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Hala Gorani Tonight
Biden Sticks With August 31st Troop Withdrawal Deadline Despite Pleas From Allies; Rolling Stones Drummer Charlie Watts Dies At Age 80; Afghan Women's Rights Hang In the Balance After Taliban Takeover; Germany's Ramstein Air Base Is At Capacity; Airbnb To Host 20,000 Refugees Free; China Reports One New COVID-19 Case As Nanjing Cluster Dwindles; U.S. And Allies Evacuate 21,000 In 24 Hours From Afghanistan. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 24, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Hala Gorani, welcome to the program. This hour, we are expecting the U.S.
president to speak about Afghanistan, and we will bring you that live as soon as it begins. Well, despite pleas from allies, the U.S. is sticking
with its plan to leave Afghanistan one week from today. The senior official says President Joe Biden made up his mind after consulting with his
national security team.
Western allies wanted U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan a little longer so they can continue to evacuate civilians. Over the past two weeks, they've
air-lifted nearly 60,000 people out of the country with more than 20,000 in the past day alone. G7 leaders met earlier today to discuss those efforts,
and they urged the Taliban to guarantee a safe passage to those who want to leave. Well, let's get more now from our chief White House correspondent
Kaitlan Collins as well as our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. Good to have you both with us.
I want to start with you first, Kaitlan, because there is a great deal of pressure on the U.S. president to extend that deadline of August 31st, but
it seems he's sticking to that deadline. What are we expected to hear from him when he explains that decision?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he will go into why he is standing by that deadline for now. What he told G7
leaders earlier today was that really, they're incredibly concerned about the security situation on the ground. That isn't something that officials
have been tracking for the last several days, this threat of potential terrorist attacks, and essentially the thinking at the White House is that
the longer U.S. troops are on the ground, the higher that threat becomes. And it's a real one for President Biden.
And so, this does not mean, I don't believe, that this is a hard and fast deadline. President Biden did tell these world leaders that he is standing
by it for now, but he was also pushed by these world leaders to consider every possibility that they believed they had to potentially extend that
deadline, because, of course, any time counts.
That is what you've heard from lawmakers saying they do not believe it's enough time to get everyone out of there in just a week from now when that
deadline is up, a self-imposed deadline by the United States, but one that the White House believes if they don't meet, it is going to create issues
with the Taliban.
So, that is kind of what all of this is hinging on, given what you're hearing from the Taliban today that this is something they want the U.S. to
stick by. They also are trying to block some Afghan nationals from getting to the airport, and instead want them to remain in Afghanistan.
So that is going to be another challenge facing the White House is how they deal with that. Because so far this entire situation is dependent on the
cooperation of the Taliban letting these people through these check-points to actually get to the airport in Kabul. And so that is what President
Biden said during this meeting with world leaders.
He is expected to speak any moment from now, and could potentially elaborate more on that decision that he's making for now to stick by that
August 31st deadline to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
KINKADE: All right, Kaitlan, we will come back to the White House when the U.S. president speaks. Good to have you with us, thanks so much. I want to
go to Nic on this deadline, because the Taliban have said that it is a hard out. We have heard that the president -- U.S. president is going to stick
to that deadline which is one week from today. How are the G7 leaders responding? Because allies of the U.S. wanted to extend that withdrawal
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think there is some reality and resignation built into the EU's position and the rest
of the G7 representatives there as well, and that is fundamentally, the United States has the most skin in the game in Afghanistan. The nations
can't go it alone, albeit, it was a coalition of NATO nations. The reality is that they have to go along with what the United States wants, they can't
do it by themselves.
So, I think we're hearing that in some of the language that's coming out of the G7, and that is that they have put a priority, their biggest priority
is that all those people who want to be able to get out of Afghanistan who have, you know, served their member nations over the years, whether it's
the United States or Germany or France on whatever capacity, and they have an obligation to those people that they are allowed to leave.
And not just to the August 31st deadline, but beyond that deadline. So I think, you know, that's the way that we're seeing the G7 members respond to
this situation, is to put it back on the Taliban and say, OK, the position is obviously not extending, but we expect you to extend those rights to
those people who want to leave on our name to let them continue to get out of the country.
KINKADE: And so, just explain for us, Nic, what means the G7 has to ensure the safe exit of people from Afghanistan. What's on the table? Are economic
sanctions part of that?
