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Hala Gorani Tonight
Taliban Celebrate As U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan; Some Americans Left Behind After Afghanistan Withdrawal; Rainfall Around Hurricane Ida Stretches Nearly 1,000 Kilometers; Ida Leaves Over One Million Louisianans Without Power; Desperate Afghans Try To Cross Border To Pakistan; U.S. Air Base In Germany Shelters Thousands Of Evacuees; Blind Afghanistan War Veteran Makes History As Paralympian. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 31, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm Isa Soares in for HALA GORANI TONIGHT. A new era in Afghanistan
as the Taliban celebrating life without U.S. troops. But what lies ahead now that forces have left? Then a momentous day in U.S. history as the
country ends its longest war. We'll bring you President Joe Biden's address live.
And later, a desperate escape for one former Afghan interpreter who only just managed to flee with his family. We'll show you his remarkable journey
to the United States. But first, the Taliban call it a historical moments. The critics of the frantic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan call it a
humiliating defeat, I should say. We'll soon hear President Joe Biden's take on the end of a 20-year war that left the Taliban in charge and
stronger than ever. This is the scene at Kabul's airport today as Afghanistan begins an uncertain new era.
The Taliban are patrolling, as you can see there in convoys. Some posing with aircraft as well as U.S. military equipment. The country's new rulers
declared victory after America's longest war ended in the dark of night. The last U.S. plane left the country just before midnight. U.S. defense
officials now tell CNN, the military negotiated a COVID deal with the Taliban to escort some Americans to those airport gates. Well, U.S. special
forces also set up a secret gate to expedite the entry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: And as you heard there, the Taliban celebrated the end of the war with gunfire as well as fireworks. But many Afghans are fearful of what
might lie ahead as you can imagine. Kevin Liptak is in Washington with a preview of Mr. Biden's address and Nic Robertson following all these
developments tonight from Islamabad. Kevin, let me start with you, give us a sense of what we can expect to hear from President Biden today.
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, this is certainly a symbolic moment for the president, but it is not a celebratory one, we're told. Of
course, the president wanting to mark this moment after 20 years of war, but I think it's notable that he's coming out the day after the U.S.
military involvement in Afghanistan ended.
He left the operational details yesterday to the Pentagon, to the State Department. He wanted to put some space between himself and the end of the
war so he could kind of put into broader context what the last 20 years and the last two and a half weeks of this frantic air-lift effort.
Now, I'm told that the president will thank commanders and service members who helped facilitate the air-lift, more than 124,000 people made it out of
Afghanistan because of those efforts. He'll talk about his larger decision to end this war after 20 years.
This is something that he has been talking about for the last ten years, at least both when he was vice president, even before that when he was a
senator, talking about questions about how this war was unfolding. And he'll talk about his desire to realign American foreign policy away from
these post-9/11 conflicts and more towards threats that he sees as more relevant like China and Russia.
SOARES: Yes --
LIPTAK: Now, while the U.S. military involvement is over, there are still plenty of questions. The 100 to 200 Americans who are still left in
Afghanistan, Afghan allies who are still there, the massive refugee resettlement program that will have to take place in the United States,
questions about how the U.S. will engage with the Taliban and of course questions about counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan.
Those are all questions that the president will face going forward. But today, I think it's more about the symbolic moment and the president trying
to put his decision into a larger context for the American people as they look to see what happens going forward, Isa.
SOARES: Kevin Liptak there for us. Thanks very much, Kevin, we'll keep -- we'll bring you of course that speech by the president and as soon as it
happens. Nic, I want to go to you, if I may. You heard what Kevin was saying that there are questions of course regarding those Americans, green
card holders, those allies still in Afghanistan, as many as 200 or so, those who want to leave. That's what the president said they'll be staying,
those who want to leave, they would help them to leave. How difficult operationally, Nic, will this be done without no boots on the ground?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: If it's to be done at all, it's going to involve, it appears, regular civilian airlines flying
back into Kabul airport once it's up and running again, and the Taliban allowing those people through their border control check points.
Now the EU, through France and Germany and others and again at the U.N. said -- and the U.N. backed this up saying that there should be sort of a
called on if you will allowed for these foreign nationals to exit Afghanistan without obstruction, that the Taliban should give them safe
The Chinese at the U.N. have said that the -- you know, that the United States and western powers shouldn't be forcing its position on Afghanistan.
It appears that China doesn't think that this is a particularly workable solution, to have this sort of protected corridor established, if you will.
