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Hala Gorani Tonight
Taliban Open Fire as Protesters Take Down Militant Flag; Thousands of Afghans Who Helped U.S. Remain Stranded; U.K. and E.U. Officials Respond to Afghanistan Takeover by Taliban Regime; Aid Workers Scrambling to Help Haiti Quake Victims; Gunfire and Chaos in Kabul Amid Evacuation Efforts; Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Emerges in the UAE; U.S. and Other Allies Rush to Evacuate Citizens from Afghanistan. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 18, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello everyone, I'm Hala Gorani. Let's get straight to our breaking news in Kabul. Gunfire pierced the air today as
Afghans rushed to the airport desperate to board evacuation flights. Both U.S. troops and Taliban militants fired into the air as crowd control
measures. We've also learned that the former president who fled Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has found refuge in the United Arab Emirates.
Now, he fled his country Sunday, just as the Taliban were closing in. Just in the last few minutes, Ghani released a video statement explaining his
abrupt departure. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHRAF GHANI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN (through translator): My commitment to all my countrymen and women are to avoid bloodshed and to
ensure peace, stability and development to Afghanistan. That was my overall objective. This was my overall (INAUDIBLE). In the last three -- the last
so many days, events unfolded so hastily. Before I left the country, I was working to work with the Taliban to ascertain a delegation to have
negotiation. So that to accept the condition for a peaceful transfer of power to say -- to keep Kabul safe and to avoid strong destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Ashraf Ghani there in a video message just released on his Facebook page. Eleni Giokos is in the United Emirates where Ashraf Ghani
has found refuge. And we heard there from the former president hoping in these coming days that we will get over this and Afghanistan will
experience peace and stability. Eleni?
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I mean, he also spoke about development. That was really reiterated quite a few times in this
statement. But importantly, he described the overall situation that forced him, he says, to leave so quickly that he had just enough time to put on
his shoes and grab his notebooks, and his laptop, importantly refuting a lot of the rumors that have been going around that he left with bags of
money. What he also said that he was trying to avoid bloodshed, he actually compared the potential, the worst case scenario similar to that like Yemen
and Syria, saying that if he had stayed, the people in Afghanistan would have seen their president hanged.
So, he was explaining the situation. But I think many Afghans would want to see the motive side of things, and they feel, of course, disappointed. They
feel that he just fled and left them in a city that was swiftly taken over by the Taliban.
He importantly also spoke about how the Taliban was moving from room to room, giving that kind of detail that explained why he felt the need to
leave. And again then, referring to the potential bloodshed. I mean, Hala, here -- you know, you spoke to a parliamentarian earlier, saying that he
felt disappointed that he just literally just left the country without any backup plan.
Ghani then says that they were in the works with the Taliban to try and ensure there was a peaceful transfer of power. And then he insinuated that
he'd still like to be part of some kind of negotiation with the Taliban in the future of Afghanistan. I mean, the question here is, now, is he going
to do this from abroad? What is his plan? And of course, and confirming that he is here in the UAE. Now, what the next step will be will be
interesting. And of course, hearing what Afghans think of the statement is also going to be vital. He basically reiterated a lot of what we heard on a
previous Facebook --
GORANI: I know --
GORANI: Right, and also, what he didn't discuss, what he didn't bring up is just as interesting. Reports that he flew through Kyrgyzstan, that he
had a lot of money with him, reports that he asked Americans to delay the processing of special immigrant visas so as not to create sort of a sense
of panic in the country, that things were unraveling faster than expected. And I think a lot of Afghans over the last few days who we've interviewed
have brought all of those things up, and all of those criticisms up when discussing their former president's rapid evacuation from Afghanistan.
GIOKOS: Absolutely. And look, he -- what we've also heard from a lot of parliamentarians and politicians, that he didn't communicate with the
people closest to him, that he took two aides and that's all he had time to do. We also know that Hamid Karzai, the former president as well as
Abdullah Abdullah who is a former parliamentarian as well and politician, they had to then quickly send a very strong message to Afghans, saying that
they are safe and that those two politicians along with other people at the negotiating table will be sitting closely with the Taliban to ensure that
security is in place.
