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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Says "The Buck Stops With Me," But Blames Afghan Government And Forces As Chaos Intensifies In Afghanistan; Biden: U.S. Planned "For Every Contingency" In Afghanistan; Biden Defends Afghanistan Withdrawal; Bodies Appear To Fall From Departing Plane; Interview With Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA); Texas Leading Nation In Child COVID Hospitalizations; Rising Death Toll In Haiti Earthquake, 1,400- Plus Dead, 6,900 Injured. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 16, 2021 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks so much for coming in.

EDMOND: I appreciate it. Thank you.

BLITZER: And good luck to you and everybody in Haiti.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden says the buck stops with him. But he also says there's plenty of blame to go around. The President tonight trying to explain Afghanistan's free fall to the American people.

Plus, I'll speak to an Army Sergeant I first met in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago. Was his personal sacrifice for the country worth it?

And the Catholic Cardinal and vocal vaccine skeptic asking for prayers tonight after testing positive for COVID and now on a ventilator. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, I quote, 'the buck stops with me'. Those are the words of President Biden admitting the fall of Afghanistan happened, well, not at all as he expected. Yet he says there's plenty of blame to go around.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. When I host President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June, and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military department, to clean up the corruption in government so that the government could function for the Afghan people.

We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to do any of that. I also urge them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr. Ghani insists that the Afghan forces would fight but obviously he was wrong.


BURNETT: I mean, he's angry and it makes sense. But, of course, does the buck really stop with Biden if he's blaming so many others and didn't seem to have the right intelligence? I mean, here's the reality of this, though, of all of these awful images, the President is doubling down. He is holding firm. He's tripling down, in fact, on ending the U.S. involvement in a 20 plus year war.


BIDEN: I stand squarely behind my decision. I do not regret my decision to end America's war fighting Afghanistan. I cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country's civil war.


BURNETT: Even if everything he said is right, the way this went down is shocking. The images that we have seen in the past day give any human being a visceral and sick reaction. They are sickening images and they show a disastrous exit out of Afghanistan not in any way, the way the most powerful country in the world would get out of Afghanistan if it had all the information or thought about it, no. This is hastily leaving a security situation that was deteriorating by the hour.

I mean, just some of the images, right? This was the scene at the airport in Kabul. I mean, this is a U.S. Air Force plane, hundreds of people, thousands maybe when you look out there, I mean, but look at them. They're trying to make their way inside the plane. They're trying to prevent the plane from taking off and then what followed is absolutely horrific and it shows you the level of human desperation.

I warn you this video is difficult to watch, but that plane then takes off. And those appear to be bodies, people who were able to get on and hold on just that long until they were knocked off. Witnesses say people were cleaning to the outside of the plane. So desperate to leave, imagine that desperation of leaving, it's reminiscent in some ways of what we saw on 9/11.

This is an image. This is an image that isn't going to go away and this is the people who actually were able to get out of Afghanistan. This is Defense One, that's a packed military plane. So you've got nearly 700 Afghans inside that plane. Those were the lucky ones.

On the streets of Kabul, meantime, Taliban fighters are patrolling many with shocker, American weapons. At the U.S. Embassy, roughly 500 staffers had to be airlifted to safety, while outside crowds could be heard chanting Death to America, reminiscent of other countries and ambassadors and embassy issues.

This is obviously, just to state something that is very clear, this is not what President Biden was expecting when he said this on July 8th.


BIDEN: The likelihood there's going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.


There's going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.


BURNETT: I mean, he couldn't have laid out what actually was going to happen any more specifically than that, because it all did happen. At that time, the provinces that Taliban control, look at what happened, in the beginning there were no red now look at it. Gone hour by hour, provincial capitol after provincial capitol, basically nobody even fought.

And yesterday Taliban forces entered Kabul, meeting no resistance. The President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani simply turned tail and fled. The government collapsed. It all took nine days, nine days from when the Taliban seized the first provincial capitol until Kabul fell.

Keep in mind, we were told that when things turned really bad few days ago, nine days ago that, okay, this is a shocker, this is bad, but Kabul might fall in a few months and then it was literally 24 hours later. I spoke to former CIA officer Hank Crumpton today. You may remember him. He was on the ground with the CIA after 9/11 and toppled the agency with a crew of about 500, there's Hank Crumpton there.

