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Pentagon: We are in Daily Communication with Taliban about who Should be let Into Kabul Airport; 90 Flights Left Kabul Airport Tuesday with 19,000 Evacuees; Pentagon: U.S. Military Now Requiring COVID-19 Vaccines; Pentagon: "Several Thousand" Evacuees Have Landed in the U.S.; CNN Speak to Mayor of Kabul; Australia and New Zealand Battle Delta Variant Surge. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 25, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President mentioned also that he was calling up on the department to create contingency plans, in case the number of Americans and
Afghans are still needed to get out, have not gotten off by that 31st. Can you just explain kind of what the department is thinking about what his
options might be to continue to get Americans out after the 31st if they haven't made it to the airport by then?
And then just to follow on Jeff's question with Afghans that are aren't getting through for the - have discussions gone on with the Taliban to
maybe find some negotiation space for, they've said, you know, no more Africans can leave.
But clearly, you know, there are 10,000 at the airport. So something is happening behind the scene that's helping some people get through. Can you
talk about that to some extent?
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I'll turn it over to the General?
MAJ. GEN. HANK TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, U.S. JOINT STAFF REGIONAL OPERATIONS: Yes, so I'll start with that last question first. It kind of
comes off of some things that Mr. Kirby just said, with that constant communication.
You know, I know, the most senior commanders on the ground are out and discussing with the Taliban leaders that are manning these checkpoints,
exactly what the documentation needs to look like, you know, times in coordination, I mean, details of that.
As we know, though, there are reports of that some - that aren't able to get through there. And I can tell you that the Department of State, the
Consular Affairs officers that are there are working with our commanders there to ensure that documentation names and those things, as often as
required are being communicated to the Taliban that are out those checkpoints to allow transition in there to get into the gates.
KIRBY: And then, so on contingency plans, obviously, I'm not going to get ahead of the planning process. We are a planning organization.
One of our main jobs is to make sure that the president has options. And as he made clear yesterday, he wants to see this mission complete by the end
of the month, we are still working towards that goal.
But we will be drafting up potential what we call the military branches and sequels. If, in fact, we believe a conversation needs to be had later on in
the month that the timeline might need to be extended, for what purpose, to for what number, for how long, all of that is, is baked into the planning
process. And I'm just not going to get ahead of what the planners are doing, - Courtney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To you, John. So I'm still unclear about it at the very end of this. So the 30 or 31st, who's going to be doing security at
the airport as those last U.S. troops are leaving? Is there an agreement? Or is it sounded as if you were saying that the Taliban will be responsible
for security as the last Americans are leaving?
KIRBY: No, I said the Taliban is responsible for running an airport that's in a city that they are now the titular heads of government there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Running an airport security, right?
KIRBY: --when we are gone, the airport will no longer be secured by American forces, how what that security looks like after we're gone. I
can't speak to that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the U.S. leaves, though. And you will be doing it as the U.S. is, let's say that this last couple of aircraft leave with
Americans whose running security, keeping those aircraft and the runway safe?
TAYLOR: Yes. So you're asking a very good tactical question, right. So you know, security, which we would call, you know, a commander's inherent
responsibility throughout every phase of the operation.
We are continuing to secure ourselves to the very last requirement of that. So when you say, who's securing the, you know, the last flight and all
those things and we will have that ability to secure ourselves through, you know, multiple means to ensure flights are able to take off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then while I have you up there, I just want to clear one thing that you just said. You said that the most senior
commanders on the ground are out and discussing things with the Taliban. Do you mean - basically and General Donohue you're actually going to the
TAYLOR: I don't want to give you know names and things that - I would just tell you, commanders that have authority at Echelon to be able to
communicate because as we said, most important thing is to be able to coordinate with the Taliban to get the right people through.
We've seen that there's been you know, reports of the not the right folks being able to get through. So every day we are ensuring that we can get as
many people in as possible so that we can fly them to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then if I could just ask you one more John, on the equipment that you were talking about earlier so when you talk about
transitioning towards getting military assets out, so obviously getting the peep people out, American military out.
But will there be a point where you will have a decision or General whomever as McKenzie basically will have a decision about putting people on
these aircraft or putting some of the equipment artillery, C-RAMs all the equipment it's still at the airport there? And has there been a decision
made to prioritize lives over military equipment?
KIRBY: Lives are always going to be the priority court period. But as we get closer to the end, there will be some equipment and systems that we
will probably take with us as we leave.
And the disposition of what we aren't taking with us that'll be up to - basically determine how, how that stuff is handled. But lives will always
be the chief priority throughout this entire process.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well nationalities lives?
KIRBY: Lives will always be the priority throughout this process. Let me go over to--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two quick questions. I think yesterday you did put out a statement thing about 4000 Americans have been evacuated?
