tv CNN Newsroom With Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell CNN August 31, 2021 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT
hello, every one. second hour of newsroom. >> any moment president biden will address the nation from state dining room there at the white house and con front this new place in american history. the president who ended the longest war in u.s. history in afghanistan for the first time in two decades and after a chaotic and deadly two weeks. u.s. troops have ceased all military operations in afghanistan. the taliban is declaring victory and flaunting some elements of their new arsenal. >> with us now, we have cnn chief national affairs correspondent. what does the president want to tell the country? >> reporter: you know that president biden was meeting with his national security adviser here at the white house earlier. some of the details from the meeting are likely to infuse his speech that he'll be giving.
he's running a bit behind here. they are putting a lot of thought into this speech because it must carry a lot of weight. the historic weight of ending a 20-year war. something he's long wanted to do but not in this manner. he will thank, i am told, veterans for their service and sacrifice, including the 13 american service members who fell to their deaths last week during that frantic evacuation. i'm told this will be more of the speech that has more elevation, not necessarily talk about the operational miscues that really have marred the last two weeks here. he will talk about how america got into this car and why he believes-a good decision to leave the war. he heard him say time and time again, he did not want to be another american president to send a new generation of americans into afghanistan. that possession was largely one of the reasons he got elected. that position was widely supported by a strong majority of americans but it is the
frantic and chaotic exit that we have seen over the last couple of weeks that this administration is still trying to find an answer for. they do point to more than 120,000 people afghan partners and americans alike leaving hafgs afghanistan safely. that's something he will be pointing to. the big burning question, the urgent question, how the u.s. plans to get out the 100 to 200 american citizens still on the ground in afghanistan. this is not a military mission. it's a diplomatic one. finally, how he plans to keep eyes on lafghanistan, if you will, to protect the homeland from another terror strike. >> jeff, thank you. we're joined now by retired army major general james spider
marx, dana bash and clarissa ward. dana, this is speech this president has wanted to give. that the war in afghanistan is over. it's a speech that the majority of americans for polling want to hear that this war is over. it's the context in which it comes that this is not the end. this is beginning for a lot of those afghans still waiting to get out and up to 200 american who is still want to leave. >> absolutely. i'm hearing similar things that jeff just reported on in terms of how the president wants to frame this speech as a big picture kind of address to the nation .
the question is whether or not he will be forward looking. that's what a lot of sources in both parties i'm talking to on capitol hill say they are listening for. how is america going to deal with the taliban? will the united states recognize the taliban? those kinds of questions are so crucial and critical. unclear if he will acknowledge that or bring that up in the speech today. the other question is what about the refugees. he's going to clearly talk about the role of america in this war but also going forward. what will he do and what will america do not to just contact the unbelievable air lift. it was unbelievable despite the frantic and chaotic problems with the last week or so, but
what now? what will the u.s. do with those refugees and how will it do its part to absorb them? >> one big question is what happens now in afghanistan. the taliban have said the right things. they wapnt good diplomatic relations. we know from people who have tried to get to the airport, they have blocked them. they have demanded money. they have been back to their usual behavior. where do you think we are? >> i think there's a huge amount of uncertainty now. if you live in kabul, if you're a woman, if you're educated, if you're a working professional, you are very afraid of what the future holds. we're seeing in kabul huge lines outside banks. people are very concerned
there's going be an economic crisis. they are tie rying to stake the saving out of the banks and get out of the country. despite the noises the taliban is making which are positive, the reality is there's a huge concern about whether the taliban has the wherewithal to properly govern a country. for the past 20 years they have been in insurgency. when they were governing, they were doing a poor job. can they preside oaf a modern education system? can they have infrastructure projects? i think a lot of people are looking to friday when they expect to announce a tran transitional government. if you bought into that project and spent 20 years thriving as a result of the u.s. presence in afghanistan, this is a dark day
for you, indeed. there's no getting around that. even if the taliban doesn't carry out any sort of plood letting purge or anything of that nature, there's still a sense for more progressive educated people that their country is not heading in a positive direction. you do have people celebrating in the streets today and waving taliban flags and calling it indep independence day. it's never a simple black and white picture. fair to say there's a huge amount of anxiety and a huge amount of fear and it's going take more than the taliban talking the talk. they're going to have to walk the walk as well. >> general, this war ends without a declaration of victory or defeat. i don't know -- i'd be interested to see what the
president says on that today. i wonder if it is just a choice between those binary options of if the u.s. won or lost the war in afghanistan. >> i don't think it is. we went to war with an authorized use of force. an amuf that's not been rewritten in 20 years. what america gets from this is specifically two things from the military perspective. our military has never opinion better trained, better equipped and me prepared with immensely capable leadership that are now running battalions in those senior non-commissioned officers but at the strategic level, i don't think it's ever been worse.
