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Fareed Zakaria GPS
After Breathtaking Advance, Taliban Surround Kabul; Taliban Overrun Afghanistan With Remarkable Ease; The Fate Of Afghanistan's Women And Girls; Interview With John Kerry On Troubling Report On Climate Change From U.N.; Interview With Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 15, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
(Voice-over): Today on this show, the Taliban are bearing down on Kabul after a lightning-fast march across Afghanistan. We will get the latest live from the capital city. My guests include former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen. Also, Mahbouba Seraj, a fierce advocate for women's rights in that country.
We will also look at climate change after a U.N. body released a stunning report this week. Climate envoy John Kerry will help us understand how bad the prognosis is and what can be done about it. And the Greek prime minister will be about the wildfires that have devastated his nation.
(On-camera): But first here's my take. As we watch the tragedy that is unfolding in Afghanistan, let's first dispense with the fantasy that the United States was maintaining the peace there with just a few thousand troops and that the situation could've been managed with this small commitment.
For the last couple of years, it sure looked that way to Americans because Washington had made a deal with the Taliban, and as a result the Taliban was deliberately not attacking U.S. and coalition forces.
For the Afghans, the war had been intensifying. In the summer of 2019 the Afghan army and police force suffered their worst casualties in the two decades of fighting. It was also the worst spirit for Afghan civilian casualties in a decade. In 2018 when the United States had four times as many troops as this year, the fighting was so brutal that 282 civilian Afghan civilians fled their homes in the countryside.
Frustration with the Afghan government and its American patrons was rising. A government survey done that year showed that Afghan support for U.S. troops was at 55 percent down from 90 percent a decade earlier.
You have heard people suggest that the withdrawal should've been delayed just a bit. Perhaps, but consider this news report in "The Guardian" in 2016. "Afghan Forces Lose Ground to Taliban Despite Delayed U.S. Troop Withdrawal." You see the story pointed out that the U.S. Military had persuaded President Barack Obama to delay the troop withdrawals he had planned but already delayed a year earlier.
Despite having robust American forces and significant air power, the Afghan central government's control dropped to only about 65 percent of the country's districts.
Some of the data I've cited comes from a powerful new book "The American War in Afghanistan" by Carter Malkasian who served as a civilian officer in Helmand Province and then rose to become senior adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Drawing his conclusions from the book in a political essay, he begins by noting there can be little doubt that we lost the war.
The United States spent 20 years, $2 trillion, commanded at its peak 130,000 coalition troops, built up an Afghan Security Force of 300,000, at least on paper, and used the world's most sophisticated and lethal air power. Still, it was unable to defeat an ill-equipped Taliban force of perhaps 75,000.
Why? Malkasian tries to answer the question which he admits has puzzled him for the 12 years since he became engaged with Afghanistan and watched in battle after battle numerically superior and better supplied soldiers being defeated by poorly resourced and unexceptionally led Taliban.
In the last few weeks the most extraordinary sight has surely been to see how little the Afghan army and police has fought back, often melting away at the very sight of the Taliban force. Malkasian's basic answer comes from a Taliban scholar he met in Kandahar in 2019. The Taliban fight for belief, for janat, heaven, and ghazi, killing infidels. The army and police fight for money.
To be sure Afghan soldiers have also been unable or unwilling to turn back the Taliban advance because they're not getting the supplies and backup they need from their leaders. That's not surprising given the many problems with the Afghan government. While democratically elected, it lacks broad support. In the 2019 election, just over 1.8 million people voted in a country with a population of 39 million.
Corruption was and is endemic, and billions of dollars of American aid sloshed around carelessly made it much, much worse. The government never truly incorporated the rural Pashtun community from which the Taliban draws its greatest strength. But, above all, that government's legitimacy was crippled because it survived only thanks to the support of a foreign power.
Afghan identity is closely tied to resistance against foreign invasion, particularly the invasion of infidels. Afghan history glorifies the century-long struggle against the British and the jihad against the godless Soviet Union. It is easy for the Taliban to use these tropes to mobilize nationalism and religious devotion, which powerfully fueled the will to fight and die. The Ghani government has no countervailing narrative of equal intensity to inspire its troops.
