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Quest Means Business

Pentagon Press Secretary Says about 3,000 U.S. Troops are Going to Afghanistan to Assist with any U.S. Evacuations; F.D.A. to Authorize Booster Shot for Immunocompromised; JetBlue "Frustrated" with U.S. Travel Rules amid New York-London Launch; Taliban Take Herat and Breach Kandahar Front Line; Call to Earth. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 15:00:00   ET



JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: A common infantry combat brigade is about 3, 500 to 4,000 people.

QUESTION: So, why is it -- I'm unclear why -- so, it's 3,000 people who are going to HKIA right away in the coming days. And then you have another 3,

500 who will be there on standby in case all for security.

I'm unclear on what they're doing. If the 3,000 going to HKIA -- it's like a couple of miles from the embassy to HKIA. What exactly are 3,000 people

doing? Are they just there securing the airport then?

KIRBY: They will be there to provide safety and secure -- the secure movement of the reduction of civilian personnel out of the embassy, to help

facilitate their departure from the country, to also help with the process of moving Special Immigrant Visa applications out of the country and to

provide additional security at the airport.

Again, we believe this is a prudent measure, given the deteriorating security situation.

QUESTION: Three thousand is a lot of people. I'm still -- what is -- can you give any better sense of like on a day to day, what are they doing? It

sounds they must be -- that number of people, they must be responsible for getting people to the airport and then actually -- it almost sounds as if

they're coming in and taking over security at the airport, if it's that size.

KIRBY: I wouldn't go that far, Courtney.

The Turkish forces are still at the airport. The Turks are still in the lead of security at the airport. We already have some Security Forces,

United States Security Forces, at the airport, including some aviation elements. These 3,000 would be going to bolster that presence and to make

sure that the airport is secure enough to facilitate the movement of all these people over the next couple of weeks.

Again, this is about prudent preparation. And we want to make sure that we have got enough on hand to adapt to any contingencies. So, I -- your

question about the numbers being too high, we believe it's appropriate to the security situation that we see now and that we can anticipate possibly

in the future, which is again why we're going to flow a brigade combat team into the theater to be ready in case we need even more.

Now, hopefully, Courtney, this will be an incredibly permissive environment and we won't need these additional capabilities. But the Secretary believes

the safety and security of our people, not just American troops, but our allies and partners and our State Department colleagues, is of paramount

concern, and he's not going to add additional risk to that safe movement.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, Kandahar City and Herat City, can you confirm what the Taliban are reporting, that they have taken it?

KIRBY: I can't. And I'm not going to do battlefield assessments here from the Pentagon podium.

Yes, let me go back to the phones. I know we got lots to get through.

Tara Copp.

QUESTION: Hey, John. Thanks for doing this. A couple questions. The infantry battalions, where are they coming from?

KIRBY: The three infantry battalions that I talked about are already coming from inside the Central Command area of responsibility. And I think I'd

rather leave it at that for now.

They're already in theater.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. And then the 1,000 that will be at Qatar is the intent that they will stay at Qatar, or would they also be flying into

Kabul to provide additional support if needed?

KIRBY: Yes, as I mentioned to David, right now, the plan is to get them to Qatar, because, again, we were looking at regional sites for processing of

SIV applicants. Qatar is one of those sites that we are looking at potentially being able to use.

If they need to move in part or in whole elsewhere to do this job to help with the application process, we will deal with that at the right time.

But, for right now, in the coming days, they will be heading to Qatar.

QUESTION: And last one. Besides the increase in troops, it becomes kind of a logistics issue if you don't have enough, I guess, airlift support. Is

the U.S. also going to send additional planes or get additional contracted air to be able to, I guess, increase the throughput of people that can

leave Kabul?

KIRBY: As I said earlier, we do anticipate an increased need for U.S. airlift. And the Secretary has already had conversations with the Chairman

and with Transportation Command about these potential needs.

So, we do fully expect that there will be additional United States military airlift required. I just don't have the details here today for you, exactly

what that's going to look, like how many tails and what the sorties are going to look like. But we absolutely anticipate being more involved in the

airlift element of this mission.


QUESTION: John, what about close air support? Are you going to increase the number of drones or fighter jets overhead to protect these troops?

KIRBY: We still have -- yesterday, we have. And, today, we have the authority and the -- and capabilities in the region to conduct airstrikes

if needed. That's not going to change as a result of these new mission sets.


QUESTION: Does this mean the U.S. military withdrawal is not going to be completed by August 31st?

KIRBY: Again, I -- what I said was, we're aiming to facilitate the reduction of the civilian personnel by August 31st. So, it's all lining up

on the same timeline.

