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Fall of Afghanistan; Pentagon Update on Afghanistan; Afghans Facing Life under Taliban Rule; Taliban Give First Press Briefing. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 17, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We continue our coverage of the latest from Afghanistan. And let's start you off with this.
We begin with the race to get people out of the country, as the Taliban solidify their control. We are waiting to hear from the Pentagon any minute
now on that.
But the British foreign minister says the situation at Kabul airport is stabilizing. Many countries are getting their own citizens out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI (voice-over): People here are boarding a French charter flight. Some camped out in the airport overnight, seen perhaps as safer. This after
a surreal day that saw frantic Afghans flooding the tarmac and clinging to planes; 600 Afghans managed to cram into this U.S. military cargo plane.
Many remember what life was like under the Taliban 20 years ago and some are terrified of what happens next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: The millions left behind are coming to grips with the new reality. CNN's Clarissa Ward is on the ground in Kabul. Earlier she spoke with my
colleagues Brianna Keilar and John Berman and gave them a vivid picture of day two of Taliban rule. Listen.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a sense that there's more activity on the streets, more shops that are now open,
more government workers going back to their posts because the Taliban wants to show that it can govern, that it's not just a fighting force but they
can keep the lights on.
And this is how they're doing it basically. I'm just going to step out of the shot and you can maybe take a slightly closer look. These are Taliban
fighters just behind me. They're on an old Humvee. Those Humvees traditionally associated here with the NDS, which is Afghanistan's
equivalent of the CIA.
You can see they are all quite keen to pose for the camera because they're in pretty good spirits right now. They see themselves as being the victors
in all this and they see this as an opportunity for them to project a new image on the world stage.
And I will say that, in terms of the security situation, it's having an impact. The streets of Kabul are largely calm. That's partly because there
are men like this on almost every other street corner.
And it's also partly because people are petrified. I have been getting phone calls all morning, nonstop -- people who work for the U.N., people
who work for the U.S. military, translators, NGO workers who are so desperately afraid now of what will happen next after the U.S. completes
this round of evacuations, with chaos at the airport.
What is their opportunity?
What's their path out?
What does their future look like?
No answer to those questions at the moment -- John and Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And what about, you know, after the U.S. leaves?
Because it is very interesting to see you today, to see you yesterday after the Taliban came in. You were there on the street. We are seeing what is
happening. You mentioned that you actually have more freedom as you are there today than before the Taliban came in and was securing the area.
But what do you think happens after the U.S. is out of Afghanistan entirely?
WARD: Well, that remains to be seen, right?
It's easy in the first days to strike a diplomatic, conciliatory tone. It's easy to make offers of blanket amnesty.
But the question becomes, in the long term, do you stick by those promises?
Or do we see retaliation attacks?
Do we see revenge attacks?
Do we see fighters going and raiding people's houses?
The Taliban has come out multiple times and said that it will not allow its fighters to go out and conduct those kinds of searches.
But that's not doing that much to assuage the concerns and fears of a lot of ordinary people here in Kabul, whose memories of the Taliban are
associated with, you know, a short spell of disastrous governance in the late '90s and the early 2000s and then 20 years of hideous bloodshed in the
form of an insurgency.
GORANI: And that was Clarissa Ward on the streets of Kabul, an uneasy calm there in the Afghan capital. Sam Kiley joins me in London.
That's important to note as well, that's the picture in Kabul. There are reports that it's not as peaceful and certainly that there may have been
some reprisal/revenge attacks outside of the capital as well.
GORANI: And the question, Sam, as well is what happens when the Americans do leave the airport, because currently they're in charge of that. Lots of
open questions still going forward.
Oh, sorry, Sam. John Kirby, the spokesperson for the Pentagon, just walked out. Let's listen in and then I'll get back to you.
ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: -- at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. I'm going to ask General Taylor to come back up
here. I think I botched his title yesterday, deputy director of the Joint Staff for Regional Operations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: J-35.
KIRBY: J-35. So I got that wrong yesterday and I apologize for that.
But before I ask the general to give you an update, there's a couple of other things that I do want to get out there, first on Haiti.
In support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, their bureau of humanitarian assistance, U.S. Southern Command is working to assess
damage, develop common operational pictures and provide lifesaving support for the people of Haiti.
They stood up a joint task force, Joint Task Force Haiti, which will be led by Rear Admiral Keith Davids, who is a Special Operations Commander South
there at SOUTHCOM. He's going to be currently operating -- or is currently operating from Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The JTF is now -- the forward elements of it, the headquarters elements of the joint task force -- will be moving to Haiti today. We are also flying
eight helicopters to Haiti later this morning to help with, again, providing a picture overhead.
The USS Arlington, a Navy amphibious ship, will be getting underway today and will have embarked on it two MH-60 helicopters. It also will have on
board a surgical team and a landing craft, mechanized to be able to move things ashore.
The U.S. Naval ship Burlington is also going to be used to provide aerial footage and assist with our overall assessment. Two P-8 Poseidon maritime
reconnaissance aircraft, which are currently operating out of El Salvador, will also be sent to the region to provide aerial coverage and assist,
again in our assessment.