the second thing is geo politically. i trust the united states will not abandon the region. of course, they shouldn't nor would they. afghanistan will be with us for the long term. how are we going to have to address the inevitable concern that we have that afghanistan goes back to its old ways of ung ungoverned space where terrorism can thrive and export their form of terror. the over the horizon capability is enhanced and not diluted. >> that leads us to what the plan is. there's still the state department's estimates, more than 100 americans who have been left in afghanistan who want to leave. president biden promised they wouldn't be left behind. what's the pentagon's plan now
for helping them? >> it becomes a diplomatic mission. that means the u.s. works with allies to find some way to u.s. get citizens to kabul international airport or some other location where they can be brought out of the country. what was unmentioned was the prohibition on flights from the faa that makes it impossible for u.s. aircraft to go into afghanistan or u.s. carrier to go into afghanistan. that has to be arranged with somebody else through another country's airline or privately operated aircraft. everything about getting the americans out became far more difficult after the last c-17 took off than before. it has to be a diplomatic mission because there's no military presence on the ground to carry out that mission. at least not one the pentagon is acknowledging. because of the restriction on flights has become more difficult. i've been looking at flight tracking website and according
to those websites, the air space over afghanistan is empty now. there aren't aircraft going in or out. getting those last 100 or 200 americans in or out has been incredibly difficult. it will be interesting to see what president biden acknowledges about what kind of efforts there will be and what those efforts will look like because it's a very difficult task right now. one that still requires, you would imagine, to some extent, taliban cooperation and coordination. they have been a part of this process since the negotiations began. they may still be part of the process to get the last 100 or 200 out. >> this is the promise from president biden to extricate the americans that want to leave. >> are you committed to make sure the troops stay that every
american wants to be out is out? >> yes. >> troops might have to be there beyond august 31st? >> no. we're going to try to get it done before august 31st. >> if we don't. >> if we don't, we'll determine at the time who is left. >> and? >> and if they're american citizens left, we're going to stay till we get them all out. >> that didn't happen. the promise that was kept was to get out at or by august 31st down to the minute u.s. troops were out by that deadline. americans still there. the role that plays, apolitically, just to giet americans how within the party. >> i think allies would point to, they got 6,000 americans out of afghanistan. they have been telling them for months they need to leave, the u.s. they tried to get a lot of the people still there out.
however, you have to measure a against a promise he's made and words, a statement he's made and assurance he made that all troops would stay until all americans were brought home. there are no longer any u.s. service members in afghanistan. there are still americans who want to leave afghanistan. the president, i think, will have to address it today given his assurance he made. that's going be a big question for them given what was how much dicier the situation is. there's no diplomatic presence in kabul. they have moved it. it's a lot different from being on the ground as the presence was before.