I won't speculate about what the footprints going to look like post-August 31, because there's this additional mission set of helping process special

immigrants. So, we're just going to have to wait and see. But the drawdown itself is still on track to be complete by August 31st.

QUESTION: That makes no sense, John.

KIRBY: I know, I know what you're --

QUESTION: I mean, 3,000 troops.

KIRBY: I know what you're saying, Lucas. I'm saying, of the original footprint plans, that is still continuing, but, yes, we are adding

additional troops for this specific and narrow focus.

QUESTION: And you're hoping to get them all out by the end of the month?

KIRBY: I'm not going to speculate beyond August 31st. Our job right now, with this additional plus-up, is to help facilitate the safe movement of

civilian personnel out of Afghanistan. And the President's been very clear that he wants that reduction complete by the end of August. That's what

we're focused on.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to the Taliban? They know that you're doing this and that you have some assurances or maybe guarantees that they will not

attack these additional forces moving in?

KIRBY: The Defense Department has not spoken to the Taliban about this.

QUESTION: So are you concerned they are going to be under attack?

KIRBY: As I said, we have made it very clear, as I just did a few minutes ago, that, as in all cases, our commanders will have the right of self-

defense. And any attack upon our forces will be met with a swift and appropriate response.

QUESTION: Do you consider this a combat mission?

KIRBY: This is a very narrowly focused mission of safeguarding the orderly reduction of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan, and that's what we're

going to be focused on.

QUESTION: It's not a combat mission?

KIRBY: Lucas, I have already described this mission now three times. We're mindful that the security situation continues to deteriorate in

Afghanistan. And, as I said before, our troops will, as always, have the right of self-defense. But this is a narrowly focused mission to help with

-- to help safeguard an orderly reduction of civilian personnel.

Jeff Seldin.

QUESTION: John, thanks very much. If I could follow up a little bit on Lucas' question, with all these new troops and resources going into Kabul,

is there any consideration of using the Kabul Airport as a staging point for what had been the over-the-horizon capabilities? And has also been any

progress on securing anything closer to Afghanistan in terms of staging or basing for the over-the-horizon airstrikes?

And then, secondly, how worrisome is it that a city like Herat, a city like Kandahar, which -- where U.S. airpower has been focused in recent weeks in

an attempt to assist the Afghan Security Forces are either falling or have fallen to the Taliban, despite the additional U.S. support?

KIRBY: I'm sorry. I didn't get that -- what the question was on your second one.

QUESTION: Sorry. Over the last couple week or so, the U.S., we're told, has focused some of its airstrike capability on cities like Herat, on Kandahar,

in an effort to bolster the efforts of Afghan Security Forces there.

How worrisome is it that those cities appear to be falling or have fallen into Taliban hands, despite the fact that the U.S. has focused what

capabilities it has on those areas?

KIRBY: Well, obviously, no one is pleased to see that the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and that the Taliban

continues to act as if they believe the only path to governance is through violence and brutality and oppression and force, contrary to what they have

said previously at the negotiating table.

So, of course, nobody is happy to see that. And, as we have said before, Jeff, with these airstrikes, we would provide support to the Afghan

National Security and Defense Forces where and when feasible, with the expectation and the knowledge that it's not always going to be feasible.

As to your first question about the airport, there is no planning and no discussion of using Hamid Karzai International Airport as a base for

conducting airstrikes in and around Afghanistan. There is a small aviation element at the airport that is rotary-based, and it's for the facilitation

and logistics and movement and that kind of thing.

Yes, Mike.

QUESTION: John, you have -- sorry tributaries at the airport, brigade there in Kuwait, troops in Kuwait. Who's in charge of this? What's the chain of


Do they report -- is there somebody in charge of the collective military effort, or do they report to the embassy security officer, the RSO or--


KIRBY: As we've said, we have Rear Admiral Vasely, who is in Kabul, and has been placed in charge by General McKenzie to be the Commander of U.S.

Forces Afghanistan Forward.


KIRBY: Ashley from "Jane's."

QUESTION: Yes, hi, John. Just to follow up on some of the other questions, in addition to any additional aircraft, are there -- is there additional

equipment that these three battalions are going to need? And then can you just sort of walk us through how you arrived at the need for 3,000

additional troops?

KIRBY: Well, I'm not going to get into the deliberations over exactly how these particular units were chosen.

This was based on consultation by the secretary with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and with General McKenzie, based on the mission set.

And, again, it's a narrowly defined mission to safeguard the movement of civilian personnel and to help process and at an accelerated pace Special

Immigrant Visas.