ROBERTSON: You know, it's -- all these things come back to money, don't they? Always. You know, we're not hearing explicit talk about sanctions in
the future, but what we heard from Charles Michel, the EU Commission president -- EU Council president rather, saying that, you know, the future
relationship with the Taliban is going to depend on their actions and behaviors, and their actions towards women, their actions towards children,
whether or not they value human rights, all these different issues, whether or not they combat terrorism within the country, whether or not they live
up to all their other international obligations.
So, I think there's, you know, the Taliban are hearing that the international communities' relationship with them is going to be dependent
on the way that they behave, and part of that relationship comes down to money, it comes down to aid. The country needs -- the Taliban who are
running the country are going to need to help run the country, and I think the other message from the European Union really got to the G7 members, but
particularly the European Union really got to that issue of concern for them of a big influx of refugees from Afghanistan arriving in Europe.
They saw what happened to the sort of political situation in Europe, the destabilizing effect that, that big surge of refugees had coming from Syria
back in 2015. So, right now, they're pledging money and support. Germany put up $117 million in immediate aid, and over $580 million in longer-term
humanitarian assistance, and part of this is targeted to the countries around Afghanistan to handle the potential outfall of refugees, to handle
it in the region. And I think that is a significant message. Of course, the Taliban need these countries in the region to be able to function -- you
know, to be able to function as a country.
So, there is a lot of inter-dependency built in here, and inter-dependency isn't something that the Taliban is used to. It's used to going about its
business the way it wants to do it, and reject what the world has told it. So, this is a cross-roads for the Taliban, too.
KINKADE: All right, Nic Robertson for us in Washington D.C., good to have you on this story, we will speak to you again soon, no doubt. And we are,
of course, waiting to hear from U.S. President Biden. He's meant to speak this hour at the White House on Afghanistan and that withdrawal deadline
one week from today, August 31st, to get all U.S. troops out of the country.
Well, for now, I want to bring in Adam Boehler who is one of the only Americans to ever negotiate with the Taliban. Now, he served in the Trump
administration as the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and U.S. military of course and allies have been evacuating
people over the last few days.
Good to have you on the program with us, Adam.
ADAM BOEHLER, FORMER CEO, U.S. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT FINANCE CORPORATION: Thanks for having me.
KINKADE: So, you negotiated with the Taliban, just give us the background, how long did those talks go on? What was the aim from the outset?
BOEHLER: I met with the senior leadership of the Taliban twice alongside Zad, Ambassador Khalilzad, and my role in the discussion, I ran the
International Development Finance Corporation which is kind of the U.S. development fund, we have a $60 billion fund. And the main discussion with
the Taliban was, in a context of a peaceful transition and a transitional government, some of the upside associated from an economic perspective.
You know, as you know, Afghanistan has a lot of natural resources, there's a lot of great things that you could accomplish, and the main point to them
was, this is what peace could look like economically as well as diplomatically.
KINKADE: So, right now, it's pretty incredible to hear that the CIA director has been meeting with the Taliban to negotiate what's going on
right now with the evacuations. What do you make of those talks now that we're learning about them?
BOEHLER: I mean, I think that they're important talks to have. I mean, I'm a big believer in having discussions. I think the important thing -- and
this is my lesson from dealing with the Taliban, on one side, they can be a disciplined militia, on the other side, they're a regional militia.
And so, what's important in this is strength and unity. If the Taliban understand that there are repercussions and there is accountability, then
the Taliban will respond. They've shown they can respond themselves before. But if we're not united as allies and we're not giving a unified message
and there is no strength behind that message, then a regional militia is not going to respond to that.
KINKADE: So, what did you achieve with your negotiations with the Taliban, and what can be achieved right now?
BOEHLER: So, I think the discussion with the Taliban was, as I said, what the upside looked like, and the Taliban understood that. I mean, I was
hearing just earlier on a report, people are motivated economically, that's what it always comes down to, is economic incentives.
And so, speaking in terms of economic incentives is fine as long as you also have the "have-to" military power behind you. So, my suggestion going
forward is, number one, it's really important that the United States and our allies present a unified front. Because you have other autocratic
nations -- and I'm talking about China and Russia here, that have their own interests here.
And so for us to be united and act together is an important thing. Number two, the Taliban needs to understand that if we don't end up in a positive
situation, there will be repercussions, and you know, full repercussions there, not only economically from a military perspective.