KIRBY: That's correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there an updated number? And do you have the sort of base number? How many have to be evacuated now?
KIRBY: It's right now today north of 4400. And I don't have a specific number of total Americans that are still in need of, of leaving, I don't --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just a quick follow up. The secretary and I guess the department had large find it helpful for two lawmakers to come to
Kabul. - were you guys aware of it? And do you find it very helpful, them to be there?
KIRBY: We were not aware of this visit. And we are obviously not encouraging VIP visits to a very tense, dangerous and dynamic situation at
that airport and inside Kabuls generally. And the secretary, I think would have appreciated the opportunity to have had a conversation before the
visit took place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just - having them there.
KIRBY: They got a chance to talk to commanders, as I understand I got a chance to talk to troops. But to say that there wasn't a need to flex and
to alter the day to days flow, including you know, the need to have protection for these members of Congress that would you know that wouldn't
be - that wouldn't be a genuine thing for me to assert.
I mean, there was certainly a pull off of the kinds of missions we were trying to do to be able to accommodate that visit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to be clear, Congressman - Moulton and Congressman Meyer, they took seats that would have been for refugees
leaving and they took time away from the mission.
KIRBY: They certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day. And I don't know, on the aircraft, they did fly out on a military
aircraft. I honestly don't know what the seat capacity was on that aircraft. But they are out of the country now. Barb?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Just one more question on withdrawal in the coming days. Since the president has said setting
contingency planning aside that everyone will be up by August 31. My question is do you have in hand all the authorities, approvals, signed
orders, whatever is necessary to just move ahead and carry that out?
Or does the President, the Secretary General McKenzie do somebody General Milley, does somebody still have to sign an order to have that formal
KIRBY: Barb without making it sound like I'm trying to gloss over your question, obviously, we are tracking the end of the mission at the end of
the month. And so of course, General McKenzie has retrograde plans in, you know, in on the shelf and ready to go.
But I can assure you that before that effort is undertaken in earnest, there will be a conversation with the Secretary of Defense and Secretary
Austin will have a chance to provide his guidance and direction with respect to retrograde it. And I think I'll leave it at that.
STARR: I'm sorry. I guess I don't understand because the president made the decision to stick to the deadline of August 31 for all intensive.
KIRBY: That's right.
STARR: And you have that from the commander in chief. So what is it that I just don't get it? What is it that still has to happen to have the formal
official withdrawal begin?
KIRBY: President also said that he wanted the Pentagon to come up with contingency plans, should there be a need to have a conversation about
altering the timeline. So we are tracking towards the 31st. There are retrograde plans that have been drafted up.
And the Secretary has seen them and is aware of them. But I think you would expect that, in these final days, the secretary will want to have the
opportunity to issue specific direction to General McKenzie, about going forward with those retrograde plans.
We're going to try as I said; we are focused on that date. But we're also focused keenly on making sure we get as many people out as fast as we can,
for as long as we can.
And if there has to be alterations to that, then, obviously, Secretary Austin is going to want to be a part of that conversation and to be able to
issue his guidance and direction to the commanders on the ground. Christina?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Can you confirm that no Americans have been killed since August 14? And if there is any American killed through August
31, how would that be announced?
KIRBY: Are you talking about American soldiers troops?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any American.
KIRBY: No, there have been no U.S. troops killed since the 14th. And we only know one minor injury. I know of no American citizens who have been
killed on this. So I don't know of any. Now, we don't have perfect visibility into everything going on in Kabul. But we know of no American
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there's just one more question. When exactly does the August 31st deadline take effect is that August 31 midnight, or that
September 1 midnight?
KIRBY: August 31st.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, if you could clarify a couple points that you made earlier if I may. You mentioned that at some point, the U.S. will
prioritize getting military personnel out of - International Airport.
And I'm curious, given that, is there a point where Afghan nationals and U.S. citizens will not be allowed to get into the airport compound, the
supposition being that you would have to have some sort of cut off before you can then fly everywhere the final search troops out? And if so, when is
TAYLOR: So I just want to go back to something I said earlier about airflow, right. And as you've seen the capability over the last three days,
you know, over 90 aircraft total yesterday, so and a lot focused on evacuation.
So the way to answer that question is, is the commanders who will go forward with their the plan of rhetoric will have options, you know, to
make decisions on a daily sometimes hourly basis of what loads are ready. What aircraft are ready, can I put something else on that bird?
I mean, that that's how fluid and quite honestly, we are able to do that level planning. And it goes back to the overall, you know, missionaries is
continued to be able to get as many out as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I appreciate that. I think one reason I'm a little confused is it seems part of this is contingent on the Taliban and how they
secure the area around the airport, who they lead and when they let them in.
So I think one thing that would help me understand better is who makes the final determination of security outside the airport, you mentioned that
their communications happening.
