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First Move with Julia Chatterley

Afghans Desperate to Flee Kabul Overwhelm Airport; President Joe Biden Set to Deliver Afghanistan Update; NATO Foreign Ministers Meet to Discuss Afghanistan. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 20, 2021 - 09:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to welcome you back to our continuing coverage of the fall of Afghanistan. This is FIRST MOVE. I'm

Paula Newton, in for Julia Chatterley and we begin, of course, with the latest from Afghanistan.

The U.S. still struggling to pick up the pace of evacuations from the country. The White House says, now, about 3,000 people were able to leave

the Kabul Airport on Thursday that is with U.S. assistance.

Many Afghans though desperate to flee the country, still trying to enter the airport at this hour. I mean, look at these pictures, some parents

handing their babies to American troops on top of the wall at the airport.

Meantime, the U.S. Embassy warns of uncertainty of safety getting to the airport, something we've seen on the ground right now. They say, quote:

"Use your best judgment and attempt to enter the airport at any gate that is open."

CNN's Clarissa Ward did get inside that airport. Here's a look at what she saw.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to say this is the least chaotic part of the whole process. This is the final furlong

when you're almost about to get on one of those military aircraft carriers, and you could probably see behind me, I'm trying not to move too much

because our signal is pretty weak, there are a lot of people who have been standing out in that scorching sun for many hours.

And as I said, this is the last stage. It begins at the front barriers with the Taliban. We went through one gate this morning, a crush of people

pushing, shoving, screaming, and children crying out, I can honestly say it was one of the more harrowing things I have experienced.

For the lucky people who do get in, you go to the next phase, where you sit and wait for several hours. I have talked to people here who have been

waiting for two days -- two days, and it's such a bottleneck trying to get all these people processed and all these people through.

And the problem is that these bottlenecks, you have these very dangerous situations where you have a crush of people and crowds, and one soldier was

telling me that yesterday, two women actually threw their babies over the fence trying to throw them to the U.S. soldiers. One soldier actually

caught the baby in his arms, he went and found the woman afterwards to give the baby back.

But honestly, what kind of desperation does a parent have to be in where that's your best hope is to try to throw your baby to a soldier to get them

out, to save them from being crushed, to give them a better future, and I think there is nothing that illustrates better the panic, the chaos, the

fear than that description.

I talked to another British soldier who started talking to me and he just started weeping. He said I've done two tours in Helmand. But the PTSD I

will have from this last week is worse than either of those deployments because people are getting trampled.

You have to remember, there's a huge amount of people, thousands and thousands and thousands, if not tens of thousands. There are multiple gates

of entrances. You have the Americans, you have the Brits, you have the Italians, you have the French, you have the Hungarians. I mean, we have

seen pretty much every nationality you can conceive of who has or had a presence here in Afghanistan.

So you have a lot of (AUDIO GAP) and you have the State Department and you have the Marines and you have Special Forces and it is very hectic, and

very difficult.

You know, you see people looking for vehicles, traffic jams building up inside the base, people trying to squeeze around blast walls. There just

isn't a coherent mechanism yet in place to process these people. You know, even something simple like tents, please get these people some tents. Okay,

I'm okay. But the women with their babies, they can't be standing out in the 95-degree sun for eight hours. They just can't.

They're getting water. They're handing out MREs, military meals, ready to eat, and they are doing their best they can. But it is still a really,

really, really tough situation here.


NEWTON: Our Clarissa Ward just moments ago, and CNN international security editor, Nick Paton Walsh, you were at the airport where Clarissa is just a

few days ago. You're in Doha right now. You know, this could still unravel, right, even more than what it already has. A threat assessment that was

prepared from the U.N. says that the Taliban are, quote, "Intensifying the hunt for individuals and collaborators with the former regime."

Nick, we have anecdotal evidence that that may be going on already. What are the options here as you see it, especially because there in Doha, there

are discussions underway to see what else can be managed to get the desperate out of Afghanistan?


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, look, there's -- the scene at the airport today appears to have changed from when

I was there, where the problem was getting enough people onto the base to get them onto the planes. They seem to be getting enough people onto the

base, but then that signal is getting out, and they still have the same crowd levels on the outside of the base.

So, success is kind of the Americans worst enemy to some degree, and that people are now hearing of successful Afghans getting inside and getting

down that flight line. Now, the Americans have to move fast to keep the planes coming to get people off, so they can then get more on.

