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tv   Deadline White House  MSNBC  August 26, 2021 1:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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hour. i'll see you tomorrow back here at 3:00 p.m. eastern. "deadline white house" starts right now. hi, everyone. it is 4:00 in the east. we are following breaking news out of kabul where a pair of devastating bombings killed 12 u.s. service members and injured 15 others. at least 60 people were injured, one blast took place at a crowded airport entrance where thousands have been waiting for days for a chance to escape afghanistan after it fell to the taliban. the other taking place at a hotel nearby that was a safe house for evacuees including americans. video shows the two sites connected by a path with a drainage canal and fortified blast walls which may have contained the damage.
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the pentagon calling the blast a, quote, complex attack with one suicide bomber setting off explosives while being searched at the gate to the airport. u.s. service members killed are the first american casualties in afghanistan in 18 months. in a statement defense secretary lloyd austin said in part, terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others. we mourn their loss. we will treat their wounds, and we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief. but we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. an affiliate of isis has claimed responsibility of the attack, believed to be an adversary of the taliban. it came hours after western governments issued multiple warnings about the possibility of a terror attack. the u.s. embassy in kabul last night urging americans to stay away from the perimeter of the airport. the situation remains very fluid. the president has been briefed on the situation and is expected to speak in the next hour. we're going to bring that to you live when it happens.
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the deadly bombing yet another stark rereminder of the risk of the mission as it races to evacuate many of the 1,500 that remain in the country. the august 31st deadline to withdraw just days away. fearly 1,000 americans remain unaccounted for. general mckenzie telling reporters today that the united states is prepared for more attacks. and undeterred in its mission. the search is on for the perpetrators. >> we expect those attacks to continue, and we're doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks. the plan is designed to operate while under stress and under attack, and we will continue to do that. we will coordinate carefully to make sure it's safe for american citizens to come to the airfield. if it's not, we'll tell them to hold and we'll work other ways to try to get them to the airfield. i think our mission remains. we're still committed. if we can find who is associated with this, we will go after them. we've been clear we will retain the right to operate against
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isis in afghanistan. >> joining us now richard stengel, a former top state department official, also phil rucker, senior washington correspondent for "the washington post," and co-author of "i alone can fix it" clint watts, former consultant to the fbi counterterrorism division and now with the foreign policy research institute. all msnbc contributors. but first let's go to nbc pentagon correspondent courtney kube. courtney, you asked general mckenzie about what the u.s. is doing to prem for future attacks. here is what he said. >> the forces we need to protect ourselves there, i'm always in a constant dialogue with the secretary. if i needed anything else, i would be talking to him immediately. i think we have what we need to protect ourselves. let's talk about the threat streams. very real threat streams, very, very -- what we would call tactical. that means imminent could occur at any moment and they range from rocket attacks. we know they would like to lob a rocket in there if we could. we have pretty good protection
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against that. we have our anti-rocket and mortar system, the gun systems that those of you who have been out there are familiar with effective against these kinds of attacks. we are well positioned around the boundary and feel we would be in good shape should that kind of attack occur. we also know they aim to get a suicide vehicle born suicide attack in if they can from a small vehicle to a large vehicle working all of those options. >> courtney, these threats are active and ongoing. >> reporter: yes, that's right. and general mckenzie put it in very stark terms today saying they expect isis-k to try to continue with these attacks and to try to carry out some more. another thing that we learned today was just how closely the u.s. and the taliban are actually working together. now we knew, alicia, the taliban have created this perimeter around the entire airport. the u.s. military and the americans there are surrounded by the taliban. they've created checkpoints all around. what we learned from general mckenzie, though, as part of these checkpoints, the taliban
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have actually stopped attacks from happening inside that perimeter they've created. he said they have thwarted attacks. but he did warn that the taliban fighters, some have varying level of competence. so it's possible that other potential attackers could get through some of those checkpoints. we also learned -- you heard a little bit of the sound there general mckenzie saying he does not expect at this time to ask for more u.s. troops as part of shoring up the security there around the airport, and he said that the u.s. mission, the evacuation mission, continues right now. alicia? >> i was struck by what he said there about those initial checkpoints that some of those checks are very good. some are less good. courtney, do we know anything about the service members that were killed in these attacks? >> reporter: we don't yet. more will come out. the military protect their process about letting out any