Well, he told me what's happening in Afghanistan and his opinion is in some ways worse than Vietnam, because Vietnam never harbored a terror group that it attacked the United States. He was blunt. He calls this a Taliban victory and he warns that ISIS and al-Qaeda are both taking advantage of it and that they will again threaten America from Afghan territory.

So much is at stake tonight and I remember meeting the first woman elected to Afghanistan's parliament in Kabul in December 2012. We went to her house, where she lived with her two daughters and I remember talking to all three of them about their hopes for their future.


BURNETT: You want your daughters to stay after the U.S. leaves to be able to stay in Afghanistan?

FAWZIA KOOFI, FIRST WOMAN ELECTED TO AFGHANISTAN'S PARLIAMENT: They both want to stay here. But if things go to the, God forbid, if things go really bad, I think then we will have no option.

BURNETT: Shuhra, what do you think? What's going to happen when the U.S. leaves?

F. KOOFI: This is our country and we cannot let our country get down. Whatever happen, I need to stay in my country.

BURNETT: And what do you want to be when you grow up?


BURNETT: You want to be the president?

S. KOOFI: Yes.

BURNETT: The president of Afghanistan?

S. KOOFI: Yes.


BURNETT: Fawzia Koofi is still in Afghanistan tonight in an undisclosed location. But those dreams, at the time, gosh, you kind of teared up thinking how amazing she thought that and now you tear up for different reasons, at best a dream deferred. We are covering this fast moving story from Washington to Kabul tonight.

I want to start with Kaitlan Collins in Washington at the White House. And Kaitlan, Biden was under a lot of pressure to address this situation. It was clear he didn't want to, he wanted to not have to do it but he came back to the White House. He was forced to do it this afternoon. What more are you learning about the timing of this speech and how it came about?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin. He actually been monitoring the developments over the weekend, including the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban from Camp David where he has spent the last several days. He returned to the White House from there this afternoon after aides realized there was essentially no option except for him to address what had been happening given how far of a departure, what you were seeing on the ground was from what President Biden was saying just six weeks ago about what he believed was the most likely.

And so he came back today. He had a defiant tone defending his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. I don't think that surprised anyone, certainly not aides in his inner circle who, of course, they know, this is a position that he has long held. It is one we expected him to take once he won the presidency and took office and was sworn in.

But today while he was defending that decision, the one thing that people wanted the President to address was what was behind the intelligence that led President Biden to say six weeks ago that he believed it was highly unlikely that the Taliban was going to take over, given that as, of course, what we saw happen, not in the timeframe that some officials had considered it could possibly happen and he did acknowledge today that this all happened a lot faster than President Biden or his top aides had anticipated.

Though we know there were some lawmakers and some officials warning the White House that this certainly was a possibility. And of course, the other questions that are facing the White House, given the chaotic situation on the ground is what is happening to those who are still there.

And President Biden did say he would do, redouble essentially their efforts to save those Africans who have been working and standing by the United States' side for the last two decades.


COLLINS: But that situation got a lot harder, Erin, after seeing what happened over the weekend. So these are going to be questions that continue to face the White House. President Biden is back at Camp David monitoring this from there but watching what's happening at the airport, watching what's happening in the weeks to come when it comes to these vulnerable Afghans, who are still on the ground there. That is going to be something that still continues to face this White House.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you. And I want to go now straight to Kabul where Nick Paton Walsh is tonight.


So Nick, tell me what you're seeing.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: We didn't just hear justification with President Joe Biden. We heard his administration set out a goal and that's to get 22,000 Afghans who've worked for them at some point here out of the country. Now, that's an extraordinary task when we heard such figures, when the Afghan form a government that was in power here, it seemed unfeasible, something could be pulled off often in the chaos of this capitol.

Now, the Taliban are in control and they're in control of the road to the airport of which the U.S. today did not seem that much in control.


WALSH (voice over): This is the only way out for so many. The airport road jammed, chaos. Over a trillion dollars spent and this is what the end looks like. Walk where you can't drive.


WALSH (on camera): Just ahead of us as the gate into the airport and this is the panicked scene of many people still moving there despite how hard it's been.


WALSH (voice over): Now, the entry to the last bit of Afghanistan America controls, there is panic.


WALSH (off camera): They're shooting tanks, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they said that (inaudible).

