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Erin Burnett Outfront
Biden Back To WH Tonight, To Speak On Afghanistan In Coming Days; Source: Intel Assessment Within Last Month Showed Taliban Were Pursuing Total Military Victory; Afghanistan's First Female Mayor Says Taliban Will Kill People Like Her; WH: Taliban Vowed to Allow "Safe Passage" Of Civilians To Airport; Sources: Up To 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan; Texas' Anti-Mask Mandate Governor Tests Positive For COVID; 1,900-Plus Dead After Catastrophic Haiti Earthquake. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 17, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden returning to the White House right now earlier than planned. The White House on defense and still struggling to explain how Afghanistan went so wrong so fast. We're live in Kabul and Washington tonight.
Plus former NFL player and Bronze Star recipient Nate Boyer is OUTFRONT, what he wants to say to his fellow veterans who sacrificed the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
And Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been fighting to counties in his own state of mask mandates has tested positive for COVID. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, President Biden on his way back to Washington tonight, leaving Camp David earlier than initially planned. This as the Taliban makes their presence known across Afghanistan today holding a press conference.
It's a slick operation now. They had a whole press conference and releasing a video of their co-founder arriving in Kandahar. It is the first time that he has stepped foot in Afghanistan in 20 years. Hugely symbolic picture and huge victory for the Taliban.
Taliban forces are now negotiating with the United States to ensure the safety of Americans still stuck inside Afghanistan. The takeover comes as the White House is mounting a full-throated defense of the administration's response to the withdrawal of the few remaining U.S. troops who have been holding Afghanistan firmly.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the President takes full responsibility for every decision. Decisions, of course, that have led to the sobering images that we have all now seen from Kabul like that packed military plane with nearly 700 Afghans inside. And the image, of course, the unforgettable image of that plane after takeoff with bodies appearing to fall of people who had gripped to the outside trying to escape.
Sullivan, though, is insisting that the administration was not surprised that Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: We were clear eyed going in when we made this decision that it was possible that the Taliban would end up in control of Afghanistan. We were clear eyed about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Despite what Sullivan says, obviously, the administration did not expect the horrific images and the chaos that we have seen on the ground, that was not part of their expectation. And as for the Taliban ending up in control as Sullivan references, the administration was actually very clear about that in recent months. They were very clear eyed only they were wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Whatever happens in Afghanistan, if there is a significant deterioration in security, that could well happen. We discussed this before. I don't think it's going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But the likelihood there's going to be the Taliban over running everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The Afghan security forces have the capacity to sufficiently fight and defend their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, obviously, they lacked the will as Biden has pointed out. Those assessments, if you look now, they were wrong. Now, we don't know whether the wrong statements were the result of an intelligence failure or something else. We simply don't know.
But here's what we do know about the intelligence tonight. CNN is learning that an intelligence assessment produced within the past month warned that the Taliban were pursuing a total military victory in Afghanistan. And the New York Times reporting tonight that one intelligence report in July laid out the growing risks specifically to Kabul, also warning that the Afghan government was not prepared for an assault by the Taliban.
The reality is, though, that the speed of the Taliban takeover actually seem to take over everyone by surprise, because four days before Kabul fell on August 11th, a U.S. intelligence assessment warned the capitol could be cut off by the Taliban in 30 to 60 days and another added it could fully collapse within 90 days. So that was obviously completely off.
And this is what we heard from the administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. The administration did not change its tune until Afghanistan's provinces started falling and falling fast. It wasn't a Friday to a Monday, it was a Friday to a Sunday. That's when it became clear that the President and his team were completely caught off guard by how fast Afghanistan fell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLINKEN: The Afghan security forces, Afghan security forces that we've invested in, that force proved incapable of defending the country and that did happen more rapidly than we anticipated.
BIDEN: I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's crucial that they're being honest here, but this is an incredible failure. Was it an intelligence failure? They thought maybe 90 days, it wasn't even 90 hours or did the White House ignore some of the intelligence it was getting. We just don't know yet.
But one thing we do know tonight is that the Taliban holds that country firmly in its grip. Fighters are patrolling the streets. They are directing traffic. They are reportedly preventing looting. Many of them actually now armed with us weapons. You can see them here. And in the streets, inside Afghanistan's Presidential Palace, there they are and those are American weapons.