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information about service members who are killed and giving 24 hours after next of kin are notified before they give us any of the identities. most of the time some of the names come out before that. we do know the gate, the abbey gate where this occurred there were u.s. marines there doing most of the checking of people who were coming through those gates processing them, checking them to make sure they were clear to come through. it's now clear from the way general mckenzie described it, that that's exactly where this attack at the abbey gate occurred. somebody came in post likely wearing some sort of suicide vest or with explosives on their person. when they came up to be checked by most likely these u.s. marines, that was when the person exploded. and then we learned as part of this complex attack there was a gun battle that occurred as well and that was when many of the civilians were also shot. it was more than just these two explosions. there was some sort of a gunfight. general mckenzie saying with pretty -- in certain terms they
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believe isis-k is behind this. >> courtney kube, thank you. clint, i want to bring you in. we have seen crowds for days gathered around this airport. it is obviously a difficult situation to control. cia director was on msnbc earlier and said it was a, quote, nightmare scenario from a security standpoint. what do you think? >> yeah, he's exactly right. look, we don't control the perimeter in the way we might have controlled other military bases inside afghanistan. bagram air force base, we would own the security apparatus. we would know who is mounting and actually doing it. we have better technology. so from that standpoint, we don't control the ground in kabul anymore. separately you have major choke points here. we have masses of people. we're not just talking about a line of people. we have masses of people. and as the perimeter gets extended it pushes those masses
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of people out and this was struck with devastating effect. i think this will be even more difficult for them to manage as they try in the next five days, if they stick with the time line, they will have even less force to maneuver and try and control this area on the outside. we also keep hearing about the taliban helping with an outer perimeter, doing some of the control. we should not conflate the taliban security apparatus with the u.s. military in terms of securing this airfield. it is not the same. we should remember the taliban has only been there a couple of weeks. they haven't exactly established complete control over everything. an imperfect picture of intelligence just like we do. they are not a partner we can entirely trust. it is a nightmare scenario on our hands right now. >> phil, isis-k has been on the minds of this administration for a while. in fact, the president mentioned isis-k on tuesday, the threat of isis-k as a reason to stick to the august 31st deadline. let me play that sound for you. >> the longer we stay, starting
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with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group known as isis-k, an isis affiliate in afghanistan which is a sworn enemy of the taliban as well. every day we're on the ground is another day we know isis-k is seeking to target the airport and attack both u.s. and allied forces and innocent civilians. >> so we're going to hear from the president in about an hour. has the thinking changed inside his administration? >> alicia, we'll find out soon. it's been very fluid today at the white house with the president meeting with his national security team and top intelligence and military officials to, first of all, get a better handle on isis-k, whether there might be additional threats on security protocols on the ground right now for this evacuation effort but try to figure out how to communicate to the american people what the mission is now going forward. we've only got a few days before that august 31st deadline as we were just talking about, and
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this is a very dangerous and harrowing situation on the ground in kabul. and i think there are a lot of questions that president biden will need to have to answer having to do with how to regain control of this situation if that's even possible and what the military's priorities will be going forward knowing that there are as many as 1,500 americans who are said to still be on the ground in kabul seeking an evacuation but have not left yet. >> additionally, rick, because you have general mckenzie saying that these attacks are active, that the threats are active, how does this all complicate the withdrawal? >> well, it complicates it tremendously. i mean, it's a gut wrenching, heartbreaking thing that happened today with the loss of those american servicemen. we've all seen how courageous they are, how professional, how dedicated they are. if i could editorialize for one second spinning off your
