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The Fall of Afghanistan. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 20, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNNINT ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Isa Soares. Welcome to our continuing coverage of the fall of Afghanistan. It is another day of chaos,
confusion, and fear in as well as around Kabul's airport. Afghans desperate to leave the country and escape Taliban rule are facing huge crowds, you
can see there - extreme heat, and checkpoints guarded by armed Taliban militants.
Those who do make it into the airfield face, well, another uncertainty - getting their paperwork processed to actually board a plane. The wait for
that can be hours, and some are simply being turned away.
This - I'm going to show you this, it's an example, really, of the lengths some will go to to get themselves or indeed their families out. As you can
see here, a baby being hoisted over perimeter wall at the airport then scooped up by U.S. troops. Imagine what that mother or father must be
feeling - how desperate they must be in order to be doing that. We don't know the identity of the baby's parents, or if they were able to join their
While our Clarissa Ward and her team made it inside the airport, she explains it in vivid detail. The harrowing situation so many people are now
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We were told that we're basically the last - or some of the last Americans that they've seen
who are leaving. Most of the Americans have already gone.
The people that we have spent the day with - the last eight hours with, are Afghans. Many of them worked at the embassy, many of them worked as
translators, a lot of people worked with international organizations, NGOs.
The vast majority of them have their paperwork in order, but you do see also - and man, does it break your heart, when you see the few people that
come in and have started the application but it hasn't been finished yet. And you see them being escorted back out through the very gate that they
got crushed in for seven hours just to get their chance to leave.
So if your (ph) paperwork isn't in order, and you don't have a sponsor with you, it is very tough to get to this stage where you're finally on the
airfield and ready to go. And listen, everyone is doing their best to streamline this process, but you have to remember - there's a huge amount
of people, thousands, and thousands, and thousands if not tens of thousands. There are multiple gates and entrances.
You have the Americans, you have the Brits, you have the Italians, you have the French, you have the Hungarians. I mean, we have seen pretty much every
nationality you can conceive of. And you have the State Department, and you have the Marines, and you have special forces, and it is very hectic, and
You know, you see people looking for vehicles, traffic jams building up inside the base, people trying to squeeze around blast walls. There just
isn't a coherent mechanism yet in place to process these people. You know, even something simple like tents - please, get these people some tents, OK?
I'm OK, but the women with their babies - they can't be standing out in the 95 degree sun for eight hours - they just can't. They're getting water,
they're handing out MREs - military meals ready to eat, and they're doing their best they can. But it is still a really, really, really tough
I think the main issue right now is that front gate - I mean, we were driving around the airport, every single gate now - at 5 o'clock in the
morning has hundreds of people just clamoring, waiting for maybe soldier opens a door for two mintues and then they just start shoving themselves
into that space.
So what's happening, as we understand it, is that the U.S. and the Taliban are starting to engage and work together, and that's what needs to happen.
Because the two sides are the ones who will ultimately be the ones to try to resolve this bottle neck, and to try to come up with a better mechanism
for processing these people.
For example, how about different lines for different people? Do you have a SIV, do you have a grant (ph) card, are you a U.S. national, have you
partially completed your paperwork? You need to have multiple sort of lines or processing areas at the same time.
Look, that's easy for me to say, right? I just arrived here and - you know, it's all well and good being an armchair critic, I understand how difficult
it is and how hard everyone is working. But still, more needs to be done, more needs to be done to help these poor people.
SOARES: Our Nick Paton Walsh was in Afghanistan until Wednesday and made it through that airport chaos that Clarissa vividly outlined there, painted
there. He joins me now from Qatar's capital of Doha where the Taliban leadership is talking to the U.S. State Department
Before we talk politics, Nick, let's just for what (ph) Clarissa said, and this is something that you and I discussed following that Pentagon briefing
yesterday. Pentagon saying that they'd open those gates, another gate. They said the airport is open and functional, but what good is it to have a, you
know, an airport that's functional people can't get in.
So as you look at the images on the ground any sense that the message is getting through to the U.S. government?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: U.S. government certainly. I think, look, it's important to remember that they are dealing
with an exceptionally difficult task here. This is not something which has an easy solution. You're trying to get people who assisted you against an
insurgency into the airport that you're on that is essentially surrounded by that insurgency, so that is an extraordinary problem.
Two, on top of that you have so many people outside the airport trying to get in that that, in fact, makes it almost impossible for the people you
need to get in to get through those gates.
Now what appears to have happened, though, since I was there on Wednesday when the numbers problem was essentially too many inside, they didn't have
enough - too many inside, they didn't' have enough inside to put on the planes to fly out, now there appear to be as you saw in Clarissa's report
there a lot more people inside the airport, but they don't appear necessarily to be moving them out fast enough. And still the crowds grow on
And the Americans are kind of going to be a victim of their success. All failure either way frankly. If they succeed on getting people on the
message will travel and more will come to the outside hoping to join those inside. I've heard myself of couple of cases people getting in, so it's
clearly happening periodically depending on the paperwork necessarily that you have.
