tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN August 28, 2021 8:00am-9:00am PDT
facility also responding well to treatment but taking on some of the challenges that he has from pac parkinson's disease. wolf? >> we wish them a speedy recovery. suzanne, thank you very much. suzanne malveaux reporting. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> welcome to our viewers here in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. this is a special edition of the "situation room." right now, we're moments away from an update, a very important update from the pentagon on the situation in afghanistan. this just hours after the u.s. conducted a drone strike against an isis-k planner and amid the ongoing evacuations of americans and afghan allies from kabul. we'll go live to the pentagon as soon as it begins. stand by for that. we we're also tracking hurricane ida.
the national weather service warning the storm could hit some places in southeast louisiana and make those places uninhabitable for weeks or even months. that warning just released. hurricane ida is expected to make landfall in that state, louisiana, as a category 4 hurricane tomorrow. almost exactly to the day, 16 years after hurricane katrina landed as a category 3. our team of reporters is covering the storm from all angles. nadia and jason are on the ground for us. let's begin with allison chinchar at the cnn weather center. what is the update from the weather center? >> brand-new update, showing gusts have ticked up a bit to 105 miles per hour. the forward movement is the same. northwest at about 16 miles per hour. it's a category 1 now, but it is expected to intensify and
strengthen as it moves through the very warm waters of the gulf of mexico. likely becoming a category 2 sometime in the next few hours. a category 3 by this evening. then a category 4 by tomorrow morning. it's expected to maintain that category 4 strength as it makes landfall, likely sunday late afternoon over louisiana. now, we talk about intensifying storms. this one in particular may undergo what is called rapid intensification, which means the sustained winds increase 35 miles per hour for more in less than 24 hours. most of the really devastating storms that we've dealt with here landfall wise here in the u.s. undergo at least one rapid intensification cycle. storm surge is going to be one of the biggest concerns we have along the coastline. this pink area here, including the city of grand isle, 10 to 15 feet. the national weather center saying that some of these areas, when you're talking about those numbers, it could end up being uninhabitable for weeks. again, i cannot emphasize how high this really is. the purple area, 7 to 11 feet,
that includes the city of biloxi. we talk about the wind damage here. that's the thing, it's the combination of both the storm surge and these devastating wind gusts of in excess of 100 miles per hour. that combination is really what's going to likely trigger some of the devastating conditions. the outer bands, wolf, will begin today. please do not wait until tomorrow to evacuate. do not wait until tomorrow to start boarding up your home. you need to do it today. >> good advice. get out if you still can. stand by. i want to bring in nadia. the mayor of new orleans says the city didn't even have enough time to issue what are called mandatory evacuation orders for areas inside the levy barrier. what does that mean for the people who live inside new orleans right now? >> reporter: wolf, it means they have to get prepared and they have to do so quickly. there's not a lot of time because we know this is a quickly-moving storm. as it reaches those warm gulf waters, they're expecting it, as
s allison said, to pick up speed and be a category 4. we spoke with a shop owner. we're here in the iconic french quarter. he says he has been here 20 years and never seen so much activity. people have been cancelling swamp tours with him. hotels are evacuating. take a look. of all the businesses that are boarding up right now all across the french quarter, they're working to make sure debris doesn't fly in those windows, that the windows aren't shattered. >> nadia, we'll get back to you in a few moments. the pentagon briefing a ing has started. i can confirm, as more information has come in, that two high-profile isis targets were killed, and one was wounded. and we know of zero civilian casualties. without specifying any future plans, i will say that we will continue to have the ability to defend ourselves and to leverage over the horizon capability to conduct counterterrorism
operations as needed. we continue the evacuate american citizens and vulnerable afghans out of kabul. in fact, there are approximately 1,400 individuals at the kabul airport who have been screened and manifested for flights today. as i said yesterday, we have the ability to include evacuees on military air lift out of afghanistan until the very end. this is a massive military , diplomatic, security and human operation for us and our allies. yesterday, 32 u.s. military aircraft, 27 c-17s, and five c-130s departed with approximately 4,000 personnel. combined with 34 coalition aircraft, departures, an additional 2 rk,800 personnel l
kabul for various staging bases. 66 flights left out of kabul yesterday in the 24-hour period with 6,800 evacuees. today, i can report an updated total evacuation that is more than 117,000. the vast majority of which are afghans. of this total number, approximately 5,400 are american citizens. this is an incredible number of people who are now safer thanks to the heroism of the young men and women who are putting their lives on the line each day to evacuate american and vulnerable afghans out of kabul. threats to our forces and to this operation remain real and significant. i'm sure you can appreciate that. now, with the military mission beginning to end in kabul, thousands of service members are working across the globe and within the united states to complete this incredibly
important mission. out of the ucom aor, 2,000 afghans will be transported to the united states. since august 20th, the ucom aor has received nearly 30,000 vulnerable afghans and evacuees. a good example of how we're building out capacity as we execute this incredibly important mission, a flight from italy will fly to philadelphia international airport, the second u.s. onwardlowc location receive flights. as the general said in the briefing yesterday, our total capacity across multiple u.s. installations is approximately 21,000 and growing. we're steadily working to increase the capacity to 50,000 by september 15th. right now, we are hosting approximately 8,000 afghan applicants at fort mccoy, fort bliss, fort lee, and joint base mcguire lake hurst.