And that's where we are right now, is getting a clear picture of what the situation looks like on the ground. The assessment team on the ground will
continue to look at the area and to report back to SOUTHCOM so that we can best coordinate and integrate USAID and other agency assistance to the
people of Haiti.
There are also two U.S. Coast Guard cutters on station in Southern Haiti. There are seven additional cutters now moving forward. There will also be
one U.S. Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft operating out of Guantanamo Bay, again, to help us provide aerial visibility on what things look like on the
And we do expect that field hospitals, four field hospitals from U.S. Southern Command, will be set up in Southern Haiti by later this week.
So the U.S. military continues to provide unique air, medical, logistical and engineering capabilities in support of USAID and their Bureau of
Humanitarian Assistance. They are leading this effort. We are supporting them to help save lives and alleviate human suffering in these critical
early stages of a disaster relief operation.
So we'll have more to say in coming hours and days on that. But I wanted to give you an update on Haiti.
Another update on COVID response efforts in response to the latest surge and at the request of FEMA, the Department of Defense is identifying five
medical assistance teams to support efforts around the nation.
These teams will be comprised (sic) of about 20 medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. Currently the
department will provide a medical assistance team, one of these medical assistance teams, to a hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana.
We expect that there could be additional requests from other states for other teams and so that's why we are being prepared to stand up five teams.
But one of them will be dedicated to going to Lafayette, Louisiana; again, at the request of FEMA in the state of Louisiana.
So we continue to lean forward to help our fellow Americans deal with this latest surge in the pandemic. And, again, as we have more information, more
things to report to you, we certainly will.
So with that, I'm going to turn it over to General Taylor and --
QUESTION: For clarification on the teams, they're all military personnel that are on these -- ?
KIRBY: These are military medical assistance teams, yes.
KIRBY: OK. General, if it's OK, if I can leave all my stuff on the podium, I'll turn it over to you.
MAJ. GEN. HANK TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, U.S. JOINT STAFF REGIONAL OPERATIONS: Good morning. Nice to see you again.
Thank you, Mr. Kirby, for the opportunity again to give you an operations update of current operations in Afghanistan.
TAYLOR: My goal is to provide you with details from my last time in here to ensure that you have as much information as possible.
A number of evacuations occurred overnight, which I'll provide you a -- more details here shortly.
As we speak, we are continuing air operations and air operations continued throughout the night. I'm tremendously proud of the herculean effort we've
seen by our U.S. military so far.
The rapid insertion of Marines and soldiers and a number of enabling forces, moving from both within the CENTCOM AOR and from the United States.
Yesterday, the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan started at about roughly 2,500.
And by the end of today, there will be more than approximately 4,000 troops on the ground in Kabul. Forces will continue to flow in and reinforce the
State Department and DOD effort there.
The operation is ongoing and I'd like to give you a few more details on that operation. HKAI remains secure. It is currently open for military
flight operations, as well as limited commercial flight operations.
Throughout the night, nine C-7 teams arrived, delivering equipment and approximately 1,000 troops. Additionally, seven C-17s departed. These
flights lifted approximately 700 to 800 passengers.
And we can confirm, 165 of these passengers are American citizens. The rest are a mix of SIV applicants, third country nationals.
Responding to the situation at HKIA, our initial focus was to insert forces and equipment. As part of the force -- as part of this force flow (ph)
concludes, the speed of evacuation will pick up.
Right now, we're looking at one aircraft per hour in and out of HKIA. We predict that our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers
departing per day. But we are mindful that a number of factors influence this effort and circumstances could change. We will keep you updated.
There are a number of unexpected challenges that can occur for personnel in a complex and dynamic security environment. We are confident we have taken
the right steps to resume safe and orderly operations at the airport.
We continue to prioritize the safety of military personnel and those who await evacuation from Afghanistan. With great effort and care, we proceed
through each day of this work.
You have likely seen the image floating around of Afghan families in a cargo plane. This speaks to the humanity of our troops in this mission, the
skill and professionalism of our U.S. military.
The last point I'd like to make is about the assessed threat right now. We have had no hostile interactions, no attack and no threat by the Taliban.
We remain vigilant. We also have not experienced any additional security incidents at HKIA.
We retain the security of HKIA that enables the safe, orderly evacuation of Americans and Afghans. I want to reinforce that we are focused on the
present mission to facilitate the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens, SIVs and Afghans at risk, to get these personnel out of Afghanistan as quickly
and as safely as possible.
That mission has not changed. The mission is of historical significance and it is incumbent upon us to be resolute in the protection of American and
Afghan lives. Thank you.
KIRBY: Thanks, General.
QUESTION: I have a narrow, narrow question for the general and a broader question for you, if I can ask him to field that.
KIRBY: Oh, sure, absolutely. I'll just leave.
QUESTION: General, I think you said you would ramp up to one aircraft departure per hour.
