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Hala Gorani Tonight

Taliban Assert Control in Panjshir Province; Mutilated Bodies Found Downstream from Tigray Region; Republicans Threaten to Sue Biden Over Vaccine Mandates. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN in Atlanta, I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Hala Gorani, good to have you with us. Well, tonight,

20 years after the September 11th attacks, the Taliban is back in power, how we've come full circle in Afghanistan. Then --


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We just got a call that three bodies were found down at the river front. So we're running down

to see what we can see.


KINKADE: People in Sudan are trying to bury the remains of victims of apparent torture who floated down a river from Ethiopia. We have that CNN

exclusive report. And a vaccine mandate impacting 100 million Americans. Why President Biden thinks it will stand up in court. Plus, the U.S. Open

women's final has the world on the edge of its seat. What we know about the two teenagers facing off.

Well, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the U.S. terror attacks that led to the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban is making it clear that they are

again in control. Fighters armed with rifles are patrolling the streets, asserting their authority, and children are not immune. Militant police,

the capital waving their flags in a plain display of power. But in northern Panjshir Valley, resistance forces are denying a Taliban victory. They say

the fight has just begun.

Meanwhile, there are small signs of progress. Dozens of passengers on board the second flight to leave Kabul since the U.S. withdrawal are expected to

land in Doha at any moment. CNN's Nic Robertson was in Afghanistan when the 9/11 attacks happened two decades ago. He joins me now live from Kabul.

Nic, so, we have just heard that the flight from Kabul, the second chartered flight to leave Afghanistan since the U.S. ended its operation

there, will shortly land in Doha. What can you tell us about the people on board?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Canadians, Americans, Dutch, Belgian, British, French, Germans. The French Foreign Ministry said

59 of their nationals flew out of Afghanistan today. Now, it's not clear those 59 were all on this Qatar Airlines charter jet that flew out of here

over Pakistani airspace and then to Doha. It's not clear that the French were on -- those 59 French were on that particular aircraft. But this is

how we got the information yesterday about the people that flew out yesterday. You know, the Taliban have received, you know, through

statements by the U.S. Secretary of State and others, saying they're grateful and appreciate the work that the Taliban has done to get these

people out, to allow these flights to go.

But the reality is, if the Taliban is to keep its word to the international community, allowing anyone with the right paperwork to leave the country,

Afghans and foreign nationals, Afghans who perhaps worked for NATO, worked for U.S. forces or the embassy here or in other roles, feel their lives are

threatened because of the Taliban taking over. The Taliban commitment to let all those people go, that really runs into many thousands. So, what

we've witnessed over the past couple of days is really only a drop. The airport is not open yet for international commercial flights. It seems to

be headed in that direction.

When it does, perhaps the Taliban's real commitment to this agreement to let all these people leave will be better tested when people will be able

to book those seats and try and get out. But at the moment, certainly from the Qataris, praising the Taliban for what they've done so far.

KINKADE: And Nic, there is some resistance. We have seen some protests in Kabul earlier this week. We saw Taliban fighters whipping women, whipping

journalists at those protests. And we have since seen journalists showing wounds from that whipping. And just earlier today, we heard the Taliban

describing the female protesters as prostitutes. What sort of international reaction are you seeing to all of that?

ROBERTSON: You know, there's broad condemnation, number one, that the Taliban's government isn't inclusive. But the U.N.'s human rights chief has

said very clearly that the Taliban cannot do this. They need to allow people to hold peaceful protests, that they should not be beating people on

the streets. I think the mood here on the streets in Kabul is, you know, a couple of weeks ago, the sense was that, it was really an unknown with the

Taliban coming to power, and it's now been tested in terms of protests.


And people see what's happened. The Taliban, indeed, have come out with a new law saying you have to get permission, it has to happen 24 hours in

advance for protests. And they've seen how the Taliban respond. And it's really a very blunt instrument. They use physical force to stop these -- to

stop these protests. But, you know, there have been no protests for a couple of days. And elsewhere on the streets here, you get a sort of a

sense of, you know, an uneasy acceptance of the normal. You see people on the streets here who are not following the Taliban's strict interpretation

of the dress code that they should wear, men still wearing jeans, men shaving.