a dedicated team of military, civilian, and contract personnel are working closely with numerous agencies, both government and non-government, to ensure further requirements and additional capabilities are available. we will keep you updated on this effort. south com continues to conduct humanitarian relief operations in haiti. and north com, while simultaneously executing evacuation flights, is postured to support fema as a lead federal agency in preparing for tropical storm ida. lastly, i want to share that the department of defense will shortly announce the names of the 13 service members who were killed in service to their country. we grieve with the gold star families, friends, and loved ones of our fallen. they will be remembered and revered among americans who have served in afghanistan in
operations freedom, sent ninal, and enduring freedom. >> okay. i don't have anything to add, so we'll go right to questions. >> thank you, john. couple questions on the strike last night in afghanistan. general taylor just said that two high-profile targets were killed and one wounded. the initial announcement, i think, said one. >> yup. >> this was all the same strike? was it a single strike? can you explain any more about whether these individuals were directly involved in the thursday bombing at kabul airport? >> so it was -- without getting into too much tactical detail in terms of munitions used, i would tell you it was a single mission. to get these targets. as the assessments and information flowed over time, we were able to recognize that another was killed, as well, and
one wounded. so, i mean, battle damage assessment, as you know, sometimes takes time. information comes in. as we had more clarity, we wanted to be transparent about that. >> but the planner/facilitator description, does that mean they were involved in the kabul bombing? >> they were isis-k planners and facilitators. that's enough reason there alone. i won't speak to the details of this -- of these individuals or what their specific roles might be. but as the general said, we have the ability and the means to carry out over the horizon counterterrorism capabilities, and we're going to defend ourselves. i'll leave it at that. >> thank you. i'd like to ask you another question just about the airport situation at the moment. >> yeah. >> is it true that only u.s. passport holders are being allowed onto the airport now through the gates? >> any u.s. passport holder that wants to get in can get in. we are still -- if i'm wrong here -- i don't think i'm wrong,
but we are still processing and getting on planes. siv applicants as well as vulnerable afghans. >> they're being allowed onto the airport? >> as far as i know, yeah. >> thank you. >> i don't think that's changed. >> john, can you give us the names of the two individuals killed in the strike? >> no. we're not going to release the names. >> because -- >> we're not releasing the names. >> if i can go back to thursday's suicide bombing, there appear to be images and reports from the crown that some of the afghans killed may have been shot by the marines at the gate. since we're 48 hours, do you have any evidence that the marines or any of the u.s. troops may have shot, injured, or wounded -- >> we don't -- we can't confirm that. we certainly are not in a position to deny it either. we are investigating this. as we get more information that we can reliably commune tate to y -- communicate about this incident, we will. >> the state department issued
another dire warning saying don't approach the gates. did this air strike have anything to do with that potential for future attacks? can you talk about what capabilities isis might have lost in this drone strike? >> well, couple of things. i'll let the state department speak for the advisory they sent out. that is not uncommon for them to do that, particularly in a country like afghanistan. they're constantly watching the threat environment, as are we, and they're doing the prudent, responsible thing, to inform americans there in kabul about what's best for their own safety. again, i think we'll let the state department speak to the rational there. obviously, they're doing what they believer they need to do keep people safe. i'm not going to talk about specific capabilities isis may have lost in this strike. they lost a planner, and they lost a facilitator. they have one wounded. the fact two of these individuals are no longer