The United States has been watching the Taliban gain ground in Afghanistan for years now. But it is rich and powerful enough to have been able to mask that reality through a steady stream of counterattacks and air and missile, and drone strikes. But none of that changed the fact that despite all its efforts, it had not been able to achieve victory. It could not defeat the Taliban.
Now could it have withdrawn better, more slowly in a different season after better negotiations? Certainly. But the naked truth is, there is no elegant way to lose a war.
And let's get started.
The speed of the Taliban's triumphant march across Afghanistan has shocked even close observers. Now the militants are on the outskirts of the capital city Kabul.
CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward joins us live from Kabul with the latest.
Clarissa, welcome. I guess the big question is the Taliban seems certainly poised to take Kabul. Will it fall, and if it doesn't, is that because the Taliban are being restrained for some reason?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think right now there are talks ongoing at the presidential palace between the government and various Taliban representatives from the DOHA contingency. But it appears that the city is poised to fall to the Taliban. People here woke up to the news in the morning that the Taliban was at the gates just outside Kabul.
There was chaos in the streets, Fareed. People double parking, people were, you know, driving down the wrong side of the road. People were just absolutely panicked. There was a run on the banks. There were people waiting outside in long lines outside of the passport office. And so now everybody is just waiting to see what emerges from these talks, what if anything.
We're just learning, forgive me for reaching out, Fareed, that Zabiullah Mujahid, who is the spokesperson for the Taliban, has now confirmed that the Taliban are in the Kabul city center. So that is certainly a huge update and will undoubtedly be frightening very many people in this city who face an uncertain future, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: What is extraordinary is the lack of response, the military response from the Afghan army, but even political response from the Afghan government. Have we heard anything other than that brief prerecorded message from President Ghani or from the defense minister or from the commander of the Afghan military?
WARD: No, that's basically all we heard, a brief message from the defense minister, another brief message from the Interim minister, assuring everyone to be calm, that Kabul is under control. But that is not likely to assuage anyone's fears. We have also heard from the Taliban who said listen, we want this to be bloodless, we want this to be peaceful, we will have a blanket amnesty for anyone who puts down their weapons and surrenders.
You don't need to leave your homes, you can be assured that we will not harm you, our fighters will not come and take over your businesses or launch searches on your houses. But as I said, the feeling now, honestly this morning, it was one of chaos.
Everybody clamoring to get to the airport, the road completely overrun. And now it's this very eerie, eerie quiet whereby people are locked up in their homes, they know the Taliban is in the city now, but they have no idea what the future will bring and no sense of clarity from their government as to what the situation is, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Clarissa, it does seem like this has been so swift and sudden, and part of it is -- a large part of it is the Afghan army is not fighting.
So does that mean that it has been largely bloodless? What are you hearing, you know, when the Taliban comes in, are there actually any skirmishes, are people losing their lives?
WARD: So we were in Kandahar about 10 days ago, and there was definitely fierce fighting going on there. The government understood at that stage that they couldn't afford to lose Afghanistan's second largest city. Also in Herat there was some pretty fierce fighting, there were airstrikes, there were attempts at counter offenses. But what we've seen really I would argue in the last few days is a kind of melting away of that resistance.
And even my camera man Will Bonded and I were driving back from Taliban territory recently, and we saw a sort of slew of Afghan soldiers running out of their base at a checkpoint hailing down a civilian car and getting in the car and running away, essentially, which I think gives you a feeling for the lack of morale in the Afghan army. There's a broad sense clearly that they can't win this, and they're not willing to die trying to fight it.
ZAKARIA: Clarissa, very briefly I got to ask you, what do you think happens to you if the Taliban take Kabul?
WARD: Well, we are trying to reach out to the Taliban to be in contact with them so that they protect our rights as journalists. But obviously we're watching the situation very closely. Most foreigners are now evacuating the country, and we will have to be looking very closely when the time comes that we should do so as well, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Clarissa, your reporting has just been extraordinary, courageous, and important. So first of all, thank you so much, and please, please stay safe.
