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U.S. Faces Prospect of Engaging with a Taliban Government in Afghanistan; Biden to Return to White House to Deliver Remarks on Afghanistan; CNN on the Streets of Kabul after Taliban Take Over; U.S. Remains Air Operations at Kabul Airport; Fears of Migrant Crisis Grow as Afghans Flee Taliban; Powerful Images Tell the Story of Afghanistan's Despair. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 16, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello everyone, I am Kate Bolduan. We begin with the breaking news on the collapse of Afghanistan, the Taliban now in
control of the country. This morning we are seeing truly chaotic images coming out from cobbles airport, clear signs of just the desperation among
Now even some of them as you see there in these images, clinging on to a U.S. Military plane, as it taxied. Evacuation flights just resumed a few
minutes ago, actually, after the U.S. today was forced to temporarily halt air operations as they work to secure the airport.
And CNN has just learned that U.S. forces killed two armed men at that airport after they fired on American troops. The U.S. believes it was an
isolated incident. The situation in Afghanistan spiraling so quickly that President Biden deployed has deployed an additional 1000 troops to help
evacuate Americans and others.
The total number now is about 6000 troops. And we just got word that President Biden will speak this afternoon, the White House this morning,
though out this morning defending its exit strategy from America's longest war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We went to Afghanistan for one reason, which is to get the people who attacked us on 911. A decade ago, we
got Osama bin Laden, we degraded Al Qaeda, and we stopped terrorist attacks against the United States from Afghanistan for 20 years.
But what the President was not prepared to do was enter a third decade of conflict flowing in thousands more troops, which was his only other choice
to fight in the middle of a civil war, that the Afghan army wouldn't fight for itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That is the President's national security adviser just this morning. And CNN has also learned the President Biden's plans today are
changing. We have every angle covered. Let's begin with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He's live on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan. Nick, you actually
tried to make your way to Kabul airport today. What did you see?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I got to the first entry point, the main entrance to that airport, which was under Taliban
control, certainly the streets outside of it. And bizarrely, that one patch remaining in Afghanistan after 20 years is under American control.
Well, they were Taliban, in fact, trying to stop those crowds from getting towards the airport. Crowd Control essentially often done with the Humvees
and security vehicle. They're taken off the Afghan forces, that they have clearly an enlightening move into the Capitol kicked out of here.
Just to let you know, so you mentioned the flights resuming I heard a plane and we saw flares from what was most likely a protective helicopter. And
then about a minute worth of what could have been traced around possibly may suggest anti-aircraft gunfire or something else, but clearly
activities, but gun again that certainly.
And the road to the airport, as we saw today was an extraordinary sight, possibly not as crazily crowded as it has been in previous hours, but
densely packed. People often walking in that direction, carrying what they simply could, because for many here who have affiliations with the Afghan
government or the U.S. presence here that -think is they're taken out civilian supplied stopped a while back.
But the site we saw there was startling. People trying to climb over enormous concrete walls, pushing towards gates being pushed back by the
Taliban, as I said rushing or mass towards a particular checkpoint.
And then inside the airport, remarkable scenes and this essentially symbol of the American modernization here into which in and out their contracts
and diplomats flew in enormous numbers of flights every day.
Now people clambering over walkway stairwells simply tries to get on to a cargo plane however they possibly could to get out.
So shocking scenes that I think tell you one thing, there are so many more people here who want American help to get out of here, the more likely get
it that incident in which a couple of individuals appear to have been shot.
We simply don't know what happened there, whether they were part of the crowd rushing towards here. There were of course, we saw ourselves some
armed Taliban trying to keep the crowd back as well. But the chaos here is what is so startling.
And it frankly makes it incredibly difficult for those even who have confirmed seats on an American flight to get anywhere near the airfield
itself, remarkable chaos at the end of this 20 year vow.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Nick is going to stick around for us. Nick, stick by with me if you can just for a second. CNN has also just learned that
President Biden will be heading back to the White House soon today to address this the fall of Afghanistan. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live with
White House with these breaking details. Kaitlan, what are you learning?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, this is going to be the first time that we have heard from President Biden publicly
on Afghanistan since last week. And of course, he did issue a statement over the weekend talking of the additional troops he was authorizing to
secure that airport given the chaos that we are seeing unfolding.
And now that the government has collapsed, President Biden is returning from Camp David to the White House this afternoon. He's scheduled to speak
around 3:45 from the East Room.
COLLINS: And of course, Kate, a big question is going to be what does the President say? Because one big thing that his top aides, including his
secretary of state yesterday, and his national security advisors today have been pressed on is what was behind the confidence statements he made just
about six weeks ago, to reporters in that same room on Afghanistan when he said he did not believe the takeover of the Taliban was inevitable.