The Taliban forced people in the past to wear, you know, national dress, the shalwar kameez, other local clothing and grow beards and force women to

wear a biya as you see, you know, a few women on the streets here, I saw them today not doing that. Just wearing a head scarf. You know, so, there

is a sense when protests aren't on that people quietly can sort of bend these Taliban rules and sort of feel a little more comfortable on the

streets. But I think there's a real unease going forward for when the Taliban might push down and get people to follow on their interpretation of

what the correct dress codes are.

KINKADE: Nic, as always, great to get your perspective, reporting from Kabul. And we will have much more from you coming up in the program. Our

Nic Robertson there. Nic, of course, has been reporting in Afghanistan for years. We will hear from him later this hour about the 20th anniversary of

the September 11 attacks. Here's a preview.


ROBERTSON: We just heard an impact perhaps a few miles away. I was in Kabul during the 9/11 attacks. Each major anniversary, I analyzed intervening



KINKADE: We will have that reporter's notebook, 20 years in the making, and much more on the situation right now on the ground in Afghanistan,

including Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of people are stranded. I'm going to speak to a U.S. senator desperate to get them out. Well, CNN

investigation has uncovered evidence of the torture, mass detention and execution of residents in the town of Humera in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

For almost a year now, conflict has raged in Tigray and now bodies are turning up once more, carried down river into neighboring Sudan from


For much of the conflict, the United States, the United Nations and the international community have failed to hold high level Ethiopian officials

to account for their role in the atrocities committed in that region. Well, now CNN's findings point to a renewed campaign of ethnic cleansing, one

which bears all the hallmarks of genocide defined by international law. CNN's Nima Elbagir is in London with the details.

ELBAGIR: Lynda, issues around security obstruction of the communication networks, obstruction of access by the Ethiopian government have made it

very difficult to get to the heart of what's happening in the Tigray region. But we were able to uncover some of the atrocities still ongoing

there. We must warn our viewers that what they're about to see is incredibly distressing but important because it corroborates witness



ELBAGIR (voice-over): This is the Setit River, a source of life for the people living along its banks. For weeks, the river has been bringing with

it dark secrets from the Ethiopian region of Tigray. Mangled corpses are mysteriously appearing here, downstream in Sudan.

(on camera): We just got a call that three bodies were found down at the river front, so we're running down to see what we can see.

(voice-over): Gerri rushes down ahead of us. He's Tigrayan but has been living here for years. He's a key point of contact for Tigrayans driven to

Sudan by the conflict. Fishermen usually spot them first and call Gerri. On both sides of the border, Tigrayans keep a grim tally of those believed to

have been executed by Ethiopian forces that somehow end up in the river. This is an awful job, but one Tigrayan say is their duty. We reached the

first body on this small island. We must warn you, the images you're about to see are very disturbing.

From the vines still biting into his skin, it's clear this man suffered a tortured death. This Tigrayan has been helping to recover the dead. His

holds up the body but the image is too gruesome to show you. His eyes though portray the horror in front of him. They pulled the body out and a

stench was immediate.


And it clearly had been decomposing along the river for a number of days. And he was tied back with a plastic wire, clearly restrained. And part of

the skull was collapsed in. It's just a horrible sight. They move to pick up someone else. Gerri makes notes of the bodies and their markings. He's

trying to piece together this mystery for his people. He doesn't trust anyone to do it for them. Among the floods, another body. Sudanese

authorities take photographs as evidence.

This is a crime scene, but the potential perpetrators are far from here, in Ethiopia. The second body is put into the same body bag. They have such few

resources but are determined to maintain a certain dignity. They're buried near the river in a shallow grave in hope that one day they will be exhumed

and reburied in their homeland. For now, though, there are only two shovels and a pick. Others join in, pushing the earth with their bare hands.

