tv Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser Report MSNBC August 15, 2021 4:00am-5:00am PDT
jaw-dropping developments. >> thank you, dan. appreciate it. we are nearing the top of the hour right here on msnbc as we continue to watch these live pictures coming from the city of kabul. a city that is right now encircled by the taliban. by some reports, the taliban have been spotted within the streets of the city. there are reports that negotiations are taking place within the presidential palace there in the capital city. it's not clear if ashraf ghani who is taking part of those negotiations. also, we got word on that power will be transferred to a third-party, a temporary third-party soon. >> and we also know from our courtney kube's reporting there is gunfire in the kabul region. it's not characteristic of an all-out offensive. reports are there will be a peaceful transition there of at least temporary power here. we do know that the u.s. is going to be sending another battalion there to get troops out of the embassy, to get
people also safely to the airport and get them out of the country. and this really has been a fast-moving development just over the last 24 hours with the taliban taking jalalabad in the outskirts of kabul where kabul is completely surrounded and completely isolated. and we know their m.o.. the way the taliban has been able to do this so quickly is they gain strength with each province that they capture, because we know that one of their m.o.'s is they empty prisons so prisoners join their ranks, and take weapons some of which supplied by the u.s. and some by nato. we are following breaking developments, live pictures on your screen. we're going to britton in pentagon correspondent courtney kube. >> we're watching pictures all over the place. it has been lightning fast. we get a sense that today will be a very pivotal day in the
20-year war that has been afghanistan. >> reporter: yeah, i think today and actually the next couple of days are going to be very telling. you know, i mean, it's developing, to say it was lightning fast is almost an understatement for how we've watch this happen in the last week. you know, this taliban offensive actually began weeks ago on the outskirts of the more rural parts of the country. the estimates people have been speaking with at that time, mt. worst case scenario estimates we might see the taliban on the door steps of kabul in the fall. not in mid august like we're seeing right now. i think the big -- yeah, i think the big question right now is what comes next. and if there are -- i just spoke with the defense official and if it's true that there is a negotiation ongoing right now at the presidential palace, it is
possible that we could see this last stage of the taliban take-over of the country in a more peaceful way than other parts of the country have fallen. you know, i'm told that some of the taliban elders in doha have been encouraging some of the younger taliban fighters on the ground in afghanistan not to sweep through kabul and destroy the city and destroy the infrastructure. so it's hard to know if they are listening to them, they are listening to the elders or the more senior negotiators who have been in doha for sometime, negotiating with the u.s. and the afghan government, or if this is just the beginning of an offensive. but again, it's really important to point out that while there is a lot of reporting out there both on social media in some of the -- you know, the afghan media who are really doing yoeman's work right now, if, in
fact, this is just the very beginning, the very, very tip of the offensive here or if maybe we're going to see kabul move in a different direction than we've seen some of these other cities. it's also important to point out, you were just mentioning jalalabad. if the taliban moved in, they met virtually no resistance from the afghan military and they were able to take over not only jalalabad but the entire province there right outside of kabul without much fighting. >> and, courtney, is that because the afghan military is trying to protect civilian lives? >> reporter: you know, it's hard to say. i think every single area has been different. every province and every provincial capital have been different. but this may be as much about preservation of civilian lives as it is about preservation of the afghan military who have just really been overrun in some of these places. you know, in some of the cases,
the afghan military, they're a very local force, so they know these neighborhoods, they know these people. their families live there. and when you have this momentum of the taliban sweeping across the country and they're faced with not only their own -- these afghan military, their own imminent death, but the death of their family, their loved ones, their neighbors, i think in some cases we've seen them lay down their arms and just on self-preservation. that goes back to what we were talking about earlier, a question of whether the afghan military really had the will and the motivation to fight to the death when it's very clear that the taliban did have that will and did have that motivation as they have been moving through. >> all right. courtney kube joining us with the very latest there. >> thank you for putting it in a human perspective for us, courtney. >> absolutely. it is a humanitarian crisis that might be on the brink with all that develops here today.
let's bring into the conversation nbc's taliban bureau chief joining us in neighboring iran. you've been covering this region for so many years. put in perspective what we're seeing unfolding right in front of our eyes right now. >> reporter: well, it's a very desperate situation we're seeing unfold in afghanistan. look, it's been 20 years of hardship for the afghan people and it's only going to get much harder now that the taliban are spreading their tentacles across the country. and there is a deluge of afghans pouring into iran as we speak, desperate to get away from their home country. the iranians here have set up three makeshift refugee camps along the border for afghans to be able to come into and have some sort of safe haven. and i can tell you that they are truly desperate. there are about 2 1/2 million afghans living here in iran. most of them are undocumented.