WARD: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the big question is what happened to the Afghan military. I will ask America's former top military officer, Mike Mullen. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
Now let's get to the big picture on the military and political side of Afghanistan with Mike Mullen. He served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2007 to September 2011. In that role he was the top military adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Welcome, Admiral. Let me ask you first, on July 8th when President Biden announced the decision to withdraw American troops, you said you agreed with it, you thought it was after 20 years, time for the Afghan people to sort out their own affairs. Has anything that's happened in the last week changed your mind about that?
ADM. MIKE MULLEN (RET), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: No. I still think it was the right decision, and it is time to come home. I am taken back by the speed of the collapse, if you will, of the Afghan army, the Afghan police, and indeed even the Afghan government, and that it's happened so visibly, oftentimes in the discussion right now, there is this comparison to Vietnam and that haunting picture of the embassy there as Saigon finally fell.
And I worry quite frankly with where we are right now. We're seeing images like that almost every single day. What I don't quite understand in the decision is the timing of it. Anybody that's been in Afghanistan or around it knows that this is really the peak of the fighting season. And so we really are moving out at a time where the Taliban are at their absolute max effectiveness. That has puzzled me.
In fairness, President Trump set a date, I think of 1 May, President Biden then moved that to the right to create an opportunity for a more orderly departure. That said, my own view is that putting that departure in the middle of the winter, if you will, would allow -- possibly allow, you know, a better outcome here. But the long-term outcome I think is inevitable that the Taliban are going to take control and run the country. And, in that regard, I don't think there's a whole lot we can do.
ZAKARIA: You talk about the timing, and of course one does -- it does one make one thing, it's peak fighting season for both sides, the Taliban, but it will also give the Afghan army a chance. And it gets to an issue that when you were chairman you focused on a lot. I remember having conversations with you both on the show and privately.
You were very worried about the level of corruption, the lack of morale in the Afghan army. Because part of what's puzzling about this, you know, they're not even fighting, they're melting away. And so what do you think fundamentally went wrong in building an Afghan army?
MULLEN: Well, I think we, the United States, and many of our allies, I mean, when I left the chairman's job in 2011, there were 49 countries with military capability in Afghanistan. So there was an awful lot of military capability and a lot of political capital invested.
And I think all of us, myself included, underestimated the impact of what a corrupt government does. And that was with President Karzai, and it is sustained in President Ghani to this day. And the Afghan people who had great -- many of them had great expectations for us in that I think really in the end looked at us and say, how can you continue to support this government which is ripping us off right and left?
And I think that's really -- that's not all of it but that's fundamental. And we, in our government, did not actually sort that out. We really weren't able to put in place support mechanisms which would move that to a much less corrupt state. And I think it's fundamental in how we got here. And having the institutions and particularly the army and the police right now collapse, they do that with a knowledge that the government that they're trying to support is one that I don't think they really do support in terms of the long- term health of the country.
ZAKARIA: You were the chairman when the surge took place, and people forget now, but way back when, General McChrystal asked for more troops, President Obama agreed to it. And after 18 months the data didn't show that -- you know, the Taliban still maintained the ability to inflict casualties on Afghan army and police and on foreign forces. Was there any learning from that?
MULLEN: Well, one of the really controversial issues when President Obama ordered that surge was he set a date for a departure. And actually I supported that decision. And it was a controversial part of his decision.
And the reason I supported that is because if we did not have significant progress or show significant progress over the course of the next 18 months or so, then we had the wrong strategy, and we really needed to recalibrate. And I think that was indicated in actually what happened.
And this is a war that started in 2001, Fareed. We've been through two Republican administrations, two Democratic administrations, lots of, you know, really significant military leadership, political leadership, diplomatic leadership. And I think, all of us, myself included, we just reached too far. We had -- expectations were too high and it was a bridge too far to get to where we said we thought we wanted to go.
ZAKARIA: Admiral Mullen, pleasure to have you on, sir.
MULLEN: Thanks, Fareed. Good to be with you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, perhaps the people with the most to lose as the Taliban seeks to take control of Afghanistan again are the nation's women and girls. I will talk to a fierce advocate for them who has some tough words for the United States. Back in a moment.
ZAKARIA: First I have some breaking news. CNN has just confirmed that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. Another stunning development in this war-torn nation.
