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Quest Means Business
Joe Biden Plans To Stick To August 31st Withdrawal Deadline; Full F.D.A. Approval For Pfizer Vaccine Spurs More Mandates; Airbnb Offers Free Housing To Afghan Refugees; Israel Offers Third Dose Of Vaccine To Ages 30- Plus As Cases Near Record Highs; Danish Public Health Chief: We Can Control Pandemic With Vaccines; White House Briefing On Afghanistan Withdrawal, Evacuations. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 24, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We start of course with record highs for the S&P and the NASDAQ despite what is happening in the rest of
The NASDAQ is above 15,000 for the first time, and the big board at the markets, not another record, but a strong gain as you can see.
The markets are looking at domestic and economic issues rather than geopolitical matters. The main events of the day are very different to what
the markets have been considering.
President Biden is apparently sticking to his deadline on evacuations from Kabul. The U.S. President expected to speak in the next couple of hours.
Airbnb announces it is offering free housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees.
And Israel announces everyone over 30 is eligible for a COVID booster shot.
Live in New York on Tuesday, it is the 24th of August. I am Richard Quest, a busy day, and I mean business.
Good evening. We begin tonight with the thought that the withdrawal from Afghanistan by U.S. forces looks set to end on August 31st as scheduled.
NATO says it will leave when the U.S. does and President Biden has given every indication that he will stick to that deadline according to senior
The U.S. President is expected to speak over the next couple of hours. We'll hear him live from the White House. It is going to be in about 90
minutes from now. Between then, mass evacuation efforts in Kabul are in their 11th day. August 31st, the final day before they are expected to
leave, it is a week away.
So far, more than 21,000 people were flown out of Afghanistan during the 24-hour period that started on Monday and that includes 12,700 on U.S.
military flights. The U.S. has evacuated more than 10,000 people on Sunday. They are the highest numbers since the efforts began.
And The Pentagon says it is now flying an aircraft out of Kabul every 45 minutes. Nick Paton Walsh is in Doha, John Harwood is in Washington.
John, I'm going to start with you to put into perspective. At the G7, the President spoke for barely seven minutes, but he is believed to have
basically said, 31st and we're out.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With a caveat, Richard. He that 31st, we're sticking to that deadline. That's a deadline he laid out.
A deadline the Taliban have said they did not want to extend, but he said he asked his commanders to give him contingency plans in case he were to
change his mind and want to extend that date.
The President has made an absolute commitment to get every American who wants to get out, out. So clearly his timeline would be influenced by
whether or not they discovered that there were pockets of Americans somewhere who needed to be evacuated.
But if that's not the case, it appears that they are on track because of the need to pack up forces before August 31st. It appears that they're on
track to try to get as many as they can out in the next few days before beginning to depart.
The commitment to evacuating Afghan allies and their family members has been softer from the President. He said we are going to get out as many as
we can, but there is no doubt there is going to be more people who want to get out than the United States can get out, and that is where some of the
pressure will come both from allies and from American politicians, and some in Afghanistan as we get close to August 31st.
QUEST: Right. Nick Paton Walsh on the ground. You pretty much said last night to me that you didn't expect the deadline to be extended. Now that it
looks like it is not, so what happens next?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Now, according to a source familiar with the situation on the airport, as of tomorrow, they
understand that the military will start what they call the retrograde, which when they start to look at the idea of packing up, basically, putting
things in the right place, not necessarily leaving themselves, but that very lengthy procedure when you have an operation of this size, with all of
its enablers, all of the advanced technology. How do you get it out?
Because there will come a point toward the end of the 30th, I understand they want to be gone pretty much by the 31st rather than have a day, which
it is not quite clear whether they're supposed to be there or allowed to be there until the end of it.
On the 30th, when the last U.S. troops will leave Afghan soil after 20 years, America's longest war.
PATON WALSH: They want to do that in the safest way possible with nothing really left behind that advantages the people they've been fighting for
quite so long.
So, it is a huge operation for them certainly alone. One they have done before, too, and it is clear with the extraordinary airlift they've pulled
off, they are not lacking in any capabilities at all to pull this sort of thing off.
But it potentially reduces the window for further evacuations. The number aircraft we've seen over Kabul just today looking at some of the sky
scanners, you must be familiar with, Richard, is just crazy. So, it looks like a very similar number we are going to hear probably tomorrow about the
number of people who have taken off the base, who they are exactly, how they got through the mostly closed gates, the Taliban checkpoints, the
document infiltration, we may be able to learn some of that as well.