I've seen their volume of aircraft they have here in Al Udeid Air Base, and that's more than enough to achieve the kind of 5,000 to 9,000 of a day pace

that they wanted yesterday. The State Department also said they had 6,000 processed yesterday ready to leave, and the White House said they have

3,000 who left yesterday.

So essentially, at some point, the U.S. government has to give a pretty clear tally as to how all these numbers gel together when they reach their

9,000 target. But you have to remember, Paula that, Kabul, a city of six million, probably has close to an infinite supply of Afghans who would love

to take the U.S. up on this offer, and the U.S. explicitly said yes, there at The Pentagon that they do not know how many American citizens there are

in Afghanistan, who are essentially the priority cases.

And if you listen to Joe Biden, who he guarantees he will get out, and then as the Allied Afghans, they'll do the best they can as a job.

So, this extraordinary project, this enormous endeavor there, this final chapter of America's longest war, the kind of symbolic visual that everyone

is going to have in their head about how this war finally ended, well, at this point, it is open ended.

It's certainly chaotic. And as I say, people appear to be getting in now more than they were before, but there are periodic moments, I understand

when the gates have to shut because they are overwhelmed inside, maybe outside. And so this is just a potentially indefinite, exhausting process.

And I should point out, too, people have died in the crash around the airport, 12 at least at this point, shots fired in the air, we don't see

Taliban in the north area where lots of people are trying to get in, but that's not also an indefinite thing to take for granted.

So, an exceptional mess here -- Paula.

NEWTON: Exceptional mess and more than just symbolic, right? There is a clear and present danger to those who remain in Afghanistan. I know,

perhaps Germany and Britain in a limited sense, have been doing so called extractions. They've been going to try and get their people out. Is there

any sense that that is what needs to be done, especially if the Taliban escalates any kind of campaign for retribution?

PATON WALSH: Some of the reporting about British extraction seems to date before the crisis really got into effect around the airport, I'm not aware

if they have actually gone in to Kabul to pull people out in the last 48 hours. Taliban presence, they would make that a complex move, certainly.

There is a danger here. The U.N. report was a piece of advice or assessment given by a Norwegian risk assessment company, and I understand that the

U.N. to some degree is still trying to work out how serious the Taliban threat is. In fact, you should bear in mind as one source said to me, there

are different possible ways of interpreting the Taliban actions official Taliban doctrine, ignorant Taliban, the source says or rogue Taliban.

So whatever was occurring as a threat to these individuals, they still are trying to work out what's policy, and what's just what's happening on the

street. That will be of course, no comfort to the family of a German journalist, a family member who was killed by the Taliban, says the German

Press Agency.

So yes, there are limited signs that the sort of vengeance against those who assisted the American presence for 20 years may be beginning, but I

should point out, it's not at the point where it's overwhelming, and there is certainly some sort of crackdown underway.

But most people who observed the Taliban over a period of time, many Afghans I've spoken to have said, it's not what they do in this first week

that should be of concern, it is what they do in the weeks and months and years ahead. They are very versed at arriving in a place, making everybody

feel relaxed, and then going about their business over a longer timeframe. So, that is the key thing.

And as you also know yourself, the focus and attention on Afghanistan is often limited. So the important thing here is to be clear that if the

Taliban do change their currently relatively moderate aspect, fraying already as that is quite fast, the people are still paying attention to

quite exactly what society in the United States and the West leave behind when they properly get their grip on Afghanistan.

NEWTON: Right. Yes, in nearly two decades of being in and around Afghanistan, many people will say when the media glare is off the Taliban,

that is when you have to worry about what certainly they are up to.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.


NEWTON: Meantime, President Joe Biden is set to deliver an update on the Afghan crisis later today at the White House, all of this, of course, amid

reports that the White House was warned last month about the dangers of a military pullout. Now CNN has learned that a group of U.S. diplomats wrote

a classified cable to the Secretary of State, that's Antony Blinken, recommending that Afghan allies be evacuated quickly, because the situation

on the ground could rapidly deteriorate with catastrophic consequences.

John Harwood joins me now from the White House. You know, John, we were talking to you yesterday about this, and yet, we're 24 hours on, not much

has changed in terms of the explanations that people are expecting from the President. How was he hoping to reassure, not just the American people,

right, but the allies as well that that things can get better in terms of those evacuations and not escalate further?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he is going to emphasize some of the results that Nick Paton Walsh was just describing,

that is the increased processing of people into the airport, the increased flow of evacuees out, still not reached the capacity levels that the White

House is shooting for that the U.S. military is shooting for, 5,000 to 9000 a day, but they are increasing, and I would expect the President to explain

to the American people how they are ramping up those numbers and what the prospects are for the next couple of weeks.