And so, based on the mission set, we sourced the mission. And based on consultations with top military leaders, the Secretary decided that this

was the appropriate amount right now and to, again, have additional forces available closer into theater if that was required.

I'm sorry. And I missed your other question.

QUESTION: Oh, in addition to potential aircraft being sent into the country to help with the evacuation, is there a need -- is there additional

equipment being sent in to help with transportation or anything else at this point in time?

KIRBY: Well, as I said, we anticipate the use of additional military airlift as required. And we're working through the requirements for that

right now.

And these infantry battalions come with some measure of self-defense equipment, mortars, machine guns, and, of course, personally carried

weaponry. So, I mean, they have self-defense capabilities. But I'm not going to -- and I'm not able to detail specifically what each battalion

will be carrying with them, but they will obviously have the capabilities they need to defend themselves.


QUESTION: John, one term that we have heard in the last couple of days is a NEO, noncombatant evacuation operation.

Sending 3,000 personnel, another thousand to another country, 4,000, I mean, 3,000 to -- inside, I mean, that's a significant number. Is this a

NEO? And if not, why is it -- why are you not calling it that?

KIRBY: We're not classifying this as a noncombatant evacuation operation. We are, as I said -- at the very beginning, this is a very narrowly

focused, temporary mission to facilitate the safe and orderly departure of additional civilian personnel from the State Department and to help

accelerate, to help the State Department colleagues accelerate the processing of SIV applicants.

We are not classifying this as a NEO at this time.

QUESTION: And just a follow up. I mean, there's a certain irony here that the drawdown was for 2,500 troops, and you're sending in an additional

3,000 to get out civilians and ramping it up super quick. And on top of that, another 3,500 in Kuwait. I mean, what is the irony here for people

who might be asking, is it -- I mean, literally, isn't this ironic that in order to get out the 2,500, you're having a ramp up significantly?

KIRBY: No, I don't -- I don't share your view of the irony, Louis. This is a very temporary admission for a very specific purpose. That's a big

difference than saying you're deploying for eight, nine, 12 months forces to stabilize and secure Afghanistan, which we'd been doing for the last 20

years. This is a very narrowly defined, very temporary mission.

QUESTION: Good point. So, once --

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Julia Chatterley, and you've just been listening to a briefing at The Pentagon. The key

message that you were hearing there is that an additional 3,000 U.S. troops will be entering Afghanistan. They will be there assisting the departure of

U.S. diplomats, of any possible further evacuations, and providing additional security to U.S. personnel.

The Press Secretary was also asked there if they will be providing any additional airpower, security drone assistance. He said that those

capabilities remain there, of course, and they can provide additional assistance, but that's not the case at this stage.

It also follows a press briefing that we heard from the State Department earlier today as well that they will continue diplomatic efforts with the

government and continue counterterrorism efforts. The situation clearly in Afghanistan is changing rapidly.

Let me just remind you where we are this hour. The Taliban are on the march in the embassies of Germany, France, the U.K., and the United States, and

now urging their citizens to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. The Taliban have made stunning gains in just the past 24 hours. They've taken

the strategic cities of Herat and Ghazni and breached the frontlines of Afghanistan's second largest city, Kandahar.


CHATTERLEY: Twelve provincial capitals are now under their control. It's left the Afghan capital of Kabul increasingly beleaguered and cut off from

the rest of the country. And as I just mentioned there, the U.S. saying it's drawing down some of its embassy personnel in Kabul, and that 3,000

U.S. troops will go into Afghanistan to assist with the departure of U.S. diplomats and any possible evacuations. Sources tell CNN that the U.S. is

also considering moving its embassy to the airport.

Clarissa Ward now joins us from Kabul and CNN military analyst, Cedric Leighton, is in Washington for us both and I know -- welcome to you both --

that you were listening to that press briefing there from The Pentagon. Cedric, I want to come to you first and just get your assessment of the

situation, and actually the fact that the Press Secretary was asked about the irony of providing an additional 3,000 troops to withdraw some 2,500.

Your take on what we heard there?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the big takeaway, I think is this. We are actually conducting what is called a noncombatant evacuation,

without calling it that. I know, they want to play semantic games and in many cases, they have to be very careful from a diplomatic and military


But what we're doing is we're grabbing as many people as we can from the U.S. embassy staff, obviously, that is, you know, the first order of

business for these people. But then we are also -- the modification to this mission is that looking for anybody who worked for the U.S. to give them

special immigrant visa status, at least start the paperwork rolling in that arena, and that is why this mission is actually a twofold admission, one to

get everybody out when we need to; and two, to bring people in to the United States or to third countries who worked for us during the 20 years

that we were there.