And what's more alarming is that the administration has no idea what us weapons vehicles and aircraft may actually now be in the hands of the Taliban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULLIVAN: We don't have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: I want to go to the ground now in Kabul where Nick Paton
Walsh is OUTFRONT at the airport where so much of the chaos has been centered that we have seen. Nick, what is the situation there tonight?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: It's two things, Erin. Occasionally actually over the last hour, we've heard bursts of gunfire over the north side of the airport, rare frankly since I've got here. But also too, it's quite empty and I know that's partly because some of the people escaping here are in accommodation.
Maybe it's a large site, but it isn't the sense of crammed evacuation that you would normally think for a situation like this, nothing like the scenes of panic that was spilling onto the runway in the civilian side on the days previously.
It is a startling operation here and here's how difficult it simply is for ordinary people outside to get on to this place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH(voice over): Around Kabul airport lives are spared or spoiled. At one gate, I was caught in the crush shots in the air.
Afghan soldiers let us in through a hole in the fence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assalamu alaikum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice over): Inside, a few lucky Afghans still with steps to go and sleepless U.S. Marines. Some not born before 9/11 whose first glimpse of Afghanistan here was the same as so many before them, except this time, they were truly encircled by calm Taliban just outside and they were leaving.
The detritus of 20 years of trying was everywhere, vehicles that may be left behind. And then the Afghans who won't be, we're blurring their faces to protect them, lucky enough to get on a flight but not as huge in number as those who would swamp the airfield the days before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (on camera): It is absolutely breathtaking to see the scale of the operation underway and the volume of people relieved to be inside, but still, the chaos that's (inaudible) them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice over): Flights picked up as evening fell, urgency, but a strange disconnect to the chaos that was swirling around the airport. People inside the airport simply did not know what was happening outside. And inside, they were headed in one direction. At airport security, the country's new rulers were giving their first
press conference on a TV that surely shown all four of the U.S. presidents who've been at war here. They sit and wait to be called to a new life in a land of plenty where they will land with only what they can carry.
WALSH (on camera): Now tonight, as I said, the enormous task on this base and forgive me on the light here, I'm talking to you, on my phone, the enormous task continues reducing streams of people coming in here. But one thing, Erin, that startles me is the disconnect between those on the base with their lofty goal of getting 22,000 people out of this country in the weeks ahead and the chaos on the streets outside.
The Taliban blocking the main road up to here very definitively calmer on the north road as we came in, but definitely in present. And that certainly means that for an operation of this size to happen, you're going to have to have some sort of Taliban acquiescence to letting those thousands of Afghans that assisted the U.S. military presence here actually onto the base so they can leave the country.
That's a tall order for diplomacy. It's pretty bad so far in this country and it's massively ambitious project here. It's only just beginning, Erin.
BURNETT: Nick, thank you very much. As I said live you saw him there talking through his phone outside the Kabul airport.
I want to go to Jeremy Diamond now OUTFRONT at the White House. And Jeremy, the president returning to the White House earlier than expected tonight, there are still so many questions here as to how the President has handled all of this.
What intelligence that the administration got, whether it was good or not good, whether it was listened to, I mean, there's just a lot we don't know. What's the view inside the White House and how this is playing out?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No question, Erin, that there are still a lot of unanswered questions. But from the White House officials that I've spoken to this evening, there is a sense that Jake Sullivan by going out there and answering questions for about 45 minutes, that he did release some of the pressure on the administration and perhaps refocus on what is to come now, not what happened before and the questions around that, but this U.S. mission to evacuate thousands of Americans, civilians and Afghans as well.
But as you said, Erin, there's still no answer on how exactly the United States was caught so flat footed. Jake Sullivan today doubling down on this idea that the administration had prepared for all contingencies, including the rapid fall of Kabul. An explanation, of course, that's belied by the images of chaos that we saw on the ground at Kabul airport.
But he did also argue that chaos was inevitable in some ways, that no matter when the Taliban would have entered Kabul, at some point or another, you would have seen these images of desperation of people trying to get out. That was a point that Jake Sullivan really did try to hammer home.