And of course, we have seen how swiftly it happened this weekend. And he also pushed back on comparisons that there could be any chance that what is
happening right now in Afghanistan could look like what happened in Saigon in the 1970s. Those are questions that so far President Biden's top aides
have had to answer, including his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULLIVAN: To be fair, the helicopter has been the mode of transport from our embassy to the airport for the last 20 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you know the last reporting, it's not the helicopter, it's not the mechanism.
SULLIVAN: That how we move people back and forth, so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, it's the last minute scramble, you know that it's the last minute scramble when the assurances from the President
himself where this was not what we were going to see.
SULLIVAN: It is certainly the case that the speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated, including the Afghans, including
many of the analysts who looked hard at this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: OK, we should note that one thing we do not expect to hear from President Biden this afternoon is a reversal on his position on this.
Because so far his top aides have made clear he does stand by the idea that he wanted to the U.S. to withdraw, he did not want this conflict to go on
But now the questions are facing him are regarding how this went down and how this transpired. Because while Jake Sullivan and the other aides were
saying this morning that they did have contingency plans in place. Obviously, no one expected it to go down the way that it is where there are
people who are so desperate to leave.
They are cleaning to the wheels of U.S. aircraft that is leaving the airport in Kabul. And of course, you've seen from our reporters on the
ground, just what debacle it is. And the chaos that is happening there now and the questions are not just about getting U.S. staff out.
There are big questions also facing the White House about getting those Afghan nationals who have served alongside U.S. troops for the better part
of two decades safely out of there as well. So they do not become targets for the Taliban.
Those are going to be big questions facing President Biden when he does return here to the White House in a few hours.
BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, stick with me, thank you so much for that reporting, important reporting. The State Department is also scheduled to hold a press
conference in just hours this as now the United States government faces the prospect of needing to engage with a Taliban government now running
Afghanistan. CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department. She has much more on this Kylie, what are you learning?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. OK. One question that we are all looking at right now is what is the Biden Administration
going to do with the Taliban? Are they going to recognize them as the legitimate government of Afghanistan? How are they going to be in contact
with them, frankly?
How are they going to handle this situation? Now, the State Department has previously said that any group that takes Afghanistan by force using the
barrel of a gun will not be recognized by the U.S. or any international government. Now, we are seeing some countries stepping up and saying they
are going to recognize the Taliban, the State Department; the Biden Administration had not yet ruled that out.
And I think that's significant because Secretary of State Tony Blinken was asked yesterday, as all of this was unfolding, as the Taliban was taking
over Afghanistan in and also coming in to Kabul, he was asked if the U.S. would recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
What he said is that any government that the U.S. would recognize would have to uphold U.S. values, right? Human Rights, the rights of women and
also not harbor terrorists, but he didn't say that the U.S. has definitively made a decision on this.
And I think it's important to note that the U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan, who has been the top negotiator with the Taliban, is still in
Doha. We're trying to learn a little bit about what his conversations with the Taliban have looked like in recent days.
Presumably, he's still talking to them. But the other situation is that the unfolding the chaotic, the very scary nature of what is happening in
Afghanistan is really front and center for the administration to try and get out these U.S. diplomats to try and get out these Afghans who worked
alongside U.S. diplomats and soldiers.
So that's what they're focused on now. But there are real questions about what they're going to do, how they're going to interact with the Taliban
BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Kylie, thank you very much for that. I want to bring back in now CNN's as Nick Paton Walsh, he's live in Kabul CNN's Kaitlan
Collins at the White House and CNN Military Analyst, the Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
General, let me start with you on the news that Kaitlan was just breaking for us that the President will be speaking this afternoon. This will be the
first time and there was a lot of talk this morning of where is President Biden, why hasn't he addressed the nation?
What do you think - what would you like to hear or what would you expect to hear from a president at this moment with what we're seeing play out in
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it's exactly what Kaitlan said, Kate, you know, it's going to be a tough
conversation. I'm glad he's speaking sooner rather than later, he's probably going to double down on his decision.
But he's also going to have to address the lack of planning and collaboration with within the government in terms of getting this right.
You know, this, this is what's called - operation. Although the State Department and the DoD have not called it that, I've seen these before.
I've planned them before.
The noncombatant evacuation operation that this is, is one of the tougher missions that the Military executes. It's geared toward getting embassy
staff and ex pats and American citizens and then local nationals out. What you've seen is a planning assumption that's failed.
The U.S. government planned on having more time. They said, the intelligence community said they would have six to 12 months before the
Taliban would be in Kabul. Unfortunately, it came within hours as opposed to months.
