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State of the Union

Interview With Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA); Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Former Afghan Ambassador to the United States Roya Rahmani. Aired 10- 11a ET

Aired August 29, 2021 - 10:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Life-altering storm. A major hurricane threatens the Gulf Coast states with dangerous winds and catastrophic storm surges.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): The people of Louisiana are going to be tested.

TAPPER: The latest on Ida's path with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards next.

And more misery. As kids head back to school without vaccines and many vaccine holdouts learn their lessons the hard way, health officials warn that the U.S. may not have a handle on COVID for months.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Enough is enough. We've just got to get people vaccinated.

TAPPER: What's the latest on shots for children? Dr. Anthony Fauci joins me ahead.

Plus: clear and present danger. The U.S. strikes back against ISIS, as President Biden warns another Kabul attack may be imminent. What's the danger at home and abroad? Democratic Senator Chris Murphy two women with firsthand experience in Afghanistan join me in moments.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is facing a triple threat of emergencies, new this morning, an explosion in a Kabul, Afghanistan, neighborhood.

We will bring you more as we have it. We're now within two days of the deadline to pull U.S. service members out of Afghanistan, with hundreds of American citizens still looking to get out and thousands of Afghan allies with their lives in danger, as the Taliban retakes that country.

On the home front, the U.S. also losing ground to a pandemic that at this point should be almost entirely preventable, with the U.S. averaging 1,000 deaths a day again, the highest number since March, when the vaccine effort was just beginning to get out of first gear.

And, as history repeats itself in the pandemic and in Afghanistan, the Gulf Coast is now bracing for Hurricane Ida, which rapidly strengthened overnight to become a monster Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 miles an hour. Evacuations are taking place in New Orleans and surrounding coastal areas in Louisiana, the storm expected to make landfall today, 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina did.

And even before the first white caps, hospitals in the state are already overrun, as the Delta variant rips through one of the least vaccinated states in the country.

Joining us now from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, John Bel Edwards.

Governor Edwards, Ida is expected to make landfall in the coming hours as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with the potential for sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour and a 15-foot storm surges. This is a massive storm. It's only expected, regrettably, to get stronger.

Is Louisiana ready for it?

EDWARDS: Well, Jake, first of all, thank you for having me on this morning.

We're as ready as we can be. This is going to be a very serious test for our levee systems in -- especially in coastal Louisiana and for our people. And it comes at a time that, quite frankly, it presents some very challenging difficulties for us with the hospitals being so full of COVID patients.

We have got about 2, 450 patients now. And that's in addition to all the other patients who are in the hospitals as well. So, this is going to be a big challenge for us. I can tell you, the people of Louisiana, particularly along the coast in Southeast Louisiana, did a very good job of heeding the evacuation orders, both voluntary and mandatory.

We have an awful lot of assets prepositioned, whether it's line men, whether it's National Guardsmen, high-water vehicles, helicopters, boats. We have generators on the way and supplies.

And I have talked to a lot of governors around the country last night. They're leaning forward to send additional assets in here as we need them and make those requests.

But I will tell you, it's going to be a very, very challenging storm for our state. And it comes at a very difficult time as well.

TAPPER: Do you anticipate that Ida could strengthen into a Category 5 by the time it makes landfall?

EDWARDS: It's possible.

The truth is, Jake, there's not much difference between a very high Category 4 storm and a Category 5 storm. The impacts are going to be tremendous regardless. The wind speeds are projected to be within a few miles per hour of a Category 5.

You mentioned a while ago the storm surge now is projected to be up to 16 feet in certain areas. Rain -- rain totals could exceed 20 inches in certain areas. And so, really, the next 24, 36 hours are just going to be very, very critical for us here in Louisiana.

And we do hope that and believe that there's going to be some forward speed to the storm. So, the worst thing that could happen is for it to just sit over us for a long period of time. We need to get the storm through.


It'll start to weaken as soon as it makes landfall, but it's going to hit the shore of Louisiana so strong that it will probably still be right at hurricane speed as it goes into Southwest Mississippi tomorrow morning.

TAPPER: It's 16 years to the day since Hurricane Katrina hit. Louisiana is still feeling the effects.