Technically, it seems a challenge to set it up. Do the Taliban have the will to help? Well, we've heard now these accounts of how they actually
helped escort Americans to U.S. special forces at the gates of the airport. So, I think the indications there are that there can be a level of
willingness from the Taliban not to obstruct the intent here.
But actually, technically, how it -- for the airport reopens and the Taliban actually establish their controls at the airport and we see what
restrictions they apply to people. I think the -- it's not possible to judge yet how hard it could be.
SOARES: Yes, what is clear, Nic, is that this of course is a turning point in history, a new chapter for Afghanistan. You have covered this region for
a long time. You've covered Afghanistan in depth for CNN. Give us a sense of what we can expect from the Taliban in the coming days. How soon can we
see a government, and how inclusive do you expect this government to be?
ROBERTSON: Oh, absolutely. The Taliban have promised to make it inclusive to the point that non-Taliban members would be allowed in. Their leadership
council has met over the past few days in Kandahar, significant in itself because that's the Taliban sort of spiritual heartland. This leadership
council didn't meet in Kabul, but the expectation is that this council concluded after three days because they had decided on who would be getting
the new positions of the government. And the expectation is that they will make an announcement in the next few days.
And the expectation is that the leader of the faithful, their supreme leader, if you will, will make some kind of public statement, again,
exceptional. That sort of thing doesn't happen very often. But I think one figure we can expect to play a leading role at least, as far as the
international community is concerned, the man who negotiated the U.S. exit for the Taliban, Mullah Barada.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The scale of Mullah Abdul Ghani Barada's triumphant return to Afghanistan just days after the Taliban took Kabul is a measure
of his importance. Years in exile, many spent in a Pakistani jail, he has run point in all the Taliban's dealings with the U.S. for almost three
Most recently, reportedly meeting face-to-face with CIA Chief Bill Burns. In Doha, February, 2020, it was Barada who signed the U.S. troop withdrawal
agreement with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looked on.
And it was Barada who the Taliban had negotiated its terms, hammered out over more than a year, they would not attack exiting U.S. forces. Barada
was a Taliban original, a founding member in the early '90s and a close friend of its then leader Mullah Omar.
The pair fought the Soviet occupation in the '80s, and it was Omar who named him Barada, meaning brother. In 2001, Barada dodged invading U.S.
forces, hiding out in Pakistan, later captured in 2010 and released by Pakistan in 2018 to lead negotiations with the U.S. He is in his early 50s
now, although not the Taliban's top official, he can expect to remain the international face of the Taliban for at least the near future.
The Taliban's ultimate authority is Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Amir al-Mu'minin, leader of the faithful, who emerged from the shadows last week
after years in hiding. Barada has rare experience face-to-face dealings with western powers.
How much actual influence he'll have in the day-to-day running of the country rests in eternal Taliban power plays yet to fully emerge. Haqqani
Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani and Omar's son Mullah Yaqoob are powerful military forces within the Taliban, both with an eye for leadership roles.
Barada will know to watch his back.
ROBERTSON: And one of Barada's big challenges dealing with the international community will be to convince them that they are keeping
their word and honoring the fact that they said they want to have these good international diplomatic relations. They're going to face internal
enemies, ISIS-K, ISIS-Khorasan, you know, who are vowing that they want to take down the Taliban, that the Taliban, you know, cut a deal with the
United States and appellate states.
And then there's the problem across the border with Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban are based at the moment inside Afghanistan and are attacking and
threatening to attack more across the border into Pakistan. So, the problems -- just the military problems alone, are going to mount up, never
mind the economic issues they face going forward.
SOARES: Indeed. Nic Robertson for us there in Islamabad, Pakistan, thanks very much Nic. Well, the U.S. war in Afghanistan may be over, but the
future of many people there remains uncertain. Thousands of activists, officials and regular civilians now find themselves at risk with the U.S.
and its allies really out of the picture.
And without international support, some aid agencies fear that the country could face more health and safety problems in the months ahead. With me now
from Kabul, Astrid Sletten; the Afghanistan country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Astrid, thank you very much for joining us. Give me a sense and give our viewers a sense of what life has been like in the last 24 hours in Kabul.
ASTRID SLETTEN, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, NRC AFGHANISTAN: Well, I think there is a sense of relief now that the Americans have left and the dust can settle.
