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First Move with Julia Chatterley
Taliban Grant Amnesty for Former Government Employees; Joe Biden's Buck Stops Here Approach Criticized on Capitol Hill; China Says it will Work with the U.S. for a Soft Landing in Afghanistan while Russian Foreign Minister Says Taliban Sending Positive Signal. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 17, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CNN Breaking News.
JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: Welcome to FIRST MOVE and we begin with the latest from Afghanistan.
Evacuation flights from Kabul Airport have restarted after the dispersal of thousands of Afghan civilians desperately crowding the runway in a bid to
escape. The Taliban have a brutal legacy and many Afghan citizens are terrified of the return to life under their rule.
For the moment though, the militants are trying to project a new image. They've granted all employees of the former government amnesty. A
spokesperson also told CNN that the group will not seek retribution against those who worked with coalition forces or international organizations.
Clarissa Ward has been reporting from the streets of Kabul witnessing the Taliban takeover firsthand. She described the situation a short while ago
to my colleagues.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, the Taliban came out yesterday afternoon and basically told all government workers that they
could return to their posts today.
So, for the first time, we saw traffic policemen out on the streets. We saw markets, as you saw we did the last live shot with you in a crowded market,
there is a sense that there's more activity on the streets, more shops that are now open, more government workers going back to their post because the
Taliban wants to show that it can govern, that it can -- it is not just a fighting force, but that they can keep the lights on.
And this is how they are doing it basically. I'm just going to step out of the shot and you can maybe take a slightly closer look. These are Taliban
fighters just behind me. They are on an old Humvee. Those Humvees traditionally associated here with the NDS which is Afghanistan's
equivalent of the C.I.A. You could see, they are all quite keen to pose for the camera because they are in pretty good spirits right now.
They see themselves as being the victors in all this, and they see this as an opportunity for them to project a new image on the world stage, and I
will say that in terms of the security situation, it is having an impact.
The streets of Kabul are largely calm. That's partly because there are men like this on almost every other street corner, and it's also partly because
people are petrified. I have been getting phone calls all morning non-stop, people who work for the U.N., people who work for the U.S. military,
translators, NGO workers who are so desperately afraid now of what will happen next as the U.S. completes this round of evacuations with chaos at
the airport, what's their opportunity? What's their path out? What does their future look like? No answer to those questions at the moment.
CHATTERLEY: Clarissa Ward there in Kabul.
Now, President Biden admitted on Monday that the fall of Afghanistan took place quicker than he anticipated, but he also staunchly defended his
decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country. He says, the U.S. simply could not stay in Afghanistan forever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight
Afghanistan's Civil War when afghan troops will not? How many more lives -- American lives, is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at
Arlington National Cemetery?
I'm clear on my answer. I will not repeat the mistakes we've made in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHATTERLEY: President Biden's "buck stops here" quote approach has received a critical reaction on Capitol Hill and presents Democrats with a
sizable political challenge.
John Harwood joins us now from the White House. John, good to see you.
There is a difference between when you leave Afghanistan and how you leave Afghanistan, and I think the President was pretty eloquent explaining the
first things, but he failed to address questions, criticisms on the latter and now officials are recognizing, I think, that their competency is being
questioned, severely questioned.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Julia, their competence is being questioned for good reason. Those images that we saw on
television yesterday were absolutely nightmarish for any Commander-in- Chief, the idea of the American forces in effect fleeing from Afghanistan.
The challenge for the administration and a test of their competence, as you indicated is going to be if they can turn from a short-term humiliation
into something different in the long term, and that's still before them. The test of that is whether they can in fact control the airport and
execute this large-scale evacuation of tens of thousands of both American citizens and Afghans who helped the United States and their families.
HARWOOD: That's easier to do with people who were in Kabul, of course, than for people elsewhere in the country who would have to get past Taliban
checkpoints to get to Kabul. But the administration has the opportunity, if they can execute that, to change the conclusions that most Americans will
draw from this.
The President's message, broadly speaking about getting out of Afghanistan is popular with the public. He acknowledged that the situation deteriorated
quicker than he thought. He didn't quite connect that to "the buck stops with me" question. Probably, people watching that took more of a message of
a President who was defiant about criticism than one who was acknowledging criticism.
Nevertheless, the test is the evacuation in the near term, and John Kirby, The Pentagon spokesman was out this morning, telling our colleague, John
Berman on CNN "New Day" that more than 5,000 people per day could be evacuated.
