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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  August 26, 2021 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT

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>> all right, kim motley, thank you very much. i appreciate your time and your talking to me again. thanks very much to all of you for joining us with all of this breaking news. it's time now for "ac 360." >> good evening, on what's been one of the most tragic days in the two decade long mission in afghanistan with a threat of more such days to come. take a look at the flags on capitol hill and at the white house. they are at half staff, honoring the now 13 american service members including ten marines who died with 18 more wounded after two explosions at and near the hamid karzai international airport in kabul. an affiliate of the isis terror group in afghanistan known as isis-k has claimed responsibility for the attacks. more than 60 afghans also dead and 140 wounded. a short time ago, president biden spoke to the american people from the white house and promised retrobiegz.
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>> for those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes america harm, know this. we will not forgive. we will not forget. we will hunt you down and make you pay. >> the president repeatedly struck a defiant tone. at one point saying, quote, america will not be intimidated. i need to warn you not just about what we're about to show you, but throughout tonight's broadcast, video of the aftermath of the attack outside the airport. it's brutal, it's sickening. that's precisely why we want you to see it. it's this time of barbarism that the united states and others are up against .
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>> this is just the sort of threat that u.s. forces had been most concerned about, and those 13 u.s. service members died while facing. in fact, here is video that a reporter from pbs who is on the ground in kabul just tweeted out. it's from a few days ago. she said it's the exact spot of the attack, showing tight and difficult conditions the service members are working under. something every u.s. servicemen will be thinking about for at least the next five days if not the rest of their lives. we'll also have more this evening on the airlift that continues even with the threat of more of these attacks.
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but as to the cost of ending this mission in just five days, president biden indicated he believes this was the correct course. >> you said you -- a few days ago, you said you squarely stand by your decision to pull out. >> yes, i do. >> we standard tonight with our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr. the biggest fears of the president, the military, and all americans were realized today with these attacks. dwee do we have a sense of how it may change the u.s. security procedures around the evacuation other than to give the operation more urgency? >> i think it will give the operation more urgency, anderson. pentagon officials have indicated over the last several days they tightened security, forced protection, if you will, for the troops as the threat became better understood and well known. they're going to keep looking at it. they're going to tighten up where they can, but this is very tough business. the image you showed a few seconds ago of those marines in such tight quarters, that is the
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reality of what is happening on the ground at the airport. they have to search people as they come through those gates. that means putting your hands on the person, running your hands over their clothes. it is up close and personal, and it is very dangerous work. >> barbara, previously, we had been told that there was, you know, the first ring of taliban, which were searching people for better or for worse, then there were supposed to be afghan special forces who were kind of a second perimeter, and then it would be u.s. forces. is that still the case? or i'm just wondering how a bomber was able to get so close to marines and other u.s. forces. >> you know, we have asked that question. and the indications are, and they're still really trying to piece it all together, that perhaps this person did go through a first taliban search checkpoint. what we were told today is the taliban are doing searches. some of them are good, some of
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them are not. no indications so far one way or the other that the taliban, if you will, let the bomber go through, that they knew it was a bomber. there is simply no indication of that at this point. but i think military officials are emphasizing very strongly, it is still very early hours and the information is still evolving. >> president biden vowed to hunt down those responsible for the attacks. at the same time, the military is continuing the evacuation and starting the process of their own departure. where would the resources to even go after isis-k come from? i mean -- >> you know, yeah. the president has very tough talk, but how exactly are you going to do that? the military has two basic options. afghanistan is a landlocked country. you could conduct air strikes using manned aircraft or drones. you have to have a very good idea of what you're striking. you have to know that the isis operatives are tlrb where you have to be certain there are no civilians nearby that could get struck, or your other option is
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to basically insert special forces and go on some type of raid. very tough business in afghanistan. how are you going to land these people? it is out of helicopter range, once u.s. forces are gone. it will be -- you could put them into the country. how are you going to get them out? without being noticed once they conduct a raid. it's just very tough business, and finding the specific isis-k personnel, the president indicated they might have an idea, they're not certain of who exactly is responsible, but these isis guys, they float in and out. you're going to have to have some pretty terrific, exquisite intelligence to go after them. >> finally, what is the latest you're hearing in terms of the number of americans still believed to be on the ground, awaiting evacuation? and is the notion of evacuating afghans who are gathering at the gates, is that still in the picture? >> it's so hard to tell at this point because, you know, the
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situation -- we have heard the low hundreds. they got about 500 out over the last day or so. they are going to have to keep at it. they're going to have to do everything to make sure they have gathered up anybody outside of kabul and in kabul that wants to get out of the country that is an american citizen with a passport. so that's the first challenge. in terms of the afghans, the honest answer probably is that the clock is running out. officially, we are told that the u.s. will keep at it until the very last minute, trying to get out any afghans that have the right paperwork, that indicated they helped americans. but we are really talking not even days at this point. we may be coming down to hours in terms of being able to get the people out and then for the u.s. military to turn around and pack itself up and get out by