TAYLOR: That's the planning figure.
QUESTION: And when would that -- my question is, when will you get there?
TAYLOR: We hope that within the next 24 hours. And so, as the commander on the ground continues to build the combat power there and flights are
available, that is the goal.
If I may ask a question of you, John.
QUESTION: The general mentioned there had been no hostile threats from the Taliban at the airport.
I'm wondering, does the U.S. have an arrangement with the Taliban to allow the evacuation airlift to proceed until August 31st?
And the second question is, under what circumstance would the U.S. troops leave before August 31st?
KIRBY: So on your first question, Bob, what I would tell you is, coming out of General McKenzie's discussions with senior Taliban leaders in Doha,
our commanders at the airport are in communication with Taliban commanders on the ground outside the airport.
There have been discussions, there is communication between them and us. And I would just let the results speak for themselves. I'm not going to get
into the details of how those discussions are progressing because there are interactions multiple times a day.
And as the general said, I think very well, there's been no hostile interactions from the Taliban to our operations at the airport.
QUESTION: So the point of that would be to allow -- that the Taliban is willing to allow it to proceed and they're cooperating (INAUDIBLE)?
KIRBY: I would just let the results speak for themselves so far. And we're not taking anything for granted.
QUESTION: And the prior to August 31st part of my question?
KIRBY: Oh, I'm sorry, yes. Right now, as the general made clear, the mission runs through August 31st. The commander in chief made it very clear
that we were to complete this drawdown by August 31st, which now includes the drawdown of American citizens -- the pulling out of American citizens
and drawdown of our embassy personnel.
So that's what we're focused on. That's the timeline we're on. And as the secretary made clear to leaders, even as recently as this morning, time is
of the essence. And we all -- we all share a sense of urgency here. But right now, the mission runs to 31st of August. And I won't begin to
speculate what happens after that.
QUESTION: Do those discussions with the Taliban include talk about allowing Americans or Afghans through some of these Taliban checkpoints or
even potentially expanding the perimeter around the airport so more people can get there safely?
That's one of the things we're hearing, is that people can't get through these Taliban checkpoints and they can't even to get to the airport to
KIRBY: Yes, again, without going into the details of communications, of which I'm not a part, as I said, there is -- there is -- there are
interactions down at the local level. And as the general said, we are processing American citizens to get out.
So again, without speaking to the sausage making of communications here, thus far -- and it's early on -- the results are speaking for themselves.
And I think that's probably where I'd like to leave it.
QUESTION: And one for General Taylor.
Can you just, on the numbers -- so this is now 700 to 800 that have gotten out.
So is that now a total of somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,400 to 1,500 total people have been taken out since August 14th, when this began?
TAYLOR: Yes, the rough numbers, yes, to include the SIVs.
QUESTION: And can you say just from an operational perspective, is there - - is there talk of expanding the perimeter around the airport?
TAYLOR: Right now, the airfield, like I said earlier, is secure. And the commander on the ground has the ability to continue to flow flights in and
out. So I would say the airfield is secure right now to allow us to do that mission.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Just to clarify a couple things on what you said about these talks with the Taliban, to make sure I get it,
it is U.S. military personnel that are talking to Taliban commanders?
KIRBY: Our commanders in the operation have had communication with Taliban leaders.
STARR: And is this why -- or could you explain -- apparently you put the 82nd Airborne headquarters element in there.
Is that --
KIRBY: -- by John Donahue and his staff.
STARR: Could you walk us through a little bit of that?
KIRBY: Sure, a couple of things there, Barb. Number one, this is what the 82nd Airborne does really well and has the global response force. Their job
is to be ready to assist in a very expeditious manner.
And the task of securing and operating an airfield is actually a unique task that the 82nd can do. And General Donahue has experience in that. So
that's one reason.
Number two, Rear Admiral Vasely, who has been commanding on the ground, also has a spate of other duties he has to attend to, to include liaison
with the State Department, our allies and partners that are also on the ground there in Kabul; the Turkish support element.
There's a lot of things to do, so we felt like this division of labor made the most sense, given the urgency of time and what we're trying to
accomplish in the next couple of weeks.
STARR: So the 82nd -- I'm sorry. Just to make sure, 82nd is in command at the airport and the general you mentioned is the one talking to the
KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about specific conversations, Barb, or who is having what. Our commanders -- in fact, Admiral Vasely has been there
throughout this thing. And I don't know exactly -- I mean, the general knows when General Donahue is getting there.
KIRBY: But just suffice it to say our commanders there at the airport are charged with securing that airport and keeping it secure and to doing what
is required to keep it secure and to get operations back up and running and to be sustained.
And they will and should have whatever interactions they believe that are necessary to accomplish that mission. I'm not in a position now and I won't
begin to get into a position where I'm detailing every single conversation or what the details of that are.
I think, as I said to Courtney, the best judge of how we're doing is how we're doing and the results that we're achieving. And I think I'd leave it
QUESTION: John --
KIRBY: Let me get to Helene and I'll come to you, Tom.