So, I think, number one, it's unifying together, and then providing a strong front that is not only economic or diplomatic, but it's military and
Intelligence as well.
KINKADE: So, right now, the U.S. has just one week to leave. The Taliban want the U.S. gone. What leverage does the U.S. have right now in terms of
BOEHLER: I think the president of the United States is considering whether it's a date that matters or whether it's a mission that matters. My
recommendation would be it's the mission that matters. United States ethos is that we take care of American citizens, we take care of our allies. And
so, from my perspective, the mission ends when our allies and our citizens are safe.
KINKADE: And so, what happens once that deadline is reached? Should there still be people left behind? And given the numbers that are still there,
it's very likely that there will be people left behind. How do you see this playing out?
BOEHLER: I think the deadline is an artificial deadline. Again, I would set that based on the mission. So, if we're not -- if we have not accomplished
the mission by that deadline, we set that deadline, we can change that deadline.
KINKADE: The Taliban also have set that deadline. They want the U.S. out by that date. How do you think they will respond, given the fact that you've
spoken with them in the past, what are they likely to do once that deadline is reached?
BOEHLER: I don't -- I mean, at the end of the day, the United States and our allies, they just speak for ourselves and what we need to accomplish.
And so, I think the Taliban understand our goals, if they want us to reach that specific deadline, then it's going to be really important that we
accomplish the mission. But I would be very clear to the Taliban what the mission is, and that is to get our people out safely and our allies out
safely. And until that has occurred, we don't turn our backs, and the Taliban are going to have to understand that.
We don't make policy on the basis of what the Taliban say. I think we can fairly communicate where we are, but if I were in the administration's
shoes right now, I would accomplish the mission at all costs.
KINKADE: All right, Adam Boehler, good to get your perspective, appreciate your time today, thanks so much.
BOEHLER: Thank you for having me.
KINKADE: Well, we are of course awaiting U.S. President Biden to discuss the decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by a week's time, by
August 31st. We're going to take that press conference live when it happens later this hour. Well, still to come, they made it out of Kabul, but what's
next for the thousands of refugees fleeing the Taliban? An expert on resettlement will join me live later this hour.
Plus, he was known as the reluctant rocker. Rolling Stones' drummer Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80. We're going to take a look at his life and
legacy when we come back.
KINKADE: Welcome back. A member of one of the world's most iconic bands has died at the age of 80.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Drummer Charlie Watts there playing one of the Rolling Stones' biggest hits. His agent says he passed away peacefully in a London
hospital. The news coming weeks after the Stones announced Watts would miss their upcoming tour after undergoing an unspecified medical procedure.
Well, Anthony DeCurtis is a contributing editor for "Rolling Stone Magazine" and joins me now from New York. Good to have you with us.
This was completely unexpected because up until earlier this month, Charlie Watts was indeed expected to tour with the Rolling Stones here in the
United States. No one really saw this coming.
ANTHONY DECURTIS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: Yes, exactly. You know, there was first the announcement of the tour and then
the announcement that Charlie wouldn't be able to join them, but it was all presented as, oh, you know, I just spoke to my doctors, everything was
successful, you know, if we do more dates, I'll be back on board. And you know -- but that was evidently not the case.
KINKADE: Yes, talk to us about his legacy. Because he was 80 years old still playing, still, as I said slated to tour, and he of course met Mick
Jagger and Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in a London pub back in the '60s. Talk to us about his legacy.
DECURTIS: Well, you know, the Stones, you know, really had to -- I mean, Charlie was kind of a star already when he joined the Rolling Stones. I
mean, any rock band will tell you that great drummers are hard to find, and Keith Richards once said, we shop-lifted to be able to pay Charlie to join
Charlie was -- you know, people call the Rolling Stones the greatest rock and roll band in the world, and one of the reasons is because of Charlie
Watts. You know, the Stones swing in ways that like really almost no other rock band ever has, and it's because of Charlie Watts.
Charlie Watts and Keith Richards are the Stones' rhythm section. You know, most bands is the bassist and the drummer, where in the Stones, it's Keith
Richards and Charlie Watts. And you know -- you know, the bassist kind of follows them along. But that push and pull, Keith just pushing forward and
Charlie Watts like hanging back creates this incredible kind of movement in every one of those Stones' classics, "Satisfaction", "Jumping Jack Flash",
"Start Me Up", you know, that's what's going on there, and that's why stadiums full of people still rock to the Rolling Stones.