Now, as for the President, we are expecting to hear from him again tomorrow on the situation in Afghanistan. He is expected to now return to the White House tonight earlier than initially planned. And ultimately, we'll see tomorrow if he provides more answers to these questions for which we still do not have answers, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jeremy, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
And I want to go now to Fareed Zakaria, Host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. So, Fareed, Jake Sullivan says today that the White House was, his words, clear eyed when they made the decision to get out of Afghanistan, that the Taliban could take over. But obviously, when we see how this has played out, if that is clear eyed, we wouldn't want to know what foggy eyed is.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. There's no question that they must have recognized that the Taliban were going to, at some point, probably take over or at least share power. Otherwise, we wouldn't - look, the reason the United States gave up on Afghanistan was it was not able to defeat the Taliban. It was an implicit recognition of the enduring strength the Taliban has, but it's one thing to decide you're going to, you're going to withdraw.
What is stunning is the lack of preparation, then that comes from that. First, did you inform all the NATO allies who have been fighting with the United States for 20 years? Did you adequately give them time to think this through and make provisions?
We've been negotiating with the Taliban for two years. During that negotiation, did we talk about the need to get Americans and Afghans out? Did we talk to the Pakistanis with whom the United States has reasonable relations? Did we get lists, did the United States government get lists of all the Americans and Afghans it wanted to get out? Were those people pre-cleared for visas?
All those things seem to me should have been done, could have been done. And at this point, there can still be a massive evacuation effort. Phase one of this has been a failure. Phase two does not have to be a failure.
BURNETT: So let me ask you about, you mentioned the allies and talking to the allies. So tonight, the White House said President Biden did finally speak with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But earlier today, I mean, that just happened because Sullivan said earlier today, President Biden had not spoken with any of his foreign counterparts since Kabul fell, even though, of course, this was the U.S.-led situation in Afghanistan. He said other members of the administration were making calls instead. Just in contrast here, we know Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel from
Germany, Emmanuel Macron from France, they have all been talking to each other over the past few days. Is it odd that Biden took until - after Jake Solomon's press conference today to even speak to Boris Johnson?
ZAKARIA: It is beyond odd. It's staggering. The person who is likely to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor of Germany said that he thought this was the biggest crisis for NATO since its founding. That's how seriously the Europeans take this. Look, they've been fighting with the United States for 20 years. NATO invoked Article 5, that is an attack on one is an attack on all.
ZAKARIA: For the first time in its history after 9/11, they should have been paid back with better.
BURNETT: So when we get to whether this was an intelligence failure or failure to listen to intelligence or just a lot of things we don't know, let me ask you about the now former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
He came to the White House in June, President Biden meets with him. Biden tells Ghani, "We're going to stick with you." Ghani, of course, fled Afghanistan as it fell. He was sort of seem to be like the first one out the door, basically. Biden blames Ghani yesterday. He's clearly really angry.
Now, Ghani's folding and fleeing here is awful. But I guess this is the crucial question, Fareed, how did Biden not know Ghani's weaknesses? How did the United States on some very big crucial level not know that this guy and everybody that he oversaw was not going to hold firm?
ZAKARIA: I think the fundamental miscalculation was probably political and the second one was military. The United States did not seem to realize that the Afghan government simply did not have legitimacy, did not have much legitimacy.
Remember the last election in Afghanistan, only 1.8 million people took part in the vote. That's out in a country of 39 million people, so narrow legitimacy. The second part is the Afghan Army was clearly something of a sham, a house of cards. Who knows how many ghost soldiers were there. In other words, commanders pocketing the pay of people they claimed were soldiers on the books.
But all we know is that this was not an army. The United States was deluding itself with metrics that made it look like Washington was making progress without anyone really examining whether that progress was real or was the progress on paper so that everyone could congratulate themselves that they check the boxes.
BURNETT: Well, it's incredible. And your insight, Fareed, of course always so valuable. I mean, Biden is so frustrated that U.S. taxpayers were paying the salaries of all of the Afghan military. Well, when you lay it out the way you did about how many of these people were real and how much of this was corrupt, it just puts a whole new light on some of these crucial questions we need answers to. All right. Fareed, thank you so much.
BURNETT: And next, the Taliban tonight claiming to be more moderate and inclusive. But is there any truth in this?
Plus, Texas Governor Greg Abbott who was at this packed event just last night maskless announced that he has COVID.
And it's a race against time for earthquake survivors in Haiti. The death toll jumping to nearly 2,000 tonight. We're live in Port-au- Prince.
