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Americans Pause to Remember the Victims of 9/11; Uncertain Future in Afghanistan as Taliban Assume Control; WHO Forecasts 25 Percent Fewer Vaccine Doses for COVAX. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired September 11, 2021 - 00:00   ET




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

Many Americans remember exactly where they were, on 9/11. In the coming hours, those memories and emotions, will come flooding back, as the U.S. marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Where the Twin Towers once stood, now, two beams of white light. This anniversary, coming at the moment the U.S. has left Afghanistan, ending the 20-year war that was triggered, that day.


HOLMES: Now 2,977 people, from more than 90 countries, died on 9/11. The president and first lady, will pay their respects at all three sites, affected on Saturday. Earlier, Mr. Biden spoke of the deep significance of the tragedy.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unity is what makes us who we are, America, at its best. To me, that is the central lesson of September 11th. It is that, at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength.


HOLMES: The 9/11 attacks, may have happened on U.S. soil but the shock waves, quickly, reverberated around the world. Britain's leader, offering this hopeful message, ahead of Saturday's somber observances.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: While the threat persists today, we can, now say, with the perspective of 20 years, that they failed to shake our belief in freedom and democracy. They failed to drive our nations apart or to cause us to abandon our values or to live in permanent fear. The fact that we are coming together, today, in sorrow but also, in

faith and resolve, demonstrates the failure of terrorism and the strength of the bonds between us.


HOLMES: This is the first 9/11 anniversary, with no U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Taliban, of course, once again, control the country, just as they did 20 years ago. Our Nic Robertson was in Kabul when the terror attacks kicked off America's longest war. He looks back at the conflict's legacy and the threat that still remains.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Behind the Taliban's newly painted, huge flag, America's Kabul embassy inside of the grounds, buried under a plug, debris, from New York's twin Trade Center towers.

Ten years, ago America's then ambassador, Ryan Crocker, who had overseen the memorial on his first tour, told me it was there so future diplomats would remember what triggered U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

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

ROBERTSON: We just had an impact, perhaps a few miles away.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): I was in Kabul during the 9/11 attacks. Each major anniversary, I analyze the intervening years. This was 10 years ago.

ROBERTSON: 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 that the Taliban would negotiate in good faith. RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Our permanent guarantee


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Crocker wanted the talks but doubted the Taliban would negotiate in good faith.

CROCKER: Their goal is, rather simply, to re-Talibanize 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 (voice-over): 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 inventory of the Afghan army the U.S. helped build.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Proudly, showing off warehouses, loaded with weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Look, these boxes are full, all new, unused.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): More, much more than the Taliban ever had before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The new Taliban government, as uncompromising as the one that America ousted after the 9/11 attacks, their newly appointed, powerful interior minister, Sarajuddin 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.

ROBERTSON: 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 in Tora Bora. Today, it is ISIS that is a bigger threat here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The roads are in better condition 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.

ROBERTSON: But here is the hard reality. Because of years of evolving and, often, intertwined agendas and alliances with Al Qaeda and similar groups at a grassroots, fighter level, if the Taliban tries to crack down on their former brothers in arms, they could face pushback, even division, in their own ranks.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Right after the 9/11 attacks, we asked Kabul residents, what would happen if U.S. forces came?

"The result of Russian aggression was the breaking 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; 20 years later, the Taliban's writing outside the embassy wall, in effect, claims exactly that. The conditions, a possible pariah government, a potential failing economy, point to trouble ahead and fragile guarantees, at best, that it will not reach America shores again -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


HOLMES: So now, of course, militants carry guns while patrolling the streets, as more, hard-earned rights of Afghan women seem to be vanishing by the day. On Friday, the Taliban controlled finance ministry ordered its female

employees, not to return to work until, a quote, "suitable work environment" is arranged. And a Taliban spokesman, incredibly, told Tola (ph) news that the role of women is restricted to giving birth.

But also, Friday, a Qatar Airways flight landed in Doha, after taking off from Kabul airport with 158 passengers on board. It is the second such charter flight, carrying foreign nationals, from Afghanistan, since the U.S.-led the evacuation ended last month.

Do join us as we honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. "9/11: 20 Years Later" airing this Saturday. Our coverage, starting at 8 am Eastern, which is 1 pm in London.

Lebanon, finally, has a new government, ending a yearlong power vacuum in the crisis ridden country. The prime minister Najib Mikati is a billionaire, who has served in that role before twice. He gave an emotional speech on Friday, saying that he would try to stop the country's collapse.

Lebanon's extreme economic crisis has sparked severe fuel and medical shortages and many other things as well. He is a third politician, charged with forming a new cabinet since a massive explosion destroyed Beirut's port last August.

The prime minister and cabinet, resigning shortly after that blast. Lebanon is being run by a caretaker government, ever since.

Plans to administer COVID vaccine boosters in wealthier countries, could fuel a potential shortage in poorer nations. CNN's David McKenzie, explaining, how that could affect the African continent.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: WHO officials, again criticizing a lack of vaccine equity, globally, in terms of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest bad news, is that they say there will be a 25 percent shortfall, at least, of COVAX vaccines, available for the African continent. Now COVAX is the vaccine alliance that is critical for getting vaccines to poorer nations.


MCKENZIE: There are many reasons for that. One, they say, is that richer nations are hanging on to their vaccines. Another is, of course, India, one of the largest producers of vaccines, stopped submitting their doses to COVAX.

That has had a big impact on vaccine distribution. The WHO is calling on nations not to give booster shots until, at least, vulnerable populations around the world are given their vaccine.

Only around 3 percent of Africans have received the COVID-19 vaccine. The continent has suffered, in many parts, through a very devastating third wave, of COVID. Really, pushed by that Delta variant that has wreaked havoc. Particularly, in southern Africa. That wave, now, easing off somewhat but it's having a pretty long tail, say scientists.

There is, still, this call for some level of vaccine equity; otherwise, they say, more dangerous variants will emerge -- David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


HOLMES: France's former health minister, is formally being investigated over her handling of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors say Agnes Buzyn put the lives of others at risk. She stepped down, as health minister, in February 2020, to run in the Paris mayoral election.

Despite the recent success of the country's vaccine rollout, more than 115,000 people in France have died from the virus.

Vietnam and Taiwan, bracing themselves; twin cyclones are forecast to make landfall this weekend. And one of them is a supertyphoon, one of the strongest storms of the year.


HOLMES: Thank you for spending part of your day with me, I am Michael Holmes, we "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next and I'll see you later.