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Last U.S. Troops Leave Kabul, Taliban Declare Victory; Desperate Afghans Try to Cross Border to Pakistan; Ida Leaves over 1 Million Louisianans without Power; Formerly Jailed Top Taliban Official Back in Afghanistan. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 31, 2021 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): The last American military flight leaves Afghanistan, ending a 20-year war and leaving behind a lot of


In the temporary haven of the United Arab Emirates for these Afghan families who fled the Taliban, hope, hope for a new life.

And Hurricane Ida causes catastrophic damage across southeastern Louisiana. Now a massive relief effort is underway.

It's 6:00 pm here in Abu Dhabi, it is 10:00 am in Washington. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

Mission over, conflict over but Afghanistan's future, steeped in uncertainty, after the last U.S. troops withdraw. The final U.S. military

plane taking off from Kabul airport just before midnight Monday night, ending a nearly 20-year war. The Taliban proclaiming full independence for

the country.


ANDERSON (voice-over): This is how it looked before and after that flight. The last U.S. soldier to leave, Major General Chris Donahue, resolutely

walking onto the C-17 transport plane.

And Taliban fighters from the group's special forces brigade triumphantly marching through hangars filled with abandoned U.S. military helicopters, a

startling sight no one could have envisioned just weeks ago.


ANDERSON: Before they left, U.S. and allied forces evacuated more than 123,000 people in one of the largest civilian airlifts in history. Foreign

diplomats and workers, along with Afghans and their families who were able to get inside that airport and had the proper paperwork, got out.

Left behind, somewhere around 100 Americans; for example, who the State Department vowed to evacuate in time but couldn't, and untold thousands of

Afghans, who assisted the U.S. and its allies now living in fear of Taliban reprisals, despite promises from the Taliban that they will not be harmed.

And what of Afghanistan itself?

Well, the Taliban now control a country short of food, money and medical supplies and largely cut off from international aid. And while they

describe the United States as defeated invaders, the Taliban also say there is a diplomatic path forward. Take a listen.


ZABIULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants good relations with the Americans through

diplomacy. However, the Americans failed here. They failed.

From the military perspective, they failed to achieve their goals. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to have good relations with the whole

world on behalf of the nation. We want to have strong diplomatic relations with all, including the United States. We want to gradually reestablish

good relations with the United States in the future.


ANDERSON: Well, that is the Taliban's narrative. Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward reported from Kabul during the chaos of the

evacuation. Now the border crossing in Pakistan, Clarissa shows us the desperate efforts of some people trying to flee Afghanistan and the

difficulties they are facing, once they get to the border.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are here at the border crossing that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan. And you can see

behind me a lot of Taliban fighters. They're standing here, under the white Taliban flag. That is the official flag at this border crossing.

Now what you're not seeing a lot of, if you come over here with me, are people getting into Pakistan. This is the line of Afghans who are waiting

to get into Pakistan. But only people who have Pakistani documents or residency are being allowed in at this stage.

And that has been a rule that's been in place for a few months now, partly because of COVID regulations, partly because Pakistan says it can't cope

with the flow of refugees.

Now if you look over here, just behind me, you can see this grouping here, of people who are very sick. I want to draw your attention to a

particularly serious-looking woman with a young boy. He has some kind of bandages with blood on them on his lap.

And these people are basically appealing to Pakistan for immediate medical attention. Some people have been allowed through to go to hospitals.


WARD: But basically, what Pakistan is saying now is, we have more than 1 million Afghan refugees and we simply can't cope with any more -- Clarissa

Ward, CNN, at the Torkham border crossing.


ANDERSON: Well, we should be hearing from U.S. President Joe Biden, scheduled to speak about the U.S. withdrawal in a couple of hours from now.

He'll get an update, we're told, from his national security team on Afghanistan later this hour.

In a statement released by the White House Monday night, President Biden defended his decision to stick with the August 31st deadline. He also

thanked the U.S. forces for completing the mission without further loss of life. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.

