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First Move with Julia Chatterley
Gunshots Heard on Streets of Taliban-Controlled Kabul; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Opens Emergency Debate in Parliament; As Militants Vow Gentler Rule, Afghans Remain Skeptical. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 18, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to FIRST MOVE. I'm Eleni Giokos in for Julia Chatterley, and we begin with the latest from Afghanistan.
Chaos and gunfire near the airport in Kabul. Taliban fighters open fire to disperse large crowds who have gathered hoping to get out of the country.
Meanwhile, in the City of Jalalabad, Taliban fighters clashing with protesters after they removed the group's flag from the main square.
Witnesses telling CNN the Taliban fired into the crowd and beat some of the protesters. This, as the U.S. and its allies continue to frantically
evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan.
The White House says the Taliban agreed to provide what they say safe passage to Kabul's Airport for civilians. Meanwhile, Taliban negotiators
meeting with the country's former President Hamid Karzai, and other political leaders assuring them of security. This comes a day after Taliban
cofounder and Deputy Leader Mullah Baradar arrived in Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years.
CNN's Clarissa Ward is near the airport in Kabul. She described the situation a short while ago to my colleagues. Take a listen.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me try to explain to you the situation where we are. It is very hectic, you can
probably hear those gunshots. We are about 200 yards even less than 200 yards away from the entrance to the Kabul Airport. We just drove through it
quickly. It's absolutely impossible to stop there.
And I say we drove through it quickly, you can't drive through it quickly. It's bumper to bumper, cars are barely moving. There are Taliban fighters
all around. We actually did see them physically (AUDIO GAP) with truncheons, trying to get them back. We have seen them and heard them a lot
as well firing on the crowds to disperse the crowds.
It's a little difficult to see from this vantage point, and it is a slightly edgy situation. So, I don't want to push our luck. But all along
the road side over there, there are just hundreds of people who are basically waiting, desperately trying to get out of the country, it's not
clear if they have their paperwork in order, if they've been declined and told that they can't enter the gates or if they simply don't have the
wherewithal to get inside.
Our cameraman, Will Bonnett is just panning off right now. You can see it's a pretty large crowd who has formed around us already, because this is
slightly unusual situation to be doing live shots from here, I think. But it's definitely chaotic. It's definitely dangerous.
I will say this, the Taliban appears to be trying to disperse the crowds and there are crowds there of young men who seem to be just engaging in
like criminal activity. I don't know if you've heard that. They're kind of running towards the Taliban, and then running away from them again, almost
like it's a game.
But you know, when there's bullets firing like that, they're firing to disperse the crowds, they are not targeting people, they are not trying to
kill people. But of course, the minute you're firing willy-nilly, when you have a bunch of civilians all over the road and civilian vehicles, people
get hurt. That's what happens.
So, there's not a huge amount of discipline, let's say, to use an understatement, in the ways in which they are dispersing the crowd. We did
see some people behind the concertina wire, implying that they had been able to get into that first perimeter. But I'm not going to lie. I mean,
you're running the gauntlet to try to get in there because there are so many different things going on.
You could just hear the gunfire is pretty much constant as the Taliban tries to push people back. And as a result, you're just getting lots of
people on the roads surrounding the airport, like the one we're on less than 200 yards away. We are just getting lots and lots of people sitting by
the roadside. Some of them have their bags and they just obviously have no idea how they can get out.
If you can just pan around a little bit more to get a bit of more of the scene. I'll step out to the side. You can see we've got this crowd around
us, which is never great, because you know crowds are always a little bit dangerous and most of these people -- let me ask you, sir, are you waiting
here to get out? Or what are you doing here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the most of the people here crowding here --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are working with the American with the -- ISOF --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all have documents, the recommendations everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden, every day, they announce we take these guys that are working with the American or with the ISOF.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take them to America. But they are liars. Just the trick. These guys, they have --
WARD: Did you work with the Americans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course. Of course. It is all like more than 50,000 people they are crowded here. Today, all of them has gone to their
homes. This is so less people now that are here.
WARD: Fewer people here now than you were a couple of days ago?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. Our home is here. But all -- there are many flights --
WARD: Did you try to get in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but the Taliban didn't let you to go in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not letting you.
WARD: What do they tell you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are telling us just stay here. The Americans says we take these guys, they have the American passport or American British or
they have the green cards. We take them. Otherwise you have to stop here or you stay here. We tell them we cannot stay here because every day, Joe
Biden says we take these all the Afghan workers here, help us, we take them to the America.