A lot of people in your state know -- and I don't know how many of our viewers do -- it wasn't just Hurricane Katrina that so devastated New Orleans. It was the failure of the levee system there. Are your levees ready? Have they been rebuilt? Can they withstand a Category 5 storm?

EDWARDS: Yes, well, all of our modeling shows us right now that the hurricane storm risk reduction system that protects the greater New Orleans area, Orleans and Jefferson parishes for the most part, but also some others, that it will withstand the storm surge.

And there's been tremendous investment in this system since Hurricane Katrina. This will be the most severe test, if you will, of that system. But we believe that that system is going to hold, the integrity of that system will be able to withstand the storm surge. And it's really the storm surge that drives evacuations in hurricane situations more than anything else.

Where we're less confident is further south, where you have other protection systems that are not built to that same standard. And the most important thing was getting those people out, whether it's Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, lower-lying areas of Jefferson Parish on the west bank, for example.

That's where we are most concerned about the impact of storm surge. And I can tell you those areas depopulated extremely well. And we have people evacuate from this storm who haven't evacuated in the past.

So, we're hopeful that that enough people got out that we will avoid the very worst that this storm could offer in terms of storm surge- related deaths.

TAPPER: I hope that's true. The window for those in the path of the storm to safely evacuate has, sadly, passed. So what is your message to any Louisianians who are watching right now

who've made the decision to hunker down and ride out the storm at home?

EDWARDS: Well, we have told them to make sure that they're prepared to take care of themselves for the first 72 hours, having enough food and medicine and other things that they're going to need, such as a battery-operated radio and so forth.

Obviously, we're going to get to them just as soon as we possibly can if they need rescuing, but the first 72 hours is on them.

But I can tell you, we have 600 people ready to do search-and-rescue, many more coming in. We already have teams from 15 different states here to assist us and our forces in doing search-and-rescue.

But they -- we asked them to be positioned last night when they went to bed where they were going to ride out the storm and posture how they intended to be, because the weather is going to continue to degrade today very, very quickly. It's already tropical-storm-force winds on -- in much of coastal Southeast Louisiana.

And the weather is just going to get worse from here. And that meant that yesterday really was the day for movement. And we did see hundreds of thousands of Louisianians take advantage of that opportunity they had yesterday to evacuate.

TAPPER: Well, Governor Edwards, I know President Biden has already approved a state of emergency declaration, and FEMA has deployed personnel and other resources.

But please stay in touch with us. Let us know if you need us to light a fire on the federal government in any way. And we're all thinking and praying and hoping for the best for the good people of your state.

EDWARDS: Jake, thank you so much. And we will do that.

TAPPER: President Biden says he has discussed with Dr. Fauci whether COVID boosters should be given to vaccinated people not after eight months, but after five months.

I will ask Dr. Fauci what he told President Biden. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

As many children return to school, discouraging news on the COVID front.

The U.S. is averaging more than 1,000 deaths a day from the virus, as people who have not gotten the vaccine reap the horrible consequence of that decision.

Joining me now, chief medical adviser to President Biden Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, good to see you.

So, more than 150,000 cases per day, more than 1, 200 deaths per day, ICUs filling up, and almost all of this is preventable.

A new model from the University of Washington projects more than 100,000 additional American deaths to COVID by December 1? Is that -- is that really possible?

FAUCI: Jake, unfortunately, it certainly is.

What is going on now is both entirely predictable, but entirely preventable. And we know we have the wherewithal with vaccines to turn this around. And the reason you see the numbers that are so alarming that you just gave is that we have about 80 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated.

We could turn this around and we could do it efficiently and quickly if we just get those people vaccinated. That's why it's so important now, in this crisis that we are in, that people put aside any ideologic, political or other differences and just get vaccinated.

We will make the vaccinations as easy and convenient for people. We want them to come forward for themselves, for their own health, for those of their family, as well as for the community.


I know you don't want to be pushing people, in the sense of making them feel guilty or getting angry with them, but just to essentially plead with them to look at what's going on now. This is very, very important, not only for your own health, but for the health of the country.

And we can do it. We have great vaccines, more than one, free, and they're safe and they're highly effective.