Jeremy, what can we expect to hear from the president today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Becky, when President Biden came into office, he vowed that he would be the last

commander in chief to oversee the war in Afghanistan. He would not hand it over to a fifth commander in chief after becoming the fourth president to

oversee this nearly 20-year war.

We didn't hear from him yesterday, announcing the end of that war; instead, those words came from the commander of U.S. Central Command, General


But today I think we can expect to hear the president talk about the sweep of history here and this moment we are in, as the U.S. concludes its

official U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

And we are also going to hear from the president laying out his rationale for deciding to end that war and withdraw U.S. troops by this August 31st


But there's no question, Becky, that the president will also have to answer the questions and criticisms that have come up about why he moved forward

with that withdrawal on August 31st, without every American citizen having gotten out.

It was less than two weeks ago that the president, in an interview, committed to getting every single American, who wanted to get out, out of

the country before U.S. troops left the country.

And that promise was certainly not fulfilled, as the secretary of state said yesterday, nearly -- as many as 200 Americans, as little as 100

American citizens, who wanted to get out, did not get on the final planes leaving Afghanistan yesterday.

So those are certainly some tough questions the president will have to answer.

And then, finally, I think we'll hear the president talk about the future of that mission and how, while troops are gone, U.S. -- the State

Department and its diplomatic personnel are going to continue to work to try and get many of those Americans out of the country as well as those

Afghans, thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, who are still looking to get out and who helped the U.S. over that two decade-long conflict.

ANDERSON: Meantime, Jeremy, the president and his White House staff will have seen the images of the Taliban parading in those hangars, those

hangars at Kabul airport; once full of evacuees, now with discarded former U.S. military assets, including helicopters.

Just how uncomfortable will those images be?

DIAMOND: Look, they are uncomfortable and they kind of speak to a slice of the reality more broadly in the country. The only difference here -- and

this is something that the Pentagon has tried to make clear -- is that the, you know, images we've seen of the Taliban walking around the airport

with U.S. Chinooks and other Afghan military planes provided by the United States, those, according to the Pentagon, have all been disabled. They are

no longer operational as well as the Humvees and military vehicles that were left at the airport.

But there are thousands, tens of thousands of other pieces of military equipment around the country in Afghanistan that the U.S. provided to the

Afghan security forces, which are indeed now in the hands of the Taliban.

And that was evidenced in seeing these Taliban fighters, walking in, in U.S. supply military outfits, using night vision goggles provided by the

U.S. military, all kinds of military equipment that certainly is now in the hands of Taliban.

And that is just simply a reality that this administration can't look away from. And I think as you said, uncomfortable is probably a good word for


The question now is what kind of relationship is the United States going to have with the Taliban?

The U.S. is making clear they believe they have a lot of leverage in terms of getting these civilians out, because of all of the aid that the Taliban

government is going to need in Afghanistan. That aid continuing to flow, at least to NGOs in the country for now.

The question is will the U.S. move forward with providing aid directly to a Taliban-led government in the future?

That certainly seems to be on the table, at least, from the Biden administration's perspective.

ANDERSON: Jeremy is at the White House for the time being, thank you.

CNN's international security editor, Nick Paton Walsh, watching this play out from Qatar, a hub for processing many of these Afghan evacuees. Nick

joining me now from Doha.


ANDERSON: There are, of course, still many, many Afghans stranded in their own country, who consider themselves at risk who want to leave.

What do we know about what happens to them at this point?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Little at this stage. We know that, at one point, the Taliban have said they will let people

leave who have, quote, the right legal documents. It isn't entirely clear how much we can rely on that particular promise.

We do know a hundred countries along with the U.S. and much of NATO have put a statement in which they sort of appear to have held the Taliban to a

promise to let those people who wanted to leave, leave the country and let the nation's citizens leave as well.