We know that the President has said that, at least to get American citizens out, and as Nick noted, the government does not have a precise count of how

many there are remaining in the country, but the President said he would go beyond August 31st to get those people out. That leaves the question of the

Afghan allies and the President has said there's maybe up to 65,000 of those people and their families.

So, the focus on the administration to try to salvage the situation after having experienced the horrific beginning of this week in those pictures

that so alarmed and unsettled Americans reflecting the chaos in Kabul, they are hoping that by getting a grip -- a better grip -- on the evacuation

process, they can salvage this situation. And obviously, that depends on the diplomacy and cooperation and whatever leverage they have over the

Taliban to sustain their cooperation.

It's not going to be perfect, of course, and we have seen the reports that Clarissa Ward and others have described of the Taliban roughing up some

people as they're trying to get to the airport, some remaining of the Afghan Security Forces doing the same thing. That's kind of inevitable when

you have a crush of humanity trying to get out of this country right now.

But I think the President is going to try to paint a picture of an improving situation.

NEWTON: Yes, and in terms of the way it is going to improve. I mean, we were just talking about that so-called dissent memo from, you know,

diplomats in Afghanistan. How does he regroup here and really kind of maintain the credibility that look, unlike the interview that he gave to

ABC News, that they were not prepared for every eventuality?

HARWOOD: Well, it is certainly true, as the President has said that the government and security forces unraveled faster than they expected. The

view of the White House and of the President is that had they taken some of the more urgent action earlier that the diplomats in the State Department

cable warned of and that some of the Intelligence assessments suggested might happen, they simply would have accelerated and fast forwarded this

process, because once you signal that people who want to get out need to get out, I think the belief of the administration is that that would have

triggered the process of the government falling, security forces giving up, President Ghani leaving the country.

And so, it could have happened in July, it could happen now, that I think is the case that they will try to make, although I wouldn't expect the

President to linger on that in his remarks today.

NEWTON: No, in fact, he will likely try and linger on what he knows to be true that most Americans do, according to the polls agree with him that it

was time to withdraw from Afghanistan.

We will listen with you, John, for us there at the White House. Appreciate it.

Now, NATO Foreign Ministers are currently holding an emergency meeting on Afghanistan. They are discussing a joint strategy in the country. The

Alliance is still working to get its people out of Kabul and it says it is of course working closely with the E.U. and others on its evacuation


Melissa Bell is following it all for us. And Melissa, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO wants close coordination on Afghanistan.

You know, European allies, they've already called this bluntly a catastrophe. And you know, at one point, Afghanistan was the centerpiece of

a new mandate at one time for NATO.

How do you think he is going to be able to change the approach now that they are basically at a point where they are in an emergency level trying

to get there, even their personnel out?


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Paula. Just -- at one point, the beginning of a fresh start for NATO, but also, let's remember,

in the seven decades of its existence, the only time that Article V, at the very heart of what NATO stands for has been invoked, where one member is

attacked, the others respond as one. And I think it is that that has led to such disappointment amongst European allies.

So yes, for the time being, at this meeting, the idea that they will deal with the immediate urgency of getting not only Europeans, NATO allies out

of the country, but those Afghans who have helped them but beyond that, the question of what NATO stands for, at this point. It is one thing going in

together, the fact that it has been, as we've seen over the course the last couple of weeks, the United States pulling out without terribly much

coordination, in particular with its European allies that has really ruffled a few feathers.

We've seen the man who is expected to take over from Angela Merkel describing it as the greatest debacle in NATO's history. And so, this is a

meeting that is going on behind closed doors, virtually, of course, but that you can expect to be fairly fractious. There has been a fair amount of

impatience here in Europe, especially because you when you consider the possible consequences of what is likely to happen over the coming weeks and


This is a continent that politically continues to feel the reverberations of the 2015 migration crisis. The fact that another may be looming as a

result of this hasty and badly organized retreat is something that is on the mind of many Europeans at European level, but also in terms of the

member states.

So, I think it is going to be a moment also to try and figure out exactly what NATO stands for. Back in June when they'd met for their Summit, the

question had been, it had been a pivotal moment. How do we go forward? How do we address the big questions of the day -- Russia, China? When there can

be a divergence of positions between Europe in the United States?