and anyone they know in this country, they are reaching out desperately to for help, for money to get their family out of afghanistan. they're leaving behind everything there. people that have worked here in iran for 20 years trying to build a small home for themselves in afghanistan are leaving all of that behind and just trying to get their wife and children out of there into iran, which is not going to be a particularly easy life for them, i have to say. afghans working here in iran have to do very menial jobs. they get paid very little. their children can't get educated, but it's still a much better option for them than being in afghanistan. so, it's a very, very tragic situation and it really is quite extraordinary to think that 20 years on, after all the u.s. troops that have been in there, after all the money that's been poured into afghanistan, we're talking about the imminent full of kabul, it's quite
extraordinary to think about. and, of course, this chaos is playing into the hands of iran. iran is happy to see an exodus of u.s. troops from across the border. and as i mentioned to you before, you've seen these extraordinary videos of afghan military troops pouring into iran, bringing with them advanced equipment, no doubt supplied by the united states that the iranian defense ministry is going to be very happy to get its hands on. you know, a lot of people look at the situation here and say that iran is thriving on the chaos across the border. this all plays into iran's hands. of course, guys, it's not just iran that the afghans are pouring into. there are borders across their country in uzbekistan as well. they are pouring into there, 84 soldiers poured into uzbekistan. they didn't resist the border guards there. they were just seeking medical
attention. their fate is not immediately clear what's going to happen to them. the taliban want them back. the government in tashgan is saying they're trying to make some sort of deal with the government in afghanistan. the whole thing is a real mess and it's left the afghan people desperate, displaced and hopeless. >> ali arouzi joining us from the neighboring country there that shares a 600-mile border with afghanistan. ali, thank you. we'll check back with you in a moment. >> describing the situation as desperate and hopeless. we want to bring in chief correspondent of foreign affairs andrea mitchell on the phone. andrea, you have reporting that the u.s. embassy in kabul will be closing once all personnel are transferred out of there. what can you tell us about your reporting this morning? >> reporter: well, this is obviously a huge change, but
there are negotiations underway with the taliban. we understand the taliban and their representatives are negotiating for a transition of government, and that the u.s. embassy now instead of remaining open has always been the commitment, will be closing. it is expected to take about 72 hours because of the need to get people the four miles to the airport and out. so this is going to be -- secretary blinken is going to be on "meet the press" this morning. he's doing a number of announcements. more details will come from the secretary of state. but this is the most dramatic possible -- most dramatic possible example of the fact that the taliban will be in charge, that this transitional government is being negotiated, being pointed to the statements from a taliban official and from the afghan officials that, one,
it is to be peaceful, and it is over and it is in the stunning lightning speed that kabul is falling as all our colleagues have been reporting. cobiella has been there for weeks. the encirclement of kabul. city after city, provincial capital after provincial capital have been falling to the taliban. the advance was shocking to the u.s. they were saying days ago this would take a matter of weeks to perhaps 90 days. that was the latest from the military, from the pentagon all week. but now it is very clear that this is basically over, and it not only has the u.s. withdrawn its troops, but that u.s. is now withdrawing all of its civilian personnel, and this is an
evacuation. they're not gone yet. >> as you mentioned, it was four days ago when the u.s. military said the taliban could take kabul in 90 days. how did the u.s. military, with all our intelligence and all the folks that we have there on the ground, get this so wrong? >> reporter: well, they completely, completely overestimated the afghan military's ability or willingness -- and they are putting it on willingness because they have the capacity to fight back. and what has been so shocking is the surrender, fleeing from the fight of one unit after another. they thought the special forces and the forces around kabul would be standing. now it would be a slaughter and at all cost they want to avoid a city of 4 1/2 million people being involved in bloody house-to-house fighting. as you know, the taliban has been capturing u.s. heavy equipment that has been supplied
to the afghan forces as they have marched. so they are well supplied, well stocked, and certainly well motivated army. and that is something that the motivation has not been there for the afghan army. president ghani -- in afghanistan when the u.s., certainly after the withdrawal was not viewed with any kind of support because the people in afghanistan feel betrayed. i'm hearing from women in activist groups, texts for days now, who are terrified. other people familiar with the situation, other women who are educators, human rights activists who feel completely betrayed at the highest level now. the afghan government has -- and it is not in support of the
people or else the taliban was not able to take control of city after city, province after province. >> andrea, we often turn to you for the perspective of what this means. what does a world look like with an afghanistan controlled by the taliban? >> reporter: almost immediately, it is certainly feared they could again become a haven for terrorists. this is, of course, what happened after the russian withdrawal and over the years in the '90s when al qaeda got their foothold in kandahar. it became the base for attack on the homeland. now, it has been the mantra of u.s. administrations, the trump administration and the biden administration most recently that the main mission back after 9/11 is to make sure afghanistan would not be safe for terrorist groups like al qaeda for attacks against the homeland. and after decades of war, that
we can't continue to sacrifice american men and women for afghanistan, which is not of strategic importance to the u.s. in fact, it is of strategic importance because of where it's located. it's located next to pakistan, which is -- >> not sure if we lost andrea mitchell. andrea, can you still hear us? i think we may have lost andrea mitchell. we'll check back on that connection with andrea. there is one part right there that she said that absolutely sent chills. she said, it is over. kabul is falling and with stunning speed. after 20 years, you get a sense that you are watching just an unbelievable historic moment taking place right now. >> she reiterated just days ago that the pentagon was still maintaining it could be a matter of months before this happened. yet here we are. we want to bring in nbc chief correspondent richard engel in
kabul. we've been watching live pictures, seeing helicopters overhead as well. we caught up with you. what's transpired? what have you learned since then? >> reporter: i'm sorry, could you repeat that? you dropped out for part of the question. you said you saw some of the helicopters and then i lost audio. >> what are you seeing on the ground there, richard? what are you learning? >> reporter: well, i think it's hard right now. you can see one of the helicopters is passing overhead as we speak. and that has been happening all day long, as the diplomatic center of kabul is emptying out. not just the u.s. embassy. other governments are doing the same thing with their personnel. and they are heading toward the airport. the airport has become the last stand in this city. it's become a place, a staging ground for an evacuation. when we arrived today into the airport, we saw military transport jets on the runway. we saw some troop personnel who were there, apparently taking
part in this evacuation. it is the end game. kabul, it is falling -- it is fallen, but we just don't know exactly how it's going to play out. there is a meeting taking place right now at the presidential palace. the taliban are at the meeting, this is according to afghan officials. and they are negotiating a surrender. they are negotiating the surrender of this city. they are not putting up much of a defense of this city. i was driving around not long ago. you don't see extra checkpoints. you don't see security forces. you don't see the taliban. but the city is ready for the taking. it is just a formality now that this government will announce its surrender, announce the transition to a new government that will be led by the taliban, and the government, the current government, the government that the u.s. has been backing for many years, hopes that that will avoid panic, that will avoid mass bloodshed and fighting in the city if they can do the surrender in a more meaningful
way. but that's what we're waiting for here. we're just waiting to see how the surrender will take place. and then what happens in the city? will it be peaceful when the taliban come in? will they stick to their orders not to carry out any reprizal attacks? will the people run, will they come out and fight? i doubt they'll come out and fight because they haven't in any other city. why would they come back -- come out and fight in kabul when all the rest is lost? >> richard, it's interesting you mention -- hang on a second. i want to show a piece of video we just got in that shows, i am told, members of the taliban walking through the streets of kabul. if we can play that. not sure if it's sound up or just video. let's pop that up right now on screen. it is from our sky news chief correspondent. >> i think it's very relative, jonathan. we know there are skirmishes particularly in the north of the city, i am told by people who
tried to resist. but the taliban are not to be put off, of course. any resistance is dealt with them quickly. there are fights near the airport. that is completely unconfirmed. some have said british soldiers who were there were probably providing the initial cover for that area may have been involved. we've not had anything official from that. but we have seen from that direction smoke rising in the air. there have been gunshots and explosion as you say. there are helicopters going around continuously. all the time we are being told, and it's either in the presidential palace or in the interior ministry which is 500, kilometer away from me that direction, are talks between the current afghan government and the -- >> great report by sir ramsey. not the clip we intended to play at all at that point. in part of his reporting he said he's seeing a parade of taliban
members or taliban supporters marching on nearby streets. we're seeing reports the taliban have -- officials are within the presidential palace right now trying to negotiate some sort of an agreement. richard, i note that back in april when this announcement was made by the administration and you started going back there to afghanistan, you mentioned and kind of predicted that the nall would come fairly quickly and the situation was deteriorating fast. >> reporter: i think it was, i think it was clear when the taliban started to gain momentum that the afghan security forces weren't up to the fight, that this government was so corrupt and so unpopular that people weren't going to fight from it. that was obvious really from when the withdrawal began. this withdrawal began in the
spring, in may. and right from the beginning there was just -- the air force and afghan commandos who were resisting and both of those are quite small units relative to the big army that the u.s. trained and equipped. so i don't know why the u.s. military would have thought that it could have lasted another couple of months when very early on, entire divisions were falling. and then war is all psychological. it's about momentum and the taliban got the momentum and they broke the morale of the afghan military quite quickly. and then ultimately, even the commandos in the air force realized they were fighting alone and gave up some of their bases. so bases i was on doing those reports a month ago, they're now held by the taliban. commanders that i spoke to there are either at home in kabul, or they're not answering their phones. i don't know where some of them are. >> richard, you're talking about the morale among the afghan
military. maybe it was an estimation of the afghan's willingness because they were well equipped. many of them live in those provinces they were protecting, their families, their neighbors as well. and, of course, we know many of those members, anybody who helped the u.s. military, they're trying to get out. you've been talking to them, at the visa centers. there is a mass exodus. what happens to the people who stay behind? what happens to the members of the afghan military now? >> reporter: they're very nervous. going back to your first point, it's very easy to blame the afghan military. oh, the afghan military, they're cowardly, they didn't fight, they have the guns, they didn't use them. but this has happens twice now, when the u.s. left iraq, the military collapsed. even though it had tanks it collapsed in the face of a relatively small attack by isis.
even after 20 years of support of the military it collapsed. so maybe it's on us as well. here's a helicopter. we're not going to show you every single one because it's been constant. but the shock when the u.s. pulled out of bagram air base, bagram air base was taken back by the taliban. they freed the prisoners outside of kabul. when the military pulled out of bagram, without properly informing those who were to take over the base and turning off the power so the afghans couldn't figure out how to put it back on, because the bases are not just a light switch. it's like a city you have to operate. so handing over the country in such a hasty manner sent a shock to the afghan troops. so that also helped collapse their, their morale, i think. so there are multiple issues here. it's not just the afghans who are to blame.
i think the united states certainly share some of the blame as well. >> all right. richard engel joining us from kabul. richard, if you don't mind hanging only as we continue to cover the situation there on the ground. do want to get the congressional as well as the white house perspective on all of this as we continue to watch that live picture of kabul. at some point while richard was talking, i did see a small bit of black smoke, black plume. it is unclear what any of that could possibly mean or if it means anything. shannon, let me start with you. i do know from an interview former president george w. bush who started this war 20 years ago said the consequence are going to be unbelievably bad if we pull out of afghanistan. we kind of get a sense right now many of those comments are coming to fruition at this point. >> reporter: yes. president biden has talked about how he is the fourth president to inherit this war in afghanistan, or to oversee, i should say, this war in afghanistan. that he does not want to pass it
on to a fifth. and you have to ask your self, why is he the fourth. well, it's because his predecessors all chose to leave troops in to avoid the scenario they are now seeing play out on the ground. however, this president has maintained that he is staying the course, that he believes in it, it is something he believed for years well before he was president, that there is not a military solution to afghanistan. he said in a rather lengthy statement the white house put out yesterday, that one more year or five more years our u.s. military presence would not have made a difference if the afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. the president has said it is time for the afghan people to unite for afghan leadership to step up, that obviously has not occurred here or has not occurred to the extent needed to fend off this taliban takeover.
so now we are seeing those consequence. this is certainly not something that the president predicted at all. he, in fact, said back in july this would not happen. he said there would not be a repeat of the type of scenes we saw in saigon where americans had to be airlifted off the embassy rooftop. and while we are not necessarily seeing embassy officials airlifted off the rooftop, we are certainly seeing a chaotic, if not chaotic, intense scramble to get them out of the country. the state department just last week was saying that the embassy would not close. obviously based on the reporting you heard from andrea mitchell, that is now happening. so nothing really has gone as predicted by this administration when it comes to how events were going to unfold here. one other prediction i'll say they have made is that the public would be behind them, and that's based on polls back in april. and we will see how that looks now that the troop withdrawal
has resulted in this consequence of the taliban taking over as we talked about earlier just weeks before the september 11th anniversary. >> majority of voters according to that morning consult poll you mentioned, before all of this really started to devolve, showed a majority of voters did support the full withdrawal. but, shannon, before we get to julie on the congressional piece here, we're going to hear from secretary of state tony blinken on "meet the press" with chuck todd on nbc. do you expect we're going to hear from a lot of administration officials today? >> reporter: well, we don't know right now. we don't expect to hear from the president. of course, everything can change -- could change at this point. the president is at camp david. this was supposed to be a bit of vacation week for the president. august is typically a period of vacation. obviously the president not on vacation amid all of this. we did get some information from the white house yesterday that the president was briefed at camp david with the vice-president. we got an image of that from the
white house. and then the president did put out a lengthy statement, essentially saying that his focus is on protecting americans in the country, getting those americans out, protecting the troops there, trying to process those visa applications as quickly as possible. but otherwise, staying the course and insisting that he still believes there is not a military solution to this problem, and that he will not continue to have a u.s. military presence in afghanistan. >> the president deciding instead of spending the time, the vacation week at his row rehoboth eth beach, delaware home, instead of camp david, avoiding the optics of being on a beach vacation where the country, military is evacuating people from that embassy overseas. julie, to you on capitol hill. the reaction has been resoundingly harsh from many republican congress people. the democrats were supportive of
the president pulling out, the presidential time line of pulling out of afghanistan, but lately, it's been crickets. >> reporter: that's exactly right. you heard from our colleague andrea mitchell earlier in this hour saying that the u.s. does, in fact, plan to close its embassy in kabul. that, of course, will be a big topic on that 9:45 call this morning that speaker pelosi announced overnight for all house members on both sides of the aisle. you will remember that she originally intended to have a briefing on monday, august 23rd, when congress returns. but that will be happening still, but ahead of that will be this briefing this morning and it's the first time that members of congress will be able to hear from cabinet officials, like secretary of state tony blinken, secretary of defense lloyd austin, and joint chiefs of staff mark milley. they will be sure to have a lot of questions for them there. that will be an unclassified briefing. it will be held virtually. and like i mentioned, it will be
on members, both sides of the aisle. we're hearing a lot of reaction from republicans as you mention slamming the biden administration from senate minority leader mcconnell to combat veterans like joni ernst saying that not only do they disapprove of the withdrawal, but that biden had no plan for it. as we can see, our colleagues have been reporting all morning that this is really intensifying and changing rapidly. they are doing things they weren't planning on doing. president biden yesterday issuing a public statement saying he will be sending in a thousand more troops to kabul to help evacuate personnel from the embassy there. but as we look ahead to this briefing this morning, it will be 45 minutes. it's not that long of a time for members of congress to be able to question the administration. but tony blinken will be on that call. and as andrea mitchell reported, he will, of course, be expressing more details on "meet the press" and to the lawmakers on this briefing about the u.s.'s plan to close that
embassy, and will look forward to that reaction, of course, speaker pelosi yesterday releasing a statement, careful not to blame president biden, but still expressing concern for the humanitarian damage that is being done in that region, especially to women and girls as the taliban continues to take over there. but other than that, not much from democrats here who are, of course, careful not to criticize president biden. but if they were here in these halls and not on recess, we would be able to get them on the record on that. >> okay, julie joining us from capitol hill, shannon pettypiece at the white house. thank you for joining us. it will be a busy day ahead. want to bring in evelyn farkas on these developments. madam secretary, you tweeted before coming on the air with us that this whole situation is disastrous. you say that we have vastly diminished diplomatic leverage to save lives. can you explain what we mean by
that? we know from shannon pettypiece's reporting they are withdrawing military and diplomatic efforts in the region. >> lyndsay, i worked on afghanistan as a senior staffer, under the bush administration, i worked under president obama in the executive branch. i ran for congress last year saying we should leave afghanistan, but not this way. and the problem is that, you know, we have maximum leverage and we had maximum leverage. frankly, i would say before president trump got into office because it was clear that once he was in, he was going to try to withdraw us and possibly suddenly precipitously. but we really didn't use that leverage very effectively. that's obvious. and so you know, what relieves now? the military force we have in kabul is still some leverage. the fact that the taliban has to exist in an international order, so maybe they need some assistance. they are, it does seem, trying to get a message out that they
don't want to destroy the city and assault the human rights of individuals in kabul. but i can't really believe that given the reporting we've heard from other places. you know, essentially the afghan people are surrendering. and this, of course, started with the afghan government because the military would not have surrendered if it weren't for the fact that they were not properly provisioned, you know, meaning having materiel, food and ammunition, and of course the political support, the will of the government in kabul. but, you know, again, the international community, the united states, we really need to look at what happens here. there was clearly an intelligence failure. and the way that we are leaving now is an absolute, as i said in my tweet, disaster. >> yeah, you said it's an absolute disaster. and as you mentioned, you covered this area under your purview when you worked for president obama, the eurasia area. i'm curious for your perspective on what this day means for
america going forward, from a diplomatic standpoint. can we say to iran that we are this all-powerful nation, and that they have to do what we say, when we kind of cave after 20 years and all this money and all those lives that have been lost? >> well, i think the lesson, kendis, is you can have all the military means at your disposal. the united states is still the strongest military power in the world, right? but if you don't have political will, then you are not going to have the diplomacy that you need to ultimately solve the problems, the political problems. diplomatically, you can't solve a problem, end a war frankly speaking by using your military. you have to sit down at a table and negotiate. so this is a really difficult situation now for secretary blinken and the biden team because they want to, obviously, save as many lives as possible, you know, possibility for human
rights to exist in afghanistan today and into the future. but it's very difficult. the international community needs to rally together. of course, we have countries like pakistan, like russia who frankly are, i would guess, pretty hard allied now with the taliban. we're going to have to work with them. china, on the other hand, is quite worried about the instability and the increase in activity that could result in china proper because of the territory of afghanistan being a place where militants can operate. so there may be an opportunity there. but this is a situation that we could have prevented, and now we have to scramble diplomatically to try to salvage what we can. >> all right. we're going to have to leave it there. but former deputy assistant secretary in the department of defense evelyn farkas, we appreciate your time and expertise. thank you for joining us. >> thank you. as i was mentioning in the report, we're trying -- the city
of kabul is huge. 4 million people. it is a vast city, capital city there in afghan, and we are getting different reports from all over the place of what is happening on the ground in kabul at this hour. our sky news correspondent, as i mentioned, has noticed some eyewitness events involving the taliban. here is his report again. >> reporter: i hear a lot of shouting coming down the road behind me. in fact, it appears a -- i think it's a procession of the taliban -- yes, it is. there's the white flag and they're coming down the street just next to us there. they are led by a white flag and they're chanting as they go down. i don't think from our position -- we can't show you that. we're about two or three stories, four stories up.
but there they are right here. hopefully they keep going past this hotel. >> that hopefully part at the end. that's stuart ramsey there, our sky news reporting from kabul mentioning that he's seeing some members of the taliban with their white flag walking through the city. once again, you can see some in the far distance, some black plume of smoke there on the horizon. again, not clear. it could be one of anything. it is a typical day in kabul when you have things like that take place. but it is by far not a typical day when it comes to the history of afghanistan and the united states. >> and for everybody who is with us, every now and then this live shot does fade to black. we don't have control over that. that's not us, that's on their side. we're losing the feed sometimes. we do keep getting it back and will bring it to you. want to bring in correspondent courtney kube who has been reporting on this, incredible reporting over the last few months.
courtney, you had an illuminating exchange with the pentagon spokesman john kirby this week about the timing and whether the administration maybe got intelligence wrong or was surprised by the sheer timing. can you talk to us about this exchange and what you've been hearing from the pentagon since? >> reporter: yes. so, i mean, somebody who i spoke with this morning said that even the most pessimistic assessments of how this was going to play out were wrong here. so think about that. the worst case scenario military assessments didn't even -- proved not even to be as pessimistic as what we're actually seeing play out on the ground in afghanistan. and again, i think the big factor that's really changed the calculus on the ground has been the afghan military. they, in some places they did fight. they did really put up a fight against the taliban offensive, but in many places they just didn't. they folded.
and what's remarkable is, if you take a step back and look at what we've been hearing out of the u.s. side during this taliban offensive is that the afghan military is 350,000 strong and that they have this asymmetric advantage of the air force that the taliban does not have. and so because of that, they should be able to take on the taliban which, when the offensive began, they were numbering somewhere around 77, 75,000 taliban fighters. that's just proven to be untrue. it just shows that the very size of the military and this advantage of having an air force, which the taliban did not have, has not been enough here. it's also worth pointing out the afghan military has these very capable in many cases u.s.-trained commandos and special operators who have been operating on their own for the past year or two, they've been carrying out their own offensive operations. they've been operating almost completely on their own.
even logistically, they're able to build and cultivate their own intelligence sources and networks. but it's just not proven to be enough against this taliban offensive which, again, has had so much momentum over the past several weeks that they've just been able to roll through the afghan military. so i think what we're all going to be talking about in the days, weeks and months to come is how the afghan military just didn't seem to have the momentum and really the will to fight against the taliban. >> courtney, you're talking about the worst case scenario not even being this bad according to the intelligence. just incredible reporting there from your source this morning. and i want to ask you what you're going to be looking for as the hours here unfold. i mean, local time in kabul is 4:10 p.m. there. what are you looking for in the next few hours, in the next few moments here as eventually we do settle into dusk there and we know although the u.s. hasn't
confirmed, the u.s. officials are saying taliban officials are negotiating currently at the palace with the afghan government? >> reporter: yeah, and i can tell you, lyndsay, i now have two defense officials confirming to me that bagram, this sprawling air base just outside of kabul city, has now fallen into the hands of the taliban. and with it comes just countless amount of military equipment and vehicles, potentially aircraft, weapons that were there. but what's even more critical is there is a prison facility. it's called the parlon prison facility collocated right next to bagram. defense officials are telling me the taliban have emptied out the prison. this isn't just any old prison. it has 5,000, upwards of 7,000 fighters and we're talking some hardened taliban fighters and some al qaeda. this is a place where the u.s.
military had a presence for -- until they turned it over just a couple of years ago completely to the afghans. but there is -- there was always this one cellblock there that was the worst of the worst that included some very strong, hardened al qaeda fighters. so the fact that that's now been emptied out is extremely concerning. two things that i think we really need to be focused on today. number one is the embassy area in kabul. there is sort of this diplomatic area around where the u.s. embassy, the british, the canadian, there's a number of western embassies in that area. does that area come under real threat or even potentially under fire, that would obviously be a game changer here. and the other one is the airport. does the taliban show any interest or advance towards the airport if it becomes under threat, that would also be an
extreme game changer because we know the u.s. military who has been sent in there, their main mission right now, their goal is the safe evacuation of u.s. and afghan allies. the airport is the one place where, if that airport comes under attack by the taliban, that is where the u.s. military would be in a position that they would have to defend it. at this point i need to point out there are no indications that's happening at this point, but i think if we're looking for some of the worst case scenarios, another, you know, sort of more -- another something we should be watching for today, what are we seeing the afghan officials, government officials doing? are we seeing them leave the country? that would obviously be very telling of where the situation is right now. again, we don't have reports of that, but those are things to be watching for today. again, sort of worst case scenarios we need to be looking for today. >> we know some of the worst
case scenarios have already played out. courtney kube, thank you for bringing us your source reporting there. let's bring in the former chief counsel and senior adviser for the senate foreign relations committee. jameill, thank you for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> jameill, put in perspective what we're seeing today, in this hour. we've seen the fall of baghdad. we've seen the fall of saigon in the history books. put it in perspective, historical events taking place right now. >> this is a tough situation, something none of us wanted to see. but unpredictable. we knew could happen, we knew would happen eventually. i don't think anybody expected it to happen this quickly. and yet here we are. we see the taliban coming into kabul there in the presidential palace, beginning conversations. at a minimum it's good we're seeing a potentially peaceful transfer in kabul, although it's a transfer that will ultimately,
i think, redound to the united states very troubling. we will see al qaeda return to the region under taliban control. that will put the united states in a difficult situation in terms of our national security. >> talk to us about the significance of bagram air base being taken over. courtney kube spoke to defense people and said they are taking over the taliban air base that had u.s. troops until they left in the night and we only learned about it after the fact. what's the significance here particularly because it's also home to a prison and we know the taliban has been able to gain strength in each province by opening up the prisons and adding prisoners to the ranks. >> the facility in bagram is a critically important facility. i've been there when i served in the senate foreign relations committee. senator graham was serving on active duty when he was there,
when we arrived there in country. the prison there had some of the worst of the worst al qaeda supporters and activists from back then when i visited and still to the president day, so obviously the release of folks from the par 1 facility in bagram is troubling. bagram itself, a massive facility, now in taliban hands, may eventually -- one of the biggest to be handed over to the chinese or another major nation state. even in the hands of the taliban. if anybody ever wondered whether they'll be able to continue to maintain and consolidate control over afghanistan now that they have these facilities as they gain more equipment, gain more supporters with the release of these folks from prison, it makes it almost impossible for anybody to take back parts of it including from the taliban. >> thank you. if you don't mind hanging on while we continue to watch these pictures and while this continues to develop. want to go to ali arouzi,
our teheran bureau chief joining us from teheran. ali, there is a reason they call afghanistan the graveyard of empires. >> reporter: that's right, indeed. i mean, the graveyard of empires, the 1 00-year war between the united kingdom and russia. it's all been fought on territory in afghanistan, and ultimately over the decades and centuries is the afghan people that have paid an extraordinary price for their country to be a political pawn, a battle field between so many different countries. and between their own people. and now we're seeing the results of that now here in iran. you're seeing thousands of afghans currently pouring across the border into iran, desperate to get out of their own country because they know what's coming is going to be really bad. all the social reforms, any gains that had been made over the last 20 years are going to
be rolled back once the taliban are fully in control, which they practically are now. and many afghans i've spoken to that live here in iran that we know very well are really, really upset. they feel that they have lost their country altogether. they feel that they've been abandoned by the united states. and this is it, that they are not going to gain control of their country. they are making calls to anybody that they know in iran to help them financially or help them with contacts in the country to be able to get their families out of the country. they're willing to leave behind everything that they've built there, a house they've built for themselves in some province, any savings they have. they're willing to leave all of that behind to come to iran for some sort of safe haven. and as i mention to you, kendis, it's a very difficult life for most afghans in iran.
they do menial jobs. they don't get paid well. they don't have insurance. their children can't get a proper education. but it's still better than what they face in afghanistan. and don't forget, this exodus that's happening as well, it's not just security forces that are trying to flee the grip of the taliban. they're regular people. they're school teachers that were teaching music face danger at the hands of the taliban right now. so it's not just people that have been fighting them. it's people that have been embarking on normal day to day jobs that we couldn't give a second thought to in the west are now fearful of their lives because music is something the taliban would look down on and any other thing that they would see as western. so i think we're going to see a c-change in that country after 20 years of u.s. forces, almost immediately it's going to revert back to what it was before 9/11.
>> ali arouzi joining us once again from teheran. ali, thank you for your perspective on that and the situation that continues to unfold there. want to go ahead and bring in former deputy assistant to the secretary of defense evelyn farkas again as we continue to monitor these lives pictures that are going in and out over kabul. evelyn, since we've been talking, nbc news has confirmed that bagram is now in the hands of the taliban. they're emptying out the prison there which contains 5,000 to 7,000 of the most hardened taliban and al qaeda fighters. what's your response there to bagram air base falling and really just the trajectory here of this day? >> yeah, i have to say, lyndsay, this does not bode well for what will happen next in the capital because, you know, we have been sitting here waiting to see what kind of deal gets worked out between the afghan government, the u.s. government, the international community, and the
taliban to try to protect, you know, the last strong hold, essentially try to protect some human rights and allow internationals to leave safely, including nbc correspondents. so i am concerned to hear this because i spent a lot of time in bagram. i had oversight for almost a decade on the hill with the senate on service committee for the special operations forces, u.s. forces there in bagram doing training and, of course, doing the counterterrorism mission. and, yes, there is a reason why these hardened prisoners were kept there with our most capable operators as well as, of course, the afghan special operators. so bagram falling into the hands of the taliban, of course, that was predictable in the last couple days only, and -- but releasing the prisoners will increase the chaos and really, like i said, doesn't bode well for human rights. and ultimately, you know, we are now looking at very little
leverage to just do the minimum, which is to save the lives of the internationals left in kabul to save the lives of the afghans who helped us. but, you know, there were 70,000 afghans a couple weeks ago. that means interpreters and others who directly supported the u.s. government and their families, to say nothing of all the afghans who worked with all the media, with all of you guys on the ground there, who were covered by these agreements. so it's really going to be rough going because i don't know how much control, you know, that the new regime will have now, the taliban will have over -- certainly not over these newly released prisoners and over the rank and file. so it's going to be chaotic unfortunately. >> i was speaking with a friend who used to be stationed in afghanistan for an ngo and he was mentioning that he had been in contact with many of his former translators and other
folks, and he described a desperate situation because they are not in the city of kabul and unable to get to kabul, much less trying to get through the visa process. they assume they will die right there at the hands of the taliban. in the meantime, evelyn, as i mentioned, you covered this area a little while ago. give me the significance of the fact that the u.s. embassy will be closing there in kabul once all those personnel are out of there. i should also mention, we keep seeing those different pictures of the helicopters possibly transporting folks as well. the significance of the embassy closing. >> well, clearly, kendis, it's a symbolic failure for us politically, internationally. the world looks and says the u.s. can't even defend its embassy and we said we would stay with afghanistan, with the government of afghanistan, and the people of afghanistan even after we withdraw military forces. that was something that, you
in places where we have other troops and we have said that we don't want to stay forever but we don't want to leave in such a fashion where we abandon u.s. interests and u.s. personnel and u.s. allies. >> we don't want to abandon parts of syria >> exactly this doesn't help right now. we still have massive economic, political, military power. don't get me wrong right now this is a set back >> you're talking about the costs here and we know ali and some of our other correspondents are talking about the roll back of social norms that have been established. reverting the clock back and we want to show you a photo that we just got here and it looks like
the head there of an afghan media company in kabul and shows someone painting over the image . what do you make of this. >> i spent a lot of time in 2009 in jalalabad and now it seems they're going to try to survive in this new environment and it means they cannot have images of people, especially women who don't have scars or the head coverings burqas under the taliban regime. as you mentioned, no music. the new rules for the media are going to be difficult for them to navigate but they will try. i think if you're a patriotic afghan and you want to fight for human rights and the rights of the citizens, especially women,
you're going to stay and frankly they don't have a choice. they can't evacuate i'm guessing. and so they're going to try to exist in this new arrangement. the only hope for afghanistan, i mean, if we move beyond this moment in time is the fact that for 20 years we did train younger folks to who have human rights and those w people will waiting for the day, i think, when they can assert themselves and assert their rights. so, there will be some amount of struggle inside afghanistan for human rightsle and some minimal something approaching democracy. so, there will be civil society. but it will be really rough going for these people and a lot ofle people will die in the meantime. >> evelyn, thank you for being here. thank you for your perspective. it is a grim perspective, but the reality on the ground and the future of what afghanistan will have, no doubt.
we n want to bring in quick courtney. we only have 90 seconds here until the end of our show. what have youw. been able to len about the latest developments since we last spoke. >> ncso, it's important to poin out from a u.s. military perspective they have 1,000 troops on the ground in kabul and primarily focused on the airport and the u.s. embassy americans who are there. plan, according to defense officials, is still to bring in those additional troops. so, inio the coming hours and days, they will have upwards of about 5,000ds u.s. troops on th ground. again,ophe focused on the evacun mission and getting those americans and afghans who are eligible to leave the country under potential u.s. visas and getting them out of kabul safely. it's also important to point out that defense officials are saying thatef they're not seein right now this as a major taliban offensive moving into kabul. there's some reports of sporadic
gunfire and some movement of taliban fighters, primarily in from the northte of the city. but as of now, according to the u.s. military, they don't assess this to be a massive movement or an organized advance of the taliban intoce kabul right now. that could be because of these reports that we're hearing from afghan media that, in fact, the taliban may be negotiating with the current afghan government for some sort of negotiated settlement here. that's just the latest from the u.s. military perspective. again as you well know from the hours of coverage here it's changing hour by hour and almosu minute by minute. but it's also important to point out that we've been talking about and evelyn who is excellent and knows this better than anyone, bagram has fallen into the hands of the taliban and the prison there has been emptied out and the humanitarian situation is pretty dire in the weeks and days and months. >> courtney kube for the very
latest on the situation. thank you. the fall of kabul appears to be imminent is the headline. >> we're sure courtney will be with us throughout the day, as well as our steam of correspondents to follow the latest. thanks for watching msnbc reports, "velshi" starts right now. i'm ali velshi, we're departing from our normal format for the news out of afghanistan where the taliban is closing in on kabul. the biggest city in the country. it does appear to be surrounded. this map is the latest we have, but it is not fully updated because this shows mazar-i-sharif under government control and it's not. jalalabad is not under government control any more. kabul appears to be completely surr
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