A lot of this really is down to the urgent need for the Taliban to realize, in practical terms, this moderate face they seem to be toying with at the

moment. They haven't named their key governmental posts at this point.

In fact, today we've seen members of the Badr 313 group head into the airport with the Taliban spokesperson. Badr 313 essentially trained by the

Haqqani Network, who are an affiliate of Al Qaeda. So pretty mean guys, very well trained, with phenomenal weaponry they seem to have purloined

from Afghan security forces.

On the base at this stage, essentially Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, declares independence for the country, celebration at this

stage. But it is this moment now, where I think the world is waiting to see quite what moderate face the Taliban are capable of sustaining.

They have, as a government now -- they've been an insurgency, rampaging for 20 years -- they now are a government, facing a health care challenge, an

economic challenge, a banking challenge and a security challenge, with ISIS-K wreaking havoc against the U.S. in the closing days of their

presence there.

So all these things stack up against any government, frankly, and were huge challenges for the corrupt government that the Americans backed for quite

some time. So it's a very key moment for them.

And there are, of course, signs of the brutality that we're seeing in the '90s as well beginning to emerge. So those Afghans left behind will be

feeling that desperate hope that a nastier side of the Taliban doesn't become their common face, hoping that the airport gets functional again.

That's utterly the first immediate challenge, that the Taliban can somehow arrange a deal there that the airport works again and they're in for a

chance of dealing with the outside world.

On top of that as well, those small numbers of American citizens, who didn't take advantage of the Special Forces extraction operations, of the

vast amounts of resources America piled in to try and get them out, that they might be able to use civilian air it if it gets running again as well.

So a lot still in play at this stage. But important to remember, Becky, we talk about, in America, waking up after 20 years of a war in Afghanistan;

Afghans, who, the median age of whom is 18.4 years, so many of them are now waking up for the first time in a country which doesn't have an American or

NATO presence.

So that for some will be deeply troubling and that, for some, will be a new adventure.

ANDERSON: Yes, and clearly -- we were just talking to Jeremy Diamond -- clearly at the White House, there is now an effort to try and understand

what kind of relationship the U.S. will have with the Taliban, if at all, going forward.

You pointed out very eruditely just what these sort of short-term issues will be in country.

Long-term, what is the future for Afghanistan at this point?

WALSH: Well, I think it has to hope that, somehow, within the Taliban's ability to govern, that it's able to look toward things like agriculture,

toward all the things that the U.S. tried pouring money into over 20 years in a bid to veer the country away from its two -- awful to say this -- but

its two kind of predominant industries, which have been the opium trade, which makes billions of dollars, and war, which has been what so much of

the economy at this stage and deconstruction, I should say as well, which is an adjunct of the presence of the Americans there, which has been so

much of the occupation of the past 30 to 40 years.

Remember, this is a country where they've barely had a moment of stability, frankly. And even when the Taliban brought in their brutal form of calm, it

wasn't a nice place for so many to be.

So I think the longer-term hope surely has to be that the Taliban see themselves in government, realize they can't keep popular support if they

go back to the barbaric ways of the '90s, the treatment of women, the persecution of homosexuals, the sort of awful things that we saw back then.

And then essentially have to bring into their political church -- forgive the phrase -- some of the moderates, that we're seeing possible signs, some

moderates of past governments and then maybe through that get in the international aid, get in the ability to rebuild the economy, get in

expertise that keeps the country afloat.


WALSH: It's been a basket case held together by Americans' billions for quite some time. They desperately have to hope that this is a moment where

they can begin to piece something real together for Afghanistan itself, rather than just keep ticking over with bailouts from international

agencies -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating. Nick, thank you. Nick Paton Walsh on the story for you.

Well, U.S. flights out of Afghanistan, then, have ended. But it is a different story at the U.S. airbase in Ramstein in Germany. Evacuees are

arriving and shipping out at a constant pace. Nearly 14,000 people waiting to travel on to a new life.