Go ahead, Helene.
QUESTION: Thank you, Kirby. This is for General Taylor.
I understand that we are -- the Marines are there and our troops are there and they're under orders. We don't want them getting into a combat
situation with the Taliban, so you do have a little bit of a balance that you have to strike between getting this orderly evacuation out of the
But at the same time, we know that there are reports on the ground from your SIV applicants that a lot of them are getting beat up on the way to
the airport. They're getting beat up outside of the airport.
How do you manage, then -- and I know this is a bit of what Courtney and Barbara are both asking you -- but how do you manage to strike that balance
between -- we're not here to get into a fight; we just want to get our people out but you have to get your people to where they can get out.
TAYLOR: Sure. So as we look at the military task and requirements of securing the airfield, that's what we are absolutely focused on doing, to
ensure that part of this whole mission is being able to be completed.
I'd really, on the outside as we talk about on the outside of the airfield into Kabul and that process there, I'd really have to push that over to the
Department of State, because our mission right now is that securing of the airfield to allow those that come onto the airfield to quickly be put on
aircraft and evacuated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom.
QUESTION: Getting back to the numbers of Afghans and others trying to get out, if you look at the SIV people, special immigrant visa and their
families, their estimates of 70,000-88,000 and then you have the P-2 people, who are trying to get out to a third country.
And then maybe hundreds if not thousands beyond that. So all told, the total universe we're talking about is probably 100,000 people trying to get
out of Afghanistan.
Given that, are you confident, with your planning, that, by the 31st, you can get all those people out?
Or is that uncertain?
KIRBY: What we're confident is that we're going to maximize capacity to the degree that we can and that, at max capacity, as the general said,
given what could be more than 2 dozen sorties per day, you could get to 5,000 to 9,000 people out per day.
Our focus is on, again, making sure that the environment, that conditions are set to be able to do that.
As I said the other day, airlift is not going to be a limiting factor but it also is going to require --and has required -- constant liaison with our
State Department colleagues, who are obviously in charge of administering the special immigrant visa process and the other priority visas that you
So we're working hand in glove with them on the manifests -- who is being processed, when they're being processed -- and making sure that they're
ready and able to get on flights out of that.
So it's a complex interagency effort here, Tom. What I can tell you, I can't guarantee a certain number by a certain day. I wouldn't do that. As
the general rightly said, weather can play a factor. In fact, weather has played a factor today.
So what we think is, at max capacity, 5,000 to 9,000 per day, a couple of dozen sorties, maybe even more per day, conditions permitting. But we are -
- it has to be done in close concert with our State Department colleagues. And so we'll do as much as we can for as long as we can.
QUESTION: And you talk about the 31st, the mission coming to an end. That's an arbitrary date set by the White House. The White House could --
the president could -- I know this is a question for the White House -- extend that deadline into September as long as the airport is secure, isn't
KIRBY: The mission that we've been given, Tom, is to conduct this drawdown by the 31st of August.
QUESTION: The airport secure, you could continue into September, couldn't you?
KIRBY: That's a decision that the president's commander in chief would have to make. Our mission right now -- we have to talk about what we're
doing now, Tom, and what our focus is. And that's on getting this completed on the 31st of August.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on the agreement with the Taliban?
QUESTION: Do you have an agreement with the Taliban they will allow safe passage to the airport for SIVs, number one?
And there also are reports that you're having to negotiate now with former detainees. One of the leaders in Qatar is a well known Gitmo detainee who
was released in 2014.
Are you finding yourselves have to negotiate with former --
KIRBY: I know of no negotiations with former Guantanamo Bay detainees. And on your first question, I think I would just, again, leave it to what I've
been saying. There are interactions at the airport by our commanders with Taliban leaders out in town.
As I said, they are charged with making sure this is a safe and secure environment. And we trust them to have the interactions they feel they need
to have to ensure that, in every aspect, across the whole spectrum of what this mission requires of them, that they can do it safely and efficiently
ad an orderly manner. And I'm not going to go beyond that.
QUESTION: And, John, why are we not hearing from Defense Secretary Austin and General Mark Milley?
KIRBY: The chairman and the secretary are, as I think you would understand, extremely busy in communication with commanders on the ground,
with General McKenzie, with the interagency. And I have every expectation that, at the appropriate time, you'll hear from both of them.
QUESTION: Drawing down on the statement of no hostile attacks from the Taliban, who does that cover?
Does that cover active civilians in U.S. military?
And is that limited to the airport or is it also monitoring of Taliban attacks outside of the airport?
KIRBY: The mission is about the airport. As the general said, there has been no hostile interactions with the Taliban on either our people or our
QUESTION: And can you confirm?
So there is no tracking of what the Taliban is doing --
KIRBY: Our focus is on security and the operation of the airport. I mean, I haven't gotten to anybody on the phone and I need to do that or I'd get
in big trouble.
OK, Megan may not be there.
QUESTION: Oh, hey, I'm back.
KIRBY: OK, you are.
