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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.S. Sending New Troops Help with Kabul Embassy Drawdown; FDA Approves 3rd Vaccine Dose for Immunocompromised People; Fields of Dreams Faceoff. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 05:00   ET



WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. It is Friday, August 13. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thank you so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Whitney Wild, in for Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Great to have you here all week. Thanks so much for your help, Whitney.

And I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

In a dramatic decision, the Biden administration is rushing 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to help with a major withdrawal of civilian diplomatic personnel from the embassy in Kabul. The U.S. is also urging all American citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately as the security situation there swiftly deteriorates.

The Taliban have now seized 14 out of 34 provincial capitals including two that fell overnight. This rapid Taliban gain comes just weeks before U.S. troops are scheduled to finish a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. The State Department says embassy staff are also being drawn down to a core diplomatic presence.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Let me be very clear about this, the embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan. This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal.


WILD: The Pentagon insists that even with the surge of troops, the overall military withdrawal is still on track to be completed by the end of August. But many observers say this decision reflects the reality that the Taliban is advancing much faster than U.S. officials expected.


LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Things are right now dire, the Afghan government is dysfunctional. The Afghan national army even some of the better forces are finding themselves surrounded. It will be an extremely tough fight, much tougher than many people thought it would be.


WILD: International security editor Nick Paton Walsh joins us live.

So, Nick, so what do you think the new plan means and what is the signal -- and I have to ask, what do you think the U.S. miscalculated here?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The U.S. high school calculation has been clear and I think many officials were fully aware of decade long deceit, that they were up to the job of holding back the insurgency. That fallacy has collapsed. Not that brave soldiers are sacrificing themselves daily, but they are not the number that Joe Biden talked about a matter of days ago, 300,000 simply not here, haven't done that job.

And that would be I think history will reflect upon that as one of the key tenants of how Afghanistan was lost by the United States. This deployment does two things. I think temporarily 3,000 marines into Kabul airport with the air cover that will doubtless come with brings a slight security blanket to parts of the capital. They will of course be near the embassy as well and that encompasses a fair bit of the capital which at this stage is still very much in government hands. I have to tell you atmosphere of panic is palpable even here in London from people I'm exchanging messages with.

But over this next two to three-week period as the Americans try to do the very difficult task in what may well become a warzone with a lot of very desperate Afghans trying to get the same thing, which is a plane out, they will find that task difficult but it is supposed to come to an end by September. That is the big question, do we then see an extraordinary scene of the Americans upping stakes and saying that we're off and leaving who is left in Kabul on the government side to deal with wherever the Taliban are at that stage, that is the specter of what we're looking at potentially in the next two to three weeks.

Before that, it is a practical job of the safe extraction of their diplomats and it seems thousands of people who worked with the U.S., but we are being look being at quite an looking at quite an extra few weeks ahead of us.

WILD: Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in London, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in Air Force Colonel, Cedric Leighton, CNN military analyst and former member of the Pentagon Joint Staff.

Sir, Colonel, thank you so much for joining us.

You know, I want to play what the president said last month. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The jury is still out, but the likelihood there is going to be Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.


ROMANS: Colonel, should the Biden administration have planned better for this?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Whitney, absolutely. This is one of those classic cases where we were blinded by what we would like to have happen instead of what is actually happening. And in this particular case, unfortunately, President Biden was wrong. Basically almost inevitable that things will get very, very bad very quickly here and that the remaining areas including Kabul are very much at risk of being overwhelmed by the Taliban.


WILD: Colonel, do you think this is at all reversible? How long do you think the Taliban can hold on to these cities and is there any ground to be won here by the Afghan government? What is the plan now?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think that, is anything reversible? Yes, it is, but it would require a large commitment of American troops to do this. The Afghan military as Nick mentioned is really not up to speed in terms of being able to resist the Taliban. They are not fighting for a cause. They are fighting for their lives.

And in this particular case, they don't think that the Afghan military is going to be an organization that they can be a part of. And it is very unfortunate because we spent a lot of time and money and blood, sweat and tears training the Afghan military.

But it is nowhere near the strength that people think it is on paper, about 300,000, most of those have melted away, there are a few pockets of some really brave fighters there. But they are not going to be able to hold what I think is the inevitable fall of Kabul.

ROMANS: Yeah, and you talk so much about the corruption that has been so hard to fight within the ranks, hard for cohesion when you have corruption. And that's something America has been working on for years. What is so heartbreaking, you look at the names of these provincial capitals that are falling, and we lost American lives in those capitals defending those areas, trying to take those areas and protect people in those areas, over 20 years. These are household names some of these small towns that we're talking about.