I think after what's happened over the course of the last week, the question is whether these allies can really continue to count on one


Here in Europe, of course, there has also been ever since the start of the Trump administration, a determined desire to move towards more strategic

independence, a questioning of what NATO stood for. Emmanuel Macron had described the organization is braindead back in 2019. That really is going

to be underpinning the discussions today.

We expect a press conference later on, in which we should find out a little bit more about exactly what happened behind closed doors, but I think one

of the questions will be exactly what does NATO stand for at this point? And what can it do in Afghanistan in particular, going forward?

NEWTON: Yes, and it will be symbolic about how they move forward. And thank you for reminding me of what President Macron had said. Indeed, he

used strong language then and we are more than two years out, and not much has changed in terms of a clear path forward for NATO and the allies.

Melissa Bell, I know you'll be watching it. Thanks so much.

Right here after the break, strong words from Turkey now hitting back at nations who turn their backs on Afghan refugees. We are live in Istanbul,




NEWTON: Turkey's President is calling on European nations to take responsibility for those fleeing Afghanistan. Recep Tayyip Erdogan on

Thursday accused Europe of quote, "turning its back on human values by closing national borders."


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): Turkey does not have a duty, responsibility, or obligation to be Europe's refugee

warehouse. Once we strongly close our borders and send the current irregular migrants home, it's up to them to decide where they will go.


NEWTON: You know add to that, Erdogan says Turkey currently hosts about five million foreign nationals that includes 300,000 Afghans. Jomana

Karadsheh is live for us in Istanbul, and I'm sure his blunt words about Turkey being a human warehouse come as no surprise to you.

And yet, what is he prepared to do? We've seen him take radical steps before to make sure that Europe helps out here when we could see tens of

thousands more leave Afghanistan.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Paula, I think to put this all into context, as you mentioned, you know, this country is the

largest host of refugees worldwide, about four million refugees, the majority of them Syrians, but also some Afghans and also President Erdogan,

saying over the past three years, more than half of all irregular migrants into the country have been Afghans.

Now if you look at what has been going on in the country, the government is under a lot of pressure from opposition groups, and also from a large

portion of the population because of the economic situation in the country that many are starting to blame the unemployment and other economic issues

on migrants and refugees that the country has opened its doors for.

So President Erdogan is under a lot of pressure over that, and we have seen in recent days and weeks as the crisis has intensified in Afghanistan, it

seems to be an effort from the government, Paula, to try and show that they are doing something, that they are not going to keep the borders open.

We've had visits from the Minister of Defense down to the Iranian border saying that they are fortifying that border. They are building a wall

there, and that they are actually expanding that wall to ensure that there's no irregular migrant refugee flow, any sort of influx.

So, a lot of what we're hearing here is perhaps for local domestic consumption and also a message to Europe. These are strong warnings to

Europe, in reference to the 2016 Refugee Agreement that was signed between Turkey and the E.U., basically President Erdogan saying that they're not

going to shoulder this responsibility on their own. They're not going to watch Europe basically close its borders and Turkey as he described it turn

into a refugee warehouse.

What he is proposing to do, and he has mentioned this several times this past week, Paula. He is saying that he is open to talking to whatever

government emerges in Afghanistan, the Taliban, anything that ensures stabilizing the country because he believes that is the key to try and stop

any sort of refugee crisis coming from Afghanistan.

NEWTON: Yes, clearly a failed state is in no one's interest. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much.

Now, while Turkey speaks out, as we just heard on refugees, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR is promising to maintain presence and

protect the Afghan people. Now consider this, even at the start of the year, think about it, before the crisis, half of the population including

more than four million women and nearly 10 million children needed humanitarian assistance. One-third of the population faced emergency levels

of acute food insecurity.

Think about that, one in three, and more than half of all children under five malnourished. Now, factor in all of these extra adversities here --

conflict, drought, and of course, we can't forget the pandemic.

Kelly Clements is the Deputy High Commissioner for the UNHCR. Certainly, a full plate here and what's going on at the airport demands urgent

attention. We all understand that. The UNHCR remains concerned, right, about those vulnerable Afghans still inside the country, women and girls

especially. How do you propose to maintain that support, especially now that the Taliban is in control?


KELLY CLEMENTS, DEPUTY HIGH COMMISSIONER, UNHCR: Thank you. Thank you so much, Paula. Thanks for having us on. Yes, indeed, our focus and other

humanitarian partners inside Afghanistan is to remain, to stay and to deliver, to the extent that safety and access are permissible, and in many

parts of Afghanistan, that remains the case.