So that threw the planning off for this evacuation operation. And it is a - you know, I hate to say it, but it is a --Saigon moment. And the president
is going to have to deal with that and the catastrophe and the chaos that exists there.
And I got to tell you, Kate, I think it probably might get worse, better than then better, primarily, because the majority of people that Nick Paton
Walsh is probably seeing on the tarmac there at the airfield are not those who have the immigrant visas, are not those who have been put in the system
to get out. They are just people flooding the airport wanting to get the hell out of Kabul.
BOLDUAN: Nick, as Kaitlan is reporting, President Biden is going to be addressing the nation. But that's not, just not, it's not just Americans
who will be listening. And of course, it's going to be the international community.
It's going to be anyone in Afghanistan, who can hear what Joe Biden is saying, we'll be listening in as well as the Taliban leaders. Now we'll be
listening to what Joe Biden says do, what's your sense of kind of what people want to hear?
WALSH: I think it has to essentially be an explanation. I mean, everybody knew that there was going to be likely a very fast Taliban move, no one
thought would be this fast once Joe Biden said he would unconditionally withdraw. The U.S. has always said it's leaving as part of all of its new
But I think there will be a desperate need to explain how confident he was with his trillion dollar 300,000 strong Afghan security forces remark about
a week ago. Now, that is essentially the key part of all American failure here.
The belief that Afghan security forces the vast amounts of money they spent, actually made a difference here. And also to there's an
institutional memory that fades out, I had an earlier guest, talking about how mode of transport to the airport had always been the helicopter. That's
That only came into effect when security deteriorated inside the Capitol. So we're going to have to hear a very serious way of explaining the reality
on the ground that we've got here, which is changing lives of people who've fought in Afghanistan, for America and for Afghanistan to an exactly the
speeches and the policy, which he's painted the last week's events on.
BOLDUAN: That was Jake Sullivan, the President's National Security Adviser who said that earlier this morning, Nick. And Kaitlan, I actually want to
play something else that Jake Sullivan said. When he was asked by George Stephanopoulos if simply if the intelligence about the likelihood of the
Taliban taking over was wrong, or if Biden disregarded it, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULLIVAN: The president did not think it was inevitable that the Taliban were going to take control of Afghanistan.
He thought the Afghan national security forces could step up and fight because we spent 20 years tens of billions of dollars training them, giving
them the best equipment, giving them support of U.S. forces for 20 years.
And when push came to shove, they decided not to step up and fight for their country. And so the question facing the president, back in April, and
again as we've gone forward is should U.S. men and women be put into the middle of another country's Civil War when their own army won't fight to
defend them. And his answer to that question was no. And that is why he stands by this decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So Kaitlan, Jake Sullivan did not really answer the question. So what are you hearing about this?
COLLINS: Well, we know that as this debate was going on, because his top national security officials, people at the Pentagon, the highest levels of
the Pentagon knew this was a position that President Biden has had since long before he became president.
When he was vice president, he was the voice advocating getting out of Afghanistan. It has been very clear for a very long time what his position
on this was.
So that is why this big question facing the White House is not an argument on the merits of a withdrawal because that is clearly where President Biden
wanted to go, but it's on the planning of this.
COLLINS: And we do know that in the discussions that were happening earlier this spring that President Biden's top aides, as the White House likes to
say did not give him a sugar coated view of what they expected to happen if the U.S. did ultimately withdraw in the way that President Biden later
authorized, of course, as we now know.
So it's not like he was unaware that there were possibilities of this could - that this could happen. What Jake Sullivan was trying to argue earlier
was that they did not believe it was inevitable that the Taliban would take over, they just thought it was a possibility.
Now that, of course, is an argument that President Biden himself will have to square how he weighed those risks and how he decided this was the option
that he believed was a better one to take.
But I do think it goes back to the planning, because what we are seeing here is not the safe and orderly withdrawal and evacuation that you've seen
the White House talking about in recent days. And the reason that now there are going to be 6000 U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan to help make
this a safe withdrawal is going to be a big question facing this White House.
And repeatedly, what we've heard from officials is in putting this back on the Africans of security forces, saying that they did not expect that they
would essentially lay down their weapons so easily to the Taliban. But that is what has happened.
And it does fly in the face of what President Biden was saying just in recent days, which is that he thought that they had a competent security
force. And so those are going to be the questions of how were they so wrong on the idea that they believe they could hold off the Taliban for a little
And so it's a lot of questions about that. It's a lot of questions about the former Afghan President Ghani and the fact that he was in the White
House not that long ago. And so those are all explanations that I think President Biden is expected to say.