We understand the number of people on the base has been about four and a half to 5,000 for most of the day, but that's probably the number on the
base. Not the number who have passed through and then gone out on the aircraft.
So, the question is, how many more in the days ahead -- Richard.
QUEST: John, taking that question that Nick raises. John, I understand obviously the political sensibilities if Americans get left behind. But is
there a political price to pay for Joe Biden if those Afghans who supported them get left behind?
HARWOOD: Some. It depends on how that is covered by the media. Clearly, Americans as the President has indicated, are the top priority for him.
They're the top priority for other Americans.
I think people will try to make a commonsense judgment as to how successful this evacuation has been. Keep in mind, a month or so ago, Richard, we were
talking about 20,000 Afghans who had been put in applications through the Special Immigrant Visa program. Of course, they have family members who
also want to get out.
Well, in the last 10 days, 58,000 people have been evacuated. So, a lot of people have been evacuated and I think if the administration can pursue the
rest of the process without incurring American casualties, you'll get to a point where they will say, and I think it will -- the American people will
consider reasonable to say, we did the best we could. We got as many out as we can.
HARWOOD: But obviously because there are going to be individual stories of heartbreak and panic and desperation, because the Taliban is a cruel force
that many Afghans fear for very good reason, there are going to be stories of terror and difficulty and those have some bearing on the administration,
and some political cost, not as much as if it is Americans though.
QUEST: John, we'll let you get back to your duties. I want Nick to listen to Boris Johnson today speaking and we'll talk about after what might come
Listen to the British Prime Minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we've done today at the G7 is we've got together the leading western powers and agreed not just a joint
approach to dealing with the evacuation, but also a road map for the way in which we are going to engage with the Taliban, as it probably will be a
Taliban government in Kabul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Right. Two questions. Firstly, rumors that the Allied Forces might try to operate without the U.S., particularly the British perhaps,
operating without the U.S. A, is that likely, and B, what do you think of that?
And the second one, a road map. I mean, a road map to what?
PATON WALSH: Yes, look. Would the British trying to operate, would any of NATO try and operate without the Americans? I absolutely doubt that. The
American military capability in Afghanistan has been keeping them all afloat for the last 20 years, and frankly, the British left quite some time
The valiant work being done by British soldiers, I am afraid, none of that extraordinary toil and hard labor can make up for the vast amount of
hardware the Americans bring with them. So no, I don't think it is remotely possible that the NATO members will stick out in any meaningful way. Maybe
in small groups, maybe with some Taliban acquiescence possibly, but not as a big operation.
Secondly, what does a road map look like going forward? Look, they are trying to spin this in some way. They essentially want to lay down the
possibility of the Taliban and if they quote-unquote "behave" themselves in the forthcoming weeks or months, there might be some possibility of
diplomatic relations with the G7.
PATON WALSH: They are trying to sound like they are on the same page. It is fairly clear that many G7 members wanted the Americans stay longer. It is
very clear the Americans didn't want to do that and they've always had this basic problem, the Americans have to be carrying the military mantle so
much of the time.
So, Boris Johnson, very clearly, trying to sell an idea of him leading a direction here, but it is quite clear the person calling the shots is in
the White House.
QUEST: Nick Paton Walsh in Doha, thank you. To the retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark next. NATO's top military commander from 1997 to 2000.
He is with me from Little Rock in Arkansas.
General Clark, what do you make of the situation now? I mean, there is a week to go and as you well have heard, essentially, the packing up
operation has to start almost any time now if everybody is going to get out safely, so evacuations will dwindle. I mean, do you make of the current
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think first that the militaries of the United States, U.K., and other allied countries
have done a pretty good job of getting in there, given a really tough mission and getting people out. But I think as the previous analysis
showed, you're not going to get everybody out that wants out.
You probably have two to three million Afghans who want out. You have a Taliban organization, if you can call it that that is not really in charge
of the government. The government is basically shut down right now. So the Ministry of Health is not working. There has been a big drought. Foreign
production there of wheat is probably down by 40 percent. This is an economy that has relied on foreign aid and the sales of opium.
So, what do the Taliban have to work with? So what you can expect is a major humanitarian catastrophe. When the G7 says there is going to be a
road map, there probably will have to be a road map. Is the U.N. going to go in and provide assistance? Is it going to be monitored assistance? Are
we going to give it to the Taliban or distribute it directly? And if we distribute it directly, who is going to organize the logistics for them?
So, there is a lot of unanswered and unanswerable, right now, questions about this. But what we do know is, we've got roughly 40 million people
surrounded, locked in their country. The Taliban says they can't lead, and probably two to three million really in jeopardy.
