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Hala Gorani Tonight
U.S. President Biden To Address The Fall Of Afghanistan; Taliban Fighters Invade Lavish Home Of Afghan Warlord; Taliban Tighten Grip On Afghanistan After Fall Of Kabul; U.S. Urges Afghans To Wait For Flights In "Orderly Way"; U.N. Security Council Holds Meeting On Afghanistan; Former U.S. Ambassador: Fall Of Kabul Worse Than Saigon. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 16, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and welcome, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. A new era of Taliban rule has begun in Afghanistan after Kabul
fell virtually without a fight in just a single day. The American President Joe Biden is expected to address the stunning collapse of America's longest
war in a speech from the White House next hour. His administration will be forever linked to these scenes of panic and chaos at the Kabul airport.
Desperate Afghans rushed to the tarmac today hoping to be evacuated by the U.S. military, some even clinging to a plane as it taxied on the runway.
The Pentagon says gunmen shot at U.S. forces at the airport in two separate incidents so the soldiers returned fire, killing two men. It says there's
no indication the assailants were Taliban.
These images sum up the failure of the trillion-dollar war to oust the Taliban from power. Militants sitting at the desk of Ashraf Ghani, the
former president who fled the country at the first sign of Kabul's collapse. CNN is on the ground in Kabul witnessing the shock of seeing
Taliban militants in control once again. Our Clarissa Ward ventured on the streets.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As soon as we leave our compound, it's clear who is now in charge. Taliban fighters
have flooded the capital, smiling and victorious, they took the city of 6 million people in a matter of hours, barely firing a shot.
(on camera): This is a sight I honestly thought I would never see, scores of Taliban fighters and just behind us, the U.S. Embassy compound. Some
carrying American weapons, they tell us they are here to maintain law and order. "Everything is under control. Everything will be fine", the
commander says. "Nobody should worry."
What's your message to America right now? "America already spent enough time in Afghanistan. They need to leave", he tells us. "They already lost
lots of lives and lots of money." People come up to them to pose for photographs. And they're just chanting death to America, but they seem
friendly at the same time, it's utterly bizarre.
(voice-over): At the presidential palace, the Taliban are now guarding the gate. They say they are here to fill the vacuum left when the government
fled. But the welcoming spirit only extends so far, and my presence soon creates tension.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's because of you --
WARD (on camera): They've just told me to stand to the side because I'm a woman.
(voice-over): Outside, ordinary Afghans clamored to talk to us, struggling to process the dizzying speed of Kabul's fall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, I feel nothing right now. We want peace. We are tired of this ongoing war.
WARD (on camera): What does the future look like to you now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I cannot predict even in seconds right now, and I can't predict even minutes right now. So that's why I don't know what
will happen tomorrow and what will happen after.
GORANI: And that was Clarissa Ward on the streets of Kabul. Well, that gentleman said he doesn't know what's going to happen tomorrow, and that is
a sentiment very much echoed by my next guest. I spoke with Farzana Kochai; a female member of the Afghan parliament. So, you can imagine just how
uncertain the future is for her. I asked her what the last two days have been like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FARZANA KOCHAI, AFGHAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: You know, maybe it's understandable or not in these two days, we just experienced, we had the
feeling that we never had that. We never expected to have that. First of all, seeing Taliban taking over Kabul everywhere, that was an image,
something that we never expected.
The second thing that hurt me too much and so much deeply was the first day that we -- that we -- than we -- I saw that everyone is in crowd in rush
and running like the images, the video you saw in the airport. And it was happening everywhere, not in just the airport, around our houses. So people
were running. It just broke my heart that where are they trying to go?
GORANI: And as a politician, if I can ask you again to look at the situation, what do you make of how the Americans left? Because I presume
you're in Afghan, you, like any other Afghan don't want your country occupied by foreign forces forever.
But did you want --
KOCHAI: Yes --
GORANI: The withdrawal to happen like this, this quickly?
KOCHAI: No, not at all. Not about the being quickly or sooner. The main thing was that they have to leave the country responsibly. But they did
that so irresponsibly. You saw that just today and last day, they were just like chasing the commercial flights, and they were firing.
Some Afghans, we lost their lives today in the gun-fight that they fight already. They're leaving Afghanistan for the western, and especially U.S.
was so irresponsible, and that the -- Afghan people are now just experiencing that is the cause of that. This power transfer could be done
in a much better way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Farzana Kochai is a member of the Afghan parliament, is there an Afghan parliament? She says her -- she told me earlier, her political
career is what matters to her least in all of this. She just wants to know if she's going to be able to work and exist as a woman in Afghanistan now
that the Taliban have taken over once again.