QUESTION: Yes, unmute.
OK, so is there an estimate of how many people are still currently at the airport?
And does that include people, not just Americans and SIVs, but people who kind of bumrushed the airport a couple days ago?
And how is that situation being handled?
And is there a hope for them to get out as well?
TAYLOR: So right now at the airport, we continue to process in American citizens that have shown up. As we look at -- I think I heard this -- that
question of those that bumrushed the airfield. The airfield is secure, as I said earlier. Those folks that were there on the southern part are no
longer inside the airfield.
And there is nobody -- no longer in there. And as you saw, we were able to get those -- some passengers out the day before. But right now, I don't
have the number of those waiting for a flight right now but I'll be able to get that later on.
KIRBY: We go to another one on the phone here, Paul Shinkman from U.S. News.
QUESTION: Hi, John. Two questions.
Is the U.S. aware of any remaining vestige of the 3,000 Afghan security forces that it trained, that are still operational?
And if so, is the U.S. supporting them in any way?
And secondly, has the secretary or any other senior official at the Pentagon spoken with any other Afghan counterparts -- or, I suppose at this
point, people who are former Afghan counterparts since Sunday?
KIRBY: I know of no high-level communications here from the Pentagon with Afghan counterparts over the last couple of days. And I'll let the general
take the question about the ANDSF.
TAYLOR: We do know that commanders are on the ground are continuing to communicate with ANDSF and, specifically on the airfield, we do have
approximately 500 to 600 ANDSF that are assisting us with that security.
KIRBY: OK, back in the room?
QUESTION: Thank you, John. I'll start with you and then I have a question for the general as well.
What advice, John, do you have for the Afghans, who assisted the U.S. and now can't get to the airport or are in Kandahar and can't even get to
Kabul and they feel left behind?
What's the advice the Pentagon is giving them?
KIRBY: What I'd tell you is, largely speaking, we know we have an obligation to help these individuals and their families, who helped us so
much over the last 20 years. And we have been focused on this for quite some time.
KIRBY: There is a process by which they can apply for these visas. And the State Department has now opened up the umbrella for other, what they call
P-1 and P-2 opportunities.
So I'm not an expert on that process, Carla (ph),but there is -- there is a process to follow and I'd highly encourage, if they aren't already in the
system, to get themselves into the system.
And I understand, if I think I understand the second gist of your question is, are we going to be able to physically move someone from somewhere else
in the country into the airport?
And right now our focus is on the airport itself and making sure that it stays safe and secure and that operations, air operations, which have
resumed, can sustain themselves going forward.
And there is an awful lot that has to be done in that. So, again, sacred obligation, we take very seriously; there is a process and I would highly
encourage them, if they're not already in that, to consult with State Department officials to get themselves enrolled in that.
And then what we'll do, as we said from the beginning, is help get them out of Kabul. And we are also working very hard here locally to help get them,
if they need temporary lodging here in the United States while they complete that processing, to do that.
And you saw just yesterday, we were able to announce two additional U.S. military installations that will be rapidly increasing their capacity over
the next days and weeks to help build out to a maximum, right now, of approximately 22,000 capacity, if we need it.
QUESTION: OK. And then secondly, I had asked about this yesterday but the investigation into the civilian casualties, can the U.S. Defense Department
confirm the number of civilian casualties that happened when that C-17 took off?
What are the total number of casualties that you're tracking at the airport?
You mentioned the two --
KIRBY: Well, we know that there were two security incidents, in which two armed individuals with hostile intent were engaged by troops and killed. I
don't have a firm number of additional casualties that we know have been reported, at least in press reporting.
Certainly by this incident with the C-17, which took off, as you saw, taxiing with people running alongside it and even attached themselves to
the aircraft. What I can tell you is the Air Force has taken a look at this and I think you'll hear more from the Air Force later today about that. And
I think I really need to leave it at that right now.
QUESTION: Can you say at least four?
KIRBY: I can't, Carla (ph). I'm not in a position to give you a specific number. But again, I think you'll hear more from the Air Force later today
QUESTION: Does that include about the report that there was an Afghan civilian, his remains were found on the landing --
KIRBY: I think you're going to hear more from the Air Force about this, today, Court.
QUESTION: Got a couple clarifications. General Donahue from the 82nd Airborne is headed to Kabul to become the overall commander of this
What happens to the Admiral Vasely?
And another question.
TAYLOR: Admiral Vasely maintains the position as commander for the entire mission as USA foray forward (ph). As you know, elements of the 82nd
Airborne Division have already been flowing in to do the actual mission of security of HKIA. So the -- General Donahue and a piece of his staff will
go forward and work specifically on the security mission of HKIA.
QUESTION: And admiral Vasely remains?
TAYLOR: That's right, as the overall commander as U.S. -- for U.S. foray headquarters for -- obviously under General McKenzie as the CENTCOM
QUESTION: And if I can follow up on something you said earlier, you said there were 700 ANDSF -- Afghan security forces at the airport.