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tuesday. >> i mean, it's extraordinary just looking at these images from jane ferguson. i mean, the closeness with which, you know -- >> right. >> i know the u.s. general who was speaking was saying there's no other way when it gets down to brass tacks of it's got to be troops searching with their hands the bodies of people who are trying to get into this secure airport. >> it is. i mean, you know, it essentially is the equivalent of a potential combat zone, which it became today. over the years, we have all seen the images of troops going through villages on raids, looking for suspected terrorists. and when they go through, they have to search the people. it is very tough business. and it's especially heartbreaking right now because we have seen so many images over the last several days of the troops, you know, taking off their helmets, going up to children, offering them water,
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toys, walking along, playing with them, going into the crowds of people. and trying to render humanitarian assistance. you know, it is the afghan people that have continued to suffer so badly in all of this. >> yeah. and now so many american families. barbara starr, thank you very much. our chief white house correspondent kaitlan collins joins us. today's attack was the president's biggest fear realized in regards to afghanistan, yet you learn late tonight ending the evacuation earlier because of this was not considered. >> yeah, it was something, anderson, that was never really an option brought up today as the president was talking with those top military commanders at the pentagon about what the next steps are going to look like. and we're told that's not because it was something that the president was against, but it was something that those top military aides never believed was a good idea. it was something that they talked about earlier this week when you saw world leaders were pushing for an extension of that deadline. those military commanders had actually advocated against that because they want today get out of there, but they are sticking
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with this deadline of august 31st. and there had been some questions about whether or not they would move it up, and anderson, we should note, you know, you said that one of the toughest days of his presidency, something that he said himself when he walked into the east room earlier. this all started this morning when the president had a prescheduled briefing in the situation room with his top national security aides on afghanistan. he's been getting basically a daily update every day this week on the evacuation effort, as that clock is ticking down. and i was told by a senior administration official that aides had started gathering in the situation room this morning around 9:00 a.m. when they were first seeing the reports of this attack outside the abbey gate. it was a few moments later when president biden joined them in the situation room that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general mark milley, told the president about this report. and of course, the details then in the 9:00 a.m. hour were far from clear. they were trying to figure out if there had been u.s. service members killed .
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getting updates on what was going on, which obviously culminated in very tragic news with 13 u.s. service members dead. >> we saw the remarks that went from deep empathy to a promise of retrue retriburetribution, i like the u.s. is really operating from a position of power in afghanistan, particularly that they're already at the stage in this where they're starting to consider and actually withdraw u.s. forces. >> yeah, and anderson, so much of this depends on the taliban. and you heard general mackenzie earlier when he was briefing reporters saying some of them are really scrupulous about who they're letting through the checkpoints and some are not so good. we know this person is believed to have made it first past one
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of those checkpoints and barbara was saying they don't think this is intentional. they don't have intelligence showing otherwise, but i do think the larger point of what we're seeing happening in afghanistan and where it goes from here, it's only gotten dicier, the last few days the president has said they're still going to stick by these next now less than five days that are going to happen, is going to be even more concerning because there are still active threats on the ground, before this attack had happened, white house officials said they were most worried about the last days when there were the fewest u.s. troops when they were starting to wind down that presence about what could happen. we have seen those worst fears realized, but they could not be over. they're very real, very concerned about it, and they still have a lot of people to get through the airport before the u.s. is completely gone. >> these groups have a lot of people willing to blow t themselves up. the frafternoon, i spoke to matthew aikens who was in kabul when the attacks occur. >> i understand you went to the
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airport. how soon after the attack were you there and what did you see? >> we were there less than an hour after the attack. i was at home and heard a pop, which you get kind of attuned to living in kabul, and soon afterward, got a report from someone, a reporter who was following, who was going to the airport today, trying to get in. that there had been a complex attack at this abbey gate, so we hopped on the motorcycle, rode down, and it was pretty chaotic scene. the taliban were trying to clear the crowds that had gathered. they were swinging lengths of cable and shouting. we managed to show our press passes and get in a little closer. but we weren't actually able to see the site of the blast, but we could hear shooting and sirens from the airport. at that point, we went back to the emergency hospital, and they were bringing casualties in there. there was just body after body, it was a really terrible sight. >> do you have a sense of how
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close the attack was at the abbey gate? >> yeah, i talked to someone who was there. he said he was about ten meters away, in this huge press of people that were just cramming up, desperate to show their documents to these marines who were standing there. and he said he was about ten meters, 20, 30 feet away from the marines. and in the crush of people, he kind of tripped and lost his footing, and then there was this blast. and total chaos, people were on the ground, marines were shooting. people were running over bodies. it was just blood everywhere. his cousin was wounded. he thinks, the guy told me he thought at least four or five marines were killed on the spot. we now hear it's at least a dozen. so the bomber managed to get -- the first bomber managed to get up quite close to the american soldiers. >> it sounds like from what the
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military has said thus far and they said they're still gathering more details that the marines actually have to physically search the individuals who are trying to -- before they get access inside the airport, and it sounds like that is where the detonation may have occurred. i hadn't realized that we have seen images of marines, soldiers on top of a wall bringing people up, but to have them out exposed like that obviously maybe was unexpected for a lot of people. >> yeah, and especially there's been reports now for several days of risk of this kind of attack, that isis was planning a suicide attack against the airport. so you know, it was obviously a dangerous situation, but it's just so out of control. you have tens of thousands of people cramming in from every angle at the same time, this desperate pressure to get the american citizens and others out. so it was really truly a recipe for disaster.