WARD: Have you applied? Have you tried to apply?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, of course.
WARD: And what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tell us we have to bring the HR letter update for 2021, but it is impossible. The old company is locked down in 2014. It's
very hard to find --
WARD: Lots of people in the same situation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all the same. They have an HR letter, but it doesn't have the recommendation letter. But most of them they lost their
WARD: Right. So, what's your message to America right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our message to America, we help the American people so that's their jobs to help now, right now here. This is a very bad situation
if the Taliban know that you worked with somebody, soldiers, they take you to the jail.
WARD: I'm just going to thank you, sir. Can I just bring you in? You have a green card?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. This is my green card.
WARD: This is your green card. He is showing me a picture right now of his green card. That's his green card. So, you have a green card.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And I have flights on August 20, this Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already fill out the application for the U.S. Embassy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the e-mails that I got from the U.S. Embassy.
WARD: And so, did you try to get in to the airport?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did.
WARD: And what did the Taliban say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban say we don't know, just go, we don't want to try to let you in. Like this they say, we don't have flights. They don't
WARD: They don't have flights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they just say, but did -- we have a flight.
WARD: You're talking about some of these people, they have their paperwork. This man has a green card. If you are a U.S. green card holder,
you should be allowed to get into that airport. But the problem is, it is such a chaotic situation and the Taliban understands how this looks. The
Taliban knows that having thousands of people on the streets desperately trying to press into the airport, because they're so frightened, because
they just want more than anything to leave. They know that that looks bad.
So, it is not entirely surprising that the Taliban is not exactly embracing this sort of mass exodus. The question becomes what recourse do these
people have? How can their safe passage be facilitated? We're not getting any sense of how that could happen.
GIOKOS: All Western nations insist that they are doing their best to get desperate Afghans out of harm's way, but the reality on the ground keeps
changing. A Dutch military aircraft was forced to take off without any evacuees on board today because of the ongoing chaos at the airport.
Pentagon officials say they are working around the clock to get people to safety, but they admit a lot can still go wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. ARMY: The speed of evacuation will pick up. Right now, we are looking at one aircraft per hour in and out of HKIA. We
predict that our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers departing per day, but we are mindful that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Well, President Biden is back at the White House this Wednesday. He cut his Camp David vacation short to deal with the ongoing evacuation
efforts. Jeremy Diamond joins us now from the White House.
We've just seen the scenes outside of the airport with our reporter on the ground, Clarissa Ward. You hear that people say they have the right
documentation. They're being barred from going in. We are now seeing some scenes of the Taliban whipping people that are heading towards the airport.
When we say still a lot can go wrong, already, we are sitting in a fragile situation, Jeremy. What can the White House do? What can Biden do right now
to try and ensure that this becomes a lot smoother as opposed to being derailed completely?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing that's clear already is that what the White House is saying, what the State
Department, the Defense Department are saying about these evacuations, how they are proceeding and how they're going to proceed is certainly not the
reality on the ground as of yet.
You know, we saw that yesterday, the White House told us that about 1,100 people were evacuated from Kabul Airport on U.S. military flights. That,
first of all, is far short of the goal that they are shooting for which is 5,000 to 9,000 people a day, and even still, you can see there are these
people on the streets of Kabul who were speaking with Clarissa who were saying that they have the paperwork to get on these planes, and yet,
they're not being allowed in.
That is a stark contrast to what Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser was saying yesterday when he said that the Taliban had provided the
U.S. with assurances that they would allow for the safe passage of civilians who are trying to get to the airport to leave Afghanistan.
DIAMOND: Clearly, several of these people who were speaking with Clarissa said the Taliban were not letting them through to go to the airport. So,
this could be a paperwork issue, it could be an issue of the Taliban not holding up their promises, a whole range of things. But either way, this is
not yet going smoothly and the Biden administration desperately needs to start getting things to go smoothly, if anything, to show that they can
move forward from what has already been a chaotic and catastrophic U.S. withdrawal from Kabul that we have seen unfold over these last several days
with people clinging to the hulls of military jets, trying to get -- desperately trying to get out of the country.
Now, as for the President himself, he is indeed back at the White House today. He is going to be doing an interview with ABC today where we expect
him to be pressed further on the situation in Afghanistan, and then, he is also going to be speaking about the coronavirus and we expect him to also
deliver an update on the situation in Afghanistan.