When the Taliban last ruled over Afghanistan from 1996 until the U.S. invasion in 2001, women and girls were treated in ways that can only be described as medieval. They were not allowed to go to school or to go to work. 62 percent of girls were married off before the age of 18. Violence against women was rampant.
Will this be the fate of Afghan women again?
Joining me now is of Mahbouba Seraj of the Afghan's Women Network, an extraordinary organization.
Mahbouba, first let me just ask you as somebody, an Afghan living in Afghanistan, have you been surprised by the collapse of the government and the army and the police force?
MAHBOUBA SERAJ, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: You know, yes and no. Yes, I have been surprised because of the way it collapsed, the way it went so fast. In a matter of two days, you know, four provinces of Afghanistan going into the hands of Taliban. And I was wondering what on earth could be doing that?
But then again, at the same time, because of the way this country has become and the corruption the way it is in the world and in Afghanistan today, I knew we were sold out. So -- and that's exactly what happened and that's why we are where we are today and so fast. That's exactly what it is.
ZAKARIA: So the Taliban has claimed that they are not going to do to women now what they did when they ruled it last. Have you heard the same thing? And do you believe them?
SERAJ: You know, as an example, some of the women in Herat -- now I don't know whether that guy is a part of the Taliban or not, but he is a person that belongs to the (INAUDIBLE), Herat, and he's a (INAUDIBLE), and he -- you should have heard what the man, how the man talked to the women today when in Herat the women went to him and told him about their lives, their work, the permission that they should have to go to school and to go to work.
The man absolutely refused them everything, everything, and said, "No, there's going to be some -- some women doctors that are going to be doing the work but nobody else."
SERAJ: "No, you're supposed to be staying home because, you see, the reason why there is such a problem with the new -- with the generation of Afghanistan, that the children are where they are and how they are and how they are living and all of that and behaving is because the mothers are not home, and you are supposed to be staying home and looking after them."
So this is -- this is -- was his answer. So I don't know what the Taliban are going to say. Is this what they believe or is this one -- just one man in their group that believes like that?
So to tell you the honest truth, we really don't know until they come and we sit down and talk to them.
ZAKARIA: Tell --tell us about the kind of work you've been doing for the last many years.
SERAJ: I came to Afghanistan, back to Afghanistan, to my country, to this beautiful land that I love more than anything in this world -- I came back to it end of 2002, 2003, actually, and then -- and I've been working with the -- with the women and the children of Afghanistan, mainly the women.
I started doing volunteer work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I thought I should be teaching, you know, to the -- but that was to the men and women, actually. Because it was right after the problems and everything and Afghanistan being -- going backwards so many years.
So I started working with our diplomats. And then, after that, I started working with an organization that was giving, disseminating information about human rights, about the rights of women, about education, about healthcare, to all of the provinces of Afghanistan. So I traveled all over.
And everything I was doing was in the -- in the form of tapes, and I would go and share the tapes with the -- with the women. And we all sat around and we talked, and they would tell about their problems. And that way, you know, the women of the village could come and tell about, you know, what was going on and the things that were done, and they were done the wrong way and all of that.
So that was an amazing program, and I worked for quite a few years. And then -- but in between, you know, being involved with the women, seeing another generation coming up, trying to be the voice of the voiceless, that was my whole idea of coming to Afghanistan. I didn't come to this country to make, you know, to make women ministers and to make women become into -- take such a huge power in the government and all of that. I really didn't.
I came to Afghanistan to be the voice of the voiceless women of my country, all of those women that they are living in the provinces of Afghanistan, all the way back in the districts, and nobody hears their voices, and they are in dire need of help; they are poor; they are not educated; their children are dying because they are sick, and -- and -- and they have, you know, their own childbirth, and there was such a mother and child mortality rate in Afghanistan, so high.
So I came from that, and I did -- and I did my part to work all of these years, traveling everywhere, working with the organizations that I absolutely admire. And it was -- they were doing fantastic work in these areas.
SERAJ: So that's what I did. ZAKARIA: And, Mahbouba -- and, Mahbouba, you must be -- you must be worried, watching this -- the Taliban rise, not just of the -- of the work that you are doing, but you must be worried about your own personal safety, of your own life.
SERAJ: You know -- you know, Mr. Zakaria, I am not a very brave person. I really am not. And I'm not a martyr, either. I love my life and I want to be alive because the women of Afghanistan still need me.