But for example, if the U.S. wanted some kind of national and the Taliban did not want to let them then who makes that determination? How is it
TAYLOR: Right now, the airfield to secure to allow full operations and you're not assessed that in the - that is going to change right now. So
that is our current planning and we will continue to go forward with that.
KIRBY: And yes, to sort of revisit what I said before, I mean, we are, we've been very clear with Taliban leaders about what credentials we want
them to accept. Remember, its American citizens, its SIV applicants and its vulnerable Afghans.
And we have shared what the proper credentials are. And by and large, not saying it's been perfect. But by and large, the people that we have made
clear to the Taliban that we want to have access through the checkpoints have been able to get through, by and large, again, with caveats. So it
hasn't been a big problem to date.
And as the General said earlier, I mean, we also have other means to go out and get people in if we need to. We've done three rotary wing lifts that so
we have that option available to us as well. Does that answer your question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I don't, I don't mean to be thinking about this. I'm just trying to understand how that communication happens. Let's say
they're not letting in a certain credential that you believe should you let in? How is that result?
KIRBY: Good question. And what would happen is the commanders on the ground would if they were if that was brought to their attention and this has
actually happened. I'm not this isn't notional.
KIRBY: When we have reports, that somebody who is properly credentialed is not being let in. Or maybe their family members, would they have proper
credentials, we are making that clear to the Taliban leaders that know they are appropriate, you do need to let them in.
And again, there's been a little given taken it's, I think, was no zero, who mentioned this earlier. I mean, not every checkpoint is, is manned in
the same way by the same individuals as every other one.
And so there's variances at some of these checkpoints in terms of how the word has gotten down and how much the Taliban man and the checkpoint are,
are following the dictates of their commanders.
So that's why it's a constant communication on the ground with them to keep that flow going as much as possible. But yes, there are stops and starts;
there are hurdles that have to be overcome almost on any given day. But really, it's a credit to the commanders on the ground there that they are;
they're continuing to have these conversations now that get it better?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
KIRBY: OK. All right, Jenny?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, John. Thank you very much. This sounds good. Your government is operating a military aircraft transfer operation
to receive the Afghanistan refugees in South Korea. We will arrive tomorrow. And you know that North Korea spoke to Taliban.
And we know that in the past the North Korean Taliban, they conducted the special training together, then what kind of United States monitoring about
North Korea, which is the report is that security threat?
TAYLOR: First of all, as we talk about the Republic of Korea support to airlift, obviously, we, as I said earlier, extremely grateful for their
contribution to increase our outflow. You know, throughout the world, as you know, we've talked about North Korea and all that.
You know, all of our combatant commands, you know, specifically Paycom are always diligent in you know, watching in their mission of ensuring, you
know, keeping awareness of any type of thing North Korea is doing. So once again, we're very grateful and thankful for Republic of Korea support and
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any contingence plan for anything happening in the Korean Peninsula during this --?
TAYLOR: Indo - mission remains unchanged and instead fast.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
KIRBY: I need to go to the phones again, some more.--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey John, two quick questions. Jen Psaki yesterday said that this evacuation is on track to be the largest in U.S. history,
the largest airlift in U.S. history. The numbers you have applied provides the 88,000 I think you've said have been evacuated.
So are you pretty confident that you will be able to best the Operation Frequent when 1975 Saigon evacuation where 131,000 people were evacuated by
air and sea.
KIRBY: We're not competing with history, Tony, we're trying to get as many people as we can as fast as we can. And when it's all said and done. We'll
take a look at what we were able to accomplish. But this isn't about trying to beat some sort of historical record.
I will only add, you know, 88000 in the course of just a week, week and a half is no small feat. And you've seen us over the last three days alone
exceed what we thought was going to be a maximum capacity and we certainly would like to keep that going for as long as possible. Let me go back to
the phones and until we all get to you I promise --?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, thank you. Can you tell me if all SIV holders who have made it onto the airport grounds with valid papers are going to be
able to make it onto flights? I asked because an interpreter with an SIV I've been in contact with just made it onto the grounds was almost put out
of the gate that appears to have been now corrected.
But will this interpreter and other SIV holders who are on the grounds be able to fly out before the deadline line is gone is over.
KIRBY: Yes, certainly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. I have two small questions, first about the numbers. You said that 88,000 departed since the 14th of August. Is it only
U.S. flight? So if it's not only U.S. flight, how many were evacuated by U.S. flights? That's the first question.
TAYLOR: Total number?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TAYLOR: Yes, right at around 58,000 to 60,000.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Thank you. And the second question was about the president mentioned the ISIS threat. And I wanted to know, if you receive
new threats if there is an immediate danger at the gates or if it's a threat in general that you have known for a long time?