But there is no question that the President is facing huge pressure, not only because of these images that are happening on the streets of Kabul,
but also Democratic lawmakers as well as Republicans are really hammering the White House over this failure to evacuate Afghans and Americans early
So again, so many questions still, but even as the White House tries to shift to this effort that is happening over the next two weeks to get
Afghans and Americans out of the country, it is clear that they are not there yet.
And so there's a lot of questions that remains to be seen as to whether or not they can actually ramp up that effort, because again, August 31st, as
of now is when all U.S. forces are set to depart Afghanistan. It is going to be tough to get all of those tens of thousands of Afghans and Americans
out of the country before then.
GIOKOS: Yes, and time is running out. Thank you very much, Jeremy, for that update. Much appreciated.
"The sacrifice in Afghanistan is seared into our national consciousness." Those words by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he opened an
emergency debate on the situation there on Wednesday.
Mr. Johnson says the collapse of the country unfolded faster than even the Taliban predicted. He said, he'd adopt a wait and watch approach to dealing
with the Taliban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We must also face the reality of a change of regime in Afghanistan. We will judge this regime based on the
choices it makes and by its actions rather than by its words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Well, CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us from outside the House of Commons with the latest and he is saying a wait and watch approach, saying
they won't judge by what the Taliban says, which we know the messaging so far has been quite on point to try and allay fears, but in terms of what we
are seeing on the ground, in terms of the whipping and some of the violence with regards to people trying to get to the airport, there's a big
disconnect. Were some of those issues discussed today?
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, and that emergency session, Eleni, it is still going on in the House of Commons behind me here. I want
to point out that it's August. This is not usual for Members of Parliament to come together. It's also the first time that everyone is coming down --
coming together after lockdown restrictions were lifted.
So, a very boisterous, a very packed, at times very passionate and angry criticism towards Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government for the
handling of what's happening in Afghanistan so far, but there was a few key issues there that you heard Members of Parliament over and over again focus
on, and the first is, of course, those evacuations, what's happening in that airport.
Not just the evacuations for British nationals, but evacuations for Afghan staff that supported the British government during these last two decades.
A lot of concern that the British government is abandoning them, that needs to provide the support and the dedication to these Afghan nationals. Prime
Minister Boris Johnson's response to that is a resettlement scheme, a scheme that will allow more Afghan nationals to come here to the U.K. in
the course of this year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying 5,000 Afghan nationals will qualify to come to the U.K. and seek asylum. Of course, priority will be given to
women and girls, minorities, people from vulnerable populations over the long term. This resettlement scheme could see up to 20,000 Afghan nationals
get to move here in the U.K.
There is also separately another scheme, another plan to bring in any Afghan nationals who potentially worked for the British government. There
should be about 5,000 there as well as separate numbers. So, huge numbers, you're talking about evacuating out of an airport that still seems to have
no semblance of a system. There is absolute chaos there. A lot of questions being asked of the Prime Minister of how to handle that situation on the
He says, he is coordinating with partners and key, he is coordinating, of course with the Taliban officials on the ground there. That's why he made
that reality clear, essentially saying we must accept the facts on the ground. We have to work with the Taliban to get these evacuations to
ABDELAZIZ: But again, a lot of criticism. One Member of Parliament, a really emotional moment, who is a military veteran stood up and said, I've
had to bury friends, I've had to see good men die. And for what? And I think, in a lot of ways Prime Minister Boris Johnson also echoing President
Biden and sort of couching this as an inevitability, as at some point, troops are going to have to pull out. The U.K. was going to have to pull
out when the United States pulled out. And at some point, Afghanistan is going to have to become independent.
Of course, many Members of Parliament feeling that that's absolutely escaping and evading responsibility. Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying
there will be no inquiry into what's happened here. It's all about getting these evacuations, getting these people out into safety and then sort of
kicking the can down the road, Eleni, G7 meeting next week, leaders will be getting together and they'll be discussing the future strategy for
So, Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that's what I'll be looking at next week.
GIOKOS: All right. Yes, absolutely and what it means regionally as well. Salma, thank you very much for that insight. Salma Abdelaziz in London for
Up next, the U.S. removed the Taliban from power 20 years ago for harboring 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden. Now, many fear the group will once again
provide sanctuary to terrorists.