TAPPER: I know that you're hearing from doctors who think that the Biden administration, which has been very aggressive on this issue, but some people think that the Biden administration should be even more aggressive, mandating vaccines for all federal employees, mandating vaccines for anyone who gets on an airplane or a train.

What do you say to them?

FAUCI: Well, Jake, I am very much in favor of mandating at the local level. I don't think we're going to see federal mandates, except for certain agencies of the federal government.

I mean, we have already seen that with the Veterans Administration. But now that we have the full approval, the full stamp of approval, at least for the Pfizer vaccine, we are definitely going to see mandating for colleges, if you want to attend in person at a college or university, or places of business that employs large numbers of people. I think you're going to see that. And I actually encourage it, because

I think that's one of the ways that we can get many, many more people vaccinated.

TAPPER: President Biden on Friday said that he's been talking with you about giving Americans booster shots not just eight months after their second dose, but five months after their second dose.

Why are you considering ramping this up? Is that on the table, five months?

FAUCI: Well, first of all, we're still aiming at eight months beginning on the week of September the 20th.

But, as we said in the original declaration, we have to go through the process of the FDA, as well as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC. And although we are sticking with the eight-month timetable beginning on the week of September the 20th, we remain flexible regarding the time frame, depending on the data as it continues to come in.

TAPPER: Is there a potential risk of allowing boosters after five or six months, those who want them?

FAUCI: Well the issue is -- that's a very good point, Jake. That's what the FDA and then ultimately the ACIP is going to look at, the risk/benefit ratio.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to give individuals who received the two doses of mRNA a third boost. There's no doubt, based on the data we have seen. We're now working out how to do that in an expeditious way, rolling it out so that it's done in a way that we get as many people vaccinated who need the boost.

Right now, as I mentioned, that's aiming at around eight months. That will start on the week of September the 20th. But there's flexibility in that. And that's what we're going to be keeping looking at.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about some local issues.

Culver City Unified School District in California became the first public school district in the U.S. to require vaccinations not only for teachers and staff, but also for eligible students who are 12 and over.

Now that the vaccine has full approval from the FDA, the Pfizer vaccine, would you like to see it mandated for students elsewhere in the U.S.? And once it's approved for kids under 12, should it be mandated for them too?

FAUCI: I know that a lot of people will be pushing back against that.

But if you get the imprimatur about the safety and the strong benefit/risk ratio for the children, when that gets established, which I believe it certainly will, by the FDA and the ACIP, I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea. And remember, Jake, this is not something new. We have mandates in

many places in schools, particularly public schools, that if, in fact, you want a child to come in, we have done this for decades and decades, requiring polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis.

So this would not be something new, requiring vaccinations for children to come to school.

TAPPER: The governor of Oregon is now imposing a new outdoor mask mandate for both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals when physical distancing is not possible.

Is there a scientific reason that justifies an outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated Americans?

FAUCI: Well, Jake, before I comment on that, I'd have to know what really the detailed circumstances are that the governor was talking about or whoever it was that made that statement, because there are certain circumstances, when you have very crowded congregate settings, even on an outdoor basis.

And, remember, the CDC has said that they're all circumstances, somewhat unusual, but all circumstances, even in an outdoor situation, when you have clustering of people together, that it might be better to be wearing masks.


TAPPER: Six weeks ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' reelection campaign committee started selling shirts and more that say "Don't Fauci my Florida" and attacking what he called Faucism.

Now, just in the six weeks since the governor's reelection campaign launched those products, more than 5,000 Floridians have died of coronavirus.

What do you make of the way some of these governors and politicians are attacking you?

FAUCI: Well, I mean, whoever is attacking me -- you know, attacking me, just a reflection of the politicization of what should be a purely public health issue.

And it's really unfortunate. They're attacking personally me because I'm a visible person, but I'm really articulating the proper public health practices that are recommended strongly by an organization. And that organization is the CDC.

So, they like to pick out a certain person because they could make that person the personification of political divides, which is so unfortunate, Jake. We should put all of that aside.