TAYLOR: Yes. So as we talked about, we won't go into specific intelligence, you know, collection, those people there. We know, as previously reported,
there is a threat; this has been a dangerous place that has had the threats by ISIS.
And we continue to ensure that we collect and keep the force protection to the highest levels possible to ensure that we're able to continue
evacuation operations. John do you want to--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you want to confirm new threats?
KIRBY: We're not going to talk about the intelligent farmers. So Sylvia, you know that it these are, as the General said, these are credible
threats. And we're mindful of that, but we're not going to talk about it in great detail. Megan?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just want to clarify your remarks about the vaccine memo. Is this to say that the Secretary is not going to request a waiver
from the president and DoD will just give vaccines on a mandatory basis as they become fully --?
KIRBY: Well, that's not at all I mean, we'll have to see where the other vaccines end up. That's not at all what I meant to say. It's just that the
only ones that will be made mandatory right now are the - - are ones that are licensed by the FDA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But by mid-September, he may ask for the--
KIRBY: I won't move anything in or out. But as the memo says we're only going to make mandatory those that have FDA licensure. And, but press
reporting alone would indicate that you know, that the other vaccines are getting close. So--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more question, John?
KIRBY: Yes, sure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was the relationship between U.S. and Taliban, do you think that Pakistan should play a rule to make a good relationship
because as long as I heard from Taliban's - person, you guys have no good relationship, right, because they prevented civilian to leave Afghanistan.
Do you think that Pakistan has role which role play Pakistan?
KIRBY: All Afghan - all of Afghanistan's neighbors can play a role here. And we hope they do a constructive role in Afghanistan's future. And
Pakistan, certainly, I would think would figure largely into that calculus, as we talked about, there's the safe havens across the long that border
remain a problem.
We've been very honest and candid with Pakistani leaders about the importance of not allowing that. And you would want to believe that they
also share that sense of urgency, because they too are the victims of terrorist attacks that emanate from there.
So they should, and I suspect that they will want to play a significant role going forward and we would just ask for them and for any country, any
neighboring country to make that as constructive as possible in the back there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What percent of the forces aren't vaccinated yet, and when will they have to be vaccinated by?
KIRBY: So, on the active duty force 68 percent is fully vaccinated. And we estimate that just over 76 percent have at least one dose. I can break this
down by the services. This would include garden reserves and these figures.
For the army 40 percent is fully vaccinated with 57 percent with one dose for the Marine Corps 53 percent fully vaccinated 60 percent with one dose.
For the Navy 73 percent fully vaccinated 79 percent with at least one dose. And for the Air Force, which includes space force that's 57 percent fully
vaccinated, 64 percent with one dose.
The secretary has made clear his expectation to the military departments that he wants them to move with some alacrity here and get the force fully
vaccinated as fast as possible.
If you look in his memo you'll also see that he tasked them to regularly update the Deputy Secretary on a very frequent basis on how they're moving
out to achieve those goals. Right now, this mandatory vaccine will just be Pfizer, and then we'll see where it goes with the other licensures.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John, will you be mandating vaccines for any of the Afghan refugees who come into the United States and are brought here by the
KIRBY: I'm going to leave that question to the State Department. But there is there's COVID screening being done at each stop along the way. And
again, I think that's a better question for the State Department.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've just said that any SIV holders that come to the gate would be let on to a flight. But we're just getting real time reports
from Abbey Gate that Marines are turning away SIV holders and turning them away.
Can you clarify our marine supposed to be turning away those with SIV papers or with authorization to come on to the airport? Have they closed
down Abbey Gate?
KIRBY: I'm going to let the General take that question. The question that was posed to me by I think it was Steven was if you're, if you have SIV
credentials, and you're at the field, if you're on the airport, will you be able to get off? And the answer is yes. But I'll let the General take --.
TAYLOR: So you know, obviously, I can't speak to that knee, you know, absolute real time to the second report. The guidance still remains is
those that have the proper paperwork and are safely at the gates is to bring them in and to process them.
So I can't speak to that specific, you know report there now. But what I do know is that whether it's our marines or soldiers that are at those gates
working with the consular officers that are there is, as people are there and present the proper SIV paperwork, we are to get them as quickly as
possible in, process them for evacuation flights.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you make sure that that message gets down to the marines at Abbey Gate, because this is a legitimate report that just came
TAYLOR: You know, and I think we appreciate those reports, right. And I just know, as I've talked to the commanders, they're using a lot of time
and it's good, it will report to ensure they get this information and put it out throughout the entire force.
KIRBY: The other thing, Jen, I mean, again, without speaking to this case, sometimes gates, the traffic is halted at the gates to manage flow on the
airport. It is a physics issue. But again, I appreciate that. And if you share with us after the briefing, the details of this, we will certainly
pass it on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask one more vaccine question?