And of course, it's not just going to be those people listening. It's also going to be his foreign counterparts, listening to what his explanation is
for this as well, because this is something that the White House has talked about being done in coordination with allies.
And so we know we're hearing from other world leaders tonight, but a lot of people are going to be waiting to see what it is the President Biden says
BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Kaitlan, thank you, Nick, thank you as always, please stay safe. General, thank you, thank you as well. Coming up for us
Coronavirus cases are surging still, while some school districts in Texas today are going forward with mask requirements despite a ruling from the
state Supreme Court. The latest a live report that's next.
HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: I'm Hala Gorani in London we're continuing our coverage of the fall of Afghanistan a reminder of where things stand at
The American President Joe Biden will address his nation on Afghanistan in about four and a half hours after this stunning takeover of Kabul by the
Taliban. It has been a day of panic and chaos, specifically at Kabuls' airport. This potentially will become one of the defining images of
America's exit from Afghanistan.
People desperate to leave the Capitol Afghans chasing an American Military plane, some of them we've been trying to climb on it as it taxis down the
Astonishing scenes like this at the airport today, the one place in the Capitol not under Taliban control. Another video which CNN can't
independently confirm shows Afghans crowding onto the steps of a jet-way trying to board a plane - may.
GORANI: All this chaos prompted the United States to temporarily suspend operations at the airport to move out Afghans were flooded onto the
runways, primarily really to resume flights for their own citizens and the evacuations that they are approving right now.
Flights we understand resumed last hour, and a witness tells CNN at one point gunfire erupted. The U.S defense official says troops at the airport
killed two Taliban fighters after they fired on American forces.
But a witness says the fighters fired shots into the air to clear an area around a gate, prompting the returned fire that killed them either way, a
complete mayhem and chaos. 6000 American troops are being deployed to the airport alone, which is close to civilian flights to allow for the
evacuation of foreign diplomats.
And this is all happening a day, a day only after the scene, the Taliban taking over Kabul essentially unopposed and just basically occupying the
presidential palace. These pictures from Al Jazeera show Taliban fighters some arm some heavily armed at the palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled
The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has prompted the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency meeting that began about an hour ago. The
Secretary General Antonio Guterres made his demands clear. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: All of us have seen the images in real time, chaos and rest, uncertainty and fear. Much lies in the balance
the progress, the hope, the dreams of a generation of young Afghan women and girls, boys and men.
It is grave however, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right, well, many are blaming the United States, not for pulling out necessarily but for pulling out the way it did as quickly as it
did as hastily and chaotically as it did. The U.S. Ambassador called for the Taliban to respect human rights, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Today I want to reiterate, reemphasize and reassert this call. Civilian populations,
including journalists and non-combatants must be protected. Attacks against civilians or civilian objects must stop.
And the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghan citizens, especially women, girls and members of minority groups must be respected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: So these are words, these are words pronounced that the U.N. Security Council will they resonate on any level with the Taliban. The
Afghan Ambassador says it's time for blame. The time for blame is over. It is time to help his country's people, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GHULAM ISACZAI, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: There is no time for blame game anymore. We have an opportunity to prevent further violence, prevent
Afghanistan descending into a civil war and becoming a pariah state.
Therefore, the Security Council and the UN Secretary General should use every means at its disposal to call for an immediate succession of violence
and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is in Kabul, talking directly to those Taliban fighters as well as ordinary Afghan
citizens. And as Clarissa shows us, the streets of the Capitol look and sound very different than they did just a day ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As soon as we leave our compound, it's clear who is now in charge. Taliban fighters
have flooded the Capitol, smiling and victorious. They took this city of 6 million people in a matter of hours, barely firing a shot.
This is a site I honestly thought I would never see scores of Taliban fighters and just behind us, the U.S. Embassy compound. Some carry American
weapons, they tell us they're here to maintain law and order.
Everything is under control. Everything will be fine, the commander says nobody should worry. What's your message to America right now? America
already spent enough time in Afghanistan.
They need to leave he tells us they already lost lots of lives and lots of money. People come up to them to pose for photographs. They are just
chanting Death to America, but they seem friendly at the same time. It's utterly bizarre.
WARD (voice over): At the presidential palace, the Taliban are now guarding the gate. They say they're here to fill the vacuum left when the government
fled. But the welcoming spirit only extends so far, and my presence soon creates tension.
They've just told me to stand to the side because I'm a woman. Outside ordinary Afghans clamor to talk to us struggling to process the dizzying
speed of Kabuls' fall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, I see nothing right now. We want this. We are tired of this ongoing war.