GIOKOS: Since taking Kabul, Taliban leaders have been insisting the group has changed. They are promising kinder, gentler government than the one
that rule 20 years ago. But as CNN's Sam Kiley reports, many Afghans remain deeply skeptical that the militants will stay true to their word or are
even capable of it.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Promises - -
SUHAIL SHAHEEN, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: We would have a new government and have an inclusive Islamic government.
KILEY (voice over): Promises --
SHAHEEN: Women can continue their education from primary to the higher education.
KILEY (voice over): Promises.
SHAHEEN: We do not want a monopoly of power.
KILEY (voice over): Taliban 2.0, more moderate, inclusive, power sharing. From 1996 to 2001, the ultra-conservative Islamists imposed a form of Islam
that stoned homosexuals and shot female schools as it took over much of Afghanistan.
KILEY (voice over): Women bore the brunt of this medieval ideology. The movement was toppled by NATO and Afghan allies intent on ending Taliban
rule and the safe haven that it gave to al-Qaeda's plots against America on 9/11.
Al-Qaeda was routed, fleeing NATO into scattered exile.
For the next 20 years, the Taliban fought back, taking territory slowly and refining its public relations, less efforts on oppressing women, more on
building trust in local administrations.
But millions of Afghans especially in the cities, were encouraged to believe in the freedoms and democracy that was stamped out by the Taliban.
So, when they swept back into the capital, fear took hold.
PASHTANA DURRANI, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LEARN AFGHANISTAN: If they have changed, why are they stopping women from going to work? Why are
they murdering artists?
FARZANA KOCHAI, AFGHAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Do I have a space here to work for my people in my country or not? So, we -- we are risking our lives just
for this answer.
KILEY (voice over): At the Taliban press conference in Kabul, its spokesman insisted that the movement had matured, but he insisted that all
human rights, freedoms, and especially the role of women would still be determined by Sharia law.
To succeed in government, the Taliban may have little choice in the face of real politics. It will also need help from the international community.
It's been burnishing its diplomatic credentials. Here, the leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sealing a deal with the U.S. It is now widely derided
for shepherding the Taliban to victory.
But the movement has clearly signaled that it needs to govern rather than rule by force. The question is whether that is something the Taliban can or
even wants to do.
Sam Kiley, CNN, London.
GIOKOS: As you heard there, the Taliban have harbored terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. Now that they are in power again, there are fears that
the country could once again become the nerve center for attacks on the U.S. and its allies. Despite this, U.S. has no clear strategy to target
terrorists in the country warns my next guest.
Well, joining me now is Seth Jones, Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Seth, I'm sure, you must hate to have
been right, because you had warned last year, you said a precipitous withdrawal by the U.S. without a peace agreement between the Taliban and
Afghan forces would be highly destabilizing and undermine U.S. security interest.
And here we are today, a total Taliban takeover, basically, of Afghanistan with interesting rhetoric and changing messaging. But some of the images
that we seeing of whipping and still violence on the streets in some form or other kind of begs the question, are they really transformed?
SETH JONES, SENIOR VICE President, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think the answer is no. And I think the easiest evidence to
show for that is the Taliban has controlled territory in Afghanistan over the past several years, Northern Helmand, Northern Kandahar, other areas of
the country, and in areas that the Taliban has controlled recently, last month, earlier this year, they still have a deeply repressive ideology.
They have thrown out democracy. This is the establishment of law by Sharia or Islamic law. They do not treat women respectfully. So, basic human
rights violations, so I think the recent history of Taliban control of territory shows that they are not a fundamentally changed organization.
GIOKOS: So, when we look at the messaging, because I think that a lot of people felt it was pretty surreal to see the Taliban's press conference
being boomed around the world where their messaging was very different to what we know them to be and their fundamental ideologies. They say, pretty
much the same, like you say, centered around Sharia law, but they say that the violence ends here, the fighting ends here.
But this surely must have emboldened other terrorist organizations operating within the region, and this could be a big cause of concern.
JONES: Yes, I think it could be a very big cause of concern. I mean, it is worth noting that the Taliban continues to have strategic operational and
tactical level relations with al-Qaeda, as well as a range of other groups operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are anti-Indian groups
like Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Pakistan Taliban as well, just monitoring jihadist websites and platforms and chat rooms over the past couple of
I mean, this is the most significant event probably other than the Islamic State overthrow cities like Mosul that jihadists have seen in the last 20
or 30 years. I mean, this is a huge momentous opportunity for a resurgence of an extreme version of Islam. I think this is very dangerous.