Laid to rest on unconsecrated ground, the Christian Tigrayans desperately trying to give respect to their dead, marking the grave with a makeshift

cross held together with a single face mask. A new dawn rises. Witnesses and local authorities tell us it brings with it 11 new bodies. For months

now, we have been investigating atrocities committed by Ethiopian and allied forces in Tigray. It's clear to us this marks a new chapter in the

ethnic cleansing of the region. But here in Sudan, there are survivors. The living speaking on behalf of the dead.

Escapees, eyewitnesses from the Ethiopian border town of Humera, describe to us a renewed campaign of mass incarcerations and executions.

(on camera): The numbers that they're telling us are extraordinary. We're talking about possibly over 10,000 people detained just for being Tigrayan,

they say.

(voice-over): We begin to piece together the puzzle. We are here in Sudan, in Wad El Hilou, upstream in Ethiopia is Humera. Based on descriptions from

multiple escape detainees, Humera and its surrounding have become a mass detention facility. We were able to pinpoint the locations. Enda Yitbarek,

a storage facility, the electric goods warehouse Nay Kedem Mebrat Hayil where electric wire is stored, Bethurtsit(ph), the old prison and the

Gona(ph), the Sesame warehouse. The list goes on.

Via eyewitness testimony and satellite imagery, we verified the existence of at least seven mass detention facilities in Humera where torture is

rampant, and two outside town, including a military camp Enda Kuwaja. These are pictures of Tigrayan victims, husbands, fathers, sons. Many show

victims restrained using the same small gauge yellow electrical wire, identified by eyewitnesses as having being stored in the electric goods

warehouse in Humera.

CNN spoke to multiple eyewitnesses and international and local forensic experts. Most of the victims were tortured, executed, piled on top of each

other, most likely in a facility or a mass grave before ending up in the river. After examining the bodies, experts were able to pinpoint one of the

techniques used. Victims had their arms tied back at the elbows in an excruciatingly painful, torture position. In the last few weeks, Tigrayans

say the bodies of over 60 victims have floated into Sudan from Ethiopia.

Evidence of a methodical campaign, one which bears all the hallmarks of genocide as defined by international law. Up in this remote corner of

Sudan, this is evidence the world wasn't meant to see. Gerri takes us to see the first person he laid to rest. The water will eventually reclaim the

body, but this was the best Gerri could do. Already beginning to fall apart, the body couldn't be moved, an image which still haunts him.



ELBAGIR: Gerri stays vigilant, looking out towards his homeland. As long as this conflict continues, the threat of more executions, more bodies

floating downstream is ever-present.


ELBAGIR: The Ethiopian government responded to our findings via a USPR firm, Mercury, saying that they will investigate these allegations, but

that what they called inconsistencies in these allegations meant that they would be reaching out to local authorities in their investigations. If,

they said, anyone is found guilty of perpetrating a crime, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Lynda?

KINKADE: Our thanks to Nima Elbagir and her team for that reporting. Well, still to come tonight, Republicans are threatening to sue President Biden

over his new vaccine requirements, but he doesn't seem too worried. That's next.


KINKADE: Welcome back. U.S. President Joe Biden has just three words for Republicans who are already threatening to sue over the sweeping vaccine

mandates he ordered just yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your message to Republicans who are calling your vaccine requirement an overreach, who are threatening to challenge it

in court?



KINKADE: Well, the president made the comments as he and the first lady toured a middle school in Washington D.C. The requirements he ordered

Thursday could affect 100 million Americans. They made vaccinations mandatory for educators in federal health start -- head-start programs as

well as healthcare employees at facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding. All government executive branch employees and contractors will

also be required to get vaccinated. And he's ordering companies with 100 or more workers to require vaccinations or a weekly COVID test for employees

or companies could face stiff fines.


The president also lashed out at the millions of Americans who refuse to get the shots, saying, this isn't a game.


BIDEN: My message to unvaccinated Americans is this, what more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We've been patient, but our

patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.