But this is something, this whole thing, that why I'm here, why I'm staying, what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, is because it's my job. It's my duty. It's my responsibility. And I have to do that. And that's exactly why I'm doing it.
So, you know, this is where I am and this is where I want to stay. And -- and I want to be -- I want to be for my girls, for my sisters, and for my -- for my daughters. Right now, they are my daughters mostly because they're young and I'm an old woman now.
But, at the same time, you know, I just want to be here because I know my presence really gives them the kind of, you know, moral and the kind of, you know, support that they really need in these very hard times. So that's exactly what I'm doing.
ZAKARIA: Mahbouba, I don't think I've ever offered prayers on -- on television, but I -- I pray that you will be safe, and I -- and I hope it with all my heart. Thank you.
SERAJ: Thank you so much. Thank you so very much.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," we will switch to climate. John Kerry on the troubling report on climate change from the United Nations this week. Can the planet be saved? Will it?
ZAKARIA: We now all know that climate change is here. It is caused by humans. It is happening fast. It has already altered our world in irreversible ways. And we do have to act on it now.
These are the takeaways from a sobering report from the U.N. this week. So what can be done?
Joining me now is the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.
Secretary Kerry, of course I want to ask you questions about Afghanistan, but I know you are here to talk about climate change. So let me ask you about last week. The White House hails this U.N. report, and then one day later, the White House urges Saudi Arabia and OPEC to increase production of petroleum, spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Is that not a kind of mixed message, and the central issue, we want to have it both ways?
We want to have all the cheap oil we can, and at the same time, we talk about climate change.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. CLIMATE ENVOY: Well, I don't think -- in the end, I can understand why some people think it might be, but the fact is it isn't, Fareed. The president's really talking about a very short moment where production was at a level anyway that is having an impact on the marketplace.
I think the president wants to make sure the marketplace is -- is able to move rapidly in the way that it needs to, to invest the money to make this transition.
The president has been crystal clear about that. He has made a goal, which is firmly now implanted in everybody's minds. You just saw the announcement about a 50 percent sales of electric vehicles only by 2030.
In addition, the president has set a goal of, by 2035, we will have a carbon-free power production capacity in the United States.
So this is a very short-term-moment measure with respect to the current state of the marketplace. It is not reflective of the direction that the administration thinks we ought to be going.
In fact, the administration has been phasing down and pushing other countries to phase down use of coal, the dirtiest fuel in the world and one of the most impactful, negatively, right now, in many parts of the world.
So I don't think it's -- in the end, it's not a long-term policy; it's a short-term move for an immediate stabilization. But that will empower us, I think, to do a lot of the things we need to do.
ZAKARIA: You -- you talked about coal and how we are trying to get people around the world off coal. So I want to ask you about this. When you go around the world, I hear from people who say, look, the Chinese government has offered us these financing deals to built coal- fired power plants.
Our only other option is natural gas, but the United States government will not offer project financing for natural gas. They're not going to be able to set up renewable; they're on battery storage to -- to do that. They need what's called base load power that is always on.
Should we not be countering China's efforts to fund coal with American natural gas, which is half the emissions of coal?
KERRY: There are places, Fareed, in the world, where it is imperative to have power and to transition into power production that is absolutely clean. But not every place is going to be able to do that immediately.
So I would personally, and I think as a matter of policy, we would prefer a country to be using gas momentarily if they're not able to deploy renewals. The first choice should be renewable. Without any question, there are countries now that are at 90 percent production by renewables, some, a few, at 100 percent, very few -- Iceland, for instance.
But it is possible to be able to be building out a capacity to be able to transition more rapidly from gas and from fossil fuel, generally. That is what ought to be the goal.
But there are certain places where that isn't possible immediately. I would much rather have a country transition temporarily to the gas rather than burning the coal because you do get a 50 percent reduction.
And so some countries could buy a 10-year period here, the 2020 to 2030 period, where they're actually reducing by 50 percent, but with a plan to be transitioning into green hydrogen or using storage or -- or other renewable possibilities. That's exactly what we're trying to work towards with the Glasgow meeting coming up on November 1st. That's the next meeting of the U.N. parties. One hundred ninety-six- plus countries will come together. And we need to adopt a very forward-leaning policy for 2020 to 2030.