what it will look like without dip employee mats on the ground. >> i want to go from the big picture that we have been talking about to the iconic picture that many of us have now seen. that is the last serviceman to leave afghanistan. when you know the back story, it's even more poignant. these photos, this photo of him through these night vision goggles or this look is just so poignant because this is major general chris donahue. he deployed 17 times in afghanistan and iraq and syria and elsewhere and he spent much of his deployment trying to train the afghan army and the security forces after 9/11. just hearing all of that, just even makes it, his body language
and the look on his face all the more profound. what do you see in this photo and -- i know you can't speak for all veterans but how are you feeling on this day and what do you think they are looking to hear from president biden today? >> to answer your very first question, chris is an amazingly talented soldier. what you see in that image is a soldier doing his job. i don't mean to understate it but that's what you would expect. first man in, last man out or person. doesn't matter the gender. he really has got the obligation to ensure that no man is left behind. he owned that airfield until the day and the moment he didn't. it was perfect. it should be the way it was portrayed that he would be the last person on that aircraft. he could not make a big deal of this. this is just that soldier doing his job. that's exactly what this is.
nen then in retrospect, we may not, we could discuss this but i don't know that we're safer today than we were on 9/11 but i can tell you with certainty we're better prepared. we're better prepared in terms of individuals we have grown in government and in uniform service. homeland security has never been stronger. technology, our sharing is great. >> thank you all. stick with us. any moment we expect president biden to speak about all of this. we'll bring you that live.
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without power and with oppressive heat temperatures could reach over 100 days and local officials warn that power may not be restored for three weeks or longer. >> long lines are forming for gas and food statewide. cooling centers are opening across new orleans. the governor warned evacuees not to return home until directed. >> we have dtwo confirmed death because of the storm. i expect the number will rise. we know that most people are injured and killed because of the response, not the storm itself. carbon monoxide for generators, driving through water that is deeper and having more current than you realize, falling off a roof and heat exhaustion. now is the most dangerous time. >> that number has risen. we just got this from jefferson
parish coroner that another hurricane ida storm related death. this due to drowning. 65-year-old woman found. this is the fifth storm related death in wake of this killer hurricane. ed, what do you see? >> reporter: it's the clean up time here. you have major power lines. what is striking is the amount of structural damage and rooftop damage that you have seen. many people will say they are used to flood water and they were stunned by the intensity that hurricane ida still had this far inland and to a t people describing how ferocious the winds were and how it felt so very different from anything they experienced before.
you also have long lines of cars waiting for gas. this gas station is about two blocks away from where we are standing and the line goes straight back as far as the eye can see. this is all part of the headaches that many of these people will be living with for quite some time and local officials here are urging people to settle in and to brace themselves what could be a very long month. >> this is going to be a particu marathon and not a sprints. i know we are resilient group of people. this will be difficult. worst disaster that we have seen in st. john parish. it's going to take a long time. >> reporter: neighbors took anywhere from two to three feet
of water up to ten feet of water inside homes. you see a lot of people who have packed up belongings and have left. you hear from local officials and the governor saying if you have evacuated or outside of this area, you might want to wait some time before you make your plans to come back. victor. >> thank you very much. we're seeing stories of people pitch in to help others like this man. we have pictures of christopher. he found this boat in his neighbor's yard. this is some video of him. he's been filling it up. he has gas cans and bottles of water to hand out to people who need help. >> he joins us now. christopher, give us an idea of what you're seeing there. i see you're trying to get around to people. what's it look like there? >> well -- that was in la plaz where i live at. i went back to get some m
momentoes of my wife and stuff. i ended up rescuing some people. >> tell us about that. how did you rescue people? where were they? >> they were trapped in their houses. they were sitting outside. they were just waiting on the wildlife and fishery and cajun navy to rescue them. i happen to walk by, cutting through people's yards to get to my house. the water was so high. i got my neighbor's boat and i started to get my stuff. i'm walking through the water, i'm just telling people come on. i was bringing them to the church up there. i had one girl on my back. the video that you saw, it's what i ended up finishing at like 6:30, 7:00 at night just me going back and getting the gas and water and stuff that i had in the back of my truck for the people that were at my truck.
