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Erin Burnett Outfront
Biden Warned "Another Terror Attack in Kabul is Likely," WH Says; Pentagon Admits Thousands of ISIS-K Fighters were Released from Prisons, Blames Afghan Security Forces; Rylee McCollum, Age 20, Identified as U.S. Marine Killed in Kabul. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 27, 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: Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now. See you tomorrow.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, warning to the President tonight, another terror attack in Kabul is 'likely' as the U.S. mission in Afghanistan enters its most dangerous period.
Plus, the Pentagon says the Taliban released quote thousands of ISIS-K militants from prisons in Afghanistan. How did that happen and why?
And a Florida judge deals a major blow to Governor Ron DeSantis' mask mandate ban in schools. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, bracing for another attack. The President warned by his advisors that another terror attack in Kabul is likely saying, "Another terror attack in Kabul is likely." It's a direct quote and the next few days, they say, will be 'the most dangerous for American forces'. And this is just one day after ISIS-K claimed responsibility for that horrific suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The threat is ongoing and it is active. Our troops are still in danger. This is the most dangerous part of the mission. There is an ongoing and acute threat from ISIS-K, so that is what they are facing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Ongoing and acute. And the Pentagon, the words you heard there from Jen Psaki, they're not just randomly selected. The Pentagon says that these fears are based on very specific intelligence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The threat from ISIS is real. We have additional information and so what I would tell you is what you're seeing is act on to the degree we can talk about it is based on information that we have. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And this comes as the death toll and the attack is actually going up. Now more than 170 people are confirmed dead in that suicide attack. More than 200 more wounded. The 13 slain U.S. service members are now confirmed as 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. And the 18 U.S. service members wounded in the attack are now being treated at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The White House today also not holding back when asked what President Biden meant when he vowed to hunt down those responsible for the deadliest day in Afghanistan in a decade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PSAKI: I think he made clear yesterday that he does not want them to live on the Earth anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: At this hour, thousands of U.S. troops are still on the ground assisting in the evacuations of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies. There are only four days left before the U.S. deadline to leave the country, but the pace is slowing down. There's equipment they need to take out and the soldiers themselves.
The administration just announcing roughly 4,200 people were evacuated in the span of the last 12 hours. That compares to more than 12,500 in the prior 24 hour period. So you can see the slowdown. The State Department saying it is still working to evacuate about 500 Americans that it knows wants to get out and still awaiting word from several hundred other Americans.
And, of course, then there's all the Afghan special immigrant visa applicants who are hanging out there. President Biden saying neither the airport attack or the threat of other attacks, though, will deter the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I met with my commanders this morning, first thing in the morning. I got a detailed briefing about yesterday's attacks and the measures they're taking to protect our forces and complete the mission and we will complete the mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT at the White House to begin our coverage tonight. And Phil, you've been talking to officials in the administration today, so just how afraid are they? They use the word acute, specific intelligence, how afraid are they that ISIS-K will be able to carry out another deadly attack on American forces?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, when you talk to officials, I think the concern to some degree the anxiety is palpable right now. From those that are briefed on the intelligence they make very clear, this is specific intelligence and the threat is very real. But you hit on a key point when you talked about the U.S. military drawdown. That adds a level of complexity and frankly a level of openness to potential attack that just hasn't existed even in the last 24 hours when that last attack transpired.
The way officials frame things right now as they look at what's going to be happening over the course of the next couple of days is military assets start to draw down, start to leave the country is not just every day, every single hour becomes more dangerous than the last. How security operates, who's guarding the perimeter, how they continue to evacuate individuals.
You noted the numbers have gone down compared to the similar 12 hour period from yesterday. However, Pentagon officials have made clear they will continue to evacuate individuals whether American citizens of which there are several hundred left on the ground or Afghan citizens that have been allies to the United States up until the last flight leaves.
So long it's still going on while military personnel are withdrawing, the risk only grows. Obviously, the terrorist threat is very clear. They've been cognizant of it for days.