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and i have been going to the airport basically every day since the fall of kabul to the taliban, and every day, you felt a sense of mounting dread, and on top of all of the horrible things you were seeing, that something like this would happen and it did. the taliban is playing an important role for the internationals, the americans here. preventing all of kabul rushing onto the air field like they did last week where you had scenes of people hanging off airports. so the west needs the taliban actually to keep people back. at the same time, how are they going to filter people without checking their documents? so you can see why the situation is so extraordinarily confused. >> and when you're talking about, i mean, in one of the videos we have seen where there are a lot of dead and injured, i mean, the seems like there is blast walls on either side. there's kind of a drainage ditch or a sewage ditch. if it's a crush of people like that, how does somebody who is just arriving there to try to get, if they have a legitimate
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identification, is it just a question of pushing your way through the mob? >> yeah, spending the whole day basically clawing your way to the front of this mob in the hopes that you'll catch the soldiers' attention when you're at the front. that's the kind of desperate tactics that people have to resort to. and the thing is that the airport gates and everything, they were set up for vehicle access, mostly, and they were set up with all these blast walls to protect against, you know, vehicle borne suicide attacks, car bombs. and this kind of architecture, this fortress architecture, create death traps for large groups of people. you have tight, narrow confines with high concrete walls and barbed wire. so it's just chilling to see, you know, all these human beings kind of funnel into this grim fortress architecture.
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>> what do you think happens now in terms of the evacuation? >> i'm hoping that people, if they go home and stay home and stay safe, that eventually, you know, normal commercial operations are going to reopen at the airport. the taliban has said they want normal relations with the world. they want visas for themselves and their family members. i met taliban fighters who tell me about their relatives in the u.s. or europe. so they also want to be able to travel the world. so i hope that people will be able to get visas. they will be able to get out normally if they just wait and sit at home. but that also depend on us. we have dangled this promise of escape over the course of this evacuation. and that's what made people so desperate to get out, but i really hope that translates into an enduring commitment to get people out, to get them visas over the next year, coming years. afghans who need refuge in the
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west, there will be ways. >> i appreciate your time. thank you. >> my pleasure. you heard matthew talk about the gates around the airport. i wanted to kind of get you a better sense of where the gates are and just kind of a better sense of place because it's confusing. i'm joined by tom foreman for a look at the airport and hotel where these explosions occurred. >> what we're really seeing here, you described very, very well, as a clash between desperation and determination. the desperation is the people who now for days have been pouring up this main road here, past taliban checkpoints, hitting the main entrance, and when they can't get in, spreading out along the blast walls, around the airport, trying to get in. thousands of people, over hundreds of yards, while they're trying to maintain some sort of security on the inside. when you hear the warnings we have had for days saying look, we're afraid something is going to happen, you look at the circumstance and say, of course, it could happen, and now it has. >> it happened at what is known
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at the abbey gate. talk about where that is, whether it's the civilian or military side of the airport and is this the gate that is used by americans trying to get into the airport or is that always shifting? >> well, it shifts depending on the moment because this is so chaotic, but yes, this area over here, this is where the abbey gate is, the main entrance we were talking about. the abbey gate is here, the baron hotel is a stone's thrown away. this has been used to try to get out many westerners. americans, europeans, brits, and afghans as well. one of the reasons, as you mentioned the military side, this is the military side over here. here's the civilian side. remember the pictures a few days ago of people storming the tarmac? that was happening out here. and that sort of forced the military to take a greater hand over here. but in the end, yeah, this is one of the entry points where they have tried to open it according to the pentagon, rush a few people through, and then close it up again. and they believe that is one of the moments when this blast went
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off. very interesting to hear what matthew said about somebody being close to the blast because we don't have a sense yet of how big this was. did it reach out and get a whole lot of people over a longer distance or just that everyone was packed that tightly together, including these american troops. >> is there any way really though to keep this from happening again if they continue to have large groups, you know, of afghan civilians congregating outside? a, can they stop that? probably not, and b, what can they do to try to prevent this? >> i don't know. what they don't have here, anderson, is something i know they wish they did have, which is some kind of stand-off distance. there would be nothing better for the u.s. troops there than for this big mob to be back further. but you can see, we have watched this video for days here. they're right up on the fence, right up at the wall. they have to be, because that's how they try to show their documents and try to get through the chaos. if there were more control