We have an extraordinary problem that's killing people in the United States, killing us, putting us in the hospital. So that kind of politicization that you just mentioned, there's no place for that when you're dealing with a public health crisis. TAPPER: Poison control centers are reporting that their calls are

spiking in places like Mississippi and Oklahoma because some Americans are trying to use an anti-parasite horse drug called ivermectin to treat coronavirus, to prevent contracting coronavirus.

What would you tell someone who is considering taking that drug?

FAUCI: Don't do it.

There's no evidence whatsoever that that works. And it could potentially have toxicity, as you have just mentioned, with people who have gone to poison control centers because they have taken the drug at a ridiculous dose and wind up getting sick.

There's no clinical evidence that indicates that this works.

TAPPER: For a long time now, I have been reading about prominent mask opponents and vaccine skeptics, talk radio hosts and other personalities getting COVID and dying. There have been a number of those reports in the last week.

What goes through your mind when you see stories like those?

FAUCI: Well, Jake, it's tragic, because you don't want to see anybody, regardless of what their position is or their ideology, you don't want to see anyone get sick or die.

Particularly as a physician and a scientist, I do everything in my entire career to safeguard the health of people and to save lives. So, even if they have views that I completely disagree with, it's really tragedy to see them get sick and dying fundamentally because they're putting aside and avoiding the public health principles that we talk about all the time.

TAPPER: Hurricane Ida is bearing down right now on the Louisiana coast. It's a powerful storm, Category 4.

Louisiana officials are expressing their concerns that crowded hospitals might become -- and shelters might become places where people get COVID. How concerned are you about how the hurricane could theoretically make things worse in states that are already struggling to keep up with the pandemic?

FAUCI: Oh, Jake, it bothers me considerably.

You're having two potential or real catastrophes conflating on each other. It's bad enough the situation in Louisiana, even though, quite frankly, the governor of Louisiana is doing a very good job in trying to keep things under control, John Bel Edwards.

But we're having a situation where, even when you're stressed to the limit, to superimpose upon it what will likely be a historic weather, environmental catastrophe is going to do nothing but make things much, much worse.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much for your time today.

FAUCI: Thank you, Jake. Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: President Biden says the U.S. will fully withdraw from Afghanistan in two days. Will that withdrawal make the United States safer?

A supporter of the president's decision, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, joins us next.

Plus: Desperate Americans and Afghans are trying to get out of Kabul before the U.S. withdraws. Is there any hope they can get out?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now.

The United States says that it has carried out a defensive airstrike in Kabul against an ISIS-K car bomb that was intending to target the airport. That's according to a U.S. defense official. The official said a significant secondary explosion indicated a substantial amount of explosive material in that car.

Initial, so far, appears there were no civilian casualties, the official said.

Joining me now, a staunch supporter of President Biden's drawdown, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, I do want to get your reaction to this news that the Pentagon is saying that an unmanned aircraft carrier that an airstrike targeting a suspected terrorist car bomb.

What's your reaction? And how concerned are you about the danger facing U.S. troops and American citizens and Afghans over the next 48 hours?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): It speaks to the danger that exists at the airport right now and the necessity of making alternative arrangements to get especially the remaining 300 or so Americans that want to leave to the airport.


I think this threat remains beyond the next 48 hours. ISIS-K is going to use its abilities to continue to try to go after the Taliban and after Afghan citizens and perhaps American allies even after the 31st. So, we're going to have to have eyes on ISIS-K. We're going to have to continue to have the ability to follow what they're doing.

TAPPER: You heard Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton from neighboring Massachusetts earlier in the show.

He's been unsparing in his criticism of not the decision to withdraw, but the way that the evacuation has gone. He told "New York Magazine" -- quote -- "Even if you completely agree with the Biden administration's decision to withdraw, the way they have handled this has been a total F-ing disaster."

Now, I know you disagree. I know you agree with President Biden and Jake Sullivan, who was on earlier, saying that, no matter how the U.S. withdrew, it was going to be chaotic.

But do you really think there's no way that this could have been planned better in terms of evacuating American citizens or legal permanent residents or Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, no way at all?

MURPHY: No, of course, there's no way you run a massive evacuation operation like this and not have things you would have done better in retrospect.

But I understand the point to be from Representative Moulton and others that we should have begun the mass evacuation earlier, and that would have solved for some of the chaos we're seeing today.