KIRBY: Yes, Ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that there's been several weeks since the decision to make this mandatory? What is the secretary's policy or decision on any
troops who refuse to get the vaccine?
KIRBY: Great question. What the secretary has communicated to the military departments is to execute this mandatory vaccination program with obviously
skill and professionalism, which we always do, but also with a measure of compassion.
And so for a member who still objects now, obviously, there's you can, you can ask for an exemption on religious grounds. And you certainly could be
exempt if you have a pre-existing condition that your doctor advises you not to get it, obviously.
But if it's an objection outside those two frameworks, the individual will be offered a chance to sit down with a physician and have that physician
communicate to them, the risks that they're taking by continuing to not want to take the vaccine.
They will also be offered a chance to sit down with their chain of command and their leadership to talk about the risks that their objection will
impose on the unit and on the force and on their teammates.
And the point is court that the commanders have a wide range of tools available to them, to help their teammates make the right decision for
themselves for their families and for their units. And we expect and the secretary expects that the commander's will use those tools short of having
to use the UCMJ.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the service member goes to the counseling does not have a religious objection, and still objects and refuses to get the
vaccine, the individual will start beginning to be processing UCMJ?
KIRBY: The commanders have a wide range of tools available to them short of using the UCMJ. And I think, you know, we're going to trust that commanders
are going to are going to make the right decision going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we'll get like an NJP basically?
KIRBY: I can't give you an exact answer to every hypothetical situation. There are - it is a - once you may - once you mandate it as we've done,
it's a lawful order. It's a lawful order.
KIRBY: And we fully anticipate that - our troops are going to follow lawful orders when you raise your right hand and you take that oath, that's what
you agreed to do. And it hasn't been a problem in the past with other vaccines now I recognize COVID has a different history to it and different
cultural ascription to it.
But it's a lawful order. And it's our expectation that truthful, obey lawful orders. And we also expect that commanders will have plenty of other
tools available to them, to get the vaccination rates up and to get these individuals to make the right decision short of having to use disciplinary
OK, I think that's almost a full hour. So we're going to call it for right now as the General mentioned in his opening statement, we will shoot for an
afternoon briefing. This one will be with General Walters from UCOM specifically to address issues of the evacuation and what UCOM is doing to
help us move these people on to their new lives. And so we'll see you at three o'clock this afternoon. Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST: All right, that was John Kirby, the DOD Spokesperson and Major General Hank Taylor giving us an update on that mass
evacuation from Afghanistan. Officials say 10,000 people are at Kabul Airport waiting to leave, and they confirmed that 19,000 more were flown
out of Kabul Tuesday. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: Since the U.S. and coalition forces began the evacuation to date approximately 88,000 have safely departed from Afghanistan. Every 39
minutes yesterday, a plane departed Kabul Airport.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: And there is an ominous new warning, U.S. intelligence suggests a branch of the terror group ISIS known as ISIS-K is planning to attack
crowds outside the Kabul Airport. That's according to defense official speaking to CNN.
President Joe Biden Tuesday gave the possibility of an attack as one reason why he's sticking to that 31st August deadline for pulling out U.S. forces.
Hundreds of U.S. troops have already left. It is time to bring in our team. We've got CNN Military Analyst, Colonel Cedric Leighton joining us from
Washington. We also have Nic Robertson is also in Washington right now.
And so many questions here right about security, which is going to secure the perimeter as those last flights take off? Which phase of the mission
are we sitting at when you're seeing an operation occurring in a contested environment, and a big time constraint here?
Colonel, let's go to you first, what are your thoughts about these updates, we know that more and more people are leaving, which is very encouraging.
But the security element now is one that creates the biggest risk.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's right, Eleni. It definitely does create the biggest risk. And what you're seeing is
certainly the people that have made it to the airport. And that, as you mentioned, is a considerable number that 10,000 people waiting to be
evacuated that are, you know, in essence safe at the moment before they boarded those airplanes.
The other side of that coin, though, is that there are still so many people waiting outside the gates. And it's not that they're passively waiting.
Many of them are trying very hard to get to various points, various collection points throughout the city that we're beginning to hear about.
They are running into bureaucratic obstacles, people not letting them move forward to a green card holders say you know, American green card holders
being able to get through, but some SIV holders not being able to get through.
So this is you know, an environment where the picture painted during this briefing is a somewhat rosy one. And obviously the people that are working
things at the airport are doing an incredibly hard and difficult job. And they're succeeding in that part of the mission.
But where I think everything is a bit more tenuous is on the outside of that airport. The other thing that I thought was also very interesting is
that there have been three helicopter operations to extract people from various parts of Kabul; at least we're led to believe it was just within
That's pretty significant that so far during the course of this operation, they've gone outside the wire, the American forces have gone outside the
wire to do this kind of thing. And I think you know, it shows that there was a certainly a degree of willingness to take some risk and to capture
the moment where they can get people and bring them into to what hopefully is safety.