Has a commitment been made to them that they will also be evacuated afterwards and once this mission is complete?
TAYLOR: I know that our commitment to ensure that the security there at HKAI is increased by having those members of the ANDSF with us at this
KIRBY: I mean, Louie, I think that would be -- that would have to be, you know, it would be a decision by those individuals, if they wanted to, to
apply for, you know, a visa and to pursue that approach. It would be up to those Afghans to make that decision for themselves.
OK. Take one --
QUESTION: Quick follow-up?
STARR: You mentioned, you had mentioned that the department -- that the administration thinks there could be thousands of Americans still in Kabul
and in Afghanistan possibly and that you're prepared to, you know, evacuate them if they can get to the airport, et cetera.
STARR: But that there are thousands of Americans.
With that estimate in mind, is the administration confident that all Americans are essentially free of Taliban control?
Do you have anything that indicates the Taliban are going after any of these Americans?
KIRBY: Well, there's a lot there, Barb. I can only tell you what we know and that there hasn't been any hostile interactions by the Taliban to our
people or to our operations.
Part of our operations include helping evacuate American citizens and that process continues. The general gave you an update; 165 or so just in the
last 24 hours. I can't speak to the locations or whereabouts of every single American throughout the country and their desires to stay or to go.
That's just something we're not equipped to do here.
Again, you've got to understand the limited, tailored mission that we're trying to conduct right now.
I'll take one more and then we got to let the general get back to his day.
And I forgot to get to Tom, so, Tom, I'll give it to you.
QUESTION: Thanks, John. Good morning. Just to follow-up on the security at the airport, the Turks were supposed to be in charge of security there.
What's the role that they and other foreign militias are -- not militias -- foreign military is -- may be doing to help?
TAYLOR: Good question. And the Turks remain absolutely linked into the security mission with U.S. foray. So they are continuing to assist in the
security and the running of HKAI.
KIRBY: OK, thanks, everybody. We're going to have to call it a day. We will be able to brief you again later this afternoon, I probably won't be
on camera but we'll do another on the record briefing this afternoon. So we'll see you then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
GORANI: John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson, was joined there by Major General Hank Taylor, the U.S. Joint Staff regional operations deputy head.
I want to bring in Sam Kiley; he's in London. Jeff Zeleny is live at the White House. Also with us is CNN military analyst, retired Army General
Spider Marks, joining us via Skype from Virginia.
Spider Marks, I'll start with you. The airport currently secure, John Kirby said. There is some communication between U.S. commanders inside the
airport and Taliban commanders outside of the airport. So there seems to be some cooperation going on.
GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, and there needs to be. Look, the mission to secure the airfield is not exclusive to the
geometry of the airfield itself.
In order to secure the airfield, you have to secure it from indirect fire. You have to have the ability to conduct access in, which means you're going
to have to escort folks in there or at least give free passage to folks who want to get in there.
So you have to get outside of the airfield and that coordination must take place so that you can maintain the flow of folks who need to come in.
Jeff Zeleny, there was so much criticism directed at the United States. I'm not sure exactly if, in the U.S., we were hearing similar criticism but,
internationally, it was deafening, how many people were saying the U.S. did not plan adequately for the evacuation of Afghan nationals who helped the
U.S. war effort.
John Kirby said that the speed of the -- or, in fact, that was Major General Hank Taylor -- the speed of the evacuations would increase to 5,000
to 9,000 passengers departing daily, Jeff.
Is this something that the Americans really had to sort of work on speeding up in light of the criticism directed at them?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it. And the criticism is virtually just as loud here in Washington, both from
allies of President Biden, both Democrats in the Congress, outside the administration and really across the board.
So never in the seven months of the Biden presidency has the competence of this government been so on the line and so questioned, the credibility as
well. And it is because of the -- just the lack of planning.
We heard President Biden say yesterday, when he came back to the White House, that events unfolded faster than they anticipated. Well, that's the
understatement, certainly, of the moment. So they are trying to speed up the capacity to evacuate people.
But one thing really left unsaid is we're talking about just people in Kabul.
What about those in the rest of the countryside?
John Kirby at the Pentagon has repeatedly said the U.S. military does not really have the capacity to go looking for people elsewhere. So that is
what the administration is facing right now here in Washington, trying to show that they can have a competent response after what certainly was a
blindsided and bungled earlier this week.
GORANI: Indeed, Jeff. You mentioned those outside of Kabul.
GORANI: And, in fact, one reporter asked John Kirby about those stranded outside of the Afghan capital. John Kirby really didn't seem to offer a
solution for those perhaps who are in Kandahar or other parts of the country.
Sam Kiley, what happens to them?
Do we have any idea of numbers there, of Afghan nationals, who would be eligible to apply for special immigrant visas, who are not inside the
capital or, indeed, in the airport itself?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's extremely unclear. The numbers are in the tens of thousands of people that are
eligible or have already applied.
But the speed of the Taliban victory, for that is what is it is, may well have caught a lot of these operators off guard.