What is interesting here, Hala, with Ghani, is literally the perceptions that surround him and why he left, how he left, why it happened so quickly,
was he in a risky situation? The Taliban has communicated that they wanted to have a peaceful takeover and peaceful transfer of power in Kabul. And of
course, the messaging now from Ghani saying this was very different to what he experienced, and the fact that the Taliban had entered the presidential
palace going from room to room.
GORANI: All right, thanks very much. More on that breaking news a little bit later in the program. Eleni Giokos is reporting live from Dubai. Ashraf
Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan posting a video on his Facebook page. Back to the situation now inside the country, as we reported at the
top, both U.S. troops and Taliban militants fired into the air as crowd control measures. Imagine how terrifying the sound of this Taliban gunfire
would have been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Thankfully, in this instance, no casualties or injuries were reported. But CNN crews did witness violence on the streets today. And our
Clarissa Ward was near the airport when gunfire rang out there. She gave us an incredible look at what was happening on the streets when she talked
earlier to some of my colleagues.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me try to explain to you the situation where we are. It's very hectic. You can
probably hear those gunshots. We're about 200 yards, even less than 200 yards away from the entrance to the Kabul airport. We just drove through it
quickly, it's absolutely impossible to stop there. And I say we drove through it quickly, you can't drive through it quickly. It's bumper to
bumper. Cars are barely moving. There are Taliban fighters all around. We actually did see them physically with tranches trying to get them back.
We have seen them and heard them a lot as well, firing on the crowds to disperse the crowds. It's a little difficult to see from this vantage
point, and it's a slightly edgy situation, so I don't want to push our luck. But all along, the roadside over there, there's just hundreds of
people who are basically waiting, desperately trying to get out of country. It's not clear if they have their paperwork in order, if they've been
declined and told that they can't enter the gates or if they simply don't have the wherewithal to get inside.
Cameraman, Will Bonnet(ph) is just panning off right now. You can see it's a pretty large crowd who's formed around us already because this is
slightly unusual situation to be doing live shots from here I think. But it's definitely chaotic. It's definitely dangerous. I will say this, the
Taliban appears to be trying to disperse the crowds.
And there are crowds there of young men who seem to be just engaging in like criminal activity -- I don't know if you heard that. They're kind of
running towards the Taliban and then running away from them, again, almost like it's a game. But you know, when there's bullets firing like that,
Brianna and John, it's clearly not a game.
What we could see, we only had a very limited vantage point -- they're firing to disperse the crowds. They're not targeting people. They're not
trying to kill people. But of course, the minute you're firing willy-nilly when you have a bunch of civilians all over the road and civilian vehicles,
people get hurt. That's what happens. So, there's not a huge amount of discipline, let's say, to use an understatement in the ways in which they
are dispersing the crowd. We did see some people behind the concertina wire, implying that they had been able to get into that first perimeter.
But I'm not going to lie, I mean, you're running the gauntlet to try to get in there.
Because there are so many different things going on. You could just hear the gunfire is pretty much constant as the Taliban tries to push people
back. And as a result, you're just getting lots of people on the roads surrounding the airport like the one we're on, less than 200 yards away.
You're just getting lots and lots of people sitting by the road side. Some of them have their bags and they just obviously have no idea how they can
GORANI: Clarissa Ward there outside the airport. And as we just saw, that was a frantic scene. But inside the gates, it's a contrast to the chaos
taking place in the city outside. The Pentagon says there are currently about 4,500 troops on the ground, and the Pentagon says the airport remains
secure. Now, it's important to note. it is the only way out of Afghanistan by air right now. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us -- shows us rather, what
it's been like recently as thousands of desperate Afghans try to make their escape.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Around Kabul airport, lives spared or spoiled. At one gate, I was caught in the
crush, shots in the air. Afghan soldiers let us in through a hole in the fence.
Inside, a few lucky Afghans still with steps to go and sleepless U.S. Marines. Some not born before 9/11, whose first glimpse of Afghanistan here
was the same as so many before them, except this time, they were truly encircled by calmed Taliban just outside, and they were leaving. For the
trite of 20 years of trying was everywhere, vehicles that may be left behind and then the Afghans who won't be.
We're blurring their faces to protect them, lucky enough to get on a flight, but not as huge in number as those who had swamped the airfield the
WALSH (on camera): It's absolutely breathtaking to see the scale of the operation underway here, and the volume of people relieved to be inside,
but still, chaos.