WARD (on camera): What is the future look like? Do you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I cannot predict even in seconds right now. And I can't predict even minutes right now. So that's why I don't know what
will, what will happen tomorrow and what will happen after.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, he's not the only one who doesn't know what will happen tomorrow. Most people are in the dark. Clarissa Ward reporting there on the
streets of Kabul, so obviously uncertain times. Let's get more from the capital city now.
Bilal Sarwary is an Afghan journalist joining us via Skype from Kabul. Bilal, first just on a personal level as an Afghan, what is it like? What
is it, what does it feel to see the Taliban essentially take the country back?
BILAL SARWARY, AFGHAN JOURNALIST: I started my journalism career exactly when the Americans started bombing the Taliban. So I was in this city, I
witnessed the fall of the Taliban government when it was toppled. Today, Afghanistan is a very different country than the one where the Taliban
lifted, the social transformation, the 3g generation, Afghans having access to Facebook, to Twitter.
And I think we see in the statements of the Taliban leaders and commanders as well as their official spokespersons calling on their fighters not to go
into people's homes, not to, you know, seek revenge attacks retributions.
And they said that there is a general amnesty provided by - who's the Taliban leader, and that is - everyone. But how the Taliban transition from
politics, you know, from military into politics, we will have to see, this is a city that requires running, and this is a city where ATM machines have
got no cash.
This is a city where not all shops are open ordinary butcher shops, vegetable shops, people in this city are still scared, and they still have
fears. Although today I saw some signs of life people coming out.
And what is even more interesting, you know, this is a city that is known usually for its traffic jams and crowds. And it does look like a ghost
town, you know, for most of the city.
So we'll have to see, when will the people come out? When will the businesses resume? And more importantly, when will banks start operating?
Because the private sector, they are foreign traders, they have taken immense risks, you know, investing in this country and the Taliban, also
called on to come out and their investments will be protected.
GORANI: So Bilal, I mean, obviously, the Taliban are saying not, "the right things" in terms of promising that they will allow girls to go to school
that they will not be the Taliban, militant group of the 1990s. But do you believe them?
SARWARY: I think we will have to see what happens on the ground, it is not a matter of me believing it or not. That transition, I think for them would
be a massive challenge, because after all, they are no more the shadow government, they now control the entire country almost.
So they will soon be forming a government we are being told we really don't know, what that government could look like. And then we have to really
remember is the international legitimacy that they will be looking for as well as future funding.
Because to run a country like Afghanistan, you know, which is a dependent is something that Taliban political leaders and Doha wouldn't be aware of
that because they have had exposure for years, dealing with the highest echelons of western governments and officials.
So they are probably more concerned about this issue, then their fighters and military commanders on the ground.
GORANI: Can I ask you just from a personal perspective, because it's important for me to hear from Afghans directly? What is it been like for
your family, for your friends, the last couple of days the world has watched?
And asked to be said the western world has watched in horror because they see the Taliban as a misogynistic, extremist, violent, essentially cultish
group that terrorizes women and girls, particularly but many other members of civil society. How has it been from the perspective of ordinary Afghan
citizens that you know?
SARWARY: Well, let's definitely you know, very worrying for all of us, for Afghanistan because this is a country where our history in politics have
been won with tanks and - and bullets. So let's hope this time, we can prove that wrong and we can have a peaceful transition.
But everything happened Hala very, very quickly. I can't even tell you how confused we were, you know, when we had these mass surrenders of entire
provinces, governor surrendering army bases, you know, surrendering, not even putting up a fight, not even a single bullet being fired.
And then no one really thought that the Taliban would get into Kabul and straight into the Presidential Palace. I remember watching a day before
that. Mr. Ashraf Ghani, who was then the President, sitting on the same chair, there was a book on the right hand side.
And when the Taliban got inside the Presidential Palace, the book was still there. They were sitting on the president's chair, the head of security for
the Presidential Palace, for example, described, you know, events that led to the fleeing of the president, abruptly just leaving what some of his
aides even some of his own cabinet members and ministers did not know.
He had deployed the Special Forces Commander trying to protect Kabul, none of them were basically aware that the president had fled, which is what we
saw, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah appearing on the streets of Kabul telling people of Kabul that they do not need to worry. And he said, history will hold the
former president accountable, and that he will be judged, you know, by God.
GORANI: Bilal Sarwary, we really thanks so much for your perspective. We appreciate having you on from Kabul and we hope to speak again and best of
luck to you. A lot more on our extended coverage of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban some perspective on Afghanistan's history of conflict from a
CNN reporter who was there the last time the U.S. and the Taliban cross paths in Kabul. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, a few hours from now the American President Joe Biden will deliver remarks about the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. There had been
some commentary in the U.S. media today that we had not heard from Biden, since the beginning of all of this.
