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Quest Means Business
Taliban Crack Down On Protests With Curfews And Patrols, U.S. Department Says 6K People At Airport Are Fully Processed; I.M.F. Cancels Scheduled Release Of $$50 Million In Funds To Afghanistan; Chaos, Confusion And Fear At Kabul Airport, 12 Killed; Haiti Death Toll Tops 2,000 As Anger Grows Over Lack Of Aid. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 19, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: I'm Paula Newton in New York, and this is CNN's continuing coverage of the fall of Afghanistan.
Tonight, the Taliban faced realities of trying to hold power in a country they took by force after two decades of democracy. People poured on to
Kabul streets Thursday, Afghanistan's historic Independence Day. You see there, they carried the colors of the national flag, the same flag lowered
last weekend and replaced by the Taliban with their own.
Now, the Taliban responded by deploying menacing convoys of fighters. In the southeast Afghan City of Khost, Taliban sources tell CNN a curfew will
now be imposed for an indefinite period of time. Videos on social media reportedly show hundreds of people demonstrating there on Wednesday.
Now, the Taliban's swift crackdown of any opposition undermines its claim - - its repeated claim that they will be more restrained than they were 20 years ago.
Sam Kiley is in Doha now and watching all of these for us, and Sam, you know, we see these sporadic very nascent sparks of resistance. What could
possibly come of this in Afghanistan? Afghanistan that is just starting to come to terms with the fact that it is now led again by the Taliban.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the first thing to note, Paula, is that we saw the images there of that enormous
Afghan national flag being carried through the streets of Kabul. They were able to do that notwithstanding the stink eyes as they call it, the glares
of Taliban fighters as those marches went through.
They were able to do, and it the Taliban have issued a statement saying people must respect the national flag and their fighters should not act
against people. But of course, controlling their fighters in the far-flung provinces is going to be extremely difficult, as is controlling not only
the street protests, but what potentially could emerge as violent uprisings, particularly in the Panjshir Valley to the north of Kabul, the
traditional homeland of the Northern Alliance.
Remember, the Northern Alliance and the United States and others were responsible for toppling the Taliban. The Panjshir Valley was never
captured by the Taliban between 1996 and 2001, and it is still not in their hands. So that is an area where there could be a coalition of opposition
forces and potentially, an attempt fight back.
But, that might, in the view, certainly, of diplomats I have been speaking to here in Doha will be counterproductive because what the Taliban seem to
be, at least in the initial stages, and they seem to have convinced a lot of people involved in the negotiations that they conducted with the United
States and the Afghan government in the past, there is a sense that there is a difference in the Taliban, at least temporarily.
If they are able to keep a lid on the demonstrations against them, and particularly the violence, they might be encouraged to be more inclusive.
And then, if they are rewarded with a participation in the international community rather than the isolation they suffered before, that might
But these are all if's and but's, and of course, we are waiting to see how the Taliban conduct themselves over the next few weeks, particularly in the
latter stages of the mass evacuations from Kabul Airport, Paula, but also in relation to their human rights record -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, which is obviously a problem now as we continue to look at images of just the chaos outside the airport, untold chaos, obviously, and
brutality that is still going on outside the capital city.
In terms of the remnants now of the Afghan government, you mentioned the negotiations that had been going on. I mean, is there a space here for even
people like former President Hamid Karzai, who, perhaps working on still some kind of power sharing deal, or right now, is it all really in the
hands of the Taliban?
KILEY: No it is very much -- certainly here in Doha, the energy is still very much behind trying to get those negotiations with those individuals
you named, Hamid Karzai, the former President, and Abdullah Abdullah, former Chief Executive, if you like, co-President of Afghanistan. Not so
much with Ashraf Ghani whose reputation rather has been blown by running away amid allegations unproven at this state that he took a lot of money
with him. He is now in exile in the United Arab Emirates.
But the Qataris seem to be convinced that a future can be set up for Afghanistan that does involve elements of the previous regime. There have
been Taliban spokesmen here in Doha who have endorsed their idea, they haven't named any names but they at least have made the right noises, and
there are efforts being made to get those two sides together for talks, perhaps here in Doha, perhaps once again, they had some earlier this week
KILEY: Perhaps in Kabul, too, but that's certainly the desire of particularly the Qataris who have been intimately involved with the Taliban
over the last few years, and know them better than most in the international community -- Paula.