All the desperate people outside the Kabul airport, if they haven't already left, they will very soon. I'm sure they have left by now. The city is
slowly coming back to normal. I've even experienced traffic jam.
But the situation is dire. I mean, people are desperate. They are worried. They are afraid. What will happen to Afghanistan now? Afghanistan is on the
brink of a humanitarian catastrophe with drought that will cause millions of people to face starvation. The Winter is coming. People don't have a
place to live. The economy is in free fall.
There is a worry that it will be a total collapse with the banks maybe not able to recover. And people are jobless and have lost their hope of good
things and good developments. So, it will take time --
Sorry, for Afghans to sort of come to grips with the situation.
SOARES: Yes, and as you're talking, we've seen Afghans queuing, trying to get money out, many probably not having any jobs. But from those you're
speaking to on the ground, how many are still trying to find their way out, Astrid? What are you telling them?
SLETTEN: It's hard to tell the numbers, but there are thousands of people who have reason to feel insecure. And I feel -- I honestly feel that the
NATO countries, including America, has a moral responsibility to help these people. In addition, NATO, including U.S., left a mess, and the government
structures have totally collapsed. We are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of people are dying. So, the NATO countries have a
special responsibility to ensure that the humanitarian assistance is ramped up massively.
SOARES: Yes, and that humanitarian assistance, though, Astrid, will be reliant and dependent on the Taliban and what it does in the days ahead.
You, of course, are in Kabul. I'm guessing many of our viewers will be looking and thinking, why has the NRC decided to stay in Kabul while
everyone else has been leaving?
SLETTEN: Well, the truth is that the work that organizations like NRC and other humanitarian organizations and the U.N. are doing is more important
than ever. Taliban does not have capacity to provide health services, education, food, livelihood, water sanitation, shelter for the Winter that
is coming. And don't forget, this place is very cold at the Winter. It gets minus 10 easily.
SOARES: But how big is your team, Astrid? And of course, you're -- you know, you're a woman. Are you worried that you'll face -- you're in danger
in the face of the Taliban?
SLETTEN: I would not have returned if I had thought I was in more danger now than before. I have been working many years in Afghanistan, and if
anything, the imminent security threats have reduced. I believe that Taliban is genuine when they say that they need the NGOs and they want us
to stay. They want us to stay and deliver.
And we have the capacity to ramp up massively, provided we get the funding required. NRC has close to 2,000 staff in country when we include our
community-based teachers, and we have a huge capacity to ramp up. And so has many of the other organizations on the ground.
SOARES: So, what do you need, Astrid, right now?
SLETTEN: First of all, we need flexibility from the donors to restructure our programming because there are a lot of activities that either have less
urgency right now or are -- we need to renegotiate with Taliban the acceptance for it, while we wait for the Winter, we need to scale up life-
saving immediate assistance.
SOARES: Astrid Sletten; the country director for NRC in Afghanistan. Thanks very much. Astrid, do keep us posted on your work there on the ground and
on the movements there of course. And do stay safe. Thanks very much. Now, the United States says as many as 250 Americans who want out of Afghanistan
are still there, along with thousands of America's allies. For those who did get out, it was a harrowing escape.
CNN's Anna Coren spent time in Afghanistan earlier this month. She reports on the interpreter she met and the terrifying journey he and his family
went through for freedom. Take a look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any other day, you can ask me that.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His family piled into a taxi with just a bag of belongings. Abdul Rashid Shirzad hoped this was farewell
to Kabul's dust-covered streets.
ABDUL RASHID SHIRZAD, AFGHAN NATIONAL: We're heading to the airport, hope to make it and survive.
COREN: The 34-year-old former Afghan interpreter knew their chance for escape was slim.
SHIRZAD: That's a Taliban vehicle right there with the white flag.
COREN: But as the father of three young boys, the alternative was not an option.
SHIRZAD: That's Ali Akbar, that's my wife right there. This is me, and this is Ali Abbas, and that's Ali Omid right there.
COREN: Once at the airport --
Rashid realized he had made a mistake. His eldest child nearly trampled in a chaotic sea of humanity also desperate for a way out.
SHIRZAD: That's the Marine gate right there. There's no way to get inside.
COREN: This was the family's second attempt at the airport within days. And as darkness fell, reality set in.
SHIRZAD: With this crowd, it's impossible.
COREN: We met Rashid last month in Kabul while doing a story on Afghan interpreters who had worked with the U.S. military only to be left behind.