You know, we have 3.5 million internally displaced people. As you mentioned, 80 percent are women and children, and they are in desperate

need. Now, about 550,000 of those individuals were displaced just since January, and a large number in the last few weeks.

And so our focus is firmly on trying to respond with critical lifesaving protection and aid, shelter, water, sanitation, anything really to help

those families be able to support themselves. You know, we have partners throughout Afghanistan. We have partners that remain in all of the

provinces in two thirds of the districts. And this is what we're trying to do now is to keep those programs going, to be able to access more families

and individuals in need, and to be able to provide the critical and lifesaving support that the Afghan people need and that remains our primary

focus within the humanitarian community within Afghanistan.

NEWTON: The need is certainly pronounced, as you just pointed out, but how do you deal with the Taliban? I mean, a lot of the internally displaced

right now are a result of a lot of the conflict that's happened outside of Kabul, as you said, in the last several months, with the Taliban taking

over certain provincial capitals and regions.

But how do you do that? How have you found it is best to negotiate with the Taliban to deliver this aid? I know it is in their interest for it to be in

the country as well.

CLEMENTS: Well, indeed, it's a very dynamic and fluid situation, but pretty early on, in that takeover, they are have -- at an operational

level, and I should emphasize that -- our contacts at an operational level with the Taliban have continued for many, many years and that, of course,

has stepped up in recent days.

And, you know, really, it's at a provincial and it's at a district level and we are working very closely with the U.N. country team, the

humanitarian coordinator to try to make sure that that access is secured, that our properties are safe, that we're able to deliver. And we're able to

deliver those programs that we see critically important, including education, and healthcare, and other ways to be able to support the


We've seen in most areas that we are able to continue to operate, and that's something obviously we want to expand. We think the needs will

continue to grow. Obviously, the protection is paramount. So ceasefires, an end to the conflict, to the instability in some of these, not just in

Kabul, but in the provinces as well, will be absolutely critical.

NEWTON: Is there a risk that as the Taliban becomes emboldened, though, that this could become more difficult and even worse, that there could be

reprisals on the people that you work with on the ground or even your staff?

CLEMENTS: Well, in fact, this is going to be a continuing -- a concern for us is, you know, obviously, there will need to be clear commitments for us

to be able to operate as a humanitarian community, and we'll need to see the evidence in terms of our ability to be able to deliver and that for

now, we have seen.

We see as our colleagues being able to go back into some areas they have had to step back from momentarily, and we've also seen programs that will

continue perhaps in different ways. But also we have, you know, some for UNHCR, for the U.N. Refugee Agency, we've got 200 people inside the country

in all of those parts of Afghanistan, and that remains and the humanitarian partners, adding another 900 in all parts of the country that we need to

ramp up and to continue.

NEWTON: In terms of ramping it up, though, will you need the international community to help you when it comes to trying to find some levers of

influence with the Taliban? I mean, do you think there is -- and while you remain neutral, everyone understands that -- do you think there is going to

be a place here where the allies need to step up and make sure that they give the kind of security that you will need from the Taliban in almost

every corner and crevice of the country now?

CLEMENTS: I think we're going to need as much support as we can possibly get. This is direct discussions. It's the support and leverage from others.

Obviously, I think everyone wants to avoid further suffering of the Afghan people, they will want to have a strong and robust humanitarian response.

But we need obviously safety and protection of civilians, the end to the fighting -- all of that needs to be part of the equation as well. So yes,

we're going to need an enormous amount of support inside including support financially from those governments and the like.


CLEMENTS: The humanitarian response plan is terribly underfunded, not to mention the refugee response plan and our actions outside in Pakistan,

Iran, Turkey, you mentioned earlier and so on. We need that kind of support from the international community, sustained support will be absolutely


NEWTON: And as you mentioned, you know, the issue of aid fatigue is real.

I don't have a lot of time here. But quickly, are you disappointed about this issue of hot potato with refugees? Already, we have Turkey saying not

here, not now. Do you worry that this will turn into another crisis outside of Afghanistan's borders?

CLEMENTS: You know, we really now are seeing an internal displacement crisis, not a refugee exodus. Not at this point.

We do continue to plan. We call on those governments to please keep their borders open. People will need to access asylum, they will need to be

protected. There aren't very many places for Afghans to go right now, and so the support to Pakistan and Iran who have been long standing hosts for

refugees over decades remains fundamentally critical.