BURNETT: Tonight, Afghanistan's first female Mayor saying she's gotten death threats and is now waiting to be killed by the Taliban. As reports surfaced of beatings at Taliban-run checkpoints outside the Kabul airport, despite the militant group committing to 'safe passage' for civilians there.
Now, the Taliban are promising a new and more tolerant rule, but can they be trusted? Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Promises ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUHAL SHAHEEN, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: We would have a new government, an open, inclusive Islamic government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY (voice over): Promises ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAHEEN: Women can continue their education from primary to the higher education.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY (voice over): Promises ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAHEEN: We do not want a monopoly of power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY (voice over): Taliban 2.0, more moderate, inclusive power sharing. From 1996 to 2001, the ultraconservative Islamist imposed a form of Islam that stoned homosexuals and shot female schools as it took over much of Afghanistan.
Women bore the brunt of this medieval ideology. The movement was toppled by NATO and Afghan allies intent on ending Taliban rule. And the safe haven that it gave to al-Qaeda's plots against America on 9/11. Al Qaeda was routed fleeing NATO into scattered exile.
For the next 20 years, the Taliban fought back, taking territory slowly and refining its public relations. Less efforts on oppressing women, more on building trust in local administrations. But millions of Afghans, especially in the cities, were encouraged to believe in the freedoms and democracy that was stamped out by the Taliban. So when they swept back into the Capitol, fear took hold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASHTANA DURRANI, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LEARN: So if they have changed, why are they stopping women from going to work? Why are they murdering artists?
FARZANA KOCHAI, AFGHAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Do I have a space here to work for my people in my country or not? So we are risking our lives just for this answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY (voice over): At the Taliban press conference in Kabul, its spokesman insisted that the movement had matured. But he insisted that all human rights, freedoms and especially the role of women would still be determined by Sharia law. To succeed in government, the Taliban may have little choice in the face of real politics. It will also need help from the international community. It's been burnishing its diplomatic credentials.
Here, the leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sealing a deal with the U.S. It's now widely derided for shepherding the Taliban to victory. But the movement has clearly signaled that it needs to govern rather than rule by force. The question is whether that is something the Taliban can or even wants to do.
KILEY (on camera): Now, Erin, one of the key things in the next few weeks from the Taliban perspective is how much if any resistance they meet, how much that resistance means that they harden their line and abandon their softer line, perhaps public relations, perhaps window dressing, but also perhaps a recognition that Afghanistan itself has moved on in the last 20 years.
And one last thought, they've also promised to eradicate the poppy trade. That's $4 billion in Afghan overseas exports. There's a lot of gangsters that they're going to have to get rid of to do that, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes. Well, a lot of people have thought they were going to eliminate that trade. All right. Sam, thank you very much. Sam Kiley reporting.
And I want to bring in former Republican Congressman Will Hurd now Texas, because he served as an undercover CIA agent in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Congressman, I appreciate your time. So you hear the Taliban, they had a press conference today. And the spokesperson promises 'no death will be caused to anyone outside of Afghanistan'. They say their ideology has not changed, but there will be 'positive differences' from when they last ruled.
Is there any reason for you to believe that this is in any way a quote new Taliban?
WILL HURD, FORMER UNDERCOVER CIA AGENT IN AFGHANISTAN & PAKISTAN: No. There's no reason to believe that. And Erin, I hope someone there at CNN goes into the archives. You all ran a documentary about a week before 9/11 that was highlighting what the Taliban was doing in that country and they're in a huge soccer stadium and people are watching folks kill women for doing a variety of things like going out in public.
It's crazy. And mainly the folks that are coming into this, that are in this Taliban 2.0 as your reporter calls it were there during that previous Taliban administration. We also contrast them when it came to the so-called peace negotiations that were happening in Doha. They didn't follow through on some of their agreements there. So I don't think there's anything that would suggest that we have anything to believe in this new Taliban administration.
BURNETT: So Congress, I showed a picture at the beginning of the hour, I don't know if you've seen it but I know you've heard about all of this, the weapons situation. The U.S. spent nearly $90 billion, $90 billion, taxpayer money equipping the Afghan military and police who obviously folded in just hours over the weekend.