A number of them had recently been executed by the Taliban, and Rashid, among others, feared they would also be killed. Rashid had spent five years
working for the U.S. special forces. SEAL commanders describing him as a "valuable and necessary asset who braved enemy fire and undoubtedly saved
the lives of Americans and Afghans alike."
(on camera): These guys were your American brothers.
SHIRZAD: American brothers, yes.
COREN (voice-over): But at the end of 2013, his contract was terminated after he failed a polygraph test. So, when he later applied for an SIV to
the United States, his application was automatically denied. Rashid and I kept in touch after I left Afghanistan. And in a matter of weeks, the
country had collapsed and was now under Taliban rule.
SHIRZAD: I don't want to be killed by the Taliban. They're going to cut our heads off if they find my location. Please help.
COREN: CNN evacuated staff from Kabul with the help of a security team on the ground working with British paratroopers inside the airport. The
channel established was now an opportunity for Rashid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, who is there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN, sir.
COREN: Before dawn on Sunday, 22nd of August, Rashid, his family and another nine people were picked up at a location near the airport. They
were driven close to a Taliban check point near the Baron Hotel back gate, manned by the British.
SHIRZAD: We are at the back gate of Camp Baron, we are so close to the gate. If they just come to the gate, they can see us. They can see us from
COREN: In less than an hour, British paratroopers let them in.
SHIRZAD: Hey, Anna, we're good. We are inside now. Thank you so much.
COREN: But celebrations were short lived. U.S. Marines would not allow Rashid and his family past the check point because they did not have a
SHIRZAD: The Americans asked just for U.S. visa and U.S. passport. That's it.
COREN: A frantic seven hours ensued, as messages and phone calls between London, Hong Kong, Atlanta, Virginia and Kabul were made, coordinating with
security on the ground. Once his identity was confirmed, they were through.
SHIRZAD: We are at the airport terminal. We made it. We are all excited.
COREN: For almost two days, they waited patiently at the airport as thousands of fellow Afghans were air-lifted to a new life.
SHIRZAD: Another aircraft about to take off, lots of Marines there.
COREN: Then, it was their turn, exhausted but happy, aboard a C-130 to the U.S. base in Bahrain.
SHIRZAD: We are in Bahrain.
COREN: Less than 24 hours later, they were on the move again.
SHIRZAD: Somebody knocked our door and they said, pack your stuff up. You've got a flight now. We are so excited, but we still don't know where
we are headed to, so hopefully it's the U.S.
COREN: And sure enough, their wish had come true.
SHIRZAD: Our aircraft is landing in D.C., that's Washington. We are this close. Everybody is excited.
COREN: In the space of four days, they were on U.S. soil.
(on camera): How does it feel to be in America?
SHIRZAD: We are so lucky that we are safe. It is beautiful to be here. We are the luckiest people, you know?
COREN (voice-over): Allison Fort Lee military base in Virginia while his SIV is processed, Rashid was reunited with a SEAL team member who he hadn't
seen for nine years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad you guys made it --
COREN: A second chance at life for an eternally grateful family whose hearts may remain in Afghanistan, but whose future now lies a world away.
Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.
SOARES: Thank you to our Anna Coren for that exclusive report there. And still to come tonight, U.S. President Joe Biden's remarks on the longest
war in American history. We're now moments away, plus more and more images of Hurricane Ida's wrath coming in to CNN, we'll go live to New Orleans,
the latest on the massive cleanup and rescue operations in Louisiana. Bring you both those stories after a very short break.
SOARES: Now, in the southeastern United States, a major clean-up operation is underway at this hour after Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast.
The damage, as you can see is extensive as well as widespread. Rainfall around either stretches over 600 miles or nearly a 1,000 kilometers from
the coast all the way up to Kentucky.
More than 1 million customers are without power, and that could actually last for weeks. Adding to all of this, people in the region are also
dealing with sweltering heat. CNN's Nadia Romero has more details on how the widespread outage is also limiting communications and making it hard to
reach people who need help.
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Louisiana --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God --
ROMERO: Destruction and devastation in the wake of Hurricane Ida, but it's still far too dangerous for many to assess just how much damage is done
here. More than a million Louisianans are still in the dark and powering some of the hardest hit areas like parts of Jefferson Parish is expected to
be out for weeks.
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, PRESIDENT, JEFFERSON PARISH: We have no electricity, we have very little to no telecommunications. We have low water pressure, so
we don't have clean drinking water. We're surviving now, but it's going to be a rough time. So, we don't want our citizens to come back.