WALSH (voice-over): Flights picked up as evening fell, urgency, but a strange disconnect to the chaos that was swirling around the airport.
People inside the airport simply did not know what was happening outside, and inside, they were headed in one direction. At airport security, the
country's new rulers were giving their first press conference on a TV that surely show all four of the U.S. presidents who have been at war here. They
sit and wait to be called to a new life in a land of plenty where they will land with only one they can carry. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul,
GORANI: And as I reported earlier in the program, the Pentagon says U.S. troops fired shots in the air as non-lethal warnings to control the crowds
at Kabul airport today. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann. What are they saying about what's going on around the airport
because we're hearing reports and our Clarissa Ward on the ground is saying that the Taliban are not allowing people to enter the perimeter.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, those discussions with the Taliban and with U.S. forces on the ground are ongoing, and those are
being led by the Department of Defense from what we understand, they try to make sure that people can get to the airport and that there is safe passage
to the airport.
The pictures we've seen and the stories we've heard obviously make it clear that there is a lot more work to do in that scenario. And though the
security situation at the airport has improved depending on series over the course of the past 48 or 72 hours, there's obviously still a lot left to be
U.S. troops overnight firing warning shots near some of the gates -- near one of the gates. That comes amid other shots in the area. So, there is
fire around the airport, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said earlier today that those were non-lethal warning shots and they were not fired at
people, not at Afghans or anybody else. But it still speaks to the difficulties of this airport, the simple number of people there, and the
fact that U.S. troops, although they're still flowing in, and there are about 4,500 on the ground at this point, they are still vastly outnumbered
by Afghans who are simply at this point trying to get out of the country.
There have been evacuations from the country on 18 C-17 flights over the course of the past 24 hours. The U.S. has moved some 2,000 people including
some 325 Americans. But those numbers are frankly, not as high as they need to be.
The Pentagon has been aiming from somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000, and there are still a long way to go to get to those numbers, not only in terms
of processing people and filling those flights, but more flights going in and out of the airport, which again probably the most critical piece of
real estate, certainly from a U.S. perspective at this point.
GORANI: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. Still to come tonight, as tens of thousands of Afghans now at risk from the Taliban, struggle to leave the
country, later this hour, I'll ask a U.S. Democratic congressman if Washington is really doing enough to help. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, the U.S. is relying on the Taliban to not interfere with its evacuation efforts. But militants are controlling all check points on the
way to the airport, and it's making it extremely difficult and dangerous just to get there. Earlier, I spoke to U.S. Congressman Tom Malinowski, who
says it's time for the U.S. military to do something about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): We need to control the situation at and outside the gates of the airport, yes. And if the Taliban are significantly
impeding that, then not only do we not leave the airport, which is something I think they would not want, but I think we do need to consider
using the very considerable means that we still have to send them a message. Yes, absolutely. Otherwise, this --
GORANI: So, that --
MALINOWSKI: Promise --
GORANI: I was going to say, that would mean potentially that you would support the use of force in this case.
MALINOWSKI: That is what the military is for. That is why this is a military mission. And, look, I get that President Biden wanted to pull us
out. We now have more troops in Afghanistan at greater risk than we had before the pullout. And --
GORANI: Yes --
MALINOWSKI: I don't like it. I'm sure he doesn't like it. But it is a consequence of the way in which this was done, and a consequence of the
fact that we made a promise that now needs to be kept.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, it might be very tough to keep that promise. Let's get more on the U.S. response. Let's bring in Democratic Congressman John Garamendi,
he joins me now live from Sacramento, California. Congressman, thanks for being with us. I just want to update you --
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Sure --
GORANI: And our viewers, you may not have seen this, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is now warning that the U.S. cannot -- the U.S. government cannot
ensure safe passage to Kabul airport. And this is very tricky for people who are stuck outside the airport, which is an area essentially controlled
by the Taliban. What do you think should be done about this?
GARAMENDI: Well, first of all, I think my colleague with whom I have enormous respect, is absolutely wrong. We're going to send American troops
into the heart and into the suburbs and into the streets of Kabul to extract people. It makes no sense whatsoever.