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question, i think when you see a group like isis-k and you see what's happening in the airport in kabul, i mean, isis-k makes the taliban look like boy scouts. i think the american people should take away that this is precisely the sort of place we should not be, that this withdrawal makes sense and this is a country that would never be a jeffersonian democracy and it complicates it, alicia, that we have to prioritize the americans who remain, we have to prioritize our troops, and i would assume this would concentrate the mind of the president and the folks around him that we have to kind of finish off this mission as fast as possible. >> well, rick, to your point about looking past the 31st, the withdrawal days away, even if it does get pushed back, how does the u.s. handle the security situation going forward given there is a terror group that intends to attack americans based in afghanistan? >> well, the combat mission is
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over, as it should be. general mckenzie, the head of centcom, said those very difficult words which is we're prepared for other acts of terrorism. we will work under those circumstances. you're not going to see helicopters leaves the airport today. they work under these circumstances and that's why it is so difficult but, again, as i was saying before, i think this will concentrate people's minds and really figure out what is the mission that is left, let's accomplish it, get out of there, and, you know, hope for the best. >> clint, david ignatius at the "washington post" has interesting information on how the taliban have been working with the u.s., what it means for us going forward. i want to read you a little bit of it. the value of a security relationship with taliban became clear last week as u.s. officials were bracing for a possible attack from islamic state terrorists on the kabul
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airport. u.s. and taliban officials in kabul exchanged information about the threat. according to a source familiar with events. senior taliban officials in dohar, qatar, are said to have been involved in the discussions as well a. defactor u.s./taliban alliance was outlined to me more than two years ago by general austin scott miller, the last u.s. commander in afghanistan. miller and his colleagues described operations where u.s. counterterrorism forces had killed top islamic state leaders and taliban forces had then consolidated control on the ground. ignatius goes on to caution working with the taliban won't be easy. is there a possibility? what is the relationship, the working relationship, with the taliban going to look like as they take on this potential threat from isis? >> i think it's an eventuality that if we want to make sure this is not a safe haven over the horizon, then we will have to work with the taliban to ensure that. there's some conflation on times when we think back to 9/11.
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yes, the taliban gave al qaeda safe haven. yes, they stayed loyal to al qaeda. but they weren't exactly in on the 9/11 attack. they weren't totally familiar with it. i believe the u.s. and the west by and large will accept there will be some sort of islamic run by the taliban or a challenger in afghanistan for the conceivable future. the ultimate goal for the u.s. will be to minimize all terrorist threats from the region. if we cannot occupy there, if we cannot keep our counterterrorism abilities and intelligence up there we have to work with partners on the ground. the taliban will be the ones who can institute some sort of military presence and security posture, and they will need to tip us if we are going to be either the target of an al qaeda attack or a rival isis attack. that could emanate from there and we need to know what's coming at us. this seems like the only way forward ultimately. >> phil, your sense of the thinking inside the biden administration on what that relationship with the taliban
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will look like once we're out? >> i think they're trying to take it day by day. there's some real coordination between the u.s. and taliban. the cia director met with the taliban leader earlier this week in a discussion that was not known about until after the fact, but a sign the two sides are working together at least in this current moment to try to finish this evacuation mission. the taliban has sent public signals that after august 31st any american presence in afghanistan would be seen as an occupation and would be retaliated against. and so this is not going to be a natural ally and partner necessarily but the administration, the biden administration, believes it's in america's interests to have a working dialogue and relationship with the taliban government in afghanistan, specifically to combat the terrorist threat but to deal with creating some leverage for us in protecting any americans or american allied afghans who remain on the ground in that country. >> rick, managing that
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relationship while working to contain isis will take a lot of complex diplomacy. can you give us a sense of what the weeks and months ahead will look like? >> i can't really, but i would say this. obviously we have an alignment of interests with the taliban because isis-k feels the taliban is too moderate, that the taliban have become too western. in that sense the taliban don't want to have them around. and to your point and to what clint was saying and phil, the taliban will be the official government of afghanistan. we were there for 20 years. we kicked them out in the beginning and they're back. the thing people have to remember about 75% of afghanistan's budget comes from foreign aid, from european countries, from institutions like the u.n. they want to keep that pipeline of money coming. the way to do that they have to seem fair to women.