WALSH (off camera): Let's turn now.


WALSH (voice over): Tanks, someone shout. But who is doing crowd control outside America's evacuation spot? The Taliban. The vehicles they've taken from the Afghan army paid for by America now used to keep the desperate crowds back, people whose only hope is to get out possibly with American help. Crowding gates, trying to clamber walls originally built to keep an insurgency out at one time pushing on mass and being sent running.

Nearly every gate with a crowd fueled with the idea this is their only way out. This afternoon, U.S. troops at the perimeter shot dead two Afghans who they said were armed, but later admitted we're not Taliban. But inside the airport, the great escape was not going according to script and check in security had collapsed.

Afghans convinced the promise of a flight out was their only life ahead clambering over walkways and tarmac the U.S. spent billions on to maintain its presence. And then a startling image one of the U.S.' largest cargo planes taxiing, laden with Afghans who did not want to be left behind.

Later a plane takes off and what you're about to see is disturbing. As the plane ascends, two objects or people appear to fall from the fuselage. But the sheer scale of those who needed help meant it was even harder to come by. Civilian flights canceled, even the Americans had to pause operations till they could regain control. These images from satellites in space showing just the volume of people thronging in and around Hamid Karzai International Airport, the symbol of the United States' billions spent in a 20-year project.

The U.S. always wanted to win hearts and minds here. But their swift unconditional departure has instead filled them with panic.


WALSH (on camera): Erin, this is why the task is so hard because those 20,000 maybe more Afghans are somewhere likely in this city or elsewhere in Afghanistan controlled now by the Taliban. Many think the Taliban do have a grudge against them for working with who they consider to be the occupiers. And so those people now either have a hope they can get to that

airport, you saw how chaotic it was or they will be sorely disappointed and possibly in danger if they find that as we saw in those images, the chaos around that facility continues, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you very much. I want to go now to Congressman Seth Moulton, a Democrat member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Marine, a veteran and Tim Naftali, Presidential Historian and former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library.

So Congressman Moulton, let me start with you. I know this is personal for you as a veteran and I know you think there was a failure here. Today we heard President Biden put the blame on a lot of people, but he was very clear he stands squarely behind his decision. And he was really angry at the Afghan President and the Afghan soldiers. Do you think he's right to double down on what he did?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I mean, look, we can debate this for years, historians can talk about it for decades. But what matters today is the operation that's ongoing in Afghanistan. That's the failure that we're talking about. That's the operation that we need to fix, because there are thousands of innocent lives on the line. And make no mistake, it is still within the power of the United States to save those lives.

So I appreciate the fact that Joe Biden made, in some ways, a compelling case for his decision. But what we should be focused on right now is what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

BURNETT: So Tim, Biden said the Taliban is not the North Vietnamese Army, referring to all the comparisons that have been made with Vietnam in Saigon. He went right there.


Ambassador Hank Crumpton, though, came out today who, of course, was on the ground at the beginning to topple the Taliban. He says it's worse than Saigon. So one thing is for sure, though, like Vietnam, we saw government collapse at a speed that the United States President was completely blown away by. How similar is this, Tim?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Vietnam was a war of choice. The war in Afghanistan was a necessary war for our country and that's why I side more with Mr. Crumpton's view of what's happening now.

Let's not forget who the Taliban were in the 1990s. They wanted Afghanistan to be the center of Jihad. They open their doors to al- Qaeda. And after 9/11, the government of George W. Bush offered the Taliban a deal. You turn over al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, we won't attack you. The Taliban said, we can't, we won't do that. We are hosts to Osama bin Laden, the murderer of so many people.

And so the United States had no choice but to overturn the Taliban, 20 years later, are these the same people and if they are, they will once again make Afghanistan a center for Jihad, which means this effort to end a war may actually lead to another war. It is a terrible time.

The issue for all Americans is how this country uses its power abroad and there are moments and times in places where our power is indispensable. And as we see these scenes today in Kabul, it raises, in my mind, the point that maybe in Afghanistan our presence was indispensable.

BURNETT: Congressman Moulton, President Biden said the Taliban wouldn't take over and he was very clear about it. I mean, he went into detail in July, there's no way they're going to be overrun. There's no way you're going to get images like people being evacuated out of an embassy like Saigon. I mean, it couldn't have been scripted what actually ended up happening.