We do control the airport. We are going to do the very best we can, and the people in Kabul and in other parts of this country are going to have to do
the best they can to get there. There is no way that the American military should use military force to go to someone's house or some building
somewhere to extract people. That will create a very significant --
GORANI: Yes --
GARAMENDI: Problem and a very significant loss of life on both sides. We do control the airport. We should continue to do that as long as it takes
to extract as many people as possible. But to provide safe passage from parts of a huge city, no way. Not --
GORANI: Yes --
GORANI: And I think if I understood him correctly, he was saying that around the airport where the Taliban are perhaps physically, actively
preventing people from passing, that the U.S. should consider using force.
That's what I think he was trying to convey.
GARAMENDI: Well --
GORANI: You disagree with that as well.
GARAMENDI: Well, we need to recognize that we are now in the middle of a city -- in an airport in the middle of a city in which the Taliban control
that city. What is happening and what should continue to happen is the discussions between the American military and the Taliban military and
others to work out a reasonable mechanism for people to enter the airport and to get to the airport.
But we probably have somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers, probably closer to 3,000 than to 5,000, that are actively guarding the airport and
frankly bringing the airport under control and ending the chaos at the airport.
To go into that city and to go beyond that, it seems to me to be a tax that we should very carefully consider because it will undoubtedly result in a
fire storm of combat.
GORANI: You've been on the Armed Services Committee for more than ten years --
GORANI: Why didn't the Americans plan this better? Why didn't evacuations start months ago? Why has this been done so chaotically, at the last
minute, with a deadline set for August 31st, which means that if we pass that deadline, it becomes even more complicated to extract people.
GARAMENDI: Well, let's just start at the very beginning here, not the very beginning, but let's start at the last year.
GORANI: Yes --
GARAMENDI: The American government had somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 troops in Afghanistan. Our former President Trump cut a deal with the
Taliban to reduce the troops to 2,500 during the Fall, the late Fall of 2020, and to have all of the troops out of Afghanistan by May. That was a
very clear signal to the Taliban and to the government and to any other organization and individuals that are in that country that the American
military presence would end.
GORANI: OK --
GARAMENDI: Biden extended that deadline until September -- mid-September.
GORANI: Yes --
GARAMENDI: And the troops -- and that was the process underway. What was not anticipated -- and we can debate forever, whether it should or should
not have been anticipated, but was not anticipated, was the total collapse.
Provincial capital by provincial capital of the Afghan government, the military and the police. They simply disappeared when the Taliban said,
we're coming in. And that went by provincial capital and provincial capital. The United States government and the military continue to provide
air support, including kinetic, that is rockets and missiles as late as the day before President Ghani fled with his family and his gazillion dollars -
GORANI: Right --
GARAMENDI: To the UAE --
GORANI: But this doesn't answer -- if I may jump in, congressman --
GARAMENDI: And the government -- I just want --
GORANI: It doesn't --
GARAMENDI: Yes --
GORANI: Answer the question of why the evacuations of the people who worked with the Americans for 20 years were not spread out over a longer
period of time because regardless of the speed of the collapse, the out- date for Americans is September 11th. And that has been known now for a long time. Why not? Is there any --
GARAMENDI: Well, just --
GORANI: Is there any way that there can be a finger of blame pointed at the administration in your view for this failing?
GARAMENDI: You need and everybody needs to understand what is -- what happened. What happened was the fall of the provincial capitals one after
another. And then the question of what was going to happen in Kabul. The Afghan government presumably controlled Kabul and had significant military
presence there. It turned out that, that was not the case.
As one month ago -- one month ago, President Ghani and Abdullah were in Washington D.C., and I sat down with others to have lunch with them. And
they said, we are going to stand firm. We need the following, A, money, B, we continue to need the Intelligence and we continue to need air support.
All of which the president and Congress said you will have.
Now, it turned out that a month later, they simply turned tail and ran away. And the government didn't exist. So, your question is, why was this
not planned earlier?
In fact, evacuations were underway before the disappearance of the Ghani government. That was underway. There was about a month and a half to get it
all done. It turned out that there was not a month and a half to get it done. It turned out that Kabul fell without a fight in one -- within 24
GORANI: All right --
GARAMENDI: Now, where we are today is a situation in which the airport has been secured.