ROMERO: The entire city of New Orleans is also without power. The mayor urging residents who evacuated to stay away until it's safe to return.
MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: Where we do have sources of power, it's generators only. And so that does speak to the need for fuel.
ROMERO: People waiting in lines for hours at some gas stations, looking to fill the tanks of their generators and cars. The deadly category 4 storm
slamming into Louisiana mid-day Sunday with roaring winds up to 150 miles per hour and heavy flooding leaving many neighborhoods underwater. Debris
filling the streets and fallen trees destroying many homes and businesses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw the tree -- that tree swaying back and forth and then about five minutes later, the whole thing just snapped and fell
over there on the house.
ROMERO: This coast guard video shows the damage in Grand Isle, Louisiana, from above. And in LaPlace, Louisiana, boats are now the only way to
navigate some of its water-filled roads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been through all the storms. And I see the -- expected it to come and be bad, but we didn't expect it to get this close
to LaPlace. It wasn't supposed to be this close, you know, and so I'm not going to take that chance again.
ROMERO: Urgent search and rescue efforts are now underway.
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): I don't want to mislead anyone. Robust search and rescue is happening right now, and I fully expect that, that death
count will go up considerably throughout the day.
ROMERO: Governor is activating nearly 5,300 National Guard troops to help.
KEITH WADDELL, ADJUTANT GENERAL, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: We worked really hard across southeast Louisiana. We rescued 348 people, 48 pets and we were
able to get those folks to safety.
ROMERO: President Joe Biden also pledging to help Louisiana and other states severely impacted by the hurricane.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: We're going to stand with you and the people of the gulf as long as it takes for you to recover.
SOARES: Nadia Romero there with that report. CNN's Brian Todd joins me now from New Orleans, Louisiana. Brian, give us a sense of what you're seeing
right there on the ground and how difficult will be for the recovery given that there's no power, and on top of that, you've got scorching heat.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Isa. The heat advisory is in effect now. So, it's going to get to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more
here. It's going to feel even hotter. That adds to the problems that people here are facing. We're in the Algiers neighborhood of southern New Orleans
on the west bank of the Mississippi River.
People here are desperate for food and water. This is a water and food distribution station here run partially by the city and partially by
private groups. Now, they've had to hold up the line here of cars pulling in because the truck that came in bringing more supplies just got here.
So, they're going to wait to unload this truck. And then more people from here are going to be able to pull up and get their food and water. Take a
look at the line.
SOARES: Wow --
TODD: This is just the vehicle traffic. We had a long line of foot traffic down this way a little bit. That foot traffic has declined a little bit.
But this line of vehicles waiting to get in and get food, snakes down this block and down the other block there, I don't know how many cars, but it is
long and people here are desperate for food and water because we have -- you know, in patrolling around the city since the storm hit, we have not
noticed really many, if any, stores open.
That's a big deal because people need information as to where they can go to get food and water, and not enough people have information about these
centers. I also spoke a short time ago to a local resident named Yolanda Teague, she is living in a small house with eight children and other people
that she has to care for, including a 10-year-old son with a heart condition. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOLANDA TEAGUE, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: My living room is caved in right now. So, when it rains right now, we get water inside the house. So, we had to
move all my living room furniture out of the living room, and we're like migrating -- it's a four-bedroom house. So, right now we're living in like
TODD: What's your biggest worry right now, Yolanda?
TEAGUE: Maybe running out of food and beverages, and I have a son with a heart condition. So, that's my biggest concern, it's him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So Yolanda says her son has enough medication right now but in a few days, he may run out of it. That's what really worries her. She was worried
about where she could go to get that medication.
She did say to us that an ambulance service has made itself -- made her aware that they're there, that they can bring him to a local hospital or
possibly get his medications to him. So she is relieved of that possible burden. But she still wants to get her family out of town and is looking
for a way to do that -- Isa.
SOARES: Yes, understandably. Brian Todd there for us in New Orleans. Thanks very much, Brian.
Still to come tonight, we expect to hear from President Joe Biden about the Afghan withdrawal. That's happening this hour.
How will he defend scenes like this of the victorious Taliban, inspecting the hardware left behind?
That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back.
