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CNN Reports from Inside the Chaotic Scene at Kabul Airport; CNN: U.S. Diplomats Warned of Afghanistan's Collapse in July Memo; Desperate Afghans Flood Kabul Airport to Flee Taliban, While Others Vow to Defy Taliban Rule; Former Ghani Adviser: What's Happening is a Disaster; Crowds Enduring Long Lines and Intense Heat Inside and Outside Airport. Aired 11a- 12p ET
Aired August 20, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: We're following breaking new. Hello everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. President Biden is being briefed on the crisis in Afghanistan
right now in "The Situation Room". The president is set to address the nation once again on this crisis at 1 pm Eastern.
This morning, we are seeing more and more heartbreaking images of what is happening on the ground the reality on the ground thousands of Americans
and thousands of Afghan allies for a fifth day risking life and limb to try and get past Taliban checkpoints to get into Kabul Airport.
Reports of people being whipped, attacked by Taliban traveled along the way. This video we're showing you should hit home hard. A baby being handed
to U.S. troops over a concrete wall and razor wire at the perimeter of the airport. That is the level of desperation that people are facing right now.
The Biden Administration says 3000 people have been evacuated in the past 24 hours on 16 military transport flights nearly 350 are U.S. citizens they
say. But the White House still today says it does not know how many Americans are still in Afghanistan?
CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, she is joining me live on the phone now from the airport in Kabul. Clarissa, what's the
latest? What are you seeing?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate we've been at the airport now for 12 hours and on the airfield for 8 hours. And during
the last 8 hours, the time that we've been waiting here, we have not seen a single U.S. flight, evacuating people. We saw one U.S. flight take off
about half an hour to an hour ago. But it was filled with U.S. servicemen and women.
The people who have been sitting on the tarmac for the last 10 hours have not been able to get on a flight, which means Kate, because we did the
whole sort of process today that all the other bottlenecks are now even more choked. Because it's the flights aren't moving and the people aren't
moving where they can't bring in more people.
And so what's emerging quite clearly here is, you know, it's a chaotic scene. You have people lying on the floor, with their babies is incredibly
loud here. Obviously, we're on an airfield, there are all sorts of aircraft around, and mothers trying to put their hands over their baby's ears.
As you know, it's one thing to be up for a couple of hours, but people have been on the airfield for 10 hours. And before that, two days, two days Kate
to try to get through this airport, beginning with the crush at the beating at the Taliban checkpoints and then the very, very slow process, getting
through the various U.S. checkpoints before you get to the airfield.
And you know there's just no surprise here. People are standing in the scorching 90 degree sunshine for hours on end, we saw a tiny newborn babies
being evacuated in emergency for medical care, because she was completely dehydrated, and as sunstroke as the U.S. soldiers handing out strips of
cardboard to be used as makeshift bands.
I mean, that's the level that we're dealing with. There's no tent, there's nothing for these people. And these are the lucky ones. That is what is so
hard to get your head around here. These are the lucky people who will get relieved.
BOLDUAN: Are you kidding? Is there any explanation that you can see or fathom what the holdup is why there haven't been any flights out? I know
the Pentagon that said there are multiple factors that can slow things down that are out of their control. One of them being weather, I assume there's
- is there any weather that is slowing this down? I mean, is there any explanation?
WARD: Yes. So a few hours ago, there was a nasty looking storm on the horizon. And it did seem at that time that that was slowing down some of
the air traffic movement. However, I would say that, that well, it's fast for this immediate vicinity. I can't say where it is. I'm not a
meteorologist, but its fast for this immediate vicinity.
And other flights do seem to be taking off. I've seen a couple of civilian aircraft a Pakistan Airlines Flight, which I believe is evacuating
diplomats, and some sort of World Bank, employees and such. I've asked everyone I can hear what's going on?
Why aren't the planes taking off? How long can these people lie on these rocks and these gravel I don't even want to tell you what the bathroom was
like Kate because there's about three stalls for 500 people and obviously, no cleaning or anything like that.
WARD: There is water and there are MREs but it's a desperate situation and it's a mess. It's a mess. And everybody understands this is, you know, an
incredibly huge challenge. No one would expect it to be seamless. But the thing that people keep raising with me is the idea of why did it have to be
Why couldn't people have been evacuated more gradually than U.S. knew it was leaving for a long time? Why wait until the Taliban takes the capitals
before you start evacuating your allies who, of course, are very vulnerable to threat from the Taliban?
BOLDUAN: Have you had a chance? You said and these are the lucky ones, especially when you see the crush outside the airport and these been being
the lucky ones they're now stuck hours and hours in the heat laying on pieces of cardboard, as you point out, who are - who are these lucky ones?
