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Approximately 19,000 Evacuated from Afghanistan in 24 Hours; Johnson & Johnson Booster Shots Show Big Increase in Immune Response. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Yes. One of these things where everyone thinks he has a great chance of winning the primary, maybe not as great of a chance to winning the general election.

ENTEN: Exactly. We'll see though. This is still a year away.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, great to see you, my friend.

ENTEN: Nice to see you.

BERMAN: All right. New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, it is Wednesday, August 25th.

And breaking moments ago, we just got an update from the White House that 19,000 people were evacuated from Kabul here in the past 24 hours, which included 11,000 that were evacuated by the U.S. That is a number that matters more than ever because President Biden has decided not to extend that August 31st deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from the Kabul airport.

So, who is getting out and who is getting left behind and when will these flights evacuating people, not the military, but Afghans and Americans end? There are no concrete answers. There are no solid numbers for how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, though we are expecting an announcement today from the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, on that.

And while the Biden administration says more than 82,000 people have been evacuated in the past 11 days, a senior administration official tells CNN that a lot of deserving Afghans will be left behind.

BERMAN: Overnight, a source told CNN that the Taliban appears to be letting some people pass through checkpoints despite their claim that no more Afghan civilians will be allowed to leave the country, meanwhile two U.S. congressmen facing sharp criticism for making unannounced visit to Kabul to witness the evacuation efforts from themselves.

We want to go live to Qatar and bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh who has been speaking to sources on the ground, Nick. And the news we just got, another 19,000 people flown out over 24 hours, that blistering pace in this truly breathtaking evacuation, I suppose the question now, though, is how many more days of this are we really going to see.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it is utterly startling to see in excess of 80,000 people move in such an incredibly short period of time. I should says, today, according open source viewing of the area around Kabul airport, it doesn't seem to be quite so many flights. That could change. And I'm hearing from a source familiar with the situation they have about 1,000 people on the airport right now trying to get off. That doesn't mean there's a lack of ambition, it does probably mean the flight lines are working so efficiently that if you get on, you also get off.

But, I am also told that there are particularly big numbers getting on at the moment. There are still discreet routes being used for American citizens, small in number and also to SIV applicants who probably have the right connections. There's also too negotiated access done at the southern gates. That's the commercials civilian side of the airport, which apparently to which escorted groups are going through Taliban checkpoints and then on to the U.S. area through U.S. negotiations there. So that is successful, but it is apparently difficult because at times buses turn up with people who have no arrangements and simply say can you help us out and then, of course, the U.S. troops try to work out who on earth these people are and what they should do.

The problem, of course, is for the SIV applicants who don't have a special way in. I'm told that they essentially now will have to try and get in through the remaining gates of Abby Gate, limited access there certainly and limited time frame. This morning, apparently, preparations began on the airport for the retrograde. That doesn't mean people are leaving. It means they're doing the things they need to do to think about that process.

But we're into such a small window here and I think there are two issues. Yes, they have to assess quite how many more of these days extraordinary rate of 20,000 they can actually do until they get in the way of evacuating their own troops. And then they have to be concerned about now this message is getting out, that the window is incredibly small. What does that do to the remaining Afghans outside the airport? Do they all try to move en masse and brave the Taliban there? Do they all approach the gates like we have seen before? And what does that atmosphere of chaos potentially spell if we see it again? It's been calmer over the past days. What does that mean for U.S. troops leaving?

This is an end of a 20-year war. There will be the last U.S. soldier at some point on the ground and you have to think about that operation and how they're going to be sure they leave safely with the Taliban all around them and also very desperate and worried Afghans too trying to get on that airport.

BERMAN: Such important questions. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.

We have been able to establish contact with CNN's Sam Kiley, who is at the airport in Kabul. Sam, if you can hear me, just give me a sense of what you are seeing this morning. We did just get the news that another 19,000 people have been lifted out over the last 24 hours.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, here at the airport, where I'm at among the elements of being asked to leave as part of the drawdown of the American forces here, as they transition to a military withdrawal from an evacuation campaign, there are still Afghans being processed here at the airport.


They are now moving them out as I speak. I'm watching a group being led towards a propeller aircraft flying on to presumably Qatar, which is taking the bulk of the shorter range flights. They are very much -- as Nick was saying, the numbers here are way down. It is now much, much harder to get through to the airport following the Taliban announcement they would be blocking the roads.

At the Abby Gate, there have been some desperate scenes of people wading through sewage and trying to persuade the British there and the Americans running the Abby Gate entry point to let them in. The process is extremely fraught but the numbers are very significantly down. That doesn't mean, of course, that there are people who -- that they've run out of people to evacuate but rather just impossible for so many people to get to the airport.