The National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan today said that a 'fair amount of U.S. arms have now certainly fallen into the Taliban's control'. And I'm just showing some of the images that we have already seen. So how could this have happened and we don't know how much the intelligence was off here or not, but the intelligence assessment had been that the Taliban wanted to take over the whole country and was intending to do so, how could this have happened where we don't even know what American weapons they have?
HURD: Well, first off, when President Biden in his remarks yesterday said they had prepared for all their contingencies, I don't think that is necessarily the case, in this specific case. There was a Washington Post article a few days ago that was talking about how the military and the Afghan army were in negotiation with the Taliban for weeks and months. I'm quite confident that the intelligence community would have that kind of information that our men and women that were still on the ground in Afghanistan would understand that.
This notion, you know, the beginning of the end was not a week ago, it was when the U.S. government entered into direct negotiations with the Taliban without including the Afghan government. Ultimately, when it comes to Afghanistan, we were seen as the biggest power in that area and whoever the biggest power was going to be behind that was who was going to control the country.
And beginning those negotiations under the Trump administration and President Biden following through on some of those agreements is one of the reasons that you saw this collapse. So we know the Afghan Special Forces are good fighting forces, but we should have had an accounting of all the resources that we had and were still there in that countries so that we understand they were coming. Because guess what, this happened in the '80s and we didn't learn the lesson from there.
BURNETT: So can I just ask you, because you're talking about Trump entering into these negotiations and I hear your point. Then Biden, you heard yesterday say, well, Trump said, I had signed a deal and so I had to go through with it. Now, how much of that do you buy? I mean, presidents say that it seems like when they want to, but when they don't want like a policy that a prior president did, they just throw it away?
HURD: Absolutely. I think there's plenty of things that President Trump did that on day one President Biden turned around. And I think what we have to remember here is why does all of this matter.
Yes, the blood, sweat, tears, treasure that we're poured into Afghanistan over the last 20 years, the fact that we're a month away from the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we have to remember that 19 terrorists with box cutters killed more Americans in one day in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia than 353 Japanese fighter planes did during Pearl Harbor. That more Americans died on one day in 9/11 than have died in Afghanistan in the last 20 years.
And part of this was making sure that there was not a region that a group can train, and equip and attack our homeland. Now, folks that disagreement with me will say, yes, al-Qaeda has metastasized. They have metastasized in other places, but those other places they've metastasized to, those governments do not want to see al-Qaeda or the al-Qaeda affiliates and grow powerful the way that the Taliban let them happen 20 years ago when they were in the country.
And also this is about a broader issue between America and China.
And we got to make sure that we have -- we have our allies with us because the threats ahead of us will be more complicated than this and the fact you're not talking to your NATO allies, these are kinds of things that are just unacceptable.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Hurd, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
BURNETT: All right.
And next, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he's been on a tear taking on local officials and their mask mandates, threatening taking them to court. Now, he has tested positive for COVID.
And for NFL player and Green Beret, Nate Boyer, risked his life in Afghanistan, nearly losing it after his convoy came under attack. So, what does he think about the Taliban's takeover?
BURNETT: Breaking news, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott tests positive for coronavirus. Abbott's office says he's isolated in the governor's mansion and being treated with Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment hours after his campaign posted this video on Twitter. You can see yourself. There is Abbott in the center at an event in a crowded room of maskless supporters near Dallas last night.
And it comes as the governor, of course, has publicly waged war against people in his own state over masks and vaccine mandates, despite a major surge of the virus in his state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: There will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates. It would be inappropriate to require people who already have immunity to wear a mask.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Dr. Paul Offit. He's a member of the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee.
Dr. Offit, Governor Abbott fortunately is fully vaccinated. He's not experiencing symptoms at this moment and getting the full Regeneron treatment but his infection is after months, right, of blocking mandates for masks, COVID vaccines. You saw him yesterday at this, you know, big event never wearing a mask around anyone else and we find out he had COVID. He's taken his fight against masks and vaccine mandates all the way to the state Supreme Court.
How much does this diagnosis weaken his argument?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Well, I certainly wish Governor Abbott a speedy recovery but I'm sure he's learning now masks are a lot cheaper than Regeneron. You know, why tie the hands of the public health officials behind their back. You have two weapons, one is vaccines and one is masking and for children under 12, that's the only weapon they have.
So, I think it seriously weakens his argument. I hope he sees it that way.