I think there's a couple problems with that. The first is, we were under the belief in the spring and summer of this year that the Afghan military would stand up and fight. And the military and the government was telling us that, if you start the mass evacuation of the embassy, of Afghans, it is going to sap the will from our soldiers to stand up and defend the country.

It was logical to believe that a mass evacuation too early would have actually led to the result that we were trying to avoid, which was the collapse of the government.

Second, even if we had begun that evacuation earlier, there still would have been, frankly, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Afghans that, upon the collapse, the unexpected overnight collapse of the government, would have rushed the airport. There still would have been the scenes that we're seeing today with all of the incumbent security threats that are attached to it.

So, in retrospect, obviously, the government and the security forces of Afghanistan did collapse. And so we probably should have started that evacuation earlier. But we were laboring under the belief that they wouldn't. And we were trying not to take steps that would lead to that overnight collapse.

So, I think that is the difficulty with just suggesting that we should have begun all this earlier.

TAPPER: But the preparation for the worst-case scenario did not seem to happen, at least not as efficiently as it could have and should have.

I assume, as an elected representative of the people of Connecticut, as somebody on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, you, like many members of Congress I know, like many journalists I know, like many veterans I know, are being besieged with requests, individual requests: Here is the passport number and phone number of an American citizen in Afghanistan, in Kabul right now who can't get through to get to the airport or is outside the gate and can't get in.

That's happening. And that has been going on now for a week-and-a- half. Sometimes, these private citizens have been able to make inroads and get people plucked out. But, often, they're not. I mean, this -- the fact that digital Dunkirk exists, it's a wonderful tribute to the people doing it.

And, obviously, the people on the ground in Kabul are awesome. And I'm not talking about them. But the fact that it exists says that there's a failure here of the government.

MURPHY: And, listen, remember, we sent out an APB to American citizens beginning in the spring that they should all leave. We implored U.S. citizens to get out, knowing that there was going to be enormous risk.

But your point is that Congress needs to do a full-scope investigation of what has gone wrong. My contention is that there's probably no way for the Afghan security forces and the government to collapse overnight and there not to have been a corresponding chaos on the ground and the scenes that you are seeing and an opportunity for ISIS- K to be able to make this kind of fatal mischief.

When Congress does this oversight, I want to make sure that it's over the last 20 years, not just the last two months, because to believe that there was some way to do this evacuation in a way that didn't have panic on the ground, that didn't have a risk of loss of life, I think is the same kind of fantasy thinking that led us to stay in Afghanistan for 10 years too long, even when we knew the Afghan forces couldn't stand up for themselves.

TAPPER: I don't disagree.

I mean, obviously, when you withdraw, there's going to be chaos. Obviously -- I mean, of course. But the idea that this is being done as efficiently as could be done just flies in the face of everything I'm sure you're hearing behind the scenes, certainly everything I'm hearing.

Just looking forward, you heard Jake Sullivan saying earlier in the show that August 31 is not a cliff. It's not as though, if you haven't gotten out by that day, that's it. There's still going to be efforts.


How are people going to get out, American citizens, legal permanent residents of the U.S., who seem to be -- have been -- they're now second on the list, as opposed to equals with American citizens?

What about Afghan Special Immigrant Visa recipients? Are they going to be able to get out? They're afraid that the Taliban are going to kill them.

MURPHY: Yes. I think it's a question.

And, obviously, we are going to be in the position of having to rely on discussions and negotiations with the Taliban, which feels unacceptable to Americans that have been fighting the Taliban for 20 years.

Now, as Jake Sullivan has said, the Taliban has all sorts of reasons to continue to allow for some number of people to be able to transport out of the country, certainly American citizens. They have got to keep that airport open. They're a landlocked country. They can't operate an economy without a functioning airport.

But I think these are all questions the Biden administration is going to have to answer. How do you continue to move people out of that country even after our 2, 500 troops leave?

TAPPER: Do you think the U.S. should formally recognize the Taliban?

MURPHY: No, I don't. I don't.

But I also don't think it's a great idea, as some are suggesting, to recognize opposition forces that are not actually running the country. It tends to make the United States look pretty weak when we are recognizing people as the leaders of a government that actually aren't running the government.

