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Afghan Baby Born On U.S. Evacuation Flight; Pfizer Receives Full U.S. Approval Of COVID Vaccine; U.S.: 10,400 People Evacuated From Kabul Sunday. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 23, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Thousands of people remain trapped in Kabul. The progress has been made. We'll have a live report on the latest evacuation
efforts. A small miracle amid the desperate scramble to escape from Afghanistan. A baby is born in the cargo bay of a U.S. military plane
carrying Afghan evacuees.
Exciting times for Pfizer. Its COVID vaccine just received full approval in the United States for the first time today. It can't come soon enough with
deaths and hospital admissions rising. A lot more later in the show.
I'm Eleni Giokos. Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. The pace is picking up. The White House says its troops evacuated 10,400 people from
Kabul airport Sunday by far the highest daily numbers since evacuations began in earnest nine days ago. But some 13,000 people remain stranded at
the airport. Their futures steeped in uncertainty and danger. Now earlier today as sniper killed a member of the Afghan security forces helping
secure the airport.
In the chaos that followed, Afghan forces fired back prompting returned fire from U.S. and German forces that injured four Afghans. Some 20 people
have now died in stampedes or gunshots over the past week. All this is happening as the Taliban today make it clear. They expect the U.S. to
withdraw all its forces by its own stated August 31st deadline or face the consequences.
Meantime, the Taliban claimed to have captured three districts in contested Panjshir Valley. It's an area north of Kabul held by fighters loyal to the
opposition Northern Alliance. The Taliban warning the Northern Alliance and its leader that they must surrender. The Taliban is assisting, in the
meantime, the U.S. in processing paperwork outside of the airport. But as of today, the only people who will be allowed inside are U.S. citizens and
green card holders and citizens of NATO countries.
That leaves thousands of Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas in limbo. CNN's Sam Kiley is at the airport and spoke a bit earlier with John Berman
about what he's seeing today.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, there is now a much more efficient process for getting people out of the country so long
as they are in the airfield where I am here at Kabul International Airport. But this is all amid continuing threats from ISIS that have been confirmed
by the national security adviser to CNN but also here on the ground military. Very anxious about the potential for a terrorist attack to really
stymie what is already an extremely complex process.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sam, first of all, it's terrific to see your face. I know the reporting conditions there have been difficult at the airport.
It's nice to see you there inside the airport grounds. The news that we also have confirmed from White House officials, this enormous number, this
10,400 evacuated in the last 24 hours. What are the implications of that? How many more days do you think that the U.S. and NATO can manage numbers
And how does it play into this new real threat, honestly, from the Taliban, that the August 31st deadline is real. They want the U.S. out by August
KILEY: Yes, I think that's a very key interview with CNN reaffirming the Taliban position that they're not going to give any kind of an extension to
the U.S. or the coalition to continue these evacuations, which adds to the urgency but comes at a time when the U.S. is saying they're not going to
admit for the time being anybody other than green card holders, foreign nationals with carrying passports and of course, American citizens carrying
That means that those who don't fall into that category simply cannot get in to the airfield. So there's going to be some bitter disappointment. It's
conceivable perhaps, that over the next few days, they may reverse that decision. A lot of it, I think been informed by this ISIS threat and also
real concern that if there is this 31st August deadline, people -- U.S. nationals could be left behind but it's not all misery.
This is my report from yesterday about what it's like for people who are going to make it onto a plane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) inbound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 241 copy. Follow your interval, C130 (INAUDIBLE)
KILEY (voice-over): A massive multinational air evacuation is crowding the airspace above Kabul.
This Qatari flight is one of many coming to the rescue of thousands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep (INAUDIBLE)
KILEY: The airplane brings its own security as the airport is now under threat from ISIS terror.
(on camera): We've landed just a few moments ago here at Kabul International Airport. And clearly, the pace of evacuation has been picking
up. There are planes leaving pretty regularly now and large numbers of refugees of evacuees getting ready to get on those flights. This is a group
that are heading into Qatar, where they're hoping then to either stay there or move on. Qiam, you're about to leave. What is going through your mind
and your -- and your heart at the moment?
QIAM NOORI, JOURNALIST EVACUATED FROM KABUL: Yes, actually, I've told this many times with others that right now I have a mixed feeling of being a
journalist myself, probably I -- I'm lucky enough to leave because of a lot of traits that exist here. But I'm also leaving a family, a whole family
behind and that's a lot of friends behind. So, I don't know that how to describe this. Am I happy, am I sad.
With this government, with this new rulers, they -- I'm sure they will not leave us any space to be here.
KILEY: That must break your heart.
NOORI: Of course, certainly that has already broken. But, you know, that's the reality.
KILEY: Your heart is already broken.
NOORI: Yes, yes. Yes.
KILEY: Good luck. It's not just the personal tragedies that are so heartbreaking here.
It is the tragedy of Afghanistan itself for 20 years, so many millions of people believe that they would receive Western support. They believed in
the evolution of female education of the arts, of cinema. They thought they had a future. Now that future is getting on aircraft and leaving as one of
the evacuees just said to me, Afghanistan is seeing a total brain drain.