QUEST: All right, how concerned would you be now that as the U.S. goes, what you want to avoid, of course, is any remaining Americans, or any other
nationality to its individual government, just that America tend to have the biggest voice, becoming a hostage. That in the future, anybody left in
the country, and you know, Iran comes to mine, I'm old enough as indeed, like yourself, to remember all of that.
But how worried would you be about that?
CLARK: I think there's a likelihood that any remaining Americans could be identified and could be held hostage. Right now, we don't, at least as far
as I know, we don't have a really good accounting for all the Americans that are there. So presumably, people who have cell phones are calling
relatives. I'm hearing all kinds of reports in the United States about private efforts to get people out. There's a real scramble going on.
But, as the days go by, will somebody from the Taliban see some Americans and say, I want money? I want respect? I think there's a high likelihood of
QUEST: General, one thing that's difficult to understand that will all the might of the U.S., with all the cruise missiles, with all the hundreds of
thousands of soldiers, and same with allies, that they can't just look the Taliban in the eye and say, we are going to complete this in a short order
or else be prepared for something to rain down on your head.
But they can't say that, can they?
CLARK: Well, I guess could you, but it would be an open-ended military operation and one of the basic principles we've always preached is, have a
political objective in mind. What is the objective?
I think you could go to the United Nations. I think the United Nations could conduct the work with the Taliban and figure out how to get some of
these people out. I think they could use the leverage of potential financial aid to the Taliban.
But does the G7 -- does the United States want to do this? Do they see the need for this kind of strategic reset right now? Apparently not yet. It may
still come to that or it may come to simply a forceful extension using force to remain here an extra week to get the rest of the Americans out.
And don't forget, we can do hostage rescue. We can go in and rescue people if we know where they are, what the circumstances are.
CLARK: So, the Taliban have to be a little bit wary of the United States, and they should be on their best behavior to us if they want that
government to survive.
QUEST: So, we've heard from Jen Psaki on President Biden's meeting with the G7. Forgive me, I'm just seeing it myself for the first time, so I am going
to look down and read it. "He made it clear with each passing day we've added risk to our troops with increasing threats from ISIS-K and the
completion is on pace and on course, currently on pace."
If you were commanding now those forces there, what would you be doing?
CLARK: Well, I would be getting the mission done to get the troops out and I would have a contingency plan with reaction forces ready to go against
ISIS if it raises its head and I might be prepared to ask the Commander-in- Chief for strikes if necessary to maintain the safety of our troops and the security at admission.
QUEST: General Clark, very kind of you to take this time, thank you. I appreciate it.
As we continue, Corporate America is extending a helping hand to Afghans fleeing the Taliban in the most, perhaps, needy way. Airbnb has made a big
pledge to house refugees.
And COVID, more companies now mandating vaccines once Pfizer's was fully approved by the F.D.A. They wasted little time. We'll tell you about it
after the break. It is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
QUEST: The U.S. markets are enjoying a strong session with the S&P on track to close at an all-time high, and the NASDAQ has crossed 15,000 for the
first time. The Dow is falling back to -- it is not at a record, but if you look at the percentages, they are all pretty much in line with each other.
It is the tech stocks such as Microsoft and Google that are leading the day and investors are continuing to celebrate the F.D.A.'s full approval of the
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. More mandates as a result of the decision with The Pentagon, the New York City School District, CVS, the pharmacy and Disney
amongst those announcing new requirements.
Clare is with me here in New York. Clare Sebastian, they didn't waste any time once the F.D.A., some brought forward, some announced new.
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Richard. It's clear that companies had been planning for this though those out there who believed
that it was possibly difficult to mandate a vaccine that did not have full Federal approval and that was under emergency use authorization.
SEBASTIAN: So, we saw the likes of United Airlines which had said would it was going to mandate that employees get vaccinated by sort of the end
October or five weeks after full Federal approval. They moved that deadline up by a month to the end of September for all 67,000 of their employees.
Now, this is a delicate situation for companies, Richard, because of course, you have to balance the desire to limit infection and keep people
safe with the limitations of a tight labor market.
This is a very difficult environment for hiring. I want to play you what the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby, told CNN's Kate Bolduan when she
asked how many employees he thinks he is going to lose over this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: Hopefully it will be a small number. We don't know for sure. But what I do know is that when it comes to safety and
saving lives, that business consideration is short-term and we will deal with whatever the ramifications to that are.