NEWTON: Right. Kelly Clements, we will have to leave it there. You are the deputy High Commissioner for the UNHCR, and we thank you for your time.

Now, up next, the withdrawal from Afghanistan will be remembered as the Biden administration's first debacle says my next guest. He warns that

everything now hinges on getting the evacuation right.


NEWTON: Returning to our top story, the Taliban have moved quickly to crush early opposition to their rule in Afghanistan. There have been

clashes with protesters and an indefinite curfew has been imposed in the city, of course. Now, a report prepared for the United Nations warn the

hunt for those who worked with the former government is at this hour intensifying.

A German broadcaster says the Taliban are searching for journalists after shooting dead a relative of one of its employees. Now meantime, the crowds

at Kabul Airport you see there are swelling and locals trying to get out are struggling, of course, to try and pass those Taliban checkpoints.


NEWTON: The American Embassy reiterated a short while ago that it cannot provide safe passage to the airport.

Joining me now is Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Eurasia Center. And you know, you have been pointing out that President

Biden has been nothing but shrewd. But in your words, American voters have shown some eagerness to end the forever wars, but that -- not like this,

right? The scenes are just too much.

He is clearly betting though that in a few days, the glare of the media will be gone, people will move on. What do you see is the collateral damage


ARIEL COHEN, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL EURASIA CENTER: Well, the collateral damage first and foremost is the U.S. reputation as an ally and

U.S. position in Eurasia in an area that for over a hundred years, the top thinkers in the business were saying he who controls Eurasia controls the

eastern hemisphere; he who controls the eastern hemisphere controls the world. It may sound old, but it's still pretty much true.

And what we see now is the Taliban without an Air Force, without cyber, without missiles delivering a blow to the biggest, strongest superpower on

the planet. And as we're leaving our allies in Taiwan, our allies in Japan, Australia, you name it, as well as in Europe, the Baltic States and Poland,

come to mind, our allies are questioning our commitment to stand by them.

This is probably the biggest blow to American reputation since the fall of Saigon in 1975. We saw the same pictures of people clinging to the aircraft

leaving, and also the fall of the Shah in 1979, where the Carter administration didn't do very much to save a strategic ally of the United


NEWTON: Yes, and the repercussions from that are, you know, still reverberating for decades on.

COHEN: Very much so.

NEWTON: You know, there is a theory -- yes, and I have to say, though to just take a counterpoint here, there's a theory that, okay, let's talk

about Taiwan and Ukraine. So, if we talk about Taiwan and Ukraine, and they're watching, there is a theory that China and Russia are only going to

get a propaganda victory out of this, right? That strategically, it doesn't mean much. What do you say to that?

COHEN: It is rubbish, because it is not the issue of whether or not we needed to leave Afghanistan. I am in favor of not engaging in nation

building, not crusading for democracy in a tribal society that barely can read and write. Forty percent of Afghans are literate and even a higher

percentage among women.

But what I'm saying is, you do not cut and run like that. You did not leave equipment worth billions of dollars, 2,000 vehicles including Humvees,

missiles -- shoulder launch missiles. The equipment that would allow the Taliban to track down and kill brutally our collaborators. You have to

leave in an orderly fashion taking your people with you and protecting them.

We airlifted 140,000 people from South Vietnam in the very end days of American presence there. We did not do that in Afghanistan, up to -- I saw

figures up to 10,000 American citizens, not just soldiers, contractors, relatives, civilians are stuck in Afghanistan. And sooner or later,

somebody will get killed. And then what?

NEWTON: And then what? You know, as you're speaking, we're showing the scenes from the airport. But what I always worry about is what we can't

see. There could be unfortunately, quite an escalation to come.

I want to ask you about the exhaustion and the frustration among the U.S.'s closest allies. It's been palpable. It's been blunt. How do you believe

they will change their posture?

COHEN: Oh, well, it depends which allies we're talking about. If we are talking about --

NEWTON: Let's talk about clearly those NATO allies, right? I mean, let's talk about the U.K., France, and Germany.

COHEN: Well, U.K., France and Germany should have gotten a wake-up call. Back in 2014, with the Russian engagement in Ukraine, they committed to

paying two percent of their GDP to the military and military related expenses. Britain does it. Germany and France do not, and other Europeans

do not.