U.S. military flights have resumed at Kabul airport after crowds were cleared. And you see this might end up being one of the iconic images one
of the iconic moments of America's departure from Afghanistan, all these civilians making desperate attempts to get out of the country trying dome
of them decline aboard military planes or even cling to them as they took off.
GORANI: And earlier we heard gunshots as crowds ran onto the tarmac an American defense officials says U.S. forces killed two armed men at the
airport after they fired on troops. At this moment U.S. troops control the airport, not the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the Taliban are now in control of the Presidential Palace that is quite clear. We've seen this video since yesterday. The ousted President
Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. The Taliban are now close to total control of Afghanistan.
It comes exactly 20 years after U.S. led troops removed the Taliban from power. CNN was there in 2001 when Afghans saw their freedoms restored some
of them. Here's a look back at the reporting then from CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (on camera): This is the third day that the City of Kabul will wake up to its liberation from
the Taliban forces. And people have been going around doing things that in the five years of Taliban rule would have made them criminals.
Things like playing music in public things like women coming out from their homes and venturing out to see whether they can return to their jobs,
whether they can get back into the workforce. This, of course, had been totally banned under the Taliban for the past five years.
And women and indeed children had suffered greatly because of the inability to provide any work any money or any health and nourishment for their
families. Men are coming out and again, lining up to get their beards cut this because under the Taliban beards were made to be grown at a certain
regulation length. So all sorts of things happening in the city that defines it returning to a period of normality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. And Christiane joins me now live from London. You know, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it will be Taliban flags flying over
Afghanistan's cities. I mean, when you look back at the last 20 years, to see us ending up here now, what was there another way?
AMANPOUR: Well look, it's certainly a major tragedy. It's a debacle. It's a shame, it's all those words. It's a massive foreign policy failure. It's an
intelligence failure. It's a 20 year endeavor that has clearly failed in the most spectacular way.
In the situation that we're seeing right now, which is 20 years later, the Taliban, the very organization that the United States went to war against,
as a way of preventing Afghanistan from being a terrorist safe haven have now essentially been handed the country back again.
Was there another way, you know, the United States, President Biden, who will likely tell the American people tonight that there was no other way
that that whatever happened, it was now or never, that the United States needed to allow Afghanistan to stand up on its own two feet, and that
Afghanistan would have to learn to fight for itself?
I don't believe that he will say anything different than that, because that's what he believes in. And the question really is why it was so
precipitous? Why was it not conditions based when I mean conditions base, that they got actual pledges from the Taliban around the negotiating table,
rather than as we saw the Taliban saying one thing at the table and doing another thing on the ground namely hovering up all the territory as they
were also meant to be having these peace negotiations.
So that why was there no specification by the United States to control the airspace to use airstrikes to keep the Taliban at bay, if that's what their
aim was from the major cities. And that's what we're seeing didn't happen.
Plus, we're hearing out now admissions from the United States that they actually thought, and in the words of the Secretary of State, they saw a
collapse much quicker than they anticipated. So they even anticipated that there would be a collapse of the Afghan forces and the government that they
had supported for the last 20 years, but perhaps not this fast. So every scenario looks bleak.
And the question is, could there have been a relatively inexpensive relatively I say, in these situations way to keep a minimal U.S. slash
international NATO force there plus airpower to maintain the status quo indefinitely, in the same way that they do with tens of thousands, if not
hundreds of thousands of forces on the Korean demilitarized zone.
So these questions are fundamental. And of course, what happens next is fundamental in terms of rights for women, for all people in terms of what
kind of a terrorist safe haven might emerge, in terms of all those questions. And certainly, what about American example in the world there's
so much at stake here?
GORANI: Yes, because what's done is done. The Americans are out the Brits are out we saw the scenes of chaos unfolding really heartbreaking scenes at
the airport, among other places.
GORANI: And you ask the question, what is next the Taliban are in charge I spoke to the Afghan Journalist Bill also while he is in Kabul, he didn't,
you know, immediately say, which I kind of expected him to say that this was going to be a terrible, terrible thing.
He was in a wait and see mode. Is there any - in any scenario possible going forward where the Taliban are a changed group? Do you think?
AMANPOUR: I think that is the - whatever, how many billion dollar question Hala? Because that is what certainly the Biden Administration and the
architects of this withdrawal count on. That this is a new Taliban, that this is a Taliban that wants to be not an international pariah, but a
legitimate member of the international community, that therefore they will not do things once in power that caused them to be pariahs, when they will
last in power before 9/11.