GIOKOS: Look, we also know in the press conference, they were talking about the Islamic Emirate, and they really drove that message home. In the
U.S. right now, with Joe Biden still insisting that this was -- there was no right time, but they had to do it at some point. We know there were
flaws in terms of the exit.
But what does this mean down the line? And what should the US be doing? Should they find the strength to backtrack on this decision?
JONES: Yes, I think at the very least, the U.S. has got to prepare for a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, large numbers of internally
displaced persons and refugees. But I think on the national security front, the U.S. has got to prepare for a sustained counterterrorism campaign in
Afghanistan, assuming that there is a resurgence of terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, both of which are currently
active in the country.
So, I just don't see the U.S. walking away with the national security threats that still exist in Afghanistan, and frankly, are likely to get
more serious over time.
GIOKOS: Yes, let's talk about the regional powers here, as well that are at play. Let's look at the role that Pakistan has. And then you're looking
at Russia, you're looking at China and what this means regionally in terms of a power play, because there's one that's going to ensue very shortly.
JONES: Yes, I mean, the tragic reality for the Afghan government that just collapsed is that other than India, it has been completely abandoned by
every major government in the region. And I think that's probably a major factor that contributed to the collapse of Afghan National Security Forces.
Pakistan, which is the biggest backer of the Taliban supports the Taliban and supported them through their advancements over the last few weeks with
Intelligence and military support. The Chinese have provided diplomatic support. The Russians, as we know from leaked Intelligence last year,
through its GRU, its main director for Intelligence has provided assistance to the Taliban, military assistance. And then even Iran -- Shia Iran -- has
provided sanctuary and some small arms support to the Taliban.
So, all of the governments in the region, really, with the exception of India, are now backing a Taliban that they are not fully going to be able
GIOKOS: So, let's talk about the peace agreement, any kind of peace agreement and this is what you want about. You said that if the Taliban and
the Afghan government didn't have a peace agreement before the exit, we'd be sitting in this situation.
We also know that former Presidents in Afghanistan are currently negotiating with the Taliban, that's going to be important. But you also
aptly said that Afghanistan is not known to have, you know, been able to secure peace agreements in the past. Is there any hope right now?
JONES: No, I don't think there's any hope. I think there's probably a short term hope that some Afghans and former participants in the
government, individuals like Abdullah Abdullah, that they may allowed may be allowed to depart the country without being killed. But there's really
no peace agreement here.
I mean, what has just happened on the ground and the reality is that the Taliban has won not through an agreement, but through a military victory,
and they will then ensure that the government that is formed, the laws that are put in place are ones that they dictate. Again, this is the barrel of a
So, I don't think we should expect any kind of serious negotiations. They've just won on the battlefield, and they're going to dictate that.
GIOKOS: All right, Seth, thank you very much. Great to have you on the show. Seth Jones, Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and
After the break, the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan where women and children make up half of the civilian victims. A somber warning from the
International Rescue Committee, up next.
GIOKOS: Welcome back to FIRST MOVE, I'm Eleni Giokos.
Now chaos and gunfire erupting near the airport in Kabul. Taliban fighters open fire to disperse large crowds who have gathered trying to enter the
airport, hoping to get out of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, in the city of Jalalabad, Taliban fighters clashing with protesters after they removed the group's flag from the main square and
replaced it with the Afghan flag. Witnesses telling CNN, the Taliban fired into the crowd and beat some of those protesters.
For some fears about a crackdown on human rights are turning into a reality, CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Kabul with a look at how some women are
bracing for life under Taliban rule.
WARD (voice over): At the Central Kabul market today, stores were open and people were back on the streets, or at least some people. It was impossible
not to notice that women here seem to have largely melted away.
One store was doing better business than usual.
For more than a decade, Muhammad has been selling burqas, the head to toe covering once imposed by the Taliban. "Business was good, but now it's even
better," he tells us. "More sales."
WARD (on camera): Why do you think you're selling more burqas right now? "Because the Taliban took over and all the women are afraid," he says. "So
that's why they're all coming in and buying burqas."
WARD (on camera): Do you feel abandoned?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.
WARD (voice over): In an apartment downtown, we saw that fear firsthand. Until last week, Fazila (ph) was working for the U.N. That's not her real
name, and she asked we not show her face. She is petrified that the Taliban will link her to Western organizations and says she hasn't gone outside
since they arrived in Kabul.
WARD (on camera): You look very frightened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. Too much stress. It is not easy for a person to work a lot with international organization having more than 10 years'
experience of working with international and now, no one of them helped me, just sending e-mails to different organizations that I've worked with you,
but now, no response.
