says any company that is 100 or more employees must require that those employees be vaccinated or take a test once a week.

Of course, that is something that is likely to face legal challenges as you will see a lot of pushback on that but it is a model that the president and his aides are hoping to set for other companies to encourage their employees to get vaccinated when they return to the office.

One other step the president is taking that is also significant is for health care workers. And anyone who works in a health care setting that receives reimbursement for Medicare or Medicaid will also have to ensure that those employees are vaccinated. But the president explaining this is why.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We've been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So please do the right thing.


COLLINS: The president is also taking a series of smaller steps when it comes to the pandemic including doubling fines for TSA for people who do not wear a mask or try to not wear a mask in the airport or on an airplane. The president adding of those remarkable videos you've seen of people pushing back on that mandate that they need to, quote, "show some respect."

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

BRUNHUBER: America's top infectious disease expert says he shares the president's frustration that so many Americans have declined to be vaccinated because it keeps prolong the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke earlier to CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: He is clearly frustrated and understandably so. We've done everything we possibly can do to get people to get vaccinated.


We have trusted messengers, we made it easy, it's simple, it's safe, it's free. The data overwhelmingly show that in those areas that are under vaccinated you are having a high level of dynamics of virus, in those areas that are vaccinated it's much lower.

The data are overwhelming to show why it is so important if we want to get this outbreak under control in this country. We do have the tools to end this. I mean, I've been in situations, in public health situations where you didn't have the tools to end something that was devastating people with regards to illness and death.

That is very frustrating. It's frustrating in a different way. When you have the tools and you have the wherewithal to get to the endgame of where you want to be but you don't implement them.

So, yes, I am, I believe, equally frustrated. I don't want to see people get sick. I don't want to see them hospitalized. And I certainly I don't want to see them die. But that's what is happening when you don't vaccinate to the fuller extent possible.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): Some Republican lawmakers immediately blasted the administration's new mandates. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted, forcing main street to vaccinate or pay a fine will not only crush an economy he's put on life support, it is flat out un- American.

Canada's federal election is just 10 days away. The country's five main party leaders went head to head Thursday night in a national debate. The vote will decide whether Justin Trudeau remains prime minister.

And as CNN's Paula Newton reports he was on the defensive.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No shortage of issues for Canada's election campaign. But at issue is whether or not Justin Trudeau should have called this election at all. And that is something that keeps coming up again and again.

Now Justin Trudeau called the election for September 20th. He has a minority government, perhaps feeling that he could in fact get a majority government given the polls at the time he called an election.

Many Canadians are wondering why it's necessary. And Justin Trudeau may now be saying the same thing to himself given the fact that polls are now very close. He took what might have been a cakewalk and it's now a tight rope for him as the polls are too close to call.

There has been now an English language leader's debate, many issues on the table but the one that so many of his opponents keep coming back to is the issue of why he called the election in the first place. I want you to listen now to the conservative party contender take on Justin Trudeau.


ERIN O'TOOLE, LEADER, CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA: What did Mr. Trudeau do? You called an election, sir. You put your own political interest ahead of the well-being of thousands of people. Leadership is about putting others first, not yourself. Mr. Trudeau, you should not have called this election, you should have gotten the job done in Afghanistan.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: As of the very beginning of August, well before this election, we were getting flights out of Afghanistan. We got 3,700 people out of Afghanistan, and over the past weeks we've been working with the Qataris, for example, on exactly that good news that we've seen of more people, more Canadians getting out of Afghanistan.


NEWTON (on camera): Now this campaign has had many issues at the forefront, obviously COVID but also the spending and government, of course climate. And it has taken on own nasty tone. Protesters have dogged Justin Trudeau. They have been anti-vaccine mandate, anti-mask, anti-public measures in many cases, and in one incident they threw gravel at the prime minister. He was not hurt although police continue to investigate that incident.

But it certainly shows that Canadians have not been happy about this campaign. They are wondering why they are having it at all. And right now, given what is going on in the polls, it is in fact a race that continues to tighten day by day.