KINKADE: Yes, and we've heard him described today as one of the greatest drummers of his generation. And interestingly, he was -- he and Keith
Richards and Mick Jagger did appear on every single Stones album, right?
DECURTIS: Yes, and Charlie did every single show, you know? This tour was going to be the first time he missed the show since 1963 in January when he
joined the band. You know, he was, you know -- he was both the anchor and the mover of the Rolling Stones.
You know, just -- I mean, I remember when the Stones went back on tour in 1989, they'd been off the road. Pete Townshend from the Who and Eric
Clapton went to see them, and the Stones hadn't played live in a while, and they both were talking. They were just saying like Charlie Watts is just
like better than ever. Like that's what they were talking about. Musicians always knew how great Charlie was.
KINKADE: All of them are quite incredible, though, considering their ages to still be playing and touring, right?
DECURTIS: Oh, no question. I mean, I saw the Stones the last time they were out, 2019. They killed. And you know, Jagger is just, you know, I mean, you
almost don't even want to say it, but just miraculous at this point. You know, he's 78 and you know, still carrying on, on stage like -- let alone
half his age, younger than that. So, the Stones -- you know, the Stones believe in what they're doing. You know, that's what really -- you know,
people talk about the money and, you know, they're old and all this other stuff. The Stones play like they did every night.
KINKADE: Yes, it is quite incredible that, you know, they've been around together for such a long time, and of course, Charlie Watts leaves behind
children and grandchildren.
DECURTIS: Yes. You know, Charlie wasn't, you know, somebody who lived the rock and roll life. You know, I mean, you know, obviously, we know all the
stories about Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. But Charlie was, you know, somebody -- he liked his Bespoke suits, he was always extremely well
And you know, when he wasn't out with the Stones, he was just, you know, a family man. And -- but, you know, when the call came, he showed up, and he
loved the band, you know? And he loved Mick, and you know, he was so much a part of what the sound of the Rolling Stones is.
You know, the great thing about Charlie is that he was never showy. You know, it was all just in service of the song and in service of the band.
You know, no 20-minute solos, you know, none of that stuff. No -- it was everything that he played was essential.
KINKADE: Incredible. Charlie Watts aged 80, Rolling Stones drummer. Anthony DeCurtis; contributing editor at the Rolling Stone, thanks so much for
joining us today to talk about Charlie Watts' legacy. We appreciate your time.
DECURTIS: Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
KINKADE: Well, we are still waiting to hear from U.S. President Joe Biden to address the situation in Afghanistan. In the meantime, the U.N. Human
Rights chief says the Taliban's treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan will mark a fundamental red line. At an emergency session in Geneva, she
said violations are already taking place. The Taliban has pledged to respect women's rights within Sharia law. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz explains
that is open to interpretation.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): After takeover, the Taliban vowed to govern Afghanistan by Sharia. When asked how that would differ
from the group's rule two decades ago, this was the answer.
"If this question is based on thoughts, ideology, beliefs, then there is no difference. We have the same beliefs", the group's spokesman said. The
Taliban says it's forming an inclusive government that will ensure women's rights within an Islamic framework. But because Sharia is not a codified
system of laws, what that means is entirely up to the Taliban themselves, says Professor Hisham Hellyer.
HISHAM HELLYER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE CENTER OF ISLAMIC STUDIES: When we talk about Sharia in a public context, then again
interpretations for how that is applied as Islamic law, they differ tremendously across the board.
ABDELAZIZ: The group's record is bleak. The Taliban's draconian regime from 1996 to 2001 was widely criticized by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. And
modern legislative applications of Sharia by other Muslim majority states provide little comfort. Take, for example, Iran, a country ruled by a
strict Shia interpretation of Islam. There, the morality police subject women and girls to daily harassment and violent attacks says Amnesty
In Qatar, women are denied the right to make key decisions about their lives, from marriage to work without a male relative, Human Rights Watch
reports. And under Saudi's male guardianship system, women must obtain permission for some of their most basic rights. Men can even file cases for
disobedience, rights groups say. But there has been a recent shift in the kingdom, a driving ban was reversed and travel restrictions on females
eased in recent years.
HELLYER: There are certain interpretations that are held up, and then there are other interpretations that are equally valid in Islamic law that are
not. Why? That's a public policy decision.
ABDELAZIZ: And that's exactly what the Taliban say they are changing. They want to engage on a global stage.