GIOKOS: All right. Well, that was Sam Kiley reporting from Kabul. I'd like to take you now to Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Doha in Qatar. Nick, looking
at the chaos the pandemonium around the airport, knowing that only U.S. citizens and green card holders are allowed in right now. Where does that
leave the rest?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hoping I think that the -- I have to say extraordinary rate of airlift today means that
the U.S. can now start shifting their attention towards those SIV applicants or recipients who President Joe Biden has said they do want to
help. But this is far from an easy task. I understand that there may be as many as 4000 local employees of the U.S. embassy.
This is the people that U.S. diplomat sat next to every day, who are still trying to get to the airport and out of the country. That figure could be
lower. But I think there's a bit of uncertainty as to how many have managed to use this system and get out of the country so far. That in itself is an
enormous task. And then you have the potential for tens of thousands of SIV applicants who would want to make use of this window.
How big is this window? Well, it's taken quite a long time to get to this extraordinary 10,400 airlifted in 24 hours. They may be able to continue
that going. There appear to be 10,000 predominantly Afghans still on the tarmac, but the gates have been closed, most coming on to the airport at
this stage appear to be essentially part of the alternate routes that the U.S. has organized to get their citizens out.
But they are going to have to seek to make a decision as to whether or not they open up the gates again, or open up routes again for SIV applicants
who they know they want to process and of course, these local embassy staff. And there'll be a victim of their own success, sadly, because now
people have seen this extraordinary clip of people being moved out, there may be a feeling that in fact, there may be an opportunity now to go
The important thing we've heard today is the Taliban want them gone by August the 31st. That's significant because we're now into the last week in
which this operation can run without the Taliban essentially declaring it no longer welcome. Now, if you think about the U.S. operation itself,
they've got many 6000 troops on the ground, it's going to take them two, three days to start pulling out.
And then you add to that to the fact there are still 10,000 on the base possibly more trying to get on. I personally cannot see them extending past
the deadline. A source I spoke with you said that the currently they're familiar with a situation on the airport. There is no discussion of
extending past August 31st. So, the real question is, when it becomes clear that this operation is beginning to wind down, then what does that mean for
those outside the base, inside the base, the general mood, security for the U.S. doing a lot of this, you know, we've seen awful scenes over the past
week or so.
And they could easily be repeated in the event that people feel their last chance to disappearing.
GIOKOS: Yes, absolutely. And the hope is that they keep those numbers up, right? On a daily basis. But encouraging here is the U.K. defense secretary
saying that they are very close to completing their evacuation.
GIOKOS: And it's interesting. We were actually at an airport here in Dubai that we're using as a stop over and we actually saw planes coming in and
coming out at quite a rapid pace. So this is one encouraging move.
WALSH: Well -- yes, but I mean, I have to say Ben Wallace's comments about them being an hours, not weeks left isn't necessarily encouraging. If
you're an Afghan who hasn't benefited from this process yet. He is essentially saying we are going. And that's not particularly surprising.
Because of the scenes, the British have been dealing with a compound adjacent to the airport. They've seen people crushed to death there.
They're utterly horrifying for them to observe. Seven killed in the crushes at that particular place. You know, it does appear that the Taliban are now
filtering people coming towards the airport checking documents. The source I spoke to says so there is a bid to try. And as Joe Biden said yesterday,
increase the safety zone, that's essentially it seems using Taliban as the outer cordon. You know, that impact who could get through SIV applicants
who assisted the U.S. presence for possibly two decades are not going to be keen to walk their way through these Taliban checkpoints.
So, there is a point in which the U.S. either has to accept. It can't help that many more SIV applicants or it has to find a scheme to get them to the
airport. That letter choice is complex and causes some risk. And of course, the possibility that you suddenly end up with tens of thousands more
Afghans who want to get on the airport. The important point to remember is that the SIV process has been a utter mess for years.
In 2019, a federal judge said it was torture is untenable under the previous administration. They've wanted to speed this up but the whole
climate around migration has essentially failed so many. And so, people who say they are SIV applicants may simply have lodged paperwork and got a
response, but that isn't enough to be guaranteed to be processed positively. So, this whole remaining element is a deeply political
minefield for Joe Biden to attempt. And one that's now got to be decision made under a very loudly clicking talk -- ticking clock.
GIOKOS: Nick, thank you very much for that update. Yes, I mean, look, the end of the day, it's not just about how many people in our first week, you
know, we can see people get out of the country but importantly, the safety zone around the airport. Thank you so much for that update.
