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Americans Pause to Remember the Victims of 9/11; Global Impact of the 9/11 Attacks Still Being Felt; Israel to Publish Data on Booster Shots; Supertyphoon Chanthu Aims for Taiwan; All Teen Women's Final at U.S. Open. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome, I'm Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta, thanks for joining me.

Ahead on CNN, the events of 9/11 changed the world. Now the war that was supposed to make America safe is over, with the Taliban back in charge. And terror groups thriving in the region and beyond.

Our correspondents from around the world examine the lasting legacy of the attacks and how they shaped the next two decades.

Also, we are watching this. Taiwan's bracing for impact from a supertyphoon, the storm packing a real punch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: In just a few hours' time, official observances get underway in New York and elsewhere to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; 2,977 people died that day, representing more than 90 countries.

The president and the first lady will pay their respects at all 3 sites on Saturday. Earlier, Mr. Biden spoke about the deeper 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.


CURNOW: In London, British prime minister Boris Johnson offered this hopeful message ahead of the somber occasion. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.


CURNOW: It is worth noting that even as the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan is now ended, justice has so far eluded the families of the 9/11 victims; five of the accused plotters, including the alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are still awaiting trial at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

And 20 years after 9/11, Afghanistan is once again firmly under Taliban rule. Militants carry guns while patrolling the streets of Kabul, as the hard-earned rights of Afghan women seem to be vanishing by the day. A Taliban spokesman told TOLOnews that this week the role of women should be restricted to giving birth.

Meanwhile, a Qatar Airlines flight landed in Doha on Friday with scores of foreign nationals on board. It's the second such flight since the U.S.-led evacuation ended last month.

We begin with Arwa Damon, who joins us from Istanbul, with more on this somber occasion and the reflection that is taking place right now.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn, just when we look at Afghanistan and the way that the Taliban is back in power today, it's hard to actually listen, to a certain degree, to the rhetoric of how Al Qaeda and terrorist organizations have in fact failed.

Because since 9/11 there has not just been the existence of Al Qaeda but we've also seen the emergence of ISIS and various other terrorist organizations that have been able to grow and strengthen over the course of the last 20 years.

This is not necessarily a fight about freedom and democracy, although that is what the West will try to spin it as. But in doing so, you know, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the irony of the rhetoric coming out from some of these Western leaders.

And just looking at where Afghanistan is today, less free, less democratic than it was after the U.S. initial invasion of it, justified invasion of it, many will say, 20 years ago. And then the U.S. pivoted toward Iraq. And what that did, Robyn, was change the narrative.


DAMON: It went from this justified war, this reaction to the horror of 9/11, to try to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban to, with a pivot to Iraq, what was perceived by many Muslims, across the spectrum, as being a war on Islam.

And that ended up being the main galvanizing point, the cornerstone for Al Qaeda to be able to grow, thrive, for ISIS to be able to emerge, for these other terrorist organizations to be able to recruit because they were able to put forward the argument, one they are still able to utilize today, to say, look, the West is against Islam. The West is against us.

We are still, globally speaking, very much feeling the repercussions of 9/11. And in many ways, when you look at the world today, there have been no winners. No one has actually been defeated at this stage. We are still trying to navigate our way through all of this, Robyn.

CURNOW: We certainly are. And meanwhile, we are hearing from leaders that they have failed. And there is still so much to be done.

DAMON: There really is. And analysts will say this over and over again, you know, terrorism experts, when you are talking about fighting terrorism, it's about fighting an ideology.

It's about fighting all of the factors that allowed these networks to grow and recruit, from government corruption to disenfranchised populations. This is not something that will ever be accomplished on the back of a tank or with a bomb or a bullet.

The reason why or one of the many, main reasons why these terrorist organizations have been able to grow, thrive and expand over the last 20 years, is that, with each civilian casualty, you create more anger.

The more that anger is created and allowed to fester, the easier it is for these terrorist organizations to recruit.

And so, we are really at a stage, right now, Robyn, where we need to take a look and really learn from the lessons of the past. And what is quite concerning is that, when you listen to the rhetoric from Western leaders, it doesn't necessarily seem as if they have grasped the major lessons of the last 20 years.

CURNOW: Arwa Damon, thanks very much, live in Istanbul.

I want to bring in journalist Vladimir Banic live in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Good to speak you and hear you on the phone. This is obviously a somber anniversary here in the United States but also has resonance where you are.

What are people saying?

VLADIMIR BANIC, JOURNALIST: (INAUDIBLE) American shield (ph). When I was interviewing yesterday, the Taliban, maybe (INAUDIBLE) he said that they don't think the attack was organized by Al Qaeda. They believe that it was all organized by (INAUDIBLE) from Syria (ph) or something similar.

And (INAUDIBLE) sorry for almost 2,000 people who had been killed. He said to me that, when I asked him about the attack and why they had Al Qaeda for so long, he said (INAUDIBLE) the day when Americans left Afghanistan, (INAUDIBLE) allies and (INAUDIBLE) Afghanistan was (INAUDIBLE).

So completely a different feeling than the American perspective (ph). But they are not any kind of celebration of 9/11 here as well. People are kind of starting to get this tradition, with the Taliban (INAUDIBLE) don't have time to think about 9/11 (INAUDIBLE).