they ended upbringing a couple back. by that time i was tired. it was a 12-hour day out there. >> we know that a lot of people didn't have much time to -- let me cut you off. we have to go to the white house. president biden is now delivering the speech at the end of the war in afghanistan. last night in kabul, the united states ended 20 years of war in afghanistan. the longest war in american history. we completed one of the biggest air lifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety. that number is more than double what most experts thought were possible. no nation, no nation has ever done anything like it in all the history. only the united states had the
capacity and the will and ability to do it. we did it today. the extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery and selfless courage the united states military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals. for weeks, they risked their lives to get american citizen, afghans who helped us. stens of our allies and partners and others on board planes and out of the country. they did it facing a crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country. they did it knowing isis-k terrorists, sworn enemy ofies oe taliban were lurking in the midst of those crowds and still the women and men of the united states military are diplomatic corps and intelligence professionals did their job and did it well. risking their lives, not for professional gains but to serve others. not in a mission of war but in a
mission of mercy. 20 service members were wounded in this service of this mission. 13 heroes gave their lives. i was just at dover air force base for the dignified transfer. we owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever forget. in april, i made a decision to end this war. part of that decision, we set the date of august 31st for american troops to withdraw. 300,000 afghan national security forces that we trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the taliban. that assumption that the after gap government could be able to hold on for a period of time
beyond military draw downturned out not to be accurate, but, i still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality, even that one. that's what we did. we were ready when the afghan security forces after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own, did not hold on as long as anyone expected. the people of afghanistan watched their country collapse and the president flee. handing over the country to their enemy, the taliban and significantly increasing the risk to u.s. personnel and our allies. as a result, to safely extract citizens before august 31st, as well as personnel, allies and
partners and those afterbghans worked with us, i authorized 6,000 troops, american troops to kabul to help secure the airport. as general mckenzie said, this is the way the mission was designed. it was designed operate under severe stress and attack and that's what it did. since march, we reached out 19 times to americans in afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave afghanistan, all the way back as far as march. after we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 americans who decided earlier to stay in afghanistan but now wanted to leave. our operation allied rescue
ended up getting more than 5,500 americans out. we got thousands of citizens and diplomats from those countries that went into afghanistan with us to get bin laden. we got out staff and their families, totaling 2,500 people. we got thousands of afghan translaters and interpreters and others who supported the united states out add well. now we believe that about 100 to 200 americans we main in afghanistan with some intention to leave. most of those that remain are duel citizens. long time residents who earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in afghanistan. the bottom line, 90% of americans in afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to
leave. for those remaining americans, there is no deadline. we remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. secretary of state blinken, is leading the efforts to ensure safe passage for any american, afghan partner, foreign national who wants to leave afghanistan. in fact, just yesterday, the united nation security council passed a resolution that sent a clear message about the international community expects the taliban to deliver on moving forward. freedom of travel. freedom to leave. together we're joined by over 100 countries that are determined to make sure the taliban upholds the commitments.
the taliban made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across afghanistan on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave including those who worked alongside americans. we don't take them pi their word alone but by their actions. we have leverage to make sure those commit ms are met. leaving august 31st, is not due to an arbitrary deadline. it was designed to save american lives. my predecessor, the former president, signed an disagreeagreement with taliban to remove u.s. troops by may 1st, just months after i was inaugurated. it included no requirement that
taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the afghan government but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the taliban top war commanders. among those, who just took control of afghanistan. by time i came to office, the taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001. controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. the previous administration agreement said that if we stuck to the may 1st deadline, the taliban wouldn't attack any american forces. if we stayed, all bets were off. we were left with a simple decision. follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave afghanistan or say we weren't leaving and commit
another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. that was the choice, the real choice. i was not going to extend this forever war. i was not extending a forever exit. the decision to end the military lift operation at kabul airport was based on unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers. the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and all the service chiefs and the commanders in the field. their recommends dags was that the safest way to secure the passage of the remaining americans and others out of the country was not to continue a 6,000 troops on the ground in harms way in kabul but rather to
get them out through non-military means. in the 17 days that we operated in kabul, after the taliban seized power, we engaged in an around the clock effort to provide every american the opportunity to leave. our state department was working 24/7 contacting and talking and in some cases, walking americans into the airport. miranda we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose. as for the afghans, we and our partners have air lifted 100,000 of them. no country in history has done more to air lift out the residents of another country than we have done.