BURNETT: Well, it's amazing, right? Regeneron is, what, $1,500 per dose. And now, he's getting it. Ron DeSantis pushed that as a solution. I guess they think other state taxpayers will pay for it. It's pretty incredible. It's, by far, the most expensive option and of course, you can get really sick.
So we're also learning the Biden administration is preparing to recommend COVID booster shots for most adults eight months after they're fully vaccinated. One source tells our Dr. Sanjay Gupta that officials are going to present the first U.S. data that shows waning immunity among vaccinated Americans.
Okay, so that's what we hear but then, the CDC experts had a call with doctors today and they actually said this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. NEELA GOSWAMI, MEMBER, CDC VACCINE TASK FORCE: We do want to clarify right away that the need for and timing of a COVID-19 booster dose has not been established.
DR. KATHLEEN DOOLING, MEMBER, CDC VACCINE TASK FORCE: Other fully vaccinated individuals do not need an additional dose right now.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. So I'm really confused. The CDC did a call with doctors and said you don't need a booster but the Biden administration is about to recommend the booster. What in the world is going on?
OFFIT: It's hard to understand. I mean, the CDC had a meeting last Friday where those where data presented by Dr. Dooling, where she showed that protection afforded by the vaccine against the delta variant against serious disease not only in the United States but also in Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom was excellent, meaning it was in the 90 percent range. And that's the goal. The goal is that the vaccine protects us against serious disease.
If the CDC now has new data showing the data they presented a few days ago wasn't true, then we'll see it. It is frustrating. You would like to think the data would come first and then the recommendation would come second because right now, we're all guessing what is going on.
BURNETT: Well, it does. Of course, it creates a lack of confidence, which is really not the opposite I know of what we all want. But, Doctor, we look at Israel and Israel data as part of this. They've already been recommending booster shots for people over the age of 50. They have been very clear of that and, you know, it's not just that.
You know, time and time again we hear Israel say something. We hear it sort of downplayed by some officials in the United States and then within days or weeks or a month, all of a sudden, the U.S. sort of follows Israel.
Do you -- what is the issue here? Is there hesitation, do you think, on trusting what Israel's data is or what's going on here?
OFFIT: Well, we have a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is generating data and the data they generate, they presented last Friday clearly showed that these vaccines protected against serious disease. So again, you would like to see new data if we're going to change the recommendation I would be hard pressed to believe that we're making a change in recommendation solely based on Israeli data.
Tomorrow, we'll learn about the data they're looking at. I hope this doesn't happen. What I hope doesn't happen is that we are seeing sort of fading in immunity against asymptomatic infection or mildly symptomatic infection, because that has to happen at some level. The goal is to protect against severe critical disease.
To date, it appears vaccines are doing it. That's why Dr. Dooling said what she said. It made abundant sense. So, I guess we'll have to wait to see what data they have. But I hope they're clear because they would have to be clear in order to change that recommendation.
BURNETT: Right, right. I mean, it's significant. As you and I both know, you have a lot of people worried and rushing and checking their dates. You know, this is not a small thing.
Dr. Offit, I appreciate your perspective and your time. I always do. Thank you.
OFFIT: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, as veterans ask if the war in Afghanistan was for nothing, for what? Former NFL player and Green Beret Nate Boyer has a different message.
Plus, we're live in Haiti tonight where staggering 1,900 people are known to have died after a massive earthquake.
BURNETT: New tonight, growing frustration among U.S. veterans after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. One former marine captain, Timothy Kudo, writing a "New York Times" op-ed titled: I was a marine in Afghanistan. We sacrificed lives for a lie.
He writes in part, quote: As all this unfolds, there is much fanfare over the celebrities at Barack Obama's 60th birthday party, a celebration held as the war he expanded during his presidency ends in infamy. But he is not alone. There are other commanders in chief also bear responsibility for what has occurred and there is no celebrating. For those of us who ache each day wondering how we could have given the best part of our lives to such a lie.
OUTFRONT now, Bronze Star recipient Nate Boyer. He's a retired U.S. Army Green Beret who served two tours in Afghanistan and a tour in Iraq, also a former NFL player at the Seattle Seahawks and co-founder of Merging Vets and Players which connects combat veterans and pro- athletes to help them transition after their uniforms come off.
And, Nate, I really appreciate your taking your time.