But regarding the daish, the Islamic State, that this is trying to spread all across Afghanistan (INAUDIBLE).

CURNOW: Thank you very much for that, live in Afghanistan, Vladimir Banic, appreciate it.

You are watching CNN. We are also monitoring two cyclones making their way toward East Asia, we will get the latest from the CNN Weather Center on this monster storm in just a moment. Stick with us, you're watching CNN.





CURNOW: We could soon see peer reviewed data on how well Israel's COVID vaccine boosters are working. The country has given booster shots to more than 2.8 million people.

Israeli officials saying that information in "The New England Journal of Medicine" is expected to show that the extra shots dramatically lower the chance of developing severe illness. U.S. officials say the data will help American vaccine advisers who meet next Friday to recommend consideration of boosters here.

More than 5 million people in the United States could be eligible to receive boosters when the White House booster plan kicks off in the coming days. So pending approval from health authorities, this rollout is on track to include the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, while the Moderna may take a few weeks longer.

But the World Health Organization is criticizing these plans, saying they could fuel a potential shortage of doses for poorer nations. Our correspondent, David McKenzie, explains how that could impact Africa.


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.

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.


CURNOW: Vietnam and Taiwan are bracing themselves for the impact of twin cyclones, forecast to make landfall this week.



CURNOW: And some sporting news. Novak Djokovic is just one win away from a record breaking 21st men's grand slam title. The Serbian beat Alexander Zverev of Germany in five sets on Friday, to reach the finals.

Should Djokovic beat the other finalist, Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sunday, he would accomplish the calendar Grand Slam, winning the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same year.

No man has done that since Rod Laver back in 1969.

And two teenage sensations are set to square off in the women's final later on today; 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada takes on 18- year-old Emma Raducanu, born in Canada but raised and plays for Great Britain.



CURNOW: Coming up, 20 years of war and an ever-changing fight against terror. We will look at how the 9/11 attacks have shaped the world.




CURNOW: A look here at the New York City skyline, forever changed by the 9/11 terror attacks 20 years ago today. The attacks left nearly 3,000 people dead in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. We will have coverage all day as the nation commemorates the anniversary.

Meanwhile, terror attacks and America's response have left a complex legacy still unfolding today. To help us pull it all into perspective are Richard Quest, Nima Elbagir and Nick Paton Walsh, who traveled to a special exhibit at London's Imperial War Museum to share their insights.



NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sense that the world stood still.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST (voice-over): To see it now, to think of what they did, it's -- you can't put it into words.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): I don't think we knew then, it was going to shape the next two decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): A plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

QUEST (voice-over): You cannot overstate the very idea of hitting capitalism right at its heart: Wall Street, the World Trade Center, destroying those Twin Towers that were such symbols of what we stood for.

ELBAGIR: I remember what we did, I remember watching it for hours and hours, with a group of friends. And it was an Arab American friend who said it first.

"I hope this isn't us. I hope this isn't a Muslim or an Arab."


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Fugitive Saudi accused terrorist Osama bin Laden's group is at the top at their list of their suspects.



QUEST (voice-over): The view was, never again. Intelligence was vital. A completely new architecture of security would have to be introduced. That architecture would include no-fly lists.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are your security questions answered? Please answer yes or no.

QUEST (voice-over): It would include knowing who was flying, not just searching them, background checks.


ELBAGIR: It was a moment where Muslims and Arabs around the world and in America were immediately altered. I felt this, that every day, every interaction with someone was a test.

And if you are a good Muslim, then you understand why you need to be harassed, why you need to be discriminated against by law enforcement, why you are the one who is going to be pulled out of the queue.


ELBAGIR: Islamophobia absolutely is a legacy of 9/11, that we are owed being able to question people, based on their religion or their ethnicity, because of this horror that was inflicted upon us.


BUSH: The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.


WALSH: To go to war against terrorism was the big Bush decision.


BUSH: Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda. But it does not end there.


WALSH: They immediately invaded Afghanistan but then embarked on an open-ended, nation-building campaign, which was ultimately totally and utterly flawed. And then of course, randomly afterwards, they seemed quite obsessed with Iraq.

They seemed to feel that authoritarian societies are something extremely simple, that they can suddenly walk in and give everybody a vote and they would all be happy.

ELBAGIR: This idea of American exceptionalism and American moral superiority was taken for granted. What 9/11 did and the wars and the drone strikes without any

accountability, the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open, it eroded, more effectively, this idea of America's moral standing, better than bin Laden or any of the Islamist extremist groups could have ever done, in their recruitment.

WALSH: If bin Laden was alive, he would probably think he had won because, when he started out, jihadist extremism was a comparably smaller thing. The war against terrorism has just led to yet more terrorism: Philippine franchises of ISIS, they are spreading in Africa.

It is very difficult to rewrite history but I do wonder whether or not a smaller response by the United States to this would have been greater in the long-term benefit.



CURNOW: And nothing tells a story of what happened on 9/11 better than hearing from those who live through it and feel its impact to this day. From the World Trade Center survivor who dug his way out of the rubble of the World Trade Center, to a young woman who lost her father then received parts of his remains for years after that, to the Muslim American woman who worried that America would be, for her, yet like an unborn child.

More than a dozen people shared their stories on an special interactive section of our website on

I'm Robyn Curnow, I will see you in 30 minutes' time. "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is next.