U.S. service members injured in the attacks on the airport were also sent to Germany; 20 military patients were taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical

Center with injuries from the blast. Atika Shubert joining us live from the hospital in Germany with the details -- Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. Those service members were evacuated out directly from Kabul to

Ramstein airbase and then brought here to the medical center.

They have a level 2 trauma unit here that can help them. And it really is top-notch quality care they're getting. We just had a briefing with the

commander of the medical center here. And he told us all of them now have been flown out to the Walter Reed medical hospital in the United States,

that they are all in stable condition, conscious, communicating with medical staff.

And often speaking to staff here, thanking them for the care that they got. Take a listen to what he said.


COL. ANDREW LANDERS, COMMANDER, LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: They lost their brothers and sisters in arms. So from that standpoint, it's hard

to say, hey, I'm feeling really great, when they know they're feeling the loss of a teammate. But for their own personal sense, they're all extremely

thankful for the care that they received.


SHUBERT: Now in addition to those 20 service members, there were also at least 10 Afghan civilians, also wounded in that blast. They were also

brought to the medical center here and are still receiving care here.

This really is the main medical hospital for Ramstein airbase; any medical emergencies that happen, not just those that happened to soldiers but also,

for example, with the evacuees that are temporarily being housed here, they would be treated here at this medical center. So it is a critical component

of the airbase as well.

ANDERSON: And what of those Afghan evacuees, who are hoping that Ramstein will really be a very, very temporary home?

SHUBERT: I think the reality is they were hoping that evacuees would be in and out within 48 hours. However, many have been waiting there for now a

week or more. And the problem is really the processing of evacuees.

Some are U.S. citizens; some are green card holders; some are special visa holders and it's all a bit of a jumble. Even families are separated within

the camps at the tent city on the base.

So it really is sort of a puzzle for the State Department, Homeland Security, to put together, filter, process these evacuees and then put them

onto commercial flights back to the U.S.

The good news is those commercial flights have picked up. They have managed to transfer at least 10,000 evacuees now to the United States. But even

then, they face a wait, quite often, when they reach Dulles airport or another one of the other airports there.

So it is really quite a process these evacuees have to go through. On the other hand, many that I spoke to said they're just relieved to be out of

Afghanistan, somewhere safe and they want to get to the U.S. or to their final destinations, to start their new lives as soon as possible -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. And that was, Atika, a story that I heard from so many Afghans, who are here in the UAE temporarily as well. Next hour -- thank

you -- we'll take you to what you might call hope city here in Abu Dhabi.

Nearly 9,000 people being housed at humanitarian city, some of their stories are ahead on the show.

And if you would like to help the Afghan refugees or if you're a veteran troubled by events in Afghanistan, do head to That is where

you will find a list of vetted organizations that you can donate to or may be able to help you.

Well, coming up, more than a million Americans bracing for scorching heat without any power. We'll have more as the U.S. Gulf Coast sifts through the

damage caused by hurricane Ida.

And South African researchers are watching a new coronavirus variant that contains several mutations seen in variants of concern. We'll tell you what

you need to know after this.





ANDERSON: Welcome back, folks.

Hurricane Ida has left more than a million people across the U.S. state of Louisiana without power, possibly for weeks. The storm, which has now

weakened, made landfall on Sunday, causing catastrophic damage. Four deaths so far being blamed on the hurricane and on its aftermath.

Impassable roads making it hard for rescuers to reach those who are stranded. Adding to the misery, temperatures are set to soar. More than 2

million people are under heat advisory without access to power.

Well, CNN's Nadia Romero has more details now on how that widespread outage is also limiting communications and making it very hard to reach people who

need help.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Louisiana --


ROMERO (voice-over): -- destruction and devastation in the wake of hurricane Ida. But it's still far too dangerous for many to assess just how

much damage is done here. More than a million Louisianians are in the dark and power in some of the hardest hit areas like parts of Jefferson Parish

is expected to be out for weeks.

CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT: We have no electricity. We have very little to no telecommunications. We have low water pressure so we

don't have clean drinking water. We're surviving now but it's going to be a rough time. So we don't want our citizens to come back.

ROMERO (voice-over): The entire city of New Orleans is also without power. The mayor urging citizens who evacuated to stay away until it's safe to


MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D-LA), NEW ORLEANS: Where we do have sources of power, it's generators only. So that does speak to the need for fuel.

ROMERO (voice-over): People waiting in lines for hours at some gas stations, looking to fill the tanks of their generators and cars.

The deadly category 4 storm slamming into Louisiana midday Sunday, with roaring winds up to 150 miles per hour and heavy flooding, leaving many

neighborhoods under water. Debris filling the streets and fallen trees destroying many homes and businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw the tree, that tree swaying back and forth. And then about five minutes later, the whole thing just snapped and fell

over there on the house.

ROMERO (voice-over): This Coast Guard video shows the damage in Grand Isle, Louisiana, from above. In LaPlace, Louisiana, boats are now the only

way to navigate some of its water-filled roads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been through all the storms and I've seen -- they expected to come and be back. But we didn't expect it to get this close to


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't supposed to be this close, you know. And so I'm not going to take that chance again.

ROMERO (voice-over): Urgent search and rescue efforts are now underway.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (R-LA): I don't want to mislead anyone. Robust search and rescue is happening right now and I fully expect that that death

count will go up considerably throughout the day.

ROMERO (voice-over): Governors activating nearly 5,300 National Guard troops to help.

MAJOR GEN. KEITH WADDELL, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: We're working really hard across southeast Louisiana. We rescued 348 people, 48 pets and were

able to get those folks to safety.


ROMERO (voice-over): President Joe Biden also pledging to help Louisiana and other states severely impacted by the hurricane.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to stand with you and the people of the Gulf as long as it takes for you to recover.


ANDERSON: That's the report on the hurricane.

South African researchers, keep your watchful eye on a new coronavirus variant. It's known as C.1.2 and it's been around since at least May of

this year. But genetics researchers have found that it carries several mutations present in variants of concern, as they are known designated by

the WHO.

Let's get more on this. David McKenzie is in Johannesburg with the details.

David, on what South African scientists are saying and, at this point, do scientists think this variant is more dangerous than others?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, they don't know at this point. And it really is quite disturbing and, frankly, fascinating that this

variant has been discovered by a genomics team, that was responsible for discovering the Beta variant last -- earlier this year, that was very

influential in this fight.

Now why it's fascinating, because this variant shows, as you said, several mutations that are present in variants of concern, like the Beta variant

but they were independently evolved in convergent evolution, it's called, meaning these mutations happened disconnected from the same mutations that

happened in any other variant, which shows how difficult it is to track COVID-19 and this virus and where it might go next.

Now the reason they released this information quickly in the preprint study, even while numbers are relatively low in their surveillance, is

because they say, outside of those mutations that are already seen as troubling, possibly evading prior infection, immunity and weakening, to a

certain extent, vaccines, there are also several other mutations they need to test now to see whether they have any implications.

So far it hasn't been designated a variant of interest or concern by the WHO but it is something that they are watching very closely.

ANDERSON: David, scientists don't know yet how serious this will be.

What do they need to do next, then, to assess this?

MCKENZIE: Well, what they need to do next is what they've been doing around the world which is, initially in a lab, what they do is take a live

virus and they basically replicate it in lab conditions. They then will challenge it with immunity -- immune cells from previous variants to see if

it, in fact, can combat it.

And so what you've seen is, in the Beta and the Delta variant, it evades immunity to a certain extent. That's why you have at least some level of

reinfection. And also, they will see the speed at which this might be able to infect people.

But that can often only be seen in real-world examples. So far, the good news is, Becky, that all the major vaccines that have been approved show

significant success against all the variants that have been discovered -- Becky.

ANDERSON: David McKenzie is in JoBurg for you, folks.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson.