Now, in the north of the country, the Taliban tightened their grip over the weekend by taking over the key city of Mazar-i-Sharif. You're looking at
video from inside the home of a powerful war lord there, General Rashid Dostum, a key ally of the United States over the past two decades who has
now fled, and whose whereabouts are unknown.
But look at the inside of this house, a lot of gold, a lot of very expensive-looking furniture. Taliban fighters filmed the pictures as they
lounged on the general's gold sofas and went on to inspect objects like his gold tea set. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us
now with more. Now, this video highlights just the dysfunction of the whole system in Afghanistan and the amount of corruption that was such a huge
issue in Afghanistan when these war lords ruled large swaths of the country, Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Absolutely, and I think this is one of the reasons, when you talk to Taliban today, and I spoke
with the spokesperson yesterday, and I asked him, you know, why do you think you were able to come to power so quickly? And he said, look, we had
grass roots support.
Afghans, average Afghans recognized that there was corruption in the government, that the electoral process wasn't fair, that there was also
corruption involved there, so that makes the Taliban narrative today and in the lead up to this so much more credible for many Afghans on the streets.
The fears are still there, the trust deficit still exists. I asked this Afghan official, the spokesman about this prospective new government. Is it
going to be an all Taliban government, would it include figures like former President Hamid Karzai, the president before, figures like Dr. Abdullah
Abdullah, very senior political figures? And he wouldn't be drawn on that, but he did say -- he did say very clearly that there would be non-Taliban
members in the government. This is how he laid it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUHAIL SHAHEEN, SPOKESMAN, TALIBAN: Our priority is maintenance of security and then we would harbor new government, an Afghan inclusive, Islamic
government in the coming days.
ROBERTSON: People who are not members of the Taliban to be part of this new government.
SHAHEEN: Yes, we will, we are intending that because we -- when we are seeing an Afghan-inclusive Islamic government, that means that other
Afghans also have participation in the government, so that, to make it an Afghan-inclusive Islamic government.
ROBERTSON: Will you be calling on the current Afghan army to come and join your forces to provide security in the country?
SHAHEEN: First of all, those handing over their weapons and they are joining our forces. They will be given amnesty, and their lives and
property are secured. Secondly, their names are registered in our register, so they are kind of in a reserve force, and in a proper time, they will be
called as they are needed.
ROBERTSON: People and myself included are asking questions about the education of girls. This was one of the things that the U.S. administration
made an important issue in Afghanistan.
And one of the things they would like to see as a legacy for the country. Where does the Taliban stand on going forward now? You're going to be --
you're going to be running the country. What are you going to do about girls' education? Will they be able to stay in school past 12, up to 18,
will they be able to go to university?
SHAHEEN: Yes, that part about that. Our policy is clear, and the women can continue their education from primary to the higher education.
ROBERTSON: What do you understand as being the reason why your military offensive was so successful, it's caught everyone by surprise. Did it catch
you by surprise how quickly it went, and why do you think it was so successful?
SHAHEEN: Because we have roots among the people. Because it was a popular uprising of the people, and because we knew that.
ROBERTSON: And diplomats and foreign nationals, and journalists in Afghanistan, what is the policy to them?
SHAHEEN: They can continue their work, their embassies should remain functioning. We are committed to provide a secure environment for them, and
also not only for the diplomats and the embassies, but also for international NGOs.
ROBERTSON: Are you having conversations with the Americans about this diplomatic departure at the airport?
SHAHEEN: First of all, we call on Americans, they should not evacuate their embassy because we said we will not target embassies, but rather we will
provide secure environment for their function.
ROBERTSON: So when the American -- when you say to the Americans that they should stay and remain in the embassy, and they're leaving, how do you
interpret that? Do you interpret that as they don't trust you?
SHAHEEN: They should trust us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: And that's the crux of it, of course. The Taliban has a massive trust deficit. What they negotiated with the U.S. to not attack U.S. forces
when they were withdrawing, you know, the spokesman said yesterday, kept good on that. But the issue of them engaging and real talks and not trying
to militarily take over the country, and real talks with the previous Afghan government, none of that, and that was the high expectation that was
placed on the Taliban, none of that came to pass. So, I think, you know, where we are at the moment with the Taliban is a huge trust deficit.