But the aircrafts are continuing to take off and land in significant numbers. And, of course, there are also discreet operations being run here to go and pick up pockets of people where they can be reached so long as they have got the right kind of connections to make the same (ph).

KEILAR: So, at this point, Sam, where you're seeing a smaller number of people inside the airport, what does that mean? What is that going to mean that the -- also we understand the flights are down. What does that going to mean for the number of people who will be getting out today?

KILEY (voice over): Well, the people getting out today are going to be flown into Qatar, where conditions have been extremely tough because they were kind of overwhelmed by the success in a sense, in the military, they call it catastrophic success moved so many people that they had very difficult conditions to deal with. Those conditions will have been improved and the numbers coming there will be down. And then they will be processed.

They're not all coming to the United States, by any means. They'll then be sent on once they've been screened, and so on, on to the next locations to the countries who will be hosting them. So, for the people getting out, it's a very powerful moment.

But in every case, and I spoke yesterday to a young woman who was looking after her two younger sisters who had been separated from her brother, she was literally swept on to an aircraft with her younger siblings having left her brother outside of the gate due to some kind of error they made, they got separated. And she was desperately calling him to try to get him to get in. He had a visa. He had an SIV. But he couldn't make that flight. Now the hope is, of course, that he will by now have been on it and they will be reunited somewhere.

But this is the sort of thing that is going to be the disastrous, heartbreaking fallout from these processes and particularly as the window for evacuation closes. There will be people who manage to get in and they may well be leaving people who have the right to fly but are just not going to make it on to the aircraft.

And then the issue is twofold, one is once they've emerged into the public domain, they will be known to the Taliban as people who wanted to get out, and, therefore, perhaps to be identified as disloyal. And that could be very tough for them indeed. But, the Taliban is interested not only do they not want people to get on these aircraft but they want them to stay and help rebuild the country, they are really worried about a brain drain.

And they're also worried about their relationship with the international community and the international community led by the G7 but also the United Nations and others made it absolutely clear in no uncertain terms that any kind of future relationship with the Taliban or Taliban-dominated government will depend entirely on their human rights records in the broadest possible sense, in particular the treatment of women, journalists and others. A lot of those sorts of people have fled the country and go back but they would only do so and the Taliban can only be successful if they can create those right conditions. That is the hope.

The fear is that the Taliban could revert the type that we have seen in 2006 to 2001 and become a kind of medieval hard-line group. But, interestingly, there's been some messaging coming out from the Taliban in the last 24 hours asking women to stay inside. Now, that was in the first instance that this is inside Kabul to stay in their homes. In the first instance that was interpreted as a sign that they were being medieval.

And then they managed to (INAUDIBLE) other statements saying, no, this is because we want to make sure that some of ties are properly trained so that they do not harass women and treat them in a way that they have been used treating them in the other areas around Afghanistan as they (INAUDIBLE), because a lot of, of course, their ordinary rank and file may well not seen a city much less a woman, an adult woman without a burqa (ph).


So (INAUDIBLE) perhaps the Taliban is recognizing they need to address.

These are the positive signals that they're trying to put out, but they're not convincing very significant numbers of people that they really mean it, which is precisely why we've seen this enormous evacuation process over the last ten days or so.

KEILAR: Yes. They're not convincing some U.N. officials who say that they are seeing, hearing reports of human rights violations which we, of course, will continue to track. This is the point we're at, right? This is a huge evacuation. This is a huge achievement. And it still is not enough. It's still nowhere close to enough. Sam Kiley live for us in Kabul.

Let's go to the White House where CNN's Jeremy Diamond is there. Jeremy, we did just get those numbers, but what else do we know?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. And these numbers, we should note, are still pretty high but they are a slight downtick from what we saw yesterday. 19,000 people evacuated total on U.S. military and other coalition flights. Just 11,200 evacuated on U.S. military flights compared to 12,700 the day before.

And this is possibly what we are going to see over the coming days. We are now seeing, as Sam was just talking about, this military operation shifting from evacuation to withdrawal with those U.S. troops needing to be out of the country by August 31st, which means those evacuation operations are going to need to wind down in the coming days.

But the president yesterday, in laying out his decision for this, ultimately made very clear that this was all in his mind about security for the U.S. forces who are there. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm determined to ensure that we complete our mission, this mission. I'm also mindful of the increasing risks that I've been briefed on and the need to factor those risks in. They're real and significant challenges that we also have to take into consideration.


DIAMOND: And the president said there that every day that the U.S. forces are on the ground is another day that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack U.S. forces. So that is clearly on the president's mind here.