So, it's a very complex operation, but it does need more people that are currently stationed in Afghanistan to be successful.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, they're accelerating their efforts to withdraw people and of course provide additional security in light of the challenges that they

face on what's going on now with the momentum, it seems that the Taliban has -- Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Julia. I mean, I don't think anyone could have anticipated just how quickly this

situation would deteriorate. But here we are looking at the fall of Herat, Afghanistan's third largest city and what portends to be the imminent fall

of Kandahar, which is not only Afghanistan's second largest city, but it's also the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, the place where their leader

Mullah Omar lived for so many years.

In fact, it was their capital of their Islamic Emirate. So that would have a huge symbolic, as well as strategic consequences. We've spoken to an MP

on the ground in Kandahar, he says that the city hasn't fallen yet, but "it will," quote, and all of this is having a devastating effect on morale,

particularly here in the capital, as I'm sure you can imagine.

And this news about U.S. embassy personnel being withdrawn while it's being sort of caveated in language that is trying to sort of convey a sense of

this is just precautionary, this is just a security thing, the way it's going to be seen on the ground is as an evacuation, and I know that's not

the word that's being used, and it's very deliberately not being used. But that's how many people on the ground in Afghanistan are going to see it.

And it is only going to contribute, of course, to the very real deteriorating sense of morale among ordinary people here, as they

contemplate a very uncertain future -- Julia.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, it doesn't surprise you that, Clarissa, exactly as you're saying that they can clearly see U.S. officials that the situation is

dramatically deteriorating and what they're doing here is trying to facilitate the swiftest possible advance that they can.

Cedric, to you on this point. And, again, that Press Secretary was challenged on this, are we really going to be able to see this full

withdrawal by August 31st in light of the fact that we're effectively doubling the amount of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan?

LEIGHTON: Now, Julia, I think that's going to be a really big challenge. You know, when you look at timelines that we set today, you know, one of

the things that we keep forgetting here in the United States is that, you know, anytime timeline that we set, the other side gets a vote in that

timeline, and in this case, the Taliban may very well dictate a longer timeline not because they want us there longer, but their actions, their

rapid advance throughout many parts of Afghanistan is really creating a situation where in order to ensure the safety and security of U.S.

personnel and the SIV applicants, the Afghan translators and others who work for us, it's going to take perhaps a little bit of a longer time even

if the administration doesn't want to hear that.

But the fact of the matter is that this is going to be a very critical effort for us, and it has to go right and we can't be bothered by

artificial timelines, we have to make sure that we get everybody out everybody out that we can possibly get out of a situation like this.


CHATTERLEY: Yes. And as the Defense Department confirmed there that they have not spoken -- well, The Pentagon confirmed that the Defense Department

has not spoken to the Taliban about these additional troops and their presence and what that will mean in Afghanistan as well. Clarissa, come

back to what you were saying there about the impact that this is having on morale for the troops.

I mean, we throw around this word falling, another big city falling, but what does falling, the city falling means for those that are living there

for families? For women? For children?

WARD: Well, I think for the vast majority of people, to be honest, there is just an absolutely desperate sense of a need for security, a need for the

end of the violence. Afghanistan is no stranger to war. It's been going on for decades.

But the violence that we've seen in the last few months has been at unprecedented levels. When we interviewed this MP in Kandahar, he said I've

lived here my whole life. I've never seen it like this before. The ICRC, the International Red Cross at the hospital that they support there has

seen double the amount of weapon wounded patients in the first six months of this year as compares to last year. There are nearly 400,000 displaced

people across the country.

And the problem is that the more of these cities fall, the more clear it becomes that you know, the worst case scenario is in effect becoming closer

to reality. The more panic you have, the more sudden displacement and movement you have, the more chaos you have, which is exactly why the U.S.

is making this decision now to try to withdraw its personnel in a sort of seemly and timely manner before the situation becomes even more chaotic --


CHATTERLEY: Yes. Clarissa Ward and Cedric Leighton, thank you both for joining us this evening. And we will have much more coverage of this story

later in the hour.

All right, coming up next, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize a vaccine booster for immunocompromised people. I

spoke to the Chairman of vaccine producer, Moderna. Stay with us.

And later, frustrated and still plowing ahead, JetBlue launches its first flight between New York and London. Even though most Brits still can't come

to the United States. Richard Quest is on board.



CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. America's F.D.A., the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine

booster shot for some immunocompromised people within the next 48 hours. This would be a third shot of the current two-dose Pfizer and Moderna

vaccines. An estimated nine million Americans are immunocompromised. Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's likely that everyone will need a booster shot at

some point.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: No vaccine, at least not within this category is going to have an

indefinite amount of protection. Inevitably there will be a time when we will have to give boost. At this moment, they are examining the data, they

do not feel that we absolutely have to give it except for the immune compromised who you know, imminently, they are going to get the approval.