And when they say that girls education can continue -- can continue to higher education, that is really going to have to be tested and judged on
the reality of what happens at this phase, the words of the spokesman seem at best aspirational.
GORANI: All right, thanks very much, Nic Robertson. Our international security editor Nick Paton Walsh is live in Kabul right now. What's the
latest on the situation inside the Afghan capital, Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Calm from where we are, roughly in the center, and I should say in the direction of the
airport which has been the scene of chaos all day. I have heard pretty much consistently the rattle of machine gun-fire, unclear what that is.
Obviously, they are close it seems according to the latest reporting, there are nearly 3,000 U.S. troops there, and we saw ourselves today, the Taliban
around that particular facility. Often at times, right up at the roundabout, that is essentially the entrance to the airport compound.
I saw the luggage trolleys simply laying out by the roundabout there. But they were doing a job of what you might call a crowd control, pushing the
hundreds of Afghans who were doing everything they could to try and get inside the airport to some degree. I saw people climbing over walls,
rushing gates, startling scenes. Inside the airfield, too, even more troubling as people ran towards U.S. cargo planes, simply to do anything
they could to get out of Afghanistan. The city itself, though, tonight, as it has been during the day, calm as far as we can tell, not being the
rattle of gunfire that we heard intermittently during last night.
We've not seen pockets of resistance pop up like some thought might possibly happen. In fact, all we've seen is Taliban all over the streets,
relatively calm, frankly. I even saw a traffic cop out once a round-about, sort of like daily life lurched back into Kabul quite fast. Hala?
GORANI: And so the days ahead for the city, for the country, uncertain. I spoke to a female member of parliament, unclear even if there will be that
branch of government or a parliament building in the future. Are we getting even the beginning of an outline of a governance plan from this group?
WALSH: We don't essentially have, I think the announcement we're sort of waiting to hear from the Taliban, the declaration of their -- what they
will call the Emirate here, and then who is going to essentially be in charge of that. And that may be something we see at some point in the hours
or days ahead. What we have heard from them is a series of continual messages of foreigners should be relaxed here. Those, anybody frankly, who
used to work for former government should be assured of their safety, you heard that in Nic's interview there as well.
And also, interesting, the two, from two of the key -- you might call them power brokers of the past 10 years, Hamid Karzai, the president before, but
now former president, Ashraf Ghani who disappeared yesterday unannounced, and we don't even know where he is now actually. And also, the man who sort
of shared power with Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, the kind of CEO of the former Afghan government. They've emerged together, giving a message
essentially saying that there's some hope for an inclusive government, that they're having good conversations with the Taliban.
The Taliban have said that they would like kind of more of a broad church here. We'll have to see really what that materializes into. A lot of those
signals, though, might be taking some of the edge off the fear of people inside of Kabul, but there are many of course in this city who feared the
potential for this moment as they've seen the Taliban rapidly advance across the country. Those who used to work for the government and for the
Afghan security forces, some fears here despite Taliban assurances, they should not be. We simply don't know how the months ahead will transpire,
GORANI: Sure, and what is it like working now as a western journalist under Taliban control?
WALSH: They are relatively accommodating. On my trip to the airport, we suffered no impediment at all, and my colleague here, Clarissa Ward has
had, I think it's fair to say, reasonably relaxed experience with Taliban around, and even though, you know, it's clear that we are at times an
American television network, they are for most part welcoming, most part don't impede what people are trying to do, and I think we all hope here
that, that will continue for the days ahead.
GORANI: Nick Paton Walsh, thanks so much. The Pentagon says the U.S. will continue to expand its security presence in Kabul as needed. Some 6,000
American troops are expected to be on the ground in the next few days. Barbara Starr is covering that angle for us and she joins us now live. Now,
what does that mean, as needed? I mean, what are the plans? Because we don't have the 6,000 troops in country yet.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are expected as best we can tell, Hala. There's about half, a little bit less than half are
there right now today according to estimates. You know, they need to secure that airfield and keep it secure and keep people from rushing back onto the
airfield. And it is a huge perimeter in Kabul airport. So, they're going to have to -- they're going to need some manpower to do that. That really is
job one, because they need to keep planes coming in, unloading troops for this security mission, put people back on those planes and take them out.