Have you - what are their stories?
WARD: So these lucky ones have been the people that I've been able to talk to, there are a few dual nationals. So Afghan Americans, there are a lot of
translators who work with the U.S. military and their families, a lot of people who work with the U.S. Embassy, you know, there's some U.S. Embassy
personnel around here trying to facilitate getting them out.
And then other Afghans who have their paperwork in order, and who probably work with various other U.S. or international organizations. We did see a
lot of people are also getting turned back today. And you can imagine how crushing that is, you know, your paperwork isn't all in order, or didn't
get the final approval or were rejected that you couldn't get an HR letter in 24 hours from the people in Texas who you worked for in 2014.
I mean, it's just a bureaucratic nightmare for these people who don't have any real recourse once they're turned away. And you know, we've seen these
images of the crush Kate that you mentioned, we actually went through the class today. And we were very lucky because we went through a gate where
there were relatively few people.
And we went to the very early hour in the morning. But I can tell you, it was one of the more our harrowing experiences I've ever had. Because the
desperation with that gate open, just the tiny, tip of the jar, and there's just as much people pushing, pushing, and you're desperately trying to
stand up. I'm holding hands, with my colleagues, with some of our local staff who were trying to get out.
And everybody screaming and children are screaming, and on the other side of the bloggers claiming to get back. I mean, it's just unconscionable,
that there are women there carrying newborn baby. And I just, you know, a year - I hit a certain point that I'm at a loss for words, honestly.
BOLDUAN: Well, I was actually going to say, this is a situation that, it's unsustainable is what you're describing. And as everyone knows, who follows
your reporting and have for years, you have covered a lot of war and conflict, you have seen some of the best and worst of humanity. How do you
WARD: You know, I think what's sort of so striking about this is that the people who are right now, loading their babies over razor wire, hoping that
an American soldier might catch it, so that they could have a better future. Those people were allies of the U.S. They worked with U.S. they
risked their lives, to act as translators and facilitators and drivers and cook.
And at the end of this, this is the bank they get. And I understand that everyone is working really hard to try to evacuate these people now. But
honestly, from what we're seeing on the ground, and in the eyes of many who I am talking to on the ground, it feels like too little too late.
Because the scale of this position is now enormous beyond the capacity of any military, but even beyond the capacity of the U.S. military and the 6
or 8000 troops who are now here. And there's this tight timeframe by which this has to be executed.
I'm sitting here Kate for 12 hours in the airport, 8 hours on the airfield and I haven't seen a single U.S. plane takeoff. How on earth are you going
to evacuate 60,000 people in the next two weeks?
WARD: It just it can't happen.
BOLDUAN: It's also a horrible situation for the troops that are on the ground, as you say it's too little there aren't enough of them there. Their
mission is impossible that they've been asked to pull off.
WARD: Not only that, I mean, I wouldn't underestimate this is such a different mission to what most of these guys are used to. And I spoke to a
British soldier who said, you know, I did two deployments in Helmand Province, one of the most dangerous Taliban insurgency flashpoints, during
He said, the PTSD I will have from the last week is way more intense than those two deployments. Because he said, I've seen my own eyes, babies being
tossed, as we have already told --that passed over the fence passed over the razor wire. And I've watched people being trampled to death.
And as he was saying is to make Kate, he's started bawling. It's not that often; that you will find a soldier just start weeping in the middle of a
conversation with you at 11 in the morning. But that's the level of pressure they're dealing with. That's the level of horror that they're
And I think for a lot of them, that's the level of guilt they're feeling. Because I've had so many emails and so many messages from soldiers from
Marines, who are just deeply uncomfortable with how this is all shaken out, and feel without responsibility for these people who are on the frontlines
with them for 20 years, and who are now being crushed, and beaten, as they try to escape.
BOLDUAN: And as a sign of maybe what a problem is still before, what however long this takes is still today, Clarissa the White House, cannot
say how many even Americans are still in the country, which when the promise and guarantee is from the president to get every American out of
the country, and you'll stay there until you do?
It's impossible to know when this mission is going to end if you don't have a count of how many Americans are in there. I mean, does that make sense?
WARD: Yes, I mean, and here's the thing, Kate, let's be very clear about this. I've now spent more than 12 hours watching this whole process as it
plays out. And it is much disorganized. And, by the way, you know, off the record, these guys will tell you that it's totally disorganized.
The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. It's an enormous operation. There are many different nationalities involved. You know, we've
been playing from the Romanians, the Hungarian, I mean or the French and Italian, there are so many different contingencies, you are involved.
Who have multiple entrances to this airport; you're trying to negotiate with the Taliban deal with your NATO allies. And, frankly, so far, I mean,
it's just about moving along. But I was shocked when I came today, because listening to the talking points that I was hearing from the Pentagon and
the White House; I thought this whole thing was moving along - now.