CHATTERLEY: Those who have received Moderna's vaccine may have a much lower risk of getting a breakthrough infection compared to people who've gotten

Pfizer's. That's according to a new study conducted in the United States by the Mayo Clinic. Moderna's shares are up for more than 200 percent this

year, and I spoke with its Chairman earlier on "First Move" about rolling out that third dose.


NOUBAR AFEYAN, CHAIRMAN AND COFOUNDER, MODERNA: We've been releasing data as we get them concerning the efficacy of a third booster shot and what it

is showing us is an elevation of antibody levels that is quite substantial, even compared to the second booster. And it's been shown through many, many

studies that the level of antibodies are the first line and the best line of protection we have against getting infected altogether.

Once we get infected, of course, vaccinated people have an advantage over those who are unvaccinated as to the mildness of the disease, but certainly

to be able to protect against infection, and as we enter into a phase where variants are beginning to dominate, that are somewhat more infective and

transmissible, we think that we need to consider elevating, certainly for highly vulnerable people, the level of antibody levels so we can get

maximum protection.

CHATTERLEY: The key there, I think was what you said about highly vulnerable people. I mean, the World Health Organization has raised serious

reservations about the prospect of giving some people in the world certain parts of the world, let's be clear, a third vaccine dose when so many

others in other parts of the world in poorer nations, in particular, haven't even had one dose yet.

I know it's a difficult question. It's sort of moral. It's also scientific, but Noubar, what do you think of that? Is it safer scientifically to

vaccinate as many people as possible with even just one dose versus giving others and a smaller proportion three? How do you think about it as a

company at Moderna?

AFEYAN: Well, Julia, I think that what we need to do is do both. And I think that the way the issue is always framed is that we're either going to

do one or the other. But actually what is missed is that we are, as are others, ramping up our production very rapidly, to be able to produce

multiple, in our case, three billion doses next year.

And in so doing, we believe we'll be able to handle both demands, and we see our colleagues in the industry doing the same so that in aggregate, I

think if we can work in a coordinated way to get adequate supplies to wherever they're needed to vaccinate folks, as well as boost the

protection, I think that can be done.

I think this is not a conflict we need to create, as opposed to just simply ramp up so we can tailor to or handle the needs of all who are being

impacted by this.


CHATTERLEY: We shouldn't have to choose, but we are.

Okay, coming up here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. A return to our top story. We'll have the latest on the Taliban's rapid gains in Afghanistan. Stay

with us.




JetBlue CEO Robyn Hayes tells CNN he's, quote, "frustrated" with the Biden administration's persistent travel restrictions on Europe. Despite the

pandemic and all its uncertainty, the first JetBlue flight from New York to London landed early Thursday morning at Heathrow.

It hopes to undercut the larger airlines by offering a similar product at a lower price. Travel across the Atlantic remains lopsided, to say the least.

Vaccinated or tested Americans can go to most of Europe. Most Europeans still can't come to the United States or leave and come back without having

to quarantine in higher-risk nations in cases like my own.

Well, Richard was on board the first flight to London, which was at capacity and took the second flight back to New York, which was nearly



RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST (voice-over): After years of planning and a pandemic that devastated the industry, JetBlue is finally a transatlantic


ROBIN HAYES, CEO, JETBLUE: We want to fly to Europe.

QUEST (voice-over): For the company and the British expat chief executive, Robin Hayes, it is a moment to savor.

HAYES: Well, London is the really the biggest market. We don't fly out of New York and Boston today. So obviously we needed a different type of

airplane. You know, we needed to get certification to fly across the Atlantic. That took a lot of work.

But London really was -- made sense because we just, it's a large market. Our customers want us to fly there.

QUEST: Is the plan to have a whole range, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt?

Is that where you're going?

HAYES: Yes. And we'll start with London because it is the biggest market we don't serve. Once we have added sufficient frequencies in London, we'll

look at some other markets in Europe. The XLR, which is slightly different to the airplane we're flying on today, will give us a bit more range.

But, yes, we have 26 airplanes coming, Richard, to fly to Europe. So there's going to be several destinations.

QUEST (voice-over): The route is littered with examples of carriers that tried but failed to make the economics of this route work.

From Freddie Laker and Laker Airways in the 1980s.


QUEST (voice-over): And even Norwegian Air, more recently, announced it was no longer flying low cost, long haul. JetBlue believes they have a model

that will work.