And as we've been reporting, a new threat is taking shape, especially around Kabul airport, President Biden says the U.S. is maintaining constant
vigilance because of the threat of ISIS-K. That's ISIS in Afghanistan is real and should be taken seriously. Mr. Biden adds he's getting help from
the Taliban to extend the safe zone around the airport. This comes as the militants sworn there will be no extension of the August 31st withdrawal
Now President Biden admits he and his advisers have discussed the possibility of staying past that deadline. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to
extend but there are going to be discussions I suspect on how far along we are in the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: All right. CNN's U.S. Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood is live for us from Washington, D.C. Kylie, looking at the discussion of the safe
zone, and the worry and concern and the fear of an ISIS threat. What are we seeing right now in terms of U.S. efforts and how real the risk actually
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Biden administration has said that they are focused on counterterrorism. What
they haven't said is exactly what they're doing in that realm. We know that that they believe that this ISIS-K threat may actually impact those who are
at the airport right now. That is a major problem for the Biden administration because they are first and foremost look at getting those
Americans and getting out those Afghans.
So, they are trying to make sure that the airport itself remains safe. Now, as a result, as these threats, these terrorist threats from ISIS-K in the
country are coming to the fore. There are also alternate routes that the administration is working on to get Americans safely to the airport. Now,
notably, the Biden administration is not giving us many details about that either. And the assumption is that's for operational security to try and
make sure that those alternate routes can actually be used successfully and get those Americans to the airport.
We'll have to see if they try and use any of those routes for some of these Afghans who worked alongside U.S. troops and U.S. diplomats in the country.
GIOKOS: Kylie, I mean, the big risk here is that because of the August 31st deadline, that means a very small window to get American citizens out but
also SIV holders. What is the risk of leaving some people behind?
ATWOOD: Well, Biden has been very clear in saying that any American who wants to get out of the country is going to get out of the country.
ATWOOD: So, I don't think that his administration will leave until all of those Americans are out. That has been front and center to everything that
he has been saying over the last week or so. What I do think is very possible is that a lot of these Afghans who have applied for Special
Immigrant Visas, applied for different forms of refugee status could be left behind. We haven't heard from the Biden administration a clear
commitment as to how many of the Afghans who have applied for those kinds of visas here in the United States.
They are committed to getting out before the U.S. military leaves that airport in Kabul. And I think it's noteworthy that they haven't put, you
know, a hopeful figure up there because they don't want to back themselves into a situation where they don't reach that goal. And so, that is an area
that we are really focused on. It's a hard area to track however because as the Biden administration has talked about the number of people that they
are getting out of the country, on a daily basis, what they're not doing is breaking that number down.
So, we don't know the exact number of Americans and the exact number of Afghans, the exact number of foreign nationals that the U.S. has evacuated
on these flights. We're hoping that we can get some more specific numbers on that front in the coming days so that we can really have an
understanding for how many folks in each of those different groups have gotten out of the country.
GIOKOS: Kylie, thank you very much for that update. If you'd like to help the Afghan refugees or if you're a veteran that's troubled by events in
Afghanistan, then head to cnn.com/impact. That's where you'll find a list of vetted organizations you can donate to. As well as groups helping
While the U.S. grapples with the fallout of ending America's longest war at home, it's waging a battle to get people vaccinated against COVID-19.
Ahead, we'll tell you how a decision from the Food and Drug Administration might change the game.
Plus, Kenya is dealing with the deadly fourth wave of COVID infections. Why vaccine hesitancy remains high, even as more lives are lost to the
GIOKOS: A major development in the U.S. fight against COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has just given full approval for Pfizer's COVID
vaccine. This vaccine has already been distributed in the states under a so called emergency use authorization along with the Moderna and Johnson and
Johnson vaccines. But more than 80 million Americans have not gotten even a first dose.
And that group is the main one filling hospital beds across the country especially in areas with lower vaccination rates. Senior Medical
Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now from Atlanta. The home of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
GIOKOS: Elizabeth, great to have you on the show. Look, the FDA getting approval -- giving approval for this Pfizer vaccine. The hope is now that
it's going to do away with some of the hesitancy. Do you believe that will be the case?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that for some people, it will make a difference, Eleni. I think there's some people who
really -- they're saying no, but they kind of want to say yes, and when they see the full approval, they might think, OK, now the FDA has done what
it does with all drugs, which is to give full approval and not just emergency approval. Now I'm going to roll up my sleeve.
But the thinking is that that may not be a huge group. So let's take a look at some of the advantages of getting full approval. So again, encourage
people who are -- who are hesitant and maybe they'll roll up their sleeves now that there's full approval. It also allows Pfizer advertise before
Pfizer could not advertise pharmaceutical advertisements on television and online. It's big in the United States and they spend a lot of money on it.
So it must work.
So, the hope is that this will work as well. Those folks know how to do advertising and marketing. They -- there -- they do it all the time. On
this is the really big one, Eleni. This is what people are thinking is really going to make the difference that having full approval will
encourage businesses, schools, you know, for children 16 and older. Will encourage restaurants, concert venues to say you need to be vaccinated in
order to come here.
That is the hope now. They could have done it already. For example, I'm actually in New York City and in New York -- in New York City restaurants
have been requiring vaccination for days and days now. But a lot of places have said, you know, we want full approval before we require it. And so the
hope is, is that now that there's full approval, let's say employers will do it. It's one thing to say no, I don't want that vaccine.