WARD: Are you angry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not angry, but as a person that have worked with them, now, I need their support. It is not fair.
WARD: You look very emotional as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because I'm thinking about my future, my daughters. What will happen to them if they kill me, two daughters with
beat up mother?
WARD (voice over): The Taliban says they have learned from history and that women's rights will be protected. But many fearful Afghan women remain
to be persuaded.
WARD (on camera): We're on our way down to the home of a prominent female Afghan politician. She has told me that there are Taliban fighters outside
her front door. So, she has asked that I go in alone.
WARD (voice over): Fawzia Koofi was one of the Afghan government negotiators during peace talks with the Taliban and has dealt with the
group a lot. She says that promising change is not enough.
FAWZIA KOOFI, AFGHAN POLITICIAN: They have to really prove it in the provinces across Afghanistan. They have to show it by example. It's very
easy to issue statements, but people need to see that in practice.
WARD (voice over): Koofi has every reason not to trust. Last year, she was shot by unknown gunmen, the Taliban denied they were behind the attack.
WARD (on camera): You have children?
KOOFI: I have two daughters.
WARD: And are they here?
KOOFI: They are in Kabul.
WARD: And are you concerned for them? Or --
KOOFI: I am concerned for my daughters and all the girls of Afghanistan. I don't want history to repeat itself on them very brutally.
WARD (voice over): Twenty years of progress for women in Afghanistan now hangs by a thread.
Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kabul.
GIOKOS: Well, as you saw in Clarissa's story, Afghanistan is facing a new reality under the rule of the Taliban.
The charity, the International Rescue Committee is warning the country was already fragile and facing a multitude of crises. Consider 40 years of war,
chronic poverty, natural disasters driven by climate change coupled with the ongoing pandemic. The IRC says that even before the escalation of
violence, half of the population needed humanitarian help, and women and children made up close to half of all civilian casualties.
It warns, without intervention, 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year for Afghan civilians in over a decade.
Ciaran Donnelly is Senior Director of Crisis Response and Recovery at the IRC and joins me now. Ciaran, look, you were sounding the alarm bells
before the U.S. exit. And when we look at the civilian casualties since the beginning of the year, at least in the first half of the year, we're
looking at women and children being the biggest group of victims here.
These numbers are scary, and they are absolutely harrying of what potentially is to come.
CIARAN DONNELLY, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CRISIS RESPONSE AND RECOVERY, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: The numbers are absolutely scary. The
International Rescue Committee has worked in Afghanistan since 1988. We worked with Afghan communities in Pakistan before that since 1980. So, we
have a perspective based on decades of history of working with Afghan communities through cycles of crisis.
What we're seeing at the moment is the impact of multiple intersecting humanitarian crises, the impact of years of conflict overlaid with the
impact of a crippling drought across the country, and the impact of economic challenges that are felt in every part of the country. Eighteen
million people in need of humanitarian assistance, over half a million people displaced this year alone on top of three million people at the
start of the year.
Tens of thousands of those recently displaced by fighting in recent weeks. The humanitarian situation really is critical in the country, and as you
noted, this year is on track to be the worst year for Afghan civilians in over a decade.
GIOKOS: Ciaran, you've worked with the Taliban and other terror groups because of the nature of the work that you do. You're at the coalface of a
lot of these realities that people have to face day in and day out. Could you give me a snapshot of the conversations you've had in the past with the
Taliban, and if it is at all different in terms of messaging and rhetoric, and importantly, action in terms of what we're seeing right now, today.
DONNELLY: We're a humanitarian organization that works in over 40 countries affected by conflict around the world. And we work with all
parties to every conflict to ensure that we're able to access and deliver our services to people in need, regardless of affiliation. We deliver based
on the levels of need that people are experiencing, and we do so in a really principled way that requires us to have conversations with whoever
is controlling an area, whoever has access to an area. Today, that's the Taliban in Afghanistan, they are the de facto authority on the ground and
they're moving to establish a government.
We are seeing initial signals and that they are welcoming humanitarian actors, and we will be working along with everyone else in the humanitarian
community to ensure that we're able to continue delivering services to people who are in need regardless of affiliation, regardless of gender, as
best we are able to scale over the coming months and years.