COHEN: Eighty percent of NATO military budgets are paid by English speakers -- U.S., Canada, and U.K. So, the Europeans had a wake-up call

long ago that they prefer to turn to the other side and keep sleeping. Now, hopefully, they're going to wake up.

Europe needs a much stronger, more robust military arm, clearly; and our Asian allies, unfortunately, I hate to say that I'm against nuclear

proliferation, but I won't be surprised if Taiwan and Japan are considering very serious nuclear programs as we speak, because you cannot rely -- you

cannot rely today on the United States' security commitment.

NEWTON: Yes, and that gives us right there in a nutshell, the ramifications of this yet to come.

Ariel Cohen, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Eurasia Center. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now, a Taliban spokesperson said today that China has played a positive role so far in helping promote stability in Afghanistan, and he said

Beijing is welcome to help contribute to rebuilding of the country.

China traditionally has had closer relations with the Taliban than other global powers, but it remains clear eyed about the regional challenges

ahead. David Culver has our story.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just weeks before the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, China made a very public display of

growing closer to the group's leadership. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meeting a Taliban delegation in northern China in July, giving legitimacy

and perhaps confidence to the militant group long regarded with fear and suspicion by the rest of the world.

As many global powers now rush to escape Afghanistan, China claims it remains one of the few countries to retain its embassy in the capital. But

China's support for the Taliban comes with strings attached. China's help with reconstruction in exchange for the Taliban assuring regional


HUA CHUNYING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): They will never allow any forces to use Afghan territory to endanger China.

CULVER (voice over): A deal brokered between awkward allies, a militant group representing hardline Islam and a Chinese government accused of

cultural genocide against and mass detainment of its Muslim minorities at home. But China's relationship with the Taliban goes back a long way.

SEAN ROBERTS, AUTHOR, "THE WAR ON UYGHURS": It established relations with the Taliban already in 1999 at the encouragement of Pakistan, which is one

of China's closest allies.

CULVER (voice over): The relationship was seen as pragmatism to manage a potential threat as China shares a small border with Afghanistan through

the Wakhan Corridor, and China's multibillion dollar Belt and Road investments in neighboring Pakistan are at stake.

HENRY STOREY, POLITICAL RISK ANALYST: I think they are very wary to get involved militarily. And so at this stage, I think trying to cultivate the

top rungs in the Taliban promised lots of foreign aid and investments that is really, their least worst option at the moment.

CULVER (voice over): The Taliban, for its part has not spoken out publicly against China's crackdown on its Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, a

silence replicated by many other Muslim majority countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Chinese government defends its Xinjiang policy and says

it is trying to stamp out terrorism, after several attacks, which it blamed on a group called the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, a tiny

fringe group that began to dissolve when its leader was killed by the Pakistani military in 2003.


CULVER (voice over): Sean Roberts, author of "The War on the Uyghurs" says the Chinese government used George W. Bush's war on terror to justify its

harsh policies targeting the ethnic Muslim minorities.

ROBERTS: I think that shielded China from a lot of criticism for some of the draconian policies it carried out against Uyghurs.

CULVER (voice over): But other groups who could use the plight of the Uyghur cause to recruit Jihadis, a concern for Asia's superpower as it

tries to navigate the new political reality on its doorstep.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


NEWTON: Still to come, desperation grows in Haiti where hospitals are overwhelmed the number of earthquake victims needing treatment.



NEWTON: The humanitarian disaster in Haiti after Saturday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake continues, of course, to unfold there. International aid is now

trickling in to help thousands left homeless by the quake, which also claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Now, many survivors are lacking just the basics and are living among the rubble with no shelter, afraid to enter what's left of any remaining

buildings for fear of course that they will collapse.

Meantime, hospitals across Haiti are overwhelmed. Caring for the more than 12,000 people injured in the quake. CNN's Joe Jones reports from the

capital, Port-au-Prince.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The helicopter convoy bringing the most seriously injured from the earthquake zone to Port-au-Prince,

Haiti, running from sun up to sun down. Today, they are greeted by a surgeon, a broken bone specialist who quickly evaluates their conditions.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake left more than 2000 people dead and over 12,000 people injured, causing hospitals in Haiti to be completely

overwhelmed. A short distance by air from Les Cayes to Port-au-Prince, but getting here can be a slow process.

This 23-month-old girl suffered a laceration running from thigh to ankle in Saturday's earthquake. When she finally was flown into the Capitol, her leg

was badly infected.

JOHNS (on camera): It took a long time to get her to get her.