Again, it's a huge open question. It's one that I just asked, because you were talking to the journalist, I was also talking to the Spokesman Suhail
Shaheen will have that on our program at 1 pm eastern. But they insist that they are a different organization, that they want an inclusive Afghanistan,
they keep saying they're having talks about an inclusive Afghan government.
And I push them hard. And they admit what we know. And that is a former President Hamid Karzai, the Former Foreign Minister, and Peace Negotiator,
Abdullah Abdullah are involved in these transitional talks. We don't know where they're going to lead.
We don't know what's going to happen. But the fact that they appear to be happening is, you know, something for us to think about. But the truth of
the matter is that they haven't changed their view on women, even if they pay lip service to the fact that women will be allowed to have their
They're already busy painting over billboards, according to eyewitnesses in Kabul to cover women's hair. They're already telling our own correspondents
females on the ground that they have to stand aside, because they're women that they have to cover every exposed piece of flesh and half that they
cannot meet with any man outside their family. What does that mean?
Is that just the ramblings of the foot soldiers on the street, or is that the Taliban ethic and vision for an Islamic State going forward? Remember
that this is still, I believe, an internationally designated terrorist organization. It's a fundamentalist Islamic organization that believes in
the supremacy of Islamic law.
And we've seen it before. And we're not sure whether it's going to change in the future. This is all that has been put at stake by this precipitous
withdrawal that has now left them in charge of the whole country. There is nobody else they're in charge. They are in charge of the whole country
GORANI: And Christiane we'll see these Taliban spokesperson on your program, as you mentioned at 1 pm, eastern 6 pm, British time 7 pm Central
European Time. So we look forward to that conversation. Thanks very much.
And after the break, we'll take you live to Pakistan and Turkey, where both governments are scrambling to find a way they say to help a new wave of
Afghan refugees. What will that look like on the ground we're live in Islamabad and in Istanbul after this?
GORANI: Well, these were some of the chaotic scenes in Afghanistan today people literally running for their lives running, running after an American
military plane as fears of a migrant crisis grow over Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting. Well, to try to discuss what can be done to help. There's only so much you can do
though in discussions in New York. There are concerns with a neighboring Pakistan about what could unfold at its border with Afghanistan.
The UN says Pakistan has already taken in more than 1 million Afghan refugees. And reports on Turkish state media say Turkey's President is
offering to work with Islamabad to try to stabilize Afghanistan, what would that look like? We have live reports from both Turkey and Pakistan.
Arwa Damon is in Istanbul, Sophia Saifi is standing by in Islamabad. Sophia, I want to start with you. It's the neighboring country. What's the
situation now? Are we starting to see waves of internally displaced people massing at the border? What can you tell us about the latest on that?
SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Hala, nothing of that just yet. I mean, Pakistan has spent the past couple of years completely fencing off its
border with Afghanistan. So as of late July, the army had announced that they've fenced off about 90 percent of the border with Afghanistan just to
make sure that what they call are you know, miscreants or terrorists hanging out on the other side of the border don't come through.
Now what's happened is, is that there are two main border crossings with Pakistan and Afghanistan. There's the German border crossing in Afghanistan
- in Balochistan in the south. And there is a Torkham border crossing in the north in the KPK Province of Pakistan.
The German border crossing is slowly allowing in a trickle of pedestrians who do have visas. However, the Torkham border has still not allowed any
pedestrian movement to come into Pakistan, they're only allowing trucks that were actually momentarily closed early morning yesterday.
Pakistan also said in early July, that it just does not have the capacity to house any more refugees. And that's a line that they reiterated again
and again till you know last week I spoke to Moeed Yusuf who is the National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister.
And he reiterated that there is no way that Pakistan however generous it has been in the past can take in more refugees until there's an
international plan to do so.
GORANI: And Arwa Damon in Istanbul what is Turkey thing?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look Hala, Turkey at this stage doesn't have much sway with the Taliban when it comes to what
Turkey can actually do in terms of stabilization or exerting pressure on the Taliban.
What Turkey does have is a very close relationship with two countries who could potentially put pressure on the Taliban and that is Pakistan, and --.
Turkey's main aim right now as is the main aim of all of Afghanistan's neighboring countries is to prevent this influx of refugees, because like
Pakistan, Turkey, also is saying that it cannot handle another influx of refugees.
It's still dealing with the fact that it has millions of Syrians who have been here and effectively have to stay here, especially since Europe closed
off its borders.
But what really gets the sense when looking at these conversations that are happening, not just between Turkey and Pakistan, but other countries as
well, that the conversation isn't about how to help Afghans who want to get to safety actually get to safety, but more how do we keep Afghans trapped
in Afghanistan because no country wants to deal with a refugee crisis?