KINKADE: CNN's chief U.S. national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny is following this for us from the White House and joins us now live. Good to

see you, Jeff. So, there are medical experts that say these mandates are long overdue. But of course, as expected, there is some criticism. And

while we know that the benefits are there for the vaccines, I'm wondering whether there's any political risk for the president or whether there is

largely a lot of support for this.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lynda, there definitely is a political controversy over this, no surprise. I mean,

the White House and President Biden really for months have declined to really take steps like this, to mandate, to require employees to get

vaccinated. But now, with the rising, soaring, surging cases of the Delta variant of COVID, this is the step that they believe they have to take. So,

there are some critics who were supportive of this who say, why didn't this happen months or weeks ago?

But the reality is, you know, the White House is doing it now because it is a bit of a last resort. But Republican governors are threatening to file

legal challenges against the administration over this. But you saw the president there pretty confidently said, "have at it". So, the reality is,

there is a law in the Labor Department which is, you know, really to keep all workers safe, that they believe that this falls under. So, we shall see

if that stands up in court. But there is no question this is going to take some time. The Labor Department has to issue rules.

So, we're talking weeks, perhaps even a couple of months until this happens. So, who knows if the Delta variant will still be raging as hot as

it is right now. But certainly, this is the biggest step this president has taken yet to try and corral this virus.

KINKADE: Exactly. And one other big issue right now is a proof of vaccination. Other developed countries have created effective vaccine

passports, and we know that a small but growing number of countries are now requiring, saying that unvaccinated people are not welcome. Countries from

Europe to the Caribbean. What is the Biden administration going to do to issue some proof of vaccination that will be fraud resistant? Because right

now, all we have is a piece of cardboard from the CDC.

ZELENY: Right. I mean, up until now, the Biden administration, the president, that they have really been reluctant to do any type of a vaccine

passport. We will see if that changes. Just like with the mandates, that's something that the president has changed course on, so, we will see if they

do that on vaccine passports. But up until now, as of now, they simply have not been willing to do that. They believe it's a bit of a government

overreach. But you're right, I mean, there are questions here. All you do is have your vaccination card or show a picture of it on your phone.

So, hardly, a full proof way here. So -- but at least as of now, a few states have done it like the state of New York has issued a passport. But

as of now, this U.S. federal government has declined to at least take steps that far, Lynda.

KINKADE: All right, now, Jeff Zeleny outside the White House for us, great to have you with us as always. Thanks so much. Well, France is now the

latest European country to ban most unvaccinated Americans from entering. And like Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron has struggled to

convince skeptical citizens to get vaccinated. But Mr. Macron took a gamble that along with the spread of the Delta variant seems to have changed

millions of minds. And as our Melissa Bell reports, the country now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the push back in July that made all the difference.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT, FRANCE (through translator): We are extending the use of the health pass to push as many of you as possible to go and get


BELL: Within 24 hours, almost a million appointments had been booked. With the health pass which shows whether you've been vaccinated or have had a

PCR test within 72 hours suddenly needed to enter restaurants, museums, cafes and bars and now extended to employees of any business that serves

the public.

ANAIS MAJDOUBI, VACCINE HESITANT: They say you have the choice but you don't really or it's either you get vaccinated or you pay for your test.

So, is it really a choice?

BELL: Anais says she wasn't going to get vaccinated, like 60 percent of those polled during France's second lockdown in December.


For a long time, the United States was ahead of France in terms of the proportion of the population that had received at least one dose. Then in

July, Macron took a gamble. Just as vaccination centers were emptying as vaccine hesitancy kicked in and French hospitals were being overrun by the

Delta variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took the risk to say, I will make the life of the unvaccinated very difficult, which is a very dangerous statement.

BELL: Protests followed. One of the biggest came on July 31st, just a couple of weeks after Macron made his speech. Across France, 204,000 people

took to the streets according to the interior ministry. But for all the noise, that very same day, more than double the number of people were

quietly getting an injection. The reason, says this French lawmaker, that most people understood that the alternative was yet another lockdown.

"It was saying to the French", she says, "that if you're vaccinated, you can live like you used to. This health pass will give you your freedom

back." Now France has one of the best vaccination rates in the world, over 62 percent. And despite the spread of the Delta variant, hospital

admissions have gone down.