But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't be talking to the Taliban. Even if we don't formally recognize them, we're going to have to be in discussions with them. We're going to have to tell them the consequences for their actions, if they don't continue to allow, at the very least, American citizens, green card holders and people in the SIV pipeline to get out of the country.

TAPPER: What happens to the women and girls of Afghanistan?

I mean, there are already anecdotal reports of Taliban fighters grabbing 14-year-old girls. And, I mean, I would call it a forced marriage, but it's not a marriage. It's forced rape and slavery. I mean, what happens to these girls?

MURPHY: It's part of the reason why we were there for 20 years, right? We were in the business of trying to stand up an Afghan government that would be able to protect those girls.

And in the end, the Afghan government and the security forces decided not to fight for them. The question is, should we have stayed there forever in order to protect those advances in part of the country?

Remember, the Taliban, by the time 2021 rolled around, already controlled more than half of the country. It's a tough question, Jake. But I think, if you ask my constituents, they were not necessarily willing to sacrifice another 20 years of American blood and treasure as to the question of who controls Afghanistan. I know that's a really hard conversation, but there are really awful,

despotic regimes all around the world, and the United States does not make the decision to send our troops into every single one when we have an issue with the human rights decisions of a particular foreign regime.

TAPPER: Well, often, they're our allies.


TAPPER: Senator Murphy, thanks so much for being here.

MURPHY: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: I really appreciate it.

TAPPER: What is going to happen to the women and girls in Afghanistan under Taliban rule? What's happening on the ground right now? That's next.

Plus, we're monitoring Hurricane Ida, just shy of a Category 5 storm, bearing down on the Gulf Coast.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Just into CNN, the Pentagon says the United States conducted what the Pentagon is calling a self-defense airstrike against a vehicle in Kabul to eliminate an imminent threat to the airport.

The Pentagon says it is confident that they successfully hit their target. So far, no indication of any civilian casualties.

Joining us right now are two women who are hearing some terrible stories of hopelessness in Afghanistan, people trying to get to the airport, the former Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Roya Rahmani and the global executive director of Equality Now, Yasmeen Hassan.

Madam Ambassador, let me start with you.

We're just two days now from the final withdrawal of U.S. forces. It doesn't look like that's going to change. You served as the Afghan ambassador to the U.S. for three years.

Is this how you imagined this day would come?


No one had potentially guessed that this would be the way that we were ending this 20 years of struggle and success and progress and everything that we had together. This is a tragic consequence.

TAPPER: So, Yasmeen, nine days ago, President Biden talked about evacuating American citizens, third country civilians, Afghan allies, and vulnerable Afghans.

For those of us who have been monitoring who is getting out, I don't know if vulnerable Afghans are still able to get out. Presumably, a lot of them would be, vulnerable Afghans, the most vulnerable are little Afghan girls.

What are you hearing? Are Afghan girls able to get out?


People have gotten visas. All those have been arranged. They cannot get -- some people cannot get to the airport. I was asked to look for people in the airport who could facilitate their coming in. That's not happening.

Then we are looking at the borders with Pakistan. And it's too unsafe to get them all the way there. So, I feel that the vulnerable Afghan women and girls are going to be left behind. And that is something of serious concern to all women's rights groups, yes.

TAPPER: What do you hear from the ground, from people you know in Afghanistan about what is going on with women and girls specifically?

Because, anecdotally, I have heard -- we have -- people have gotten out and said that there are these -- that the Taliban fighters are grabbing 14-, 13-year-old girls and forcing them into I don't even want to call it a marriage, because it's not a marriage, but that kind of relationship.

What are you hearing?

RAHMANI: Well, what we are hearing is that the sense of panic is growing exponentially, because there is multiple threats that the Afghans are facing, in particular, Afghan women and Afghan girls.

They are the ones that will be losing the most. With the announcement of the new rules and how the Taliban are going to be conducting themselves, there is already -- the alarms are going off for Afghan women. And they are in a state of panic.


I'm hearing more and more from more and more Afghan women who are getting spotted, who feel unsafe. They are continuously trying to relocate themselves.