HELLYER: They also have to take into account relationships that they have with powerful actors outside of the country.
ABDELAZIZ: That leaves the U.S. and its allies with one key piece of leverage, international recognition and legitimacy. Hanging in the balance,
the 20 years of gains and rights and liberties for the women and girls of Afghanistan. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.
KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, tired, frustrated and facing an uncertain future. Thousands of Afghan evacuees find temporary refuge at a
U.S. airbase in Ramstein, Germany. We'll have a live report just ahead. And imagine, you made it into Kabul airport, onto a plane and to a new country.
What do you do next? We're going to speak to the head of a refugee organization about how to help.
KINKADE: Well, the U.S. military and allies have evacuated more than 21,000 people from Kabul since early Monday. The new pace is promising considering
the chaos early on. But the Taliban continues to put pressure on the U.S. Today, a Taliban spokesperson said he doesn't want Afghan citizens to leave
the country. And he stressed that the U.S. has this last week to complete the operation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIULLAH MUJAHID, SPOKESPERSON, TALIBAN (through translator): My message to the Americans is to get out all the nationals before the 31st. They have
the resources, they have the airport, they have the planes, they should evacuate all their forces, all their contractors before that date. The
Afghans leaving, we are not going to allow that and we're not even happy about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Doha with more on this. And Nick, so more than 20,000 people were airlifted in the last 24 hours,
another 16,000, 24 hours prior to that. Things sound to be ramping up. How many more people left are there to try to evacuate in the next week?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, we don't know.
And it's clear the Pentagon don't want to say that their priority group, the number of Americans still left, are now numbering X thousand.
For security reasons most likely but I have to say also, too, the indefinite nature of all the numbers involved in this, apart from the
extraordinary figures of people who've been taken off the airport, essentially means that the U.S. can put the goalposts down as to what they
consider to be success here.
We don't know how many special immigrant visa applicants are still out there in Afghanistan or Kabul, trying to get to the airport. We think there
is probably something just short of about 4,000 local embassy staff, who worked for the U.S. embassy who are Afghan, who are most likely to qualify
for the SIV program.
But we also know that today there are about 4,500 on the airport. We know the number taking off. I'm looking at some of the tracking sites for
airplanes over Kabul at the moment and it's crazy. There are a lot of aircraft going in and out.
So I expect we will see a very large number again soon, too.
So the question really is, how many more can they take off?
How many more days do they want to keep this up?
And when do they start focusing on taking part of the 6,000 strong, possibly more by now, because the numbers we're seeing on the ground of
various different detachments are extraordinary.
When do they start pulling the military equipment back?
A source I spoke to familiar with the situation talked about the need for that, quite possibly to begin tomorrow morning in order to meet the
deadline by late on the 30th so not on the 31st they're still standing around the airport.
That process is called retrograde, when you start to pack things up, move things around and look to the exit rather than put things on planes and fly
out. But it's a very complex task. These are the last American troops in Afghanistan after a 20-year war.
They'll be leaving surrounded by their enemy. Now strangely, the interlocutor during this process, the Taliban -- and of course wanting to
be sure they leave nothing behind that could damage the possibility of this being a functioning civilian airport but also potentially be of use to the
Taliban or other extremist groups, potentially, inside that country.
So it's a very fraught task ahead of them and clearly remarkable efforts over the past 36-48 hours to get north of 30,000 people off the airport in
that period of time.
We just have to essentially, at some point, work out -- and the United States has to say when it feels its task evacuating ends, because it's
highly unlikely, in my opinion, they will want to have large numbers of Afghans still on the base when they begin that moments of trying to
consolidate their presence militarily and begin to pack up and leave -- Lynda.
KINKADE: The Pentagon has been saying the flow of the airport through Kabul has improved significantly.
What's changed, because we discussed in the last few days how chaotic it was, are things certainly improving?
WALSH: Yes and, clearly, from Sam's reporting on the ground, it's much more orderly than it was when I saw it a week ago and Clarissa went through on
Friday, which were scenes of chaos for us both, to be honest.
Clearly there is a Taliban perimeter, now checking documents of people on their way to the airport. That will certainly be slowing some traffic down.
The gates are closed, so the idea that pressure could result in some members of the crowd getting into the airport may have lapsed.
But the most important thing that's reduced the chaos on the airport is the fact they are able to ship tens of thousands of people off in aircraft
every day. So that certainly has removed the crowded scenes and left the number of 4,000 to 5,000 on the base more manageable.
