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Biden Sends 3,000 Troops to Afghanistan to Evacuate Americans; U.S. sending 3,000 Plus Troops to Help Evacuate Afghan Embassy; Major Afghan Cities Fall as Taliban Rapidly Advances; FDA Authorizes 3rd Vaccine Dose for Immunocompromised; Census Shows U.S. more Urban, less Rural than Ever. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The forever war is ending with the Taliban route. Afghanistan moves closer and closer to collapse every hour as President Biden now sending an emergency force to evacuated American.

Plus, COVID boosters for the Immunocompromised get a green light from the FDA. This hour a key CDC panel voting on who needs boosters now and deliberating if or when everyone else will need a booster shot?

And the United States is more urban more diverse, more multiracial and less white than ever. New census data details the changing American mosaic and triggers a consequential rewrite of our political map.

We begin the hour though with a crumbling Afghanistan and the question of whether President Biden is guilty of a tragic miscalculation. The Pentagon is rushing troops now to the region to securely evacuated Americans at risk of being stranded in the middle of a terrorist advance that as this stunning Taliban takeover continues.

Afghanistan second largest city, its third largest city, its fifth largest city, half of its provincial capitals all fall into the Taliban this week. A bloody and brutal march down the path to Kabul is likely next. The footage take a peek is stunning Taliban fighters marching with RPGs in the middle of city streets and parading around in U.S. military equipment.

KING: The president is said to be surprised by the pace of the Taliban gains but unyielding in his belief withdrawing American troops now is the right call. He insists despite what is happening in plain sight, a Taliban takeover is not inevitable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, it is not. Because you have the Afghan troops have 300,000 well equipped as well as crypto as any army in the world and an air force against something like 75,000. It is not inevitable.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, who has deep experience covering Afghanistan. Nick, the president says it's not inevitable everything we see seems to suggest it is.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, it's already happened. I mean, I hate to say it, but there's very little chance they're going to reverse this extraordinary urban games that we've seen by the Taliban over the past week, the past week.

I mean, literally after 20 years of stalemate attrition, massive campaigns, this larger Taliban at times from just a village, we've now seen them against the Afghan security forces that the U.S. has for 10, 12 years vaunted as a solution and the reason they can leave Afghanistan behind. They've essentially crumbled.

So yes, it's been an extraordinary, extraordinary week. One for U.S. foreign policy, certainly President Joe Biden's instinct that essentially can't keep doing the same, just about enough to stop your enemy from winning indefinitely well, yes, of course.

But this was inevitable certainly, and I think people have been surprised by quite how quickly the sort of paper tiger of the Afghan National Army has essentially folded? Today the conversation I think is moving more towards Kabul, the capital, there are still other key cities around Afghanistan, Mazar (ph) in the North, Jalalabad in the East, which do at some point risk pressure from the Taliban.

Certainly, Mazar likely already has it. But we've seen some of the discussion today yesterday, the talk was, could there be a siege of Kabul? I hear more noises today about the possibility of some kind of diplomacy in the next few days to try and make that avoidable to be sure that there isn't a brutal street fight over 6 million people's homes in the capital city there.

That's what we risk in the future. In the next weeks here, the U.S. Marines 3000 of them will land in the airport. Certainly, today, tomorrow, even and their presence will be felt across the capital a security blanket of sorts.

But it's going to be a very messy two to three weeks of diplomats to get out and loyal Afghans and their tens of thousands to take the refuge extraordinary time ahead, John.

KING: Extraordinary, sober, troubling the adjectives none of them are good Nick Paton Walsh grateful for the reporting off the top of the show. Let's get straight out of the State Department CNN's Kylie Atwood. Kylie, one of the priorities now is to get Americans out of the country. Where does that sprint stand? And how long will it take? KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what the State Department and what the Pentagon are saying now is that this is going to occur over the next few weeks. We know that there are about 3000 U.S. troops who have gone into Afghanistan to assist with getting out some of the diplomats.

But what we also know is that the decision as it stands now, is that the U.S. is not pulling out all of their diplomats, they're only pulling out a portion of them. Now, what we don't know is what's going to happen in the next few weeks and frankly, in the next few hours and days here?

Because as Nick said, this has happened also incredibly quickly, and at the surprise of many Biden Administration officials. So what is happening now is contingency planning for what would happen if the situation got worse if Kabul face these direct threats from the Taliban that are very, very likely at this point?