GIOKOS: What is important is to try and secure the safety and the rights of the girl, child, and women and that is really going to be important that
perhaps that's one of the biggest things that's at stake right now. Are you worried that even though they say they've transformed and modernized that
because they're going to be operating within the parameters of Sharia law, which, of course could be open to interpretation in terms of how strict one
can be, that you're going to be sitting with a different crisis in terms of gender issues on your hands?
DONNELLY: It's a very uncertain and unpredictable situation in Afghanistan right now. We are seeing signals that the Taliban have a different
perspective than the Taliban of years past. We are also seeing other worrying signs on the ground. It's too early to tell, and as a humanitarian
organization, our priority is really thinking about how do we get access to services for as many people as possible, including women and girls across
the country, that's going to be our focus over the coming days, it is understanding, for example, with the tens of thousands of people who have
been displaced into Kabul, how do we really get out and reach them with lifesaving assistance as quickly as we can.
So, that's really what our focus is going to be.
GIOKOS: So you've also in your reports are talking about the efforts to resettle people, and you're talking about the U.S. visas, that those people
just make up around one percent of Afghanistan's population. So the question is, what about the rest? And you're calling for neighboring
countries to open up borders as well. How dire is the situation going to be if other countries do not try and assist the resettlement of a lot of these
DONNELLY: I think, it is incredibly important in any crisis that neighboring countries keep their borders open. People have a right to flee
and seek safety if they have a fear of persecution and oppression. We'll see what happens. In terms of the situation in neighboring countries.
The IRC works to resettle refugees all over the world. We have offices here in the U.S. supporting those Afghans and others who have sought safety and
are building new lives here. But as you know, that's only a small fraction of the people that need inside Afghanistan. And so we're really committed
to staying in delivering and working across all of the provinces that we have offices in. We have over 1,700 staff on the ground.
And so, a big part of our focus is how do we ensure continuity of services? How do we ensure scale up on emergency response? While working on
contingency planning elsewhere in the region, urging governments to keep borders open to allow access and safety for refugees, there is a lot of
influx at the moment, and information on those numbers of people moving is really hard to come by.
GIOKOS: Thank you very much, Ciaran, for those insights. Much appreciated.
Ciaran Donnelly, Senior Director of Crisis Response and Recovery at the International Rescue Committee, thank you so much.
Okay, and this just in to CNN, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE Foreign Ministry has confirmed he was
allowed in on humanitarian grounds. Ghani and his family fled Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban closed in on the city. His whereabouts had been
unknown for the last three days.
So just in, the former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is in the United Arab Emirates.
We'll be bringing you more updates on the story as it unfolds.
Just ahead, heavy rains disrupt recovery efforts in Haiti as the death toll rises, we'll have a live report from the Haitian capital. Stay with us.
GIOKOS: The death toll from Haiti's earthquake has now climbed to over 1,900 people. Survivors are coping with widespread damage. Hospitals are
inundated. And lacking supplies and heavy rain from Tropical Storm Grace is complicating relief efforts. Many survivors are struck -- stuck rather in
remote areas with little or no shelter, frustrated with how long it is taking to get much needed aid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIMENE JOUESIL, HOMELESS AFTER EARTHQUAKE (through translator): We have been promised medicine, I went to look for it, and I was told to wait.
Yesterday, they distributed aid, but I wasn't able to get anything. It rained a lot at night. We could not sleep. We have nothing to eat. We have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Joe Johns is in Port-au-Prince in Haiti for us. Joe, the situation seems to be worsening right now. And of course, the main message is just
how long it's taking to get assistance to some of these areas that have been hard hit.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eleni, there is an awareness that multiple countries including the United States, Colombia, the Dominican Republic,
which is right here on this island, Hispaniola, with Haiti all to get supplies to people who need them in the affected area. And the question is,
why is it taking so long?
One of those reasons is because a lot of these supplies are coming in through Air Bridge, in other words, helicopters instead of on the roads.
And the reason that they are not on the roads is very simple. Haiti has a long standing problem with armed gangs controlling roads into and out of
certain remote places, like the earthquake scene that started obviously over the weekend.
And it's such a problem, in fact, that within the last 24 hours, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Relief, in fact, put out a
tweet, essentially telling the world that there is a problem. I'll just read it to you, "Despite humanitarian partners' readiness to respond,
access restrictions to the affected areas due to the proliferation of gang- related activities is a key constraint. Without sustained and unhindered humanitarian access, thousands of people in need of urgent assistance could
So, it's a huge problem, and frankly, the one thing this government can do and even the local authorities can do is figure out a way to restore law
and order to the roads so that the supplies can get through to the people who need them.