CATHERINE HILL, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: The Delta variant goes faster when enough people are vaccinated to sort of balance between being more contagious and

meeting more people who are immunized.

BELL: Macron's gamble depended on his being able to act at a national level with strong executive powers and a solid parliamentary majority, none of

which Joe Biden has on his side. But the French model does show that with some encouragement, even the vaccine hesitant can be convinced that in the

extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic, individual liberties must end where collective responsibility begins. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


KINKADE: And also from France, this just in to CNN. A lawyer says a special French court has just placed former Health Minister Agnes Buzyn under a

formal investigation. It plans to evaluate if she put the lives of others at risk in her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic during its early weeks.

Buzyn resigned as health minister in February 2020 to unsuccessfully run for mayor of Paris. So far, she hasn't responded publicly to the


Well, still to come tonight, the waiting game continues for desperate Americans and Afghans trying to get flights out of Mazar-i-Sharif's

Airport. I'm going to speak to an American senator who says he's furious over the holdup. Stay with us.



KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Well, Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that changed the world forever. The

attacks that have a war that led to the U.S. to invade Afghanistan and drive away the Taliban. And yet today after countless lives, lost trillions

of dollars spent, the Taliban is back in power. CNN's Nic Robertson was in Kabul on September 11, 2001. And he's there again now.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Behind the Taliban's newly painted huge flag, America's Kabul embassy inside the grounds buried under a plug debris

from New York's twin Trade Center towers. Ten years ago, America's then Ambassador, Ryan Crocker, who'd overseen the memorial on his first tour,

told me it was there so future diplomats would remember what triggered U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.


RYAN CROCKER, FORMER UNITED STATED AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Why are we here? Why are we making this commitment? Why are we spending these billions

of dollars? Why are we sacrificing American lives?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nic, what do you have for us at this point?

ROBERTSON: We just heard an impact, perhaps a few miles away.


ROBERTSON: I was in Kabul during the 9/11 attacks. Each major anniversary, I analyzed the intervening years. This was 10 years ago. There are no signs

yet of serious contact between the Afghan government and the Taliban. And it could be that the Taliban will wait out the foreign presence here.


CROCKER: Our permanent guarantee --


ROBERTSON: Crocker wanted the talks, but doubted the Taliban would negotiate in good faith.


CROCKER: Their goal is rather simply to re-Talibanize Afghanistan to retake the country. And if they do, then All right.-Qaeda is going to be back in

here. The only reason Al-Qaeda isn't here now is because we are.


ROBERTSON: Fast forward to today, 20 years of foreign policy fears realized, American troops and diplomats gone. The Taliban ousting the U.S.-

backed government, capturing much of the inventory of the Afghan army the U.S. helped build proudly showing off warehouses loaded with weapons. More.

Much more than the Taliban ever had before. The new Taliban government as uncompromising as the one America ousted after the 9/11 attacks. Their

newly appointed powerful Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has a $10 million FBI bounty on his head for ties to terrorism and al-Qaeda.

In 2020, they promise not to fight for power, but to negotiate in good faith. Promised al-Qaeda won't use Afghanistan again to attack the U.S.

Now, there is another potentially more dangerous enemy rooted in Afghanistan, ISIS. We drove this road to Kabul just a few days before al-

Qaeda is attack on September the 11th. All right.-Qaeda was in the mountains over there in Tora Bora. Today, it's ISIS that's a bigger threat

here. The roads are in better condition now, thanks in good part to American tax dollars, the town's brighter, better developed, more

prosperous or a positive part of the legacy of America's longest war.

But here's the hard reality, because of years of evolving and often intertwined agendas and alliances with al-Qaeda and similar groups, at a

grassroots fighter level, if the Taliban tries to crack down on their former Brothers in Arms, they could face pushback, even division in their

own ranks.

Right after the 9/11 attacks, we asked Kabul residents what would happen if U.S. forces came. "The result of Russian aggression was the breaking of

Russia into 16 countries," this old man says.