But right now, we are losing about one to three employees per week, are losing their life to COVID, 100 percent of them are unvaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN: Some pretty sobering numbers there from the CEO of United Airlines. Right now, they are the only major U.S. carrier to have a mask
mandate in place. Alaska Airlines though is said to be considering it, and I think, it is worth as well, Richard, that unions have played a role in
whether or not companies can institute full mandates.
So, Disney today, Disneyworld said, it reached a deal with its union for 30,000 of its unionized park workers to be vaccinated by October 22nd. They
had already mandated the corporate staff and nonunion employees get vaccine by September 30th. So a lot of expansion.
QUEST: So, right, this is a rolling stone that is gathering lots of mass as it goes downhill. We are going to end up in a position where it will be the
exception not to have a mandate or not.
SEBASTIAN: I think it is going to divide -- it is going to be one of these new things, Richard, in this sort of current job market that people decide
and people look for when they're looking for a job.
I think, right now, it is you know, whether you can work from home, that kind of flexibility and I think mask mandates are going to go into that
category as well. We saw a lot of companies before F.D.A. approval come out and do this, AT&T, CNN's parent company had already mandated it for
Walmart, which is the U.S.'s biggest private sector employer had already mandated it for corporate workers, although not for frontline workers, and
there are others like for example, the automakers that had stopped short of doing this.
So, look, the companies are not going to be able to sit on the fence when it comes to this. They're going to have to set out their store and people
looking for jobs in this tight labor market are going to be able to decide on the basis of this.
QUEST: Clare Sebastian, Clare, thank you.
We move into this, Corporate America is offering to help Afghans. Airbnb says it will host 20,000 refugees for free as nearly as many people have
been evacuated from Kabul today.
Now, to put this in perspective, 20,000 is the number of refugees the entire United Kingdom accepted in the year ending 2020. The Chief
Executive, Brian Chesky says Airbnb feels a responsibility to step up and has called on other leaders and business leaders to follow.
Anna Stewart is in London and looking at the story.
So, 20,000, I get the number and I get the fact that they are not -- that this is going to be paid for by Airbnb and by Chesky himself who will be
funding it. But they've got to find the places where the refugees are going and that's very dispersed, and how long will it be provided?
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: And if you add all those questions up, you start to wonder how they came up with the figure 20,000 because they are,
as you say, going to need to jump through quite a few hoops to find those places.
Now, Airbnb, Richard, have done similar schemes before. We were talking about it earlier in the day, but actually, when you compare it, first of
all, the scale is vastly different. The most people they have ever sheltered was actually in 2020 during the Australian bush fires, they found
shelter for 1,000 people then, and that was when hosts were directly connected to people, they just gave their properties over for free.
This is vastly different, as you say, Airbnb are paying for it, alongside their charitable organization, and also, Richard, they are going to liaise
with NGO's on the ground with resettlement agencies and that is how they are going to allocate these properties, which all sounds like it creates a
whole new layer of administration.
QUEST: So, this will take place immediately, or it is going into place immediately. It is an extremely enterprising and vitally important thing
that is being offered. Are others likely to follow? There are other agencies, maybe not as big as Airbnb, the hotel companies. Do we know of
any others who are getting on board?
STEWART: Well, of course we know that some hotels work with governments, with contracts to help house refugees for short periods of time. That has
already been happening in many jurisdictions around the world.
Brian Chesky, in his many, many tweets this morning, a flurry of tweets did say he hopes other business leaders follow suit. We need a bit more detail
from Airbnb about how long they plan to have this scheme in place because of course, you're looking at tens of thousands of refugees who don't just
need a short-term fix, they need a long-term solution and how will Airbnb work with governments and other organizations to enable that to happen?
Hugely ambitious, but I do like a good news story -- Richard.
QUEST: No, and credit to Airbnb for leading the way on this. I mean, it is what people need in these situations. I mean, every time I look at those
pictures of people leaving the airport, and I think, well, yes, thank goodness they are heading to safety, but they are literally leaving
everything behind -- family, jobs, culture, home, and country.
STEWART: And anything anyone could do, any business can do, you hope that they would. So, ambitious plan, let's hope it works -- Richard.
QUEST: Anna Stewart with the Airbnb story.
As we continue, Israel is offering COVID booster shots to a wider group. The cases in Israel are soaring at an alarming rate. Bearing in mind, of
course, Israel was leading in the first vaccination round. Now, it looks like, it might be so in the second and third.
In Tel Aviv, next.
QUEST: We are waiting for President Joe Biden to speak after a G7 meeting on the situation in Afghanistan where he made it clear in his words that it
was on pace to finish its operations in Afghanistan by August 31st.