And yet, here I am, 12 hours later and I haven't seen a plane take off in eight hours. And I'm watching children coming up to me being like; please
can you get me some food? And so it's clearly - it's clearly not working. And, you know, one can only hope I get it. It's really, madness - and even
And, you know, it's not for me to just sit on the sidelines and criticize without having an understanding of this, the enormity of this undertaking.
But again, I just come back to the point before, why did it have to be this way? Why did we have to try to evacuate 60,000 people in a few days, with
the Taliban providing protection for that operation?
BOLDUAN: The president -
WARD: That's what I feel and a lot of people feel it could have been prevented.
BOLDUAN: And the president is about to speak. I mean, do you hear Joe Biden's name being discussed there? I mean, is this at all something that
the Afghans that are there, the Americans that are there sitting in that airport in this desperate situation? Is that at all anything they care
about in this moment is hearing from Joe Biden?
WARD: I don't think they really care about hearing from the president to be honest. I had a few people made comments to me like you know; America is
supposed to be the greatest superpower in the world.
WARD: What the hell is going on here? You know and that's kind of the attitude. No one's really interested in politics or promises or tools about
enduring partnership, OK because for them, it doesn't really mean anything at this stage.
People are interested in getting out and getting their families out, and stopping the insanity and the chaos that's going on, on the perimeter of
this airport. Beyond that, I don't think anyone has the thresholds right now to, you know, to be paying too much attention to the speeches, and they
BOLDUAN: There's plenty of time, we've been told over and over again for after action reports, and to talk about regrets later. But as you are
reporting, you're literally in the middle of what is now a true humanitarian crisis on the outside of the airport walls.
Now it seems like the inside of the airport walls and the airfield where you are. I'm wondering how you think this ends.
WARD: I mean, I really don't know. Because I had assumed, again, as I said, I had heard all these reports, things were moving faster. When we first
arrived this morning, and saw three planes take off in a couple of hours. We thought, OK, that's a good sign, things are moving faster.
So we stand in this line for five hours in the blistering heat, no shade, there's a lot of hurry up the wake and then get up and move five paces, and
then sit back down again. And then, you know, I kept going up to them and saying, look, this woman has a small baby, she cannot stand in the line for
hours on end.
And then of course, this little newborn baby actually being migrated and had to be evacuated for medical attention. But the answer sorry, Kate, that
was a very circuitous route to get here. The answer is I don't know how it ends?
But I can only pray for all the people I have come across today and then have some days, wandering around the airport, and around the city of people
or even too afraid to go to the airport that it does.
BOLDUAN: Well, and that's the thing. You know, I spoke to a translator who worked with U.S. Special Forces for five years. I spoke to him last night,
and he is in hiding. And he told me that he's tried multiple times to make it to the airport each time forced to turn back because the very same
Taliban that are looking for him are the Taliban that are guarding the gates of the airport. It that just - it's impossible.
WARD: Yes. Listen, I think for a lot of people, it's a real psychological block, which makes perfect sense, if you're worried that you're going to
save the threat or retaliation, or, you know, something even worse, violent attack, because from the Taliban - because of who you worked with or worked
Then obviously, the idea of being brushed up against a bunch of Taliban fighters with the gun is going to be completely petrifying to you. At the
same time, I would honestly say, you know, I would advise people in this moment, given what I've seen here over the last few days, not to come to
the airport, until this situation is resolved, until the process is streamlined. Until there is a system in place, an efficient and effective
system in place to do this whole processing.
Well, one thing to keep in mind with regards to the Taliban, as vicious as some of their fighters may be on that outer perimeter. They want us out,
OK, they want Americans out, they want NGOs out they want Westerners out, they want - they want them all out.
So in the long - in the short term, rather, I do think they are in their own way trying to facilitate that. Trying to push back the crowds to allow
the situation to sort of alleviate a little bit inside and then get more people out.
The worry becomes of course, for people who really feel that they are a high level target. I don't know how you're going to persuade them to take
the chance to go and confront the Taliban face on basically and try their luck getting in.
BOLDUAN: You truly - you really think that at this point that it's not even safe enough to try to come to the airport right now from what you've seen
in this process Clarissa?
WARD: It's not that I would say it's not safe enough although the entry date is definitely very dangerous. There are multiple factors being - most
notably, I would say beyond being beaten or you know, getting hit by a stray bullet as the Taliban tries to clear the crowd.
But it's not that it's not safe enough. I just think it's chaotic here. And if you have I mean I saw a disabled young man in a wheelchair earlier.