Well, if you sustain that for a couple of weeks, you can get a lot of people out. We'll see if they can do it.
CHATTERLEY: Yes, and that would mean that they can hit that evacuation date by the 31st of August, too. But the questions are going to remain and
are going to continue to be asked about the apparent disconnect, as you've pointed to between the White House's expectations of how this would play
out and the reality on the ground.
But John, is that what it comes down to for American voters? As long as all the Americans can get out of Afghanistan, if they can get those that
helped, in a best case scenario, those that helped the Americans out as well, actually an ensuing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan matters little
HARWOOD: Well, there are multiple layers to this, and it obviously depends on events that have unfolded yet. The worst case scenario is if you botch
the withdrawal, and we see the Taliban slaughter thousands of people, which they are capable of doing, it has not happened yet.
In the longer term, then there's the question about what happens to women in Afghanistan? How did the Taliban conduct itself on that score? And also
whether terror threats get reconstituted in a dangerous way?
The latter, the terrorist threat is something that I think is probably less likely in a dangerous way for the United States than the problems for women
in Afghanistan, which is almost a certainty. The question is, how do the American people process that? Their most immediate concern is the cost in
blood and treasure to Americans, and then other things depend on the scale and how much people see of those problems?
CHATTERLEY: John Harwood, great to have you with us. Thank you for your perspective.
So, challenge to some, an opportunity perhaps for others. China said today it is willing to work with the United States to avoid a humanitarian
debacle in Afghanistan and to prevent the country from once again becoming a launch pad for terrorism.
Chinese state media also attempting to use the crisis to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its allies by questioning America's security
Steven Jiang joins us now from Beijing, Steven. No one wants a hotbed for future terrorism, whether you're the United States or China, but it has
played into the hands of the Chinese in some sense that they can point the finger and say, look -- to American allies -- if you get into trouble in
the future, America is not going to be there to support you, and that's certainly coming across from Chinese state media.
STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR BUREAU PRODUCER: That's right, Julia. It's interesting, because publicly, the Chinese government has been putting on a
very brave face, saying they respect the will and choice of the Afghan people and saying they have been in contact with the Taliban leadership.
And indeed, the Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has just spoken to Tony Blinken, as you mentioned, he actually met with a co-founder of the Afghan
Taliban and a senior leader just a few weeks ago here in China.
And during that meeting, he described the Taliban as a major political and military force in the country that could play an important role in
Now, this kind of conciliatory gesture is interesting because in the past, officials and state media here have also described the Taliban as a
terrorist organization. But as you mentioned, it is worth noting the state media coverage of the takeover of the country by the Taliban because many
platforms, especially online platforms have been cheering this victory, and they are saying, this is a turning point, quote,-unquote, "turning point"
in the decline of American hegemony with one very prominent newspaper editor saying this again, as you mentioned, shows how unreliable the U.S.
is, abandoning its allies, and at the most critical moments.
JIANG: And this of course is being used as an example to warn Taiwan that is a self-rule democracy, also a U.S. ally, but considered to be a
breakaway province by Beijing that has always threatened to take it back by force.
Now, all of this propaganda notwithstanding, though, there is some very serious concern both on the security and economic front from Beijing,
because remember, Afghanistan and China do share a border, although that's a relatively short one, and according to the Chinese a very, very secure
But that's the reason, Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister, both during his meeting with the Taliban leader, but also during the call with Tony Blinken
mentioned this group called East Turkistan Islamic Movement, ETIM, because that's a Uighur Islamic organization whose ultimate goal is to set up an
independent state in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
In the past, officials and state media have said, Uighur fighters have been trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan in preparation to launch attacks here
inside China. So this, of course, is going to be a major concern top priority for them now with the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan in terms of
the potential movement of people, ideology, especially trained fighters into China.
But also, of course, don't forget, China has increasingly ambitious investments across the region with its Belt and Road Initiative with a lot
of huge infrastructure projects that have also increasingly become targets for terrorist groups.
More recently, we have seen more than a dozen Chinese workers being killed by a suicide bomb just last month by a local affiliate of the Afghan
Taliban in Pakistan. So, all of this is really a lot at stake for the Beijing leadership here that is why they keep emphasizing right now, the
key in Afghanistan is to establish stability -- Julia.
CHATTERLEY: An incredibly complex relationship among many. Steven Jiang there, thank you so much for that.