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outside by the taliban, and i don't mean this beating people in line control, but actual control where people were able to be filtered in a little more slowly, then yeah, maybe you can reduce this danger a lot more. but they're trying to move thousands of people through this area, as you mentioned, they have to check them individually, which means u.s. troops have to get up next to them, and as we have always said, the terrorists only have to get it right once. these troops have to get it right over and over and over again. and with the clock ticking and this being an unmoving target. they had days to look at this. anyone who wants to attack it, to see the weak points, to see the crowds, to see the troops and the mission has to move forward. the pentagon said today this mission is designed to go forward under stress even under attack. i think we're going to find out in the next 48, 72 hours. >> tom foreman, appreciate it. we're going to show you the video again taken days ago by a
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pbs reporter that she says she believes was shot in the same spot as the airport attack. you see marines, crowds of afghans pressed against them, trying to leave, the american service members risking their lives, knowing this is not a situation that protects them. they are as close as you can be to these hundreds if not thousands of people who are waiting and desperate. i want to get perspective on the attack from our senior international correspondent, sam kiley, who was recently at kabul at the airport, and mark hertling. sam, just talk about what we now, you know, we're talking earlier on the air as the information was coming in. this is certainly the worst, one of the worst case scenarios, the death toll on the u.s. -- of u.s. forces, marines and others, and afghans is sickening. is there a way to, i mean, what happens now? is there a way to make it any safer for u.s. troops?
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>> no, it's going to get progressively more dangerous for u.s. troops, anderson, as the withdrawal of u.s. troops and other coalition troops, but it's the americans who are in control of base security, they control the perimeter, as troops draw down on the interior, they will come under more and more pressure. isis or other groups, and general mackenzie referenced in his press conference that they knew or were working on the assumption isis might try to use rockets. they might try to use artillery, they might try to use mortars. these are all indirect fire, mostly, that could impact inside the base, just as american troops are withdrawing. they do have countermeasures, very successful automated counter systems to pick up those rockets and knock them out of the air before they can get in, but at some stage, those weapons systems have to be loaded on aircraft and taken out.
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they will be among the last line of defense before the final evacuation, but with every day that passes, fewer troops will be there. and at the same time, there is this accelerated need to get the last americans who want to get out, out, and as many afghans that need to get out, out. and so that makes it that much more difficult. i have to say, we were talking about this earlier on today, anderson. i'm absolutely amazed that the u.s. marines were out there on the ground doing those searches and moving people in. because that gate had been pretty much closed when i was there. there were very few people indeed able to get in. most of them just being snatched in or snuck in, and the gates had all been closed or mostly closed for several days because of these enormous crowds trying to control the numbers. it's basically an impossible task. you have to get out and feel the breadth, as general mukensa said, of the people you're searching, because yes, they are searched again once they're
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inside, but that is the point of most vulnerability. you don't want to get a situation in which you can have people with weapons or bombs getting inside the base. that would be even more disastrous. >> yeah. >> but certainly from a civilian perspective, this presented itself a most appalling targ frt the isis-k members. >> general hertling, as you look at the video prom pbs that shows the extreme close quarters that u.s. service members are working under, is this how you imagined it? is there any way given the reality of the situation on the ground to figure this out in the next couple days? >> probably not a whole lot of changes can be made, anderson. what i got to tell you is, it's exactly the way i imagined it because two things. first of all, the afghan culture is not one that lines up in queues. so you don't have a culture that is polite and allows people to get in front of you or have a straight solid line waiting for a movie or waiting to get into a
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gate. the second thing you have to consider is, it was a crush to get out, with tens of thousands of people. and as i said the other night when we were talking, probably the majority of those people had no documentation. they were just trying to get to the front of the line to escape from the taliban. and then, you've got a very small entrance point to the airfield, manned by the marines, and as we talked about, this is a neo, a noncom battant evacuation operation in a nonpermissive environment. so those marines that were out there were doing their very best depending on the taliban outside the gate to conduct the initial screening, to conduct the final screening, and to look at the paperwork and pass it along to the embassy officials, the consulates. so yeah, it's about what i expected given the entry control points to the airfield. and the lack of ability to control the vast number of