Now what I'm told is that there conversation is underway about moving the U.S. Embassy to the - to the airport in Kabul.


ATWOOD: That is a possibility and frankly, it's not a backburner conversation. This is a front burner conversation. Right now, it's significant that they are even discussing that because it demonstrates that they are preparing for the possibility that they would have to shutter that embassy, John.

KING: Kylie, at the State Department. Thanks for that reporting. I know you'll stay on top of it. Joining our conversation right now the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks Mr. Chairman, grateful for your time today it's a sober day.

You heard the president at the top of the hour just yesterday; he says he does not believe a Taliban takeover is inevitable. You have access to information we don't as Chairman of the sensitive committee. Is it not already done as Nick Paton Walsh our Correspondent says is the president wrong?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Well, I, quite frankly, John, I'm going to go down to Washington sometime next week to get more briefings done security briefings done? I think that what's taking place right now, is there no easy answers in Afghanistan, of course, I think that's becomes clear.

And that the president understands that his responsibility is to make sure that the American personnel that's on the ground is safe, under any circumstances, no matter what takes place, we've got to make sure all Americans on the ground safe, as well as those Afghans who was supportive and whether they were interpreted or fought with us, et cetera.

On the ground, it's now in Kabul, that we must make sure that they're safe and do what we can do to get them out. I think that's what the president's position is right now, is to make sure that our personnel are safe, as well as the personnel of Afghans who work side by side with us.

KING: I get that and appreciate your concern for the Americans greatly, sir. And I know Speaker Pelosi has called for a member's only briefing when you're back in Washington, again, as Chairman of this Committee, you get access to this sensitive intelligence that the public doesn't see.

But is it now inevitable that Afghanistan will be in the hands of the Taliban, not the Afghan government; the United States has tried to prop up for 20 years?

MEEKS: We see that, which the Taliban has moved throughout. I mean, they've got 16 of the 34 territories. They got 18 of the provincial capitals. So I think the question is whether or not they'll be able to get into Kabul?

And I think that by the president sending those 3000 troops there, basically, the message is, don't to come into Kabul. And the promise that I think that was made under the Trump Administration was that the Taliban would do nothing as far as attacking Americans. And we try to make sure that that continues.

KING: So let's be clear. And I have some other questions I want to get to but let's be clear. American troops going into Kabul, are they there to defend the embassy and evacuate Americans? Or do you believe the president should be sending in troops whose mission includes defending Kabul and keeping the Taliban out of Kabul?

MEEKS: No, I'm saying that the mission as of right now, as I understand that those 3000 troops, and I will have further briefings on that are there to get a number of not all of the American diplomats, but a number of American diplomats out, as well as a number of Afghanis who we have made commitments to. So it is not there.

And for that purpose, those 3000 troops are coming to Afghanistan over the next few weeks, it is not clear to me. I will be asking some of these tough questions. There are a lot of tough questions to ask. But I get further intelligence briefings.

That is one of the questions that I think is significant and that we will be at I will be asking, so that I am absolutely clear on a when those 3000 troops would leave or how long they will be there?

Those are questions that I have not received answers yet. But I intend to get those questions because our committees as you know, John is an oversight committee, and we're going to utilize our oversight authorities.

KING: So back when the president announced his plan back in April, you said it would be critical. The time has come you said to test the Taliban's commitment to these conditions and the ability to uphold his promises. One of its promises was to not allow Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups back on Afghan soil.

Given what you have seen over the past five or six days. Do you have any faith, sir, that the Taliban will keep that promise?

MEEKS: Well, in regards to Al Qaeda and ISIS, I have confidence because they are - but you know to what extent they were fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda themselves. There has been no real coalition between those two that I can see. And I think that it's clear to me that should there be any resurgence of ISIS or Al Qaeda, that then the responsibility of the utilization of the military force, again will fall on Congress.


MEEKS: And that's what I think the Taliban should be very clear on, that we will be ready to step up and Congress to do what we think is necessary to make sure that the American people are not threatened.

You know, one of the things that I think that we were able to accomplish, and we accomplished very quickly in Afghanistan was just that, to go after ISIS and Al Qaeda, and to make sure that they were not there so that they can plan and attack the American homeland.