DR. JEAN WILDRIC HIPPOLYTE, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: To get her, so it is about three days. The facilities are pretty good over there. It's the issue that

they are dealing with in our countryside.

JOHNS (voice over): Many of the patients coming in, children.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY (through translator): As I was sleeping, the bed was shaking, and then I ran and there was a brick in front of me that fell on

my feet.

JOHNS (voice over): From the airport, ambulances fan out across the city taking the patients to hospitals that should best suit their needs. Here at

the hospital run by Doctors without Borders on the west side of town where the staff have been dealing with more than just the rapidly filling beds.

DR. JOHANNE PAUL, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES, TABARRE (through translator): The hardest part is when a staff member knows or receives a patient to whom

they may be related, and it is tougher for them.

JOHNS (voice over): The stories of the patients, heart wrenching. "My first son died next to me," this mother of four says. She lost not one, but

two sons in the earthquake, both dying right next to her when their house collapsed on top of them. She was pinned in the rubble for hours before

being rescued.

GLADYS CASIMIR, LOST TWO SONS IN EARTHQUAKE (through translator): When they started digging and they made a hole, I grabbed one of the people's

feet so they knew I was alive.

JOHNS (voice over): After being pulled from the rubble, her right leg was amputated. But you says her spirit is unbroken.


CASIMIR (through translator): A have a sister and a mother who are living in the States. I want them to know to stay strong because what God has

given, God will take away.

JOHNS (on camera): Because of the large number of people injured in the earthquake, there is no assurance that patients flown from the disaster

zone to Port-au-Prince will stay in hospitals here for long. They are often flown back to make room for other patients.

Joe Johns, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


NEWTON: Meantime, hurricane watches are in effect for parts of the U.S. northeast as they brace for Tropical Storm Henri, and the National

Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Grace meantime has strengthened back into a hurricane with 135 kilometer hour winds.

Grace is expected to make a second landfall in East Central Mexico later Friday and strengthen until landfall overnight.

And we will be right back with more news.


NEWTON: Coronavirus cases are surging globally. Let's give you a quick update on the numbers. According to the World Health Organization, there

are now more than 209 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and more than four million deaths.

New Zealand and parts of Australia meantime, are tightening COVID restrictions as the delta variant fuels a rise in cases.

Hong Kong has been toughening its already rigid rules, but it seems some Hollywood actors are exempt. Actress Nicole Kidman and four of her crew

members managed to bypass those quarantine rules. Local officials granted her a special exemption when she arrived from Australia.

Now, Kidman is in Hong Kong to film an upcoming TV series. You can imagine outrageous growing there since others have had to abide by those very

strict rules.

CNN's Will Ripley has the story from Hong Kong.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To understand why people here in Hong Kong are so outraged by this quarantine exemption granted to

Nicole Kidman and certain members of her crew, you need to understand what it's like if you live and work here in Hong Kong and you have a need to

travel abroad, whether it be for business, whether it be to see your family.

No matter the reason, almost everyone with a few exceptions, a few quarantine exemptions for essential workers, people have to isolate in a

hotel room for up to 21 days if they come from a country that the Hong Kong government deems high risk.

So, from seven days to 21 days at your own expense in a hotel. That in itself is an ordeal for anyone who is traveling, but it's also financially

not feasible for a lot of people here in Hong Kong. Either they can't afford a hotel quarantine, or they can't get the time off work. So, they're

stuck. They can't travel. They can't see their families.

And for those people to see someone like Nicole Kidman fly in by private jet from Sydney, which Hong Kong deems a medium risk country -- they have

an outbreak in Sydney right now with the delta variant -- to come in, doesn't have to wait in long lines of five or six hours at the airport,

does not have to isolate in a hotel, but is actually out within a couple days of her arrival at the store or on location filming her series, her new

show for Amazon, it is absolutely infuriating for people.


RIPLEY: Now, the Hong Kong government is defending this quarantine exemption. They say that Kidman and her staff are vaccinated. They say that

they are performing an essential service for the city's economy by shooting this series at a time that Hong Kong is trying to revive its image, and

they say that it is entirely safe because they are getting tested regularly for COVID.

It may be safe, but for a lot of people here in Hong Kong, it is certainly not fair.

Will Ripley, CNN, in quarantine, in Hong Kong.


NEWTON: In quarantine indeed.

And that's it for our show. Thanks for joining us.

"Connect the World" with Isa Soares is next.