On now to Russia, who says the Taliban is sending quote, "a positive signal" with their assurances so far, that according to state media,
quoting Foreign Minister Lavrov, "Moscow has no plans to evacuate its embassy." And the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan says Kabul seems safer
since the Taliban took control.
Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Moscow. Fred, the statement from the Foreign Minister calls on all parties to refrain from violence. But I
couldn't help but notice what appears to be a jab there that this transfer of power, quote, "as a result of the almost complete absence of resistance
from the National Armed Forces trained by the United States and its allies."
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you're absolutely right, Julia. I think, there certainly is a jab towards the
United States, and I think some pretty clear jabs actually.
If we look at the past 24 hours, you get the envoy of Russia to Afghanistan, saying that, look, when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, at
least the government they left behind lasted for three years, whereas the one that the U.S. left behind didn't even stay in power or didn't even last
until the official withdrawal date.
The Russians are also quite frankly, accusing the U.S. of sowing some of that chaos that we've seen over the past 24 hours or so at the Kabul
Airport, saying that the fact that the U.S. withdrew so quickly, and so hastily, also may have led to some of that. And as you, the Russians are
saying they believe that right now, things are calming down and that the situation is stabilizing in Kabul, at least. And certainly the Russians
really are keeping a close eye on how things evolve.
They haven't abandoned their embassy. They say that their embassy is continuing to function.
It was quite interesting to see those remarks just now from Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister, this was the first time that we've heard from the
Foreign Minister about Afghanistan, since of course, the events have accelerated so much.
And on the one hand, he does say that they have seen some positive signals, but the Russians are also saying it is premature right now to draw any sort
of conclusions, and to think about what this could mean long term, politically.
Of course, here in Russia, the Taliban are still a banned organization. At the same time, the Russians for a very long time have been talking to the
Taliban, and they do say they are going to see how they move forward with this with possibly very soon, a new power center and possibly a new
government being in place in Afghanistan; and certainly, the Russians are keeping a very open mind to that.
I think one of the things that Moscow, one has to say is probably benefiting from right now is that they have had a very long term strategy,
as far as Afghanistan is concerned for a very long time. They started talks with the Taliban, they started speaking with the Taliban, and now they say
they're in a fairly comfortable position, as far as the security of their embassy is concerned.
But of course, also as far as the wider region is concerned, as well, Russia, of course, very much situated in this region very close to
countries like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that do have borders with Afghanistan, but the Russians are saying so far, they are not seeing any
spillover destabilization of those countries and they believe that at this point in time, the situation really is very much under control -- Julia.
CHATTERLEY: Yes, and in Russia's defense, they are not the only country that's criticizing the United States for at least, the short term case that
we've seen evolve and play out in Afghanistan.
Fred, great to have you with us. Thank you, Fred Pleitgen there.
President Biden fighting back as he faces mounting criticism over the fall of Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHATTERLEY: Coming up next, we'll be joined by Eurasia Group President, Ian Bremmer to discuss the implications.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
CHATTERLEY: The Secretary General of NATO was speaking now about the situation in Afghanistan, Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to allow
all those who want to leave to be allowed to do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: Operations at the airport are now gradually resuming. And during today's meeting, allies announced that
they are sending additional airplanes.
We also maintained our diplomatic presence. Our senior Civilian Representative, Ambassador Pontecorvo and his team have been working
closely with allies and the rest of the international community to coordinate and facilitate the evacuation. And we remain committed to
completing evacuations including our Afghan colleagues as soon as possible.
The Taliban must respect and facilitate the safe departure of all those who wish to leave. The airport as well as roads and border crossings must be
All Afghan men, women, and children is sure to live in safety and dignity. There must be a peaceful transfer of power to an inclusive government with
no revenge or retribution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHATTERLEY: NATO has been part of the mission in Afghanistan since its beginning in 2001, and Stoltenberg has just said they never planned to stay
Joining us now is Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. Ian, great to have you with us.
They never planned to stay there forever, echoing what President Biden said yesterday, it's time to leave. But I said it on the show earlier, and I'll
say it again, there's a huge difference between saying when you're going to leave and how you going to leave. How did this go so wrong?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT OF EURASIA GROUP AND GZERO MEDIA: I couldn't agree with you more, Julia. I thought that President Biden was very compelling in
explaining why it was time for the Americans to leave, and he was on the right side of that argument in opposing the surge under the Obama
administration when he was Vice President. He is not new to being a skeptic of this forever war.