The intelligence has only grown more acute as the days have gone on and White House officials right now as one told me are basically on the edge of their seat, looking at their phones, looking at their computers, waiting to see something bad happened. They believe the plans they have in place as relayed to the White House by the Pentagon are effective.
The Pentagon has made clear repeatedly to the President that will be the case, force protection is a priority. But there's just no way to change the dynamics that just make this danger very, very acute and very real, Erin.
BURNETT: So thank you very much, Phil. And as Phil was speaking, we did just get some breaking news and this is the identity, the identity of the first U.S. service member killed in Kabul that we have been able to confirm. And we can tell you about 20-year-old marine Rylee McCollum from my Wyoming and he was on his first deployment when evacuations began.
His sister says he was manning a checkpoint when the explosion occurred. Rylee, as I said is 20 years old. It was his first tour and he's expecting a baby with his wife in the next few weeks.
Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT. And Oren, I can only imagine the pain of that family, you tear up even hearing the details that we have. What else do you know at this point?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Of course. This was all, of course, difficult enough already, certainly here at the Pentagon where people have described it as a traumatic day, a shocking day, a sad day and it doesn't get any easier just because a few hours have passed.
In fact, it's quite the opposite. It gets harder as we start to learn about 13 U.S. service members killed, U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum. We have this information from his sister Royce McCollum (ph). As you pointed out, a native of Wisconsin who had always dreamed of being in the Marines being infantry and who was on his first deployment who was deployed just as the evacuation was ramping up truly over the course of the past two weeks here.
I'm not going to try to shorten this statement in any way. I will read the statement in full from his family.
"Rylee was an amazing man with a passion for the Marines. He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just three weeks. He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots. He was determined to be an infantry and this was his first deployment. Rylee was sent to Afghanistan when the evac began. Rylee was manning the checkpoint when his suicide bomb went off. Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He's a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy to his friends and teammates and coaches. He was family. Rylee will always be a hero, not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country, but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better, making a stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper. We love you, Rylee."
And I think there's a little more I can say about how powerful that statement is from his family. And that's, of course, not the only statement we'll be expecting. The Department of Defense, we expect to issue official notification and identification of all the service members who were killed, 11 Marines, a sailor, and a soldier and we expect more as we move through the hours into tomorrow.
BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much. So hard to hear, just imagine that loss. His wife and his siblings, his sisters, his parents to lose a 20-year-old, first tour going to help in these final days. Well, Americans and Afghans who are there, the Americans, still ending those posts with dedication and devotion, facing the threat of more ISIS-K attacks. They're doing it knowing that the threat is acute, knowing that they've been told it's going to happen and they're doing it anyway amid the rapidly approaching deadline.
Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Crowd control Taliban style. A day after 13 American service members, two British citizens and at least 170 Afghans were killed by a suicide bomber. Afghans are still trying to get to Kabul's airport and to freedom. Just over the blast walls, the Mission Continues. Nearly 13,000 people flown out in 24 hours.
The wounded American service members have been transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Now, there is a second mission, hunting down the ISIS-K terrorist behind Thursday's attack. To accomplish that, America will need continued cooperation from the Taliban, which still controls checkpoints like this one in Kabul filmed today.
They're implementing a harder ring around the airport and crowds have thinned. Abbey Gate where the attack occurred remains closed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRBY: We still believe there are credible threats. In fact, I'd say specific credible threats and we want to make sure we're prepared for those.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY(voice-over): The Pentagon warning that these could be rockets or vehicle bombs.
In Kabul, families collect the bodies of their loved ones and survivors come to terms with what does happened. This man says that he was an interpreter for the British and was among the hundreds of Afghan wounded.
"I fell into the stream and thought I was the only one still alive. I saw all of the other people were dead."