So today, he did admit it unfolded more quickly than we had anticipated. But the real question for you, Congressman, is how in the world could this happen. You have a president of Afghanistan, who just turns around and flees. The government completely caves. The whole thing falls apart in a few days. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops just throw down their weapons and the United States thought they were going to fight? How in the world could this have been a surprise of this magnitude, Congressman?

MOULTON: Well, the President said in his speech that they plan for every contingency.

BURNETT: Except for this one.

MOULTON: But if they had planned for this contingency, then they would have gotten our friends and allies out of Afghanistan a long time ago. And that's why I've been calling on the administration for the last several months to evacuate our allies, to evacuate American citizens despite (ph) with this bureaucratic special immigrant visa process, you can sort that out once they get to a safe place, just get these people out.

If they had done that, we wouldn't see the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport today. So I don't see how he can make the case that he planned for this contingency. It's clearly catching us by surprise.

BURNETT: And Congressman, you're saying you made the case to his team and was it just falling on deaf ears?

MOULTON: Absolutely. I mean, look, and it wasn't just me. I mean, there was a bipartisan group of members of Congress who said, we've got to start this. When Secretary Austin came before the House Armed Services Committee two months ago, my very first question to him was why have you not started the evacuation already. Just do the math, it takes 800 days to process a single Special Immigrant Visa. You don't have enough time. You need to do this now.

BURNETT: So Tim, Biden served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was involved with foreign policy as vice president. Of course, he took the helm on a lot of those issues. But the former defense Secretary Robert Gates who served in the Obama Biden administration wrote about Biden in 2014 and I quote, Secretary Gates.

"I think has been wrong in nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." And you have a comment like that and then you have these images of bodies falling off a plane, an American plane taking off out of that airport, I mean, it's horrific. Could these be images that become part of Biden's legacy?

NAFTALI: Well, to be fair to President Biden, Bob Gates is a little bit less critical of the Biden approach to Afghanistan in his more recent book.


NAFTALI: But let's put it this way, the issue is this if what happens in Afghanistan is a return to a safe haven for Jihadists, for Islamists, then the images we see today will be an albatross around the legacy of Joe Biden forever. If the Taliban of today are somehow different than the Taliban of the 1990s and I have no reason to believe they are different, then perhaps this chaotic end to our 20- year odyssey in Afghanistan will not seem like such a horrible finish.


I don't know. Right now, this looks like a mess and it looks like we didn't predict it.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I thank both of you very much for your time and your thoughts, Congressman Moulton and Tim Naftali.

And next, I first spoke to Army Sergeant Joshua Berndt when I went to Afghanistan. Does he think the sacrifice he made for this country now when he looks at it was worth it?

Plus, Texas leading the nation in pediatric COVID hospitalizations. Yet the Governor is threatening to sue anyone who defies him when it comes to mask mandates in schools. I'll talk to a top Dallas County official who is not backing down.

And the death toll climbing, more than 1,400 people now dead after a catastrophic earthquake rocks Haiti. We're live on the ground tonight.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden defending his decision to leave Afghanistan, aggressively defending it, citing the sacrifices made by many thousands of American families.


BIDEN: How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to find Afghanistan's civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery? I'm clear on my answer.



BURNETT: Well, it's raising questions about whether the sacrifices were worth it for the thousands of soldiers who fought in America's longest war. I met Army Sergeant First Class Joshua Berndt in Kandahar when he was on his fourth tour, working with Afghan soldiers.


BURNETT: Would you go to another war, if there was another war? If the war on terror continues and go somewhere else, would you still go?

SGT. 1ST CLASS JOSHUA BERNDT, U.S. ARMY: Well, without a doubt, yes. This is what I sign up to do for my country. There's two reasons why I join the military for my country and for my family to support my family and those are the two things I loved the most.


BURNETT: He retired just last year after spending 20 years in the army, much of it fighting this war and he is OUTFRONT now. Retired 1st Sergeant Joshua Berndt.

And look, it's nice to see you again. I'm really sorry under these circumstances and all these awful images, Sergeant, that you've had to look at. I mean, what is your reaction as you see these images and see just how quickly Afghanistan fell to the Taliban?