Americans, civilians, diplomats, some people from other countries, and importantly, Afghans who have worked for the Americans who need to get out
along with their families. So they need that capacity. That throughput at the airport, and in order to do that, they need to keep the airport secure.
Fair to say --
GORANI: You want to follow up here?
STARR: That it would evolve was not expected and was incredibly dangerous situation. Hala?
GORANI: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much. Still to come tonight, U.S. allies and adversaries are keeping a close eye on the
Taliban. We're live in the U.K. and Russia for reaction there. Stay with us.
GORANI: Well, the world is watching Afghanistan right now while U.S. allies rush to evacuate their staff. U.S. adversaries are moving in on what they
see as an opportunity. China says it's ready to deepen, quote, "friendly relations with Afghanistan".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUA CHUNYING, FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON, CHINA (through translator): China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine
their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop friendly and cooperative neighbor-relations with Afghanistan, and play a constructive
role in the peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Meanwhile, in the U.K., the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling on western allies to work together as Afghanistan falls. Downing Street
says he plans to host a virtual G7 meeting soon to discuss the crisis. U.K. troops are in Kabul to aid British nationals who are still in the country.
Johnson says it's crucial that Afghanistan does not slide back into a quote, "breeding ground for terror".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: We don't want anybody bilaterally recognizing the Taliban. We want a united position amongst all
the like-minded as far as we can get one, so that we do whatever we can to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into being a breeding ground for terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And Russia says it's adopting a wait-and-see approach to recognizing the Taliban. A Russian ambassador plans to meet with a Taliban
representative to discuss safeguarding the Russian embassy. President Putin's special envoy to the country slammed the U.S. mission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAMIR KABULOV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT'S SPECIAL ENVOY FOR AFGHANISTAN (through translator): We expected that the Afghan military forces prepared by the
Americans and NATO will have to leave sometime, and will control at least part of the country which will allow to hold negotiations on the coalition
transit government. Apparently, we over-estimated the talents of our American colleagues, and this army gave up without a fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, unsurprisingly, the Russians are criticizing the Americans. No big news there. Sam Kiley is in London, Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow.
Sam, you had some very high-level officials in the United Kingdom, you know, openly criticizing American's decision to pull as haste -- its troops
as hastily as it did, and they made no secret of the fact that they would have preferred the NATO mission to continue in order to at least contain
the Taliban threat. What is the U.K.'s position going forward now with regards to Afghanistan?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the United Kingdom, America's closest ally in this fight, as in so many others, and I
can say, I've been speaking privately with very senior generals who were in command of troops in Afghanistan, very senior intelligence officers who
worked in Kabul and in Kandahar and in Helmand to try to identify that awful term, high value targets for the assassination or arrest of alleged
Taliban members in this what was for many years a very hot war.
They are all utterly dismayed and disappointed by two things. And we've heard this, the first of these things from Ben Wallace; the Secretary of
State for Defense here, telling the media earlier on today that -- how much he regretted the decision of Donald Trump, which he in his argument then
some-what entrapped Joe Biden into a precipitous withdrawal. Really, the strategic error was to tell the Taliban that the United States were going
willy-nilly, which meant that they really had to just do nothing but sit back and wait until they had gone.
But more importantly -- and this is a point being made private by a lot of British officials, they felt that this decision meant that the Afghan
national army felt abandoned particularly in terms of air support, its whole doctrine was based around having American air support effectively,
and once they lost that, they lost their nerve. But that is kind of looking back. You ask me really what is going forward, we've heard from Boris
Johnson, he didn't want to see bilateral recognition of the Taliban, hinting that perhaps China might take an opportunistic line, trying to get
the G7 and others in line.
And I think also we've heard from the Taliban spokesman in interviews with both Nic Robertson and Christiane Amanpour on CNN, that they are keen for
this broad-based government to be accepted, and they are in now a completely different world than they were in 1996 when they first came to
power, and that is that, yes, they have managed to flip over huge elements of the Afghan national army.
They have had significant characters like Ismail Khan in Herat joining or at least not fighting them. He was the governor, famous governor in Herat
who stood against them since 1996, now choosing not to fight them. These are elements that they're going to have to keep on board internally.
One of the real issues is going to be on female education, more broadly on human rights. Now, they have made commitments to respect human rights and
the rights of women to get educated. If they don't do that, this coalition that has allowed them to take power in Kabul is likely to be very fractious
and they know that. Hala.