"Remembering the 1980's Soviet occupation. If America attacks us, Allah will divide America into 52 pieces."

Back then, it seemed inconceivable America could fail. Twenty years later, the Taliban's writing outside the embassy will, in effect, claims exactly

that. The conditions are possible pariah government, a potential failing economy point to trouble ahead. And fragile guarantees at best, it won't

reach America's shores again. Nic Robertson, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


KINKADE: Let's go to New York now as Shimon Prokupecz is live near the 9/11 Memorial. Shimon, it's hard to believe it's 20 years since the terror

attacks, a generation ago. Explain how the U.S. prepares -- is planning to honor those who lost their lives.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, you know, which is what they do every year, last year, they couldn't do it because of the pandemic.

But what they do is they bring the family members here, and they all stay here at the site and they read the names of all the people who died on that

day and the family members will gather.

The president, President Biden, will be here, former presidents like Barack Obama will be here, other dignitaries, all will be here, because it was

such a significant, obviously very significant moment in our lives. It changed everything, from security, to international relations, to just

about everything in the world was changed because of this event.

And so understandably, everyone wants to be here to be with these families who've suffered so much. And like you said, for those of us who lived here

during that time, it's hard to believe it's been 20 years, you know, you -- as you get closer to that date. And of course, on the date, you remember

that day, and it takes you back to whatever it is that you were doing on that day. So it's going to be a really solemn day here tomorrow. The family

members will get to be together, they will get to hear their loved ones names announced.

And then the day will be spelled -- spent celebrating the lives of these people and everything that has been done since and a lot of the activism

and a lot of the reforms and the changes that so many of these people have wanted. And so tomorrow, the President will be here, other dignitaries, and

of course most, most importantly, it'll be for these family members who lost their loved ones 20 years ago,

KINKADE: And we will be tuning in. Shimon Prokupecz in New York. Thanks very much. And for our viewers, a programming note that you can join CNN

and as we honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks, 9/11: 20 YEARS LATER is this Saturday and our coverage starts at 8 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Well, all this week, we've been following the situation in Afghanistan. Mazar-i-Sharif where hundreds of people are stranded waiting for charter

flights that have not been cleared to fly. Among them are American citizens, Green Card holders, those with Special Immigrant Visas, and

Afghan allies who had been promised they could leave. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday that without personnel on the

ground, it was difficult to verify the documents of the passengers. But then later this week said it was the Taliban holding up the departures.

While U.S. Democratic Senator, Richard Blumenthal, is furious about the delays, he says the U.S. must heighten pressure to release the planes

immediately and urgently. He joins us now live from Hartford, Connecticut. Senator Blumenthal, good to have you with us.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: Thank you, Lynda. Thanks for having me.

KINKADE: So there are U.S. citizens and Green Card holders stuck at Mazar- i-Sharif, they've been busting, the planes are there. What's the holdup?

BLUMENTHAL: This situation is increasingly desperate and urgent. Many of these individuals have targets on their backs because they have sided with

the United States, indeed protected and helped our troops and diplomats and so now they are at risk as a result of torture and murder, and many are in

hiding. Likewise, there are United States citizens in extreme danger. And the holdup now seems to be the Taliban.

But for some days, it was our own United States State Department, and very much welcome now the United States government's cooperation and support

that they need to heighten the pressure, use every available tool with leverage on the Taliban. The Qataris have been very helpful, as you know

from the interviews on this very show, the Albanians had been and supportive.


And I just want to read you one thing, a message that came to me from an Afghan-born veteran of the United States military, 26-year veteran who

wrote to me, "So many of my brothers and sisters in and out of uniform are in disbelief that America could abandon Afghan allies who put their lives

on the line for us, and whom we promised to protect in -- and bring to America when we left. Now we are leaving them to be slaughtered." Veterans

groups have been part of the coalition that we have also cooperated with in trying to eliminate all of the holdups here and humanitarian relief, NGO

organizations. So there's a very formidable coal -- coalition here.

KINKADE: Senator, talk to us about how many people are there because this city is the fourth biggest in Afghanistan, these people have been there for

days, I understand some teenage girls, some athletes, a part of the group, they're there without their families, how many people were talking about?