More than 5,000 evacuees are waiting for flights at Kabul's airport and allies like Italy and Spain have already ended their missions in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. HANK TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE JOINT STAFF FOR REGIONAL OPERATIONS, J-35: We have the ability to include evacuees on U.S. military airlift out of Afghanistan until the very end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY(voice-over): The walls of Kabul's airport are now stained with blood as Afghanistan counts down the final days of America's longest war.
KILEY(on camera): Now, Erin, this is the bloodiest attack ever committed by ISIS-K, but not the only bloody attack they've committed in Kabul. The last major one, they killed 84 school girls mostly at a double car bombing at a girl school of Hazara Shia. And this is now, their whole capacity now, though, has been increased following the collapse of the government administration and the release of prisoners from Bagram and Pole Charkhi Prison, several hundred believed to be ISIS prisoners have been released into the population and no doubt joining up a thickening of the capacity of ISIS-K to commit more of these atrocities, Erin. BURNETT: All right. Sam, thank you very much. We'll have much more on
that issue of those prison releases. I want to go now to Suddaf Chaudry. You'll remember her from last night. She's an investigative journalist. She is still in Kabul tonight.
And Suddaf, I'm glad to talk to you again. I'm glad that you are safe. I know you've been at the hospitals. We saw some pictures from inside. You've been there where they're trying to treat some of the wounded. What are you hearing from the victims?
SUDDAF CHAUDRY, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Hi there. The victims, for them, it was one of the bloodiest days they've seen in recent times as well. Most of the hospitals that I visited, I visited two emergency and the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital which is a government-run hospital.
At the second hospital, the morgue assistant notified me that he had to physically hand wrap over a hundred bodies himself and he basically couldn't talk because he was so traumatized from what he had seen the night before.
I mean, the numbers don't really tally up because just at that hospital alone, he told me they had received over 150 dead bodies. And the entrance to the hospital, the dead bodies lay in the garden because there was nowhere else to put them. So you had loved ones who's sitting out on the green next to their perished family members in black body bags. That is the scene currently in Kabul.
And in Islamic practice, they had to bury their loved ones within 24 hours, but they simply couldn't because of a far too many people that the morgues had a backlog.
BURNETT: Suddaf, thank you very much. Thanks for telling us just the tragedy, the loss of life as we're now finding out the name of the first Marine. A tragedy for the Afghans who lost their lives. Thank you very much, Suddaf. Please be safe. We'll talk to you very soon.
BURNETT: I want to go now to Fareed Zakaria, of course, the host of FAREED ZAKARIA GPS.
So Fareed, I mean, you heard Suddaf talking, just I mean the horror of this, dead bodies pile up outside the hospital that she saw and then you hear the U.S. administration use the word acute in terms of the threat now as they say that these next few days are the most dangerous. Now, they're saying that with the context of a bomb attack that just killed more American forces than anything in at least a decade in Afghanistan, but they say the next few days are the most dangerous. Just how dangerous and crucial are these days?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": I think you can't exaggerate the degree to which there is now real danger for everyone around that airport. And the reason is this, what we have now discovered is that there is a very bitter rivalry between the Taliban and ISIS-K, the other terrorist organization. One fact to notice last week when the Taliban took Kabul, they did not
execute anyone. In fact, they went into prisons and they let most of the prisoners out with Taliban and non-Taliban prisoners. There was only one group of people they executed, nine people and that was the leader of ISIS-K who was sitting in a Kabul jail and his eight associates.
So this is a battle of sworn enemies and it is erupting just as the United States is trying to get out.
It may well be, one can never tell, but it may well be that this is the beginning of another Afghan Civil War, because it's not just ISIS- K, there are other groups, Tajiks, Uzbeks and militants who don't like the Taliban. So we may find that the United States was able to keep this thing together in a way that it will not be able to as it crumbles.