The President had asked The Pentagon and the State Department to draw contingency plans in case the timeline does need to change.
Israel is extending eligibility for a third dose of vaccine as cases move dangerously to record highs. Anybody over the age of 30 now can get a
booster, and that was as long as the second dose was at least five months ago.
Israel is the leader in vaccinations, as you can see from there. In many cases, new daily cases were in the single digits. Now, they're in the
Elliott Gotkine is in Tel Aviv.
Simple really, what's gone wrong?
Why has Israel -- what have they learned as a result of efficacy of vaccines by their own experience -- and the rest of us will probably follow
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Richard, I suppose they've learned a couple things. First of all, the effectiveness of the vaccine after two doses does
begin to wear off.
Because Israel was a trail blazer for the vaccination campaigns around the world, it follows that being one of the earliest countries to start
vaccinating its citizens, it is the country where the effectiveness of those two doses of that vaccine begins to wear off earliest.
At the same time, they have, as you say, introduced the third shot of the vaccine, a booster shot, if you will. That was rolled out to over 60s on
August 1st, extended to over 40s from and today it is being extended to over 30s as well.
The news is encouraging. First, R rate, the number of people each infected person is infecting, that has been declining since the rollout of the third
dose at the beginning of this month. It has come down from 1.36 to about 1.15.
At the same time, there is a study by an HMO, one of the big providers in Israel and their study found that the third dose meant that it was 86
percent effective for those people who received it at least seven days previously. So two bits of encouraging news there. But as you say,
caseloads are still rocketing.
Right. And not only the caseload rocketing but the serious hospitalizations and even deaths, in some cases, have also been going up.
GOTKINE: Well, this is the big concern, isn't it?
If people are being infected but not in any serious manner, that is not putting any pressure on the health care system. The big concern is to
ensure the number of serious cases and the number of people on ventilators and the like is not getting out of hand.
We have heard from some hospitals already, complaining that they simply don't have the equipment or the funds to pay for people to look after the
number of serious patients, of people suffering seriously from COVID-19.
QUEST: I know they only just started doing the third vaccine.
Is there a feeling, is anybody whispering in corridors of power, all right, let's get ready; this is a six- to nine-month thing that we'll have to do
Is anybody talking about that?
GOTKINE: It's certainly on people's minds. Don't forget, we rolled out the vaccine campaign in Israel at the beginning of this year. And now we're
beginning to see the effects wear off.
So there will be some concerns this will have to be done continually. But Israel has enough vaccinations for now for the third dose, for everyone
over the age of 30. And there hasn't been a problem in terms of securing the supply required thus far.
One would assume there shouldn't be going forward, either. Israel is prepared to pay what it needs to for the population.
QUEST: To throw a little politics in, this is the first crisis of the new prime minister. And he's going to Washington.
Is he perceived to have done well so far?
GOTKINE: Not brilliantly. He made -- staked his reputation on what he would have done had he been prime minister through the earlier outbreaks. Even
wrote a book about it as well.
And there have been surveys done, that they think the former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would have been handling things better than
Naftali Bennett Bennett. But it is the early days and he is adamant there will be no more lockdown.
QUEST: Thank you, Elliott Gotkine in Tel Aviv.
Staying with COVID, ahead, Soren Brostrom, Denmark's public health authority told me achieving herd immunity is no longer the top priority.
He's also a member of the World Health Organization executive board and says the vaccines and testing are the key to stopping infections.
So far, a mask mandate doesn't happen in Denmark. You don't see -- you see virtually no one there. You see virtually no one wearing them, even
indoors. I asked him when I was there, why masks weren't on the menu.
SOREN BROSTROM, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, DANISH HEALTH AUTHORITY: In the current Danish context, we don't believe that this is what we should be doing. If
we achieve a different assessment, we'll certainly reintroduce masks.
But I don't think that is the thing we should be doing now. We are fairly confident we can control our epidemics with vaccine coverage.
QUEST: There is now a view that we are moving from pandemic to pandemic and that we are going to have to learn to live with COVID-19.
QUEST: In a way that getting it, if you're vaccinated, it will be like the flu. Some will be not well and some won't even notice it.
Is that your view on the future of this?
BROSTROM: It might be a possible scenario. I think it is difficult for us to get rid of this new coronavirus because it also has animal reservoirs.
We got it from animals. It is changing into humans. It will probably revert back to an animal reservoir.
So it is not like measles or polio or smallpox that we can eradicate. This is also why I'm not so focused on the hypothetical herd immunity but more
on containment. And I am very focused on preventing preventable disease. So this is in some way how we are aiming at other vaccine preventable
diseases, such as through immunization programs, seasonal influenza.