What we don't know is if that is the token number they allow on the base and they bring fresh people on as they ship people on the airport off in
aircraft or quite what that means for the number who have passed through the airport in the last day or so.
The numbers are what we get from the U.S. government and pass them on to you. So the transparency in all that will hopefully increase in the days
ahead. But there is no way to deny how extraordinary some of these figures have been in terms of what they have achieved in the last 48 hours. Lynda?
KINKADE: Yes. Nick Paton Walsh in Doha, Qatar, thank you very much.
In just 24 hours, 21,000 people have begun making their way to freedom. Thousands have experienced the relief of boarding an allied plane but many
more are in danger of being left behind.
Germany's foreign minister admits it's, quote, "bitter" to negotiate with the Taliban but he says it must be done to avoid abandoning people.
But even for those who escaped, the future is uncertain. Atika Shubert joins us from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where officials say they are
getting close to capacity. Give us a sense of the situation there, from from the people who have been arriving.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The number has really swelled and we've been there for the last few days. But today it
really hit us just how massive the operation is because we could see that what really started as a dozen more tents has now grown to hundreds of
Originally the capacity was 5,000. That grew to more than 7,000 and now the capacity has grown even further. At the moment, there are about 7,000
evacuees on the base. Keep in mind, in the first three days of this, there were 39 C-17 flights, flying in almost every 90 minutes. It was a
staggering logistical operation.
The problem is that there is a bit of a bottleneck in processing evacuees. There should be, according to the State Department, a prioritized list for
U.S. citizen, green card holders, permanent residents and those with those special immigrant visas.
But what has happened is it's taken a long time to sort through all of the evacuees. There have only been a handful of flights. I believe there were
four when I last checked this afternoon, four flights to bring evacuees to the United States.
About 700 were able to be flown out. That seems like a lot but, remember, there are 7,000 still on the base and there are more flights expected from
Doha and Kabul as well. So there's a little bit of a bottleneck here.
However, the State Department said they're working to speed that up and now commercial air liners are flying evacuees to the U.S. so that should speed
things up as well.
KINKADE: How are they handling the influx to house people, to feed people?
And at what point can they no longer add more tents?
SHUBERT: It really looks like a huge refugee camp, quite frankly, one that's very orderly but it's a giant tent city inside the air base. And the
capacity now, I think, has gone up to about 10,000.
They've got more than 300 tents up there. And they're giving out three warm meals a day. They're providing the shelter in the tents. But I have to say
it's still very basic facilities.
People said they haven't been able to take showers, for example. We've talked to evacuees that say while they're grateful and they feel relieved
to be safe and secure, they feel like they've been here too long and they just want to get to the U.S.
The one thing every single evacuee says to me is that they want internet, they want wi-fi, they want a way to communicate with their families back
home, because they're very worried about family members who've been left behind and they're not always able to communicate with them.
So what was supposed to be a transit stop of just 48 hours, which I think many of the evacuees expected, it's turning out to be much longer, maybe
seven days for some of them. So it's tough on them, it's frustrating but they say they're grateful to be safe and they'll just have to wait it out.
KINKADE: A difficult situation, given they were able to get out of the country. Atika Shubert, good to have you with us. Thank you.
The evacuation from Afghanistan is just the beginning of a long journey for many refugees. As difficult as it was to get out of Kabul -- we're going to
take a quick break right now, I'm told. We will be right back in just a moment.
KINKADE: Welcome back.
Airbnb said it will give 20,000 Afghan refugees around the world temporary housing for free beginning immediately. The company's CEO made the
announcement on Twitter and said he hopes it inspires other business leaders to do the same.
Brian Chesky called the displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees "one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time."
CNN's Anna Stewart joins me now from London.
And, Anna, this isn't the first time Airbnb have offered to help people at a time of crisis. Explain for us how this is going to work.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, it's not the first time but this is pretty different. In the past, they have run similar schemes ever
since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, where about a thousand people offered up their homes for people who were displaced.
This is different because it's not the hosts saying they're going to give their properties for free; this is actually Airbnb saying they will pay
with their non-profit, airbnb.org, to get shelter for 20,000 Afghan refugees. They're going to do it immediately, all over the world.
And they will work with NGOs on the ground, with resettlement agencies to allocate the housing. That's how it's going to work, not through the actual
app. This is the good news. This is the detail that we have.