Canadians will begin voting in advance polls, and certainly the mail- in ballots this time in Canada will definitely feature as part of the vote given the fact that Canada continues to be in the middle of a fourth wave.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.

BRUNHUBER: China is pledging to donate an additional 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping made the announcement during the BRIC summit Thursday. He says China will strive to provide a total of two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the world by the end of this year. Xi says China has already supplied more than one billion vaccine doses to more than 100 countries and organizations.

Well dangerous typhoon is brushing against the Philippines and it could soon cause a lot of problems in Taiwan. Super typhoon Chantu is the equivalent of a category four hurricane. Meanwhile, tropical storm Conson is headed toward Vietnam.

CNN meteorologist Derek van Dam joins us now live. Derek, what's the latest on these two storms?

[03:25:04] DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, super typhoon Chantu is an absolute beast, Kim. And in fact, it's in rare company right now because of what it's done within the past couple of days. It was a mere tropical depression on September then 6th, and then within 48 hours it intensified into a super typhoon only five named storms in recorded history have rapidly intensified that quickly.

According to the -- to NOAA. I mean, this is just absolutely incredible to see a wind speed increase in two days, from 50 kilometers per hour to 260 kilometers per hour. What is happening there? Warm ocean waters allowing for the fuel needed to strengthen a typhoon to that status.

Super typhoon Chantu 240-kilometer sustained winds right now. And we have been advertising and looking forward to that more northerly jog just keeping the center of the storm where we find the strongest of the winds offshore from north eastern Luzon in the northern Philippines. And that's what we see on our satellite imagery just within the past couple of hours.

You can see the official track from the joint typhoon, weather center calls for a strengthening typhoon so even stronger than where it is now. Once it enters the Philippine sea and into southern Taiwan this weekend it will still be a formidable typhoon making major impacts across that area with heavy rains and strong winds.

At the moment, though, PAGASA, the local meteorological agency in the Philippines hoisting a signal three across northeastern Luzon. By the way, this storm known locally in the Philippines as Kiko, it is going to bring winds over 120 kilometers per hour according to PAGASA.

And we'll also be influenced by the southwest monsoon helping create additional rainfall totals across this area that could lead to flash flooding, mudslides, and the common problems associated with a storm like this.

Heavy rain ahead of the typhoon already creating rescue situations across the Manila suburbs, just to the south, so you can see that photo just a moment ago, and of course, we're monitoring tropical storm Conson. This is an interesting storm as it heads towards central Vietnam it will be more of a rain threat for that particular region going forward. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thank you so much.

Well the U.S. is getting ready to mark 20 years since the September 11th terror attacks.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, America's longest war is over but with the Taliban back in power, threats remain.

Plus, the leaders of the world's two largest economies talk for the first time in months and they had plenty to discuss. We'll have a live report from Beijing when we return. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): Welcome back to all of you watching us here in United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching "CNN Newsroom".

Tomorrow the United States marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks which launched the U.S. into war in Afghanistan. CNN's diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson and his team were in Kabul when the attacks took place. Now with the Taliban back in control, he looks at the consequences of America's longest war and the threat that still remains.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Behind the Taliban's newly painted huge flag, America's Kabul embassy. Inside the grounds buried under a pluck, debris for New York's Twin Trade Center Towers. Ten years ago Americas then ambassador, Ryan Crocker, who'd overseen the memorial on his first tour told me it was there so future diplomats would remember what triggered U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

UNKNOWN: Nic, what do you have for us at this point?

ROBERTSON: We had an impact perhaps, two miles away.

I was in Kabul during the 9/11 attacks, each major anniversary I analyzed the intervening years. This was 10 years ago. There are no signs yet of serious contact between the Afghan government and the Taliban and it could be that the Taliban will wait out the foreign presence here.

Crocker wanted the talks but doubted the Taliban's would negotiate in good faith.

RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ, SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: Their goal is rather simply too reTalibanized Afghanistan to retake the country. And if they do then al-Qaeda is going to be back in here. The only reason al-Qaeda isn't here now is because we are.