BURNETT: So let me ask you about that, because last night, the former Defense Secretary and Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said something that has gotten a lot of attention rightly so. Here's what he told me he thinks is what's ahead in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE UNDER OBAMA: Erin, bottom line is that our work is not done in Afghanistan. We're going to have to go back in to get ISIS
We're probably going to go have to go back in when al-Qaeda resurrects itself as they will with this Taliban. They've gave safe haven to al- Qaeda before. They'll probably do it again. So, yes, I understand that we're trying to get our troops out of there, but the bottom line is we can leave a battlefield, but we can't leave the war on terrorism which still is a threat to our security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He didn't mince words. Is he right, Fareed?
ZAKARIA: Well, he's right that the United States will probably have to do battle with ISIS and al-Qaeda. But we've been battling forces like that all over the greater Middle East, in Mali, in Somalia, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Syria. So the question is do you need to have a large permanent position, occupation of Afghanistan to fight the war on terror.
And what President Biden is arguing is that it is possible to fight the war on terror using counterterrorism tools, using special ops, using drones, using intelligence and you go to where they are and you hit them but then you don't sit there. And I think there are certainly many, many very effective counterterrorism operations that the United States has done in the last 20 years that have not required an in- person presence in the sense that we had one in Afghanistan. So I think Leon is right, but I think he might be, I'm not sure he
meant it, but I don't think he meant that we're going to have to reoccupy Afghanistan. I think he's saying there is still going to be a lot of fighting between the United States and these terror groups.
BURNETT: So when you say groups, plural, and you had referenced the Taliban as a terror group, as by the way Leon Panetta did as well. But of course, the United States has negotiated with the Taliban and without formally recognizing them essentially doing so in practice with how we're working with them.
And our Phil Mattingly asked the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki today if America working with the Taliban was the best of bad options or the only option. I wanted to play part of her response for you, Fareed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PSAKI: We don't trust the Taliban. This is not about trust, but there is a reality on the ground. And the reality is the Taliban control large swaths of Afghanistan, including the area surrounding the perimeter of the airport. So by necessity, that is our option to coordinate with to get American citizens out, to get our Afghan partners out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So by necessity, do you agree, Fareed, that it is what it is that the United States is going to have to continue to coordinate work with respect, not trust, but do everything else with a group that - terrorist group?
ZAKARIA: I agree. It's inevitable. It's exactly what we should do. I wouldn't use the word respect but I would say deal with because, look, they are the power on the ground. They will have control over highways, roads, police, all that kind of thing. But the United States also has a lot of leverage.
The Taliban is in a difficult position as these attacks make clear. They're also in a difficult position economically. There's no money in the country and they need to pay government salaries. The United States can ask for things in return like the safe passage of the Americans and most importantly, the Afghans left behind. There are very few Americans left behind, but there are 10s and 10s of thousands of Afghans.
Obviously, the Americans should get out first, obviously that's the priority. But you cannot leave behind 10s of thousands of people who have worked with you, fought with you, supported you for 20 years. That should be the number one ask in a sense to get these Americans and Afghans out and there are things the United States can do to help the Taliban in that circumstance.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Fareed, Thank you very much. And later on tonight, I'm going to be speaking with one of those
Afghans, 10 years working with a U.S. defense contractor stuck in Afghanistan. Tonight, the Taliban hunting him.
And next, the Pentagon does admit that the Taliban freed thousands, their word, thousands of ISIS-K fighters from prisons in Afghanistan. Plus, demanding answers from the White House. I'm going to talk to one Democratic Congresswoman who says 'cascading failures' led to this moment in Afghanistan.
And Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates, tonight shot down by a judge.
BURNETT: Tonight as U.S. forces prepare for more terror attacks in Kabul, the Pentagon admits the Taliban released thousands of ISIS-K fighters from prisons in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRBY: I don't know the exact number. Clearly, it's in the thousands when you consider both prisons, because both of them were taken over by the Taliban and emptied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now Douglas London, the CIA's former Counterterrorism Chief for the Region and also the author of the soon to be released book, The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence. Also with me tonight Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks, CNN Military Analyst.