But if you had listened to his speech yesterday, you would have thought that the events of the last 72 hours simply had not occurred and that he
had done nothing wrong. He said the buck stops with him, but there was no responsibility taken directly for -- I mean, you know, you've seen the
chaos on the ground, the Taliban taking over the United States evacuating its embassy, the American acting Ambassador fleeing out of the country,
while thousands of Americans, maybe 10,000 Americans are still trapped on the ground in Afghanistan.
And of course, those visuals that we all saw with an American transport plane and Afghans, literally huddling and tying themselves and falling to
their deaths as the plane took off, that's on Biden, too. And it is a failure of Intelligence, in terms of a lack of understanding of the
capabilities and willingness of the political leadership and military in Afghanistan to stand up.
It is a lack of planning for what happens if your scenarios go wrong, and it's a lack of communications of honesty with the American people and with
allies around the world who are deeply disappointed with a Biden administration that they felt would be much more multilateral, especially
on an issue where the allies have been fighting with the Americans for 20 years now.
But the decision on how and when to leave was made unilaterally by the Americans, and that's not the way you treat your allies, frankly.
CHATTERLEY: No. Do you think it throws into question the broader Intelligence capabilities there? I mean, the Biden administration says they
have the, you know, the Intelligence capabilities to detect threats to the United States of America.
I just -- I wonder whether that's still credible in light of the fact that there was a seemingly total lack of appreciation of the infectious
psychological blow to the Afghan forces knowing that no one was coming to help, no one was going to provide further supplies, no one was going to
provide air support. How can that not have been appreciated? Or was that Intelligence perhaps provided and simply wasn't listened to? The disconnect
to me is sort of mind boggling.
BREMMER: Well, I mean, I think a couple of things are going on. First, if you have the U.S. military that is arguing that the Taliban are capable of
standing up by themselves and for themselves, and that's one of the reasons why you can say the United States can actually leave, it's harder to at the
same time, deliver the mixed message up, but it might all fall apart.
So, I think that there was part of that. And I also think that the Biden administration was pretty stuck in to -- we've already -- we have no choice
but to leave because of where the Trump administration has already led us in terms of the significant drawdown of troops as well as the engagement
with the Taliban that was much strengthened.
But your point, the key point here is that even if you have all sorts of path dependency pushing you towards, we've got to cut and run, we are out
of here, and it's going to look ugly. Like no matter how well Biden orchestrated this, the Taliban was still going to take over. The lives of
the average Afghans were going to end up the same as they are right now.
But the allies and the Americans and the Afghans that have worked with the Americans, that's a very different story, and there is already blood on the
hands of the Biden administration just from yesterday, because the Intelligence and the planning failures were so bad. There will be
Unfortunately, the U.S. is so incredibly partisan right now. I mean, if the Democrats can't run an investigation that is fair and bipartisan into
January 6 because the Republicans won't let them, the Republicans surely won't be able to run an investigation into the Biden failure of this
pullout, because the Democrats won't let them.
And so, I mean, truly the U.S. today, by far, Julia, the most powerful country in the world, still on the back of Kabul, that hasn't changed at
all, but also the most politically dysfunctional of the advanced democracies, and we're just not going to be able to give a fair accounting
to what has transpired over the last 72 hours.
CHATTERLEY: Does that blood on the hands then wash away? I mean, the optics over the short term, the 20th anniversary of September the 11th, we
are going to see celebrations in Afghanistan, U.S. equipment on display. The Pentagon yesterday not being able to account for what's going to happen
to American equipment, American weaponry, for example. Does any of that criticism weigh domestically on Biden? Do voters care? I guess, I am asking
about humanitarian causes.
BREMMER: Voters care, right -- voters care right now, Julia, this is a huge story. And a lot of both Republicans and Democrats are calling the
Biden administration out. But you can already see the efforts of the hardcore Biden supporters saying that this was the best speech they'd ever
seen yesterday, you know, kind of like Trump supporters was saying about the Trump speech.
And I think as long as you don't see Americans getting killed, this is not going to be a big voter issue in 2022 or 2024. So, I think that the
blowback in the United States, I still think that the $3.5 trillion in infrastructure support gets through. I mean, for the average American that
matters a lot more than the debacle in Kabul.
That's very different, of course, than the way the allies respond, the way the Chinese respond, the way the Russians respond. But Julia, I want to be
very clear that speech that Biden gave yesterday made it seem as if what he had done was already finished. In other words, that we're looking at this
conflict in the rearview mirror.