The challenge with China is to get China to stop funding externally, outside of their country, those coal plants. They've talked about having a green -- green, you know, green Belt and Road Initiative. We're working with China very closely right now. I'm going there in three weeks. We will be continuing the conversations we've had over the course of the last six months.
My hope is that China will step up as it did in 2013 and help to lead the world as we move forward here. There's -- china is already the largest producer of renewable power. It's already deployed more renewable power than any other country in the world. But because China is bigger than almost every other country in the world, China needs to do that, needs to reduce more rapidly. And we're working how that might be achievable.
ZAKARIA: Secretary Kerry, I'd love to talk to you more. Afghanistan has crowded this show. We will have you on again to talk more about this important subject. Thank you, sir.
Next on "GPS," Europe's dreadful heat wave. The Greek prime minister explains just what happened.
ZAKARIA: We are back with Nick Paton Walsh, live from Kabul.
Nick, the Afghan president has fled, apparently, to Tajikistan. The Taliban now, they say, have entered Kabul.
What is it like? Has Kabul, in effect, fallen?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, this is a seismic moment, Fareed, utterly remarkable that we're here in about 10 days since things began collapsing around Afghanistan.
There is the sound of gunfire pretty consistently in Kabul at the moment, unclear who's shooting at who, and it could often be nervousness. But there is obviously seismic news for people in Kabul to digest.
President Ashraf Ghani, I am told, four, five, probably six hours ago now, left the country -- it isn't precisely clear where he went to -- left the country, possibly Tajikistan, with his close aides, a small number of them.
He's now referred to by Abdullah, Abdullah, a key figure here in former government, as "the former president." Appeals for calm here, certainly, but I have to say one of the former members of staff of President Ghani referred to this as him "running away."
And, most importantly, we had been expecting for weeks, even months, if you listened to U.S. diplomacy, some sort of transitional power- sharing agreement. Well, clearly, that has not happened. The president has left the country. There is nothing that we are aware of at this point to shore up political factions here and prevent the Taliban from simply moving in and taking power.
And a lot of the reports we're hearing here is they are in fact slowly moving around the city with the key goal of securing major objectives here. So unclear precisely what awaits many Kabulis tomorrow morning. Dark is certainly falling here, and it is an unprecedented night for this capital city after 20 years of the American security blanket.
ZAKARIA: Again, Nick, we have often heard about how Kabul was a fortress, how it was surrounded, well-fortified. The Afghan army and police force had its strongest numbers there.
Did they fight? What -- how did the Taliban enter?
WALSH: They seem, for the most part, to have entered peacefully. As I say, we are hearing crackles of gunfire here and there, but there are not reports of street-to-street fighting or Afghan security forces amassing in specific areas in order to try and prevent entry.
As far as we are aware, and it is dark here, so we are not able to go around and witness these events, they are moving gently across the city. But, as I say, unprecedented times, partly because nobody imagined the Taliban would enter into this city of 6 million unimpeded.
But I think, frankly, if you see, the president, who, as a matter of in the last 24 hours, in a long-awaited address to the nation, said that he essentially wanted to stick around, and has now disappeared without a transitional government potentially to take over the chaos here.
It does seem as though the Taliban's power grab, which began, I mean, startlingly, about eight or nine days ago in full with a move into provincial cities, is now moving into the capital of Kabul, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Nick, I have to ask you what I asked Clarissa Ward. Do you have any assurances from anyone in the Taliban that you and journalists like you will be safe?
WALSH: Well, they have been very clear, those elements, the Taliban leadership, that foreign reporters like myself, like Clarissa, like the many other colleagues here, will be looked after and objective reporting is indeed welcome here. So we'll have to see. We would like to hold them to that, of course. And at this stage, while it is dark, we are not hearing reports, at this point, of violence inside this city.
But, as I say, we hear -- we hear the crackle of gunfire occasionally, and clearly there are millions of people in Kabul here having to come to terms with the unthinkable idea of an insurgency, who, for so many years, were thought never able to properly enter what was called "the ring of steel," it seems, simply wandering its streets. Fareed?