GIOKOS: Nic, there were a few questions around security as those last flights are expected to take off who's going to be securing the perimeter?
Who's going to be in charge of the airports? And then when you have an ISIS-K threat, one that says that they could be targeting crowds around the
airport that brings into question what is the next step? What did you make of those comments?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, I think John Kirby really outlined you know, the framing very accurately of who controls
the airport, essentially, when the United States leaves. He said the Taliban are - head to the government of Kabul, they control Kabul and the
airport is within Kabul.
So, you know, this is essentially an outside rain that we've seen of the Taliban and inside of that ring at the airport, providing security there.
So the aircraft can take off safely so that people can be processed safely, then the airport has been a coalition forces, principally U.S. forces.
So as the drawdown continues, the preponderance of security for the airport is going to fall into the lap of the Taliban by default. And at some point,
there will be no longer as we saw at Bagram Airbase outside 15 miles outside of Kabul several weeks ago.
There will be no longer any U.S. forces there and Afghans and the Taliban, of course, who now control the country will be free to go on to that
airfield and do what they will with it, essentially, they haven't announced the government, but they're running the country.
So the reality as John Kirby outlined it, it's the Taliban that's going to be in charge that and on to that point of ISIS-K, ISIS Khorasan, the ISIS
affiliate in the region there. You know, John Kirby, again, very cautious not going to get into the intelligence around the threat itself did say
that the threat has been existing for some time, you know, and that ISIS-K is capable of and has perpetrated some very deadly suicide and other
attacks inside the City of Kabul.
In fact, they've been one of the sorts of primary big killers, even more so than the Taliban in the capital over the past couple of years. But, you
know, his he doesn't want to get into - explore the nature of the intelligence, deriving the current threat.
We do know, however, the ISIS-K members have been released in the prison breaks that have been, you know, affected by the Taliban has taken control
of the country.
GIOKOS: Colonel, in terms of the contingency plans that they say that they will be ready to implement, should they need to should they need to extend
that deadline? What kind of circumstances would warrant the implementation of those plans?
LEIGHTON: --those circumstances could vary quite a bit. For example, if they found that the Taliban had violated the tenants of the agreement that
they've reached out where they've deliberately done something to SIV holders or American citizens, especially if they've done something to
American citizens that could result in a change in plans.
Of course, on the diplomatic front, you know, if there was an agreement with the Taliban, you know, we don't think that, of course, that would
happen, because they've said that they want to extend things, and it's very unlikely.
But, you know, theoretically, at least, it's possible that they that that could affect a contingency planning you on the other side of that a
complete breakdown in the diplomatic and military to military relationship between the U.S. and the allies on the one hand and the Taliban could also
result in the implementation and the execution of contingency plans.
So there are a variety of different scenarios that could come into play here. But generally speaking, contingency plan change would be in effect,
once there's a change in the situation or there's an imminent threat, as you mentioned and as Nic mentioned with ISIS Khorasan that could also
trigger you know, a type of contingency plan where you change to the contingency plans as a result of that threat.
GIOKOS: Colonel Leighton thank you very much. Thank you so much, Nic Robertson for joining us. Our Afghanistan coverage continues and after the
break, we'll bring you a snapshot of what it's like to be in Kabul right now with the Mayor of Kabul don't go anywhere.
GIOKOS: Welcome back. Now the Mayor of Kabul says he still believes in the democratic principles that fit Afghanistan, even after the Taliban overran
the government. The Mayor says he's been allowed to keep his job. Mayor Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoy joins me now from Skype from the capital.
Thank you so much Mayor Sultanzoy for joining us. I guess the question here is, are you still the Mayor of Kabul? We heard reports that there was a
parallel mayor put in place by the Taliban.
MOHAMMAD DAOUD SULTANZOY, KABUL MAYOR: No, actually, he's not a parallel mayor. He's in charge of a commission that oversees all mayors in
Afghanistan, and he's working from the municipality with me there. But he's charged for commission. And I'm still as of this afternoon, when I left my
office, I was still the mayor.
GIOKOS: OK. So this is where it becomes interesting, because I think you can give us a little bit of an idea of the leadership structure right now.
You were appointed by Ashraf Ghani, he fled the country. I know that you've said before, that you were called to go back to work to continue your
service. Who are you taking orders from now? Are you now working essentially for the Taliban?
SULTANZOY: Actually, I'm working for the people of Kabul. We're providing service, there is no government. And one of my duties is to serve the
people. And when everybody fled the country, and those pundits, especially those Afghans who will call themselves pundits on selling 10,000 minds are
ancient in crocodile tears in saying that we betrayed our principles and democratic principles.