we will continue to help more people leave the country who are at risk. we're far from done. i urge all americans to join me in grateful prayer for our troops and diplomats and intelligence officers who carried out this mission of mercy in kabul and a tremendous risk with such unparalleled res results. an air lift that evacuated tens of thousands, to a network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport and provided them for their support along the way. we're going to continue to need their help. we need your help and i'm looking forward to meeting with you. to every one who is now offering who are will offer to welcome
afghan allies to their homes around the world, including in america, we thank you. i take responsibility for the decision. now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner. couldn't have have been done in a more order ly manner. i respectfully disagree. imagine if we begun evacuations in june or july, bringing in thousands of american troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. there still would have been a rush to the airport. a break down in confidence and control of the government and still would have been very difficult and dangerous mission. the bottom line is, there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the
kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced. none. those who say we should have stayed indefinitely for years on end, they ask why don't we just keep doing wa we hat we were doing. why do we have to change anything? the fact is everything had changed. my predecessor made a deal with the taliban. i came into office we faced a deadline, may 1. taliban onslaught was coming. we faced one of two choices. follow the agreement of the previous administration and extend i to have more time for people to get out or send in thousands more troops and escalate the war. those asking for a third decade of war in afghanistan, i ask,
what is the vital national interest? in my view, we only have one. to make sure afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland. remember whiy we went to afghanistan in first place. we were attacked by bin laden on september 11, 2001 and they were based in afghanistan. we delivered justice to bin laden on may 2nd, 2011. over a decade ago. al qaeda was decimated. i respectfully suggest you ask yourself this question, if we been attacked on september 11, 2001, from yemen instead of afghanistan, would we have ever gone to war in afghanistan?
even though the taliban controlled afghanistan in the year 2001. i believe the honest answer is no. that's because we had no vital interest in afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on america's homeland and our friends. that's true today. we succeeded in what we set out to do in afghanistan over a decade ago. then we stayed for another decade. it was time to end this war. this is a new wormld. al qaeda affiliates in syria and isis attempting to create a caliphate in syria and iraq and establishing affiliates across
af africa nation. the fundamental obligation of a president in my opinion is to defend and protect america. not against threats of 2001 but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow. that is the guiding principle behind my decisions about afghanistan. i simply do not believe that the safety and security of america is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of american troops and sending billions of dollars. i also know it continues in its evil nature. it's changed. expanded to other countries. our strategy has to change too. we will maintain the fight against terrorism in afghanistan and other countricountries. we just don't need to fight a
ground war to do it. we have what's called over the horizon capabilities which means we can strike terrorists and targets without american boots on the ground. we have shown that capacity in the last week. we struck isis-k remotely. days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozen of innocent aftghanafghans. to isis-k. we are not done with you yet. as commander in chief, i firmly believe the best path to guard our safety and our security lies in a tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy that goes after terror where it is today. not where it was two decades ago. that's kwhast in our national interest. here is the critical thing to
understand. the world is changing. we're engaged in a serious competition with china. we're dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with russia. we're confronted with cyber attacks and nuclear prolif proliferation. we have to sure up american competitiveness to meet the new challenges and the competition for the 21st century. we can do both. fight terrorism and take on new threats that are here now and will continue to be here in the future. there's nothing china or russia would rather have, would want more in this competition than the united states to be bogged down another decade in afghanistan. as we turn the page on the foreign policy that's guided our nation the last two decades,