FIRST SGT. JOSHUA BERNDT (RET), MIDDLES SCHOOL BASKETBALL COACH, ASST. FB COACH, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: First of all, thank you, Erin, and welcome for having me under these circumstances. But looking back through, it definitely raises a lot of questions and one of the big questions is, as a veteran myself, why, what's next, those are the questions I really have and wonder.

BURNETT: So when it comes to the what's next part of your question, Sergeant, President Biden says he's going to get more than 20,000 American allies from Kabul to the airport and out. I mean, that's an incredible task, given that now the entire country is under Taliban control. Based on your military training, your knowledge of Afghanistan, how dangerous is that mission going to be and is it even possible?

BERNDT: Resorting back to 20 years even in the infantry, I was always taught that once you clear a building in a room and you leave that room, that building is not secure again and it needs to be re cleared again. And I think we're in that same situation sending a thousand or 2,000 over there. I don't think that's going to cut it. It's probably going to be a very difficult stance.

BURNETT: So these images of the desperation are pretty awful. They're sickening. I mean, people trying to rush the airplanes and people falling off that airplane as it took off that Air Force plane. When you think back, Sergeant, I remember you talking about the people you met. And you had belief in some of these individuals and who they were, how difficult is it for you knowing them, knowing these people to see what is happening on the ground right now?

BERNDT: I think it's very difficult. Back there when I was there in 2012, 2013 for the nine months, I was there building those relationships. But I can tell you over the deployments that if they are not sort of hand fed in a way, they will be quick to abort whatever might be going on, but it is very disturbing to see and the task at hand I think is going to be very difficult.

BURNETT: So when we talked and you were there, this was in 2012, during one of your tours, you talked to me about whether Afghan soldiers were ready for U.S. troops to leave in some of the combat areas. And here is part of our conversation.


BURNETT: Do you think, from where you sit, that Afghanistan is going to be ready, for people like you to go home?

BERNDT: Yes, I definitely do. I'm going on patrol with the ANSAF partners ...

BURNETT: But you go out with them, not because you're training them and ...

BERNDT: Exactly.


BERNDT: And they do things on their own that years ago they were not doing on their own. The logistics part of it and all that stuff, they are sustainable by themselves.


BURNETT: So Sergeant, what do you think - I guess this gets to the point, the question you raised at the beginning of this interview, the why. What do you think went wrong and why?

BERNDT: I think really since the last seven years since that and I was there, I can tell you this from experience that when the Iraqi or Afghan army is put in situations where they are not backed by U.S. forces or whatever the forces that are there helping them, they are quick to fold and back off and basically let us do it at the time. So they were not able to really stand for themselves without backing from us in some way, shape or form.

BURNETT: So I remember when we talked, we talked to your family and they supported you and you supported them right on tour after tour. You have dedicated your life to this country. And you have made great sacrifices and your children have and your wife has and the conversation I played was would you go to another war if there was one. And you said, "Without a doubt, yes. This is what I signed up to do for my country." Does what's happening now change the way you feel in any way?


BERNDT: Right now, it is very difficult. Like I said, I'm not going to go back on what I said before. The sacrifices my family and myself have made will always be there and I think that's what molded myself and my family into who we are today.

So, ultimately, you know, I rose my right hand and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States and I still stand by that.

BURNETT: All right. Sergeant, appreciate your time. I'm glad to speak with you again and thank you for coming back.

And next, President Biden says the United States has accomplished the goal of denying al Qaeda a safe haven. Well, you heard what Ambassador Crumpton had to say about that. Is President Biden speaking too soon?

Plus, Governor Greg Abbott taking on counties one by one over mask mandates in schools. Who's winning?


BURNETT: Tonight, the disturbing images that are hard to watch, but once you see them, impossible to forget.


The image. I'm sorry to show it again if you've already seen it, but for some reason this is what brings it home -- pure human desperation, of bodies falling from a plane, an American plane, as it took off from Kabul airport. It will forever be linked to America's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, regardless of what happens next.

People so desperate to flee that they clung to an airplane, taxing down a runway.

Tonight, President Biden is defending his decision.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country. And part of it is because the Afghan government and his supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering as they said, a crisis of confidence.


BURNETT: So the question, would know? What happens? To those Afghans who put so much on the line for America? And to all Americans for safety and security in the United States could be threatened as the Taliban once again provided a haven for at ISIS and al Qaeda? OUTFRONT now, Kimberley Motley, an international human rights attorney with 13 years of experience inside Afghanistan, and Paul Miller, former National Security Council director for Afghanistan and Pakistan under both Presidents Bush and Obama, former intelligence official for the CIA and U.S. Army.