You know, your story is you risked your life in Afghanistan.
You nearly died there. Your convoy came under attack. A bullet hit a vehicle inches away from your head. It was that close for you. An Afghan captain you fought side by side with, a man you said you loved was killed in that attack.
Does this Taliban takeover and what we're seeing now make you ask yourself if it was all in vain?
NATE BOYER, U.S. ARMY GREEN BERET (RET.): It doesn't. It doesn't. It's extremely frustrating, it's heartbreaking. But I don't feel that way.
And I hope that our men and women, veterans and those still on active duty, don't feel that way, as well. I mean, we did what we could. We fought for those who cannot fight for themselves, we still do that today. We will do that in the future moving forward.
It's tough to know that there or to feel that there's still hope in a situation that seems hopeless, and then to feel that you are helpless in continuing that fight at this point. But I want everyone to understand, that sacrifices matter, you matter, what you did matters. You know, we were fighting for people, people first.
And on my left and right, I had plenty of brothers in arms that didn't have an American flag on their shoulders, they had an Afghan flag on their shoulders. And I'm proud of being part of that, doing everything that I could.
The result, you know, there's only so much we can control.
BOYER: And if it's out of our hands, it's out of our hands. And that's the hardest part. And knowing what you were a part of, and what you were willing to die for, and what some did die for, and to see -- to see it all sort of just disappear in front of your eyes, it's hard.
BURNETT: I mean, Nate, I -- let me ask you, because I know -- you talk about people next to you. You loved and respected these individuals. Some of them gave their lives, right, for this cause, and they were Afghan.
So when you hear the military say, and they did, over the past month, right, that this Afghan military is capable, so strong, so able to do this. And then obviously the thing seems to be a house of cards at this point.
I mean, what do you think happened? How do you think they read it so wrong? BOYER: You know, it just comes down to not only the lack of resources,
that they have over there. But they don't -- they don't have a country like we do, in the sense of, like, when I go over and fight, we go fight. Even if we don't make it back, we know our families are going to be taking care of, we know we will be honored and remembered, remembered as heroes.
BOYER: And it's just not the same over there. You know, there's not -- there's not that level of patriotism. And we can do all that we can to try to instill that, and to try to, you know, help them believe and hope for a future and a nation that can be great, and a democracy. And whatever that thing may be. We can do what we can, but at the end of the day, it's going to be up to them as well. And a lot of people do feel that way, but not everyone.
And unfortunately, those in power, in places like this, often -- you know, they want to keep people oppressed. They want to keep everyone under their thumb. And that's the hardest part. It's not that we are all going over there, trying to plant American flags and force who we are on them. We are just trying to give them hope and opportunity and a glimpse at freedom, and possibility. That's all we're trying to do.
BURNETT: So, you know, you've been speaking out and sending this message, right? That service matters, that belief and liberty and your sacrifices matter. You reached out on twitter to veterans who are struggling, as of course, so many, understandably, are, with the Taliban takeover.
And you said, everyone that fought for the people of Afghanistan, and especially those that didn't make it back, your sacrifice matters. It has to because if yours doesn't, then mine doesn't.
And you've got a range of responses. Some, of course, supportive but some really vocal in their disagreement. That's who are angry, they're upset right now. One of them writes, as a veteran, I feel sick and angry how all of this, from going there, to how they ended. Decisions made by weak men.
You know, were you surprised by some of these reactions to your emotion and your tweet?
BOYER: I wasn't. And you know what, those feelings are valid.
BOYER: And I respect that. And I want to be there for those people. We should all be there for one another. And this is a time to vent, it's okay to be upset. I don't want people to take it out on themselves.
And I see that and I feel that a lot of times. When you hear those things, it sounds like -- maybe they are saying something about me, about the cause, or whatever, but maybe it's about themselves, feeling like they don't belong anymore. Or what they did was in vain. And it didn't need to happen at all, that they wasted their life, dedicated to this cause.
And I hope that they don't feel that way. I know it's tough and, you know, we can't win them all and that's just like sometimes. But, you know, all you can do is try. That's the best you can do.
And as long as you've got that in your back pocket, and know who you are, I know the people you are fighting for and what you are fighting for.
You know, like I said earlier, the result is sometimes out of our hands. You just got to keep playing.