So on that level, it is just tragic to watch this. And also for the Afghan women and children, for the hundreds of thousands of refugees, describe to me what the situation is for the civilians at this point.

LEIGHTON: Well, Christine, it is really desperate for them unfortunately. Women and children are the first victims of wars like this. And unfortunately, they have absolutely nothing to fall back on. There is no safety net at this particular point in time. There are few efforts by U.N. and U.N.-related allegations and other NGOs to actually help these people. But in a warzone like this, that aid could stop almost immediately and we're looking at a really big humanitarian crisis here. We already have I think over 390,000 refugees leaving Afghanistan just as part of this particular effort.

And if we remember what happened before 2001, before September 11th, there were millions of Afghans who were refugees in neighboring countries and around the world and I think that we'll see a replay of this unfortunately. And yes, all of these names, Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, every single place that you can think of in Afghanistan, there is American blood there and that is a real sad situation.

ROMANS: Ghazni, Kunduz, Kandahar, every time you hear one of these names, you just -- just 20 years of history there.

All right. Thank you so much, sir. Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, CNN military analyst, really nice to see you this morning. Thank you for your insight.


ROMANS: All right. Eight minutes past the hour.

Right wing media working real hard to portray President Biden's economic agenda as -- in the words of one opinion host yesterday, a killer of ambition and hope. But a new Fox News poll finds Americans are on board with the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. Sixty-two percent of Americans support that deal.

Breaking down the number, Democrats overwhelmingly support investing in infrastructure in that deal followed by most independents and some Republicans. The bill still faces challenges in the House. But public support is good news for supporters of the package.

Among them, Bill Gates. The billionaire has pledged $1.5 billion over the next three years to climate projects in the infrastructure bill. The package has more than $100 billion dedicated to addressing climate change with money for electric buses, sweeping programs that address extreme weather.

Gates said Thursday public/private partnerships will help speed up deployment of technology being used to lower carbon emissions.

WILD: All right. Breaking overnight, the FDA authorizing extra COVID shots for some immunocompromised Americans. More on that coming up.



WILD: The FDA has now authorized an additional COVID dose for certain immunocompromised Americans. That includes organ transplants recipients and others with weakened immune systems.

More now from CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Whitney, we're probably talking about 9 million people or so who would fall into this category of being immunocompromised. People who are recently off of chemotherapy or taking chemo for cancer, people who are taking medications to prevent rejection of their organ transplants, HIV patients, it could be people who take medications because they have autoimmune disorders. We're going to look for specificity on what exactly immunocompromised means and who qualifies.

But I think what is really driving this is two-fold, one is that we know that people who are immunocompromised, their immune systems can't make as many antibodies. Sometimes they don't make any antibodies. But I think more importantly, because the immune systems is not just antibodies, they also wanted to see are those people who are immunocompromised and vaccinated, are they more likely to get sick than anyone else who is vaccinated. And what they found is that they do get sick, 485 times more likely to be hospitalized or die if you are immunocompromised and vaccinated versus otherwise.


So, that was significant. I also want to show you, at the data around antibodies, this is important because this is something that they are measuring and they found that, you know, organ transplant recipients, you see the bar on the left, they got some antibody response on average after two shots, but that third shot gave them significant neutralizing antibodies and that should be really, really protected.

And so I think this that this is pretty clear data on why the third shots, and they really shouldn't be called boosters, guys, because they are not boosting as much as offering another shot of protection that really does seem to make a difference for them.

What does it mean for everybody else? I don't think that it is clear yet. I think the big sort of question for everyone else, people who have healthy immune systems and are vaccinated, are people developing severe breakthrough infections. We know people will develop infections post-vaccination, that happens, but are they also ending up in the hospital, and even -- you know, requiring severe serious care or dying, that's going to be a signal.

Haven't seen that yet in the United States. We may follow the path of what is happening in Israel. But that key ingredient is -- are the vaccines actually failing among the healthy vaccinated? And thankfully we haven't seen that yet. We'll keep an eye on things and get back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Sanjay, thank you so much.

Vaccinations will soon be required for more than 25,000 health care workers and volunteers at the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary Javier Becerra said the mandate will take effect by the end of September. It applies to employees, contractors, trainees and volunteers whose duties put them in contact with patients at an HHS medical or research facility.

WILD: Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has rejected a request seeking to block Indiana University's vaccine mandate. Barrett's action marks the first time justices have been asked to weigh in on the legality of a vaccine mandate to stop the spread of coronavirus. Indiana University students are required to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester, that is happening August 23rd.