WARD: I mean I shudder to think what he's doing right now after you know two days; some people are stuck in this airport. Two days, 48 hours nowhere
- this man's helping his children were - there's nowhere for them to wash their - they're lying on scraps of cardboard on rocks and gravel.
You know, there are no proper bathrooms. You know, there are some MRE like military meals out of the backyard and some water. But that's it. There's
barely any shade. And it's not for the faint of heart. And it's certainly not for the elderly, or the newborn babies or - yes, or anyone who might be
a bit vulnerable. It's really tough going out here. And so obviously, if there's like an imminent threat, and you know.
And then people are not saying that people shouldn't try to get out, I'm just saying that right now the situation is so chaotic, you might almost be
better off waiting a day or two, until hopefully some systems are put in place to make this a more streamlined and efficient process just the best -
to the best extent that is synthetic candy, because obviously, it's a very, very challenging job.
BOLDUAN: All horrible, impossible choices that seem to be getting more horrible as the day's progress. Clarissa thank you for your continued
extraordinary reporting, and bringing some eyes on the ground to what very few people can see. Thank you. We'll check back in with you.
WARD: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for your crew. Clarissa Ward in the middle of it, Kabul Airport has not seen a flight takeoff in the 8 hours that she has
been on the airfield so many more questions with every passing day of what is going on, and how this is going to end?
So President Biden, as I mentioned earlier, he's going to be addressing this growing crisis at 1 pm Eastern. Let's get over to the White House
CNN's John Harwood has been standing by he's live there for us. John, is the White House giving any preview of what we can hear from the President?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look Kate, the aperture of this war has now shrunk to exactly what Clarissa Ward is describing. That
is the scene at the Kabul airport, the ability to get people out the ability to get people to the airport and process. And the president's going
to talk about that.
If in fact, as Clarissa said, they haven't been flights taking off for 8 hours, the president needs to try to bring some clarity to that situation,
and help Americans understand what's being done. And if there holdups why there are holdups and what the prospects are for the next 10 days until we
get to August 31st, or perhaps a little beyond August 31st?
As the president has indicated, if they're American citizens, not yet, that they know of that are not yet evacuated, the view of the White House is
that this disorder, this chaos, this desperation was going to happen whenever it was clear that the Afghan government was going to fall.
Whether or not they tried to accelerate evacuations in July, whether it happens now or even after American troops would leave had it happened later
this year? You got a country of 40 million people, and a prolonged Civil War and the winning side of that war has a record of brutality and
hostility to Western values and the people in Kabul city of 6 million people, many of them share Western values.
They're going to be frightened with very good reason. And so it's, as Clarissa was indicating it's an impossible situation for the people trying
to get out. It's an impossible situation for the troops; they're going to do the best they can.
And for President Biden, having made the decision to leave, he is going to try to explain to the American people exactly what he's doing and how the
American military is going to achieve the most honorable and acceptable end this evacuation over the next couple of weeks?
BOLDUAN: I mean, simply how do they fix this now not later now?
HARWOOD: Not easily. Not easily at all Kate?
BOLDUAN: That's right. That's right. John, thank you very much. So CNN has also learned top Washington officials were in fact warned. Sources within
the State Department telling my colleagues those nearly two dozen diplomats in Kabul sent a classified cable to the State Department in mid-July urging
fast action because they feared a potential catastrophe in Afghanistan.
CNN's Kylie Atwood is live at the State Department with these details. Kylie what is the latest you're hearing about this?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well Kate. this is significant, because what this demonstrates is that these diplomats who
were at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, were seeing that the State Department needed to be doing more proactively to prepare for what they saw was going
to be the eventual fall of the Afghan government.
And they wanted more to be done to get these Afghans processed and evacuated out of the country before a crisis unfolded like we're seeing
ATWOOD: Now, the Deputy National Security Adviser addressed this memo when he spoke with Wolf Blitzer last night. And he said that, yes, these
diplomats foresaw that the Afghan government was going to fall. But they didn't see that it was going to happen as rapidly as it did.
They were essentially in the same boat as everyone else. He also said that some of the things that they proposed that the administration do were
actually done. But I'm also told that there are things that were in this memo that weren't done quickly enough, such as setting up a biometric
enrollment program for these Afghans so that when it's time to get them out of the country, you've got this list, and you can get them out quickly.
Now, the State Department spokesperson is saying, yes, the State Department does value internal dissent. The Secretary of State Tony Blinken reviews
all of these dissent memos, and he also signs off on the response. But this is significant that there was this dissent memo at all, because diplomats
don't do this as a first case scenario.
They do this as a last ditch effort to tell the secretary that things aren't going well that their voices aren't being heard. And rest assured
that those on Capitol Hill bipartisan group of folks who are calling for an investigation here are going to want to see this memo, and exactly what was
done and what wasn't done that they proposed Kate.