GORANI: Yes --
GARAMENDI: That took about 40 hours to change from the chaos that occurred when the public in Kabul learned that there was no government. There was no
police. There was nothing except the Taliban coming into town. And so, they ran off to the airport, as you might expect that they would. And chaos
ensued and a full day was lost in that process. We now have --
GORANI: Yes --
GARAMENDI: A secure airport and we have flights in and out. Now, back to your question. Should it have been anticipated? You can point fingers
wherever you want. But the fact of the matters is, the Ghani government disappeared without notice to anybody.
GORANI: All right, Congressman John Garamendi, we have to leave it there, thanks very much for joining us from California there with your --
GARAMENDI: Sure --
GORANI: Take there on the unfolding disaster really over the last several days. Just as we've heard by the way for the first time in a few days from
Ashraf Ghani himself. Thanks so much for joining us. And the Taliban are vowing a more moderate version of their historically brutal rule in
Afghanistan. The group is trying to distance themselves from the Taliban that were in power more than 20 years ago. They even held a news
conference, promising mercy for their enemies and an inclusive government that will respect women's rights to an extent.
But as our Sam Kiley tells us, it remains to be seen if they will stay true to their word.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Promises?
SUHAIL SHAHEEN, SPOKESMAN, TALIBAN: We would harbor a new government, an Afghan inclusive Islamic government.
SHAHEEN: Women can continue their education from primary to the higher education.
SHAHEEN: We do not want monopoly of power.
KILEY: Taliban 2.0, more moderate, inclusive power-sharing. From 1996 to 2001, the ultra-conservative Islamists imposed a form of Islam that stoned
homosexuals and shut female schools as it took over much of Afghanistan. Women bore the brunt of this medieval ideology. The movement was toppled by
NATO and Afghan allies intent on ending Taliban rule and the safe haven that it gave to al Qaeda, this plot against America on 9/11. Al Qaeda was
routed, fleeing NATO into scattered exile.
For the next 20 years, the Taliban fought back, taking territory slowly and refining its public relations. Less effort on oppressing women, more on
building trust in local administrations. But millions of Afghans, especially in the cities were encouraged to believe in the freedoms and
democracy that was stamped out by the Taliban. So, when they swept back into the capital, fear took hold.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, if they have changed, why are they stopping women from going to work? Why are they murdering --
FARZANA KOCHAI, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, AFGHANISTAN: Do I have a space here to work for my people in my country or not? So, we are risking our lives
just for this answer.
KILEY: At the Taliban press conference in Kabul, its spokesman insisted that the movement had matured. But he insisted that all human rights,
freedoms and especially the role of women would still be determined by Sharia law. The succeeding government, the Taliban may have little choice
in the face of real politics. It will also need help from the international community. It's been burnishing its diplomatic credentials.
Here, the leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sealing a deal with the U.S., it's now widely derided for shepherding the Taliban to victory. But the
movement has clearly signaled that it needs to govern, rather than rule by force. The question is whether that is something the Taliban can or even
wants to do. Sam Kiley, CNN, London.
GORANI: Still to come, the State Department is expected to give an update soon on the evacuation efforts in Kabul. We'll bring you that briefing
live. Stay with us.
GORANI: Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani's location has been unknown for days. But he has just released a video from the UAE.
Ghani says his objective was to avoid bloodshed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI (voice-over): But for the many Afghans still trying to flee, there were once again scenes of chaos outside Kabul's airport. That is the sound
of Taliban fighters, shooting into the air to disperse the crowd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: We've focused a lot on the race to get out but now I want to talk a look at what life will be like under Taliban rule. Already we're seeing
signs that history may be repeating itself.
Reports suggest three people were killed in the eastern city of Jalalabad; dozens were injured during anti-Taliban protests. In an early show of
dissent, witnesses say protesters removed the militant flag from the main square.
My next guest could have very well been one of those people left behind, uncertain of his future under Taliban rule. Mike Sahak is an Afghan
interpreter for coalition forces and U.S. Special Forces. His family still in Afghanistan but he joins me now from Washington.
Mike Sahak, thanks for being with us.
What was it like for you making it out?
MIKE SAHAK, AFGHAN INTERPRETER: It was a moment of realizing that I just got a new life. I just got a lobby for a new life, to go somewhere and be
safe from what I was expecting that I would be facing if I don't go to the United States.
That was -- to me, that was certain death and probably even worse, in front of family, in front of children. So to me, it was just a whole new life, a
lottery to a new life, moving to the United States.