GORANI: Arwa Damon thanks very much, our Senior International Correspondent. Sophia Saifi joining us from Islamabad thanks to both of
you. For coverage on what will become more and more one of the most important angles of this story the desperate fleeing civilians?
Coming up Haiti too is struggling after Saturday's deadly earthquake. We'll tell you how countries are stepping in to help and the problems they are
facing on the ground? We'll be right back.
GORANI: Countries all across the America are trying to get aid into Haiti. Saturday 7.2 magnitude quakes struck about 12 kilometers northeast of St.
Louis du Sud, you see here on the map, about 1300 people have died 1300 and almost 6000 are hurt.
Colombia's Air Force has sent this specialized search and rescue team buildings have collapsed and roads are blocked. And that's making it
difficult to get help where it's needed the most. Matt Rivers is on the ground in Porto-au-Prince with more. Talk to us about what you've seen just
today, the devastation and the need in Port-au-Prince?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Hala, unfortunately, the numbers that you just mentioned are they're going to go up? There's no question about
that, as authorities to continue to find and reach more communities that they have not had access to, at least at this point, due to some of those
blockages that you just talked about damaged certain roadways.
A lot of these communities that have been affected are one road in one road out kind of places. And as a result, they desperately needed aid convoys
just really not getting to exactly where they need to be. It's not for a lack of desire on the part of the Haitian government, or on the part of
these humanitarian groups that are surging aid here.
And as we've seen so often in Haiti, where the infrastructure is just simply lacking chronic level, getting aid to where it's needed is very
difficult. We did have the opportunity to take a helicopter and visit a very hard hit community not far from the epicenter of where this earthquake
And we saw a hotel, multi-story hotel that had collapsed; authorities told us there were likely bodies inside there were some search and rescue
operations ongoing. Unfortunately, we also saw people taking things away from that seeing things like scrap metal things like air conditioners, we
saw a dresser being taken out of the hotel.
And that just goes to the overall desperation in this area is a place that is already dealing with chronic poverty issue. We know that hospitals are
now overwhelmed with injured people. And that entire scene just kind of encapsulated the difficult situation that many Haitians find themselves in,
in that earthquake zone.
Now, unfortunately, you can maybe see behind me it's starting to rain here. Things are not going to get better anytime soon, because there is a
tropical depression that is now moving into this area over the next several hours here going into Tuesday morning.
This area is going to be directly impacted by not only winds which is less of a concern. It's the rain localized amounts according to CNN weather team
anywhere from 5 to 15 inches. What does that mean? Flash flooding mudslides, both of which could make an already complicated rescue operation
that much harder it's something that search and rescue operators here in Haiti, we've spoken to are very concerned about.
GORANI: Matt Rivers live in Port-au-Prince, thanks very much. Oh, when it rains in Haiti, there's been over many decades' issues with deforestation.
So mudslides are a big, big problem and imagine on top of the aftermath of a major earthquake as well. So really, it's going to be a tough few days
there for Haiti.
The global news this hour and during the past 48 hours has been largely dominated by what's happening in Afghanistan. This is a remarkable story
being told by powerful images as you see here, scenes of Afghans fleeing.
In the heart of the Capital Kabul at the Presidential Palace gun toting Taliban fighters let the world know. They're in charge now by holding court
behind ousted President Ashraf Ghani's ornate wooden desk and by rolling up the Afghan flag. Few people imagined two decades ago it has to be said or
even two weeks ago, that Kabul would fall so swiftly.
GORANI: The scenes we're watching unfold in Afghanistan today are being compared to the fall of Saigon and the Vietnam War, when desperate people
took deadly chances to get out, rather than face an uncertain future.
Today's images of people clinging to airplanes in Kabul capture a very powerful moment in time. You have American led coalition forces leaving a
country after two decades, even as the people of Afghanistan hang on - hang on, against all hope. It's a scene depicting chaos and desperation and
ultimately, sadness, and especially worrying time for women and girls.
The Afghan Ambassador to the UN says, "I'm speaking for millions of Afghan girls and women were about to lose their freedom to go to school, to work
and to participate in the political, economic and social life of the country".
Back in Washington, people protested outside the White House as pressure mounts on U.S. President Joe Biden, he said to address the nation on
Afghanistan in about 3.5 hours-time. This weekend, Mr. Biden sat alone in a conference room at the presidential retreat, conducting his meetings from
Some critics charged the image suggests he was detached from the situation. It begs the question, was this all just a reckless American led gamble?
Well, that'll do it for me. Thanks for watching. I'll see you on the other side of the break. CNN's coverage of Afghanistan continues next hour. Stay
GORANI: Hello, I'm Hala Gorani. We're coming to you live from London.