So Douglas, I appreciate your time. Let me start with you. So we're hearing U.S. officials warn another terror attack is likely in Kabul.
They're describing specific, credible threats that they're acute, so we're hearing that. Now, we're also learning that thousands of ISIS prisoners were released by the Taliban, thousands. How high do you think the threat level truly is right now?
DOUGLAS LONDON, FMR. CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF FOR SOUTH & SOUTHWEST ASIA: When the Intelligence Community uses language like that; specific, credible, imminent, that reflects a near certain level of confidence that an attack is coming, that it's almost inevitable. That's the kind of language we use to reflect that level of confidence and the detail in our reporting. So the spokespeople are right an attack is coming. We will do what we can, no doubt, to preempt it.
In terms of the prisoners, the number of thousands of ISIS-K sounds a bit high. Thousands, yes. Thousands of ISIS-K less likely and I believe that the Taliban would be more likely to separate and call the ISIS-K prisoners and execute them as they did with the nine more senior members.
It's problematic when we're dealing ...
BURNETT: Right. Yes.
LONDON: ... I was just going to say it's problematic when we're dealing and depending on the Taliban as a security partner though.
BURNETT: Yes. Right. So let me ask you about that Maj. Gen. Marks. The Biden administration insists that the Taliban and ISIS-K are sworn enemies and obviously as Doug was referring to, we did see that the leadership, the eight leaders plus the top leader, they executed them when they released them from a specific prison. Then you have these other numbers, whatever they may be, whether it's thousands or slightly less as his Doug thinks it may be.
Do you believe that there is, on any level, there is any collusion between the two groups or you really believe on all fronts, all dire enemies, they wouldn't have released any of them?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, there's every reason to believe that ISIS-K and the Taliban are not going to coordinate overtly. We never know what happens at those lower levels. There may be some common purpose that different elements find in order to go after different targets.
What I see with the release of these prisoners, again, if credible, as apparently it is, is that I see that as a longer term issue as opposed to an immediate influx of fighters who are going to join some in being consistent plans that are about to be - execution of plans that are about to be launched.
These prisoners that were released are going back into the pool. ISIS will then embrace them. They'll give them additional training as necessary and then in a long-term, strategy that the United States needs to address in terms of ISIS' capability in the country and certainly the Taliban in terms of their desire to try to establish governance in Kabul and then try not to lose all of this ungoverned space to other elements like the ISIS, that's a longer term concern.
But immediately these prisoners are not necessarily going to affect what might be listed, as Doug has indicated, are credible targets that are going to be hit here shortly.
BURNETT: Which is incredible. I mean, it's very sobering what you're saying, because you're saying that there is an acute current threat and then there's this mass influx that could create future threats or threats against the American homeland as well. I mean, who knows? We don't know what we don't know.
And Douglas, to your point, it's not just ISIS-K. The current Taliban is made up of members of other militant groups, the Haqqani network among them. The State Department spokesman was asked today specifically about whether the United States is sharing intelligence with the Taliban and that intelligence, some of which we know has been shared, to get Americans out where they are, who they are, whether that information is reaching the Haqqani network or other terror groups, let me play the exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that coordination extend to members of the Haqqani network who are also providing security?
NED PRICE, STATE DEPT. SPOKESPERSON: No, it does not. The Taliban and Haqqani network are separate entities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Douglas, I understand they may be in some ways, maybe from State Department parlance, but when you get to the ground, are they separate entities? Do we have any idea what we give the Taliban where it's going and who's getting it?
LONDON: Well, calling them separate entities is like referring to the Navy and the Marines as separate entities in the United States, which are all part of the same team. The chief of security for Kabul of the Taliban is Khalil Haqqani. Khalil Haqqani is essentially the Chief of Operations for the Haqqani network that's run by his nephew, Sirajuddin Haqqani.