GORANI: What do you think would have happened to you if you hadn't been able to leave?
SAHAK: I would have been killed, plain and simple. But I don't know which way to take it or how to say it or how to sugarcoat it. But bottom of line
is, it's not just me. I was sponsored or I was given a visa or I was given a letter of recommendation for a visa for a reason. And that was basically
to save my life and move to the United States.
GORANI: Well, the Taliban gave a news conference yesterday and the spokesperson said, no, we're not out for revenge.
GORANI: We want all these people who work with coalition forces to stay in the country. They are safe.
Do you think they're lying?
SAHAK: So speaking from experience -- and these are some of the stuff that someone could only understand if they've been there and they've lived it.
Speaking from experience, so many interpreters have been killed, have been shot in front of their families and their parents, their brothers, their
uncles; their weddings have been destroyed. Their far relatives' weddings have been destroyed. And that still happens.
Two days ago or one day ago -- I don't quite remember because I'm working with my family, I'm talking to them, stress and everything just adds up.
But a few days ago, we saw horrible news and it's these graphic scenes of Afghan interpreters who were shot and thrown in some dirt hole up north,
north of Afghanistan.
So people are scared for their lives. And the bad news just keeps piling up and it gets worse and worse. So I will not be as optimistic --
GORANI: Are you going to --
SAHAK: -- lives of people and the lives of families on the line.
GORANI: -- are you going to be able to bring your family out?
Will they be able to join you in America?
SAHAK: So it's been three days that I'm in Washington, D.C., and I'm knocking door to door, trying to get them out. But I am a college student
and I am not a U.S. citizen yet. I am a green card holder. And there is nowhere for me to put in an application.
There is nowhere for me to talk to somebody, to get a straight answer, where they're like, yes, your family is getting out or they're not getting
out. I don't even know what's happening.
So I am not sure if I could do that or not. So far is answer is there is nothing promising. But the thing I know is that my family is on the run.
They're switching their location every now and then. I can't say how many times. But I don't have an answer to that.
GORANI: I just feel for you so much. You've been in touch with people, who are so worried for their safety, that they've been burning pictures and
documents and ID cards just in case the Taliban come knocking on their door.
SAHAK: Right, yes. Yes. It's horrifying because those are the memories you build with your parents, with your sisters, with your nieces and with your
And now living in America, I'm understanding the values of memory, understanding what those means. And telling them to get rid of it is just -
- it's just bad. It's just a different feeling that I thought I would never experience. But here I am.
GORANI: I mean, what is it going to be like for -- will you -- essentially let me just rephrase that.
But could you ever be happy in America, even though you're safe, knowing that your loved ones are not, that they're having to change locations?
It must be such a weight on your mind every single day, every minute of the day.
SAHAK: I guess it's a little more than that. What bothers me is because I would be the reason, my work for the United States would be the reason that
if they get killed or worse.
So that would -- that would be even worse because I would feel the responsibility that I did it. My decisions sacrificed their lives. So it
would be just -- it would be just bad. I don't know how else to say it but I guess those are just plain and simple words I can put them in.
GORANI: And have you heard from the people you worked with, the coalition forces, the organizations you worked with?
SAHAK: So I am very humbled and I'm very thankful of every -- almost every single team that I've worked with. A lot of veterans have reached out and
offered their support in one way or another.
But to be realistic, it's out of their hand. It's out of their hands. Veterans supported me when I was in Afghanistan. They did what they could.
They gave me a letter of recommendation to leave Afghanistan. They went beyond their power. They went -- they did everything they could.
I guess it's -- now it's a time for the politicians and the policymakers to take substantial and solid steps and basically hang on to the promise --
because I grew up with American soldiers. I graduated from high school and I became a translator. And most of my time was with U.S. soldiers.
SAHAK: And what they taught me was that if you stand by us, we will respect you and we will protect you. And I think this is the time for that
promise to be held on.
So I think just what needs to be done is the veterans did what they could. They did it more than they could. They did it better than everyone else. I
think it's time for the policymakers and the politicians to do the right thing by the translators and their families.
GORANI: Well, just over the last few days, all these interviews that we've had with Afghans, just ordinary people, whether they're still in the
country or out, like you, who have family still in the country, worried about them, feeling guilty that maybe you put them in a tough spot, my
heart goes out to you and I wish you the very best.