ZAKARIA: Stay safe, Nick. Thank you so much.
We next go to the interview with the prime minister of Greece on those forest fires ravaging Europe.
(voice over): The statistics from Greece's wildfires are astounding, more than 500 separate fires burning in a country roughly the same size as Pennsylvania. More than 20 other nations have sent help, and more than half of Greece's second largest island area has already burned.
Meanwhile, Europe reported what appears to be its highest-ever temperature, reaching almost 120 degrees in Sicily.
The heat comes from an anti-cyclone that has fittingly been nicknamed "Lucifer." Parts of southern Europe have truly looked like hell this week.
Joining me now is Greece's prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Prime Minister, welcome. First, my condolences. How did this get so out of hand?
KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, PRIME MINISTER, GREECE: Well, Fareed, thank you for having me. We faced an unprecedented heatwave for approximately 10 days. We had temperatures exceeding 43, getting close to 45 degrees Celsius. We hadn't had such a bad heatwave for many, many decades, and we had to deal with almost 600 fires that broke out over a span of a week.
We did manage to put out almost all of them, but unfortunately a few of them got very big. So at some point we had to deal with four mega- fires simultaneously.
You know, we did the best we could. We evacuated tens of thousands of people. Fortunately, we managed to protect human life. We only had one loss of human life. So our (inaudible) protection, in that respect, did a great job.
But of course, we are faced with a big environmental catastrophe. A significant number of forests have been destroyed. And I'm afraid that this is going to be the reality that areas such as the Mediterranean will be facing from now on. This was not just a Greek problem. You spoke about the fires in Sicily, in Algeria and in Turkey. This is, you know, the climate crisis striking here and -- and now, and it's really time for all of us to get very serious about what we should do about it.
ZAKARIA: You've talked about the climate crisis. But, you know, even in Europe, where people are much more aware of this, there is a lot of resistance to taking the pain that will -- that will inevitably come from serious efforts against -- to tackle the climate crisis. The Gilets Jaunes movement in France was essentially a protest against gas taxes.
Do you think that something like the forest fires is -- will be a wake-up call?
Will it be easier for you to pass measures that will really address climate -- the climate crisis?
MITSOTAKIS: Well, first of all, Fareed, let me point out that Europe is at the forefront of tackling climate change. As you know, we have set a very ambitious target to bring down greenhouse gases by 55 percent by 2030. And we do hope, and the goal is, to become climate neutral by 2050. So these are very ambitious targets. And the good thing is that we also have the financial instruments now to support these types of policies.
Of course, we need the people on board. And I can tell you that Greece was at the forefront of decarbonizing even before this crisis struck. Back in 2019 I announced that, within a relatively short time frame, we would shut down all our coal-fired, in our case, lignite-fired electricity plants. And we've worked very hard with the local communities to ensure that we can make this transition work for them and that we will actually create more jobs than the jobs that will be lost.
But we need to explain to people that this is a one-way street, that this is a crisis that cannot just be addressed by -- through lofty declarations, that we need to put our money where -- where our mouth is. And certainly, I intend for Greece to be at the forefront of this effort.
This is going to be a wake-up call. This and other catastrophes, I think, it's -- it's becoming a reality, especially for the younger generation, that we need to drastically change the way we produce electricity, the way we build our buildings, the way we grow our food, the way we move around. This has to happen, and we need to start now.
ZAKARIA: It feels like this is an area where the United States is not really the leader. Europe has more ambitious targets, more ambitious policies. What do you want to see from the United States?
MITSOTAKIS: Well, first of all, I had a chance to speak with Secretary Kerry extensively. And I'm happy that this is a very important agenda for the new Biden administration. So I do think things in the U.S. are much better and that the current administration recognizes that the U.S. needs to take the lead when it comes to addressing climate change. And of course, the U.S. being the largest economy in the world, I
think, is going to be a hotbed of innovation because we cannot address this issue without significant investment in R&D and without significant innovation. So I'm much more optimistic about the role that the U.S. can play, but we need, you know, all the big -- all the big players on board, the U.S., China, India. Everyone needs to do their share.
ZAKARIA: Prime Minister, pleasure to have you on.
MITSOTAKIS: Fareed, thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.