ROBERTSON: Fast forward to today, 20 years of foreign policy fears realized. American troops and diplomats gone. The Taliban ousting the U.S.-backed government capturing much of the infantry of the Afghan army the U.S. helped build, proudly showing off warehouses loaded with weapons.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Look these boxes are full. All new, unused.

ROBERTSON: More, much more than the Taliban ever had before. The new Taliban government as uncompromising as the one America ousted after the 9/11 attacks. Their newly appointed powerful Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani has a $10 million FBI bounty on his head for ties to terrorism and al-Qaeda. In 2020 they promised not to fight for power but to negotiate in good

faith. Promised al-Qaeda won't use Afghanistan again to attack the U.S. Now there is another potentially more dangerous enemy rooted in Afghanistan, ISIS.

We drove this road to Kabul just a few days before al-Qaeda's attack on September the 11th. Al-Qaeda was in the mountains over there (inaudible), today its ISIS that's a bigger threat here.

The roads are in better conditions now, thanks in good part to American tax dollars, the towns brighter, better developed, more prosperous, all a positive part of the legacy of America's longest war.

Here's the hard reality sources around here say, it would be mere impossible for the Taliban to take control of al-Qaeda or ISIS or any other groups because their agendas are so intermingled, they share fighters, share causes at times and if the Taliban do go that way, it would risk splitting their base.

Right after the 9/11 attacks we ask Kabul residents what would happen if U.S. forces came. The result of Russian aggression was the braking of Russia into 16 countries, this old man says, remembering the 1980 Soviet occupation. If America attacks us, Allah will divide America into 52 pieces. Back then it seemed inconceivable America could fail.

Twenty years later, the Taliban's writing outside the embassy wall in effect claims just that. The conditions now a pariah government, a failing economy point to trouble ahead. A no guarantees it won't reach America's shores again.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


BRUNHUBER: The Watson Institute at Brown University has calculated the human cost of the war on terror. U.S. Budget cost of the post 9/11 wars are $5.8 trillion, plus another $2.2 trillion in future cost to care for veterans.

The estimate is up to 929,000 people died in these wars including U.S. military and allied troops, civilians, opposition fighters, journalists and humanitarian workers. They estimate at least, 38 million people have been displaced by these wars.


And despite the significant human and financial cost, the NATO secretary general tells CNN that the organization is still committed to fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. Listen to part of his interview with our Becky Anderson.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL OF NATO: NATO's main responsibility is to protect and defend their allies a collective defense against any attack from any direction. So we went into Afghanistan to fight terrorism. We made significant achievements, the greater the al-Qaeda and prevented attacks from being organized from Afghanistan. And Afghanistan hoping a safe haven for international terrorist.

Now it is an issue or the task is not to preserve that gain and we will do that partly by putting pressure on the new government in Afghanistan, but also by work with partners and allies around the world. It is always of course a challenge when you reduce the military presence, but this was a gradual involvement over years.

We had more than 100,000 troops not so many years ago, now we're down to 10,000 and now down to zero. But we will continue to be committed to the fight against terrorism and we're proving to other countries that we are able to fight terrorism without thousands of troops on the ground.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): If you do not conceive what your critics suggest is a defeat, are you genuinely telling me today that you consider NATO's operations in Afghanistan a success?

STOLTENBERG: What I'm saying is that we achieved some important things in the fight against international terrorism, but we also have to also very difficult questions and to have a lesson learned process, addressing the things that didn't work and the setbacks we have seen, not least the fact that Taliban is back in Kabul again controlling their country.

So, this is also about looking at ourselves and being honest about the difficulties and challenges, but then at the same time recognizing the significant achievements in the fight against terrorism. And then now looking forward all can be preserve those gains even without military troops on the ground.


BRUNHUBER: And a programming note, joins CNN as we honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. "9/11, 20 Years Later" airs this Saturday. Our coverage starts at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. 1:00 in the afternoon in London, right here on CNN.

Now to the latest on the crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region in conflicting statements from both sides of the fight. Ethiopia's say they have defeated rebel forces from Tigray in the nearby Afar region, but Tigrayan troops told Reuters, they haven't been beaten, they just move to neighboring Amhara for an offensive there. Now neither claim has been verified.