SAHAK: Thank you so much for allowing me to speak about the lives of people that are in danger out there in Afghanistan.
GORANI: All right, my pleasure. Thank you, good luck.
With the Taliban returning to power, countries are scrambling to get their citizens and Afghans who worked with them out of harm's way. A military
plane carrying 85 Afghans landed in Rome today, two days after a flight carrying Italian embassy staff and Afghan aides arrived in Rome.
And a second French military plane carrying more than 200 people has landed in Abu Dhabi. France's first evacuation flight from Kabul landed in Paris
on Tuesday. And a Dutch military plane was forced to take off from Kabul without any evacuees on board Tuesday because of chaos at the airport.
So unfortunately that was a wasted flight, which is very frustrating. British prime minister Boris Johnson says U.K. forces have evacuated more
than 2,000 Afghan nationals from Afghanistan so far. That's a very small number compared to the overall number of Afghans who are waiting for
Johnson held a debate in Parliament today. He says the collapse of the country unfolded faster than even the Taliban had predicted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: We must also face the reality of a change of regime in Afghanistan. We will judge this regime based on the
choices it makes and by its actions, rather than by its words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us from London with the latest; 2,000 Afghan evacuees, that's a small number, really, compared to the overall
need in Afghanistan.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a tiny number, Hala. And what we are talking about here is sort of two levels really for the British
You have those who need to get out immediately, who are British nationals, who supported the British government, British troops over the last two
decades. We're talking around 6,000 to 7,000 people potentially that still need to get out.
Numbers again are murky, changing by the hour. We did hear from the ambassador, the British ambassador in Afghanistan. He says they're trying
to scale up these evacuations, trying to get them to about 1,000 people a day. The last number we saw was 700 people a day.
And, of course, this is just the people who need it immediately. You're talking about the second tier now, which is to provide asylum. Many, of
course, today in Parliament, many MPs expressing to prime minister Boris Johnson the sense of abandonment for Afghanistan, the sense that Britain
was turning its back on Afghanistan and demanding there be more of a commitment there.
The prime minister for his part saying there's going to be a resettlement scheme that could potentially see up to 20,000 Afghan nationals resettled
here in the U.K. But that will take time. It will take years potentially.
In the first year, they want to see at least 5,000 resettled in the U.K. But that's just a drop in the bucket. That's why prime minister Boris
Johnson, in this emergency session in Parliament today in a packed house, he really was facing the brunt of these questions.
Of course the predominant one is what happened?
How did it all fall apart so quickly and what does this mean for Britain's sacrifice in Afghanistan?
Over 450 British soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan. There was an emotional moment, where one MP who was a veteran stood up and said, I have
buried friends. I have mean die too young, what does this mean for this country now?
Prime minister Boris Johnson, who is as far as we know, the one and only foreign counterpart who has spoken to President Biden since the fall of
Kabul, echoing his American counterpart, saying essentially this was an inevitability.
At some point, British troops were going to have to pull out, prime minister Boris Johnson said, and that now is the time for the logistics,
the operation on the ground, the actual tactical details to be orchestrated to look at pulling out and evacuating all of these British nationals as
well as the Afghan nationals.
For that, prime minister Boris Johnson says it is necessary to speak to accept the facts on the ground, to speak to the Taliban and to coordinate
these evacuations but by no means recognizing the Taliban's legitimacy.
GORANI: All right, Salma Abdelaziz.
GORANI: Still to come, desperation in Haiti following that massive earthquake, on top of which there were heavy rains. We'll be right back.
GORANI: We are getting a clearer picture now of the devastation in Haiti following last weekend's 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The death toll stands at
more than 1,900 people and heavy rains and mudslides from now hurricane Grace are making it difficult to reach the hardest hit areas.
Officials are issuing an urgent plea for potable water and blood donations as well. And hospitals are overwhelmed. CNN's Matt Rivers has more.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As soon as we arrived to the hospital, so did this man on a stretcher. First responders
brought him to the main hospital in the city of Jeremy, a facility that in reality has no room for him.
Inside Haitian doctors and nurses are doing what they can to manage an influx of earthquake victims. So many have come in, every single bed is
full, so some are simply laid on the floor. There are broken arms and legs, crush wounds from fallen debris and in the case of this 22-month-old,
Evenson, a shattered femur.