QUEST: Right. But you do agree then that maybe people don't want to nail their colors to the mast but you're basically saying, this will be with us.
And the way we will handle it is through vaccinations, which will keep the vaccinated well, even if they catch it.
BROSTROM: Vaccinations will be at the center pillar of containing this from a public health perspective, meaning how to prevent disease, preventable
disease is the solution. There are also other instruments, which I'm very much focused on, antiviral drugs and also antibodies.
I see also potentials for better treatment of breakthrough disease so, even in fully vaccinated people, it can be people with a compromised immune
system or vulnerable people. Even if they're fully vaccinated, even if we boost with a third shot, they will still get sick.
So can we also treat them better when they're getting the hospital?
So I'm not telling anybody or promising that I can keep everybody out of the hospital, even with a high vaccine coverage, even with very effective
vaccines. I will not be able to keep everybody out of the hospital.
But can I offer them a shorter course of disease, less severe disease and better treatment?
I think so.
QUEST: Booster shots: the U.S. has just announced that a third booster shot will be available for those who have had eight months since their last,
since their second shot.
Is this something you will also look at and recommend?
BROSTROM: We are certainly considering it very carefully. We're looking at the evidence. We're looking at what other countries are doing. We are not
there yet. But we have decided to offer a large part of the population to be revaccinated this year.
I am expecting a larger revaccination campaign in this country is probably next year. I might be surprised by evidence for waning immunity and
breakthrough disease. Then I'll decide otherwise.
We had the strategies and certainly we'll employ revaccination early. What we are already doing, which will be the start of revaccination in this
country, is offering to it very specific patients.
QUEST: I'll need to talk about the rest of the world. On QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, we've looked at it numerous times and I think would agree, since
you are part of the -- you're a member of the WHO; you sit with them.
It is an appalling situation in the world, where we're at 75-80 percent, 60-70-80 percent and parts of Africa are barely at double digits, 20
How concerned are you?
BROSTROM: I'm very concerned at the global inequality in vaccine distribution. The director-general of the World Health Organization is
saying that nobody is safe until everybody is safe basically, until every person at risk in this world is immunized against COVID-19.
We still have a global pandemic that can spill over even in this country. So we have, as a rich country, a responsibility for sharing vaccines. So
I'm in a dual role because I represent -- I'm on the board of the WHO and I'm also the top government official on health in this country.
Of course I have to take responsibility of my own population with vaccine coverage. And at the same time, have the global. My answer to your question
is that we should walk on both legs as a rich country. Responsibility to our own population, global responsibility.
So we should donate vaccines. We are donating vaccines. This country has committed to donating 3 million doses and probably more through the COVAX
and other initiatives as well as donating funds.
QUEST: It is not enough. You know that. You know that, the WHO know that, the G7, which couldn't even get to its own target -- I realize you're not a
political animal per se. But the health care executives like yourself know that more needs to be done.
BROSTROM: Certainly on a global level. And we will get there. But not quickly enough. We have to ramp up vaccine production all across the globe.
And then we have to certainly rebalance the current very, very unequal vaccine distribution.
BROSTROM: And it is in everybody's interests. It's not only the responsibilities that we have, global health. It is also in our own
QUEST: The head of the Danish health authority.
That's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for the moment. I'll have a dash for the closing bell at the top of the hour -- and fully expecting records, loads
of them. Coming up next, "LIVING GOLF."
QUEST: To the White House now, where the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is speaking and briefing on Afghanistan.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- exactly aligned (ph) and, you know, he stuck with the deadline, as you just conveyed.
During the meeting this morning, with the G7 leaders, the president conveyed that our mission in Kabul will end, based on the achievement of
our objectives. That's a key component there. He confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by August 31st.
As you all know, in the last nine days, we have effectively helped evacuate 57,000 people. And that has continued to escalate, the number of people
we're getting out each day.
And our focus is and it continues to be on evacuating Americans who want to come home, third country nationals and Afghans, who are allies during the
He also made clear that, with each day of operations on the ground, we have added risks to our troops with increasing threats from ISIS-K. That
completion of the mission by August 31st depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport.
In addition, as we noted in the statement, he asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timeline should that
become necessary. So I think there's quite a bit of context in there, including the threat from ISIS-K, which is quite real and one that we are
tracking and monitoring very closely from our national security and intelligence teams, to the continued cooperation of the Taliban as it
relates to getting American citizens and our key allies on the ground to the airport.