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crowds. but it was just a horrible and disastrous thing that occurred today. >> so general hertling, we heard president biden vowing to find the people responsible for the attacks saying we'll hunt you down, make you pay. he asked the military for options to strike isis-k targets. given that, you know, the relatively small number of u.s. forces that were on the ground in afghanistan over the last year, i think some 2500 or so, a lot of their job was, you know, hunting down groups like this. without those forces on the ground, once the u.s. forces leave the airport, what are the u.s. capabilities to actually fulfill that promise? >> a couple things are going to affect that, anderson. i think as the forces drew down in afghanistan, a lot of the folks that were left, the u.s. folks that were left and the nato folks left were either the trainers or the intelligence collectors for targeting purposes for the counterterrorism mission. those are now gone. so the key element of targeting
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is that intelligence collection and intelligence based operations. but secondly, for those of us who have watched the transformation of isis ckhorasa, they have gone from a rural based terrorist group, having had multiple fights with the taliban, these are direct enemies over the last two or three years, so the taliban and isis-k have been having multiple engagements. they don't like each other, they're vying for power. and isis-k took a step forward in getting the operational environment today. but what happened also is over the last couple years is isis-k has moved from the rural environment where they were defeated into the more urban environment. and kabul is their primary source. so you're talking about the very difficult role of hitting a terrorist organization or terrorist cells in an urban environment, without any
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intelligence or with limited intelligence, less intelligence than you had before, to drive those operations. so it's going to be difficult. you know, special operations forces, counterterrorism forces can strike anywhere in the world. that part is true, the part that the president and the chairman had been saying. however, it becomes much more difficult when the intelligence is less than it had been over the last 20 years. >> also, when some of the afghans who are likely the people to provide the intelligence are probably some of the ones who have been evacuated for understandable reasons. sam, president biden said while he doesn't trust the taliban, he doesn't think it was a mistake to rely on them for airport security. i mean, it's this bizarre situation now where the u.s. is actually giving intelligence to taliban forces about kind of threats they're concerned about so the taliban will particularly be looking for those. wasn't there supposed to be also afghan national army special
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forces who were going to be able to be evacuated as the last people essentially with u.s. forces, but weren't they supposed to also provide a layer of searching and security at the airport between the taliban and u.s. forces? >> that's certainly what had been happening in previous days. but i have seen with my own eyes groups of afghan special forces here in qatar being processed or sitting waiting to be processed, having been evacuated. again, there comes a point at which the americans want to be able to control the whole process of troop withdrawal. so you will bring in those elements such as the afghan special forces that had been out on the front there, doing those initial screenings. you're going to bring them behind your lines, get them out of the way, so you can start withdrawing in an orderly way with the troops you have trained to do that. no point doing that the other way around with soldiers that don't know what you're up to. so clearly, that has happened,
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or it is happening, and because i have seen them being moved out here to qatar and being put on planes elsewhere. there's also not enormous numbers of them, but i think the other aspect of this is that the role played by the taliban is surprising, but it is inevitable. there is no way to do this without the help of the taliban. and there will be no way to go after this isis-khorasan group without the help of the taliban. and that's going to be a very interesting relationship to see that one evolve if the united states is going to go after these people. i think reality is that the taliban will be in the best position and have the best intelligence such as it is to go after isis khorasan and take advantage perhaps on behalf of the united states, but the majority of people killed here also afghans. >> bizarre bed fellows the situation makes. sam kiley and mark hertling, thank you. more on the attacks in afghanistan in a moment, including a conversation with a
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man we talked to last night who is an american green card holder who can't get out. and a group of students and their families from the san diego area visiting family in afghanistan trapped trying to get out. th the efforts to get them out next.
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with downy infusions, let the scent set the mood. feel the difference with downy. said the military would continue to rescue those threatened by taliban violence, including green card holders and allies still in afghanistan. he even suggested there could be missioned after the august 31st departure date. earlier, i spoke to someone we had on the broadcast last night, an afghan, a permanent resident of the united states, he's lived in the u.s. for six years. he traveled to afghanistan for his father' funeral. now, we do not know every detail about him. we have seen a copy of his green card, his driver's license and done a background check, and we know he's in a safe location, as much as one can be tonight.