HAYES: So we have a strong, loyal customer base. We have o won on in New York. We have o won on in Boston. This is completely different to some of

the other startups that you have seen over the years because they didn't really have any brand or familiarity at either end of the route.

We're assuming, by the end of next summer, we probably got about five flights to London across by Boston and New York. And watch this space,


QUEST: JetBlue's decision to continue the with the launch of this route to London has raised some eyebrows in the industry. Firstly, of course, the

Delta variant has changed all the calculations on what demand is likely to be.

And then you've got the fact, the corridor across the Atlantic is one-way. Americans are welcome in Europe but, so far, Brits and Europeans are not

allowed to come back.

HAYES: I'm frustrated about that because I think the U.S. government should take a risk-based approach to covlimean (ph) COVID infection rates in

Europe are lower than many other countries in the world, where you can fly from today.

But as a U.S. airline, we always knew most of our sales were going to be out of the U.S. So the opening of the U.K. by U.K. government is great


QUEST: So it doesn't affect you as much in the center of the westbound traffic.

HAYES: It will have a little bit of an impact but we still feel it is the right time for us to go.

QUEST: On the question of mandates, for masks, for vaccinations for staff, United has said it is vaccinating and it's a mandate. The others haven't.

You're sort of, I get the feeling you're all waiting and watching but not prepared to go there where Scott Kirby's (ph) gone.

HAYES: Right now, we are talking to our crew members. We're talking to our unions, we're talking to our crew members at JetBlue to see what we should

do. Right now, we are still strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated. But I don't rule out that, at some point in the future, a mandate may be

something that we look at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).


Tonight's JetBlue flight is (INAUDIBLE), well, it is the (INAUDIBLE) service after all. The problem for the industry is that the transatlantic

is still a one-way street.

QUEST (voice-over): As I arrive at Heathrow, the hope is America will reopen its doors soon.

EMMA GLITHORPE, COO, HEATHROW AIRPORT: We need the U.S. government to review its border policy. Really critical, U.K. government has taken the

ambitious step of opening our borders but we must have the U.S. government doing the same reciprocally and putting in the ability for vaccinated

passengers to travel to the U.S.

QUEST: So far the situation for both the U.K. and E.U. is that the U.S. is deaf to this claim. And I know talks continually go on.

But have you got hope?

I mean, it's not going to happen this season obviously. The summer's over essentially.

But have you got hope that you might be able to rescue something by Christmas?

GLITHORPE: I absolutely do have hope. I think, when you look at the importance of that -- and it is a special relationship, isn't it?

The U.S.-U.K. But there's a reason for that there. It is because of family and historical connections. It's because of education, people going to the

U.S. to study but very importantly, coming to the U.K. to study.

And of course, it's a huge business and trade route. So, yes, I am absolutely confident that there will be movement by Christmas. And

vaccination levels in the U.S. now are really motoring.

They have had, as we did, another wave of COVID coming through. That is now starting to subside. So the conditions are becoming ripe for that policy

decision to be made.

QUEST: Heathrow is seeing some of the best passenger numbers it's had in more than a year. But the rate of growth, both here and at the European

airports, is still much less than that seen in, for example, the United States or China.

What the airports and airlines really want, of course, is for the U.S. administration in Washington to allow vaccinated travelers to cross the

pond. And so far, unfortunately, Washington doesn't want to play.

QUEST (voice-over): I'm barely in Britain for five hours. As I board the same aircraft for the return journey across the Atlantic.

QUEST: The clearest indication of what a change in U.S. policy would mean could be seen on the return flight to the United States because Brits, even

those fully vaccinated, are not allowed into the United States.

Well, this plane, it's about a quarter full -- Richard Quest. CNN somewhere across the North Atlantic.



CHATTERLEY: OK. Let's return to our breaking news. The Taliban making major gains in Afghanistan. They've taken the strategic city of Herat, that

source have been breach in the front lines around Kandahar.


CHATTERLEY: Those are two of Afghanistan's three largest cities. But look at the third location on this map, Ghazni, another provincial capital that

the Taliban captured today. And look at the proximity to the capital, Kabul. You can see Taliban forces outside what they say are the gates of

the Ghazni police headquarters.

Just a short time ago, the Pentagon press secretary said up to 3,000 troops will arrive at Kabul's international airport in the next 24 to 48 hours to

assist with getting American civilian personnel out of Afghanistan. CNN international security editor Nick Paton Walsh joins me now.