Eleni, back to you.
GIOKOS: All right. Joe, thank you very much for that update.
And coming up after the break, as we witness monumental changes in Afghanistan, we'll get the reaction of world leaders. Stay with CNN.
KAMIL AL-AWADHI, REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT FOR AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST, INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: Cargo is, I have to say very
positive in Africa. It held well. It increased beautifully. It is supported a lot of the aviation industry, the jobs, whether it's in the airport, to
the cargo agents, the handling agents, ground handling agents, and so on so forth. It kept some of the jobs going and some of the airlines going, and
it's a positive point.
GIOKOS: (voice over): Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, handled the most cargo of any African airports in 2020. It's the
central hub for Africa's leading cargo only airline, Astral Aviation, which expanded its fleet during the pandemic.
SANJEEV GADHIA, FOUNDER AND CEO, ASTRAL AVIATION: I'd now like to introduce you to the newest member of our fleet, the Boeing 767-200
freighter, which we started flying with the first of January this year.
We have a very big plans for expansion in Africa. The first thing that we are planning to do is to increase our fleet from 14 to 20 aircrafts, which
we will be doing over the next 12 months and these are only cargo aircrafts.
In addition to that, we are setting up a hub in West Africa, and we are setting up a hub in southern Africa.
GIOKOS (voice over): Astral Aviation is not alone in boosting its cargo capacity. Some passenger-led airlines have pivoted their business to meet
the market shift.
ALLAN KILAVUKA, GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR, KENYA AIRWAYS: So right now, we are sitting in the world's first converted or repurposed Dreamliner, the
787. And this one alone, we have dedicated it to cargo, this and another one like this.
GIOKOS (voice over): During the pandemic, the airline boosted their cargo capacity by over 500 tons per month.
KILAVUKA: Until now, cargo has been about 10 percent of our business. We want that to grow progressively to over 20 to 30 percent of our business.
In other words, to double it within the next three to five years.
Of course, our goal is to try and connect as many destinations as many points as possible within Africa to have in Nairobi and of course to each
other as well. We are predominantly an African operator, and that's how we want to position ourselves because we believe there is a lot of potential
in the continent, so we continue to grow that niche.
GIOKOS: And returning to the situation in Afghanistan. World leaders are closely watching the Taliban's return to power. CNN's Arwa Damon reports.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The headlines blare the ugly, almost incomprehensible truth. After 20 years of
war against the world's most powerful armies, the Taliban won.
And those countries that once fought them are having to accept that they have to engage their former foes.
JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: The Taliban have won the war, so we have to talk with them in order to engage in a dialogue as soon as
necessary to prevent a humanitarian and a potential migratory disaster, but also a humanitarian crisis.
DAMON (voice over): After an emergency meeting Tuesday, the E.U.'s Foreign Policy Chief said that the block will not recognize, but will work with the
Taliban if fundamental human rights are respected.
But it seems that the main concern is how to prevent Afghans from flooding Europe and avoiding a repeat of the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): France, as I've said have and will continue to do its duty to those who are most
threatened. We will do our full part in an organized and fair international effort. But Europe cannot be the only ones to take on consequences of the
DAMON (voice over): The consequences of the current situation, in other words, desperate Afghans wanting to flee the Taliban.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Before talking about quotas, we must first talk about security possibilities for refugees
in the neighborhood of Afghanistan and I will also discuss this with UNCHR and then think about as a second step, whether especially affected people
brought to Europe in a controlled and supported way.
DAMON (voice over): As Europe scrambles to protect itself, Afghanistan's neighbor and fickle American ally, Pakistan's leader praised the Taliban's
takeover as having broken the shackles of slavery and where the West recedes, Russia and China will step in.
The two countries' Foreign Ministers reportedly spoke by phone on Monday to discuss the unfolding situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The fact that the Taliban show a willingness to consider the position of others in my opinion is a positive
sign and said they're ready to discuss a government in which not only them, but the other representatives of Afghan power --
GIOKOS: All right. I want to take you back to the breaking news story. Former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in the United Arab Emirates. The
UAE Foreign Ministry has confirmed he was allowed in on what they say is humanitarian grounds.
Now, Ghani and his family fled Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban closed in on the city. His whereabouts had been unknown for the last three days.
We are going to continue with this coverage and bring you updates in the next few hours.
Up next, Hala Gorani with "Connect the World."