GORANI: Yes, and Fred, obviously, Russia has a very tragic history when it comes to their involvement in Afghanistan when it was of course the Soviet
Union. But more recently, militarily, Putin's Russia has made a habit of, you know, filling vacuums left by America, specifically in Syria. Will it
be the case this time?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the Russians right now are saying, Hala, they are going to stay in
Afghanistan. They have their embassy obviously there. We heard the envoy for Afghanistan, from the Russians saying that the embassy is going to
remain open, it's going to remain functional, they're already, as you said earlier, they're going to go into talks with the Taliban about security for
So, right now, the Russians are saying -- and this is through their U.N. representative, saying that right now they believe is no time to panic.
They believe that the situation on the ground is stabilizing. And one of the things that we have to keep in mind about the Russians also is that,
obviously, you're absolutely right, they do have quite a tragic history in Afghanistan, but they do also still have a lot of expertise about
Afghanistan of course -- and Afghanistan, of course, to Russia is also fairly close.
So, they say they're in contact with all the factions, with all the political forces, with all the military forces on the ground, and therefore
they're going to assess whether or not the new Taliban government is a -- or the new Taliban government that could or the inclusive government that
could happen is one that they'll be able to work with.
But they certainly are saying at this point right now, this is no time to panic, and they want to remain there on the ground and continue to
function. Now, of course, at the same time as we heard there in that sound bite from that envoy, they are ripping into the United States.
They're obviously saying that when they withdrew, a lot of things were a lot more orderly. In fact, that same envoy said earlier today that he
believed that a lot of the chaos that was going on at the airport there in Kabul happened because the U.S. put in so many forces there. He was saying
that he believed that the situation in Kabul is stabilizing at the moment.
But one of the things that we also have to keep in mind is that of course, this is also a very big security headache for the Russians as well. They
have countries that are allied with Russia down there in that region. We talk about Uzbekistan, talking about Tajikistan as well that already have
taken in a lot of folks from Afghanistan in the past, and now, that seems to be happening once again. There were a lot of government fighters from
Afghanistan crossing the Uzbek border, for instance, and of course, the Russians do fear that, that could lead to destabilization of things in that
part of the world as well.
Those neighboring countries in Afghanistan. One of the things that we've seen over the past couple of weeks, the past couple of months is really the
Russians already preparing for something like this. There have been more drills between for instance the Tajik army and the Russian army. And you
can tell that they really are maybe not trying to fill that void, but certainly, trying to prepare for any eventualities that could happen after
a U.S. withdrawal. Hala?
GORANI: All right, Fred Pleitgen and Sam Kiley, thanks to both of you. A lot more to come as we wait to hear from President Biden about the chaos in
Afghanistan. We'll go to Washington for a live update. Stay with us.
GORANI: U.S. officials are warning the Taliban not to interfere with evacuations at Kabul airport. And they're also advising Afghans to wait "in
an orderly way" for flights. But for people who fear for their very lives under Taliban rule, those words don't hold much weight. Some Afghans are so
desperate to leave that they chased this American military plane today, even clinging to it as it taxied down the runway.
Now, we do want to warn you warn you that we are about to air some disturbing video just in to CNN. It appears to show at least two objects,
possibly people, falling from that military plane that had just taken off. And we are not able to confirm the incident or what the images show. But
there is that possibility that people fell from the plane.
I spoke earlier to Afghan journalist, Bilal Sarwary, who described the fear on the ground but also the very real challenges that the Taliban will face
if they actually plan to govern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILAL SARWARY, AFGHAN JOURNALIST: How the Taliban transition from politics, you know from military into politics, you will have to see. This is a city
that requires running, this is a city where ATM machines have got no cash. This is a city where not all shops are open, ordinary butcher shops,
vegetable shops. And the people in this city are still scared. They still have fears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, the deteriorating situation has prompted the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency meeting. The Secretary General said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY GENERAL: All of us have seen the images in real time, chaos and rest, uncertainty, and fear. Much
lies in the balance the progress, the hope, the dreams of a generation of young Afghan women and girls, boys and men. It is grave, however, I urge
all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Antonio Guterres, while many blame the U.S. for pulling out and causing the situation, the U.S. Ambassador called for the Taliban to
respect human rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Today, I want to reiterate, reemphasize, and reassert this call. Civilian populations,
including journalists and non-combatants, must be protected. Attacks against civilians or civilian objects must stop. And the human rights and
fundamental freedoms of all Afghan citizens, especially women, girls, and members of minority groups must be respected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And here's what the Afghan Ambassador had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GHULAM ISACZAI, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: There is no time for blame game anymore. We have an opportunity to prevent further violence, prevent
Afghanistan descending into a civil war, and becoming a pariah state. Therefore, the Security Council and the U.N. Secretary General should use
every means at its disposal, to call for an immediate succession of violence and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, let's go now to Washington and U.S. Security Correspondent, Kylie Atwood. And what are we expecting now and the next few days after
this chaotic pullout of American forces in the evacuation of the embassy in Kabul, as we await also the arrival of about 3,000 U.S. troops?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon are really focused on
some sense of security at the airport in Kabul, because as you said, right now, that is basically a place of pandemonium.