Now in 15 minutes, President Biden is expected to speak about the Afghanistan withdrawal. But many of the pictures themselves -- the pictures
we've seen speak for themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): This is the last U.S. service member to leave, immortalized in the green tinge, of course, of night vision. The final
flight left Kabul overnight but the Taliban were awake and celebrating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): Taliban fighters shot rounds into the air, as you heard there, at Kabul airport and surveyed the spoils of war, though the
Pentagon claims that these Chinook helicopters are inoperable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in Peshawar, Pakistan. She joins me now.
Clarissa, give me a sense of what you're seeing near the border, as Afghans really continue to look desperately for a way out.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, with the Americans gone, Isa, I think everyone in Afghanistan woke up with a sense
that, if they wanted to leave the country --
WARD: -- they were going to have to come up with a new plan now because Kabul airport, according to the Taliban, is certainly not going to be
operational for the next few days.
And while the Taliban has said that people who have the appropriate documentation will be able to leave, that's unlikely to alleviate the
concerns of people who are worried, because they worked with the U.S. military, for example, that they may be in danger from the Taliban.
So it makes sense that a lot of people are now exploring land borders. We traveled today to the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and
Afghanistan. And there's a quite a few people on the Afghan side.
But what the Pakistanis have done is they've closed this border crossing. It's been closed for a few months now, partially because of COVID
regulations but partially also -- in fact probably primarily -- because Pakistan is very concerned about a massive refugee crisis on its borders.
Once again, Pakistan is home to more Afghan refugees than any other country in the world, about 1.4 million, according to the U.N. And in their own
words, Pakistani officials say they can't afford to be more generous.
We did see a large grouping of people there as well, who were very sick. They're hoping for dispensation from the Pakistanis to pass through. That,
I think, also speaks to the health care crisis that we see emerging now in Afghanistan; as the fighting winds down, a lot more people feeling safe
enough to try and go get medical care.
That's putting a lot of strain on the health care system. And, of course, all of this happening in a moment, where things are still somewhat chaotic
in terms of establishing proper governance on the ground in Afghanistan, Isa.
SOARES: Hard work, it's only just beginning. We've seen video of the Taliban -- I'm sure you've seen this, too -- of them declaring victory,
celebrating in the streets. Give us a sense of what you're hearing from your contacts on the ground, Clarissa.
WARD: Absolutely, today was victory day for the Taliban, starting with that celebratory gunfire in the middle of the night, as the last U.S. forces
left; continuing today with the sort of grand press conference, with Taliban special forces on full display.
Zabiullah Mujahid, the group's leader -- spokesman, rather -- saying that the Taliban wants to have relations with the U.S. and that the Taliban will
allow people to travel, that they want to get the airport up and running, I have been talking to people who say that Taliban fighters have been handing
out small Taliban flags to cars on the streets, saying happy Independence Day, calling this their Independence Day.
But I think underneath that, underneath the facade of victory and jubilation, there is a huge amount of anxiety from many Afghans. And
there's, as you said, Isa, a huge amount of work to be done.
The reality is, the Taliban hasn't governed since the late '90s and early 2000s. And even then they didn't do a good job of it. They want to show
they're a more mature, pragmatic force now.
But they're going to have to do that by picking an interim government or a transitional government that is full of technocrats, that is not just
Taliban leaders, that is inclusive. We won't find out what that government looks like until later on this week. But I think that will be very crucial
in determining what direction things are going to move in -- Isa.
SOARES: Clarissa Ward there, our chief international correspondent. Thanks very much, Clarissa. Great to see you.
When asked to compare this withdrawal to the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, Joe Biden said that under no circumstances would we see
people lifted off the roof of an embassy in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): Well, you can see a rescue helicopter flying over Kabul, looks strikingly similar to the images from 1975. But the image
really seared into the memories after this loss may be even worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: And I warn you more disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): You see two people falling from a U.S. plane leaving Kabul.
How will history remember this scene?
How will history judge the man who was president when it happened?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Let's start with CNN White House reporter Stephen Collinson and presidential historian Timothy Naftali.
Gentlemen, thank you both for being here today. And, of course, as you both know, we're waiting for President Biden. So I want to apologize in advance
if I have to interrupt you at any moment.
Tim, let me start with you. You would have seen the images, of course, of that last soldier leaving Afghanistan.
SOARES: This is, no doubt, a moment for America to take stock and reflect.
How important, though, is this moment and this speech that we're awaiting from President Biden in American history?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, this is a very important moment in American history because President Biden has ended a war that has
lasted so long, there are many Americans today who do not remember a time when we were not at war. So this is a pivotal moment. It's a pivotal moment
in our history.