Both of you, thank you.

So, Kim, you heard the president's argument for why more Afghans weren't evacuated sooner. He dodged the question but went to say, well, some of them did not want to leave. Dodging the issue of nobody saw what was about to happen.

Twenty thousand Afghans who helped the United States as interpreters, right, fixers, in various capacities have applied after the special visas? Two thousand of them have left, 20,000 applied.

How could this be accomplished amidst this chaos?

KIMBERLEY MOTLEY, INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, I have to say that the president's response was very disappointing, frankly. He should have just stuck it in the op-ed. I don't understand why -- how that could possibly be his response.

You know, what's happening in Kabul is just, you know, a humanitarian, nuclear bomb. I don't see how they'll be able to process 20,000 applications with an SIV. Frankly, there are dozens upon dozens of people that have filed for the SIV contacting me to try to help them get out of the country, because they're not getting any response from the U.S. State Department. There are people who actually were awarded the SIV who have their passports with the U.S. embassy in Kabul and could not even get their passport to get out of the country, let alone come to America.

So, it's just a colossal nightmare. This is a foreign policy, just -- big fail. And we have an obligation to do something. We have a duty to fix this if any in little way that we can, because we helped cause this problem.

So, I think that it's time that we figure out how we can fix something as opposed to trying to excuse things that frankly are inexcusable.

BURNETT: So, Paul, let me ask you. You know, President Biden saying that the objective in Afghanistan, which is to deny al Qaeda and ISIS, al Qaeda, he was specific, a safe haven to operate was accomplished. I don't know if you heard Ambassador Crumpton, Hank Crumpton, totally disagree, that both al Qaeda and ISIS could flourish.

What do you think? Seeding all of Afghanistan to today's Taliban, and I put that adjective because I suppose there maybe some questions about today versus yesterday. But today's Taliban, is the United States at risk again of terror attacks from there?

PAUL MILLER, PROFESSOR OF THE PRACTICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Yes, we are. I think the ambassador is right and the president is wrong. We are at a heightened risk of international terrorism today because of the Taliban's victory in Afghanistan.

You suggested there might be a distinction between today's Taliban and the Taliban of the 1990s. I don't buy it. I think today's Taliban is more media savvy. They are better at propaganda and they may wait a few months before they really reimpose their full brutality of their rule.

And the international terrorist groups like al Qaeda might be just a little bit more subtle in reconstituting their safe haven and training camps, but they will be there and we are at risk of international terrorist attacks just like we were 20 years ago.

BURNETT: So, Kim, let me ask you about this point that Paul just made, right, that may -- whether it's PR or put a front on it. So, that's what they've done. They're suggesting a more tolerant rule. A spokesman told CNN that amnesty will be given to Afghans who are welcome to the U.S. and that women and girls are going to maintain the rights that were granted to them over the past 20 years.


But then the images. The images are already completely going against those words.

So, Kim, with the head of Afghanistan's TOLO News posts a picture that really caught my attention. That's man literally whitewashing, painting over the images of women, advertisement of women on a public building, so whitewashing them out.

Our own Clarissa Ward captured images of a beauty salon in Kabul that had painted over images of the women. There's reports that women tried to go back to the university and we're told they're no longer welcomed there.

So, is the Taliban -- Kim, is the Taliban -- is this the same old Taliban?

MOTLEY: I mean, I think we definitely have the same tricks. Frankly they're a little bit more sophisticated, unfortunately. I mean, what I'm hearing on the ground today is that frankly, there are women that are sending me photographs of them being beaten by the Taliban already. They are going door to door, probably as we speak to see who is in what house's and seeing if people worked with foreigners.

There are women who -- there are girls who have already been snatched from the arms of their mothers and are being turned into child brides. And that is happening in real-time right now. If you look at the pictures of the airport, all you see is men. You don't see women outside anymore.

BURNETT: Well, that's true. That's a really great point -- only men in those pictures.

Paul, I'll give you a quick final word?

MILLER: I've also heard about the Taliban going door to door, hunting for Afghan soldiers, special forces, pilots. They're targeting religious dissidents. This is happening in real-time. The Taliban are doing with they need to do for their reprisal killings to take revenge on those who worked with the coalition.