And the third, of course, is ensuring that we have contingencies should they be needed. So I think those are pretty important caveats in the
QUESTION: But if you do have to adjust the timeline, how long are you talking about?
PSAKI: I'm not going to get ahead of any contingency plans that are drawn up by the State Department.
PSAKI: The Defense Department, as you all know, the president has been meeting and being -- attended and participated in briefings with national
security team once a day, sometimes twice a day, is in constant and regular contact.
And I expect we'll get some updates in short order.
QUESTION: And when do you need to start pulling troops out of the Kabul airport to meet -- to meet the August 31st target?
PSAKI: It's a great question, Steve. I just don't want to get into operational details that are under the purview of the Department of
PSAKI: You're correct. I will note that it would not be -- it would -- there would have to be time in advance of the 31st or time in advance of
whatever the date is in order to do that. But they can give you the operational details.
QUESTION: So does that mean that the evacuations will stop before the actual 31st?
So then there is time to get the troops and their machinery and weaponry out of there?
PSAKI: That would be correct, yes, that there would need to be time to wind down the presence. I will note, though, that the purpose of this statement
is to provide additional context of what the president conveyed to the G7, which includes a number of very key components, as he assesses day by day.
And that includes the threat of ISIS, which is of great concern, understandably, to the president, given the threat it poses to our military
who are on the ground,, serving proudly and bravely on the ground.
It also includes the essential aspect of having the Taliban's coordination continue over the coming days so we can facilitate as many people as we've
been getting out.
QUESTION: So what I read from this statement is he has not ruled out extending the deadline.
Is that right?
PSAKI: Well, he asked for contingency plans but believes we continue to be on track to accomplish our mission.
QUESTION: Does this mean if he does stand by this August 31 deadline, that every single U.S. troop will be out of Afghanistan by August 31st?
PSAKI: Again, I will leave it to the Department of Defense to get into operational details. As you know and as I've noted, he is meeting with his
national security team every single day, often more than once a day to continue to discuss. And as I noted also in the statement, he has asked for
QUESTION: Just to follow up, are you saying that, despite this threat by the Taliban to stop Afghans from boarding planes, that you're not seeing
any slowdown in Afghans being able to get to the airport if they need to?
PSAKI: I'm conveying that what we have articulated is that Afghans -- not every -- there are millions of Afghans, as we know, who want to leave the
country -- or a large number of Afghans who want to leave the country. I think that's safe to say.
What I'm talking about is the individuals we have prioritized, those who have fought alongside us, who are eligible for special immigrant visas.
Otherwise, we are facilitating their departure and that our expectation is that they will be able to reach the airport.
QUESTION: So I'm just trying to figure out if the Taliban has made good on this threat yet. It sounds like you're saying they haven't.
PSAKI: I don't have an update on that. I'm just conveying to you what our expectation is and what we are continuing to communicate directly.
QUESTION: And is the CIA director now the chief negotiator for the U.S. in Kabul?
And how long does he plan to stay there?
PSAKI: I certainly understand your question. I refer you to the CIA on any specific questions about his location or specific role.
QUESTION: For a little bit clarity, we have minutes and hours matter here. When we talk about August 31st, is the understanding between the and U.S.
and the Taliban that that ends at midnight at the end of August 31st?
Is it the end of the 30th (INAUDIBLE) 31st?
When exactly is the deadline as it currently exists?
PSAKI: That's a really great question. And I want to give you a very clear and articulate answer from the team on the ground. So I'll to have get back
to you on that to make sure we give you the accurate information.
QUESTION: What is the last -- I know you're continue to doing this actively as you indicated to one of my colleagues a moment ago, obviously. There
will be time needed to get out the American troops and others who are helping facilitate this process.
What is the last call for Americans on the ground there to come to the airport at Kabul?
PSAKI: We are in touch with Americans directly. And we have contact with. And I can give you an overall assessment of where we stand with that if
that's helpful as well. But I'm not going to give you more of an articulation of that from here.
QUESTION: Are there any active threats?
You talked about in that statement the threat is posed by ISIS-K.
But are there any active threats to Kabul, to HKIA right now?
PSAKI: I'm not going to give you an intelligence assess from here either. But I can convey to you that we have increasing concerns about the threats
and that is certainly a part of the president's assessment and decision making.
QUESTION: Is there any concern that maybe trying to reach this deadline and get everybody out, mistakes are being made, now that there's a report that
at least one of the Afghans evacuated to Qatar has suspected ISIS ties?
PSAKI: Well, first I would say we have a stringent vetting process, which includes background checks before any individual comes to the United
States. So I can't speak to one individual.