Meanwhile, local officials say that 120 civilians were killed by Tigrayan forces in Amhara village over the course of two days. The troops say that is a fabricated allegation and deny any involvement. The Ethiopian government has condemned the massacre.


BILLENE SEYOUM, SPOKESPERSON, OFFICE OF ETHIOPIA PRIME MINISTER: The federal government strongly denounces in the strongest terms these targeted killings while the numbers so far that I have is that an estimated 200 innocent civilians have been targeted. A committee has been establish to investigate exactly how many individuals had been killed on the ground and so these figures may change.


BRUNHUBER: A CNN investigation has uncovered evidence of atrocities committed against people living in Tigray. Now bodies are turning up down river in Sudan and we have to warn you what you're about to see and hear is disturbing.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Could this be a new chapter in the ethnic cleansing of Ethiopia? More than 60 bodies washed up on these river banks. Now a new CNN investigation uncovers evidence of torture, mass detention and execution.

We just got a call that three bodies were found down at the river front, evidence of a methodical campaign, one which bears all the hallmarks of genocide in Ethiopia's Tigray region. They pulled the body out and the stench was immediate.

We expose the latest dark secret inside (inaudible) Ethiopia.


BRUNHUBER: And we will have Nima Elbagir's full report coming up in our next hour, that's 9:00 am in London, 4:00 in the afternoon in Hong Kong.


U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Thursday evening. It was only their second phone call in seven months, according to the White House, the two leaders discussed a broad range of issues on which the U.S. and China disagree. As well as areas where they might cooperate. CNN's Steven Jiang is following this for us in Beijing. So Steven, plenty of reasons why the two leaders might cross swords in that call. What do they have to say?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): But actually according to a senior U.S. official, the tone was respectful, familiar and candid. And neither was trying to lecture the other and actually both kept referring back to their previous personal encounters and recalling old stories and old conversations.

So this is really in sharp contrast to what we have seen from what some of those as recent high-level official meetings between the two sides. Some of the meetings had got so contentious with that kind of debate and even trading a war of words really escalating out into the open. So that is one of the major complaints from the U.S. That is Chinese officials have been playing for the press or even propagandizing those previous talks. That is also why they say this latest phone call was so important,

because it allowed both leaders to have this private moment to talk about things when this relationship overall has become so tense. But obviously one phone call is now going to magically resolve any of these contentious issues but it's going to really set the tone for the next phase of this relationship.

But also probably more importantly setting the tone for the upcoming rounds of working level meetings. And that is another point of concern from the U.S. That is they have been getting frustrated in terms of the lack of substance and the progress from their working level communications with their Chinese counterparts.

And they say, Mr. Biden understands this very well. That is why, that is one of the reasons he got on to this phone call because given Mr. Xi's increasingly concentrated power, one word, one order from him could instantly change how Chinese diplomats engage with their U.S. counterparts.

As you know, Kim, in these working level meetings, a lot of the issues are being discussed in detail and sometimes get resolved. That is why it is critically important at least from the Washington's perspective to keep these open lines of communication and maintaining this substantive and candid dialogue. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, interesting. Thanks for the analysis Steven Jiang in Beijing. I appreciate it.

Alright, coming up on "CNN Newsroom" the pandemic is growing more dire for hospitals in Kentucky where COVID patients are getting younger, sicker and harder to treat. That is just ahead. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: The second largest schoolboard in the U.S. is now mandating COVID vaccines for students 12 and over. The Los Angeles Unified Schoolboard decided on Thursday that the requirement was appropriate based on the surge caused by the Delta variant. The board is requiring eligible students to have had their first doses and second doses respectively, no later than a few days before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Kentucky is suffering one of the most devastating COVID surges in the U.S. Hospitals are overflowing. Two-thirds of them have staff shortages. The National Guard is deployed around the state to help.

CNN's Miguel Marquez goes inside one of Kentucky's largest hospitals pushed to the brink.


BILLY COUCH, COVID-19 PATIENT: It's more than cold. Believe that.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Billy Couch didn't think much about COVID until he got it.