BREMMER: There are still thousands of Americans on the ground in Afghanistan, and if we end up in a hostage-type situation, if these
Americans die, if this becomes an ongoing set of American headlines for months, and you and I are still talking about this in September and October
and November, this will destroy Biden's presidency.
And I don't think that that is a likely scenario, but it's not one percent. And the very fact that that is even on the table today, it shows you how
staggeringly bad the implementation of this policy actually was.
CHATTERLEY: Let's talk about the international aspect of this, too. And you mentioned China specifically. There have been various tweets from what
is an essentially state media in China pointing at Taiwan and saying, look, this is what happens when you think America is an ally, you get into
trouble and they don't come to your aid.
Do you think China really thinks the calculus as far as Taiwan has changed in any way as a result of what they've decided to do over, over
BREMMER: No, no, but they see a propaganda opportunity. They see the ability to lean into the Americans on their heels right now given how badly
Kabul has gone. And if you are a member of the Taiwanese government, or a member of the Taiwanese public, you probably are a little bit more
concerned about how long standing the American commitment to you is actually going to be.
But let's be clear, this isn't like Taiwan. It's like Ukraine.
In Ukraine, the United States and the Europeans basically told them, yes, we know, we said that we would defend your territorial integrity back when
you gave up your nuclear weapons, but we don't really care about you. We're not letting you into NATO. We're not letting you into the European Union.
And so by the way, when Russia takes Crimea and then invades Southeast Ukraine, we will, you know, we'll sanction them, but we're not really going
to defend you. We don't care.
Georgia, same thing. Taiwan is not that. Taiwan is actually a principal national security interest of the United States. If China takes Taiwan, we
don't have semiconductors in the United States. And I promise you, not only will the Americans respond for that national interest, because that is a
foreign policy for the American middle class, but the Chinese government is well aware of this.
So, let's recognize the Chinese state media is very good at propaganda. They are very good at posturing, they understand that they have a political
win here that they can lean into, that's very different than them planning to suddenly take out the Americans in Taiwan.
CHATTERLEY: It makes perfect sense to me. Talk to me about Europe as well, because there have been varying degrees of withering responses from the
Europeans. We weren't consulted on the timing of the execution of this decision. Also, I think, Europe, staring down the barrel of the threat of
this becoming a rallying cry for other extremists around the world and potentially a hotbed, also the risk of another refugee crisis, too. How
likely the two of those things?
BREMMER: Well, I mean, Biden's speech yesterday, let's imagine how the Europeans would have listened to it. You know, we're done, we are out. This
isn't a priority for us.
There aren't many Afghan refugees that are trying to get the United States. There are a lot of them that are going to end up in Europe. They will end
up in Turkey, they'll end up in the E.U. that is why you see the French president, the German Chancellor, and others talking about that in the last
couple of days. It's a big deal for them.
They were not consulted. The decision that was made to end the U.S. military intervention, the longest war in U.S. history. We fought it with
all of our allies. We left alone. And they were told about the decision, but the policy review that was made was purely internal within the Biden
administration. And if you're an American ally that was requested to fight on behalf of the U.S. after 9/11 for 20 years and you spent money and you
lost lives, and you were informed by the Americans of that, whether it's Trump or Biden, how do you think you feel about that?
BREMMER: Another small one for you, Julia. This weekend, the acting American Ambassador to Afghanistan left -- left the country, and the
British Ambassador is still on the ground and trying to help the Brits get out of the country. It's a small thing. It's a simple thing, but it hurts.
It hurts that there was no coordination on any of these issues.
And, you know, I mean, I'll take one other thing. We now -- just this morning, I heard a completely separate issue. The World Health
Organization, telling the Americans do not give everyone in your country boosters before the rest of the world has even gotten their first shot. And
we're not talking just the immunocompromised, we're talking everyone in the United States going to be rolled out -- Biden will talk about that this
This is the same issue. Biden is President of the United States for the American people, but the level of indifference to allies and the average
citizen outside the U.S. is starting to really gray on many that have been there with the Americans for a very long time. We have to do a better job
CHATTERLEY: And we thought we've been through four years of it and it would change. Ian, what a mess. Thank you so much for joining us on the
show, as always, Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia group, thank you.