NEWTON: Still something to keep our eye on in terms of as we say, what happens to those remnants of the Afghan government even though the
President fled and is now in the UAE. Sam, appreciate that insight.
Meantime, the final departure of U.S. forces is still scheduled from just 12 days from now if that schedule isn't moved, and the evacuation job is as
you can imagine, nowhere near finished. Now, the Pentagon says multiple gates in their words are now open at the Kabul Airport trying to speed up
They say they've moved 7,000 people so far, but admitted, they don't even know how many more remain on the ground and still need that ultimate flight
out of Afghanistan. The U.S. Defense Department Secretary, pardon me, the U.S. Defense Secretary John Kirby, he is the spokesperson, said at this
point in time that the process on the ground is improving.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, we are in communication obviously with the local Taliban Commander about making sure
that those at risk Afghans, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and you know, additional Afghan citizens that we want to move through are able to move
through, and we have -- and it comes down a lot to the credentialing.
And we have indications this morning that that process is working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, The Pentagon had to walk back meantime its earlier statement that no Americans had been harassed en route to the airport. In fact, CNN
has seen large crowds and some violence in the area over recent days. Clarissa Ward now takes us through the chaos she has seen.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): America's last foothold in Afghanistan is now guarded by the Taliban.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see the Taliban all over. They don't allow anyone.
WARD (voice over): We've come to Kabul's Airport to see the gauntlet people must pass through to fly out.
WARD (on camera): You can hear gunshots every couple of minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN. CNN. CNN.
WARD (voice over): Quickly we are accosted by an angry Taliban fighter.
WARD (on camera): Can I ask you a question? Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your face first.
WARD (on camera): Cover my face? Okay. Cover my face. What is this? What is that? He told me to cover my face, but he doesn't want to comment on that
truncheon he is carrying.
WARD (voice over): The fighter tells us these chaotic scenes are the fault of America. "The cause of all this is America in Afghanistan. Look at these
people," he says. "America is really acting unfairly towards them. Why are they lying and telling them that they can go to America? Why don't they let
them stay and help their country?"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't want to talk to you.
WARD (on camera): Okay. That's fine. All right --
WARD (voice over): We keep walking to avoid confrontation. A man follows us asking for advice --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How we can enter the base?
WARD (on camera): How you can enter the base?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Because they are sending me e-mails also.
WARD: Do you have paperwork to enter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WARD: Show me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To enter, no. But we have e-mail and they are calling me.
WARD: Was this an Italian company?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Italian company.
WARD: Okay, let's -- I don't want this guy to whip you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.
WARD (voice over): Others crowd around us to show their documents.
WARD (on camera): Yes, Phoenix.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is my H.R. letter.
WARD Yes. You're a translator?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. What we are doing?
WARD: They are all saying there, they all worked at American camps as translators for the Americans and they can't get into that airport.
These Taliban fighters are a little upset with that. Keep going.
WARD (voice over): We decide to leave and head for our car. The fighter takes the safety off his AK-47 and pushes through the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay behind him. Stay behind him.
WARD (voice over): You can see that some of these Taliban fighters, they are just pumped up on adrenaline or I don't know what. It is a very dicey
Suddenly, two other Taliban charge towards us. You can see their rifle butt, raised to strike producer Brent Swales. When the fighters are told we
have permission to report, they lower their weapons and let us pass.
Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kabul.
NEWTON: You know, you saw how harrowing that was just for Clarissa Ward. Now, imagine you are a family trying to make your way through the airport.
Now, of course, we've spoken about it already, evacuating people from Afghanistan at this hour, still huge logistical challenge. The U.S. and its
allies are trying to move thousands of people a day with just one runway. It has prompted criticism.
They should not have been so quick to actually cede control of facilities like Bagram Air Field. A massive compound some 40 miles north of Kabul. We
will get to the debate about whether that should have stayed open in a moment. But that's really only half the problem.