And all of the U.S. flights that were going out of there have been put on pause. There's nothing happening right now. That's because of the number of
Afghans that had flooded the air -- flooded the runway there. You saw how many of them were trying to hold on to the American planes as they took
So the State Department, the Pentagon, really focused on how they can create some sort of stability there so that they can get more flights out
because the Pentagon has said they can get out about 5,000 folks from Afghanistan on a daily basis, but they haven't been able to reach that
capacity, because of all the troubles that they've had on the ground there.
And, of course, because of the fact that this has come together so last minute. More U.S. troops are on their way to try and make sure that this
process of getting U.S. diplomats, U.S. contractors out of the country, as well as those Afghans who worked alongside U.S. diplomats U.S. troops. That
can happen and that can happen as expediently as possible.
But it's not happening quickly right now. I also think it's important to take note of the fact that we heard from the Deputy National Security
Adviser this morning to President Biden, and he said that there would be consequences if there was any interference with the Afghans who are trying
to get to the airport, because one of the major problems right now is not just the pandemonium at the airport, but it's the Afghans who are wanting
to get out of the country who are terrified of what Taliban control means. And they don't think that they can get to the airport safely.
And it's noteworthy that the U.S. is saying that the Taliban will face consequences if they interfere with their routes to get there. Now, of
course, there are, you know, black spots, there are areas that the U.S. doesn't really know what's happening on the ground, because we don't have a
widespread U.S. troop presence anymore. It is a troop presence that is really focused at the airport right now.
So this is clearly, you know, a very dangerous situation potentially. And the U.S. is trying to say everything that they can to prevent any violence
from breaking out to get out these Americans and to get out these Afghans who have helped the United States.
GORANI: Kylie Atwood, thanks very much at the State Department. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan opened a clear path for the Taliban to regain
control of the country. Now many Afghans are feeling a deep sense of betrayal by their American allies. My next guest is a U.S. Army veteran who
served in Afghanistan. Kristen Rouse, joins me now from New York.
Talk to us a little bit about what went through your mind over the last few days as you and it seems like the entire world were watching these images
of, you know, helicopters hovering above the U.S. Embassy, desperate Afghans rushing planes on the tarmac of the airport in Kabul, what was
going through your mind?
KRISTEN ROUSE, U.S. ARMY VETERAN, SERVED IN AFGHANISTAN: It has been unbelievably sad and tragic to watch. As I woke up to the Taliban taking
Kabul, I thought of the image of watching the Titanic sink with all of these people.
But the only life rafts are for just a select few people like imagine only the crew could be given a life raft. And what's happening is veterans,
myself, so many other veterans who I've talked to, we're getting calls social media messages, text messages from, from Afghans on the ground who
are trying to get out. Even just a few minutes before, before I joined you, I'm still talking with folks on the ground in Afghanistan, folks with
family on the ground in Afghanistan, begging, is there anything that we can do to get them out?
Aid worker employees, humanitarian work -- like, I'm being contacted by so many people who are trying to get Afghans out. And I'm even being contacted
by folks at the airport, who say if they leave the area of the airport, Taliban has all the checkpoints. They also have biometric equipment to
identify, you know, facial recognition, retinal scans of anyone who has worked for the United States, and they will be identified and potentially
killed and so that is what --
GORANI: So why -- I guess, this is one of the questions I hear most often, and maybe you have at least the outline of an answer, why did the United
States not evacuate these people, give them the paperwork they needed, before pulling out the troops before this deadline, the September deadline?
Because it would be, I mean, extremely easily predictable that if you do this all in a chaotic and, you know, in the way that it was handled that
you would have a backlog of people waiting to be evacuated?