BOLDUAN: Kylie, thank you very much for that. As you just heard, Clarissa Ward's reporting. She said that no U.S. flights have taken off from Kabul
Airport in the past 8 hours since she has been on the airfield.
Joining me now is Retired General Wesley Clark. He's the Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and a CNN Military Analyst. General, thank you
for being here your reaction, just Clarissa says that she has been on this airfield; she has not seen a flight takeoff. They are not moving people and
onto these planes like they need to be in the last 8 hours. What is your assessment of what is going on?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think the military has done about as much as it could in getting in there
quickly and trying to establish a security perimeter. This is not purely a military problem, as some of the reporters have indicated; you've got to
know who these people are. And you've got to know where they're going to go before you bring them in.
Then you've got also the diplomatic problem. You've got a potential military problem outside the airport. So it's not an easy solution. For
example, do you then go to the Taliban and say, we'd like to have these people released and brought in.
Well, those are some of the very people that Taliban wants to hold there and, basically shoot. So you can't quite identify your list of the Taliban?
Would you like to go to the Taliban and say, look, you got only - we've got 40,000 people out here waiting to get into the airport?
Can we give you some - of food and some water so they can be more comfortable out there? Pretty soon you'll have 400,000 people out there
that rate because they all want to get out. You'd like to bring them into the airport, but then you don't know who they are?
So where's the State Department, biometric database? How do we have - how do we know who these people are? We've spent years on biometric
identification in Afghanistan, we should know everybody. But the Embassy destroyed a lot of records, the Embassy collapsed onto the airfield and so
most of the people have been evacuated.
So we probably don't have the tools and the civilian personnel we need on onsite to expedite this. And then you have the airflow problem. Now we take
air transportation for granted in the United States. But in the military, we always have progressed issues.
So you can fly for 8 hours, no problem, you can extend somebody for let's say, 16 hours, you're dealing with long distances, you're dealing with a
certain number of pilots. We probably need to fly in additional air crews, preposition them on the airfield, provide them the kind of rest they need
so that when the aircraft come in, they can be quickly turned and pulled out.
Has that been done? I can't tell. So there are a lot of issues here that are being sorted out. I've got tremendous confidence in our armed forces
leadership and those troops on the ground. And I can assure the American people based on my personal experience and knowledge and calls I'm getting,
they're doing everything possible, they can do.
But just think of it this way. All those people in line outside the airport walls, you'd like to bring them in, you'd like to shelter them, you'd like
to shore through them and who are you and so forth. Some of those people, once you start doing that are not going to be our friends.
And if you go out with the Taliban and say, look, you've got to help us right now. We got people all over this country. You can help us get these
Americans in? They say, oh, what's it worth to you? We want our money released. We want this. We want that.
CLARK: So now you're in a diplomatic - marketing position with your erstwhile opponents, the people you tried to kill for 20 years. So there
are many different wrinkles of this that are being sorted through on the inside. I'm sure. It's how much can you get for how little you have to give
to the Taliban.
What does it say about future relations? How much can you push on the airfield perimeter without getting into a firefight with Taliban
checkpoints? You don't want to do that that makes it worse.
So then how you accelerate the flow, you've got to have people there who can do the identification and processing. And some of that may be tied up
in Washington with the SIV visa program. We don't know these details.
But you know I do have confidence in the United States government. And I do know that they feel the impact of this just as strongly as our viewers on
CNN do. And they're doing unconfident, everything possible to do to accelerate this.
The commander of Central Command was on the ground on the airfield; saw it with his own eyes has instantaneous communications to the State Department,
the Pentagon wherever else he needs. And we haven't talked about our allies.
So we know the French and Germans and other people are trying to get in there and work. Are they flying in? Are they working with them, we're not
seeing any reports of Allied forces in there participating in this.
And so that's another wrinkle on this. President Biden said we went in there, we're going to come out together. Well, we didn't actually go in
together. But we did have a NATO mission in there that we put together 15 years ago.
And it really is important that we think about not only the U.S. response, and U.S. nationals, but other foreign nationals who want to get out. On the
outside of this, we have the Iranians, the Chinese and the Russians.
And it won't be long before I suspect one of those three steps forwards in order we can solve this problem for you, like we solve the problem in Syria
with chemical weapons. So someone will come in here to interface with this and also take, you know some benefits from this very complicated situation.
And you know, I know on the inside as Culver - said, we're doing the best we can to take care of people with water and MREs. On the outside, there's
not as much that we can do because they're under Taliban control.