Thank you, David.

Live from our Middle East broadcasting hub here in Abu Dhabi, still ahead, once jailed, now the forefront of international diplomacy as the Taliban

takes full control of Afghanistan. We take a close look at the man who signed the troop withdrawal agreement with the United States.





ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi and you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

More now on what is this U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, now completely transitioned to the country's next phase, well, is very uncertain. The

final U.S. forces are now gone, thus ending a 20-year war.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Here's a look at the Kabul airport, the scene of so much activity, chaos just a few days ago. Members of the Taliban now taking

stock of some of the equipment that the Americans left behind.


ANDERSON: Meantime, we are getting word of new fighting in the Panjshir Valley, the last major holdout against the Taliban.

Well, the group under intense pressure to announce a new government and Pakistan's foreign minister says he expects that will happen within days.

Let's get you to our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, who joins us today from Islamabad.

And, Nic, just what do you understand from the Pakistan perspective on where the Taliban goes next?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What the Taliban do now, the decisions that they make, the government that they form is going

to have potentially a huge impact on Pakistan, not just economically but in security terms as well. A stable strong government in Afghanistan is good

for Pakistan.

But there are Taliban elements inside Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban elements, that have sworn to try to take control of areas along the Afghan-

Pakistan border inside Pakistan. So it's a strong concern for Pakistan how things develop in Kabul.

What we understand over the last three days, the Taliban leadership council have been meeting in Kandahar, the sort of second city of Afghanistan,

their heartland, if you will. And that leadership council, the expectation is that, over those three days, they've been deciding who should get which

key job.

One of the people that's going to be at the forefront for a top position is the person that spent the most time negotiating with the United States, a

very senior figure within the Taliban, Mullah Baradar.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): The scale of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's triumphant return to Afghanistan, just days after the Taliban took Kabul,

is a measure of his importance. Years in exile, many spent in a Pakistani jail, he has run point in all the Taliban's dealings with the U.S. for

almost three years; most recently, reportedly meeting face-to-face with CIA chief Bill Burns.

In Doha, February 2020, it was Baradar who signed the U.S. troop withdrawal agreement with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, as then U.S. secretary of state

Mike Pompeo looked on.

And it was Baradar who the Taliban had negotiate its terms; hammered out over more than a year, they would not attack exiting U.S. forces. Baradar

was a Taliban original, a founding member in the early '90s and a close friend of its then leader Mullah Omar.

The pair fought the Soviet occupation in the '80s and it was Omar who named him Baradar, meaning brother. In 2001, Baradar dodged invading U.S. forces,

hiding out in Pakistan, later captured in 2010 and released by Pakistan in 2018 to lead negotiations with the U.S.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): He is in his early 50s now; though not the Taliban's top official, he can expect to remain the international face of

the Taliban for at least the near future.

The Taliban's ultimate authority is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Amir al-Mu'minin, Leader of the Faithful, who emerged from the shadows last week

after years in hiding.

Baradar has rare experience, face-to-face dealings with Western powers. How much actual influence he'll have in the day-to-day runnings of the country

rests in internal Taliban power plays yet to fully emerge.

Haqqani Network leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Omar's son, Mullah Yaqoob, are powerful military forces within the Taliban, both with an eye for

leadership roles. Baradar will know to watch his back.


ROBERTSON: So expectations are now, having had that leadership council in Kandahar, that, within the next couple days, the Taliban will announce that

government. And, of course, everyone looking to see how inclusive it's going to be. They said it would include non-Taliban members.

But I think expectations along those lines are that non-Taliban members would not be expected to take strong leadership positions.

And I think also, from what we understand at the moment, a real potential for the supreme leader, if you will, the Leader of the Faithful Akhundzada,

to make some kind of public --


ROBERTSON: -- putting the Taliban's imprint on their future leadership.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in Islamabad for you.

Nic, thank you.

Let's get you up to speed on some other stories on our radar.