we've got to learn from our mistakes. to me there's two that are paramount. first, we must set missions with clear achievable goals. not ones we'll never reach and second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interest of the united states of america. this decision about afghanistan is not just about afghanistan. it's about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries. we saw a mission of counter terrorism in afghanistan. getting the terrorists to stop attacks. morph into a counter insurgency. nation building, trying to create a democratic cohesive and united afghanistan. something that has never been
done over many centuries of afghan's history. moving on from that mind set and those kind of large scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home. for anyone who gets the wrong idea, let me say clearly, to those who wish america harm, to those engaged in terrorism against us or our allies, no this. the united states will never rest. we will not forgive. we will not forget. we'll hunt you down to adviser of the earth and you will pay the ultimate price. let me be clear. we'll continue to support the afghan people through diplomacy, international influence and humanitarian aid. we will continue to push for
regional diplomacy. we'll continue to speak out for the rights especially women and girls as we speak out all around the globe. i've been clear, human rights will be the center of our foreign policy but the way to do that is not through endless military deployments but through diplomacy, economic tools and rallying the rest of the world for support. my fellow americans, the war in afghanistan is now over. i'm the fourth president that must face the issue of whether to end this war. when i was running for president, i made a commitment to the american people that i would end this war. today i've honored that commitment. it was time to be honest with the american people again. we no longer had a clear purpose in an open ended mission in
afghanistan. after 20 years of war in afghanistan, i refuse to send another generation of america's sons and daughters to fight a war that should've ended long ago. after more than $2 trillion spent in afghanistan, the costs estimated would be over $300 million a day for 20 years in afghanistan for two decades. yes. the american people should hear this, $300 million a day for two decades. you take the number of 1 trillion, as many say, that's still $150 million a day for two decades. and what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities? i refuse to continue a war that was no longer in the service of the vital national interest of our people. and most of all, after 800,000
americans serving in afghanistan, i've traveled that whole country. brave and honorable service. after 20,744 american servicemen and women injured, and the loss of 2,461 american personnel including 13 lives lost just this week. i refuse to open another decade of warfare in afghanistan. we've been a nation too long at war. if you're 20 years old today, you've never known an america at peace. so when i hear that we could have, should've continued this so-called low-grade effort in afghanistan at low risk to our service members, at low cost, i don't think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1% of this country
who put that uniform on willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation. maybe it's because my deceased son beau served in iraq for a full year. before that, well -- maybe it's because of what i've seen over the years as senator, vice president and president traveling these countries. a lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell. deployment after deployment, months and years away from their families, missed birthdays, anniversaries, empty chairs at holidays, financial struggles, divorces, loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress. we see it in the struggles many have when they come home. we see it in the strain on their
families and caregivers. we see it in the strain of their families when they're not there. we see it in the grief borne by their survivors. the cost of war, they will carry with them their whole lives. most tragically, we see in the shocking and stunning statistic that should give pause to anyone who thinks war can ever be low grade, low risk or low cost. 18 veterans on average who die by suicide every single day in america, not in a far off place but right here in america. there's nothing low grade or low risk or low cost about any war. it's time to end the war in
afghanistan. as we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it's time to look at the future, not the past. to a future that's safer, to a future that's more secure. to a future that honors those who've served and all those who gave what president lincoln called their last full measure of devotion. i give you my word with all of my heart. i believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for america. thank you, thank you, and may god bless you all, and may god protect our troops. >> all right. we've been listening there to president biden give his fiercest defense yet, i would say, about his decision, his decision to get out on this day from america's longest war.