We're back after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
CHATTERLEY: Welcome back. We return to the Taliban seizure of power in Afghanistan. Sources say the Taliban cofounder and deputy leader is
returning to the country. He hasn't set foot there for 20 years and currently heads their political bureau in Doha. He was the chief Taliban
negotiator with the United States.
In Kabul, flights have resumed and Western governments are evacuating their citizens. Left behind, though are many Afghans who worked with them. The
U.S. President defended the decision to withdraw U.S. troops saying the Afghan government had collapsed faster than he anticipated.
CHATTERLEY: As convincing as some may find President Biden's argument, some images simply speak louder than words and scenes of panic and
desperation like those that unfolded at the Kabul Airport on Monday have underscored just how chaotic the situation has become.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more from Kabul.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): This is the only way out for so many. The airport road jammed, chaos. Over a
trillion dollars spent and this is what the end looks like.
Walk where you can't drive.
PATON WALSH (on camera): Just ahead of us as the gates into the airport and this is the panicked scene of many people still moving there despite
how hard it's been.
PATON WALSH (voice over): At the entry to the last bit of Afghanistan America controls, there is panic.
PATON WALSH (on camera): There are surrounding tanks, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they say that.
PATON WALSH: Let's turn around.
PATON WALSH (voice over): "Tanks," someone shouts, but who is doing crowd control outside America's evacuation spot? The Taliban.
With vehicles they've taken from the Afghan Army, paid for by America now used to keep the desperate crowds back, people whose only hope is to get
out, possibly with American help.
Crowding at gates, trying to clamber walls originally built to keep an insurgency out, at one time pushing en masse and being sent running. Nearly
every gate with a crowd fueled with the idea this is their only way out.
U.S. troops at the perimeter shot dead two Afghans who they said were armed, but later admitted we're not Taliban.
But inside the airport, the Great Escape was not going according to script and check-in security had collapsed. Afghans convinced the promise of a
flight out was their only life ahead, clambering over walkways and tarmac, the U.S. spent billions on to maintain its presence.
And then this startling image, one of the U.S.'s largest cargo planes taxiing laden with Afghans who did not want to be left behind. Later, the
plane takes off and what you're about to see is disturbing. As the plane ascends, two objects or people appear to fall from the fuselage.
But the sheer scale of those who needed help meant it was even harder to come by. Civilian flights canceled. Even the Americans had to pause
operations until they could regain control. These images from satellites in space showing just the volume of people thronging in and around Hamad
Karzai International Airport, the symbol of the United States' billions spent in a 20-year project.
The U.S. always wanted to win hearts and minds here, but their swift, unconditional departure has instead filled them with panic.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.
CHATTERLEY: As Nick reported there and highlighted, the sheer desperation of those trying to escape Afghanistan, my next guest knows what it's like
to become a refugee. Born in Kabul, Khaled Hosseini was granted asylum in the United States after the Soviet Union's invasion back in 1979. His
bestselling book, "The Kite Runner" is a coming of age story set against the rise of the Taliban. He is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United
Nations Refugee Agency, and he is demanding answers from President Biden.
Khaled Hosseini joins us now. Khaled, thank you so much for making time for us today. I don't think anybody wherever we are in the world watching these
images can remain unmoved. But I know it's personal for you. What do you make of what you're seeing?
KHALED HOSSEINI, AUTHOR, "THE KITE RUNNER": It is heartbreaking. I've been in that airport many times. The images of those people clinging to the
fuselage of the airplane as it is taking off, I don't think I'll ever forget those images. It just speaks to the level of fear and despair that
people feel at the arrival of the Taliban and the departure of the Americans, the uncertainty that lies ahead.
It's just -- I don't think I'll ever forget those images.
CHATTERLEY: I don't think any of us will. What did you make of what President Biden said yesterday? Because you're actually very vocal on
social media and you were raising questions about not only what he said, but I think more importantly, what he didn't say.
HOSSEINI: Yes, look, I like President Biden, I voted for him, but I am disappointed in the way this withdrawal has been carried out. The question
I would have for President Biden really is, what do we tell the American people, let alone the Afghan people was a legacy of the last 20 years?
Before the withdrawal, you could point to a number of advances that have been made in Afghanistan. Certainly, the last 20 years have been
challenging beset by mistakes, miscalculations, and many tragedies, but still, you know, life expectancy in Afghanistan rose. Women returned to the
workforce and worked for the government. Millions of girls returned to school.
HOSSEINI: So, there were a lot of positive developments, along with all the problems that have been well-documented. What happens to all of that?