There is a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture or death and I believe 25 billion for Siraj. And that is now the individual in charge of security. He's been Haqqani's principal emissary to al-Qaeda as well as their most senior level interlocutor with the Pakistani government, with the army and the intelligence service.
So there's a number of counterintelligence implications and sharing information with Khalil and the Taliban, which can reveal our capabilities that we use against them and other groups that we're pursuing.
There's also legal issues for the intelligence community to consider where we can't pass information to a foreign government unless we can speak to their human rights record.
Now despite depictions of Taliban 2.0, I believe the Taliban are really unchanged and I think their human rights record will bear that out which will make it difficult, not impossible to share information but there is a lot of risk and consequences of doing so.
BURNETT: General marks, how worried are you when you hear senior U.S. officials respond like that, though? Just to say they're separate entities?
MARKS: Yeah, major concern. There is a distinction without a difference and any discussion of Taliban 2.0, I think is academic. It's a friendly face with the Taliban hopes to be putting on now because they need desperately need global support.
We have to wait to see what their behavior looks like. We're going to find out, I guarantee, that there will be more similarities than there are differences between Taliban 2.0 and Taliban OG.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.
And next, was President Biden given bad military advice on Afghanistan? The White House tonight says no. My next guest a Democratic congresswoman says the evacuation was, quote, egregiously mishandled.
And it's a very real possibility some in Afghanistan whose lives are in danger may not get out. I'm going to speak to one of them. A man who says he helped the United States and worked for the United States for years.
BURNETT: Tonight, the White House rejecting the notion President Biden was given bad military advice, saying he will not ask any of the generals to resign in the wake of a deadly attack in which 13 U.S. troops died. It comes as some Republicans are calling for Biden and his officials to resign, even introducing impeachment articles for his Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild of Pennsylvania. She's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and is demanding answers from the White House over an evacuation that she describes as, quote, egregiously mishandled.
I appreciate your time, Congresswoman, and your willingness to speak out what you think happened here. I know that you've talked about, your words, cascading failures that led to this moment. What kind of accountability are you demanding from Biden and his administration?
REP. SUSAN WILD (D-PA): Erin, thank you for having me.
And, first, let me express my sympathies to the wife and family of Rylee McCollum. My heart goes out to them and all of the Gold Star families who are going to be hearing terrible news over the next hours.
I want to explain what I mean by cascading failures and I also want to tell you that I 100 percent agree with the president's decision to withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was a brave and necessary decision that no president in the last ten years was willing to make and I'm not piling on with gratuitous criticism.
But I have tremendous concerns about the manner in which the withdrawal took place. We know that we needed to get these Afghan allies who worked so closely with our troops out of the country and that the SI process had completely shut down under the Trump administration. That's one of those cascading failures.
We know that thousands of Taliban prisoners had been released following the U.S. Taliban agreement negotiated by Secretary of State Pompeo over the objections of the Afghan President Ghani. That's another one of the cascading failures.
So, while I support President Biden's decision to carry out their retrograde from Afghanistan, here's what I think we needed to do before that happened. We had to get the SIV process rebooted and running efficiently. And frankly, we should have started the withdrawal process earlier, months ago which would have given us the ability and time to get more people out without antagonizing the Taliban because they would have known we were on our way out.
So -- you know, and lastly, I think there must have been intelligence. I don't buy that the president had bad intelligence quite frankly based on everything I've heard from my colleagues on the Intel Committee. I believe there was intelligence that foretold that the Afghan government and military would quickly fold once we left. I suspect that that intelligence was available far longer than the past eight months.
So, that -- the cascading failures are not just attributed to the Biden administration. I want to make that clear.
BURNETT: No, I understand what you're saying. Okay. All your points here are important but to the point you just made about the intelligence, right? You know, as you point out. You can go to this point or this point or this point.
But on that specific point, right, you're saying that you believe this intelligence was available. That's a pretty significant thing. First of all, if it wasn't available, how the heck could they have missed this in such a huge way? I understand that question.