Israel says it is now the first country to offer COVID booster shots to anyone 12 or older. More than 2 million Israelis have already received

their third vaccine dose. The country battling a resurgent wave of COVID infections but numbers show the new round of shots do seem to be working.

Well, kids in China will have their video game time greatly reduced, not by Mom and Dad but by the Chinese government. Anyone under 18 is now limited

to just an hour of online gaming a day, on weekends and holidays between 8:00 and 9:00 pm. It's all part of Beijing's crackdown on gaming addiction.

And a group of heavy armed bank robbers terrorized a small city in Brazil on Monday, strapping people to the tops of their getaway cars after raiding

several banks. At least one suspect and two locals were killed in shootouts with police.

Officials say the group also left a trail of explosives across the city and residents were warned to stay inside until they could be deactivated.

Before he was a gold medalist in the Paralympics, Brad Snyder, on the left here, was part of an elite bomb disposal unit in the U.S. Navy in

Afghanistan. Up next, hear how he came back from his war wounds and get his take on the current situation in Afghanistan.





ANDERSON: Well, a U.S. veteran of the war in Afghanistan just entered the record books at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Brad Snyder, the first American man, Olympic or Paralympic, to win gold in the triathlon event. He lost his vision while serving his country in the

fight against the Taliban. CNN's Selina Wang sat down with him to talk about his experience in the country and the Taliban takeover. Here is part

of that interview.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You were in the elite bomb disposal unit for the Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan for seven years.

What exactly happened in Afghanistan?

LT. BRAD SNYDER, U.S. NAVY (RET.), PARALYMPIAN: On the morning of September 7th, 2011, we were walking through a set of grape fields and we

stumbled across, unfortunately, a mine field. I stepped on a secondary improvised explosive device that was located about a meter from the first

blast site.

Thankfully, I was alone when I got hurt, so it only affected me. And thankfully it detonated a short distance in front of me as opposed to

underneath me, which largely saved my life, saved my limbs but, unfortunately, I lost my vision as a result.

WANG: During your service in Afghanistan you were involved on suspected raids on Taliban locations.

What is your reaction, your emotion to what's happening in Afghanistan right now, the deadly Kabul attacks that powered -- that the Taliban is

taking over, the desperation of people trying to get out?

SNYDER: It's prevailing sadness. I think, having been on the ground in Afghanistan, you can very clearly see, you know, the negativity associated

with Taliban rule, the way that women are treated, the way that the villages react to the notion of the Taliban.

That said, we can't be there forever and, unless we're going to fully commit in a way that we haven't done over the last 20 years, the mistakes

of the last 20 years don't justify future investment, in my view. And so I applaud the decisions that have been made to change course and to change

our strategy in Afghanistan.

WANG: How do you look at the sacrifices that you and so many other U.S. service people have made?

SNYDER: My sacrifice wasn't necessarily on behalf of Afghanistan. My sacrifice was on behalf of the notion of liberty, the notion of free and

democratic society, the notion of human rights. And that sacrifice, that fight is still alive. That fight is something we'll be fighting until long

after I'm gone.

WANG: How painful, how triggering is it to hear about all of the ways in which this is unfolding?

SNYDER: I think it's triggering so far as you let it be triggering. That's one of the reasons I really like the Paralympic movement.

For me, coming off of the battlefield, the Paralympic movement offered me a way to re-identify myself. I used to be a Navy special operator. I used to

have a really niche set of skills. I had a population of people who needed me to do this really crazy and difficult thing.

And then I was no longer needed to do that sort of thing. So my identity was kind of fractured and mitigated. I needed to rebuild that identity. I

think that's a process we all need to start to go through.

For our veteran population, maybe look away from Afghanistan for a moment. Look away from Iraq for a moment. Look away from the war on terror for a

moment and focus on something other than that.


ANDERSON: Brett Snyder, the first Olympic man or Paralympic to win gold in the triathlon event.

"WORLD SPORT" with Amanda Davies is next.