Secondly, this is important because President Biden promised to transition to a different approach to defending our national security. He was
convinced that efforts to stabilize the world, by involving American troops in building nations, was a failed approach, a costly approach and that he
wanted a different way of defending us against Islamists or jihadists.
So he argued that we needed to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible under his administration. That has happened. And now his approach will be
put to the test.
The Taliban has a rival, which is more illusionary, more jihadist, apparently, than it is. We will see what happens to Afghanistan as it
enters a new phase in its turbulent period.
And that's how I think you watch (ph).
Will Afghanistan pose a threat to us as an aircraft carrier for future terrorist attacks against us, as it was in 2001?
Or will Biden's risk -- will his bet -- prove to have been a smart one?
SOARES: So Tim, on that front, given what you've just painted, what do you think the president will say in the next -- well, we're expecting anytime
What do you think he will say tonight?
NAFTALI: I don't know but I suspect we will see, again, the confidence that he has shown all along. He will say that foreign policy requires tough
decisions and making tough decisions involves resilience by a president.
He will say that he's been thinking about this for a long time. He's seen other presidents get deeper and deeper into the mess in Afghanistan. And he
felt he owed it to the American people to push forward.
He will be unhappy that this came at a cost. I hope he admits that his approach to the withdrawal was not what it should have been, that he
misjudged the challenge.
After all, on July 8th, he told us -- and you played that tape just recently -- he told us, which would not be at all like 1975, where the
policy makers at least were caught by surprise.
So he does have some apologizing to do. But I expect him to be very confident and to say, going forward, there's a better approach to
SOARES: And Stephen, this departure from Afghanistan will probably be seen by many as a symbolic moment for the president. He is fulfilling a campaign
promise to get those out. But really many questions still remain.
What happens to those Americans and those allies still on the ground?
He made a promise on that front, too.
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think the president's supporters would argue that he, unique among the last three
presidents, understood that the Afghan war was unwinnable, that it was not the correct way to fight against Islamic extremism, as Timothy said.
But he was the only one who had the courage to end it and was willing to take the political hits that potentially came with that. I think a lot
depends now on whether Afghanistan goes back to being the forgotten war in the United States, as it was for much of the 20 years in which it was
taking place, or whether subsequent events begin to make the president's decision making, that Timothy mentioned, look a lot less smart.
If it becomes, again, Afghanistan, a terror haven and the United States has to send troops back in potentially, then Biden's decision making is going
to be really questioned.
If there is a massive humanitarian crisis, if we have scenes of Americans being persecuted by the Taliban or pleading to get out of Afghanistan, then
I think the effect on Biden's legacy is going to be much more serious.
If the war ends now and most Americans' consciousness of the war effectively ends now, it will be just one of those five or six events which
kind of sear themselves on the memory of history as defining a presidency.
But if bad events follow directly from the president's decision making, then he is not just vulnerable as regards his legacy.
COLLINSON: He has ongoing political problems that can be very damaging to him in the United States in the run-up to the midterm elections and
potentially the 2024 presidential election.
SOARES: And Tim, I mean, this was, of course, a war that lasted 20 years. Three presidents, I believe, have presided over this war. But you know, as
we've shown, which we've said time and time again, the withdrawal was chaotic, it was messy, it was bloody.
What impact do you think this will have on America's power and influence?
NAFTALI: Well, in 1975, Americans witnessed -- not just Americans but their allies and adversaries witnessed -- a very messy withdrawal. President
Ford's public approval rating went up within a few months. The American people did not hold this against President Ford.
Indeed, President Ford's time in office is not marked by the messiness of the withdrawal from Saigon. As Stephen mentioned, a lot of this will -- a
lot of the effect, good or bad, on President Biden's reputation will be a result of what happens next in Afghanistan. And we just can't predict that.
In terms of allies, I think America's allies and NATO allies are probably unhappy at the messiness of the withdrawal. Let's not keep -- let's not
forget that the airlift that took approximately 120,000 people out of Afghanistan was a multinational airlift. Many countries were involved --
and not just countries but private enterprises.
And no doubt there are some American allies, who are unhappy about the nature in which this withdrawal occurred. But most American allies knew it
was going to happen. And, indeed, what's very good for them, I believe, is the knowledge that, when Joe Biden says he's going to do something, he does
SOARES: Tim Naftali there, as well as White House reporter Stephen Collinson. Gentlemen, thank you very much for taking time to speak to us
here on the show.