As Clarissa just explained, getting to the airport in Kabul means running that gauntlet of Taliban check points. Wednesday night, the U.S. Embassy
warned it can no longer ensure safe passage. And meantime, you know, a Dutch plane for example actually had to leave Kabul with no passengers on
Mark Kimmitt is a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs under George W. Bush. He
joins us now from Washington.
You know, from a security perspective, operationally with your experience, what more can be done? What more should have been done? Because we just
went through a briefing really today both from The Pentagon and the State Department, very unsatisfactory in terms of them being able to find a
solution to this.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET), U.S. ARMY: Well, listen, I don't want to criticize my fellow soldiers that are out there doing a pretty tough job.
One observation though would be, we have seen this noncombatant evacuation operation before, a NEO operation. That is a pretty big airport and it
would strike me that they would have been able to bring in a group of people and put them in a containment area before they checked their
documents, but at least get them on the other side of the gate so that they were away from the Taliban.
But the concern is valid. There were many, many times that our checkpoints in Baghdad and elsewhere where a car would get into the middle of all the
other vehicles, try to get in and with 20 vehicles surrounding it, ignite an IED.
So, it is not out of the question that they are taking proper security measures, but these seem to be a little bit excessive.
NEWTON: Yes, incredibly excessive. And I do want to get back quickly to that point about Bagram. Some people have said, you know, okay, there are
two air fields there. You and I have been there. That is not a pleasant trip for anyone and it is incredibly difficult to secure.
Some people have suggested though that they still should have done it, and that they shouldn't have handed it over the way they did several weeks ago.
KIMMITT: Well, that's right, and again, Paula, it is hard to criticize from 6,000 miles away. I think if the people on the ground would have known the
situation would have deer deteriorated this bad, we probably wouldn't have closed Bagram, and so we had an alternate air field, one for commercial
traffic, one for military traffic.
Obviously, with two times the ramp space, we would have been getting people in and out. But it is pretty far away from Kabul to get over to Bagram Air
Field. But with what we know now, Monday morning quarterbacking, it would have been great to have Bagram still secured, as we're running this NEO
NEWTON: Which brings us very clear to the point of what was known, what Intelligence knew or what the military knew and could have told Joe Biden.
There have been blunt statements in recent days about the President and U.S. military commanders. I want you to just listen to a couple of those
for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We trained and equipped an Afghan military force, with some 300,000 strong, incredibly well equipped.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this
government in 11 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: I want to point out that you pointed out hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban that it was only a matter of time, your words, until the
Taliban got to the gates of Kabul, and that there wouldn't be the fighting on the street, you said. But that perhaps there could be some kind of a
national unity government, and that the Taliban had no reason to take Kabul militarily if they could take it politically.
You know, in terms of what you saw coming, why do you believe that at this point in time, we still have all of really that pleading from both the
military and the President to us, to try and get to us to understand why there was no way we should have seen this coming.
KIMMITT: Well, first of all, it was pretty apparent by the time I made that statement, it was easy to make that statement because they were pretty much
less than a hundred miles from Kabul, so while I may have looked prescient at the time that I made it, I really wasn't, and the government did step
NEWTON: Okay, but the military commanders in your chair right now should have known that surely as well.
KIMMITT: Paula, the fact is that we expect too much from our Intelligence professionals. You're asking them on get inside the minds of commanders on
the ground. You're asking them to get into the minds of individual soldiers.
They are Intelligence officials. They don't have crystal balls. Is this an Intelligence failure? By some definition, people would say this, I would
just say we expect too much. This is not a Jason Bourne movie where they have huge numbers of screens and everything is known to everybody.
It is a tough business out there. Nobody would have expected this collapse. This is a black swan military event. We haven't seen a military route like
this since France in 1940; and candidly, Iraq when ISIS attacked in 2014.
So, I just don't think it is as obvious to the Monday morning quarterbacks as some would suggest.
NEWTON: And definitely though your words definitely give us pause for thought, right, at the limits as you said of what Intelligence is. I think
there is a point to be made, though, about contingency planning.
Mark Kimmitt, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General, really appreciate your insights here as they are informative.
KIMMITT: Sure, Paula. Thanks.