And that interface, the Washington interface, the big picture of other countries, all that's in this stewpot going around and around, around. It
is terrible. I would say this, Kate, in terms of humanitarian catastrophes; this isn't a humanitarian catastrophe, yes.
There are a lot of people out there in the hot zone. There's a lot of frightened people and frightened families. But and there's a few casualties
and that's totally regrettable. But we've still got time, if we've got the skill to put this right. So it's not over. It's a work in progress.
And I know that our U.S. military and our State Department do everything they can to put this right as best we can. I don't think it's going to get
done by the 31st of August.
BOLDUAN: Yes. That seems to be definitely moving in that direction. General, thank you very much for your time, always appreciate it. Coming up
for us, New England on Hyler right now, forecasters now say a hurricane could make landfall there this weekend. Chad Myers has the new forecast
track and timing next.
ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: I am Isa Soares with continuing coverage of the fall of Afghanistan. While the frustration and fear across the country is
growing as we're showing you with thousands of desperate Afghans trying to flee the Taliban, while others are voicing defiance vowing to stay and
protest to return to Taliban rule.
The area around the Kabul airport remains fraught with chaos as well as uncertainty. People's you can see that a master heavily guarded Taliban
checkpoints waiting for hours in extremely hot crowded conditions.
Those that do get inside face more long ways to try and get that paperwork process and then what, well, Clarissa Ward who's just heard for reporting
from the airports. It's been eight hours, eight hours since any planes have taken off.
While some families are resorting as you can imagine, to drastic measures. This video as you can see there shows a child hoisted over perimeter wall
at the airport into the waiting arms of U.S. troops.
And we've just learned that baby was treated at a medical facility at the airport really is a heartbreaking site that we've seen more than once over
the past few days. Now outside of Kabul, there are anti-Taliban protests like this one earlier.
This week in Jalalabad marches wave the Afghan national flag. The Taliban, in some cases responded with gunfire and beatings with several deaths being
reported. NATO's Chief is urging the Taliban to put an end to violence.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also admits that the speed of the African government collapse was "not anticipated" he said, speaking during
a news conference in Brussels just a short time ago. The NATO Chief called for an assessment of NATO engagement in Afghanistan, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: There are hard questions that we need to ask ourselves or our engagement in Afghanistan. We were clear eyed
about the risks or withdrawing our troops, but the speed or the collapse, so the African political and military leadership and armed forces was not
There are many lessons to be learned. And I intend to conduct a thorough assessment of NATO's engagement in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, let's bring in Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam into the conversations, the former Senior Adviser to former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He joins
us now live from Washington. Mohammad, thank you so much for being on the show.
It's always great to have your insight. I want to ask you first, as you see these images that we have been sharing the world has been looking at out of
Kabul, of the desperation of frustration for so many Afghans. What is your reaction?
MOHAMMAD SHAFIQ HAMDAM, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO ASHRAF GHANI: I think it's not only me; the world is reacting on that. It does not only show how
helpless Afghans are, but it also shows to the world community how weak is present Joe Biden for his management and administration and managing a
We are not in an active war nowhere as it was in 2001 or you know, after 2001, led by Obama or by President Trump. This is only a rescue mission. It
is evacuation and it has to be managed better. And people expected this have to happen in a peaceful manner.
But unfortunately, now I see this as a disaster. I think it's, you know, the countries around the world, including these countries who are our I
would say adversaries of the United States are making fun of how the United States is managing this humanitarian crisis and evacuation.
Let's not forget that this is not only about Afghan, there are thousands of American citizens who have been in Afghanistan, serving their nation and
their country. Afghanistan is another tourism destination. People are not there for party.
HAMDAM: Everything that one was there on a mission and we talk about Afghan, yes, that's --. But what about these thousands of American citizen
who are stuck outside or inside? What's going to happen?
God forbid, hopefully never. But think of these terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, or --or whoever or some adversaries take this advantage and do some
attack, hopefully not an exclusion.
Or if the civilian spillover to the military facilitation, there are tens of thousands of people were going to happen, which will be responsible for
these crisis? President Biden clearly tried to, you know, does not take any responsibility. And I do not expect him to say something different than his
SOARES: What about former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani? How much responsibility do you think he will take?
HAMDAM: He will take nothing because he betrayed his nation, he escaped him left country in misery, and he left a political vacuum power vacuum. And I
also disagree with every single one who will blame the Afghan national security defense forces for the failure, or anyone who is trying to blame
now the U.S. military for the evacuation because it's not in their hands.
They have civilian and political leadership, that I don't see a big difference between the crises happening right now for evacuation in crisis
happen after Ghani left Afghanistan.
You know what, I think he is responsible; he shared this responsibility together with President Biden. But I do not expect him to say anything and
he should never, ever say he should be ashamed of what he has done.