"My daughter is suffering," her dad says, "and I don't want her to lose her leg. I'm so sad she is going through this."
Evenson's dad says he pulled her out of the rubble himself.
"I love my daughter very much and I almost lost her. I'm very grateful to these doctors, working with their bare hands. It's horrific for everyone."
Not far from the hospital, there is destruction on every block. Here, ordinary people are clearing this debris because, underneath, was a grocery
store. Food supplies are thin right now, so anything they can find will help.
Hundreds have died here. Many remain missing and thousands were injured, far more than this small health system can handle.
At the hospital, there's only so much these doctors and nurses can do. On a normal day, officials say they treat 10 people here. When we were there, 84
people were waiting for treatment and more were coming in.
"We are we are totally overwhelmed," says the hospital director. "The patients keep coming in and we don't have the means to take care of them
RIVERS (voice-over): A doctor on scene told us at least a third of these people need to be moved to better equipped facilities. If they're not, it
could lead to everything from losing limbs to losing lives. It's what Evenson's dad fears the most. He is doing his best to just keep it together
because he doesn't know what else to do.
GORANI: Matt Rivers reporting there.
Still to come tonight, the world is still taking in the monumental changes in Afghanistan. We'll have a look at how some leaders are reacting when we
return. Stay with us.
GORANI: In the last few minutes Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has been updating on U.S. efforts to get people out of Afghanistan.
She said they've evacuated more than 2,000 people in the last 24 hours and said they are surging resources in Washington and Afghanistan to process
more people and also working with allies to encourage them to take in refugees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY SHERMAN, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: Diplomatic and military personnel are working in lockstep toward the same goal to get as many people who want
to leave Afghanistan and who are vulnerable to Taliban reprisals, because they helped the United States and their allies and partners or who are
otherwise at risk, because of who they are or what they do or what they believe, out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible.
The events and images of the last week have been wrenching for all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: World leaders are watching the Taliban's return to power. Some countries are adopting a wait and see approach. Russia says it will not
rush to recognize the Taliban and the decision will depend, it says, on the group's behavior. Pakistan says it will recognize the regime. China is
maintaining contact. CNN's Arwa Damon reports.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The headlines blur the ugly, almost incomprehensible truth. After 20 years of
war against the world's most powerful armies, the Taliban won. And those countries that once fought them are having to accept that they have to
engage their former foes.
JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: The Taliban have won the war. So we will have to talk with them in order to engage in a dialogue as soon as
BORRELL: -- to prevent a humanitarian and a potential disaster but also a humanitarian crisis.
DAMON (voice-over): After an emergency meeting Tuesday, the E.U.'s foreign policy chief said that the bloc will not recognize but will work with the
Taliban if fundamental human rights are respected.
But it seems that the main concern is how to prevent Afghans from flooding Europe and avoiding a repeat of the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis.
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): France, as I've said, have and will continue to do its duty for those who are most
threatened. We will do our full part in an organized and fair international effort.
But Europe cannot be the only ones to take on consequences of the current situation.
DAMON (voice-over): "The consequences of the current situation," in other words, desperate Afghans wanting to flee the Taliban.
ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): Before talking about quotas, we must first talk about security possibilities for refugees
in the neighborhood of Afghanistan. And I will also discuss this with UNHCR.
Then we can think about as a second step whether especially affected people can be brought to Europe in a controlled and supported way.
DAMON (voice-over): As Europe scrambles to protect itself, Afghanistan's neighbor and fickle American ally, Pakistan's leader praised the Taliban's
takeover as having broken the shackles of slavery.
And where the west Recedes, Russia and China will step in. The two countries' foreign ministers reportedly spoke by phone on Monday to discuss
the unfolding situation.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The fact that the Taliban show a willingness to consider the position of others, in
my opinion, is a positive sign. And they said that they are ready to discuss a government in which not only them but the other representatives
of Afghan powers can be a part.
DAMON (voice-over): It is arguably among the saddest outcomes of a 20-year war that was meant to deliver so much more than this to a population that
has already suffered more than most of us can even imagine -- Arwa Damon, CNN.
GORANI: And clarifying Pakistan's position, it says its decision to recognize the Taliban regime will be part of a regional decision.
Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next.