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we spoke just before air time. >> so when we spoke to you last night, you were on the way to the airport trying to get out of afghanistan. clearly, you didn't make it. what's happened now? >> well, yesterday in the morning, i went to the airport. we had been waiting, waiting for hours. so i had been waiting for 13 hours, no sight of any international forces to come outside and talk to us. only people that were outside the gate, of the gate, afghans. special force of afghans. so they received people, but only from outside the gate, and
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the gate inside. >> just so our viewers know, the united states has been using afghan special forces, troops, as sort of a buffer between the taliban and them. and they often are the ones dealing with people before they get to the final ring, which is u.s. forces inside. >> i don't know where they have the connection, but from this gate, only people that they get called. therefore, green card holders, we showed them the green card, they said just wait. we wait almost 13 hours. they just ask us wait and wait. and they will take you guys
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inside. but not half an hour, 45 minutes. they take inside some people, but not from the crowd of people. >> so what happens now? are you going to go again to the airport? or is it -- what are you going to do? >> i mean, we're trying to go back to the airport. i don't know if the airport is open to receive people again. but i'm about to leave, you know, home in about half an hour to go see if i can get inside. but i don't know. if we can make it again. >> how are you holding up? >> it's going to be -- it's going to be the same as
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yesterday. no one comes outside, and only people from outside they're taking. that's it. >> how are you feeling? >> how do i feel? i feel really frustrated. i feel really hopeless because no one gives us a call, no one even -- we have documents, and how do we feel? somebody has, you know, they have the right documents in their hands, and they're u.s. citizens and permanent residents of the united states. they have their documents, legal documents in their hands. they cannot get inside the airport, but people that they don't have documents, even they don't have passports, they get inside the airport. you think how do i feel when i see these kind of things? i feel really, really hopeless.
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>> thank you. be careful. >> yeah, thank you. i want to tell you about a frightening story for families in the san diego area. according to a local school district, a group of an estimated 14 students and 8 parents who traveled to see family in afghanistan are now stranded and haven't been able to make it back to the u.s. they have reported the families who traveled there are on special visas for u.s. military service and that the defense department considers them allies. i'm joined by david, superintendent of the cajon valley union school district where the students attended. i know this wasn't a school sanctioned trip, but these are a group of your students and their families. what's the latest on them? >> well, the latest is we have one family that is safe at home. and we're so blessed to be able to connect with them. >> but you mean safe at home back in san diego?
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>> yeah. and then two families that we have confirmed are out of afghanistan, en route, and we can't give details about where and how they're arriving here, but we have every reason to believe they'll be home soon. and then we still have five families remaining with, like you said, 14 students of ours and 8 of their parents or uncles that are still on hold, but despite what happened today, we have every reason to believe that they will be home with us as well. we're very encouraged. >> do you know, have in prior days, have they been going to the airport, to the gate, or have they been staying at home trying to make sure they can organize just when they go there that they can get in? >> even prior to the warnings that happened just recently, they were told it's not safe to be out and about, especially near the airport perimeter. so our intel and our operations both here in the united states
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and on the ground in afghanistan have been in frequent communication, thanks to the help of our amazing emmployees who on whatsapp and facebook and other means are connecting to the family, also giving them intel to insure our troops on the ground and our military can find them for a safe return. >> and how are they doing? i mean, it's got to be obviously harrowing situation. >> the last time that we were together on a joint communication, and our liaisons are doing translating and connecting with the families because they know them, there's fear, and heightened fear and dezperation. not so much of the travel or the journey back to the united states, but what will happen if the deadline comes and they don't make it out? that's the biggest fear right now. >> and the families who have made it out, whether they're back here or en route, or in
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process, how are they doing? have you been able to talk with any of them? >> yes, we are very excited and ecstatic with where they are, and we hope to report more details from home. >> and i understand that obviously they want to get their kids back in school, so obviously, i understand for even the parents, even in the midst of that, that's beentheirs, to back to school. >> that's how we started communication. on august 16th, the day before the first day of school, one of the families that was in afghanistan reached out and said, hey, we're not going to be able to make the first day of school, but please don't give away my second grade seat in this class because we're coming. then we started to collect information. realizing that several of our families were there. and then the crisis really heightened, and we began to ask the question not do we find a place for them in school when they return, but how do we get them home?