COUCH: Don't mess around, because this ain't a joke. This is not fun and games. I've been here so long, I want to go home. But I can't go home because I can't breathe still. This is not a game at all. When you sit here and you can't breathe, you feel like you're going to die.

MARQUEZ: In the hospital, 19 days now the unvaccinated 42-year-old isn't sure how he picked up the virus. He toughed it out at home for eight days before being admitted.

How serious is COVID?

COUCH: It's bad to the bone. I recommend everybody wash their hands and do what they got to do. Stay home, stay social distance because it's bad. Trust me, it's bad.

MARQUEZ: Until you had it, did you think it was bad?


MARQUEZ: What did you think it was?

COUCH: I didn't pay no attention to be honest. But I do now. Get your shots.

MARQUEZ: Wanda Combs manages the nursing staff in the COVID ICU in the Appalachian Regional Healthcare's largest facility in Hazard, Kentucky. A nurse for 30 years and the job never tougher.

WANDA COMBS, NURSE MANAGER, ICU AND CVU, APPALACHIAN REGIONAL HEALTHCARE: It's been very, very hard. And I get emotional because it is our community. ICU nurses who work very hard. They work very hard every day. But you can usually see a different, so you work hard and you see a difference and that's OK, you don't care that you're tired, you've made a difference. So with this, they still work just as hard, harder and it really hurts when you don't see a difference.

MARQUEZ: Just when they thought they were through the worst of the pandemic it has come roaring back. Patients younger, sicker, harder to treat.

COMBS: The family, you know, it's hard for them to realize, oh, you mean this is the end? Do you really mean this is the end? It's our community. It's people that we know. We know people they are related to. So, that's what's really hard on the nurses, the emotional part too.

MARQUEZ: In the COVID ICU here in Hazard, every bed taken by those suffering from severe cases of COVID-19. Every patient intubated except for one.

What is this virus doing to places like Hazard, Kentucky?

CAROLYN EDDINGTON, REGISTERED NURSE IN COVID-19 UNIT: It's destroying us. I mean everybody is getting it. Everybody is getting sick, everybody -- I don't know, we are just seeing a lot right now. MARQUEZ: Appalachian Regional Healthcare has 13 facilities across

eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Its entire system now overwhelmed by COVID.




MARQUEZ: Across 13 facilities?

BRAMAN: Across 13 facilities, we have zero ICU beds available. We have 35 patients waiting in our ERs for beds.

MARQUEZ: Today, Appalachian Regional Healthcare has three, three regular beds available across its entire system. They have cleared space and made room for 200 beds that sit empty, unable to be staff them.

BRAMAN: We have applied for FEMA Disaster Medical Teams in multiple of our hospitals. Our understanding is right now that Louisiana is in dire need and so most of their teams are there. So we are on the list and once they have availability, we hope that we will be able to get support.

MARQUEZ: The hospital system needs 170 nurses today to open up extra beds. Nurses now working longer hours and doubling up on patients just to keep up.

RIKKI COMETT, DIRECTOR OF RESPIRATORY THERAPY, APPALACHIAN REGIONAL HEALTHCARE: One respiratory therapist should comfortably have for ventilator patients. You know, because we work with a nurse as well but right now I have about seven to eight ventilators per respiratory therapist.

MARQUEZ: Here in Hazard, patients are coming in younger and sicker the nurses have ever seen.

JASON HIGGS, REGISTERED NURSE IN COVID-19 UNIT: We are seeing much younger patients than we did before. We are seeing -- I have patients from 20 years old today up to 75 years old, so it attacks everyone. It's not just limited to one in each group.

UNKNOWN: This year it doesn't matter. I've had several patients under 20 years old.

MARQUEZ: Under 20?

UNKNOWN: Exactly.

MARQUEZ: How sick?

UNKNOWN: Very sick actually for their age.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marque, CNN, Hazard, Kentucky.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up on "CNN Newsroom," Cuba is giving COVID vaccines to children as young as two-years-old. We'll tell you what Havana has to say about the move.