But at the same time, too, if you look there then we are still seeing a buildup inside. The numbers officially, the White House said 3,000 got out
on last Thursday, 24 hours. The State Department somewhat cryptically said that 6,000 have been processed on the based yesterday. Now that leaves you
to wonder that maybe there are 3,000 stuck there in some kind of backlog and the ambition is 5,000 to 9,000 every day. And then the total number,
14,000 since July. I think that 14,000 number must be a bit out of date now, but these numbers are large. They're nothing like the kind of possibly
tens of thousands upper area that the Americans possibly want as their final goal, but he said the most important thing in all of this is that the
Pentagon exposed one real problem with this operation.
The priority of American citizens than they'd like to get as many allied Afghans off as they can. They don't know how many American citizens are
still in Afghanistan they admitted. So we are dealing with essentially either an indefinite or a process that could end tomorrow.
And so, these scenes of chaos essentially dictate I would suggest how sustainable this is going to be and how many lives they can essentially
pull out of Afghanistan. Isa -
SOARES: Explain something to our viewers, Nick. You know, the problem clearly is the bottleneck that you have outlined for us in the last few
days, Clarissa as well on the ground there, but we have heard from British guards, British forces who have come out from the airport and who've been
able to get people from outside that perimeter. Why aren't American forces doing the same?
WALSH: Well there have been reports suggesting that the Brits went out and picked people up. Those reports seem to stem from around the 16 when the
airport chaos was significantly less and the Taliban possibly in a lesser presence in the city, so it isn't clear if those British operations are
continuing. And I would suggest that would be a very tough call in the circumstance with all the roadblocks running up to the airport.
The Germans have just tweeted the fact they have helicopters who'll go after who they needs. That in itself is, shall we say, a courageous idea.
Unclear if they're actually using them. Though some possible posturing going on here to suggest that they have the capability if they need. And
then the French have just released some tweets suggesting that their special police units, and in fact, went into Kabul and picked people up,
but it's not clear on what days they did do that.
The Americans - well, the Americans conducted before this airport crisis an enormous airlift on a lot of their people out of their embassy, and I think
it's fair to say if the Americans really did want to go into Kabul and pick people up they probably would do that. But this is a massively complex
situation. I don't think really that the Americans want to find themselves in a position where they're engaging the Taliban in central Kabul because
they want an extraction operation.
They're hoping to get people towards their airport on their own steam, but it is, of course, an exceptionally difficult challenge given the Taliban
presence on the road around. And the - look, you've seen the scenes at the gate. I've been there myself up against a piece of steel with marines above
who won't let you in and hundreds deep of Afghans on this side pushing towards you.
It is just potentially a moment of suffocation. And so, you just have to bear in mind that this pressure is building.
SOARES: Yes, indeed. And of course there are families - women with children, the videos that we showed. And you just can't imagine what they
are going through. And put in context there from Nick Paton Walsh. Thanks, Nick, appreciate it.
While the U.S. was warned of ways to mitigate the chaos, we're now seeing that Nick was describing at Kabul airport. Last month more than a dozen
diplomats sent a classified memo to the U.S. State Department warning of the possibility of a Taliban takeover. They laid out how the department
should quickly evacuate Afghans who helped U.S. forces. State Department officials told CNN the diplomats were concerned their previous warnings had
Kylie Atwood is at the U.S. State Department as officials face scrutiny over really what advice was missed. And Kylie, what did this classified
cable (ph) call for, and were the steps these diplomats asking - talk us through the steps they were asking (ph) to be taken.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this classified dissent memo written by these diplomats to the secretary of state was
calling for the department to take more urgent action with regard to processing and evacuating these Afghans who worked alongside U.S. troops
Now, the State Department has taken actions on this front, but the bottom line is that these diplomats who wrote this cable in July were writing it
because they felt that their voices hadn't been heard. You only write a dissent memo to the secretary of state as sort of a last case scenario,
right? The last effort that they're going to make on this, hoping that there are changes that can be implemented.
Now, the deputy national security advisor to President Biden said yesterday that some of the things that these diplomats suggested were actually quite
rapidly implemented. But, I am also told that there are certain parts of it that weren't rapidly implemented and should have been done earlier to
mitigate against the incredible chaos that we are seeing right now. And these diplomats recognized that it was going to be chaotic, but they
thought that there were steps that should be taken earlier to at least prevent against some of that.
Now, the State Department has said that the secretary of state respects the use of dissent memos, they value them, they work in their suggestions into
the policy making process here at the department. They also said he reviews every single dissent memo, therefore we know that the secretary of state
did review this dissent memo. But the fact that these diplomats even felt that they needed to do this -
ATWOOD: - is noteworthy, and it demonstrates that those on the ground thought that there was more that could be done than the department was
actually doing to prepare.