But I can tell you and confirm for you that we take the vetting of any individual who comes to the United States and comes out incredibly
seriously. And it's an extensive process. I would say that this is now on track to be the largest airlift in U.S. history.
PSAKI: So -- and that is bringing American citizens out. It is bringing our Afghan partners out. It is bringing allies out. So no, I would not say that
it is anything but a success.
QUESTION: And I know that you said yesterday that it is irresponsible to say that Americans are stranded in Afghanistan right now.
What do you say to American citizens in Kabul that FOX spoke to this morning -- her name is -- she's going by Fatima -- she says, "We are
stranded at home."
For four days, three days, we didn't hear anything from anywhere and they're saying go to the airport but we're not being given clear guidance.
Our emails are getting ignored.
PSAKI: Well, why don't I convey to you exactly what we are doing?
And I think it is important to note that I also said yesterday, in the full context of my answer, which I put out today, was that we are committed to
bringing Americans home who want to leave. And that is the president's commitment. We are -- so let me explain to you how our process works.
And there have been some direct (ph) questions, including from you and from others about this.
One, as we've said, this is a dynamic number. We're working hour by hour to refine and make it precise. Understand your desire and interest in having
exact number of American citizens on the ground and the State Department I expect will have an exact update on that tomorrow.
Just to remind you, the U.S. government does not track our citizens when they travel around the world. We rely on self-reporting, not just in
Afghanistan, anywhere in the world. People have to decide to register or not. It is up to them. Individuals, whether they decide to register or not,
wherever they may be.
And if you register, when you're in a country like Afghanistan, you are not required to deregister. The State Department also issues alerts. They have
publicized phone number and email to contact if you're in it, Afghanistan, and want assistance to leave.
And for months the department has been telling Americans to leave Afghanistan for their own safety. It is our responsibility and our role to
work with and help Americans citizens who want to leave.
Let me finish; I'm almost done and then you can ask a follow-up question.
In recent days they have reached out to every American citizen registered in Afghanistan directly multiple times. This is a 24/7 operation. Embassies
all over the world are supporting phone banking, text banking and email efforts.
If we are not in touch with this individual, give me their contact information and we will get in touch with them.
If any of you are hearing from American citizens who can't reach us, give me their contact information and we will get in contact with them.
Our estimate of the overall number of American citizens who are there can increase because folks are just now responding to our outreach, who may not
have registered. It can also decrease because people can leave; they don't tell us they leave -- or individuals who may reach out and convey, they
have the documentation needed, don't.
So there are a range of factors here and it is our responsibility to give you accurate information. That's what our focus is on.
QUESTION: You say no Americans are stranded. This is someone in Kabul, who says I am stranded.
So is there a better word for someone who can't leave the house to get to the airport because Jake Sullivan says ISIS is outside the airport?
PSAKI: I would welcome you providing their phone number and we will reach out to them today. And I can assure you of that.
QUESTION: The final question. If the Taliban said that staying past the 31st was going to provoke a reaction and then President Biden decides, OK,
we won't stay, do they have the same kind of influence over military planning as the commander in chief?
PSAKI: Well, first of all, the Taliban's deadline was May 1st, struck in a deal with the prior administration.
The president's timeline was August 31st. That's the timeline he set, in a period of time he needed in order to operationalize our departure from
I would also note that, as I said, as we conveyed in the statement, that our objective and our focus and the focus of the commander in chief is
always going to be on the safety and security of the men and women who are serving our country in the military. And that has to be a factor here. And
that's certainly the factor for him as he thinks about the timeline.
QUESTION: Can President Biden assure that Afghan allies that helped the military will be able to get out?
And will we extend the deadline to help those people get out?
PSAKI: Well, I will say that we will certainly have additional folks eligible to come to the United States after August 31st that we will help
relocated. But I would also note that we have -- we have now evacuated 58,700 people in the last nine days.
And we are continuing to be in direct contact with eligible special immigrant visa applicants. Of course, with American citizens and with
individuals who would -- we are working the facilitate their departure. So our focus is getting the job done by August 31st and that's what we're
doing day to day at this point.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to Jen Psaki there, the White House press secretary, explaining that the administration is
committed to getting Americans out.
We just learned from a senior State Department official that 4,000 American passport holders and their families have been evacuated from the country.
But it is hard to put that number in context.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: One of the biggest headlines I think she just said is that they -- it is our expectation that those who have fought
alongside the U.S. are still able to get to the airport. We shall see.
BLACKWELL: We'll have more with "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" right now.