That said, the active service interpreters working alongside American troops, they would already really have been based and rebased from the
provinces back into Kabul some years ago.
Now there will be very few of those out on a limb. Much more problematic, though, are those that work with NGOs, with the United Nations, journalists
working for foreign outlets.
There have been some reports -- we haven't been able to confirm them -- but certainly allegations that Taliban militia -- militants have been looking
for just those sorts of people in places like Kandahar.
There have been also reports again, unconfirmed, of killings of these sorts of people. And that is what is really desperately concerning, not only for
ordinary Afghans and certainly driving that energy and that panic toward people getting out of the airport but also a very major problem indeed for
the Taliban in the future.
This regime, last time around, suffered international isolation and a great deal of humanitarian pressure because of its very extreme interpretation of
Islam. So successive interviews given to CNN by the Taliban spokesperson Mujahid have insisted that they want to have an inclusive government and
that they want certainly -- they have issued a general amnesty to anybody who is working with international NGOs and so on.
The proof, again, will be in the pudding, because we do not know what is going on in the provinces. But if it starts to go wrong in the provinces,
then the Taliban have got a real problem on their hands.
Do they then impose their very harsh, draconian interpretation of sharia law?
Or do they go forward and try to incorporate the international community and what they are trying to achieve next?
They insist that is peace -- Hala.
GORANI: What happens also when the Americans leave the airport?
Thank you so much, Spider Marks, Sam Kiley, Jeff Zeleny, to all three of you.
Still to come, humanitarian groups warn of a looming crisis inside Afghanistan. We're talking about the local Afghans, who've worked with
these international organizations. I'll speak to a UNICEF official in Kabul about that concern. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, it's no surprise Afghanistan is dominating the global agenda. Leaders are scrambling to help vulnerable Afghans, as the country's
crisis develops from hour to hour.
Leaders of NGOs, who work in the country, right now NATO is saying it is working to evacuate more people and get more planes out of Kabul. E.U.
foreign ministers are holding a meeting online as I speak to you.
A short time ago, the British prime minister and the German chancellor got on the phone to each other.
Downing Street telling us about it, saying, quote, "They agreed that global cooperation was crucial on the importance of preventing a humanitarian
crisis in the country and region."
CNN has been reporting from the streets of Kabul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI (voice-over): These pictures from earlier today show a seemingly calm capital but my colleagues tell us fear is everywhere and many Afghans
are not reassured by the Taliban's announcement, granting amnesty to all employees of the former government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: To say the militants are a credibility problem is an understatement. The International Organization for Migration, meanwhile, is
urging everyone to remember that humanitarian access is a top priority.
I want to take you live to Kabul, where we're joined by Sam Mort, she's the chief of communication advocacy and civic engagement for UNICEF
Thank you for being with us.
First of all, how are operations for you in Kabul now with the Taliban in charge?
What has changed?
SAM MORT, CHIEF OF COMMUNICATION, ADVOCACY & CIVIC ENGAGEMENT UNICEF AFGHANISTAN: So since the takeover a few days ago, the Taliban has asked
us to entirely pause. They've done so politely and constructively, as they took over different provincial capitals.
They came to UNICEF offices and they asked us to stay. They want us to stay in Afghanistan and continue our work but just to pause while the command
tells the rank and file that UNICEF is a neutral and partial humanitarian organization.
Once that is done and once we can secure the safety of all our staff, including our national staff, we will resume operations. That will happen
hopefully in the next couple of days.
There has been some positive progress today. The Taliban health commission sent a letter to all hospitals and health connects all across Afghanistan,
asking all doctors, nurses and health workers, including women, to come back to work.
In addition to that, today we have seen boys and girls in primary and secondary school in Herat and the west of Afghanistan sitting exams.
And in the south of Afghanistan, in the Kandahar region, in a place called Maruf, 1,500 children were in school; 500 of them are girls. So we are
beginning to see some positive signs. And UNICEF is hopeful that we can still continue to build on those signs.
GORANI: So just so I understand you correctly and precisely, what you're saying is that the Taliban asked UNICEF to stay in country and that, once
you are able to assure -- ensure that all of your staff, including local staff, are safe, you will resume operations.
Is that accurate?
Did I accurately sum up what you've just said?
MORT: You did. That is correct. And we have a constructive dialogue with the Taliban. We've been in touch with them every day and we are hopeful
that we will get back to work for the women and children of Afghanistan shortly.
GORANI: Just one moment -- one moment, Samantha Mort. Sorry, Luke, my producer, is telling me something. I just want --
OK, we're going to keep going as -- we're waiting potentially for a live event in Kabul.
Samantha, this is all actually very interesting and I have to say just a little surprising, because over the last several years, decades even, we've
associated the Taliban with attacks against international organizations, with attacks against even girls going to school.
And it seems as though this is kind of a different approach.
What do you put that down to?
Is this the Taliban wanting to project a different image maybe?
MORT: Well, it's not a different approach for UNICEF Afghanistan. We've been in this country for 65 years. And during that time, we have worked
with the government and all parties to conflict.