If President Biden were to meet a Marine who lost both her legs in Afghanistan, and she said, "What did I lose my legs for?" What can
President Biden say?
You know, we did root out the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, he can say that, but now the Taliban are back. And, you know, it's entirely possible that
Afghanistan will become another foothold for international terrorism again, hopefully not, but that's entirely possible,
CHATTERLEY: Khaled, at this stage, the Taliban are making all sorts of promises that females will be able to continue their education. I assume
there's all sorts of logistical problems with that. Schools must be built to allow segregation, but let's assume that those things can be done. Do
you believe the promises that the Taliban are making at least at this stage that perhaps lessons have been learned, that they are ready to lead a
nation this time around and allow some of the things as you've pointed out, the freedoms particularly for women and children, or are you deeply
skeptical and fearful?
HOSSEINI: I'll believe it when I see it. When I speak to colleagues in Afghanistan, some in Kabul, they say we had a hope for the future, we had a
hope for a better tomorrow, all of that is being crushed.
The Taliban have to change their ways, not just for the good of the Afghan people who are now under their rule, but also for their own good for the
possibility that they will be a credible player in the region, for their own viability, it behooves them to change with a time so to realize that
the Afghanistan that they fled from in 2001 is not the Afghanistan that they've conquered -- that they've conquered in 2021.
This is a vastly different country, a lot of gains have been made, personal freedoms have been enjoyed by the Afghan people the last 20 years. They've
gained rights that they've become accustomed to, and the scaling back of all those advances and all those rights is going to be a very onerous
burden for the Afghan people, and I hope that Taliban realized not just for the good of the Afghans, but themselves and their regime that they have to
adapt with the times.
CHATTERLEY: What's most important today amidst the chaos that we've seen over the past few days? As it -- and again, you've said this on social
media, refugees, protecting those people that want to leave and want to escape? And do you think the Taliban allow that to take place? Because it
is a mighty brain drain of talent, of education from the country, too? Are you concerned that perhaps at some point, they'll say, no more?
HOSSEINI: Oh, absolutely. I mean, all the organizations that I'm speaking to are gearing up for mass displacement of Afghans. Already, since the
beginning of the year, over half a million Afghans have been displaced and fled to Iran and Pakistan and have been displaced internally. So, we can
expect that to continue.
The brain drain happened in the 80s, it could happen now. A lot of young, urban, professional, educated Afghans are terribly anxious and terribly
worried about what the Taliban are going to do and therefore, I would understand the decision to leave.
I would ask the United States, I would ask the United States partners to keep their borders open to allow Afghan refugees in. You know, after we
left -- the United States left Vietnam in 1975, President Ford signed the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, which allow the special
status to Vietnamese, to refugees from Laos, and Cambodia to enter the United States under a special status, and I would hope and pray that the
United States does the same for Afghan refugees.
CHATTERLEY: We pray with you. Khaled, I read your book when it first came out, and I think it's a sweeping arc, a portrayal of the tragedy, the
beauty of a nation, and the challenges. Do you fear that the country is going back to where it was at the beginning of when you began your book and
described the rise of the Taliban in the country and all the challenges that that ensued? Is that where the country is headed without international
support -- ongoing support?
HOSSEINI: Well, far more important than what I think, I think a lot of Afghans and certainly colleagues that I've spoken to and ordinary Afghans
I've spoken to feel that way. Again, it's a question of how the Taliban are going to behave in the coming days, weeks, and months. Certainly, they
could surprise us pleasantly and show that indeed, they have moderated their ways, and changed their methods and they are not going to subjugate
the Afghan people and impose on them the draconian laws and instructions that they did in the 1990s.
HOSSEINI: I want to point especially to women and girls. They are absolutely essential to any Afghan society. They are absolutely essential
and their rights and their freedoms must be preserved. They must be allowed to contribute to Afghan society, to the rebuilding of this country, and to
be a meaningful part of Afghan society that cannot be subjugated and locked up in homes once again.
CHATTERLEY: We pray with you. Khaled Hosseini, thank you for joining us on the show today, author of "The Kite Runner" there. Thank you once again.
HOSSEIN: Thank you.
CHATTERLEY: Aftershocks, rain, and mudslides in Haiti. Just ahead, we're live in devastated Port-au-Prince as Haitians struggled to recover from the
deadly earthquake and now, a tropical storm.
Stay with CNN.