Had I left Kabul like others that and had I left my duty, what would that been called? I think that would have been prison. So I'm serving the people
of Kabul. I'm providing the services that they badly need, and a token of that problem, as is being seen every day at the airport.
And had the government of Kabul and municipality of Kabul has collapsed what would have happened to 6 million people want to ask that question.
GIOKOS: Yes. Absolutely and look, you are sitting in the economic powerhouse of the country. So it's a vital city. You have run for
president, before you understand the politics in the country quite extensively, I'm sure.
But could you give us a better understanding? Are you taking orders from any specific person or someone within the Taliban? You're saying you're
serving the people of Afghanistan right now? Are you just going on along with what you had put in place prior to the Taliban takeover? Or do you
have a new set of orders and mandate that you have to adhere to the orders that are being issued by the Taliban leadership?
SULTANZOY: The orders that are being issued by Taliban leadership are not being ordered by a government that is formed yet. No government has been
formed. Most of those orders are security oriented. And what I'm doing is providing service to the people of this city.
So we're doing what we were doing before and as it is dictated by the needs of the people. There are no orders that are specifically directed towards
the municipality from the Taliban, because there's no government yet. And when that form is formed, then we will see what happens. I'm not sure what
kind of government I hope - that it's an inclusive government.
I hope the Taliban are talking to people like us who believe in the democratic principles, not to people who are warlords and drug lords and
grabbers, land grabbers, who are trying to resuscitate themselves and they ran away and now they want to come back.
GIOKOS: So could you give me an idea of the conversations with Taliban officials? What are they speaking to you about and what are you relaying
back to them?
SULTANZOY: To be very honest and accurate, they took over Kabul. They have very little experience in running a government.
SULTANZOY: They have no expertise in running a government, they are in charge. They're in power. But they need to have a functioning government
that has experts, and administrative and economic and technical know-how that will run various branches of the government.
And we have to wait and see what kind of people they will put in the government that will be the litmus test. And what I did in staying in
Kabul, I have thrown the ball in their court, tell them that look, we are here. And if you want an inclusive government, you better prove it by
bringing the right people not the same warlords in turn coach who want to come back and loot more of the looted pie that they already have looted.
GIOKOS: You in terms of you know, serving the people of Afghanistan and the people in Kabul, we've heard from numerous people that the banks have been
closed. They haven't been able to draw money. And this has obviously put people in a very sort of difficult situation.
Give me an update on when the banks are going to be opening up and whether you're worried about a run on the banks and what that would mean for
SULTANZOY: There are many factors that the banks are slow to open. Naturally, it's very easy to shut them down. But it takes a while to open
them back because the Central Afghan Bank assets are frozen abroad, by the United States and by the world by other institutions.
Therefore, the connection of the local banks to the central bank and the cash flow and the chain that exists has to be revamped and it has to be
revitalized before the banks can open totally. Some banks open very slowly in some many exchanges are open right now. But the full functioning banks
are not there yet.
GIOKOS: So what does this - where does this leave average people that don't - have run out of money essentially are you worried about them?
SULTANZOY: Yes, very much. So this is a very, very important issue. Economy is the biggest problem that the new government has to deal with. Our
revenues, our relations with the international community, our loans, our aid money, the contributions that were made into the Afghan fund that was
for reconstruction of Afghanistan, these are all the issues that we have to grapple with.
And we have to be a government that has to understand those things, and it has to abide by international norms. You can tap into those resources
GIOKOS: You know, you say that you want an inclusive government. And you say that you stay behind. Ashraf Ghani said he fled because he feared he
was going to be hanged. Does this mean you want to be part of this new government?
Are you thinking about running for president again? Do you think the Taliban is going to want to take a democratic approach here for
Afghanistan? Because you're saying you still believe in the democratic process?
The Taliban has been very, you know, interesting to watch in terms of their messaging and how they want to handle the future, what do you think that's
going to look like?
SULTANZOY: See, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt right now, every few decades, the people of Afghanistan after every turmoil have run away
from this country. And we have created drain brain. I was one of the - of the Soviet invasion and I saw what happened to this country.
I don't want to repeat the same mistake in creating a drain brain to give the extremists an excuse that there's nobody else but then to run the
country. Therefore, this is a double edged sword while people are afraid of their lives and run away from their duties and responsibilities. Others are
here to fulfill their responsibilities.
And of course, the formation of the new government - me running for president these are all future things that their behavior of the Taliban,
the formation of a new government, the creation of the new constitution, and all the other things are hanging and we have to see what happens and
then make the announcement of what we will be able to do.
GIOKOS: OK. So 31st of August, that's the deadline. In the meantime, ISIS-K threats - the U.S. says is very real that they've potentially threatened
to, you know, bomb and attack crowds around the airport. You're currently taking down the concrete walls and structures the tea wall so to speak,
that we're essentially used for protection.