If it was available, did -- were they afraid to tell President Biden? Did they tell him and he didn't listen? I mean, what the heck do you think happened?
WILD: I don't know what happened and quite frankly that's what Congress is charged -- we're charged with the obligation of oversight. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, I assure you we'll be having many, many hearings on this subject and we will get to the bottom of that. Was the intelligence good and were there decisions made to proceed not withstanding the intelligence or was the intelligence bad? We simply can't answer at this point.
But with our oversight capabilities, we will get to the bottom of this to learn from this and never ever repeat this kind of mistake.
BURNETT: Yeah, just horrible. As you say, as we learn about these marines, these horrible gaping holes that are put in the lives around them.
Thank you so much, Congresswoman. I appreciate your time.
WILD: Thank you so much, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, four days, that is all the time left before American troops are gone, completely. My next guest is still stuck in Afghanistan, says he's been left behind. Will he make it out? And new concerns tonight about two upcoming rallies scheduled at the
U.S. Capitol, one to demand justice for the January 6th rioters who are still in jail.
BURNETT: Tonight, stuck in Kabul fearing for his life. That is the reality for our next guest, he was an interpreter for U.S. defense contractors for more than a decade in Afghanistan and he's tried now several times to get to the airport in Kabul. He hasn't made it yet.
He's asked me tonight to use a pseudonym "Ahmad" to protect himself and his family. And Ahmad is OUTFRONT right now. He joins me by phone from Afghanistan.
And, Ahmad, you know, even as our producer tried to reach you today, you were fearful that the Taliban was close by. How concerned are you for your safety and your family's safety as you're still in Afghanistan?
AHMAD, FORMER INTEPRETER STRUGGLING TO EXIT AFGHANISTAN (via telephone): Yes, it is really difficult time. I'm really, really concerned about me and my family because Taliban in different occasions actually tried to, you know, get me, but fortunately, you know, I escaped from them and it is very, very dangerous time.
BURNETT: And I know that you have an application, what we call a SIV, the special immigrant visa and you have that to leave the country. You've provided as part of that, Ahmad, an incredible amount of evidence about what the Taliban has done, the threats they have made against you and your family.
What can you tell me about the threats you've received and what they're shying they'll do to you?
AHMAD: Well, to be honest, you know, the people we have worked with the U.S. organizations or (INAUDIBLE) Taliban call those people as traitors. So far, Taliban say traitors and the sentence for the traitors is death, beheading, actually.
Yeah, I have seen, you know, the things on Facebook and social media that they behead interpreters and people who work for the U.S. So if the Taliban catch me or any other interpreter or person who worked for the U.S., you will be dead. You will be died. You will be died.
And the worst thing, you know, after killing the person, they take the wife or sister with them and take them with them, actually.
That is really bad. That is what makes me uncomfortable, actually and really disappointed about this.
BURNETT: Ahmad, do you feel abandoned by the American troops knowing you may be left behind?
AHMAD: I'm left behind I'm sure and, you know, in the organization around 80 people and we are all left behind. Instead of help, the people who didn't work for the U.S. even for a day, some of those people got out. I don't how they got out. How they boarded on the flight and they are in Qatar and U.S., but the people who worked and put their life in danger on the line, they're still here.
BURNETT: Ahmad, thank you very much for talking to me. I hope that they hear this, and against -- hope against hope that you are able to get out here in these next few days. Thank you very much for sharing everything with me.
AHMAD: Thank you so much for (INAUDIBLE). Appreciate it. Thank you, ma'am.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, new worries tonight about violence that could be sparked by a rally in support of jailed Capitol rioters as Capitol Hill police officers sue Trump over the January 6th insurrection.
And we're learning more about Rylee McCollum, a marine that made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
BURNETT: Tonight, new concerns about violence on Capitol Hill. Law enforcement officials ramping up security ahead of two major rallies. One on 9/11 and another September 18th to support the Capitol rioters who are currently behind bars. This comes as seven U.S. Capitol police officers announced a new lawsuit against President Trump, several right wing extremist and more than a dozen alleged rioters who stormed the capital on January 6th.