NAFTALI: Thank you.
SOARES: And we'll be right back. Do stay right here with CNN.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. We are monitoring signals from the White House as U.S. President Joe Biden set to address the nation and the world
about the end of the war in Afghanistan. We will bring you his remarks live as soon as they get underway.
Now a U.S. air base in Germany still holding nearly 14,000 evacuees from Afghanistan.
SOARES: Many have been staying in temporary facilities like these, waiting for flights to their next destination. So far more than 10,000 people have
been flown out but many are still coming in. A U.S. general there says they are doing all they can really to accommodate the arrivals. Atika Shubert
has the story.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As we get into his car, Brigadier General Joshua Olson, commander of the 86th
Airlift Wing and installation commander at Ramstein Air Base, grapples with the sheer number of new arrivals.
BRIG. GEN. JOSHUA M. OLSON, COMMANDER, 86TH AIRLIFT WING, AND INSTALLATION COMMANDER, RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, GERMANY: This is now my family, at least
until they get off our air patch and we're able to put them somewhere else. But it's my family and I got to figure out how to protect them.
SHUBERT (voice-over): More than 20,000 men, women and children have passed through here since August 20th, fleeing Afghanistan after the Taliban took
over. That's more than double the population of the German municipality that hosts the base.
And so many children: Olson says about 6,000, including at least three born on the base, something never encountered here before.
OLSON: We had airplanes stacked up and they're like, "we don't have enough diapers, we don't have enough."
And I'm like, oh, my gosh.
Who would have thought that, right?
SHUBERT (voice-over): Ramstein Air Base has always been a gateway for those in uniform, a place to heal for wounded service members, to prepare for
what the military calls a dignified transfer for those who gave their lives. Now Olson wants the base to provide the warmest welcome it can. An
army of civilian volunteers is also helping out, sorting donations from the wider community.
OLSON: You know, it's the kid that puts the ball back over. It's the kid that plays the ukulele. It's the -- that -- you know, when we get out of
the way and you watch just the pure humanity of -- and love of people and the connection to little kids (INAUDIBLE).
SHUBERT (voice-over): But as we pass more and more tents, it's clear the numbers that have come from Kabul far outpace the number flying out. And
the strain is showing.
SHUBERT: Did you think it would get this big?
OLSON: No. Not even close. I knew -- I mean, I knew what we could build and I knew -- we were like, OK, we thought it through. But the chaos and the
mayhem of, you know, we were like, we can get to 10 right away. And we had that capability.
But when we were at 10, there was 15 coming in. And I'm like, that math doesn't work out so well.
SHUBERT (voice-over): The delays are frustrating to all. Olson says he wants to get this new family off to a fresh start as soon as possible.
OLSON: You think about our parents and grandparents that got on a boat and came across and went to America for that and all the things that they
sacrificed. And you look at all the things -- and we've forgotten that in a lot of ways.
And the sacrifices, not only, you know, for the last 20 years that the military has borne for a lot of these new Afghan Americans' freedom.
SHUBERT (voice-over): That freedom will have to wait a few more days. Until then, Olson says he's doing the best he can -- Atika Shubert for CNN at
Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
SOARES: We will be back after a very short break.
SOARES: Welcome back.
We are closely monitoring signals from the White House this hour as the U.S. President Joe Biden set to address the nation and the world about the
end of the war in Afghanistan. Those images coming to you there from Washington. We'll bring you, of course, his remarks live as soon as they
Now a U.S. Navy veteran who once defused bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan is now an eight-time Paralympic medalist. Brad Snyder served in the Navy's
elite bomb disposal unit for seven years but was completely blinded in 2011 after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
A year later, he made his swimming Paralympic debut in London.
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LT. BRAD SNYDER, U.S. NAVY (RET.), PARALYMPIAN: I used to have a really niche set of skills. I had a population of people who needed me to do this
really crazy and difficult thing.
And then I was no longer needed to do that sort of thing. So my identity was kind of fractured and mitigated. I needed to rebuild that identity. I
think that's a process we all need to start to go through.
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SOARES: Well, Snyder clinched gold Saturday in the triathlon, becoming the first U.S. man Olympian or Paralympian to do so. Congratulations to him.
We are still waiting for U.S. President Joe Biden to speak after the end of the war in the Afghanistan. We will bring you that live when it happens.
I'll be back for you in a few minutes with QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. Do stay right here with CNN.