We will make sure that's part of our responsibility in Congress, that's the utilization of force where we make those determinations, if there are threats to the United States.

KING: I get the politics on the one hand. It has been 20 years, I covered the Bush White House back in the beginning of this, and Afghan presidents have come and said, I need more time I need more money, I need more troops. So I get the imperative that we've tried this for 20 years, it's done.

But in your view, could this have been done better? And do we have any responsibility now the Taliban is moving a knife faces more resistance from butter than the Afghan forces are putting up against the Taliban right now? What about Afghan women? What about Afghan children?

They are now going to go through a time warp and taken back to the Neanderthal days of the Taliban, do we have any responsibility to them?

MEEKS: I think that our responsibility is at this point is to you know, we see that the military version has not worked. I think that's what the president has seen that militarily over 20 years, over $2 trillion have been spent 300,000 Afghan people have been trained, and apparently what's taking place they refuse to fight, they don't have the will to fight.

I think that's what we've just learned. I think that the president thought initially, and that's what we've got a look and see what our intelligence was on the ground, the statement that the president made earlier that they would at least fight an attempt to fight.

So it's been very disheartening to me, and very disappointing to me, that it seems as though that $2 trillion that we spent, and all of the money that we utilize to train the Afghan foreign forces, they do not seem to have the willingness to fight for their country. That is concerning to me. And I will be looking to get those answers why that is. And it is time

for them to step up. And my estimation, as I said earlier, you know, both Democratic and Republican Presidents have been figuring out - trying to figure out how do we get out of there with the initial lesson that we had, and going in there being taken care of.

So as a result of being there, 20 years, we tried to do more? And I think we were successful in doing more, but how do we keep it now? And that's what we've got to look at. And I think that that's where my hope is working with many of our allies, and those regional partners that we have to come together.

We've got to see, I know that there's still negotiations, diplomatic negotiations taking place. And in Qatar, thus far, we don't see any tangible or at least I haven't seen any real, tangible results.

But I know that there are conversations that are still taking place, and we will have to see whether or not that can be some kind of negotiation to see if the Taliban want some respectability, and moves forward with regard to a you know, and want to have some diplomatic conversation so that we can protect and continue to have women and children getting educated and moving forward.

In fact, I know it had been promised by the Taliban. And whether we can keep their word or not is something that we do have to look at that they understood that women should be educated in that regard. Now, whether they're going to roll back on that, that's what we've got to look at. And that's where it's uncertain. And that's where we need to get more information.

KING: Mr. Chairman, appreciate your time today. I think I know and I know who has firsthand knowledge of this. Number one, they say the Taliban they are who they are. And they will do what they have done in the past. And number two, I haven't met anyone with firsthand knowledge who thought the Afghan forces were going to fight. But I understand your question, sir, appreciate your time today. Thank you.

MEEKS: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us, vaccine advisers to the CDC are meeting right now to talk about COVID vaccine booster shots, a small slice of Americans getting the green light now, but it might not be too long before are all told get another shot.



KING: Any minute now the CDC Advisory Board is expected to vote on a third vaccine dose for some Immunocompromised individuals. The FDA gave the green light to booster shots for this group last night amid a spiraling COVID surge.

With us to share his expertise and his insights Dr. Paul Offit, he's a Member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital Philadelphia, Dr. Offit grateful to see you always, especially on this day.

Walk us through what this means? First, relatively small slice of Americans in the Immunocompromised group who can get a third shot now why does that matter?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER AT CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Right. What the FDA said basically was that those who are receiving solid organ transplants like transplantation of the heart or lungs or kidney or liver could receive a third dose or people who are receiving similar amounts of immune suppression.

So for example, there are a lot of different people in this country who are immune compromised on because they're getting cancer chemotherapy or they're getting biological agents for their Multiple Sclerosis or they're getting drugs for their rheumatoid arthritis. So there are different categories.


OFFIT: What I hope comes out of the CDC meeting is that it's very clear who benefits and who doesn't? And if necessary, how you can manipulate those therapies so that you can get the maximum immune response? It's actually not so small.

I mean, about 2.7 percent of Americans fall into the category of immune compromised, that's about 9 million people, many of whom are not going to be able to be successfully vaccinated, and they depend on the herd to protect them.

They pretend to depend on those around them to protect them. And we haven't been very good at that.