Nick, great to see you. We've heard a lot from both the State Department and the Pentagon today. And far from providing any real additional support

to Afghanistan as a nation, what they're doing is sending in more troops than are currently there in order to facilitate what is increasing feeling

like an evacuation.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, it's a very bizarre situation frankly. Despite all the military logic of deploying

adequate force into a capital to enable your personnel to get out, that's what they're doing, 3,000 is a lot.

It is more than they initially had in when they began the withdrawal. So it is a bit of a -- you might say it's a pickle they seem to have gotten

themselves in. And there are large numbers in the 3,500 number that will be over the horizon, so to speak, nearby, able to deploy if things get sticky.

So we're into this extraordinary two- to three-week period because they will leave the end of August as part of this plan, in which the Americans

can be sending in large numbers of troops, obviously with air cover and enablers to keep themselves safe.

So establishing a military presence in Kabul. It will doubtless have an impact on some of the nearby buildings and areas, so providing a degree of

security blanket for many of the important parts of Kabul.

And frankly, a significant warning sign for the Taliban to stay back from the capital, not that at this stage, they look like they're moving close to

it that fast. But you then have a situation two to three weeks down the line, when the U.S. has pulled out its civilian staff, has presumably got

out most of the people it wants to see out as part of its special immigrant visa program for those who worked for the Americans.

And then will have to up sticks and leave again. So that is an extraordinary decision to make and will likely be an extraordinary visual

frankly when it comes down the road at the end of the month.

But to some degree, it is entirely understandable that the U.S. is seeing the extraordinary collapse of security. Just today, when we went from -- I

think I woke up to about eight provincial capitals had fallen; now we're on 12. And the third largest city, Herat, fell a matter of hours ago after

weeks of pressure.

But it had been thought it might be able to withstand that; clearly not the case. This morning, Ghazni, which had been under pressure, too, but looked

like it may have been enduring, that also fell.

It is on a direct route from the capital, Kabul, south down to Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan, which is also under intense

pressure, too -- and actually may have some Taliban insurgents breaking in through government front lines at this time.

And then off to the west as well, Lashkar Gah, a vitally symbolic city. That itself is having extraordinary pressure on it as well. Both Kandahar

and Lashkar Gah have jailbreaks inside and swelling Taliban ranks. So the situation is frankly dire.

And in one week we've seen at least a third now of Kabul's main cities falling to the Taliban. Nobody thought the advance would be this fast.

Nobody thought we would see seizing Ghazni, now that the local governor seems surrounding and him being arrested by Afghanistan's own security


So in that context, imagining how things will go for Kabul as presumably the insurgency begin to look toward the capital, is right at the heart of

U.S. thinking and obviously wise for their own personnel.

But it sends a curious signal to Afghans. You may have heard in the briefing there that the Pentagon press secretary asked, aren't you going to

stir panic amongst ordinary Afghans, seeing you sending in this many troops, to take your people out and effectively leave?

I think you will see some of that. There is already great concern in the capital as to what so many of the people there who were pro-government will

do if the Taliban walks in. It is unlikely frankly at this stage that the insurgency can waltz into a city of 6 million.

But they've achieved a lot of things that many thought were highly unlikely in the last two to three weeks. And so I think we're in for an

extraordinary period of American deployment, is almost a final flourish after 20 years, so they can safely get out. I think there are many Afghans

here feeling betrayed -- Julia.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, I read this morning that the Taliban are outnumbered 4-1 with Afghan troops. But to your point, the complete and utter loss of

morale in the face of what they're seeing, particularly in light of even the news today, is, to some degree, deeply understandable, I think.


CHATTERLEY: Nick, thank you for your context and wisdom on this. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

We'll be back more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in just a moment.




CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. On to our "Call to Earth," CNN's initiative to promote a more sustainable future for our

planet. Protecting marine habitats is a growing concern, especially for those of us who like to eat fish.

But what if you could consume with a conscience by eating the enemy of coral reefs?

Let's explore.



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These ecowarriors are heading into an unusual battle.

The enemy: a dangerous and invasive species that is destroying the local habitat.

ALEX FOGG, MARINE BIOLOGIST AND CONSERVATIONIST (voice-over): It has caused a pretty major problem in the Western Atlantic waters.

WATT (voice-over): Leading the charge is Alex Fogg, a marine biologist and conservationist for Destin/Ft. Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. He's

known as the lionfish guy around these parts.

FOGG (voice-over): Lionfish is such a passion to what do I in my everyday life.

WATT (voice-over): Lionfish are native to the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. They were first detected along the Florida coast in the mid-1980s

more than 10,000 miles from home.

FOGG (voice-over): There's a lot of theories exactly how they came to be. But most likely option was that lionfish were in the aquarium trade and

ended up being released by a pet owner.