And he'll know what to say to the thousands of people now in this spurt and misery and they're begging for their life. Let's do not forget these people
have been there for days without food without water and medication.
So it's not only about you know, we think that they can escape. But what can happen in a few more days do sick people, people starving, we will have
more casualties and death. And I would say see a sickness is there.
And let's not forget about pandemic. You know, we are in the middle of pandemic, and you have thousands of people and you get them together, then
who are going to be responsible for that.
SOARES: Mohammad, of course, as we said, you're former senior adviser to former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Have you spoken to Mr. Ghani or his
HAMDAM: No, he just left. You know, in secrecy, he has never talked to anyone and he left his - however, I'm out of Afghanistan while ago but he
has left his closest aides in Afghanistan to the hands of Taliban.
And you know, some of my former colleagues, they said, they were told when President Ghani was trying to escape; they were told to scape, only to
scape. And they were not taken with President Ghani while he had enough empty space and enough opportunity to take them with them, but they were
SOARES: So Mohammad, when was the last time you did speak to him?
HAMDAM: It was three years back when I was in the palace working there. That was last time. And after that, you know, when I learned that, you
know, he does not have any -
SOARES: Just tell me Mohammad, when was that? I didn't catch it yet.
HAMDAM: Three years back, I said three years back when I was in the palace. Yes.
SOARES: And I mean, could you ever envisage that this would, you know, this would be happening at the image that you're seeing. Could you ever envisage
this from happening, given what you know, from Mr. Ghani and the sort of president he was?
HAMDAM: Yes, I had this prediction. I did talk about this. I wrote about this. I did a lot of commentary. And I was expecting, you know, speedier
collapse of the regime, then what happened. But despite being so much prepared, I'm still in shock.
One thing President Ghani in front of me and all I remember in front of more than 20, Head of UN agencies and US diplomats, he has clearly said
that he will die in this palace, but he will never ever scape and leave his country behind.
That was his position. What he said even three years back, he said he is what his people. So this was an expected that he will, you know, flew and
he will everyone behind and he will let ask him any disaster and misery.
And one thing let's not forget about this, you know, now he is alive. He is somewhere that we know, the world community has responsibility to bring him
to justice, sit him accountable, and set an example for every single leader who think they're immune; they can do anything they want.
But the world has to have to I think this is the time to show some action and you know, voice with African people, because there is a big complaint
and the African community and they said bring him to justice. Let's not bring him to Taliban but let's bring him to an international court and set
SOARES: And Mohammad, in your eyes in the eyes of many Afghans, is he still a president? I mean, he's thrown in a towel. He's left the people. Do you
know do you know what you heard or whether he's working behind the scenes?
HAMDAM: He is trying I heard that he's trying to, you know, manipulate, he's trying to add to the chaos into the misery of Afghan people, but he
has no space anymore. First of all, we -
SOARES: Trying how Mohammad?
HAMDAM: First one was because he is not a political leader. He does not affiliate himself with any political party. He was one single individual
with several other team members. So he is not from within the community.
He was, you know, I would say parachuted dropped from the U.S. 20 years back, you know, after decades of being out of Afghanistan. He doesn't have
this route within the African community. He is known as a technocrat. He is known as a scholar, but he's not a leader.
He's not a, you know, political leader that people trust him. And let's not forget that even couldn't win the election. And he is there. He was there
based on a compromise with Abdullah based on the U.S. negotiation, and I would say interference.
So he has no space, he knows that and he has no rule anymore. Even if he has a space there is no rule for him and Afghan people will not let him
once again come to Afghanistan.
SOARES: Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam, thank you very much former senior adviser to former African President Ashraf Ghani. Thank you very much, sir, for
taking the time to speak to us here on CNN.
Now, we are waiting for you as President Joe Biden to speak on the situation in Afghanistan next, an agreement made by the U.S. with the
Taliban in Doha comes under new scrutiny. We are live in the Qatari capital to discuss, that's next.
SOARES: If you're just joining us CNN has just been hearing for its Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, who has gained access along with
her team into Kabul airport.
Now she tells us no evacuation flights have taken off in about eight hours. Clarissa says the situation at the airport is quite simply chaotic. Some
people have been stuck there for as long as two days with nowhere else to go in the searing heat.
She says bathroom facilities are extremely limited. Children have to sleep on the floor and crowds of people are teaming together in the searing
summer heat. Away from the situation on the ground, the U.S. State Department will continue high level diplomatic talks with the Taliban in
Sam Kiley is there. And Sam, what can we expect from these talks between the U.S. and the Taliban?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the hope for the mediators here in Doha is to get talks off the ground at some stage between
the Taliban and the United States and indeed, the Afghan government that hasn't happened yet.