ISIS-K has targeted Kabul in the past. Are you worried about this threat? Do you think that this is a possibility when you have foreign forces
actually finally leave the country?
SULTANZOY: Well, actually, that threat is always there in a country that has been at war for 40 years. There are many elements that can threaten the
very, very splenius situation that already we are in, but at the same time we have to create law and order.
SULTANZOY: We have to create the semblance of normalcy, the mind. I was removing these obstacles and these tea walls even before the Taliban came
in power. And now we have speeded up this thing because they are - they also want these things to be removed.
And they have to be able to provide security so that people can live a normal life. When the war is over than the normal life has to start and
these things are part of normal life, open speech, open avenues open city so people can breathe, and the economy can breathe, and everything will
have to come back to normal.
We have to do this for the people we owe to the people because several generations of these people have been living in tea walls and behind
concrete walls and the government has been operating in a very, very undesirable situation for the past few decades.
GIOKOS: Mayor Sultanzoy, thank you very much for that update and the insight you've given us much appreciate it great to have you on the show.
Up next, lockdown fatigue is setting in for Australia and New Zealand why governments are looking at changing their approach to controlling COVID-19?
GIOKOS: Welcome back. I'm Eleni Giokos. Let's get you up to speed on some of the other stories that are on our radar right now. With vaccinations on
the rise globally the W.H.O. says the number of new COVID cases has plateaued after nearly two months of increases.
Most regions decreased or stayed the same over the last week. However, the Western Pacific region saw a 20 percent increase and the Americas saw an 8
percent increase. Taiwan reported zero local COVID-19 infections Wednesday. It's a first since a major outbreak in May.
Here you see the Taiwanese President getting the first dose of the Island's homegrown vaccine this week. Taiwan has been struggling to get vaccines
from overseas. A new UK study shows protection from COVID with the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines waned slightly within six months of being fully
Pfizer's vaccine declines from an initial 88 percent protection to 74 percent, AstraZeneca falls from 77 percent down to 67 percent at five or
six months. Australia and New Zealand have put in place some of the stricter lockdowns since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Despite that and aggressive vaccine efforts, they're struggling to keep up with the surge in the Delta variant. Australia's neighbor New Zealand has
also reported its highest number of new locally transmitted cases Wednesday, even as it undergoes strict national lockdown. Ivan Watson has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Australia and New Zealand two countries that stamped out each and every COVID-19
outbreak over the first year and a half of the pandemic, now in partial or complete lockdown as they struggle with a new surge of infections.
NICOLE, SYDNEY RESIDENT: At this point, I don't think my kids will go back to school this year.
WATSON (voice over): The outbreaks prompting Australia's Prime Minister to suggest moving on from a zero case approach to COVID.
SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: This cannot go on forever. This is not a sustainable way to live in this country.
WATSON (voice over): Stay at home orders in the major cities Sydney, Melbourne and the Capital Canberra, extended COVID fatigue contributing to
violent protests that erupted in Melbourne last weekend.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison now promoting a plan to ease restrictions once 70 to 80 percent of adults get vaccinated. But vaccination rates in
both Australia and New Zealand are still low, with only about a quarter of Australians and a fifth of New Zealanders fully vaccinated.
This summer's outbreaks popped in short lived travel bubble between both countries in late July, their borders now largely shut to the outside
world. And New Zealand's leader wants to maintain her government's zero case COVID strategy for as long as she can.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: For now, absolutely elimination is the strategy. We need more certainty we don't want to take
any risks with Delta. If the world has taught us anything, it is to be cautious with this variant of COVID-19.
WATSON (voice over): In just two months, Australia went from one confirmed case of COVID to over 16,000 fueled by the more contagious Delta variant.
WATSON (on camera): Do you believe that a zero case strategy is still viable for Australia?
MARY-LOUISE MCLAWS, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Sadly, not anymore. I think it's too late. But we may go to some type of mitigation,
while desperately trying to increase our vaccine rollout.
WATSON (voice over): Some weary Australians say this island nation may need to accept the reality of the virus.
SUSAN, SYDNEY RESIDENT: At some point we're going to have to open up. I don't think we're ever going to be 100 percent confident and safe.
WATSON (voice over): Two countries grateful to have been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic Delta now threatening to take away their hard won
success. Ivan Watson, CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Alright, we continue our coverage on Afghanistan. We'll be hearing from the Secretary of State in a few minutes as well press conference
underway. Of course we'll also be hearing from the Pentagon later on today, as well as those evacuations get underway in Afghanistan. Thanks so very
much for joining us. I'm Eleni Giokos. I'll be back with more "Connect the World" tomorrow. "One World" is up next.