You might think twice if it would make you lose your job. Now let's take a look at vaccination rates, they spiked in the spring, they were really
quite high. And then they took a nosedive. They started to go up just in the past week or two because people were frankly scared of dying from the
Delta variant. Let's take a look at who has not gotten vaccinated. There are 84 million eligible Americans.
So, in other words, Americans 12 and up who have not gotten vaccinated even though they can, it's easy to get and it's free. So, that's 82 million
people. That's 29 percent of the eligible population. So, still tens of millions of Americans who need convincing to roll up their sleeves and take
this shot. Eleni?
GIOKOS: All right, Elizabeth. Thank you very much for that update. Great to see you.
All right. New Zealand's Prime Minister defending the country's approach to eliminate infections. The country is once again extending its lockdown for
the entire country for a few more days until Friday. It was prompted a week ago with a single case in Oakland. That city will be under lockdown until
the end of the month. In the last day, 35 new local cases have popped up. The highest daily rise in more than a year.
Despite weeks of lockdowns in its major cities, Australia is dealing with growing COVID outbreaks. New South Wales reported more than 800 new cases
on both Sunday and Monday. And it seems Australia's Prime Minister is ready to give up his zero COVID strategy. Scott Morrison now says his nation
should end lockdowns once the vaccination rate hits 70 percent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: And we must adjust our mindset. Cases will not be the issue once we get above 70 percent. Dealing with
serious illness, hospitalization, ICU capabilities, our ability to respond in those circumstances that will be our goal. And we will live with this
virus as we live with other infectious diseases. That's what the national plan is all about, was always about. That's how we designed it. And that's
how it needs to be implemented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Taiwan is rolling out its first domestically produced COVID-19 vaccine today. Earlier the Taiwanese president kicked things off by getting
her first dose of the Medigen vaccine. Authorities gave its emergency approval last month to help get more people vaccinated. Despite largely
containing local outbreaks. Taiwan has low vaccination rates and has struggled to get COVID vaccines from overseas.
Kenya is dealing with struggles of its own and getting people vaccinated. Although COVID vaccines are becoming more available. Kenya's infections and
deaths are up sharply this month. The problem has a lot to do with people going against health guidance and not wanting to take the vaccine out of
fear it could harm them. Scott McLean reports.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Kenyan county of Nyeri, coffin makers say they have never been so busy.
MCLEAN: Over the past few weeks the Delta variant has turned the funeral business into a lucrative one. As Kenya battles its fourth wave of COVID-
19. Lately, demand for caskets has more than tripled. And yet not even all the men building them want to take the vaccine.
Do you want it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no (INAUDIBLE)
MCLEAN: Around town, it's more of the same.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should I take something that I don't have? I don't know what to do to my body. If -- and I say, if capital letters. If we
understand about it, maybe we can do it. But for now, it's no.
MCLEAN: Across the country, less than two percent of Kenyans are fully vaccinated. Short supply has been a problem since day one. But now it's not
the only one. Vaccine hesitancy is also having deadly consequences.
All 31 beds at this hospital are occupied. When a new patient shows up, they're simply turned away. Most of the patients here are unvaccinated. Not
because they couldn't get the vaccine but because they chose not to take it.
EUDIAH WANGO'MBLE, HOSPITAL CLINICIAN: They had those reservations. They had their own fears. And probably that's why they didn't get. Others when
you ask for it. They didn't get the job. Some of them are told it is not available. And as majority they fear to have it because it had all issues.
MCLEAN: The hospital says it has a newly installed oxygen compressor but it's not enough to meet demand. There are also no intensive care beds and
on this day for patients are in desperate need, but likely won't find one.
MUTAHI KAHIGA, GOVERNOR, NYERI COUNTY: Yes, I will admit that. The situation is dire. We have not been here before.
MCLEAN: Are hospitals having to turn people away?
KAHIGA: Oh, yes. Because if you went out to Mount Kenya, we don't have -- we have nowhere to take you.
MCLEAN: The governor of the largely rural county says Kenyans have been slow to recognize the seriousness of the virus. He says many people have
chosen not to get the vaccine. And even a third of people who got their first shot haven't turned up for the second. Reports of extremely rare
blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. General misinformation and some traditional beliefs have all contributed.
KAHIGA: I think with COVID-19 some of us are still in denial. They are still -- they are still holding on to traditional beliefs which cut across
MCLEAN: But as the hospitals and morgues fill up some attitudes are changing from small towns and villages to the capital Nairobi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I was in consent for a long time that can convince me. Yes. So this will prevent me from dying. Hopefully, I would
get a ticket.
MCLEAN: Back at the hospital another body leaves for the morgue in what lately has become a daily routine here. Every death a tragedy. Many also
How does that make you feel?
WANG'OMBE: Demoralizing, breaking to break some somebody's heart. Yes (INAUDIBLE)
Scott McLean, CNN, Nyeri County, Kenya.