But of course, that's all we have. The devil is really in the detail with these things, so good news story here but we're waiting for a little more
KINKADE: It's always a bit of a challenge trying to help refugees settle into a community.
No idea in terms of how long this is going to last, how much they're willing to spend?
STEWART: Those for me are the key questions and we're still waiting for Airbnb to respond or comment.
How much money are they willing to pour into this and for how long?
I think that's a really big challenge because the schemes they've run in the past are often in response to natural disasters, a hurricane, wildfire,
sometimes people who are displaced for a few weeks.
But these are refugees who will need a much more long-term housing solution and governments are really under pressure. Tens of thousands of Afghan
refugees arriving in countries over the last few days.
This is great news but, yes, we want to know just how long it's going to help and exactly where these people will be housed. But it is a good news
story and it's the first corporate really to make this announcement, that they will directly help Afghan refugees.
KINKADE: You do wonder if this will inspire other corporates to help, whether it be in terms of funding or other sort of services. Of course,
Airbnb has houses and homes all around the world, so potentially any sort of city that these refugees land in, they may find homes through Airbnb.
Do we know how they go about this?
Is it through refugee organizations, once they land in a particular country?
STEWART: Again, this is some of the detail we don't really have. In terms of the refugee themselves, how they would go about finding this housing, I
think it will be down to the NGOs on the ground and how they work with governments once the refugees are processed.
So this could take some time. In terms of people who want to help, the CEO in one of many tweets this morning really is encouraging people and
businesses to shout out if they want to help.
You can contact Airbnb and use it perhaps for this purpose. But there may be certain requirements and that's where we really want more detail from
governments and Airbnb. It might be quite different in each jurisdiction. Lynda?
KINKADE: It is a good news story, which is a nice change. Thanks so much.
Let's take a look at the latest on the coronavirus pandemic. China's zero tolerance approach on new infections seems to be working. Locally
transmitted cases have dropped and an outbreak is easing.
KINKADE: Here's Kristie Lu Stout with more.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: China reported one new case of COVID-19. On Monday it reported zero new cases for the first time since
July, with a sign that the latest outbreak may be tapering off for the country known for its zero tolerance approach to the virus.
China's Delta outbreak first emerged in Nanjing in July and spread to over half of the 31 provinces. More than 1,200 people have been confirmed to be
infected. And sweeping pandemic measures have been imposed, including lockdowns, mass testing campaigns, extensive quarantine and travel
And dozens of officials have been held accountable for failing to rein in the virus. A virologist at the University of Hong Kong said that the
outbreak is reaching an end and says it is vindication for China's zero COVID-19 approach to some extent because China has no choice due to the
less than ideal effectiveness of its home-grown vaccines.
China needs roll out a third injection of its vaccines or a messenger RNA vaccine, like Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech. Otherwise cases could spike
again. Nearly 60 percent of the Chinese population have been vaccinated and China has administered over 1.9 billion cases of the vaccines -- Kristie Lu
Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
KINKADE: The COVID virus Delta variant is spreading in Australia, despite strict lockdowns. New South Wales reported 753 local cases on Monday. It's
a slight drop from the state's all-time record set just two days earlier.
But vaccinations are starting to pick up in some areas. Government are saying roughly 30 percent of those 16 and up are now fully vaccinated.
Australia's prime minister has said reopening plans will go forward once that reaches 70 percent.
The White House is discussing its plans to give Americans a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The coronavirus response coordinator says the U.S.
is aiming to roll out booster shots in about a month. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We are acting aggressively to stay ahead of the virus and are planning for booster shots
starting the week of September 20th, pending FDA and ACIP approval. We expect the rule will be simple: get your booster shot eight months after
you got your second shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: We're going to take a quick break. We will have much more on the situation in Afghanistan in just a moment. Stay with us. You're watching
KINKADE: We are still waiting for U.S. President Joe Biden to speak about Afghanistan and we'll bring you that when it happens.
The evacuation from Afghanistan, of course, is just the beginning of a long journey for many refugees. As difficult as it was to get into and out of
Kabul airport, much bigger challenges could lie ahead as they try to establish a new life in a foreign country.
Krish O'Mara Vignarajah is the president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and joins us now.
Thank you for being with us.
KRISH O'MARA VIGNARAJAH, LUTHERAN IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE SERVICE: Thank you for having me.
KINKADE: As I understand it, you've been meeting with families from Afghanistan as they enter the U.S.