The lawsuit saying Trump and his allies encouraged and supported acts of violence, knowing full well that among his supporters were extremist groups and individuals like Proud Boys who demonstrated their propensity to the use of violence.
OUTFRONT now is Ed Caspar. He is one of the lawyers representing those officers.
And, Ed, thank you for being with me tonight.
So your lawsuit focuses heavily on Trump's actions both on but also before January 6th. Why are you specifically focused on the former president?
ED CASPAR, SENIOR COUNSEL, LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: Well, Erin, what you have to understand is that these plaintiffs have 150 years of service to their country and to protecting the Congress and the capital. And when they showed up on January 6th to do their job, they were brutally attacked by a mob of thousands. They saw their colleagues beaten and trampled and bloodied, and it was
extremely traumatic. They're bringing this case so that this kind of thing will never happen again. And they know that the best way to make sure it doesn't happen again is to hold these defendants accountable for what they did.
BURNETT: So I want to talk about these officers, rights? Some of the ones you're representing are sharing their stories for the first time. We have not heard them speak. One of them is Officer Latson, a black officer who experienced racist attacks as he was trying to secure the Senate chamber. I want to share with people what your lawsuits says. I quote from it.
Attackers then breached the Senate chamber, physically assaulted Officer Latson and hurled racial slurs at him, including the N-word. Officer Latson suffered physical injury from being physically struck by attackers and by exposure to pepper pray, bear spray, fire extinguishers and other pollutants sprayed by attackers.
Can you tell me more about him and what he went through on January 6th?
CASPAR: Officer Latson is like the rest of these Capitol police officers who served on January 6th. Look, these seven officers are just like me. They have families. They are private citizens. They showed up to work to do their job, and they were brutally attacked.
And what you have to understand is that what the defendants tried to do was to take away the votes of 155 million people and to install their own man in office through violence. Other clients know that in the United States, we chose our own government and we choose it with votes, not violence. And that's why they're bringing this case to make sure that doesn't happen again.
So, Ed, let me talk to you about the former president. Trump has not responded to our request for comment on your lawsuit, but his lawyers in similar lawsuits they have argued consistently that he has absolute immunity for official actions taken while he was in office and they claim that his comments, whatever they were, comments about the election, are shielded by the First Amendment.
What is your response to that argument?
CASPAR: Well, we sued defendant Trump in his personal capacity. He has no presidential immunity for what he did. Our case is probably the most well-supported, the most comprehensive and the strongest case to arise out of the Capitol. All of the cases so far are very important, and they all support each other.
But this case is going to be prosecuted vigorously and we are very confident that Trump and the other defendants will be held responsible for what they did.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Ed, I appreciate your time tonight. And next, we have learned some more about Rylee McCollum in just the
few moments. The 20-year-old marine from Wyoming who was born just months before 9/11.
BURNETT: We want to end tonight's program with more on Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, the 20-year-old marine from Wyoming who has just been identified as 1 of the 13 service members killed in Kabul.
We have pictures of McCollum. We want to show them to you so you can see the face of this son, brother and husband. His grieving sister says he was on his first deployment. He was manning the check point when he was killed in the suicide attack. His dad telling "The New York Times" that he just knew when he heard about the bombing.
Rylee was 20 years old. He was nine months old on September 11th, nine months old, a little baby. And his wife will have their baby, it will be his first and only child, in just a few weeks. He was, quote, a beautiful soul, according to his father who also told "The Times" that Rylee loved America, loved the military, tough as nails with a heart of gold.
Rylee McCollum was hailed as a hero by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and by all of us who thank him for that ultimate service and sacrifice and service to his country that he gave yesterday with his colleagues.
Thank you so much for joining us.
It's time now for "AC360".