Plus, schools in Australia are eyeing a return to in-person learning. We will explain the effort to soon get students back in the classroom. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: In Cuba, state media reports that toddlers are now receiving vaccinations for COVID-19. Last month the government declared that its homegrown vaccine were safe for children as young as two. CNN's Patrick Oppmann, has more from Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Cuban government announced that it has begun to vaccinate children as young as two- years-old. Initially Cuban officials has said that they were going to focus giving their homegrown vaccines to Cuban healthcare workers at risk populations like the elderly and in places that are particularly hard hit by the coronavirus.

The Delta variant's arrival in Cuba has seen a surge in childhood infections like in other places and that has led Cuba to cancel in- person classes that are due to begin on Monday saying that the risk to children and teachers is just too great. So for the time being, Cuban children will have to watch classes on TV, because of the limited internet on this island. Now very few Cubans have internet in their homes. So children will once again have to watch their classes take place on state-run TV.

And Cuban officials acknowledges that this is a problem. The children here are falling behind. So they have begun to give them the vaccines, their homegrown vaccines which they say are safe and effective but have not supplied that data to international observers.

All the same though the Cuban government says that they will press ahead with this plan to vaccinate more and more children. Hopefully they will have vaccinated over 90 percent of the population including children which will allow them to reopen international borders here for the first time in months in mid-November.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


BRUNHUBER: Expanding vaccination to children is also part of Australia's strategy. The country will soon offer vaccines to younger teens, there is hope that that will help get students back in the classrooms.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has more.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's exam season in Sydney, Australia. Quarters like these should be buzzing with nervous energy as school (inaudible) begin a rite of passage, a (inaudible) of test to determine whether they make their University course of choice. Instead the schoolyard is as hushed as an exam hall. Trinity Grammar, lockdown since June, just like all other schools in Australia's biggest city.

TIM BOWDEN, TRINITY GRAMMAR SCHOOL HEADMASTER: I think we're all pretty jaded by the experience. I think that the experience for the boys are being stuck in the house for this length of time is weighing on them and I know for the teachers, it weighing on us too.

LU STOUT: It was the first citywide lockdown in over a year until then a successful elimination strategy had kept all aspects of life including school relatively normal. Now each day brings well over 1,000 new infections and the whole state of New South Wales is shut. Every school is quite as this one.

BOWDEN: We have all been caught by surprise. And I think we're settling down into an understanding that this will be with us for some time to come. I'm very keen that are students take the vaccination as when they have the opportunity to do so.

LU STOUT: That opportunity is finally presenting itself. After a slow start, Australia's vaccine rollout is picking up phase, soon expanding to ages 12 to 15. Meaning that even as the virus quickly spread the state government can begin to plan.


GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, NEW SOUTH WALES PREMIER: One of the theory that I want to pursue, whether its further education, getting into the workforce, getting their credentials, it's really important most in anybody's life and we want to make sure we provide that certainty.

LU STOUT: Next month, some classes will be back in session. Students will get to sit there test pushed back to November. But with cases remaining high, officials hope to stop the spread through vaccination. The state just made the mandatory for teachers and campus staff.

ANGELA ROFAIL, YEAR 12 STUDENT, PLC SYDNEY: I am fully vaccinated. And I do have the privilege of living in a household that is comfortable and safe and I know that situation really can't speak for other year 12 students who might be having a really, really rough time right now given the circumstances.

LU STOUT: As recently as August, very flu eligible teens were vaccinated. Doses had been re-distributed to target young people in working class neighborhoods of Sydney where COVID transmission has been at its worse. Over 15,000 took that chance over one week in August. And now, vaccine uptake among the 16 to 19 age group has been increasing across the city. And students like Sam Hohne, in his final year at Trinity, keen to do whatever it takes to reclaim important moments.

SAM HOHNE, YEAR 12 STUDENT, TRINITY GRAMMAR SCHOOL: When we have vaccinations which (inaudible), it's pretty constructive solution to the issue. It like a bit of no-brainer to me to want to go for that.

LU STOUT: At least one no-brainer for a student sitting exam during a global pandemic. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: And that wraps this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm Kim Brunhuber and I'll be back in just a moment with more news. Please do stay with us.