KING: And so the FDA - the CDC, I'm sorry, says a million people have already gone out unauthorized and gotten a third dose on their own because they hear the conversation about booster shots, they see the disturbing news about the Delta variant. Does that matter?

OFFIT: I think again, we need more studies. I think in general, what you can say is this, if you've gotten two doses, save an mRNA containing vaccine of Pfizer/Moderna vaccine, and you didn't develop an immune response to those first two doses, it's very unlikely you're going to develop an immune response to the third.

If on the other hand, you've had at least some level of an immune response as detected by virus specific neutralizing antibodies, then a third dose may boost you. Some of the studies have shown that 25 to 50 percent of people in that category can't have a booster response. But again, these data are being generated.

KING: And so I want you to listen to Dr. Fauci because as this comes up again, A, you have the debate about the need for the Immunocompromised to get this third dose. You have the broader conversation about everybody - should everybody get one as everybody across the country sees?

I think it's 90 percent of America now is in areas where the CDC says you have high or substantial transmission of the Coronavirus. Dr. Fauci says booster shots may be, listen?


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We are assuming that sooner or later, we're going to have to give boosters, I would hope that the degree of elevation of response that we will see with the boost might actually give us a lot of wiggle room of not necessarily needing a boost often, but I have to be - you say we are humble. And we are modest about it. We don't know the answer to that.


KING: When will we know the answer that how long does it take? How big of a sample and how much of a calendar does it take to know are we going to need a third shot this time and then we're good or is this going to be an annual event like the flu shot?

OFFIT: --about half of America has been vaccinated about 165 million Americans have been vaccinated. And what we've learned is that whether it's that first variant that came into this country, the so called D614G variant or the Alpha variant or now the Delta variant and probably soon to be seen the Lambda variant that at least protection afforded by vaccination, keeps you out of the hospital keeps you out of the ICU and keeps you out of the mortgage?

It protects you against severe critical disease that hasn't changed. Over all the months of the vaccine has been out there that hasn't changed. When that begins to change, when it becomes clear that people despite being fully vaccinated, nonetheless are forced to have symptoms when they're then re exposed that causes them to seek medical attention or go to the hospital or die, then I think we're going to talk about the need for a booster dose.

I mean, Dr. Fauci is right. But the key phrase there was sooner or later, it may well be later. I really would be surprised if you needed a yearly vaccine, because all you need is immunological memory to protect you against severe critical disease. And these vaccines appear to be very good at inducing immunological memory.

I think the better guess I'll take a guess you probably should never make a guess about these vaccines, because you're always wrong. But I think it probably would be more likely every two or three years, but we'll see and as Dr. Fauci said, we're going to be humble.

We have to continue to monitor the situation so that if you do need a yearly booster, then we'll give a yearly booster but we'll see.

KING: We'll say Dr. Offit as always grateful for your expertise and insights thank you sir.

OFFIT: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us, the new census tells us America is more diverse and becoming more urban the numbers will now be used to redraw political maps. And that will be a huge fight.



KING: Fascinating and consequential new census data put numbers to something we all see every day with our own eyes the face of America is changing and in a fundamental way. The country is more diverse than ever more urban, less rural.

The data impact everything from how federal aid is allocated to how local officials will have to deal with growing or shrinking schools or growing or shrinking hospital needs, the impact on politics - wheelhouse is immediate and enormous.

For example, this map right here, the nation's 435 House Districts every one of them gets redrawn every 10 years based on the census, that process goes into high gear now. Trust me, it will be bruising. And this map this is Joe Biden's 2020 win it included Georgia and Arizona because of population shifts that offering clues of what is now documented in this new census report.

Population shifts and demographic changes are impacting the state by state path to the presidency. Let's go through the biggest takeaways with Amy Walter. She's the Publisher Editor-in-Chief of "The Cook Political Report". Welcome!


KING: First time at the wall?


KING: It's a great - it's a great - so here's one thing. America is becoming more urban. These are the top five cities Phoenix actually now in the top five replacing Philadelphia. Population shifts, especially in the Sunbelt States change American politics how?

WALTER: Well, this is actually some good news here for Democrats especially in places like Illinois or New York. Remember all the talk about the cities is now basically losing all this population. People are moving out and suburbs that's true, but Chicago in New York, the popular stayed stable.

What that means is those cities which of course, are Democratic, much more Democratic can keep their area of influence.