And Afghanistan has gone through some hairy times. UNICEF has been here the whole time, delivering programs for women and children. And in fact, last
December, we signed a work plan with the Taliban to expand access to all children in areas under their control for more education.
We call them community-based classes, small classes in the communities.
MORT: So that parents are reassured their children are close by. So UNICEF has been working with the Taliban for some time and we are hopeful that,
now that they are in charge, that, in fact, this could be a moment in time for us to, for example, potentially eradicate polio forever.
Because one of the problems that we have faced in the past in vaccinating babies against polio is that we can't get access to areas under Taliban
control. So with our partners in the Gates Foundation, I think there is a huge opportunity here to rid polio in Afghanistan forever.
GORANI: And how will you -- at what point will you decide and how will you decide that your staff, Afghan and international staff, are safe enough for
you to resume operations?
MORT: Well, we're negotiating and talking to the Taliban command in all regions. We haven't done it in Kabul yet but we've done it in all other
regions. We are working on the basis that we have a successful working partnership with them in the past, in support of children and women's
welfare. And we have no reason to doubt them now.
They have been constructive. They've been interested in our work. They've assured our safety, so we are taking them in good faith and we hope to move
GORANI: Samantha Mort of UNICEF, thank you so much for joining us, live from Kabul. And best of luck to UNICEF and all the UNICEF workers going
We are expecting any minute now actually a news conference by the Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, at the media center in Kabul. And I
understand reporters and journalists, foreign and domestic, have been invited to this news conference.
We have translation for it and so we'll take it live when it starts. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Let's go live to Kabul, where the Taliban spokesperson is giving his first press briefing. Let's listen in.
ZABIULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): For all the nations, this is a great victory and a honor, not only for limited
individuals. This is for the whole country, this country, joint victory.
(INAUDIBLE) less people -- however, those people who rely -- are proud of its all the nation, this nation will be part of the history. Therefore, I
would like to congratulate all the people and for the whole (INAUDIBLE).
taking independence is every country's legitimate right. Afghanistan also can, after 20 years of struggle, to take their independence and to clear
from the occupation, that's what our right and we are honored to have got this right.
And in return from God, we appreciate that we got to this point, that we actually reward -- we got the reward then to give freedom to our people.
MUJAHID (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) after the country was taken, so they don't have any resentment (INAUDIBLE) policy. We all know in
Afghanistan there was a crisis and some people have been problems which would have been in the interest of the occupant when we came to
And we want Afghanistan not to be the battlefield. So today the fighting is over. So the honorable (INAUDIBLE) decree, so whoever was against
(INAUDIBLE) our opposition, we all have been given blanket amnesty. So note the fighting should not be repeated and the factors of the fighting should
not be in Afghan.
Islamic Emirate does not have any (INAUDIBLE) or enemy within (INAUDIBLE) and, from today, so all the suit (ph) and enemy have (INAUDIBLE) peacefully
and deny the and (ph) internal or foreigner.
And, on the other hand, we are at a very historic point that the government is formed. And of course, the international (INAUDIBLE) should be assured
that then the political procedure, our leaders are seriously engaged and we will be informed that the political settlement (ph) (INAUDIBLE) resolution
will be comprehensive, which will be acceptable to all people, God willing.
As I said (INAUDIBLE) Kabul came to be Islamic Emirates, perhaps there were some problem and there's some concerns although despite the many changes
after the entering of the mujahidin (ph) -- no casualties.
But there were some individuals, some violators. They had the -- they made some problems and, of course, at the Islamic Emirates in (INAUDIBLE) the
Kabul city, their country and their lives, etymology (ph) would not be -- would not be damaged and security (ph) have been maintained. The security
is getting better day by day.
Ensuring security, of course, it's natural; in particular, Afghan (INAUDIBLE) particularly in Kabul, there are foreign entities and there are
people. And it is very important for us also, ensuring stability for embassies. And we have assigned special forces, which are green area, where
there are embassies having won security.
Therefore, all international communities, their embassies, their representatives, their political representatives, political leader
representatives and NGOs. And we would like to assure them that nobody will do any action to hurt them or to damage them and their full security will
Our forces will be working day and night to ensure their security.
Without any problem that, as in Kabul, so there have been some disorganization, disorder so Islamic Emirates and when the province is
cleared to (INAUDIBLE) of Kabul. So they should not have any movements in the district in order to have the (INAUDIBLE) process (ph). So the fighting
should not come to Kabul city (ph).
So it is a densely populated area. So we should address the problem outside Kabul and we come to Kabul peacefully. And the forces, (INAUDIBLE) ensure
the (INAUDIBLE) because of the incompetence of the previous government, all the security which were in Kabul, which were ensuring security which were
in the districts, they were assigned to the duties.
So they had split, they left their work. This was the cause that some individuals, some teams (ph) that -- so obviously were misusing or using
the Islamic Emirates name. And they were looting people's houses. And we had to order our forces (INAUDIBLE) to enter the city.