GIOKOS: An Afghan babies timing was perfect. She decided it was time to be born after evacuating Afghanistan. You'll meet the nurse who delivered her
and the cargo hold of a plane.
And Afghanistan's former central bankers escaped the country after the fall of Kabul. Now he's talking to CNN about the state of the country's economy.
GIOKOS: Welcome back. I'm Eleni Giokos live in Dubai. And you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. And we're just a few minutes away from a live briefing
by the U.S. military on the situation in Afghanistan. As we know American troops have been dealing with continuing chaos at the airport in Kabul.
We're waiting for that press briefing to start which is just moments away.
They've been stepping up of course the number of flights in and out of the airport trying to evacuate the estimated 13,000 people waiting and praying
that they'll get out. The UAE says that it has gotten more than 10,400 people out in just 24 hours. Adding to that chaos, a deadly firefight
involving U.S., German and Afghan forces and Afghan guard helping to secure the base was killed by sniper fire.
Separately, the Taliban claim they have captured three districts north of Kabul that were previously held by the opposition Northern Alliance.
Meanwhile, the Taliban are holding the U.S. to the deadline of August the 31st as the date to be out of the country. This comes as President Joe
Biden says he is considering extending that deadline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We're working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. We have made a number of changes, including extending access around the airport and
the safe zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Right. And for many Afghans who do manage to make it out there. Next stop is Ramstein Air Base in Germany. However base officials say the
facility is nearing its 7500-person capacity. Now the number of evacuees there increased by one after a woman on one of the flights out of
Afghanistan delivered a baby just after touching down in Germany and the cargo hold of a C-17 transport jet. Atika Shubert has the details.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An image of hope amid the chaos, a baby girl born in the cargo bay of the U.S. Air Force C-
17 carrying off gun evacuees. As the plane landed at Ramstein Air Base, the 86th Medical Group rushed in to safely deliver her.
ERIN BRYMER, NURSE AND U.S. ARMY CAPTAIN: So, when I evaluated the patient we were past the point of no return. That baby was going to be delivered
before we could possibly transfer her to another facility. So we were just opening our emergency equipment.
SHUBERT: What was the moment when you realized we're going to be OK?
BRYMER: When the baby came up screaming and we were able to put her directly on mom's chest and get her breastfeeding right away. I was like,
OK, we're good here.
SHUBERT: Ramstein Air Base in Germany has become the latest hub for evacuation flights out of Afghanistan. CNN film that some of the first
flights arrived. More than 6000 have been evacuated here with 17 flights landing in 24 hours Air Base officials say and more to come.
Here there a safety basic shelter, food and water but it is only a temporary measure. Many here do not know where they will go next or how.
But for the moment, there is relief and reason to celebrate new life. Atika Shubert for CNN at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
GIOKOS: Well, to find out how you can help Afghan refugees go to cnn.com/impact. Let's get you now up to speed on some of the other stories
that are on our radar right now. Rescuers have pulled our 24 people who were trapped in rubble a week after a catastrophic earthquake shook Haiti.
Authority save four children are among the survivors. Time is running out to find more people alive. Hundreds of people are still missing. More than
2200 people have died in the disaster.
An explosion on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico has claimed at least one life. It happened early Monday morning belonging to Mexico's state-run
oil company Pemex. Five people remain missing. No word yet on what happens the explosion.
Firefighters in California are having little success containing four huge wildfires. Close to half a million hectares of land is currently burning in
GIOKOS: The Dixie fire in Northern California is less than 40 percent contained, and it is now the second biggest place in Californian history.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris says the U.S. will look into what went right and wrong in Afghanistan. But for now the focus is on evacuating
people who need to get out. Harris's comments came during a visit to Singapore, where the country's Prime Minister offered help in the Afghan
Singapore is Harris's first stop on an Asian tour that is part of the U.S. effort to combat China's influence in the region. Her trip will take her to
Vietnam later this week, becoming the first U.S. vice president to visit that country.
Henri has weakened to a tropical depression but still poses a threat to several states in the northeastern U.S. The storm has slowed significantly
since making landfall early Sunday. A flash flood watch is in effect until Monday evening for parts of central New York and Northeast Pennsylvania.
Well, it didn't take long for floodwaters to rise once on we made landfall on Sunday. CNNs Brian Todd traveled to Connecticut to assess more of the
damage from the storm.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just before tropical storm Henri passed through this area of New London and Groton, Connecticut, we talked to local
officials, mayors and fire chiefs who said they were worried about storm surge, about flooding in low lying areas. And also about power lines down
and trees being done. Well, I just talked to the fire chief of New London. He says by and large, they may have dodged the bullet as far as flooding,
storm surge in that kind of damage.
But some houses he said I had some damage like this one. Down trees coming down on top of this house. This is on Montauk Avenue here in New London.
Look at that tree came crashing down on this older house. I just talked to the homeowner Nate Hall, who told me he was home when this happened and
heard the crash, went to the windows, saw that tree there, came down and assessed some of the damage.