walking on the face of the earth, it is a good thing. it is a good thing for the people of afghanistan, for our troops and our forces ats at th airfield. i'll leave tit there. >> can you discuss the airport? we've seen a number of allies bring their evacuation operations to a close early. will the u.s. stay there through the 31st? >> we are going to complete this mission by the end of the month. we've said that. nothing has changed about the timeline for us. we will do this as safe and orderly as possible. that includes being able to continue to evacuate right up until the end. >> what about the threats at the airport? can you describe what -- >> threats are still very real. they're very dynamic, and we are monitoring them literally in real time. as i said yesterday, we're taking all the means necessary to make sure we remain focused on that threat stream and doing what we can for force protection. >> a couple questions. first for you, john. have u.s. troops begun
retrograde withdraw from the airport? >> we are begun rhett petrograd >> can you talk about the numbers? >> i cannot. >> general, the numbers left are consistent with where they have been the last several days but the passenger number is down. is the u.s. moving military equipment, or are they planes going out just not full? >> as we said, our mission to continue evacuating those as required, and to meet the mission requirement by august 31st, is what the commanders are executing. >> so does that mean you're starting to take on equipment out on these aircraft, or do you not have enough passengers? >> there is equipment leaving on the flights, too. that was originally planned. >> if i could ask one more. have there been any attacks? it was talked about how the taliban thwarted some attacks before thursday's attack. have there been any other cases you're aware of that the taliban have actually stopped attackers
from getting in towards the airport? >> i don't have specific reports of that. other than, as you can see, as we just talked, the security of the base is the most important thing that we're doing to allow us to continue our mission. >> thank you. >> yeah. >> john, you said the threat at the airport remains active and dynamic. is it fair to say that whether or not those people killed last night deserve to be on the face of the earth or not, that the threat at the airport remains unchanged? >> i wouldn't say that it remains unchanged. i didn't say that. i said it remains active and dynamic. it does. >> is it as serious as it was yesterday? >> it is a serious threat. i'm not sure how a potential terrorist threat can be anything other than serious or we shouldn't take it serious. it's serious.
>> yesterday, you denied taliban claim that they had assumed responsibility for security in some parts of the airport. is that still the case, that taliban do not provide security at the airport itself? >> that is still the case. >> and is that going to remain the case until the end, or at some point, do they have to move into the airport to keep the crowds at bay while those last planes take off? >> i'm not going to talk about the specifics as we get closer to the end. let me just say this as clearly as i can. we will maintain the ability to defend ourselves and our operations all the way through. lucas? >> john, did the taliban in any way provide any intelligence or support with the drone strike that killed those two isis terrorists? >> i'm not going to talk about intelligence matters one way or the other. i'm not talking about
intelligence matters. >> was the taliban supporting the drone strike in any way? >> we had useful intelligence on our own to conduct this strike. >> do you consider the taliban and haqqani network as separate entities? >> lucas, i'm not going to give you a breakdown here of krark s -- characterization. you have to remember what we're focused on here, getting more people out and getting our troops out, completing this mission. i'm not sure what benefit it does for me to try to characterize one group or another. we know that -- >> there are people that the deputy leader of the taliban has a $10 million bounty on his head. people should know, are they separate entities or -- >> there is a certain amount of co-mingling here. there is a marbling, if you will, of taliban and haqqani. what i'm pushing back a little
on, lucas, is the relevance of that discussion to what we're doing today, complete an evacuation safely and get our troops and fources at the airpot out safely. that's what we're focused on. >> one more question. every major newspaper and television news outlet has said the u.s. military brass recommended to the president to leave 2,500 troops in afghanistan and not pull out. have you asked any of the outlets for a correction? >> say that one again. >> every major newspaper and television news outlet has reported that top pentagon brass, defense secretaries, forces in afghanistan, that chairman of joint chiefs recommended to the president that 2,500 u.s. troops should have stayed in afghanistan, not been pulled out. have you asked any news outlet for a correction to those stories? >> thanks for repeating it. we don't make it a habit to talk publicly one way or the other, right, wrong, up, down, more or less, about the advice and counsel that pentagon leaders give the commander in chief.
>> what about correcting the record? >> louie? >> has there been another helicopter evacuation recently? >> i don't think there has been. >> okay. can i follow up then on the discussion about the drone strike yesterday? it's been characterized as being retaliation, as being reprisal for the bombing at the airport. is that accurate? or was this something that, as part of your over the horizon counterterrorism planning, you were already planning? >> this was a little bit of both. i mean, we have the ability to conduct over the horizon counterterrorism capabilities. we've talked about that. this certainly fits in that mold. but it's not coincidence that it happened just a couple of days
after we lost 13 brave service members. >> and can i ask again, you're calling one a planner and another a facilitator. i believe you're saying that one -- that's correct, right, the characterization of the two individuals? what is the difference, and what makes them targets? >> thanks for your question. that is the clarification. the planner/facilitator are those that would have the ability to facilitate or help plan an attack. that, as we said, gives the ability and the authority we had to conduct those missions. >> and were they involved in planning an imminent attack? >> we're not going to go into, you know, detailed intelligence information that led to that attack or that strike or future operations. >> thank you. >> yeah? >> couple things on the strike. first thing, you called them
high profile. could you explain to us? not senior. then i have a follow-up on the strike. what makes you say they're high profile? >> based on the intelligence collected and activities in the past, that was the classification used for those. >> general taylor, can you just clarify, were you actually targeting both of these individuals, or were you targeting one and the other one happened to be there and got struck? >> we had the intelligence that led us to the target area. that allowed for that strike to happen with the bda as briefed. >> were you targeting two individuals in this strike? >> we had intelligence that allowed us to conduct that strike on those multiple individuals. >> and, john, if i could ask you, also, so now you have done this strike. what is the assessment or
feeling about the impact of this strike on isis-k in aftghanista? have you degraded them in any fashion? can you explain that, or if they're high profile, have you deferred, degraded? what is your conclusion about what the impact of this strike actually has been? >> they have two -- they have two high-profile planners or facilitators. one planner, one facilitator, no longer on their roll. they have lost some capability to plan and to conduct missions. but, barbara, make no mistake, nobody is writing this off and saying, well, we got them, so we don't have to worry about isis-k anymore. not the case. as i said earlier, the threat stream is still active, still dynamic. we're still laser focused on
that and force protection. we aren't thinking for a minute that what happened yesterday gets us in the clear. not a minute. but do we believe that we hit valid targets, bad guys who can do bad things and plan bad missions? absolutely. do we think that will have some impact on their ability going forward? absolutely. what and to how much, we have to keep watching the intelligence going forward. >> i don't know if you can answer, but does the united states have a sense, even if you can't say names, do you have any sense of who is in command of isis-k right now? >> i'm not going to get into specific org charts and intelligence about what we know about the organization. obviously, we put a lot of time and effort into learning as much as we can, and i think i just, for security purposes, i'm just going to leave it at that. >> so a couple questions on the attack itself. first of all, where did the unmanned aircraft come from?
was it a drone, predator drone? any information about -- >> over the horizon. >> so no specific -- >> over the horizon. >> okay. and was there -- were there reports that the targets were in a vehicle? is that accurate? was there any other damage to isis infrastructure? >> as i think the general said right at the top, we're going to be loathe to release a lot of tactical level bda detail here. we want to preserve as much flegs flexibility as we can. i hope you can understand that we're just not going to be able to answer a lot of that detailed stuff right now. >> and just to follow up, how -- what are you doing about the isis-k cells in kabul itself? clearly, these attacks are coming from kabul. it's possible the terrorists have gone underground. obviously, you can't target the city itself with air strikes right now. >> what i would tell you is we're watching the threats team very closely. laura, clearly, they have the ability to operate inside kabul. we're mindful of that, and we're
watching it as closely as we can. we're obviously trying to make sure that we have available to us as much information and context as possible so as to prepare for any future attacks. certainly, we have to assume that could come from or be planned out of or sourced out of places that may might have established themselves in kabul. i think that's really as far as we're going to be able to go right now. >> if i can ask the general a couple questions about the airport. when are we official ly handing the airport over to the taliban? is the taliban going to be running the airport? are they going to be running it with the qatar is and turks, asi believe has been reported? >> we're going to continue to run the airport up until the end. those details, as they continue to be worked out, will come
forth. right now, we will continue to run that airfield to make sure we can execute our operations. >> and are some of the gates to the airport welded shut, as has been reported? >> there are gates that are closed, absolutely. as we said earlier, we do have gates that continue to be open. as we coordinate and still work with the department of state to get people in for evacuation. >> thank you. >> howard altman. >> hey. first of all, condolences to the families who lost loved ones in kabul. despite this massive effort to evacuate folks, there were a number of organizations, including, you know, current and former military, that feel there is a level of frustration in not being able to get people out. they're working in many ways, in many reports about that. my question is, is dod
cooperating with any of these organizations? can you talk about that? then what is your message to these organizations? are they helping? are they hindering? given what you know about how this is unfolding, should they continue their operations? >> it's certainly not for us to tell them to stop caring about individuals that they know that are in afghanistan, howard. we are, as you might imagine, i mean, we are working off many different streams of information, about various vulnerable afghan groups. not to mention applicants in the special immigrant visa program and, of course, american citizens. i don't want to speak for the state department, but the state department is really liaisoning with a lot of outside groups to help identify those who need to
be evacuated. we are primarily responsible for helping provide that secure area at the airport for them to get to to process and get through, to properly manifest them and get them on flights out of there. but, look, i mean, i think a lot of us are getting emails and calls and texts from friends and colleagues, many of them are veterans, who are passing information to us to try to help get additional people out. we're doing the best we can when we are contacted, to get that information in the right stream, to the right people on the ground there at the airport, to continue to facilitate movement. and as the general said, we're going to try to facilitate movement of the evacuees right up until the very end. >> have these efforts helped, or are they adding to the confusion? is dod cooperating or helping in any way?
can you specify? >> i think, howard, to the degree that they have brought to light information that we can act on, to get additional people out, of course that's been helpful. and we certainly share the concerns these groups have for these individuals. we feel the same obligation they do to it. to the degree they have been able to help us latch on and identify, yes, that's been helpful. gordon? >> few different things. one question with the taliban. t it's not an intelligence question, but cooperation, did you share any information before the strike on the isis targets with the taliban? >> no. >> easy question and answer. turning to the preparations for folks getting back, is there a total number of people you have -- evacuees you have on
domestic bases here, plus those kind of on the step to come back? so all the different hubs plus the bases, do you have a total number there? >> i don't have it with me, gordon. i think you heard the general yesterday. we have just under 7,000 siv applicants at u.s. military installations across the country. he's opened up additional installations to try to get us to a capacity of maybe as much as 50,000 if we need it, i think. he gave that number yesterday, and i think -- i don't think that number changed. over the last 24 hours maybe. before i jump off, let me just check and see if i got an updated number in europe. i have it here somewhere, i think.
nope, i don't think i've got it across europe. we'll have to come back to you on that. >> and then two other quick ones. do you expect troops to come into dover as soon as today? >> what i can tell you is the remains of the 13 individuals who were killed are on their way back to the united states, but i am not at liberty to give you a precise arrival. >> okay. final clarification. struck in the target for last night was a planner and a facilitator, or they were both considered kind of both? i didn't quite understand. >> the capabilities of those struck and killed last night were a facilitators and planners. >> so -- >> we're not getting into this one was this, and this one was this. >> they're both kind of planners --
>> facilitators and planners. >> were you aware of them before -- >> like i said, we're not discussing the intelligence that led up to it. the intelligence we had allowed us to conduct the strike. >> were they individuals who were already on the u.s. radar at high-profile people? >> we had intelligence on the targets that led us, as we continued to work up that, to conduct that strike? >> one more on the over the horizon efforts. if i'm not mistaken, we looked back, and the last time we saw the u.s. announced a counterterror strike in afghanistan was february of 2020. are you aware of any other particularly specific, not against taliban, but specific ct strikes since february 2020 in after zban stan? -- afghanistan? >> i don't have that information. >> with all due respect, the reason you're getting questions about the intelligence is two days before kabul fell, intelligence did not show the country was about to fall to the taliban. that's why you're receiving questions about the intelligence of this target. just how serious these isis fighters were. >> i understand that. i understand that people --
we're not going to go into the details of the intelligence. >> was there a plan for an attack within the next few days? >> intelligence we had allowed us to conduct that strike. as mr. kirby said, we now have two members of isis-k that are no longer able to facilitate or plan attacks. >> were they planning attacks on u.s. troops -- >> i'm not going to go into that. >> john, secretary and the president, will they greet the caskets at dover? >> i don't have schedule announcements to make with respect to that. >> john, i'm a little unclear on what i think each of you said when you were talking about the presence of the taliban at the airport. are you saying that there are no taliban on the airfield beginning to transition to control on either of the civilian military sites? >> this was some reporting yesterday that the taliban were in control of the gates. then there was reporting that we were shutting down all
evacuation operations in the course of the day. and my point yesterday was those are not true. we're not shutting down evacuation operation. we're going to continue going until the end. we are still in charge of the airport. we are still in charge of security at the airport. and what has -- what was true a few days ago is still true today. the taliban have checkpoints around the airport in a loose perimeter, if you will, but they are not manning gates. they are not at the airport doing security rolls or anything like that. >> they're not at the airport. >> they are not at the airport. >> okay, thanks. >> going back to the drone strike, you obviously can't give specific names of countries, but did you notify any countries through which the drone may have had to fly through before the strike? and which committees on the hill did you notify prior to the strike, if at all? >> i don't -- as far as i know,
there was no notifications that did or needed to happen beforehand. >> to countries or -- >> no notifications that were needed to be done beforehand. yes? >> names of the individuals aside, do you know the individuals who were killed in the drone strikers? >> we know who they are. >> the one wounded was the planner or facilitator? >> i don't have that information. >> the tallahiban, have they indicated they won't allow afghanistan to be used as a launching pad for terrorists against friends and allies? >> say it again. >> have taliban leadership indicated or given assurance to you they'll not allow afghanistan to be used as a launching pad for terrorist attack against u.s., its friends and allies? >> they made assurances as part of the doha agreement about
affiliation with al qaeda and about terrorism, terrorist groups operating from afghanistan. they've said that publicly. they said it as part of the doha agreement. barbara? >> do you have any indication of the level or types of foreign fighters that may have flowed into afghanistan in recent days and weebs? weeks? >> i do not. okay, we're going to call it a day. we're going to call it a day, lucas. lucas, i appreciate it very much. appreciate it very much. >> -- prisoners released -- >> thank you. i appreciate it. >> is that evidence the taliban and isis might be in -- >> all right. there you have it. about a half hour pentagon briefing with john kirby, the pentagon press secretary, and major general hank taylor. we got three important headlines out of the briefing. first, not one but two isis-k facilitators and planners, terrorists, were killed in that u.s. drone strike yesterday. one facilitator and planner was
wounded. we also learned that the terror threats from the u.s. perspective that remain during these final three days of the u.s. military withdraw and evacuations, the terror threats remain in the words of these pentagon officials, very real, very active, and very dynamic. and we also got an update on the number of individuals who have been evacuated from afghanistan over these past several days since august 14th. a total now of 117,000 u.s. citizens, green card holders, afghan allies, other afghans, third-country individuals. 117,000 have been evacuated over these past couple weeks or so. 5,400 of them, 5,400 of them u.s. citizens. most obviously of the 117,000, afghans. we have a team of reporters and experts covering all of this. cnn's nick paton walsh is
joining us from qatar. barbara starr, you saw her asking questions, and she'll join us from the pentagon. military analyst, retired general wesley clark, the former nato supreme allied commander. and counterterrorism analyst phil mudd is with us, as well. let me go to nick paton walsh, joining us first. let me get your thoughts on what we just heard, specifically starting with this u.s. drone strike that killed these two isis-k, what they call planners and facilitators. >> reporter: despite there being more information about the strike, it is still limited. a planner and a facilitator and somebody else wounded, as well. clearly, they felt they had the right intelligence, that they hit the right target, and it will have an impact on isis operations. as barbara has been reporting before, they don't believe this to be a senior operative, but certainly this is the response that president joe biden said would be carried out. i'm sure, frankly, we will see more in the forthcoming future.
other interesting points, though, in that briefing, wolf. there are 1,400, at the time of speaking, i believe, individuals on the airport waiting evacuation. we've seen the number actually evacuated taper off significantly overnight. you said there are 117,000 in total. it is important to remember how extraordinary that figure is. all the chaos and loss surrounding, that is still an absolutely staggering number for a week's work by u.s. service members, as well. another important thing, too, to remember is they were clear that the process of retrograde has begun. that is military speak forwithdg the airport. they're putting equipment onto cargo planes and beginning to leave. we didn't get a precise number of how many u.s. troops are still on the base at this time, but it is obviously clear at this stage, if you look at the numbers of evacuees, they've shifted from evacuation being the main preoccupation, now it's the safety of u.s. troops and their departure. the 31st of august deadline looming very large indeed.
clearly, they do still say u.s. passport holders and even siv applications can expect to be evacuated if they can get onto the airport. that is, of course, the key challenge here permanently. reports of increasingly difficult access to the airport and that, in fact, i actually heard today, miraculously, some people, according to a source familiar with the situation, individual numbers, individuals are still being pulled through the gates. quite remarkable, frankly, that after the extraordinary losses we saw on thursday, there are still, it seems, u.s. or afghan personnel putting themselves in harm's way at those dangerous dp gates and bringing people into safety. can't underestimate the courage and sacrifice behind that. but it is obvious, i think, from hearing the way this press conference was put together, we are moving into a separate phase now where the evacuation is beginning to be limited, certainly, and we're now moving toward removing troops from the area. last u.s. troops in america's longest war leaving in
precarious situations. the taliban made it clear, they're not at the gates of the airport. they were clear to say that. we do know the taliban have a presence at the southern civilian gates of the airport and have for some time. they are facilitating, often, convoys with coordination with the united states, getting to the american side that's held on the military end of the airport. but a fraught few days ahead now. it is clear evacuation is dwindling. retrograde has begun. i'm sure they will not be wasting time in bringing out the equipment and the u.s. troops that they can. wolf? >> stand by, nick. barbara starr, pentagon correspondent, was in the briefing. we heard her asking important questions. bar barbara, when we heard the pentagon officials say the threats, the terror threats facing the remaining u.s. troops in afghanistan and the american citizens who might want to still try to get to the airport and get out, the other afghans who are trying to escape afghanistan, the threats remain very real, very active, very
dynamic. tell our viewers what you're hearing about these threats. i have to tell you, there are a lot of nervous officials here in washington right now. >> well, i think everyone is quite concerned, wolf. they talked in the briefing about monitoring the threats in real time. that means the u.s. intelligence community, the u.s. military, the white house, across the government, they are looking at this minute by minute, in an acknowledgment that isis-k, isis in afghanistan, is still operating inside kabul. this becomes a critical point. as nick paton walsh was saying, with the public acknowledgment from the pentagon that the withdrawal of u.s. forces and equipment has begun, we are now in the countdown, the most dangerous hours for u.s. forces in afghanistan the now upon us. it will be here until that last u.s. military plane rolls down
the runway at the airport and lifts off and cleared air space. this is going to be a situation that they will have to monitor around the clock. you know, they're telling us that they will be maintaining u.s. security at the airport until the last minutes, but from a practical matter, at some point, it will all be over. that last plane goes down the runway. when that happens, the u.s. is not in control of the airport. so they are going to come to a point where the taliban will, from all practical purposes, be maintaining security at the airport, whether they are on the airfield or not. in terms of the drone strike that we learned of overnight, i thought it was exceptionally interesting. they said that the two killed were facilitators, planners for isis-k, very typical bureaucratic words that the military uses to describe their targets.
okay, fine. they would not say if either of these people who were killed were directly involved in planning or facilitating the airport attack. they simply said that they were planners, facilitators. we know they were worried that one of them was involved in future planning. so they say, of course, the strike was justified on the basis of the intelligence they had about what these two isis operatives were up to. but, you know, there was also a very strong acknowledgment by john kirby, the long-time press secretary here, that this doesn't necessarily change that isis threat in afghanistan right now. nobody is making the claim that killing these two isis operatives changes the threat, lessens the threat to any great degree. there is just the simple fact that as the hours tick by, the danger may grow. they are going to watch it every minute, wolf. >> yeah. and these drones came in as the
pentagon press secretary sent over the horizon from outside of afgha afghanistan. we did hear kirby also say that it is very, very good that these two facilitators, planners, these isis-k terrorists, are no longer, in kirby's words, on the face of the earth. suggesting that if the u.s. can, they will try to kill others, as well. arlette saenz, you're at the white house. the president, i take it, has been briefed by his national security team today. is that right? >> reporter: wolf, the president is currently in a meeting with his national security team to receive all of the latest updates on afghanistan. we saw the defense secretary, lloyd austin, as well as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general milley, and jake sullivan arriving a little before 11:00. that's when the meeting in the situation room with the president and vice president was set to start. and it was just yesterday that the president's national security advisers warned that another terror attack in af
afghanistan was likely. you heard john kirby speaking specifically to that today, as he said that the threat there is still very real and very dynamic. another thing the white house, of course, is watching is these evacuations. earlier today, they provided the latest numbers on that, saying that 6,800 people were evacuated on u.s. and coalition flights over the last 24-hour period. that is significantly less than the previous 24-hour period, which was 12,500. officials have said that that slowing of the pace of evacuations was expected as they entered this retrograde phase, which you heard kirby speak about just moments ago at that briefing. i think another important point from that briefing was that john kirby was asked about those 13 killed service members. he said they are en route back to the united states. he would not get into specifics about where exactly on the
journey those deceased service members are. one big question is whether president biden would go to dover as the remains of those service members are transported to the u.s. we are still waiting to hear whether that might be a possibility. we're also waiting to hear if the president has started those phone calls with the families of the service members who were killed in that suicide attack in afte afghanistan. that is one of the toughest and solemn duties presidents have. we expect the president will be making those phone calls at some point. right now, this white house is acutely aware of the threats that are still ongoing and pose against u.s. forces and against afghans on the ground there in afghanistan as that drawdown deadline is quickly approaching, august 31st. and you heard in the pentagon briefing, they were insistent that those plans are still under way. that timeframe is not changing. >> we'll see if the president of the united states does go to the joint base dover in his home state of delaware to greet those
deceased u.s. service members. we were told earlier in the day by the air base commander in germany that the wounded and deceased service members were flown from afghanistan to the regional medical center in germany. the 13 deceased service members and 20 u.s. marines who were wounded in the suicide attack, they're being treated now, many of them very seriously wounded, at the regional medical center at the air base there. phil mudd, you're listening closely to everything we just saw. let me get your thoughts specifically on how much damage potentially the killing of these two isis-k terrorists, what they call the facilitators, the planners, how much damage does that really do to isis-k? there's enormous concern right now, especially over the next three days, that there will be another terrorist attack. >> the damage is modest. look, the question you have over
time when you have terror strikes like this is do you have strikes over time, month on month, year on year, that decimate an organization, including things like its leadership and bomb makers. the references today were to a facilitator and planner. that's not a leader. that's not a bomb maker. i'd say this is like chopping down a huge tree. we got one small hatchet chop. if you don't keep going, that tree is going to resuscitate itself. that said, i'll close with one comment. despite what i just said, this is hugely significant. the fact that we could identify these people within 48 hours suggests we knew who they were beforehand. this wasn't going to an isis facility and saying, let's see who we can get. if we can identify them beforehand, that says the intelligence picture is very good. if that picture is very good, it'll blow up as isis starts to talk. it is a start, but it is certainly not the end. >> it is an important step right now. you heard the pentagon briefers,
john kirby, retired u.s. admiral major general start, assume the >> if they don't continue after we withdraw, we don't win. i guarantee you everybody in my world is not asking about withdrawal, they're asking how do you maintain an intelligence picture to conduct lethal strikes. i would lay any money that you will see, i don't care what the taliban says or what happens with the taliban after the withdrawal, i don't care what the conversation the u.s. government has with them and i don't care what they ask, there will be lethal strikes after september 1st, bet on it. we have to take out isis-k.
it is going to happen. >> and i suspect you're 100% right. general wesley clark, let's talk about what you heard. you listened closely to the pentagon briefing. what jumped out at you? >> most important thing is we are continuing with the evacuation. now, obviously we have choked down access, so we're trading off the flow for the security of the marines and soldiers there. that's the command tradeoff. we've obviously got everything in the air, doing everything we canon security. but we have choked off flow. and i am hearing from official sources and chitchat how difficult it is for people trying to get out of the airfield. can't find a way in, don't know who to contact, et cetera. we have to put the security up there as prime consideration now for our troops.
they've done what's necessary for security in the force and getty evacuees out. the flow has diminished. we can expect it to continue to diminish the next two days as we are retro grading. eventually you reach a point you don't have security on the ground as barbara said, this may be for the last flight. before that, security is diminished. we have a real challenge to do everything we can to get americans out first. we are not hearing about that. didn't hear about it from the pentagon obviously, and we would like more information from state on how we're doing on this. this is the vital component, what the president pledged, so we have to get our americans that want out out. >> originally they said 6,000 u.s. citizens want out, and we were told 5400 were flown out. that would suggest maybe another 600 or so.
maybe they change their mind, don't want to leave, maybe can't get to the airport, can't get out for whatever reason but still several hundred americans who potentially, general clark, could be stranded inside that country. what happens to them after tuesday when the u.s. military withdrawal needs to be completed? >> so there are many different organizations still working and i think there will be many efforts, go out over land, may go out by helicopter, from covert airfields somewhere. we don't know. these networks, this is like the evacuation of the british forces from "dunkirk." this is like a thousand boats leaving to cross the channel to france. thousands of people in the united states, europe, elsewhere, working with contacts on the ground in afghanistan and in the region to get people out.
can't imagine how massive this effort is. >> phil, what does it say to you, you heard admiral kirby say there were no notifications of this strike, of the drone strike that killed two terrorists in advance to countries where the drone may have been flying over, countries the drone may have originated. we don't know where the drones originated from. there was no notification, and no notification of key members of congress either. that's the way i understood what kirby was saying. what does that say to you? >> a couple things, one on the domestic side, on the foreign side. domestic side, clearly, john kirby suggested this, the president feels as in the waning days of withdrawal he has the authority to strike a target in afghanistan. i can't believe anybody in congress or elsewhere would dispute that. also say he probably didn't have time to pick up the phone and tell somebody. these targets are very fleeting.
you have to move when you have to move. the thing about notifications elsewhere in the region tells me a couple things. number one, if you operate from a regional state, either you don't want to tell them, i have seen that in the past, because you're afraid of leaks, or you don't have to tell them. operating from the territory, we're going to conduct strikes like this. if you authorize those in advance, we're not going to tell you when they're happening. the final option is they flew off the ship in the gulf south of there, didn't need to notify anybody, flew in, maybe over pakistan or right into afghan air space after a short hop over pakistan. >> everyone stand by because the news is breaking now. wesley clark, phil mudd, nick peyton walsh, arlette saenz, and we are following other breaking news. we are waiting to hear directly from the mayor of new orleans as hurricane ida is barreling down on the gulf coast.
hurricane ida expected not to be a category one, two, or three but category four hurricane when it makes landfall around louisiana, close to new orleans tomorrow. this is exactly 16 years after hurricane katrina hit the gulf coast and new orleans as category three. this is a category four. the national hurricane center warned moments ago that hurricane ida is expected to begin rapidly intensifying in warm waters of the gulf right away. more of our special coverage in "the situation room" after this. what's the #1 retinol brand used most by dermatologists? it's neutrogena® rapid wrinkle repair® smooths the look of fine lines in 1-week, deep wrinkles in 4. so you can kiss wrinkles goodbye! neutrogena®
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