BLUMENTHAL: We're talking about at least 700 people who are in and around the airport in the city. The Taliban have said that international flights

can go only from Kabul, so it may be necessary to take these planes, the two planes that would take those 700 people to Kabul and thence to either

Qatar or Albania. But, you know, we have more information on these individuals, regardless of the exact number, than was available for the

tens of thousands airlifted out of Kabul when the United States military was there. So the security issue is really a non-issue.

KINKADE: So that means you've got the documentation. You say you're furious at the government, the U.S. Biden administration had promised to get out

all U.S. citizens before leaving Afghanistan. But of course, the U.S. is now gone. And the U.S. Secretary of State said that the U.S. is doing

everything in its power. Is it?

BLUMENTHAL: I want to hold the State Department accountable for that commitment. I want to see action, not just words. The State Department has

evolved its position and I welcome the apparent support for getting these individuals out of the country and the humanitarian nightmare as the

president promised to do. There's a dilemma here, no question about it, Lynda. We have no presence, military or otherwise, in Afghanistan. But that

was a result of a conscious decision to withdraw.

I expressed some reservations about withdrawing all our troops before we had all the American citizens and Afghan allies out of the country. But now

we have means to do it, there are alternatives. The United States has options, we need to use them. These planes on the ground on the tarmac

ready to leave are among those options. And now we need to heighten the pressure on the Taliban and make sure that we use every point of leverage.

KINKADE: Senator, tell me more about those options. Just what can the U.S. do to exert more pressure on the Taliban if that is now the current holdup

to get these citizens, these Afghan allies out of Afghanistan? What more can be done right now?

BLUMENTHAL: The Afghanistan economy is in freefall, the Taliban have to govern. We have sanctions. We have rewards, carrots and sticks. We have

partners like the Qataris who are on the ground. And we have other points of leverage that can be used. And I'm not going to go into all of them as a

member of the Armed Services Committee. I'm familiar with some of them at least.

But I do think that the President -- and I take him at his word, is determined to rescue our Afghan allies who served as our interpreters, our

translators, guards, drivers, protecting with their lives and their families' lives, American troops and diplomats and I believe the President

when he says that we will not cease our efforts and I also believe that the Secretary of State Tony Blinken is committed to this cause as well, and I'm

glad that it has reached his level of attention, and that the State Department is now actively participating.

KINKADE: Senator Richard Blumenthal, in Connecticut, we appreciate your time and the effort that you're making and we hope you can get those people

out as soon as possible. Thanks so much.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

KINKADE: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


KINKADE: Welcome back. We are just one day away from a historic Women's Final at the U.S. Open tomorrow. Rising tennis stars Leylah Fernandez of

Canada and Emma Raducanu from the UKS will headline an all-teen women's final. Now this is the first time that's happened since 1999, before either

woman was born, and it will cap remarkable runs of both players who weren't even seated when the tournament began. In fact, Raducanu had to play

qualifying matches just to reach the main draw. And on her way to the final, Fernandez beat top five players and former champions including Naomi


We are going to have more on that in just a moment so stay with us, but right now I want to go to California where a pivotal vote is just days

away. On Tuesday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom will face a recall election. Michael Holmes explains how the recall came about and what it

could mean for the entire country's political future.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first question on the ballot is symbol, should California Governor Gavin Newsom be removed from office? In

Tuesday, special election recall, California voters choose yes or no. If more than 50 percent mark "Yes," the leader of America's most popular state

would be unseated, making him one of only three governors in U.S. history to leave their post in this way.


GAVIN NEWSOM, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Good morning, brothers and sisters, and lay --


HOLMES: Now Governor Newsome is trying to convince voters he should keep his job.


NEWSOM: Are we going to vote no on this recall?



HOLMES: The stark threat to the Democratic Governor that began as a challenge from state Republicans. In June of last year, Newsome's opponents

received approval for a petition to unseat him. Then amid a raging Coronavirus pandemic, Governor Newsom was seen in November at the dinner

party of a prominent lobbyist wearing no mask while publicly he was telling residents to mask up and stay indoors. Newsome apologized, but backlash

after that incident may have been pivotal in the petition's success.