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what can we do? so i called the department of education, our congress people, everyone, and congressman issa called me within five minutes. >> wow. superintendent, i appreciate all your efforts and we'll continue to stay in touch with you. thanks so much. >> thank you, anderson. >> in his news conference this evening, president biden said, quote, i bear responsibility for fundamentally all that has happened of late. no doubt the first full-blown crisis of his administration. i want to get some perspective from a cnn contributor and author of biography on the president, joe biden, the life, the run, and what matters now. evan, clearly a very difficult day for this white house. not perhaps the most difficult so far for president biden, not to mention the u.s. military and this country. what do you make of his comments addressing the attack? >> well, you just looked at his body language. he was shaken. this is precisely the scenario he's been trying to avoid, talking about for days that the longer they stay on the ground, the more u.s. service members are exposed. he said something i thought was very interesting, anderson.
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he said we're heartbroken and outraged. those are two very different ideas. heartbroken is grief for the american service members who were there and the afghans who lost their lives. outrage is actually the beginning of something. he talked about the need to seek revenge, to hunt people down who did this. that in a way is also an description of an excruciating problem. he's at the beginning of a new chapter in which we're going to be hearing about a group that americans have largely never heard of, isis-k, and afghanistan and pakistan harbor 18 of the 72 groups that the state department classified as terrorist organizations so we're now -- he's faceing the challenge of how do you undertake a mission that addresses the clear threat but also does not become the kind of unbounded project that we're precisely trying to leave behind. >> yeah, the u.s. has poured billions into pakistan and nevertheless, they're harboring those folks and obviously are, you know, behind the taliban and certainly the origins of the taliban. president biden spoke specifically to the service members who were killed in
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today's attack, calling them heroes, empathizing with their parents, as a father who lost a son. i want to play part of that. >> we have some sense like many of you do what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. get this feeling like you're being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. there's no way out. my heartaches for you. >> it is one of the things we have seen from him throughout his life. the ability and the desire to step into other people's pain in that sense. >> yeah. you know, this is in a way the most personal way in which he has talked about the agonies of the last 14 days or so. this is a period in which he has been very much thinking utabout his own son, beau, beau biden, people may recall, join thd army
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shortly after september 11th, and for joe biden, he was constantly thinking in those years when he was thinking about afghanistan policy and the white house as vice president, he was often talking about what the implications would be for people like beau biden. and you know, one of the things that is on the minds of people in the white house is the idea that goes all the way back to vietnam, and it was actually john kerry in 1971 who came back from vietnam as a young naval officer and said how do you ask a young man to go and be the last to die in vietnam. for the biden family, they're very much thinking how it is for these families who are confronting the reality that their own sons and daughters are at risk and in fact some have already lost their lives for a war that the united states has already declared over. that is just an excruciating moment. >> a number of politicians and representatives and others have said, have talked about expanding the perimeter, not sticking to the august 31st deadline. that clearly is not in the
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president's mindframe. >> no, i mean, he's moving in the other direction. i think it's worth pointing out, it's very easy for somebody in washington to say the solution is simply teex pand the perimeter, but nobody has yet described how that would in fact protect american service members from the attack they faced today. >> it actually exposes american service members more, just a larger perimeter. >> and that's very much the thinking in the white house. look, they are of the view that there are just geographically, physically, this not a problem with an obvious solution. the solution from their perspective is to wrap it up as efficiently as they can and remove themselves from that threat area. the idea there is some convenient solution on the table that nobody has picked up is the kind of thing you're able to offer if you're not in the position of having to make the hard decisions. i would be wary of somebody telling me they know exactly what the solution is. >> you said this withdrawal has been a painful reckoning for the white house. it certainly got a lot more complicated today and a lot more painful. how concerned do you think president biden is that this will define his legacy as
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president? >> you know, he's been in this business a very long time. he knows the kind of damage this can do to a presidency, not only because of the loss of life, which is just a brutal fact. obviously, the biggest loss since 2020. first time there's been a loss of life since 2020. i think it's worth pointing out that the long-term political effects are in some ways the problem to think about tomorrow. the white house is clearly aware of it. but part of what they're doing is to show that they have a policy plan and they're sticking with it. they're not going to allow themselves to be drawn back into an unbounded mission that exposes americans again to further risks. if anything, and it's hard to say this explicitly today, but they see this as a kind of, i would say, a kind of hideous confirmation of why they're so determined to pull out. because the risks of staying longer, of trying to figure out a short-term solution are not as obvious as it might seem just casually looking at it from the
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outside. >> it is a sickening day. evan, appreciate it. coming up next, the group isis-k that we talked much about tonight has claimed responsibility for the attacks in kabul. i'll talk to the pulitzer prize winner author of a definitive book about isis.