In terms of the political implications here as well, we need to think about that because President Biden making very clear that he only wants to commit U.S. forces when it is squarely in the U.S. national interest. And in beginning his remarks yesterday by talking about infrastructure and the negotiations happening in Congress, it's also clear that the president ultimately is hoping that Americans, as long as he's able to get all Americans out of the country, that they will look at the other parts of his domestic policy agenda. That certainly seems to be part of the calculation here.

Again, we're expecting Secretary of State Blinken to outline how many Americans actually remain to be evacuated, but the question still remains for those Afghans who have helped the U.S., those SIV applicants, President Biden last week committed to getting all of them out but a senior administration official now telling CNN that some deserving Afghans are likely to be left behind, essentially saying that that is an inevitable result of this process. Again, the time -- time is certainly ticking down in that window to evacuate people narrowing. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Jeremy Diamond live for us at the White House.

I want to talk now with CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kim Dozier. She is a Contributor to Time Magazine. And we have CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson.

I don't think we can overstate what an achievement this airlift has been. We also can't overstate how many thousands of people who have a legal claim to come to the United States are going to be left behind, including Americans and green card holders.

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIS ANALYST: Who are hiding in their homes or wherever they're sheltering across Kabul in safe houses right now and realizing they probably have through the weekend and if a contact doesn't call them and say, we have got a safe way to get you into the airport, they don't know how to get out. Some of them are getting Taliban night letters, which are letters that say, we believe you worked for the Americans, you must appear at this court to defend why you worked for -- one translation I was given was the infidel crusader invaders. And if you don't appear, a judgment will be passed against, presumably death. That's what we're up against.

Plus, all the military folks serving in former who worked with Afghans and developed these close relationships, I'm watching them go through the heartbreak of knowing they're leaving people behind.

BERMAN: They're leaving deserving people behind, which is the word now from officials at the White House.

Nic, it's interesting two U.S. congressmen, Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer, made this unannounced visit to Afghanistan. Seth Moulton says he went wanting the U.S. to extend the August 31st deadline. After seeing it on the ground, he basically said, you know what, we couldn't possibly extend it long enough to get the job done completely. President Biden told the G7 he's not extending it.


What's the reaction from U.S. allies to this at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think the reaction is one that plays out over a longer period. There's a real concern about an influx of refugees coming from Afghanistan. You know, it probably would happen under this sort of scenario even if all the people that had worked for the United States, worked with British forces, German forces, Dutch forces, et cetera, even if they could all get out, there would still be a lot of refugees leaving. But the sort of fast and hasty transition that Afghan people are experiencing is one that's going to precipitate many of them to leave the country.

One U.N. Agency estimates 3.5 million people were totally displaced inside Afghanistan and many of those will head for the exits to try to leave. What does that mean in terms of United States allies particularly those in Europe who have that huge influx of refugees in 2015 from Syria, which was hugely destabilizing? This means that their interests are not properly aligned with the United States' interests. And this is going to have a corrosive effect on that relationship going forward.

And I think that that's something that is going to trouble the United States. President Biden needs those allies when he deals with China and on many other issues were increasingly seeing those European allies separate themselves out or see that interest separated from the United States' interest. Look at Nord Stream 2 pipeline, an issue between Germany and the United States and Russia and how that resolved in Germany's favor and that's just one small example.

DOZIER: Yes. I talked to really bitter European officials who say, we weren't consulted in the beginning and now they're not extending when we ask them to and now we're being forced to leave people behind. This is breaking the trust.

ROBERSTSON: It's not a happy scenario.


KEILAR: And, Kim, we're hearing from the Taliban, they're telling women that they need to stay home at least for now. What is happening here?

DOZIER: So I asked one of the spokesman about this, Suhail Shaheen, and he texted back, oh, look, we want them back in their places of work. But right now, it's a little too dangerous on the ground. We can't guarantee their security going to and from work, so this is temporary. But some women who were around in the previous Taliban time said, yes, they used that excuse before and we were never allowed to leave home.

So, what will happen after August 31st when we get to see the real face of the Taliban? Who will be ascendant? Will it be the military wing that just had this great victory and tends to be more extreme and hard line or will it be parts of political wing who were the face of the negotiations in Doha and know that they have to say and do at least outwardly the right things if they want access to their federal reserve, international aid money and all the things that this desperately poor country needs to literally keep their lights on.

ROBERTSON: I was going to say, I remember being in Afghanistan in the '90s when the Taliban were in control, they're going into various ministries. You didn't see a woman. And what we're hearing from the Taliban is this message for women to stay at home. But we need to make some revisions and changes. It's not safe. But their concept of women going to work, I don't think it's our concept of women going to work. There won't be, I can't imagine in the same office or the same room some adjunct, some annexed or some government --

KEILAR: As men in the same room as men.