Of course, they have happened in the past that he led to a peace deal under the Trump Administration, which ultimately led to what was unfolding on our
screens today, Isa.
But at the moment, the attitude of Qatar is, is that they believe it's absolutely essential to keep those diplomatic corridors open, particularly
between the United States and the Taliban, not just because of the short term humanitarian problem over people who want to be evacuated from Kabul
and perhaps elsewhere in Afghanistan, but also in the future.
They very strongly believe here in Qatar, that the Taliban can be maintained as a more moderate organization than the medieval ideology that
we saw last time. They were in power up until 2001, when they were driven out by combined U.S. and Afghan forces and others.
Because they will see a stake and they will see some benefit in having a relationship with the international community, particularly with the West,
Isa. And I have to say, I've been speaking to the Taliban spokesman here. And he's saying much the same thing.
They say that they want to put the immediate past behind them and move forward. And this is what he's saying. We're not necessarily seeing it in
practice in terms of relationship with the United States based on investment and with the international community based on investment and the
foreign aid that they know they need to keep the wheels turning in Afghanistan, Isa.
SOARES: And Sam, as you have been talking, I've just received an email from sources from the State Department who said the U.S. government I'm just
going read it out.
The U.S. government is examining new locations, including Europe to relocate Afghans as it nears capacity in Qatar and scrambles to address the
crush of people looking to flee Afghanistan, says the capacity issue is hampering evacuation.
Evacuation efforts, as you probably heard in the last half hour, or Clarissa Ward and the team on the ground saying that they haven't seen any
planes taking off in the last eight hours. Give us a sense of what role Qatar has played here in terms of the evacuation flights we've seen, Sam?
KILEY: Well, Qatar has two roles really, because there are two parts of the alidade base. The first is that massive U.S. Military Air Base, the biggest
in the Middle East, which is hosted by Qatar, but is very much American territory that is reaching capacity.
On the other side, they've been running smaller evacuation flights, where they're managing to accommodate their evacuation evacuees in hotels and
other accommodation. But it is the issue perhaps that the American side is reaching capacity.
And that is our understanding from Qatari authorities, which may mean that they're looking for alternatives.
They've also been looking at nearby Bahrain, which of course is much shorter flight and therefore easier to do fast turnarounds for evacuees of
- up the pace, particularly after Clarissa has reported that she hadn't seen a plane as of about an hour ago for the previous eight hours take off
from Kabul International Airport, Isa.
SOARES: Yes, and I'm just seeing from the same statement that Qatar has agreed to take in 8000 Afghan special immigration visas. But you know the
numbers clearly putting a lot of pressure that they're now expecting to relocate Afghans to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
This is according to multiple sources telling CNN. On the --, we're talking about the rise of the Taliban, Sam, what does it mean for the rest of the
region? You've told me what where Qatar stands on this? What about the rest of the region?
KILEY: Well, it's the near Middle East, as it were the Near East part is the Gulf here, in terms of Afghanistan causes landlocked. It's very much
more problematic, though, for Pakistan, for India, for Iran, for Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, all of these countries, of course, China to the
All of them very anxious about a total collapse into anarchy that could follow in Afghanistan, particularly if there's a resurgence of opposition
to the Taliban. There has been though 40 years of water in particular for Pakistan that at one point hosted 4 million refugees from Afghanistan, that
is a serious problem.
But the ultimate fear really is continued instability and continued big power politics being played in and around this landscape. Rivalries between
Russia, China, the United States, NATO and others, which could in the end, provoke greater instability in a very fissile environment, Isa.
SOARES: Sam Kiley, thank you very much. We'll have more news after a very short break.
SOARES: If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with the developments that we've seen out of Afghanistan in the last few hours. Now
the area around the Kabul airport as we've been showing you for days now remains fraught with chaos as well as uncertainty.
People's we're seeing in these images are master heavily guarded Taliban checkpoints, waiting for hours in what is really incredibly extreme hot
weather and very crowded conditions. Those who do get inside face more long ways to try and get that people were processed.
We heard from our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who was inside reporting to the few a few hours ago less than an hour ago. So who
said it's been eight hours since any plane has taken off now. Now some families are resorting to drastic measures.
This video we show you right now. A child hoisted over a perimeter wall at the airport into the waiting arms of U.S. troops that baby later treated at
a medical facility at the airport. It really is a heartbreaking site that we've seen more unfortunately, more than once over the past few days.
We will of course, keep on top of all the developments out of Afghanistan with our team on the ground. We'll bring them to you throughout the coming
hours. But in the meantime, thank you very much for watching CNN's coverage of Afghanistan continues after this. I'll be back in two hours. Bye, bye.