ROMANS: And we know there is Supreme Court precedent that vaccine mandates are lawful.

The Supreme Court blocking part of a New York state law aimed at protecting renters from eviction during the coronavirus pandemic. The provision of the state eviction moratorium allows tenants to self certified that they are experiencing financial hardship and preventing the landlord from contesting it. The state moratorium expires at the end of the month. The current federal eviction moratorium remains in place until October 3rd.

WILD: A call to action Thursday, President Biden accused drug makers of, quote, jacking up prices and urged Congress to intervene. Biden calling on Congress to pass legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies and punish drugmakers that increase prices faster than inflation.


BIDEN: I think it is safe to say that all of us, whatever our background or our age, where we live, can agree that prescription drug prices are outrageously expensive in America. Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, they don't care if you are a Democrat or Republican. This is about whether or not you and your loved ones can afford the prescription drugs you need.


WILD: Biden's remarks come as he tries to promote the American families plan that is a $3.5 trillion spending package focused on family services, health and education.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you build it, they will come.


ROMANS: More than 30 years after the movie, the Yankees and the White Sox face off in a real life field of dreams in Iowa and it ends, oh, my gosh, with a home run into the corn. It was awesome. The highlights, next.



ROMANS: I'm going to tell you, it lived up to the hype. The Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and Yankees in an Iowa cornfield literally a home run.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report."

It was awesome.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Christine, this is one of the coolest things to ever happen in baseball, probably in all of sports. It sounded like a great idea on paper when they thought of it, I tell you, it turned out even better.

A little less than 8,000 fans on hand to watch the first ever baseball game in Iowa, the new stadium built next to the iconic movie set from the "Field of Dreams." and Kevin Costner started the night coming out of the cornfield, he walked around holding a baseball and then the players would emerge from the crops in a moment that just gives you the chills. Players wearing throwback uniforms. A hot air balloon was also flying around mid game.

I mean, everything about this was just awesome. Including the actual game. Yankees down 7-4 entering the ninth, Aaron Judge sending his second home run of the game in the crops to pull them within one and then Giancarlo Stanton gets a hold of this one, and that gives the Yankees a one run lead.

Fast forward bottom of the ninth, Tim Anderson knew it right away. A walk-off home run, just a Hollywood ending to an amazing game. White sox win 9-8.


TIM ANDERSON, CHICAGO WHITE SOX SHORTSTOP: To be able to walk it off is definitely one of my best moments of my career for sure. First time here, in Field of Dreams, you know, to be able to make a memory like this is definitely leaving a mark. Fans came to see a show and we gave them a show tonight.

AARON BOONE, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: That was as special and breathtaking a setting for a baseball game that I can ever remember being a part of.


When we took the field when we walked out through the cornfields and seeing the stadium and just the perfection of the night, Kevin Costner standing out there in short center field, that's probably a moment that I'll remember the rest of my life.


SCHOLES: Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred who came up with the idea for the game said that they will be doing it again next season.

Patriots fans getting their first look at rookie quarterback Mac Jones last night, team's preseason opener against Washington. First round draft pick nearly getting his first touchdown pass in the second quarter, perfect throw to Christian Wilkerson, but he couldn't haul it in. Jones looking pretty good his first action. Cam Newton for now is the Patriots starter. They won the game 22-13.

All right. The New Orleans Saints meanwhile will open at full capacity this season, but only to fans who provide proof of vaccination or negative COVID test taken 72 hours before the game. The city of New Orleans enacted new rules yesterday for entertainment venues and indoor facilities to curb the spread of the virus. The mayor had already reinstated the mask mandate two weeks ago. New measures go in effect on Monday and will be enforced at the Saints preseason home opener on August 25th.

All right. And finally, NBA star Andre Drummond leaping into action to save his 2-year-old son after he fell into their pool. You see Drummond going in fully clothed to grab him out.

He tweeted the video saying every parent's worst nightmare. Likely everyone was okay. But you know, just a reminder just how quick that can happen. As someone who has a 3-year-old son, I know that has been one of my worst nightmares.

ROMANS: They are tricky. Those little kids are fast.

WILD: They are so fast.

ROMANS: Yeah, they will get into trouble if they can. That is for sure. Good save from him.

All right. Andy, nice to see you this morning.

SCHOLES: All right. Have a good one.

ROMANS: You too. This quick programming note, join CNN for "We Love New York City", the homecoming concert. It's a once in a lifetime concern event, Saturday, August 21st, exclusive on CNN.

WILD: The population of white Americans is shrinking and our country is more diverse than ever before. We break down the census numbers. That's coming up next.