ROUSE: I honestly have no idea what went into his timeline, the decision- making. What I'm focused on is what is happening now and what can be done. We saw -- that C-17 that we saw that the tragically, people were clinging
to, they were clinging for their life to, that was -- and if they did indeed die falling from the sky, it -- as we -- as we're guessing from that
-- those -- that video, they chose to go that way instead of facing the Taliban. Imagine that horrific, horrific choice that they're having to
If we can get 800 people on a C-17, my question is, how many C-17s can we get on the ground? And how fast? And could this be more than 5,000 a day?
There are tens of thousands, tens of thousands of Afghans who are hiding in fear for their life right now.
And also who may not be able to get to the airport without being hunted down by Taliban. So it's -- this is so -- this is such a hard situation
right now. I've -- I, and other veterans who I'm talking to, we are receiving messages that are effectively goodbye messages. Afghans on the
ground think they are going to die and they are saying goodbye.
GORANI: What can be done? I can hear in your voice the sadness, and also the helplessness. What what can be done at this stage?
ROUSE: Yes. I am hoping for a -- for an announcement that military aircraft will come in. I know veterans have been pooling money together to try to
charter flights, commercial flights to pay for them themselves to rescue our allies. We -- the biggest airlift is military cargo planes, C-17, C-5s,
whatever can be landed while the airport is still protected.
How many? What level of airlift? And let's get people out. Let's get people out. People don't have visas, they're not able to get passports, as Bilal
Sarwary mentioned, they can't even get money transferred to them because banks are literally out of money. And so there -- there's no way to help
them except to give them an exit.
GORANI: Are you getting any kind of response from people who have the authority to organize these types of flights?
ROUSE: I am talking with folks who are doing that organizing -- organizations like, you know, No One Left Behind, the Association of
Wartime Allies, there's a number of veterans organizations and just veterans themselves who are who are working on this. And I, you know, I am
sadly, I'm a voice, I'm a contact. But I'm ultimately a soldier in this effort to get people's names, to get their stories out, to talk to you and
to beg anybody who's listening clearly, please, please write, you know -- if you're an American, write your public officials and say we need airlift.
We need to get people out now while they are still alive.
GORANI: Kristen Rouse, thank you so much for joining us, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. They're calling on authorities calling
on the people with a decision-making power to get planes to the people who are in fear for their lives in Afghanistan. Thank you so much. Still ahead.
ROUSE: Thank you.
GORANI: Sickened and saddened, that is how a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan feels about the fall of Kabul. What Ryan Crocker says President
Biden should have done differently next.
GORANI: Ryan Crocker is a Former American Ambassador to Afghanistan. I spoke to him earlier and I bet -- began by asking him why the United States
miscalculated the Taliban's ability so badly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN CROCKER, FORMER AMERICAN AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: That's part of the tragedy. This did not have to happen. When I left Afghanistan as ambassador
in 2012, we had almost a hundred thousand troops on the ground.
We had worked that number down to less than 10,000. And the Afghan government wasn't losing ground. The Taliban occupied no provincial
capital. So we had the capacity, we were demonstrating the capacity to provide crucial support in certain areas to the Afghan forces but at a rock
bottom minimum of cost in blood or treasure.
We could have kept that status quo going, instead the president elected to pause all the way out with consequences we will be paying for for years to
GORANI: What do you think those consequences will be?
CROCKER: They come at several levels. The -- this process that has unfolded gives the Taliban a hugely powerful narrative that the righteous forces of
Islam stood against the infidels and forced them to retreat in defeat. That's going to be pinging around the world for quite some time to come. So
we can expect a lot more of this kind of rumbling around from other militant groups, nore specifically on Afghanistan. We've seen this movie
before. This isn't hypothetical.
The Taliban running Afghanistan, sheltering al-Qaeda, that is what brought us 9/11. Well, now they're all back and for the Taliban, leaner and meaner.
Al-Qaeda has waited with them in the wilderness, they will be back, too. Our own intelligence capacities will be significantly degraded because
we're not underground. Bill Burns, CIA Director, has already spoken to that. So it is the perfect storm.
GORANI: Well, the Taliban spokesperson who speaks perfect English has been giving -- has been doing the rounds, as we say in the business. He's been
giving interviews to Western networks every day, since the Taliban takeover promising, in his good English, that this is the new and improved Taliban,
that women will be able to go to school, they'll be able to work, and that the Taliban will, in fact, even have non-Taliban members of government. Do
you believe them?