NEWTON: Now, the financial aspect of the crisis in Afghanistan is coming sharply into view. The country is losing international financial support
after the Taliban takeover, and it could make the economic situation as you can imagine for Afghans even worse.
NEWTON: So, a Taliban regime will not have so far access to I.M.F. support. Now, the International Monetary Fund says it will not send nearly a half a
billion to Afghanistan next week as planned. The U.S. had pressured the I.M.F. to halt that payment. Now, the I.M.F. explained its response with
"There is currently a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a consequence of
which, the country cannot access SDRs, or other I.M.F. resources."
NEWTON: Now, to explain this, SDRs refers to Special Drawing Rates. That's a reserve asset, which can be converted to U.S. dollars or any other
currency once the country is able to draw down on those funds.
Clare Sebastian joins us now from New York. I mean, this is really going to be quite a financial hardship, and we say it is being withheld from the
Taliban, but it definitely puts normal Afghan people really in a precarious position now, too.
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Paula. I think there are sort of two key facts about Afghanistan that it is worth bearing in mind
here. One is that before this, according to the World Bank, about 75 percent of public spending was financed through international aid grants.
That's three quarters of the government budget essentially.
That funding, much of it, now looks like it has dried up. We don't know what is going to happen to international aid. The Biden administration and
its European allies say they are working on this, but it is not clear what it looks like. It is clear though that the I.M.F. money had it arrived next
week, would have been a significant windfall to the Taliban, as would the physical shipments of cash that the bank, the Central Bank was expecting,
which according to the former Central Bank Governor who has now fled the country didn't turn up last Sunday.
So, a lot of the funding that they perhaps were expecting isn't now happening. The other key factor to bear in mind is that 90 percent
according to a U.S. government report, 90 percent of Afghan people lived below the poverty line, that's the threshold of $2.00 a day, and it looks
for that situation to get worse.
If this money is still not forthcoming, that can mean a rise in poverty and dropping in living conditions. We have seen the currency depreciate, that
could lead to inflation, it could affect food prices and of course, as we know, that hits poor people first.
And I want to mention, Paula, that we are still in a pandemic. The W.H.O. says that five percent of Afghanistan is vaccinated. They're worried about
the internally displaced people. That is another factor to bear in mind when we look at the situation for the people on the ground.
NEWTON: Think about all of those pictures that we have seen, clearly, not many people wearing masks. Clare, before I let you go, there are
opportunities here though for Afghanistan, opportunities that would help the economy.
SEBASTIAN: Yes. I mean, look, these are not quick fixes of the current situation. One of the aspects of the -- one of the elements that people
have been talking about is that Afghanistan is thought to be very rich in some critical minerals, minerals that really are needed for the sort of the
clean energy future. Some of the technologies, the growing markets around the world. Things like electric cars, wind turbines, smart phones, and
things like that.
Lithium is believed to be one of the -- the best sources of lithium in the world, but of course, none of that has been attempted yet. There are
significant challenges. I spoke to a former Afghan diplomat about this and he told me some of the challenges, also his hope for this, Paula.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AHMAD SHAH KATAWAZAI, FORMER AFGHAN DIPLOMAT: Looking at the situation, for example, insecurity, rampant corruption in the country, the war lords'
influence, lack of institutions and lack of transport, and lack of infrastructures, these are all the things could lead the country to a
resource curse, but on the other hand we have examples of different countries like Botswana who was successful in turning the country into an
economic -- into a strong economy through national resources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN: Botswana of course, with its exploitation of diamonds in terms of resource curse, that is of course when a country rich in resources fails
to develop them, so that those riches trickle down to the population. There are of course major concerns that that could affect Afghanistan.
And I talked about this not being a quick fix, Paula. The International Energy Agency estimates that among a variety of mines, the average time
from discovery of a deposit to actually getting that out of the ground and selling it is about 16 years.
NEWTON: Yes. Think about that challenge. Clare, thanks so much. Appreciate that update.
Now, the Taliban inherit of course, as we were just talking about, a severely weakened Afghan economy that desperately needs international
support. Now, various grants, financing, about 75 percent of the public spending in Afghanistan, 42.9 percent of its GDP last year came from
foreign aid. That is a tremendous amount. But down, in fact, from the full 100 percent represented in 2009.