BURNETT: Paul, Kim, thank you both very much.

MOTLEY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, in America, showdown over mask mandates and schools as kids get ready to go back. The Texas Governor Greg Abbott taking on counties and taking them to court, even as his state is now number one in pediatric COVID hospitalizations.

Plus, he's a Catholic cardinal who shunned masks and spread conspiracy theories about vaccine. Tonight, he's on a ventilator and asking for prayers.



BURNETT: New tonight, Texas now leading the nation for pediatric COVID hospitalization, Texas is now second behind only Florida in adult COVID hospitalizations.

But the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, is still waging an anti-mask campaign, threatening to sue anybody who defies on mask, and scoring a win in the state supreme court last night which blocked mask mandates in both Dallas and San Antonio. Multiple counties, though, are not backing down, especially when it comes specifically to masks in schools.

OUTFRONT, Judge Clay Jenkins of Dallas County, one of the counties facing off with Governor Abbott.

Judge, I appreciate your time.

So, despite the, ruling you said this mask mandate is going to stay in place in Dallas. But this is obviously a face-off with Governor Abbott. He says any official or school who requires mask anywhere is going to be taken to court.

So, what response do you then expect to your defiance from the governor?

CLAY JENKINS (D), DALLAS COUNTY JUDGE: Well, the governor filed more paperwork in the Supreme Court trying to get mask order rescinded. That was denied, you have a temporary injunction here early next week. This is not a Republican versus Democrat, or at least it shouldn't be. This is human being versus the virus.

And doctors and school superintendents, and local officials, businesses are all working together. We need the governor to join us on team human versus this virus. We know, sadly so much of this has become political. So, today, President Biden called the Dallas school superintendent to praise him for not backing down on masks, and then the Texas attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton, tweets to the school district, calling it lawless for defying Abbott's ban on masks and said Democrats hate the rule of law. I'll always stand by it.

As a local official, as a Democrat, what do you say to Attorney General Paxton?

JENKINS: We are focused on science, listening to the doctors who are studying the delta variant, the doctors who are taking care of children on ventilators at children's hospital in Dallas. The doctors being overrun and nurses being overrun at our hospitals here and what they and the CDC are telling us is that unless we wear masks indoors, we're going to see more disease and more death and we're going to over run our hospitals not have enough nurses and doctors to take care of anyone who is sick whether it's COVID, cancer or car wrecks, anything. We're going to have less than what you would expect in care.

So we're working to quickly do the things that the generals in this war, the doctors tell us are necessary to protect human life. The governor is looking at polls. He's no longer even talking to his own medical experts. He's looking at polls of what Republican primary voters want to hear and working from there. But the virus doesn't care about that. It only cares about finding a new host.

BURNETT: So when you look at Texas, your state now leads the nation in COVID hospitalizations. You lag only Florida in adult hospitalizations.

Do you believe Governor Abbott's policies, right, his open defiance of mask mandates perhaps top of the list bear any actual blame for that?

JENKINS: Of course. And it's not just what I believe. It's what doctors believe and when we have these temporary injection hearings, we had one today in Bexar County, there will be more. You'll hear from pediatric infectious disease experts that will tell you that.

If we don't have requirements to wear mask, more people will get sick. More people will die. We're on a steep upward trajectory because the leadership in Texas refuses to lead and blames this on a lack of personal responsibility from others.


BURNETT: Judge Jenkins, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

JENKINS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And also tonight, 1,419 people are confirmed dead, more than 6,900 injured in Haiti. Those numbers are -- they're estimates. They're low.

This is after a major 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck. Crews are now frankly working against the clock to try to rescue any survivors. Hospitals rapidly filling to capacity there. Tens of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed and it's devastating.

Joe Johns is OUTFRONT tonight in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A desperate scene in Les Cayes as rescue workers aided by heavy duty machinery sift through the rubble in the wake of the 7.2-magnitude quake that struck southern Haiti Saturday. The U.S. and Colombia sending specialized rescue teams to help.

While there have been moments of miraculous rescues, hope of finding more survivors under the flattened buildings and the mountains of debris is fading. The death toll, according to Haiti's Civil Protection Agency, is more than 1,400.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The whole area where I live is destroyed. There are many people dead. We don't know how many dead there are.