WATT (voice-over): Over the years, the population has multiplied and is wreaking havoc.

FOGG (voice-over): If you put them something into the ecosystem that's not supposed to be there and they're eating the same food as some of your

native species, there's competition there or there's grazers, like your parrot fish.

If lionfish are preying on parrot fish, those parrot fish are no longer keeping the reefs clean and a lot of times the algae can overtake the reef

and cause a bunch of coral death.

WATT (voice-over): To make matters worse, lionfish have no predators in these western waters.

FOGG (voice-over): It comes down to something else besides predators to take charge and keep these fish under control and that's us, divers.



FOGG (voice-over): There may be fishermen out there that maybe never would have considered themselves conservationists but this is something where

they can go diving, they can go harvest the fish and help the ecosystem in the process.

WATT (voice-over): They have to be careful though. Those spines along their back and sides, they're venomous.

FOGG (voice-over): You're not going to but you may shed a tear or two.

WATT (voice-over): To keep their hands safe, divers use a long spear to catch the lionfish and the contraption called a zoo keeper to contain them.

FOGG (voice-over): It's essentially a plastic tube that allows to you put the lionfish into it and prevents the spines from poking out and

potentially stinging you. You want to make sure that you're not going to get stung.

WATT (voice-over): The good news: lionfish happen to taste good and have become somewhat of a delicacy in upscale restaurants along the coast, like

GW Fins in New Orleans, where this has become a story of eat 'em to beat 'em.

MICHAEL NELSON, EXECUTIVE CHEF, GW FINS (voice-over): When we heard about what lionfish started to do to the ecosystem here, we wanted to do whatever

we could to help solve the problem. And we got our first shipment of lionfish, we were actually pleasantly surprised.

For an invasive species, it is probably one of the most delicious ones I've ever tasted.

WATT (voice-over): The restaurant worked directly with the spear fishermen, who supplied their lionfish. It is good for business and good for the

environment. Crucially, their methods avoid bycatch and target the enemy.

NELSON (voice-over): If you run out a net through the water, you really never know exactly what you're pulling up. When it come to these spear

fishermen, they are only harvesting exactly the fish that we're looking for and nothing else.

Sourcing is probably the most important thing we do to make sure we know who, when, where and how all of our fish was caught.

WATT (voice-over): Understanding why is important, too. If the lionfish population spirals out of control, it could eat many of the species the

restaurant is used to having on its menu.

NELSON (voice-over): Really, the only way to incentivize people to get out there and eradicate these and catch as many as they can is to create a

demand and a market for them. Then, boom, you'll have a lot more people out there, hunting for lionfish.

WATT (voice-over): The goal is to control the lionfish population, not eliminate it.

FOGG (voice-over): Lionfish will really always be here. It is just where they are going to find their place in that -- in the ecosystem and in the

food web.


CHATTERLEY: We'll continue showcasing inspirational environmental stories like this as part of the initiative at CNN. You can let us know what you're

doing to answer the call with the #CallToEarth.





CHATTERLEY: And we're in the last few minutes of trade on Wall Street this Thursday. The markets moving between small gains and small losses today.

The Dow essentially unchanged. Look at that. But we have come off the lows of the session. A better day though for some of the other indices.

The SNP 500 is just about eking out another record high. We also had new U.S. jobless claims down for the third straight week earlier today,

following that stronger payrolls data from Friday.

Still, investors remain concerned about rising inflation and that was emphasized by higher than expected price data. Let me show what you we're

looking at to give you a sense of what's moving here.

Health care, tech stocks are the outperformers; Salesforce and Apple some of the big winners. Everything that has lifted us over the past few

sessions, the industrials and materials, energy off the back of hopes for infrastructure spending, giving back some gains in the session today.

And that's it for me. Thank you for watching. I'm Julia Chatterley in New York. The closing bell is just a few minutes away. But before that, Richard

will be back with a "Profitable Moment" right after this. Stay with CNN.




QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment": I've been coming through Heathrow Airport Terminal Two pretty consistently throughout the pandemic. In the

early days, there was literally no one down there.

So it is heartening to an owd geek like me to see the place come back to life. More passengers coming here and transferring through.

But it is not enough because the big obstacle to the growth of transatlantic travel at the moment is the U.S. administration, refusing to

allow fully vaccinated passengers from Europe to visit.

JetBlue and the other airlines can only go so far to stimulate growth. Until the transatlantic governments on both sides act together to reopen

the North Atlantic corridor, well, this might be as good as it gets.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest at Heathrow Airport, London. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it is

profitable. I'll be back in New York with you tomorrow.