Now, Afghanistan's former Central Banker, Ajmal Ahmady says the Taliban can access at most -- at most -- 0.2 percent of its total international
reserves. Now, he warned on Twitter that the Taliban could resort to capital controls, which would depreciate the Afghan currency and cause
Abdul Qadir Fitrat was the governor of Afghanistan's Central Bank from 2007 to 2011. He is the author of "The Tragedy of Kabul Bank." He joins us now
from Fairfax, Virginia.
And really, you can make a very fine point of it, can't you, the difficulties that the Taliban will now face in accessing any reserves for
its government budgets.
ABDUL QADIR FITRAT, FORMER GOVERNOR OF AFGHANISTAN'S CENTRAL BANK: Thank you for having me, Paula. I think the Taliban are excellent in fighting,
but they are inept in government. The international reserve assets of Afghanistan, or the assets of the Afghan population, they belong to the
Afghan population and Taliban must be deprived from accessing that international reserve assets because in the past, we have witnessed that
Taliban channeled some of the funds that they received from donors during the late 1990s and 2000s, mainly from Saudi Arabia and other donors. They
funneled some of those money to other terrorist organizations.
I saw one of the orders of Mullah Omar paying -- asking the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance to pay 1.5 to 2.5 million to Juma Namangani,
the head of Islamic insurgency in Uzbekistan and also, Hafiz Saeed -- the same amount to Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.
Accessing funds by the Taliban means funneling some of those funds to other terrorist organizations who have maligned objectives within and outside
Afghanistan, and it would be a threat to the United States and our allies around the world. Of course -- go ahead.
NEWTON: I think many people would accept what you're saying, and the dangers of giving any money to the Taliban, but how do you thread that
needle because the international community also cannot afford for Afghanistan to become yet another failed state. And as you know more than
anyone. There has been so much corruption through Afghanistan for so many years now.
What would your advice be to the international community right now?
FITRAT: My advice to the international community is not to channel funds through the Taliban authorities, but channel funds through U.N. agencies
and NGO's and directly distribute them to the people of Afghanistan and to the people in need, because any funds going to the Taliban or any other
resources going to the Taliban would be spent by the Taliban, would be distributed to other terrorist organizations and will never reach the
NEWTON: In terms though of Taliban now being the reality, and perhaps, I know that you say that they are incapable of governing, but it might be a
reality the international community has to deal with. How concerned are you about just the daily need right now and budgets collapsing? So literally,
there being a shortage of food, a shortage of fuel, and a shortage of money?
FITRAT: I am very concerned about the future, the economic collapse in Afghanistan, because our trade deficit mean our export versus import was
already in deficit. Our export was about 10 to 15 percent of our exports, but on the other hand, our capital accounts, the foreign aid flew to
Afghanistan was surplus, and that was the main factor to stabilize the Afghan currency.
Now that the international assistance to Afghanistan is drying up, and also at the same time, our export will further decline, Afghani exchange rate
vis-a-vis other foreign currencies will significantly depreciate and import will become much more expensive. And around 50 percent of Afghan consumer
goods are imported, and it means that when import becomes expensive, it means they are -- it would impact the prices and it would increase
inflation and the poor people of Afghanistan will be the main victims of that.
But unfortunately, there is no other way around to dealing with the Taliban and to deal with the consequences of their --
NEWTON: And I know --
FITRAT: Go ahead.
NEWTON: And I know that the U.N. is already grappling with that because a third to a half of all Afghans are already food insecure. I will have to
leave it there for now, but thanks so much for your input here. Appreciate it.
Now, still to come here, chaos at Kabul's International Airport as crowds of Afghans scramble to escape Taliban rule. We will have the latest up
NEWTON: The U.S. State Department says there are 6,000 people at the airport in Kabul, who will be boarding planes out of Afghanistan soon. CNN
has learned that thousands of locally employed staff at the U.S. embassy in Kabul were told to head to the airport on Wednesday for evacuation flights.