And then, also, all those that are not necessarily in the public sphere, are not known, they don't know what their fate and life will be, talking about schoolgirls, talking about athletes, talking about those who are in a variety of different sectors that were not necessarily, for example, a civil society activist who was known and who is on the list to be evacuated.

So they are really concerned about what is the future for them, and they're concerned about, of course, their own survival and possibilities moving forward.

TAPPER: What are you hearing?

I mean, a Taliban spokesman said the other day that women should not leave their homes until Taliban fighters are re educated in how to treat women. There is this idea out there that, somehow, this Taliban 2.0 will be kinder and more accepting of women.

What do you hear...

HASSAN: Well, that's the P.R. statements.

TAPPER: Right.

HASSAN: They have said women will continue to have rights within Islam, and the interpretation of Islam is what is problematic for us, given the history of the Taliban.

But I feel that this is a moment where we have to watch and wait a little bit, because there are news, some news of people feeling very threatened, women being asked to leave their jobs at banks, women not going to school. But we have to wait and see.

Now, the truth is, there's no -- there's no other alternative right now. This is what we have. So we have to watch and see. And I feel that the international community really has to press the Taliban on their treatment of women.

So, number one, schools, they say girls can get education. What kind of education? Is it going to be madrasa education, or is it going to be education as we all know it? If women can go to work, can they go to work in all jobs, or is it only going to be as teachers or as health care workers and nothing else?

Will women be involved in the rebuilding of Afghanistan? Will they be involved in politics? Will they have participation in the government? These are all things to be seen, right?

So, the current situation is dire. And I know we have to get as many people who are vulnerable out, but then, for the future of Afghanistan, it seems this is what we have now. So, we have to make the best of it.

And I think the international community owes it to the women of Afghanistan to keep the pressure on and keep the negotiations open.

TAPPER: You talked about the fear that Afghan women have.

What about the experiences they have been having since the Taliban has been taking control? Because this didn't just happen two weeks ago. This has been going on for months now, the Taliban taking control. What are you hearing from Jalalabad or Mazar-e-Sharif Bargi Matal or Kandahar? What are you hearing?

How are women and girls being treated there?

RAHMANI: Taliban have been adjusting their treatment towards women, depending on the situation on the ground in that particular location.

Let me clarify and exemplify that. What -- if they went and took over a village that was already conservative and susceptible to harsher rules, they went back and they applied the same things that they did in '96.

If a -- if they took over a province and village that were more into education, they demanded that their girls should go to school, then they showed more leniency.

But now it's a different story. Now they have the whole country. Now they are fully in control. And it -- you're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. We would be able to witness what is going to happen moving forward really after this month starting.

But then the problem is something different. If we are abandoning Afghanistan, if there is no access, if the airport is not going to function, how are we going to even know what is going to happen?

Right now, as Yasmeen was referring to, there is a lot of P.R. campaign going on for the Taliban 2.0. But is it really Taliban 2.0?

TAPPER: Right. That's the question.


TAPPER: Yasmeen, you're originally from Pakistan, and you think that Pakistan has an incredibly important role to play when it comes to encouraging the Taliban to accept a 21st century vision of the rights of women's and girls.

HASSAN: Right, absolutely.

I think Pakistan has played a role in the past and is continuing to play a role. And I would like that role to be much more productive going forward, including on protection of human rights and women's rights in general.


So, I think Pakistan, if they have the ear of the Taliban, and they must be part of this Taliban 2.0, then I would say pushing for women's rights and women's equality, there are studies now showing that the level of conflict in any society is directly related to the level of gender equality.

And I think to -- for us to be in the 21st century, that's the way forward. And I think I would call on the government of Pakistan to really influence, and not women's rights as a Western agenda.

I'm also a member of Musawah, which is a global movement for equality within Sharia. It's Muslim women-led. And we would call on the government of Pakistan and other Muslim states to take a lead now on -- in -- and on educating and working with the Taliban on Muslims' rights and equality within Islamic law.

TAPPER: An interpretation of the Koran that is not the interpretation that the Taliban or the Saudis have.

HASSAN: The Saudis, yes.

Those are gender apartheid states, right?


Yasmeen, Madam Ambassador, thanks so much for being here.

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