ROBERTSON: Won't be in the same room as men.

DOZIER: Like the secretarial pool off in the corner because you can't mix men and women. KEILAR: Well, it is interesting, the Taliban is saying, we need you to stay home because we need to protect you from us, right? That is what's going on here. Nic and Kim, thank you so much to both of you for your perspectives on this

Coming up, a big step forward for President Biden's agenda after Speaker Pelosi struck a deal with moderates to advance his infrastructure bills.

BERMAN: Plus, new details about the intelligence investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

And Vice President Harris just commented about the potential case of the mystery illness that delayed her departure from Vietnam for hours.



BERMAN: So, just into CNN, Johnson & Johnson just released the first data on booster doses for people who received its one-shot coronavirus vaccine, and it does show a big spike in antibodies.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us now. Sanjay, people wanted to know, what about Johnson & Johnson? Now we have some data.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's about 14 million people out there who have received this shot in the United States. I think they've all emailed me or reached out to me on social over the past couple weeks. People really want to know what's going on with this shot. And this is some early data. It's not published yet. This is coming from the company itself, so I'll throw in those two caveats. But let me show you what they're looking at here. It's a small study. They basically are measuring antibody levels.

So, this is a laboratory study. So they're basically in the lab saying, okay, when we expose to this virus with this vaccine, how much antibodies do we get? How much do we get if we give a booster six months later.


And what they found is that the antibodies increase nine fold compared to where they were 28 days after the first shot. So, that's a pretty significant increase. And I think it's probably going to be enough for Johnson & Johnson, if this data is vetted and holds up, to make the case that people should get boosters around the country. Some places like San Francisco are already doing it.

I always say that we have got to take some of this data with a little bit of caution because, again, it's laboratory data. How well does the vaccine actually hold up in the real world? Sometimes antibodies are a good measure but there are lots of components to the immune system. So, in Johnson & Johnson, even though those numbers go up a lot after the booster, Johnson & Johnson was doing a pretty good job at keeping people from going into the hospital and dying just like we saw with the other vaccines.

So, we'll see what the FDA does with this, but my guess is that they're probably going to recommend a booster for Johnson & Johnson as well. It got authorized a couple months later. It's a smaller sample size. And that's why Johnson & Johnson only sort of lags behind the other two vaccines.

KEILAR: Incredibly encouraging, so we'll have to see what's ahead for that vaccine.

I do want to ask you about -- it's like the question we may never get an answer to, right, where did this all begin. President Biden has been briefed on the findings of a U.S. intelligence report on the origins of COVID-19. The public is going to have to wait a few days to see an unclassified version of this. What do you make of what we know so far?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, that 90-day sort of window is a really short window. Just to give you some context, for SARS, it took a couple years to find that there was an intermediary animal involved, the civet cat, and it took more than a decade to determine inclusively which type of bat the SARS virus back in 2003 originated from. So, these can take a while.

I've been following this very closely. In fact, we have a documentary coming out on this at the end of September. What I make of this is that we don't know for sure and that's not surprising. 75 percent of previous viruses like this have come from animals directly, what's called zoonosis. So, that was the prevailing theory for a long time, I think, in large part because of China as being opaque, not allowing investigators to come into the lab, a lab that had lax safety standards in the past, and a lab that happens to be the largest bat coronavirus lab anywhere in the world all being located in Wuhan sort of raised some suspicion about the fact could this have come from a lab.

Add on to that that when this virus started to circulate, it already seemed to be circulating very quickly. It's called pre-adaptation, as some scientists have sort of explained to me. How did the virus become adapted to human cells already? Could that have happened in the lab? We don't know the answers to those questions. And the hope was maybe this 90-day investigation will give us some intelligence on this because the scientific community is deeply divided. Was there intelligence saying, oh, yes, the virus was definitely in the lab, here is how it could have leaked and doesn't sound like that's coming out of this report. So, there may be some time still before we know if we know at all. But I can tell you that I've been doing this sort of job for a long time now. I see scientists who are deeply divided on this who are very well regarded scientists on both sides.

BERMAN: Well, I can't wait until the end of September for the documentary. I'm expecting full answers then, Sanjay. So, thank you for the tease.

GUPTA: I'll do my best.

BERMAN: Great to see you.

GUPTA: Okay.

BERMAN: Just ahead, why some countries are now pulling back on plans to try to completely eradicate COVID.

KEILAR: And next, House Democrats strike a deal with party moderates moving the Biden agenda forward. One of those moderates will join us live.