Although clearly not all of them were able to do so. Sources tell us some of those who did make it through were bloodied and, quite frankly, mentally
distraught, having lost their possessions en route. In the last hour, the State Department said things were running efficiently at the airport right
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Our imperative is to relocate as many people as quickly as we can. And we've seen the reports of
congestion. My understanding is that things are moving quite efficiently at this hour at the airport now. But every report we see of someone unable the
reach the airport is of concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: At least 12 people have reportedly been killed in and around the Kabul airport since the Taliban took control of the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON (voice-over): A look at those pictures there. Reuters says the deaths were caused by stampedes and shootings. CNN has been unable to
verify those reports. But here as you can see it there, the recent chaos outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, as the crowds try to breach
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: We've also seen the heartbreaking images of mothers handing their babies to British soldiers over the barbed wire. U.K. defence minister Ben
Wallace said troops cannot take unaccompanied minors.
Nick Paton Walsh fought through those crowds. He is now in Doha.
You tell us that you saw at least one infant trying to be passed there. We just spoke to a former commander in the U.S. military and he told us you
can't do any armchair quarterbacking. Yet tell us from what you saw, if you believe more could be done to get together some kind of humanitarian
corridor to get to that airport.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I think the issue is this is an insurmountable problem. The U.S. military is in an extraordinary
bind. After controlling most of Afghan militarily for 20 years, they find themselves in the smallest, most controversial parts that it has at the
airport, where they have this extraordinary billion-dollar airport they've built.
The military side of it right now and the major problem is the desperate desire of so many Afghans to get on to the airport. That is something they
The press statements you've been hearing, that things are running smoothly, that won't disencourage people from going to the airport. It will do the
opposite, make them feel that things are OK and they should have a try to get on.
The videos today of what's happening outside are startling. They show enormous numbers, they show troops firing in the air. They show absolute
And of course, too, you have the reporting, we saw on Monday, how the Taliban are stopping people trying to get to the airport on the main road
toward it. And that brings the picture, where there is a lot more danger of people trying on get to the airport than they currently face with the
It is a startling scene. But it is where at every gate around the airport, no matter how small it is, no matter how tiny the rumor that it might have
some accessibility, hundreds of people turn up. They rush to it. They crush it, a huge thrum of bodies.
People are lifted up, I was lifted up. The Marines -- I explained where I was from -- regardless, you are not coming in because, frankly, I can only
surmise this wasn't personal, if you let one person in, then everybody will see there's been success. And they will try the same thing and then you
have a crowd of hundreds of Afghans trying to lift each other up over the gates.
And the Marines to have find some way of stopping that. It is exceptionally hard to create some kind of order. People are very desperate. They don't
believe what they're hearing. Many of them have the papers and the rights to get out.
And the Taliban on the main northern road I was on, it seemed obsessed with getting a field truck through the traffic. But to the south, quite
aggressively turning people back.
I don't see how this is somehow massaged away and people start forming an orderly queue with the Taliban leaving them alone. And I'm slightly
concerned about the picture being painted of inordinate success in the last 24 hours of 6,000 people processed and quite how that fits with the reality
of the madness outside the airport.
NEWTON: And I have to ask you, in terms what's going on outside the airport, it's not lost on anyone. We had the Defense Department say today
the U.S. soldiers are in contact with the Taliban in order to get people through. They are still negotiating security around that airport with their
enemies, the Taliban.
WALSH: Yes. The statements about talking with the Taliban were sort of vague, suggesting the Taliban haven't really got in the way of what they're
trying to do. That's absolute nonsense. The Taliban have been categorically in the way, pretty much since this began.
At the start, it may have been because they were trying to put some sort of order around the airport. That may have been the initial motivation.
But now it is certainly, people being pushed away from the airport. And you have to presume that's because the Taliban don't want the Afghans who
assisted the American occupational presence from leaving the country away from them.
So it is a very dark moment. Those people on the base in the kind of little Afghanistan they've built for America, don't really know what is happening
in the real Afghanistan.
WALSH: I hope it changes. It may have been on Tuesday that I met people who freshly arrived and had not got a measure of the situation. But the scenes
show a worsening situation, despite the bit by the spokespeople or the Pentagon, the State Department, suggest we're seeing it slowly improving.