BURNETT: Yeah. And, Nate, I really appreciate your time and your thoughts. Thank you.
BOYER: Of course, Erin. Thank you very much. God bless America.
BURNETT: And next, the death toll in Haiti spiking tonight, now nearly 2,000 people after Haiti's devastating earthquake. We'll go to Port- au-Prince after this.
And an update tonight on the mayor of Topeka. You remember, she told you about her having her gallbladder removed and a pacemaker after COVID, all because of long COVID.
BURNETT: Breaking news, more than 1,900 people confirmed dead in Haiti after a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The number of people believed to be impacted by the earthquake, a staggering 1.2 million.
And Joe Johns is there, he's out front in port-au-prince, about 75 miles west of the epicenter of the earthquake.
Joe, just a struggle right now for the base things that can cause so many more lives basic aid, water, shelter.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Erin. Also, we did learn today that the U.N. World Food Program does keep food in Haiti for about 300,000 people for a month, but it's still difficult to get that food, along with shelter, water, and other supplies, like sanitation, because the roads and the bridges have been damaged or completely knocked out, due to the earthquake.
JOHNS (voice-over): The wind howled and the rain poured as tropical depression Grace rolled ashore in Haiti. Shell-shocked and weary earthquake survivors took refuge where they could, some are lucky enough to have a roof over their heads, but most with their homes destroyed or too badly damaged, doing what they could to protect themselves with makeshift tents and tarps as the deluge of rain kept coming.
THEARD ANDRISE, HOMELESS AFTER EARTHQUAKE (through translator): The rain fell on top of us. We slept sitting down on chairs. Nobody has come to help us. We slept here sleeping down. I don't want to go home. I'm in God's hands.
JOHNS: Many of the survivors dealing with injuries as they struggle to cope, waiting for aid. That it is pouring into the capital, Port-au- Prince, but getting it out to the hard-hit areas on the south coast to those in need, taking time, leading to frustration.
MARIMENE JOUESIL, HOMELESS AFTER EARTHQUAKE (through translator): I am in a lot of pain. We've been promised medicine. I went to look for it and I was told to wait. Yesterday, they distributed aid but I wasn't able to get anything.
It rained a lot at night. We could not sleep. We have nothing to eat. We have nothing.
JOHNS: Still, some progress being made. The U.S. Coast Guard among those agencies already on the ground.
VILLA RODRIGUEZ, U.S. COAST GUARD (through translator): In the past 24 hours, the Coast Guard has rescued 38 lives, and transported 5,500 pounds of aid, medical equipment among others, for the affected areas in Haiti. We have transported 56 passengers and medical personnel to attend those affected areas.
JOHNS: It's been 4 days since the 7.2 earthquake struck, flattening homes and toppling hotels and businesses, killing more than 1,900 people, and injuring thousands more.
UNICEF estimates close to 1.2 million people have been affected by the quake, including more than 500,000 children. The scope of that devastation and desperation becoming more painfully clear with each passing day.
JOHNS (voice-over): There's also a question as to there's also a question as to whether anyone could be found alive beneath the rubble after both an earthquake and a tropical storm. A spokesman for urban search and rescue said in a conference call today, it's not unheard of to find someone alive after 8 to 10 days, but that, to, is a race against time. Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Joe, thank you very much. Joe Johns live in Port- au-Prince.
And next, an update on the mayor of Topeka. She told she was about to get the pacemaker after having her gallbladder removed because of long COVID.
BURNETT: An update on update on the story a story we brought to you last week about the mayor of Topeka, who like many suffers from long COVID. Michelle De La Isla, mayor, was out of surgery. She was getting a pacemaker implanted because of serious heart complications from COVID.
She tells us she's back home tonight and, quote, feeling human, which is great news. But this, of course, is not the first surgery she got because of long COVID. She's only 45 years old and is a vision of health, former triathlete, also head or gallbladder removed on top of weeks long hospital stays.
Here's how she described her symptoms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE DE LA ISLA, TOPEKA MAYOR: I have all done pneumonia symptoms, and all that costs and loss of smell and everything. A few weeks ago, I was running a meeting, I had to leave, and I passed out, and ended back up in hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: There's so much we don't know about long COVID and its effects, even on the vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci makes this point. Vaccinations are essential, but even those who are vaccinated can get long COVID, and precautions are still necessary.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.