How do they do that and have they been able to bring their families with them?
VIGNARAJAH: It's incredible to see families come together. I was actually working especially closely with a family of 10, which was the largest
family that was on the base that day.
They come and they have this sense of mixed emotions. You can see a palpable sense of relief and hope for a brighter and safer future here in
the U.S. But you can also sense fear and sadness for the family that they left behind.
So many are leaving parents and siblings behind, because they're not eligible to come --cousins, extended family, friends, essentially the only
home they've ever known.
KINKADE: Yes. And it's so tough for them not knowing what's going on for family members back home in Afghanistan. I'm wondering if you know how many
families have arrived in the U.S. so far from Afghanistan over the last couple of months.
And how are they being resettled and what is their immediate need right now?
VIGNARAJAH: Yes, so we know that there are nearly 50,000 families that have been evacuated from Afghanistan. We know thousands have arrived in the U.S.
But we're still trying to figure out exactly the precise number, knowing there will be a significant increase in the next few days, the next few
They will initially be located at military bases throughout the U.S., so, as I Mentioned, Fort Lee in Virginia. Fort bliss in Texas is going to be
receiving a significant number in the next few weeks, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin as well as Fort Dix in New Jersey.
So they'll be there for a few days, perhaps a little bit longer than that, before they get to their ultimate destination in states across the country.
KINKADE: And for those you have been speaking to, shed a little bit more light on it for us in terms of their fears for their families back home in
Afghanistan, who weren't able to evacuate and what they think about the withdrawal as it's played out.
VIGNARAJAH: Yes, the last 24 hours has been horrific. What they have heard from their families are that very few have a safe passage to the airport.
Once they arrive at the airport, they face chaos, violence; some have been beaten and battered.
I had a couple examples of families, who have said, we're not going to go back and try again, that we'd rather be shot dead by the Taliban than be
trampled getting into the airport.
And then, of course, in the last several hours, we heard the accounts of people, who are indicating that Afghan nationals are no longer getting into
the airport and won't be allowed to be evacuated. So the families that we talked to, they're incredibly fearful.
They have explained Taliban going door to door, you know, with guns, looking for American affiliated Afghans, as well as Afghans that served the
coalition forces. So this is going to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.
KINKADE: It's absolutely horrific and, of course, we know that thousands -- tens of thousands of people are displaced within the country just in recent
months; 270,000 since January alone.
For those left behind who may not have any chance of evacuating, especially given that the U.S. is set to withdraw within a week, what can be done to
help them at this point in time?
VIGNARAJAH: Unfortunately, while the military response has been incredible in the last seven days, that avenue is going to be closing, it seems, in
just the next couple days.
VIGNARAJAH: It seems, to the extent there are very limited options, one might be trying to find access in crossing the border into Pakistan. But
what we know is the Taliban are controlling the borders.
We have heard very limited accounts of people who have been able to go across Iran to reach Turkey. But honestly, between getting out of
Afghanistan through any of the potentially porous borders, which is unlikely and also looking to private means, meaning charter flights,
veterans' groups that have mobilized and are trying to identify those who are especially vulnerable and undertake these extraction operations, the
prospects are looking dimmer and dimmer.
KINKADE: For those already in the U.S. or around the world getting some sort of refugee help, what can people do right now to help?
VIGNARAJAH: These have been very dark days but what has been fueling my staff with immigration refugee service is the outpouring of support. We've
had 33,000 volunteers come through the lrs.org website to volunteer.
People are willing to donate money, food, diaper kits, basic hygiene supplies. They're offering up apartments that they may have that are
vacant, rooms in their own houses, lawyers offering pro bono services.
So these are exactly the kinds of things we're going to need. This is very time intensive. We need volunteers to go to the airport and pick up new
Afghan families that are arriving. We need volunteers to help furnish apartments as we try to set them up, even stock their refrigerator with
culturally familiar foods, drive these individuals to their ESL classes or medical appointments.
And so if you go to the lrs.org website, you can sign up there. We're going to continue to put out specific needs as they come up. In the last 24
hours, grocery carts have even been important.
KINKADE: So still plenty of things that people can do to help. We appreciate your time and all the work you're doing. Krish O'Mara
Vignarajah, thanks so much.
VIGNARAJAH: Thank you.
KINKADE: I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. Stay with CNN. We'll continue the coverage on Afghanistan as we await the
arrival of President Biden. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.