Republicans collected more than 1.7 million signatures, enough to trigger a recall election in California.


Soon, the campaigning began.




HOLMES: Now Newsome's chief opponent is this man.


CROWD: Larry. Larry.


HOLMES: Larry elder is a 69-year-old conservative talk show host turned political candidate. He's vowing to rollback California's Coronavirus

restrictions and repeal mask and vaccine mandates.


ELDER: I'm not sure the scientists settled on that at all. And young people are not likely to contract the Coronavirus. If I had known there'd be so

many people, I would have prepared something to say.


HOLMES: Elder's candidacy has been seen as somewhat controversial in California in part for his views on race and women. He's also been accused

of domestic violence, an allegation he denies.


ELDER: I've always felt that minorities and women complain too much about racism and sexism.


HOLMES: Still, Elder is among more than 40 of Newsome's challenges or hoping to become California's next governor. But Newsome has strong support

from some of his party's most prominent members, including the U.S. President and Vice President.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They think if they can win in California, they can do this anywhere.


HOLMES: Supporters of framing the special election as a challenge to liberal values across the country. Democrats fear that should Newsome lose,

the impact could be far reaching, potentially encouraging Republican led recalls in other states, and even jeopardizing the party's control of the

U.S. Senate.

As Tuesday nears, Democrats and Republicans in the state and across the country will have to wait and see how many say yes and how many say no in

California's recall election. Michael Holmes, CNN.

KINKADE: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


KINKADE: Welcome back. Increasingly tough rules in China that limit the playing of video games among minors have sparked intense debate. They're

dividing players, parents, and health experts. Kristie Lu Stout looks closer at the so-called gaming disorder and what it means.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Playtime is pretty much over for China's young online gamers. Beijing has banned online gamers under

eighteen from playing on weekdays and limited their play to only three hours on most weekends. China's media watchdog says the rules are necessary

to combat gaming addiction.

It's a common concern among gamers and parents the world over, can video games be addictive?


In 2018, the World Health Organization introduced gaming disorder as a new mental health condition. Signs include impaired control over gaming, gaming

taking precedence over other interests, continuation of gaming despite negative effects, and impaired social functioning and distress.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gaming disorder is a disorder of control so the person cannot hold on to the amount of time for gaming and it keeps increasing. It

can cause several health problems, physical as well as mental.


STOUT: According to the W.H.O., the characteristics of gaming disorder are very similar to substance use disorders and gambling disorder. But not

everyone agrees. According to a 2020 study co-authored by American psychologist Chris Ferguson, there is a lack of consensus on the issue of

video game addiction. About 60.8 percent of scholars surveyed agreed pathological gaming could be a mental health problem, but 30.4 percent were



CHRIS FERGUSON, AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST: It's an issue that scholars have really been arguing about for probably 30 years. And what has happened is

there are all these questions about it that are unresolved in the scholarly community, like even as basic as, is this a real thing?


STOUT: For years, China, the world's largest video games market, has worried about the impact of games, blaming it for rising rates of

nearsightedness and setting up boot camps that use military drills to try to kick the habit.

And China now wants to combat gaming addiction by restricting how long young players can game online. How effective is this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very drastic public health measure. Gaming disorder is only present in a very small minority of all people who game because gaming

by itself is not always harmful.


STOUT: Mental health experts say the question isn't how many hours a child spends gaming, but whether excessive play is a sign of a deeper mental

health issue.


ERGUSON: If you just take away the games, you leave them with a pre- existing condition so it doesn't really fix anything. It kind of just takes away the thing that they were using to distract themselves from their



STOUT: Experts advise parents to monitor their kids and focus on harm reduction rather than unplugging entirely and missing out on the occasional

thrilling fight to the finish. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong. I can't believe they got first. That was a --


KINKADE: Well, thanks so much for watching tonight. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Stay with CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next. Have a great weekend.