JOHNS: Local hospitals, some badly damaged by the quake, overwhelmed by the estimated 5,700 people injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yesterday, it was really hard, and we didn't have enough staff. We had the people who work at the hospital, but we didn't have any staff, although we kept them until 6:00 a.m.

JOHNS: International aid pouring into the country from the U.S., Mexico, and around the world. But getting that aid to those most in need, a huge challenge, as officials work to establish a humanitarian corridor from Port-au-Prince to the affected areas to the south, free of gang violence -- a tall order for a nation already buckling beneath the weight of economic instability, the COVID pandemic, and political unrest following the assassination of the country's president last month.

Haiti's prime minister appealing to his nation to work together to help those affected by the quake -- many now homeless and forced to sleep outside.

ARIEL HENRY, PRIME MINISTER, HAITI (through translator): This is the moment to unite, to have a greater national unity, a greater solidarity with the victims. Let's forget our quarrels and come to the aid of those in difficulty.

JOHNS: The risk of further devastation as tropical storm Grace arrives, punishing wind and rain now adding another challenge to rescue teams, the possibility of flash floods and mudslides.


JOHNS (on camera): At times like this in Haiti, it's often said that this country is stranded somewhere between hope and despair, and that's very much the case tonight, as there is hope for those people who are outside in the rain, who have lost their homes, and hope that they'll make it through. There's despair, though, that this is only the beginning for them and it's so much like 2010.

Back to you.

BURNETT: Joe Johns, thank you very much. He is there in Port-au-Prince tonight.

And next, a cardinal with a history of pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories now has COVID and is on a ventilator and asking for prayers.



BURNETT: Tonight, pray for me. Those are the words of Cardinal Raymond Burke, who says he is breathing with the help of a ventilator just days after testing positive for coronavirus. His story is one we're telling because Cardinal Burke is also a vocal vaccine skeptic who has repeatedly spread misinformation about the virus.

Polo Sandoval is OUTFRONT.


CARDINAL RAYMOND LEO BURKE, AMERICAN CARDINAL PRELATE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: So there is a certain movement to insist that now everyone must be vaccinated against the coronavirus COVID-19. And even the kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Catholic Church's most outspoken conservatives helped fuel baseless conspiracy theories about the vaccine and spread misinformation about the coronavirus over a year ago. That was well before shots were even being administered.

BURKE: It must be clear that vaccination itself cannot be imposed in a totalitarian manner on citizens.

SANDOVAL: The 73-year-old cardinal announced his own COVID diagnosis on social media last week. Days later, a plea for prayers was made on his Twitter account after he was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator.

Previously, the cardinal has addressed COVID from the pulpit in a December 2020 homily, the former St. Louis archbishop labeled COVID-19 the Wuhan virus, it's a phrase used by some to imply that China was to blame for the outbreak.

BURKE: Then there is the mysterious Wuhan virus that has been used by certain forces to the family and freedom of nations, to advance their evil agenda.

SANDOVAL: It's still unclear if Cardinal Burke has been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Pope Francis, who is often at odds with, has been. That was the pontiff calling on Catholics to get vaccinated,

describing it as their ethical duty.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: You have to protect yourself, your own body. The temple of the Holy Spirit as the Scripture says. So I think that that is why the church is saying that you have a moral obligation to get the vaccine so that you are protected and your fellow men and women are protected.

SANDOVAL: CNN religion commentator Father Edward Beck sees Cardinal Burke as an outlier, one of only a few right-wing church leaders who have been defiant of the Vatican's message to get vaccinated.

BECK: He has said that it's God and not the state that is the ultimate provider of health, that Jesus will protect you. But I mean, the state, God and Jesus work together for the common good. And I think that the cardinal and maybe those who have been opposed to vaccines are beginning to see that because of those who are getting sick, the majority of those have not been vaccinated.


SANDOVAL: Cardinal Burke now serves in Rome. He was hospitalized here in Wisconsin where he was supposed to be celebrating a series of masses here at a shrine that he helped established, Erin. We reached back out to that shrine in an effort to try to get an update on Cardinal Burke's condition. We're still waiting to hear back right now.

BURNETT: All right. Polo, thank you very much for your reporting.

And thanks very much to all of you.

"AC360" starts now.