He saw some of these power lines down around his house. So still not quite a safe situation here even though he was uninjured. And no one in the house
was injured by this. And no one in the town unfortunately, has been reported injured in the storm so far, by the way. But he said one fortunate
thing is that this house is so solidly built that it didn't seem to cause a whole lot of damage on this roof up here it came crashing down and hit that
part of the roof.
But if you can see it didn't collapse. And a large part of the tree snapped and came down here. So you've got that damage. And he's assessing that and
getting ready to call his insurance company to come and try to help them out that way. Again, power lines down here and we do know that their power
lines down throughout the city. Over here is where the homeowner told me that the power got knocked out.
You see the dangling wires up there on that pole. That's where the power got knocked out in this neighborhood. So, you've got that to deal with in
many of these neighborhoods here in New London. And again, this area was so saturated with water already with recent storms in recent weeks that you
had situations like this. This is what people, the local officials were worried about here in New London and Groton, Connecticut that they'd had so
much rain, the ground was saturated, that any small amount of wind could pick up a tree and bring it down on a house like this one.
So, that's what happened here. But by and large, officials here in New London and in Groton are pretty thankful right now that they dodged most of
what they anticipated would be major damage from this storm. Brian Todd, CNN, New London, Connecticut.
GIOKOS: At least 21 people have been killed and around 20 others are still missing after floodwaters swept through parts of Tennessee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASEY HIPSHIRE, FLOOD SURVIVOR: It just came so fast. And I packed the bag as quick as I could for all of us. And next thing I know the water in my
house and it's up to my chest. And my house fell off the foundation while we were still in it. So we had to break the window in the kitchen and crawl
out of it and get up on the roof as fast as we could. My yard filled up, I'm like OK, it's going to go back down, it'll be OK.
And then all of a sudden it was like a tidal wave that just came over the road and into my yard and split my house away. It was so fast and so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Well, that was Casey Hipshire describing those devastating floods. Almost all of the people who died were found in the small town of Waverly
west of Nashville. On Sunday, authorities described are heartbreaking this has been for the community. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS DAVIS, HUMPHREYS COUNTY, TENNESSEE SHERIFF: You know, they just went got one of my best friends. It's recovered him. When he was got -- he
drowned in this and it's sitting here thinking about that. Yes. It's tough but we're going to move forward. Yes, that's the hard part. You know, the
small town, small community, we know each other, we love each other.
DAVIS: You know, and I've always said one of our biggest assets in this county is when bad things happen our people -- when rubber meets the road,
our people are going to come out and they're out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Right now search efforts are continuing for those still missing. CNN Nick Valencia reports from the heart of this disastrous flooding.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The governor of Tennessee called it devastating and looking at the images you can certainly understand why. We
tried to make our way in safely to the hardest hit area, but encountered washed out roads and down bridges and the remnants of the severe storm
system that moved through Humphreys County over the weekend. According to the National Weather Service, 17 inches of rain fell in the span of 24
And talking to residents they say it felt like somebody was outside of their home with a fire hose and just relentless that water just continuing
to come down three inches of rain consecutive for three hours straight. The devastation is all around and as the week begins, the cleanup will
continue. Over the weekend search and rescue crews went door to door trying to account for the missing.
Dozens of missing are still unaccounted for. And according to local eyewitnesses there was a housing project behind the Dollar General Store
where several residents they saw tried to make their way to the rooftops but were swept away by the water. This week will continue with a lot of
search and recovery effort in the days ahead. Nick Valencia, CNN, Humphreys County, Tennessee.
GIOKOS: Well, we're minutes away from a Pentagon press briefing and officials there will be giving us an update on Afghanistan. We know that
it's a very fluid situation. We know that the US military have been giving daily updates to discuss not only the pandemonium and chaos around the
airport, but importantly, just how many people they're able to fly out. We know that the number reached 10,400.
On Sunday, that's the highest number since the evacuation started. Many questions around whether they're able to keep that number up. And of course
the deadline 31st of August that gives a very small windows. So we'll be hearing soon from the Pentagon about details and how the Afghanistan
situation is playing out right now. We're going to short break. We'll be back right after this. Stay with us.
GIOKOS: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. And we're moments away from a Pentagon press briefing as you can see, still hasn't started yet. But
really important information that will be coming out of Afghanistan. And of course, the U.S. has plans in the next week as we approach that 31st August
deadline. And as we seen earlier getting out of Kabul is harrowing at best. Afghanistan's former central banker made his escape shortly after the
Taliban rolled in and the president fled.
Ajmal Ahmady tell CNN's Matt Rivers, Matt Egan rather, it was every man for himself. Take a listen.
AJMAL AHMADY, FORMER GOVERNOR, CENTRAL BANK OF AFGHANISTAN: The plane that you see people scrambling to get on. I was on that plane that evening. At
some point, I think I realized that it wasn't going to take off. And so we went on the tarmac. And at that point, it was a surreal experience where
various helicopters were taking off, planes were taking off. People running for any plane that they could find.