and i think to silence the doubters and the critics. >> yeah, far more forceful remarks than the presidents have made three previous times about afghanistan. of course, we will continue our breaking news coverage of the president's address on the end of the longest war in u.s. history. we turn now to "the lead" with jake tapper. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. and you've been watching president biden addressing the nation just one day after the end of america's longest war. president biden praised the troops just minutes ago the troops involved in the mass evacuation efforts. he said we can never repay the 13 u.s. service members killed in the terrorist attack last thursday. president biden also pledging that the united states will help evacuate any remaining americans or afghan nationals who want to
leave afghanistan. joining us now to discuss, cnn's kaitlan collins and clarissa ward. we also have with us retired lieutenant general douglas loot, former coordinator for afghanistan at the national security council under presidents obama and bush. he's also the former u.s. ambassador to nato. kaitlan, let me start with you at the white house. what are you hearing from the white house about the tone of his speech, which at times seemed rather defiant? >> reporter: it was very defiant, jake. i think actually throughout a lot of that speech, a very defiant and forceful response to some criticisms of the way that the handling of this exit has gone. he also defended of course the idea overall the bigger picture that the u.s. is leaving afghanistan and now it has now left afghanistan. of course, a decision he made back in april. and the president was saying that he does not believe that there is any better way that this exit could've gone. he said he respectfully disagrees with the critics who say that this is an evacuation, mass evacuations, should've
started sooner. he said that he believes that there would've been these images playing out of a potential rush on the airport no matter when this exit was going to happen. and he repeatedly went back to that decision made by of course former president trump to strike a deal with the taliban about a may 1 exit saying that that is something he believes and something he has said before but something he really hammered home today, jake, that he believes forced his hand here. when he came into office facing that may 1 deadline and had to make a decision about whether or not he was going to meet it or come close to meeting it. i also thought he gave a pretty good look at how he views foreign policy overall and what we should expect from president biden going forward, saying he does not believe nation building works and talking about how when the u.s. does go somewhere, there need to be clear, achievable goals and that they need to be focused on the u.s. national interest when the u.s. is involved, when u.s. forces are involved. and he was saying he was not going to extend this forever
war, and he was saying he was not going to extend the forever exit. he also made a pretty pointed criticism of those who said you should've kept a low-grade force of troops in afghanistan. that is something we have heard from several top former commanders at the pentagon, who said that there should've been a way to keep order and peace there. and he said he disagrees with putting troops in harm's way. so, jake, really just a forceful defense of what has happened here, but also calling it a success and talking about those who were evacuated over this chaotic period in afghanistan in the u.s.'s final days there. >> clarissa ward joins us now from pakistan next door to afghanistan. clarissa, president biden said that the administration had reached out to the americans in afghanistan to warn them that they should leave 19 times since march. he suggested they had time, they had ample warning to get out.
listen to his message to those americans. >> are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every american who wants to be out is out? >> yes. if there are american citizens left, we're going to stay till we get them all out. >> so, that was the promise that he had made early on, clarissa, the idea that if they were there, the u.s. was going to stay there until they got out. that obviously did not happen. >> it didn't happen. and you could really feel the frustration in the president's voice, that criticism he's faced about that. he was saying that, listen, the door isn't closed now, we continue to hold the taliban at their word, and we will get those remaining americans out. his promise had been to get 100% out, as he made the point roughly 90% are out. but i think more broadly speaking, jake, this was a speech for americans. this was not a speech for the afghan people.
and when you listen to it from the perspective of the afghan people, it was hard not to find that, you know, occasionally a little hard to listen to because there wasn't any recognition really of the suffering of the afghan people. there wasn't any recognition of the absolute desperation of the feeling of abandonment. there was of course a very strong case put forward about why the u.s. had to leave. and, in my experience in afghanistan these last months, most afghan people understand that. but there was so little sense of humility about the fact that the u.s. invaded this country 20 years ago and the toll that has taken and the lives that have been lost not just on the u.s. side but also on the afghan side. and i do think you will see some frustration from people in afghanistan that there wasn't more maybe humility in terms of the tone to the afghan people. something to the effect of i'm sorry we ct