I hope to gosh they're right, frankly, because there are tens of thousands who need this rescue fast. And as you mentioned, 12 people have died
outside the base. So there is no good news about this.
NEWTON: And there are reports of planes leaving empty or some half empty. Thank you, Nick. I know it has been some very long days. Appreciate it.
Still to come, President Biden is standing by his Afghanistan strategy. We are live in Washington with more.
NEWTON: President Biden is continuing to defend his strategy in Afghanistan, telling ABC News, there was no way to withdraw without, quote,
"chaos ensuing." He said troops could end up staying in Afghanistan past August 31st if that's what it takes to evacuate all American citizens.
He told George Stephanopoulos he doesn't think the pullout could have been handled in a different way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: In the pictures we've seen those hundreds of people packed into a C-17. We've seen Afghans falling --
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was four days ago, five days ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you think when you first saw those pictures?
BIDEN: What I thought was we have to gain control of this. We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of
that airport. And we did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't think this could have been handled, this exit could have been handled better in any way?
BIDEN: No. I don't think it could have been handled in a way that -- we're going to go back in hindsight and look. But the idea that somehow there's a
way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens. I don't know how that happened.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So for you that was always priced into the decision?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Jeff Zeleny is at the White House for us.
Jeff, I'm hoping you can give us some insight into the administration's thinking. In that interview, to not really show any contrition. But also
from what we've seen so far, not a heck of a lot of empathy, either.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That was really surprising to me when I watched that interview. President Biden is known
for his empathy. He's known for literally reaching out and hugging and touching and consoling people.
For him to quarrel with the number of days thereabout, the number of people packed in an airplane. In fact, it hasn't been four or five days ago.
So what if it had?
The reality is the situation on the ground, as we were hearing from our colleagues there and other reports, it is dire. It is dangerous and it is
not getting much better very quickly.
So the idea that he's quarreling with that is the idea of a White House that is not operating out of a sense of confidence. The president is -- has
a well known trait, I've covered him for a long time. Stubbornness is one of those things.
So that's what, I guess, he was turning to. But more interestingly, the fact that he said chaos was always inevitable, that it was priced into this
decision. If so, did he very little if anything to prepare the American people, global allies for this chaos.
It is simply -- does not square with what he has said previously, as recently as last month, certainly going back to April when he announced
this withdrawal. He said it was going to be safely and securely performed and exited. And this was not going to be a chaotic situation.
So the reality is there was an intelligence failure. There was a, certainly a surprise and surprises happen in things like this, that the Taliban was
stronger and the Afghan government was weaker.
So in the coming days, I suspect the president will keep explaining, may try and clean up those remarks somewhat. But it doesn't change the facts
right now and what they're trying to focus on now is evacuating American citizens, of course, the allies and partners, Afghan nationals there as
well, as well as trying to keep together whatever frayed alliances are still remaining with U.S. allies, who are stung by this move.
NEWTON: Some of the language we've heard from European allies, saying it has been America's shame, has been extraordinary. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate
"Now walking hand in hand that Haiti may be more beautiful."
Those words from Haiti's unofficial Creole national anthem. The prime minister is urging unity as the country looks to rebuild after a
devastating earthquake and tropical storm. CNN is on the ground. We'll bring you that next.
NEWTON: And you are looking there at the clean-up effort still underway and going far too slowly. That's in Haiti.
One of the problems here has been not just trying to get to this clean-up operation but the fact that so many people in Haiti have yet to receive any
kind of help.
Now Haiti's prime minister said the country must unite in order to rebuild after Saturday's deadly earthquake. The official death toll now stands at
nearly 2,200 people. Ariel Henry underscoring his government's effort to get help to affected areas.
Here you see people carrying supplies across a bridge that is no longer safe for trucks. I mean, look at that. CNN's Matt Rivers is in Port-au-
And I know you have seen dozens and dozens of scenes of people doing what they can to get help to others and to try to start to rebuild. I really
feel as if the worst is yet to come for so many people, who must be so stunned by the task ahead of them.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I think the idea that the prime minister is saying that Haitians need to unite, what does
All the Haitians we've spoken to are very united around the fact that no one is helping them. If they're united around anything, it's that they have
to do all of these things for themselves. There's no resources, no government troops being brought in to help them out. I don't mean military
troops. I just mean support.