And I was able to find one where I did not have a ticket to but where I somewhat forced my way on. And I was very fortunate to get out.
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: How worried were you for your own safety? I think that you said on Twitter that you heard gunshots while you were at the
AHMADY: Sure, at that point, once the president of a country announces that he's no longer in country, the whole chain of command falls apart. So
there's no police, there's no air traffic controllers. It's every person for themselves at that stage.
EGAN: What went through your mind when you learn that President Ghani had left the country?
AHMADY: It was shock, complete shock. I couldn't believe it. It was disbelief. There had always been talk of staying until the bitter end of
fighting. And for him to have left without senior staff or other staff or in making a speech or informing the public about it, I think was not the
right decision. I think a lot of people feel that way.
EGAN: Former President Ghani, he's denied allegations that he left the country with a large sum of money. Do you have any reason to doubt him?
AHMADY: Again, I was not on the plane. I was not with him at that time. And there were a lot of decisions that I mentioned, I was not happy with. At
the same time, I can say that we were again facing dollar shortages. So, we did not have dollars coming in. And so, unless he had an alternative source
of cash, with him available to him, I would be skeptical of that report, although I cannot deny it.
EGAN: Could he have gotten it from the central bank that you were in charge of?
AHMADY: Absolutely not.
EGAN: So now that the Taliban is in charge, how much access to the central bank money do they have?
AHMADY: I mentioned this, that Afghanistan had a relatively high amount of central bank reserves. $9 billion approximately. Those as is the norm with
any central bank are typically held in liquid assets, such as U.S. Treasuries or gold. And all of them are held abroad, essentially all. So my
expectation, I believe, it's already come true is that the U.S. Treasury would freeze those assets.
So the amount of accessible reserves has dropped from nine billion to a very low amount on the order of -- let's say, a few 10 million or less or
more. So, it's a very small amount. You could say that the import coverage ratio which is a common metric, has dropped from more than 15 months to
less than a week.
EGAN: And how important is it, given the way that the Afghanistan economy is structured to have access to U.S. dollars?
AHMADY: It's vital. Afghanistan runs a very large trade deficit, which needs to be financed and that had been occurring through donor inflows over
the past few years. And that was the reason why we had been able to accumulate significant international reserves. Now with the stock of
reserves haven't been frozen. And the flow, likely the significant decline, I think it's going to cause economic hardships, the new regime.
EGAN: The people of Afghanistan has already gone through a very traumatic time in just the past few weeks. What happens to food prices going forward?
AHMADY: If inflation goes up, that means food prices will also go up. And that's going to cause economic hardship. So, I would stress that
humanitarian assistance not only needs to remain but needs to be increased over the next few days and months.
GIOKOS: It's really illuminating interview there. And we're still waiting for the Pentagon press briefing that is set to occur any moment now and
it's about to start. Let's take a listen.
MAJ. GEN. HANK TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF REGIONAL OPERATIONS: Once again, I want to provide an operational update. And then as Mr. Kirby
said, we'll follow up with questions. As we know, this continues to evolve the situation. We continue to strive on the ground. And what we really want
to do is continue to provide you details in a timely manner. As you know, recently, the Secretary of Defense activated the stage one of the civil
reserve air fleet.
Right now that activation includes 18 aircraft from six commercial airlines. This will increase passenger movement from the intermediate state
bases temporary safe havens to the United States.
TAYLOR: While we continue to prioritize military aircraft for the transportation of individuals out of Kabul and out of harm's way. Please
note, as I said, you know, these craft flights will not be flying into Kabul. As of this morning within the last 24 hours, 25 U.S. military C-17s,
three U.S. military C-130s and then a combination of 61 Charter Commercial and other military flights departed Kabul.
The total passenger count for those flights, it was approximately 16,000. Of that number, the U.S. military transported just under 11,000 personnel.
Our mission remains focused on ensuring a steady flow of evacuees out of Kabul to the intermediate staging bases and safe havens at our
installations continue to rapidly build out capacity as needed to ensure reception and providing humanitarian assistance.
The use of temporary safe haven locations across Europe and the Middle East to -- in areas that include us installations in Qatar, UAE, Kuwait,
Bahrain, Italy, Spain and Germany. We deeply appreciate the support from these countries. This is truly a testament to the importance of our
alliances and our partnerships. In the past 24 hours, five flights landed at Dulles International Airport with approximately 1300 passengers.
At this time for military installations, as well as Dulles International are receiving Afghans as they come into the United States. These
installations include Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Fort Lee, Virginia, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Llakehurst, New Jersey, and Fort Bliss, Texas. The total number
currently at these installations is approximately 1200. And NORTHCOM continues to build out capacity to ensure they are prepared to receive more
flights that will come in the next few days.
This is absolutely a worldwide effort, which kits, several countries multiple commands and thousands of service members across the Joint Force.