SOARES: Kylie Atwood there for us. Appreciate Kylie (inaudible) the U.S. Security Correspondent.
While the foreign ministers from NATO met a short while ago to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he
convened the meeting to find a common approach after the Taliban's takeover. This, of course, as NATO looks into how to evacuate those who
worked for the coalition (ph).
Germany's special envoy held talks with a Taliban representative in Doha and called for safe passage assurances for Afghans. Its defense ministry
says they have evacuated 1,600 people from Afghanistan so far.
Melissa Bell joins me now, live from Paris.
Melissa, what can we expect from today's meeting? Because Stoltenberg said he wants close coordination, but what does that exactly mean?
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, what exactly does it mean after the lack of close cooperation on the manner of the American withdraw
over the last few days? And I think that's what's going to be at the heart of the meeting.
There's been a fair amount of impatience and frustration expressed by European leaders, over the course of the last few days, and that's likely
to be on the table again. And remember that the divisions within NATO and the questions from Europeans in particular don't (ph) date back to a week
They've gone back for many months going back to the Trump administration, Emmanuel Macron questioning the role of NATO - the point of NATO after the
unilateral American withdraw from Syria back in 2019, saying that the organization was brain dead, in what had become a fairly controversial
piece in the Anglo-Saxon Press.
That question about that need for European strategic independence that has been posing itself ever since Trump first came to power, in a sense has
been highlighted once again by the way in which the American withdraw has been organized, and the European frustration that it was not better
coordinated with NATO allies.
So I think this will be an opportunity, this meeting, to air a fair amount of those grievances we expect a press conference a little bit later. So we
should find out more about exactly what was said, but clearly the first priority of this meeting beyond the questions of what NATO is for, is -
will be how to get those NATO countries directly involved on the ground and those Afghans who have helped them out over the coming days.
But also to look at the very immediate future of Afghanistan, and how best it may be stabilized and peace achieved in some kind of recognition of the
new regime, organized in a way that allows the international community to bring some kind of assistance to those 18 million Afghans, who are now
according to the United Nations, in need of it.
But then beyond that, of course, and underpinning all of this is just that, Isa. The very question of what NATO is for. After all, bear in mind that
back in 2001 when the United States first went in when this all began 20 years ago it was on the grounds of Article 5 that the other NATO members
got involved. That article that says that when one member state is aggressive as the others (ph) that need to respond together.
What we've seen is a coalition go in together but in the end retreat behind a unilateral decision that was made without much coordination, and that has
got the backs of a lot of Europeans up (ph).
SOARES: And that has - they have faced plenty of criticism for that. Melissa, as you've been talking I've received a statement by NATO Foreign
Ministers on Afghanistan. Several bullet points - six bullet points. I'm just going to pick on one really. Point four, any future Afghan government
must adhere to Afghanistan's international obligations, safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities, uphold
the rule of law, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.
They then talk about again the - what - the importance to respect and facilitate safe and orderly departure, talking about partner country
nationals. On the question of refugees and getting people out, Melissa, what role will Europe be playing in finding home for Afghan refugees
because domestically I can imagine that this won't play very well?
BELL: The problem is, Isa, that six years after the last migrant crisis in 2015, which exposed the need for a prominent and coordinated new migration
policy for the European Union we have yet to have one. That is because politically that very crisis that led to that need for new policy also led
domestically for European countries to political situations where the reaction in 2015 met any kind of dialogue about how best to organize an
asylum policy virtually impossible.
And so, we find ourselves in 2021 without that fresh approach to a migration policy. For the time being we remain in a situation where we have
those hot spots, where asylum seekers are first received, places like Lesvos in Greece, places like Lampedusa in Italy, and we have yet to find a
European policy that allows them to be, first of all, processed in a manner that is quick and efficient and up to the standards of what asylum seekers
seeking genuine asylum might be able to expect from the European Union but also one that then allows them to be distributed fairly across the European
Union in order that they can reveal (ph) their lives.
For the time being, Europe for the last six years has been looking and failing to find that even as this fresh migrant crisis looms because make
no mistake it is the American decision to leave and this is the way it's seen by a number of European politicians that is almost inevitably going to
lead to many more Afghans wanting to leave Afghan and head to Europe.
SOARES: Absolutely. A humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis looming. Melissa Bell there for us in Paris. Thanks very much, Melissa. Great to see
Well if you want to find out how you can help Afghan refugees or if you are a veteran troubled by events in Afghanistan, go to cnn.com/impact. You can
find more resources there, links to NGOs that may be able to help you.
And just ahead, the Turkish President urges Europe to take responsibility for worsening Afghan refugee crisis. Melissa mentioned that. Well his
efforts to stem the tide of people crossing Turkey's border, that is next.
SOARES: It's survival of the fittest. Not my words, but the words of our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward reporting on the scenes at
Kabul international airport all week. She's been covering the desperation, as well as the chaos really that you're seeing there from the Afghan
capital. She spoke to my colleague Michael Holmes from the airport a few hours ago. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: We are actually on the air field where some of the very lucky ones here will soon be leaving Afghanistan on one of these military carriers.
They're very noisy, so my apologies if you can't hear me well. But our journey took us roughly seven hours. The vast majority of people we've
spoken to though, it's been one or two days to try to get in.
And I have to tell you, that initial shove to get in the first gate is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Pushing, crushing, people screaming,
we're all holding onto each other's hands, desperately trying to get in this small door. We were lucky that those were American citizens, but so
many others are not.
Having said that, we have seen many Afghans inside of various checkpoints moving through the very slow system that is in place to try to evacuate
people, some of them standing out in the blazing hot sun for eight hours, screaming babies, at one stage we saw a newborn baby brought through on a
military vehicle at high speed because the baby had dehydrated and had heat stroke.
And one soldier told me that yesterday people were actually throwing babies at these U.S. soldiers because they were so desperate to get their children
out to a better future. One of his men actually caught one of the babies and later found the family and returned the child to the family.
But, Michael, if that doesn't speak to unimaginable desperation, then I just don't know what does. One of the soldiers here said that they have
evacuated 13,000 people since last Friday, the largest air lift evacuation in U.S. history according to him.
But my god there is still a lot of work to do, a lot more people to save. The crowds outside the airport do not get any smaller. They seem to get
bigger, if anything, every day Michael.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: An extraordinary situation, a - I mean, it's heartbreaking, too, the people who aren't going to be able to
get out. If - if you had 30 seconds to wrap this up, what impressions as you leave?
WARD: My impressions is that we're witnessing an astounding moment in history. There is a lot of pain. There is a lot of desperation. There is a
lot of heartache and rage and bitterness and a lot of people counting on America right now to do the right thing by its allies and get these people
out safely before it's too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, Afghan translators who work with United States troops are doing precisely that, urging the Biden administration to honor its pledge
to leave no one behind. Here's a message from a translator shared by a human rights lawyer. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNKNOWN MALE: Why are the American soldiers forgetting about us after everything we did, the sacrifices we made? Why are they leaving us behind?
I don't want to be killed by the Taliban. They are going to cut our heads off if they find my location. Please help.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Just heartbreaking really. Now to the story of an Afghan interpreter who worked alongside U.S. Forces, a former Marine is making sure he can get
out, driven by commitment to leave no man behind. CNN's Cyril Vanier has the story for you.
CNN's Cyril Vanier has the story for you.
CYRIL VANIER, CNNI CORRESPONDENT: On the other side of this crowd, the only way out of Afghanistan, Kabul International Airport. Families, women
and children - thousands rushed here to be evacuated after the Taliban's sudden takeover of the country. Some are being turned away, it seems.
Others are settling in for a long wait. The man who shot this video, Haji (ph), his identity protected for fear of retribution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, take cover - take cover.
VANIER: Haji's (ph) journey to the airport really started here 10 years ago. Helmand Province, the heart of the Taliban insurgency. Haji (ph) sided
with the Americans, a translator for the U.S. Marine Corps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least one of those kids is a fighter. Would you agree?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely they are. They bring weapons here, definitely they bring IED here.
VANIER: The Taliban never forgave him. He's been on the run with his wife and young children for five years. This is what Haji (ph) said to CNN only
a few weeks ago.
HAJI (PH): If they found me, they'd kill me and they'd kill my family. Because I was an interpreter with the U.S. Marines.
VANIER: Denied a special immigrant visa for the U.S. twice, Haji (ph) was running out of options when a former platoon mate stepped in.
LANCE CORPORAL JIMMY HURLEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): I kind of had a moment where I realized that he would not be able to do this by himself, at
all. And I felt like if I didn't see it through, there was zero chance of him getting out.
VANIER: From half a world away, former Lance Corporal Jimmy Hurley applied for a new visa, and a few days ago started crowd funding, anticipating hard
HAJI (PH): Again (ph) I was really fighting not to get emotional here, but I was pretty blown away at $2,000 from friends and family. And then the CNN
story aired, and it - you know, hit $10,000, $13,000, $18,000. How quickly it grew has been really, really cool - really overwhelming.
VANIER: But the Taliban's lightening advance forced some difficult decisions. Haji (ph), you 100 percent need to get to Kabuil, Jimmy writes.
Have you gotten the money?
Hours go by, and finally this from Haji (ph). Getting to Kabul. Walking, running, hiding. Walk in mountain and in forest.
Haji and his family taking every risk, skirting Taliban checkpoints including this one and rushing to the airport, gambling that their visa
application would be enough to get them to safety.
What happened when you tried to get to the gate?
HAJI (PH): We tried to go in. I told them, "I've got this document." They said, "no." "You have to have someone inside this airport. They come out
for you, they will take you inside."
VANIER: So, Haji (ph) waits for an elusive e-mail, crowds now looking like this outside the airport. The Taliban biding their time as the U.S.
improvises a mass evacuation. Haji's (ph) life in the hands of the Americans, for whom a decade ago, he risked his own.
Cyril Vanier, CNN London.
SOARES: Still to come, talking to the Taliban. The U.S. in touch daily with the group in Kabul, but what are they saying? We'll have more on that
next. Plus, help finally reaches many of the people who need it most after Saturday's devastating earthquake in Haiti. We'll tell you about the
medical evacuations underway. You are watching CNN.
SOARES: Welcome back. I'm Isa Soares in London. You are watching our continuing coverage of the crisis in Afghanistan. I want to remind you of
our top story, the desperate scramble amongst some Afghans to leave the country really in the face of huge crowds as well as searing heat.
The White House says about 3,000 people were able to leave the Kabul Airport on Thursday with U.S. assistance. Many Afghans are still trying to
enter the airport. In one case as you can see there they handed this baby to American troops on top of the wall at the airport. Just terrifying
Elsewhere in a distributing development, German news network, Deutsche Welle, says a family member of one of its journalists has been killed by
the Taliban. They were shot dead on Wednesday. Deutsche Welle says the homes of at least three of its staff was searched by the Taliban.
Well U.S. military commanders are speaking to the Taliban daily about maintaining security around Kabul Airport. The top U.S. Commander is in the
country's leading efforts to communicate with an end relief (ph) to ensure the safety of both Americans and Afghans hoping to escape. This is as the
State Department will continue high level diplomatic talks in Doha, Qatar.
Of course, Doha has long played a leading role in negotiations involving the Taliban. Sam Kiley is there for us to bring us some more context, and
Sam, explain to our viewers Qatar's role in these negotiations and what they're hoping to get out of it.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well for more than 18 months now, in fact, more than a few years Qatar both overtly and in more
recent years openly have hosted negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the United States of America, leading to a peace deal last year, which
arguably hastened certainly in the view of its critics the end of the Afghan government's rule that we've seen in the last couple of weeks
because it set a time by which or the Trump administration agreed to set a time by which they would be out of Afghanistan come way May.
The Taliban have said that that was an absolutely necessity. You can't have an open ended commitment, but they do - and I've been speaking to them
privately - agree that they spent the intervening time talking to members of the Afghan National Army and other security forces, persuading them that
the time for fighting was over in their words and that the time to change sides and join them in a national effort had come, which may partly explain
why they've been able to race so effectively across the country.
But now the Taliban are dominant in Kabul. They are saying that they're going to set up a government - an inclusive government, Isa, and the
Qataris are very keen to see that follow through. They're very, very keen, indeed, also to maintain a dialogue or to facilitate a dialogue between the
United States and the Taliban so that the Taliban do not ultimately feel and get isolated particularly by the west. The Taliban are insisting that
they want to see Americans change their attitude, but they want to see American investment. They want to see international aid flowing in.
And so, at least in terms of the public face their role of Doha is critical in that. What's going on on the ground, though, may undermine those grand
SOARES: That was going to be my next question because, you know, we did see at the beginning, Sam, a charm offensive by the Taliban, but we're now
hearing of a threat assessment prepared for the U.N. says the Taliban are intensifying the hunt down of all individuals and collaborators with the
form of regime. I mean, what does Qatar when you look at these scenes and you hear this assessment from the U.N., where does Qatar stand on this? I
know they're mediators but what are they saying?
KILEY: Well, the first thing to point out, though, is that that is not a U.N. assessment, it's an assessment conducted by a Norwegian think tank.
There are a lot of these sorts of assessments knocking around.
I wouldn't set too much store (ph) by it. I think what everybody is looking at is what actually evolves on the ground. So of concern - deep concern is
reports of attacks on leaders, military leaders, security leaders within the armed forces of Afghanistan who've given themselves up to the Taliban
who have been reported to have been executed in incidents which the Taliban have dismissed as fake news.
That we've now got this report of a family member of a (inaudible) employee himself outside the country being allegedly attacked allegedly by the
Taliban in a search for people connected with western media. These are of deep concern. Exactly what the administration here in Qatar are trying to
make sure the Taliban don't start drifting back to the old ways of insurgency and look forward to the ways of government, Isa.
SOARES: Sam Kiley there for us in Doha. Sam, always great to get your perspective. Thanks very much, Sam.
Well, as tens of thousands of Afghans try to leave the country, many have crossed into Turkey especially via Iran. The Turkish president is urging
European countries to take responsibility for the crisis. On Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has no obligation to be Europe's
"refugee warehouse." Jomana Karadsheh joins me now live from Istanbul, turkey.
I mean, Jomana, the world's attention has been on those at the airport, really those trying to escape, but they are a small percentage of Afghans.
The rest have no way out. And we could be seeing, potentially, a new migration wave from Afghanistan. How is Turkey preparing for this? Is - are
they preparing to take on more refugees? Where does Erdogan stand on this?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Isa, to put this all into context, Turkey is the world's largest host of refugees, nearly 4 million
refugees. The majority of them Syrians, but they've also got Afghan refugees. According to the government, there are about 300,000 Afghans in
the country, about half of them are registered asylum seekers.
And according to President Erdogan over the past three years, more than half of all irregular migrants coming into Turkey have been Afghans. And,
you know, it's gotten to a point, Isa, where the feeling in this country is they just can't take in any more refugees.
The pressure has been building on the government, whether it is from the main opposition parties or also from a large segment of Turkish society,
people, a lot of people are blaming refugees for the state of the economy. Of course, the economy has been impacted by the pandemic.
And this has really made it very tough for the government to try, in any way, to open its doors for any influx of refugees. So they have been very
keen as this has become more and more of a contentious issue at the heart of a political debate in this country to try and show the population that
they are not going to have open borders for any sort of influx of refugees coming in from Afghanistan.
We've seen government ministers, including the defense minister, heading down to the border with Iran showing that they are, what he called,
reinforcements at the border. Almost on a daily basis, we are hearing these statements and seeing these pictures coming out. They're building a wall
that is being expanded on the border with Iran.
And then you have those comments from President Erdogan yesterday saying, look. Turkey is not going to deal with it, this situation on its own.
Europe has a responsibility here and a moral obligation, and he says Turkey has no obligation to become what he said and described as "a refugee
warehouse." Of course this is all in reference back to 2016 the refugee agreement between Turkey and the (inaudible).
SUARES: I want to take you now to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who's speaking. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: - immigrational people from allied and partner countries and Afghans who worked with us. This is our
immediate priority. NATO has worked around the clock to maintain operations at Kabul international airport allowing thousands of people to leave.
Around 800 NATO civilian personnel have worked to keep the airport open, providing air traffic control, fuel, and communications. I pay tribute to
them as they work in very difficult circumstances. I also thank the military forces of NATO allies, in particular Turkey, the United States and
United Kingdom, and our partner Azerbaijan for their vital role in securing the airport.
And I thank all the allies who have today pledged to receive Afghans at risk.
Second, we discussed our approach to those in power in Kabul. The eyes of the world are on Afghanistan. We expect the Taliban to uphold their
commitments and assure that Afghans does not again - that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for international terrorism.
The Taliban - third, ministers agreed that we will not allow terrorists to threaten us again from Afghanistan. NATO'S engagement was in response to
the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Our objective was to prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a safe haven for further
attacks on us. And no terrorist attacks on allied soil have been organized from Afghanistan over the last two decades. These gains must be preserved
for our own security.
Finally, there are hard questions that we need to ask ourselves of our engagement in Afghanistan. We were clear eyed about the risks of
withdrawing our troops, but the speed of the collapse of the Afghan political and military leadership and armed forces was not anticipated.
There are many lessons to be learned, and I intend to conduct a thorough assessment of Nato's engagement in Afghanistan.
North America and Europe must continue to stand together in NATO. The unfolding events in Afghanistan do not change this. The shifting, global
balance of power, Russia's aggressive actions, and the rise of China make it even more important that we keep a strong transatlantic bond.
We all know the service of the hundreds of thousands of allied and partner military and civilians who have served in Afghanistan and all the Afghans
who have stood with us. With that, I'm ready to take your questions.
MODERATOR: For the first question, we'll go to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thanks a lot and good evening. Secretary General, last Sunday when Kabul had fallen, the U.S. Foreign Secretary Blinken said that the
U.S. could deal with any Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people and doesn't harbor terrorists. Now, today's statement from NATO
foreign ministers goes way beyond that, including, notably, rule of law as a condition.
How do you explain that difference and how would you sum up your message to the Taliban rulers in Kabul today? That's my first question. If I may add a
second one, could you please explain in which framework you intend to do this thorough investigation of the Resolute Support Mission? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: First of all, we discussed at the meeting today and I raised the issue of a thorough assessment, a lessons learned process, not only
about the Resolute Support Mission but NATOs total engagement in Afghanistan over two decades.
And as you know, that started with the ISOF (ph) mission and then that turned into the Resolute Support in 2014. So - so we have been there for
close to 20 years and we have invested a lot in drawdown pressure in Afghanistan, and I think we should now have a very honest and clear eyed
assessment of what went wrong but also what we achieved. And I will initiate that as soon as possible.
Exactly how that will be done, I have to come back to that, but it was broad support, support from allies, to the idea of the assessment of the
engagement to have - to learn lessons and to meet together and learn so we - yes, draw the right lessons from the engagement in Afghanistan.
And - and I - I have a humble approach because when we see the challenges, the crisis we are faced with in Afghanistan, of course there are some
serious lessons to be learned after two decades in Afghanistan for NATO.
Then, fundamentally, the message from all allies, of course, to - United States and also what is reflected in the statement from foreign ministers
today is the same, that the government, the rulers, the Taliban -- they in Kabul, in Afghanistan, they need to live up to their international
commitments to not harbor or support international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, ISIS, to respect human rights including the rights of women,
and also to give free passage to people so they can leave the country and that of course also includes Afghans.
And this has been expressed by allies, individual allies and today also in a joint statement by all NATO allies coming from Foreign Ministers meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the next question we'll go to Paris, Melissa Bell for CNN.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Secretary General, thank you very much. I wanted to ask you first of all whether you agreed with the statement that's
been made these last few days that this was the greatest debacle in the history of NATO. Also, whether you don't think that what's happened these
last few days is really a nail in the coffin of Article V that allies can go into battle together, but once they don't withdraw together as a
coalition, NATO has a problem.
STOLTENBERG: This is a tragedy first and foremost for the people of Afghanistan. We have been there for 20 years. We have deployed hundreds of
thousands of NATO troops. Several thousand have paid the ultimate price and hundreds of thousands of non-U.S. allies have served alongside U.S.
soldiers in Afghanistan and more than a thousand have paid the ultimate price. So, this has really been a huge effort by this alliance.
When the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban back in February, 2020, of course then it was very difficult for European allies to
continue to stay because as you alluded to, we went into Afghanistan as a response to an attack on the United States, and when the United States
decided to end its military mission there, we had an agreement signed back in February, 2020, then there was no viable, practical option for the other
allies -- European allies in Kandahar to remain without the United States.
NATO remains a strong alliance. NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement, our collective defense in Europe since the end of the Cold
War and there is also a very clear message from the meeting today that whatever happens in Afghanistan that should not undermine our ability to
protect NATO allied countries, NATO allied territory, and that was a very clear message from the Foreign Ministers today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next question goes to Reuters and Zabi Zanibold (ph).
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary General. I wanted to ask you whether you have any idea or how long you expect Kabul Airport to remain open and to
continue evacuations. And the second one, if I may, you thanked several states for securing security at Kabul Airport, amongst them Turkey. Could
you work out a little bit on that one, please? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: So Turkey has been responsible for the airport for several years, and they continue to play a key role in operating the airport. The
big difference now is, of course, that because of the crisis, because of the difficulties, because of the huge immigration effort, other allies and
especially the United States has also deployed a large number of troops to the airport and all allies thanked today those allies who are helping to
operate the airport, in particular Turkey, the United States, United Kingdom, but also some other allies who have deployed different kinds of
capabilities to be able to run the airport.
And also, several hundred NATO officials are supporting -- civilian officials, civilian staff, are also helping to operate the airport in close
cooperation with the United States and other NATO allies.
Then on the timelines, that was an issue that was discussed during the meeting today, and several allies raised the issue of potentially extending
the timeline to get more people out. The U.S. has stated that the timeline ends on the 31st of August, but several allies raised during the discussion
today the need to potentially extend that to be able to get more people out.
STOLTENBERG: Our focus is to get of course our own staff, people working for NATO, for NATO allied countries, for partner countries, but, also,
Afghans and we are working hard to help the Afghans. We have been able to get some out, but are working hard to get more Afghans out of Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the next question, we go to GOTV News from Pakistan and Khalid Hamed Farouki (ph).
Khalid, we can't hear you. Yes, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Secretary General, it seems that Pakistan emerging as a consensus builder contacting previous Afghan government, previous
Mujahideen Abdullah Abdullah, Hekmatyar and Karzai and bringing all Afghan faction together, so will you support these efforts of consensus building
STOLTENBERG: I think what is important now is that whatever new government we will get in Kabul that this is an inclusive government and everything
that can help to support such a process I think is helpful.
When it comes to Pakistan, I think that Pakistan has a special responsibility partly because Pakistan is a neighbor of Afghanistan and
partly because of Pakistan's close relationship to the Taliban.
So, I think Pakistan has a special responsibility to make sure that Afghanistan lives up to its international -- that Afghanistan lives up to
its international commitments and, also, that Afghanistan not once again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists.
A stable Afghanistan is in the interest of all countries including not least the neighbors as Pakistan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next question goes to "The Washington Post" and Reis Thebault.
REIS THEBAULT, "THE WASHINGTONN POST": Thank you. Secretary General, before Kabul fell, you warned the Taliban that, quote, "They will not be
recognized by the international community if they take the country by force." Now that they've done that, what is NATO's position on recognizing
the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan? Is recognition out of the question? Or is it instead conditioned on a set of criteria? And does NATO
currently have a line of communication with the Taliban? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: Listen, NATO is not a nation, so NATO does not recognize states, but of course NATO allies can do that and it also was clearly
stated in the meeting today that diplomatic recognition is something which -- there has to have conditions on how the new government behave and to
what extent they live up to their international commitment.
So, the message is reflected in the statement agreed to by the Foreign Ministers today, and that is about the need for Afghanistan to live up to
commitments, for instance, the commitment in the agreement with the United States signed in February, 2020 or last year where they clearly stated that
they should not support, provide safe haven for international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda or ISIS.
So, that is a very obvious and important commitment because NATO went into Afghanistan, our main task in Afghanistan has been to prevent the country
from once again becoming a platform for launching terrorist attacks against our own countries.
For 20 years, we have prevented such attacks, terrorist attacks from Afghanistan against NATO allied countries. We need to preserve those gains
and also discussed during the meeting today how we can preserve those gains including by stating very clearly to the Afghan, new Afghan rulers, the new
government, that these are commitments we expect them to adhere to.
Then of course it is also relevant, when it comes to -- also we, expect them to live up to other commitments including the respect for human rights
and the rights of all women.
STOLTENBERG: And then some NATO allies have not recognized the new government partly because there is no new government to recognize. But some
allies and I think that is important, they have what I will call operational, tactical contact with the Taliban, but that is to ensure safe
passage, to manage the situation outside the airport and so on.
That is, we had to distinguish these kind of tactical operational contact with the Taliban which I think is needed, important, and diplomatic
recognition. That's two different things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next question goes to --
ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to the Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General briefing us on the crisis in Afghanistan, the
events unfolding in Afghanistan. I know Melissa Bell has been listening in along with me.
Melissa, a couple of things really stood out to me. The immediate task it seems from the NATO's point of view is to help evacuate citizens, allied
citizens, and at risk Afghans. In terms of time frame, he said potentially extending the timeline, but not telling us whether that goes beyond a U.S.
State, and he says as long as evacuation operations continue, we will maintain a close operational coordination through allied military.
But one thing I think also would stand out to you will be the -- we were clear-eyed about withdrawing our troops and there will be a thorough
investigation. What stood out to you?
BELL: I think that's right, Isa. First of all, that focus on getting NATO allies out of the country, those Afghans who helped them. That is the
immediate crisis. That focus then that Stoltenberg made clear, which was about making sure that Afghanistan never again became a haven for
terrorists, that was the second priority he talked about.
But also, of course, as you say, those lessons for NATO itself. We were able to ask him, what the lessons would be. Article V, at the very heart of
why NATO exists, the idea if one member is attacked the others respond and in 2001 that function perfectly; as they withdrew, it did not. What does
that mean for Article V? And I think that is really what he is referring to when he is talking about the lessons to be learned from Afghanistan for
NATO, for what it means going forward, for what the alliance stands for, for how it functions.
It is very well to agree on the rules of engagement, but what about the rules of disengagement? And so an answer my question, he explained that
look, once the United States had signed with the Taliban an agreement to leave, it was very difficult for European allies to do anything else. How
and whether that should have been better coordinated really is something I expect is going to come out of the inquiry that follows in order to go back
over the lessons learned.
But yes, for now, very much the focus of NATO, getting its people, getting those who have helped them out, and that is no mean feat given the chaos
that continues to reign around Kabul Airport and then longer term deciding how NATO is going to engage with the Taliban in order to ensure, as he
said, that that second priority is maintained, the one of avoiding the country once again becoming a haven for terrorists. The reason after all
back in 2001 that NATO went in.
SOARES: Of course, we heard what he said. What didn't we hear from Jens Stoltenberg that we really needed to hear right now, Melissa?
BELL: Well, very little criticism actually, Isa, of the United States and the way that the disengagement took place. I mean, I think we have heard it
from European leaders over the course of the last few days, more or less explicitly a sense of disappointment, a sense of incomprehension really
about the fact that the United States should have kept them in the dark.
There was all this enthusiasm with regards to the arrival of the Biden administration, I think here in Europe, this sense of disillusion about the
way that this has been managed, the lack of communication around it, the lack of organization and coordination around it.
And again, for Europe, once again a reminder of the fact that beyond the question of whether Donald Trump is in power in the White House, the need
for Europe to look ahead to how it ensures its own security less dependent on the United States than it has been since World War II -- Isa.
SOARES: Melissa Bell for us there in Paris. Thanks very much, Melissa.
If you are just joining us, let me bring you up-to-date what we heard in the last few minutes, the NATO Secretary General, basically saying the
priority, the immediate -- he says -- task is to help evacuate citizens, their allied citizens, as well as at-risk Afghans.
In terms of timeframe, he was asked about this -- potentially he said, extending the timeline. He did say that they are clear eyed, NATO is, he
said, about withdrawing our troops, but obviously the collapse of the Armed Forces was not anticipated, and a thorough investigation will take place.
I want to take you now to CNN domestic with Kate Bolduan.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are following breaking news. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
President Biden is being briefed on the crisis in Afghanistan right now in the Situation Room.