Everywhere we've gone, they're saying, we don't need handouts; we need resources to help us respond to this earthquake. And that's what we saw
yesterday in a rural part of Haiti. It took us a while to get there. But when we were there, the message was uniform to the government, please send
RIVERS (voice-over): Driving into rural Haiti is not easy, miles and miles of tough, unpaved roads. But it's at the end of those roads where some of
the worst damage from this earthquake lies.
This is Corail, a fishing town of 30,000, where hundreds of structures have been destroyed.
Gilain Richard lost everything when the ground shook.
"I lost my business and my home," she says. "I have six kids to send to school and I don't know what I'm going to do."
Hers was just the first home we saw. Up the street, we couldn't drive past this home because, like so many others here, what remains could collapse at
RIVERS: These guys behind me aren't professionals. They are just locals with hammer, wood and nails, trying to figure out a safe way to bring that
severely damaged building behind me down to the ground.
They told us in the nearly five days since this earthquake happened, they still have not had one representative from the central government show up.
RIVERS (voice-over): It's a tough place to get to but, as some pointed out to us, we managed to do it.
So why hasn't the government?
Anger, a persistent sentiment from many.
This man's family was injured when their home collapsed.
RIVERS: Do you think the government can come here and help you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so.
RIVERS: So you're not waiting for them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No.
RIVERS: And are you frustrated with that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, very frustrated. I'm very frustrated.
RIVERS (voice-over): Some blame corruption and a lack of will for government inaction. There's also the recent assassination of Haiti's
president, gang violence and a lack of quality infrastructure, possibly at fault.
This bridge in Jeremie, in rough shape before the earthquake, now so damaged that heavy trucks like these loaded down with aid cannot cross.
Supplies sometimes hand carried.
No matter the reason, the reality persists: people in need are growing increasingly desperate.
"I need help," she says, "and no one is helping me. So far it's only God, who I think will help me."
The place where she might pray for that, the church in the town center, also destroyed. Thankfully, fewer people died during this earthquake
compared to previous similar earthquakes.
"Imagine," as one person told us, "if it had happened on a Sunday morning when church was full."
RIVERS: We have had a lot of conversations with different aid groups over the last couple days, with members of the U.S. Coast Guard, with members of
the U.S. military. This town is increasingly on people's radar. No doubt about that. So there is a lot of good intention here to try to get aid to
RIVERS: It is difficult. There's no doubt about it. Moving lots of aid is different than moving a team of journalists in light SUVs. That's
absolutely the case.
However, that doesn't change that this is Haiti government's responsibility, to go help out its citizens. This is where government is
supposed to step in and they haven't done it yet. Hopefully, we see them moving in the next couple days with the help of outside groups.
NEWTON: We don't have a lot of time but I've always been stunned when meeting Haitian people in Haiti about their grace and their patience. Yet
they've gone through a lot of political turmoil, which you've covered so incredibly for us.
What hope do they have that this time in the ensuing weeks, that this help will come?
RIVERS: I mean, I think they don't really have a lot of choice, other than to rely on themselves. You saw where people are shoring up that house by
themselves. They just do what needs to be done.
The resilience of Haitians comes not by choice but by circumstance.
What choice do the people of Haiti have?
In the face of natural disaster after natural disaster, assassination and corruption, the list goes on, they have no choice but to confront issue
after issue after issue. And they do.
As one person messaged me yesterday, we've fallen down before, we've gotten up before, we'll do it again now.
NEWTON: I'm so glad you're there. Thanks to you and your team.
We'll be back with more news in a moment.
SOARES: So there are just a few moments left to trade on Wall Street. The Dow is treading water today and we should probably thank everyone for that.
After the last few days, there were some triple digit drops.
The Dow 30 is almost evenly split. Cisco far away the leader, reporting double digit growth in orders, despite supply chain issues in its latest
earnings call. Boeing meantime is lagging the most. When you look at those numbers, still a big guessing game as to whether or not we will be going
into a bear market or if the stock market will be hitting more highs.
We'll continue to cover it all for you here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'm Paula Newton in New York. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.