CHATTERLEY: Tropical Storm Grace brought heavy rain to Haiti late Monday as the island nation recovers from Saturday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
Aftershocks and mudslides are making it harder for crews to reach those who might need help. More than 1,400 people have lost their lives because of
the quake. Frustration with the Haitian government is now growing, too, because help has been slow to roll out.
CNN's Hoe Johns joins us now from Port-au-Prince.
Joe, I can't imagine the situation there. Political crisis, COVID crisis, and now dealing with this, too.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Julia. It is a shocking situation for Haiti and it is very difficult, of course for this government
to respond simply because of the instability here.
Instability by the way in Haiti is endemic despite the fact that it seems like a surprise, if you will, that the President was assassinated. And so
how does that affect the current situation with the earthquake? The fact of the matter is, we have instability at all levels. It creates a difficulty
for the government to provide the services necessary to even help countries that are coming in and trying to lend assistance.
For example, on the roads outside of Port-au-Prince here, the capital, there's a level of lawlessness. Gangs and whatnot that make it difficult
for individuals who are trying to get help and assistance down to the people who need it outside the city to get that assistance there.
JOHNS: So, we're in a position right now where outside organizations, outside countries do continue to lend aid such as the United States Coast
Guard, the medivac of people who are injured down at the earthquake scene continue, those people being brought to hospitals here in Port-au-Prince,
USAID also lending aid.
The situation is severe, as I said. The latest numbers we have include 1,400 people killed, something like 7,000 people injured and multiple
thousands of houses destroyed.
Back to you, Julia.
CHATTERLEY: Breaking hearts with everybody there, and Joe, thank you for that report. Joe Johns there in Port-au-Prince for us.
Okay, coming up, E.U. officials are about to hold an emergency meeting on the fall of Afghanistan, what they'll be discussing and how they're
reacting to the Taliban takeover, next.
CHATTERLEY: Welcome back. In just a few minutes' time, E.U. officials are set to hold an emergency meeting on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The bloc's Foreign Affairs chief saying Afghanistan stands at a crossroad. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security
are at play.
Melissa Bell is live in Paris with more. Melissa, you and I have watched the European response, I think to varying degrees has been withering.
Emmanuel Macron talking about "the risk that Afghanistan becomes a haven for terrorists again," and I'm quoting him; also refugees, what can be
done? What will be discussed today?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today for the European Foreign Ministers, Julia, it is going to be very much about first and foremost the
situation of European nationals. And again, remember, they can't organize getting visas for the Afghans who have held them along the way together, as
Americans can for instance, so they'll be talking about that; how to best coordinate their response.
And it's been, at best, haphazard so far. We expect a little bit later this afternoon in the first plane of French nationals to arrive here in Paris.
The plane was dispatched overnight, bringing in special French forces back through Abu Dhabi so that French citizens could come back. They will be
amongst the first.
Then of course, all the Afghans who help European forces along the years, they'll be given help, but also what is likely dominate this meeting is
already the migration crisis that the European Union expects could result from this latest wave of instability in Afghanistan.
Remember that what happened back in 2015, those vast waves of migrants that came over the course of several months from Syria, but also from
Afghanistan caused such a political fallout over the months that came that this is one sort of traumatism here in Europe and one that is already being
BELL: In fact, in his address, Emmanuel Macron last night explained about the fact that it was going to be necessary to look to avoid those flows of
irregular migration, something that has earned him a lot of criticism even as we see that desperate need in Afghanistan.
Antonio Guterres speaking last night about the fact that there are 80 million Afghans, half of the population, Julia, in desperate need of
humanitarian aid. The Europeans should already be talking about bolstering their defenses, their borders, something that's shown quite -- probably
quite shocking to a lot of people and yet that it has been at the forefront of many minds, not just the French President.
But it's at the heart of a plan that is being forged by the Germans and the French and that will be presented at this meeting later today to try and
help those neighboring countries, so, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, to better absorb the flows of migration in order that migrants that don't then head
towards Europe. That is likely to dominate this afternoon's meetings of the European Foreign Ministers as the rest of the world looking at a crisis
that is unfolding much faster than anyone might have expected -- Julia.
CHATTERLEY: Yes, we need a G7 or G20 response to this, I think, Melissa Bell, as you quite rightly suggest, I think.
Melissa Bell there in Paris. Thank you for that.
Okay. That's it for the show. Stay Safe.
"Connect the World" with Hala Gorani is next.
We'll see you tomorrow.