Over the weekend, the airport in Kabul remains secure. However, if many you've seen already CENTCOM released a statement regarding a -- an incident
to report as no U.S. casualties or partner force or coalition forces were involved but regrettably, an Afghan security force member lost his life.
As the President referenced last night in his remarks, we are in communication with the Taliban for the establishment and sustainment of
several checkpoints to increase throughput and facilitate safe passage for individuals working to gain access to the airport. Today, the number of
troops at the airport continues to stand at 5800. Commanders on the ground continue to actively monitor threats.
They are empowered to make the appropriate force protection decisions. As always, U.S. forces retain the inherent right to use force in self-defense.
We're using all of our available tools to maintain the highest threat awareness, both in Afghanistan and throughout the globe. While this mission
is not without risk, the safety of our personnel, American citizens and Afghan evacuees at risk is of paramount importance.
To wrap up, we continue to make progress in the completion of this mission. Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people. Since
the beginning of evacuation operations on August 14th, we have evacuated approximately 37,000. All of this progress stems from the teamwork,
professionalism and dedication of our military, our interagency colleagues and our allies and partners.
We know more hard work remains in the coming days. And we're absolutely prepared to meet that challenge. Thank you.
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Just a couple other points I'd like to make. As you all aware, the FDA approved for licensure of the Pfizer
vaccine this morning. And as also I'm sure you're aware back in August on the night, the Secretary articulated that it was his intent to mandate
COVID-19 vaccines upon FDA licensure or by mid-September to seek a waiver from the President.
So now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance requiring all service members to be
vaccinated. A timeline for vaccination completion will be provided in the coming days. The health of the force is, as always, our military or
civilian employees, families and communities is a top priority.
KIRBY: As what's important to remind everyone that these efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not
to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live. A schedule item, Secretary and General Milley will be
attending this afternoon the funeral for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense as well as the 21st. He also served the United States Navy in 1950 -- in the mid-1950s as a
pilot and a flight instructor, and he continued to serve as a reservist until 1975. When he became the Secretary of Defense for the first time. On
behalf of the Department of Defense, we extend our deep condolences to his family, to the loved ones and indeed to the country. And with that, we'll
start taking questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For John, on the -- on the Pfizer vaccine, the Secretary's intention to require is not yet made that direction. And what -
- did you say there's not yet a deadline for doing that?
KIRBY: What I'm saying -- we're preparing -- we're preparing now actionable guidance to the force. We're going to move forward, making that max -- that
vaccine mandatory, we're preparing the guidance to the force right now. And the actual completion date of it, in other words, how fast we want to see
it get done, we're working through that guidance right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Can I ask you a question on Afghanistan also?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple things. One is, you've said -- I think General Taylor said a number of times as well that the military's airlift capacity
at the airport was in the neighborhood of 5000 to 9000 is enough. You've now gone beyond that, at least yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say what the capacity has grown to? And also, can you explain a little more about the perimeter issue that the General
alluded to very briefly, when the President yesterday said something to the effect of the perimeter had been moved back significantly to facilitate the
country. Can you explain that?
KIRBY: So a couple things, Bob, on the capacity thing. You're right, we had set a goal of five to 9000 a day. Yesterday, we exceeded that. We're not
taking anything for granted, Bob. We're taking this day by day. We'd love to see those numbers continue to rise. But we're going to just take it day
by day. There's a lot of factors that go into be able to reach that output capacity to include temporary safe havens that you can bring these
individuals to as they complete their screening.
And the screening is a big part of that. We have intelligence and law enforcement personnel, at these sites, making sure that a robust screening
is done of these individuals, so that nobody comes in the United States that hasn't been screened in a robust manner. And so there's lots of
factors that affect throughput. We were very glad to see that we were able to get that number out yesterday. But we're going to take it day by day.
Day by day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the number of aircraft that are available --
KIRBY: I think you -- the number of aircraft was like 20 --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
KIRBY: Yes. No, no, no. But I mean, the same number of aircraft are about available on any given day. I mean, we can get up to on a given day, you
can get up to about 30 C-17s. That doesn't mean that 30 are going to fly every day. And we were under that yesterday and still was able to get out -
- we're still able to get out more than 10,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the perimeter question.
KIRBY: The perimeter question. And I think the General addressed this a little bit in his opening statement. Without getting into tactical details
here, Bob, and I think you can understand why we wouldn't do that. We are - - we are very interested in making sure that that access to the airport remains as fluid as possible, particularly for American citizens trying to
get in as well as our Special Immigrant Visa applicants.
And there's a lot of factors that go into making sure that access remains secure. And that we can facilitate it. And what this -- what the President
was referring to was efforts to improve that access in -- from a geographical space out beyond just the perimeter of the airfield. And I
won't speak to the details of how we're -- how we're managing that. But you can imagine thus far and going forward, it does require constant
coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban.
It absolutely is going -- it's absolutely requiring of us to keep these lines of communication with the Taliban open who do have checkpoints out
beyond the airport. And what we have seen is that this coordination as well this deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow.