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Hala Gorani Tonight

Biden Speaks On Withdrawal From Afghanistan As Taliban Gain Ground; Biden: Taliban Takeover Of Afghanistan "Is Not Inevitable"; Biden: U.S. Achieved Its Objectives In Afghanistan; Scientists Slam U.K.'s "Dangerous, Unethical" Reopening Plans; England: Vaccinated Arrivals From "Amber List" To Skip Quarantine. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 08, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Live from London, I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks for being with us as we continue our coverage.

Anytime now, US President Joe Biden will give a major speech on Afghanistan, explaining decisions that could shape the country's future for

decades to come. He will defend the US troop pullout even as the Taliban appear to be gaining ground by the hour, pushing the country toward the

brink of civil war. Mr. Biden is expected to pledge continued US assistance in other ways going forward, including diplomatic and financial support.

Let's bring in US Representative John Garamendi. He's a Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Committee. Thanks for being with us,


So, Afghans we've spoken to believe this decision to pull out is precipitous, that it's leaving them exposed, that it's coming at a time

when the Taliban are making major, major gains. If you look at a map of Afghanistan, half the districts are controlled by the Taliban. They're

saying that the Afghans who helped American servicemembers for 20 years, many of them haven't been even given visas to relocate to the US. What is

your take on the President's decision?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Well, the President is doing absolutely the right thing. The American public is very tired of this 20 year war. And

actually, the current drawdown and exit from Afghanistan was started by President Trump last year, and Biden was left to finish the process.

Returning to where we were before with over 100,000 soldiers didn't solve the problem in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a country that has for perhaps several centuries, engaged in various fights between the tribes, between the ethnic groups in that area

and the religious groups in that area. That's not new. What is happening, as we speak, are negotiations, negotiations in Tehran, negotiations in

Dubai. It'll either be a negotiated settlement, which I think is possible, or it'll be a bloody fight, a continuation of what has gone on in

Afghanistan for decades if not for centuries.

GORANI: OK. Let me ask you about and I know, I get what you're saying. But there are Afghans and analysts who disagree with you for a few reasons but

one of those that interesting is this one. That the US withdraw will lead to a proxy war on Afghan territory, potentially between Pakistan, India,

China, Russia, Arab Gulf states. This is something that Hameed Hakimi of Chatham House has written. And ultimately, it will lead to the re formation

of extremist groups that will then attack Western targets, including potentially US targets, so this withdrawal is self-defeating for Americans.

He is not advocating for going back to 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, but maintaining the kind of presence that will prevent this type of chaos from

enveloping the country once again. Is this a point that you accept as a good one?

GARAMENDI: No. No, I don't.

GORANI: Why not?

GARAMENDI: For 20 years, that's precisely what the United States was doing in Afghanistan. The result of it is where we are today, an Afghan

government that is supported by a significant but a minority part of that entire country, at least geography geographically. So this is going to have

to be worked out among the Afghanis.

Keep in mind that the United States is not leaving, we're going to maintain a presence there. Our military is not so far away. We're certainly capable

of continuing to do airstrikes as necessary. And with regard to the Afghan people that helped us, we're moving legislation to deal with that. And I

would expect Biden in the next few moments to speak directly to that issue. I know that there are negotiations going on with the surrounding countries.

As to the surrounding countries interest in Afghanistan, what is new about that? That has been going on for a thousand years. Various countries moving

in and out, Alexander the Great did that, what, 3,000 years ago. So this is not a new situation. This is a continuation. The best hope here is for

these two sides to negotiate some sort of a compromise.

GORANI: You're talking about the Taliban and the Afghan government negotiating in Doha. In fact, a little bit later in the program, I'll be

speaking to one of the Afghan government representatives, who is currently in Qatar taking part in these negotiations.


These visas, this has caused a bit of consternation among some Afghans who say, listen, we helped the Americans for a couple of decades. We still have

zero clarity, some of them are saying, for ourselves and our families as to whether or not we'll be able to relocate before these Taliban advances

really threaten our lives and the lives of our families.

Why is it so slow, may I ask you? You're on the House Armed Services Committee, why has this legislation not passed sooner?

GARAMENDI: Well, let's go back a couple of years. The Trump administration severely limited all visas from every part of the world, and specifically

from Muslim parts of the world. Those restrictions are now being lifted. We are moving fast tracks legislation to expand the visas and also to provide

additional support to those people that did help us over these years.

I would expect that Biden will address this in the moments ahead, directly using what power he has, and Congress will move a fast track bill. I think

there's probably close to 200 sponsors out of this, as of this moment, and probably 400 by the end of this day or tomorrow. So there's going to be

serious support within Congress to expand the visas, but there's more to it than that. The Afghan government is not anxious to have these key people

leave the Afghanistan and leave behind the knowledge -- and not have the knowledge and the expertise that they have.

So there is resistance on the part of the Afghan, current Afghan government, to allow these people to leave. In the legislation, we address

that specifically, with that legislative introduced by Representative Crow of Colorado. So we'll see what the President has to say. I would expect to

see support, very strong support from the administration to deal with this particular issue.

And once again, you're going to hear the president saying we're not leaving, we're going to have a small group, probably somewhat less than a


GORANI: 600, yes. 650.

GARAMENDI: We'll see how that be.

GORANI: Let me ask you just an overarching question. Would you say the American operation in Afghanistan wasn't worth it? I mean, you're saying --

when you say this has been going on for a thousand years. We did our best. We went in there. We tried negotiations. We tried spending money on

infrastructure. We did what we could. And now we're leaving with the Taliban advancing because we just -- we've run out of options. Is that a

fair representation of your position on this?

GARAMENDI: No, it is not. You go back to 911, and the United States and NATO, and other allies went into Afghanistan. And we took the Taliban out.

Two years later, United States entered the Iraq War. George W. Bush said, the problem is Iraq, not Afghanistan. And most of the American effort,

including many, almost all the troops left Afghanistan, and we invaded Iraq, turned our attention away from Afghanistan. The result was the civil

war that has gone on since probably 2000.

GORANI: All right. Congressman, sorry. I've got to jump in, congressman. We're seeing us President Joe Biden approach the podium. Thanks so much for

joining us today.



HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: All right, we want to bring you more on our top story this hour. U.S. President Joe Biden defending his decision to

withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. Here's part of what he had to say just a short time ago.


BIDEN: United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan, to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and deliver justice to Osama bin Laden,

and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States. We

achieved those objectives. That's why we went.

We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it's the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they

want to run their country.



GORANI: Let's get more perspective on all of these. An Afghan voice now Fatima Gailani is a women's rights activist who is on a team of negotiators

in peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, and she joins me now live from Doha, with more of her taken, her reaction to what we heard from the

U.S. President.

Thank you Fatima Gailani for being with us this evening. What did you make of what President Biden had to say? He said, we're ending America's longest

war. It is now up to the Afghans to essentially manage their own country?

FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN PEACE NEGOTIATOR: Well, Hala, it was -- I was a bit shocked because I was in Bonn. And the narration that story was totally

different. It was about nation building, it was about peace for all. And all of a sudden, everything changed, a new narration came. And this is

quite a shock for me.

And then, the other thing that for some people, it is better to take them to safety, but the rest of the country, they can deal themselves with not

having a proper safety. All this is very controversial. I mean, it contradicts all that.

The people of Afghanistan knew that the NATO soldiers will get out of Afghanistan one day. All we wanted was to achieve peace first, achieve a

political settlement for all Afghans first. That's all we wanted. We didn't want to detain anyone or keep anyone in our country. No country wants to

have another soldiers in their soil. It was out of necessity.

The whole thing was just because of Osama bin Laden. Tens of thousands of Afghans are dying every week just because of that. It is very, very

heartbreaking for me.

Look, I don't think ever, any country, a nation will trust the Americans anymore. I'm trying to say again, we didn't want to detain them. We want

them to go, but all we wanted to achieve peace first. And then I hear a House representative with such a history that Afghanistan was in war for

centuries? He doesn't know that Afghanistan entered this war because of the Cold War, because we were dragged in it 43 years ago.

And before that, the last war we had was when the British Empire had entered Afghanistan. We didn't have centuries of war. Afghanistan was a

great place for people to come and visit and have a wonderful time there. This is the war that we started together. Two million people died because

of the Cold War. All we want is peace.

GORANI: What would you -- Fatima Gailani, what would you have wanted the U.S. to do? What would you have wanted from the U.S. --

GAILANI: All I wanted --

GORANI: -- more of a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan? What would have been your ideal scenario?

GAILANI: All we wanted, a responsible withdrawal. All we wanted peace first than withdrawal. They started this peace negotiations in Doha. They had

come to our agreement with Taliban, which was fine. They did it. But then we were also came here -- we had to come here for a peace talk which we

welcomed. And we were happy to do it.

Why it was halted? Because everyone lost interest. Why would they lost interest? All we wanted, to have peace first. That is it. I mean, is it a

big thing to ask for?

GORANI: So do you think that the United States essentially is withdrawing too quickly, that it's doing it without proper consultation with Afghan

authorities, and with Afghans overall? Do you think that basically what they're doing --

GAILANI: It is not just --

GORANI: What they're doing is wrong for that reason? Yes.

GAILANI: It is not just with the Afghans. The U.S. troop came to Afghanistan with a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. Did

they know that it was any of those countries was consult? No one was consulted. But as Afghans, all we wanted, a proper, I mean, progress in

peace talks so the Afghanistan and Afghan nation will not go through what we went through after the Soviet withdrawal.

We have seen it before. We don't want to see that. We don't want a civil war. Only a peaceful negotiation and a peaceful settlement, a political

settlement could have easily prevented this --


GORANI: So you're part of the --

GAILANI: -- if Afghanistan is not in danger.

GORANI: I understand your point. I just want to get to this -- these talks that are happening in Doha. You're currently in Qatar. You're part of the

negotiating team. Is there a hope now of some sort of peace agreement? Because the Taliban are making huge military gains on the ground? Do they

have an incentive to sign a peace deal with the Afghan government at this stage, do you believe?

GAILANI: Look, Hala, we, the mujahideen, after the Soviet withdrawal, didn't we give (ph) the same way of gains, I mean, military gains left and

right. Every province people were -- I mean, the government soldiers were defecting towards us, but did we achieve peace? We didn't. Why? Because we

didn't have a political settlement wrongly.

So why do we want to repeat the history again? We failed only because it was a military gain, not a political settlement. We still have time. We are

sitting here. The Taliban didn't say that they don't want to talk with us. So let's give a proper support, a meaningful support to this peace talks

before it is too late, before the Afghan nation is going through a horrific, horrific civil war that we will forget it before.

We did make a mistake that we didn't have Taliban with us in one conference --


GAILANI: -- 20 years ago. Let's not repeat that. Let's not.

GORANI: Fatima Gailani, thank you so much for joining us from Doha, Qatar this evening, a member of the negotiating team for the Afghan government, a

women's rights activist. And I know there are many, many concerns surrounding the fate of prominent and public women and indeed just ordinary

Afghan women throughout the country with these Taliban advances. And thank you and I hope we speak again in the coming weeks and months as we continue

to keep our eye on Afghanistan.

Thank you, Fatima Gailani. We'll be right back after a break.


GORANI: To a top story, a top COVID story and it concerns the United Kingdom. More than 4,000 scientists, doctors, nurses and other health

professionals are slamming the British government's plan to drop most pandemic restrictions in England by July 19th. They're calling it

premature. They're even calling it unethical.


The U.K. is pushing ahead, regardless, the government of Boris Johnson that is, it now says travelers from England who've been fully vaccinated won't

need to quarantine when they return home from amber-list countries after next week. And those include most of Europe as well as the United States.

Nina dos Santos is here in London with more. And the point of the scientists that I spoke with one of them last hour is, look, you're already

pretty open, you can go to restaurants and bars, you can travel, but why would you, you know, remove the mandate to wear masks on -- in the subway,

for instance, that to them, that makes no sense. Why is the government doing this now?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mayor of London earlier on this week, it made no sense either, then again, he was also advocating

packing Wembley Stadium full of tens of thousands of people, because largely those were domestic football tourists, if you like, will be coming

from other parts of the U.K. So the real question mark here is whether or not the U.K. should be lifting all of these restrictions in one fell swoop,

if you like, in about a week and a half's time, especially given the fact that the number of infections in this country is really gaining ground

quite quickly. In fact, it's doubling every nine days. That was a figure that the health secretary cited just a couple of days ago when he said that

the caseload could hit about 100,000 new COVID cases in the British Isles in a few weeks time throughout the course of the summer, every single day.

Those are the kind of figures that are getting these scientists concerned. They're saying that this is going to create some kind of reservoir, if you

like, of infection throughout the course of the summer. And then when people go back to schools and the workplaces in the autumn, in the fall,

and it's a bit colder, they'll spend more time socializing indoors, that is when they're really going to come up against the pressure point.

Remember also that, you know, the National Health System has been having to cancel many urgent operations for the last year and a half of the pandemic.

They still got a backlog that they're trying to deal with, with people who are afflicted with all sorts of illnesses that aren't necessarily COVID-

related. And then on top of all of this, you've got more announcements, particularly as you said on the travel front with news welcome for

travelers in the summer months, that of course, people have had two shots of a COVID vaccine after July the 19th will not have to quarantine when

they return, they will still have to take too expensive COVID tests though, Hala?

GORANI: All right, thanks very much. Nina dos Santos live in London.

I'm Hala Gorani. I'll see you next time. Stay with CNN. Quest Means Business is up next.