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as we reported the group claiming responsibility for today's attack is isis-k, there's no question most americans have no idea who they are or what they represent. i hadn't heard that term in quite a while. "washington post" reporter, joby warrick has written extensively
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about isis, he's the author of "black flag," he joins me now. as someone who studied isis-k, what is your reaction to this attack, their claim of responsibility, and let's start with who is isis-k, for a lot of people it's the first time they are hearing that term. >> they have been around since 2014, 2015, and so the story of them is, if you remember back in sort of the hay day of the caliphate, sort of the project of isis was to create these mini chapters in various places, and one of them was isis khorasan, the khorasan province, which is ancient muslim land, afghanistan, iran, that part of the world and so they came up in 2014, 2015, and they became pretty powerful quickly, and became a problem for the u.s. forces there but also for the taliban who they don't like particularly much so they have been fighting each other as well as fighting our forces. >> so their vision for
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afghanistan is different than the taliban's? what is the conflict between the two? i mean, is it religious or is it, you know, mafia groups wanting power? >> there's a little bit of both because obviously afghanistan is sort of land of war lords and they have been fighting over various things for centuries, but incredibly isis khorasan thinks the taliban is too moderate. for example, the cooperation that's taking place at the airport is just more proof that the taliban is too modern, it's working with the west. we don't trust these guys, and so they're wanting to impose an even stricter version, a more extreme version of sharia and islamic land. that's what they contend they want to do. >> what are their capabilities, earlier the general was saying they have moved to rural areas into cities in mainly kabul.
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>> well, this is going to be interesting, now, anderson because what we saw in the past was they were much diminished by 2018, 2019 because they were being punished by u.s. forces. we bombed them hundreds of times literally went after this group, and pretty much drove it into a corner. now the u.s. is gone, what happens, do these guys start to come back? their targets have pretty much always been local. they have carried out dozens of attacks against afghans, u.s. forces. they typically are local in focus. they talk globally as many of these groups do. they talk about, you know, inspiring outside attacks. but so far we haven't seen much from them, except in afghanistan itself. >> and i mean, there's no reason to believe that this might not happen again as long as there's u.s. forces at this airport. >> absolutely. this is the biggest opportunity they have had for a very long time. they have made instant promotion of this, propaganda campaigns.
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within hours we saw this video come out with this young man, with the martyr saying he was carrying out this act. it was described in detail, how he sort of immersed himself in the crowd of people, got within 15 feet of the american check point and detonated this bomb. as long as there are americans within reach, they are certainly targets for this group, and they are going to look for every opportunity they can to exploit it. >> we heard president biden say he's going to hunt them down, make them pay. >> with regard to finding, tracking down the isis leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are, not certain, and we will find ways for our choosing
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without large military operations to get them wherever they are. >> what is their leadership structure, and without a, you know, the military presence that the u.s. has had in afghanistan this past year, how capable would the u.s. be if gen gettin them? >> that's really difficult. obviously they don't have a fixed address. they operate on the border of east afghanistan and pakistan, the lawless triable areas that we don't have much of a reach into, and not only do we not have military assets in place after next week but the intelligence assets that we count on typically for carrying out the strikes, they're gone as well. interestingly once again we might find ourselves relying on the taliban which also has an interest going after these guys. you can imagine a scenario, as twisted a story where the taliban helps provide information that could lead us to where these guys are and help us carry out an attack, which would certainly be in their interest as well. >> joby warrick, thank you so
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much, again, remarkable book and research. thank you. appreciate it. up next, as flags are lowered at the white house tonight and across the country in honor of the u.s. service members killed in afghanistan, more of what president biden said about their courage and sacrifice. that's coming up.
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it goes without saying that today's events in afghanistan brought in sharp focus the dangers and horrors american men and women service members face. honoring the 13 service members killed today but to honor all of the victims of the suicide attacks outside the kabul airport. you heard some of what the president said earlier in the program. in addition, he called the american military members who died heros and added heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous selfless mission to save the lives of others. the president also said this. we have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you, the families of those heroes, that obligation is not temporary. it lasts forever. words to remember tonight. the news continues. i want to hand it over to chris
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for "cuomo prime time." chris? as always i'm chris cuomo and welcome to "primetime" 13 u.s. troops, mostly marines killed today in the worst loss of american life in ten years in afghanistan. remember them, imagine being their families. if you know any of them, help them. if any of them are watching right now, please know we all owe you for what you and your loved ones gave for the rest of us. and know this, you are not part of the problem that surrounds this situation. you are the one aspect that all can agree on and appreciate as part of the solution. not the problem. so think of our men and wome