CROCKER: Not one word. And they're -- to believe anything they would say, really on any subject whatsoever would be an act of naevite so profound
it's hard to describe. We saw them in the talks with the U.S. Sure, they'd -- they would say anything pretty, as long as it was getting us out the
door, because they knew that once we're gone, we're not coming back.
They -- again, they stayed in exile for two decades, rather than compromise there al-Qaeda allies. So yes, they are the new and improved Taliban, all
right, I accept that, but not in any good way. They will be, if anything, even more ruthless, more barbaric, but also more efficient than the Taliban
GORANI: And they'll have American equipment as well, that they've taken from the Afghan army to use at will. Last one on these images that we've
seen, you know, many people have compared that helicopter hovering above the U.S. Embassy, a building you know so well, to that Saigon moment in the
'70s. Others have said the defining image will be that C-17 with the Afghan civilians clinging to the plane itself as it takes off. Is that a fair
comparison, do you think?
CROCKER: Well, it is going to be a comparison that will be made for years and years to come. And for the administration to say this isn't going to be
Saigon, as we look at those sorts of images, well, maybe they're right, because it's way worse than Saigon. And that image, that's probably not the
last one we're going to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, speaking to me. We'll be right back.
GORANI: -- of internally displaced people. Arwa Damon is following this from Istanbul. So we haven't seen the waves of refugees yet. But we expect
that these internally displaced will eventually turn into refugees, Arwa.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Quite possibly, Hala, and many of them would probably already be refugees crossing Afghanistan's
borders through any means possible if they actually could. Problem is countries like Pakistan have had a closed border for quite some time now
because of COVID. They've also built a wall, roads to other potential exit points have been blocked off. People are too afraid to try to go through
the Taliban checkpoints.
And then, of course, you have those horrific scenes emerging from Kabul's airport where even if an Afghan citizen, and this would be a fairly rare
occurrence, has a passport and a visa to go somewhere else, they can't because there are no commercial flights and the U.S. military's effectively
taken over the airport, taken over air traffic control, and is focusing on evacuating U.S. citizens.
Now some countries like Pakistan and Turkey have been talking about how to, as they put it, stabilize Afghanistan so that there is no refugee influx.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that this time around, countries need to focus on adequately financing UNHCR so that when there is
an influx, those refugees can stay in Afghanistan's neighboring countries. The bottom line is, Hala, no one wants to deal with a refugee crisis.
And you have to remember that on the heels of the Syrian refugee crisis, there is a significantly high anti-refugee sentiment in a lot of these
European countries. There is very little tolerance for refugees. And there is tragically very little empathy for those who are trying to flee to save
their own lives. And so while this is not yet a disaster at this stage, aid agencies are warning that among the internally displaced, there are a
number of cities that are in dire need of humanitarian aid.
And this is something that, you know, the world might try to turn its back on. But at this point, given the plethora of ways that Afghanistan has been
abandoned, to abandon those who want to flee the Taliban for their own safety and security to do that, on top of everything else, would just be
another added layer of layers of things that have happened to Afghanistan that are entirely unconscionable.
GORANI: And the border area between Pakistan, the neighbor of Afghanistan and Afghanistan, still very much shut. And Pakistan is not opening its arms
wide for these refugees potentially fleeing the Taliban.
DAMON: No, they're not. And Afghanistan's line is that, you know, they just simply can't handle a refugee influx. Remember, there have been Afghan
refugees living in Pakistan for decades now. Turkey is also making the same argument because there are great concerns that refugees will be coming from
Afghanistan, crossing Iran and into Turkey, which already has more than a hundred thousand Afghan refugees in it.
Turkey's saying, look, we're still trying to deal with the fallout from the Syrian refugee crisis with millions of Syrians in country and growing
tensions between the Syrian population and the Turkish population.
And so, you know, at this stage, it really does feel as if with all of these talks that are happening, whether it's those between Pakistan and
turkey or those that other countries are getting involved in, the core of these conversations is not how do we guarantee safe passage for Afghan
refugees, how do we find a sustainable solution for those who want to flee the country, again, for their own security and safety, but rather the
conversation really seems to be focused on how do we ensure that we keep Afghans trapped inside Afghanistan?
GORANI: All right. Arwa Damon live in Istanbul. Thanks very much. These scenes we're watching unfold in Afghanistan today are being compared to the
fall of Saigon --