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they have to be more moderate. they cannot be a haven for terrorists who want to attack other countries. so it's in their interests to kind of moderate not only their image but their behavior, and i would assume that the biden administration would want to be part of that, would want to help do that. as phil mentioned, bill burns was talking to the taliban. we've had conversations with the taliban for years now. that's part of what the trump agreement that got us to this day today was obviously done negotiating with the taliban and that will continue. >> rick, i do want to ask you, we received news from the state department. they've spoken with the thousand americans they believe were still in the country and believe most, if not all, have already made their way out. how does that then change the equation? >> yes, i did hear yesterday in phone calls the estimates of how
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many americans remained were too high in terms of what we were saying in the media and that almost everybody had gone or everybody who wanted to go. there are some people who would like to stay. again, i think what we'll see is this will accelerate the completion and then termination of the mission because the president could say that we've gotten out pretty much every american who wants to get out, and this will, of course, also prioritize the getting out of americans and the getting out of our troops. >> phil what is this bringing into focus about biden as a president during the early days of his presidency? >> well, alicia, i believe the main thing he will have to answer politically in the moment is how this withdrawal from afghanistan and the evacuation mission has been executed because for the last two weeks now it has appeared chaotic in the images we're seeing from the airports but that changed today because today it became deadly
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and hit home for a lot of americans in a way it maybe hadn't in the last several days. i suspect we will hear an empathetic president at 5:00. the challenge politically i think is going to have to be the to communicate to the american people why his decision to withdraw and do it in a way we have was justified and the right move for america's foreign policy and national security interests. and that's really the imperative for him. >> rick, how does he do that? >> well, as i was saying before, i think the scenes people are seeing, these heartwrenching, heartbreaking scenes, the difficulties of the people in afghanistan is hard to bear. this is the reason that we're leaving, that we were not meant to be here. we tried to do something that
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didn't work. john quincy adams said america doesn't go in search of monsters to destroy. and now is the time to get out. we're cutting our losses. we cannot put more people in there to justify what we're trying to do. by and large americans will agree with him this is a difficult and dangerous mission. wars are easy to start. they're much harder to end, and he's ending it. >> all right, thank you all so much for starting us off on this breaking story. when we come back a former service member, now a congressman, weighs in on today's tragic loss of life overseas. and a struggle that still remains for getting americans out. plus, what we know about isis-k, the group suspected to be behind today's attack in kabul. all those stories and, of course, the president will address today's breaking news when "deadline white house" continues after this. continues after this without my medication, my small tremors would be extreme. i was diagnosed with parkinson's.
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we continue to follow breaking news today out of afghanistan where 12 u.s. service members were killed and 15 were injured in two different explosions near kabul international airport. joining us now a marine corps veteran who serves on the house armed services committee. first, your reaction to what happened today in afghanistan. >> i mean, it's just horrific. i feel for those marines. you have to remember there's a lot of marines that saw this happen, saw their buddies, and have to go back. i was, unfortunately, in a
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company that saw almost that same amount of men die at one point. it is very difficult to go on for the rest of the day, but they will. they have a mission to continue, and they will continue. i feel horrible for them and i feel horrible about the situation. >> there are various estimates of how many americans are still in the country, congressman, a new update from the spokesperson saying roughly 500 of the 1,500 americans the secretary of state said were being tracked as potentially being in afghanistan have been evacuated, and the state department is in contact with the roughly 1,000 remaining americans. over two-thirds of who say they're taking steps to leave. with everything that has happened in the past 24 hours how important is it to try and get these remaining americans out before the deadline in five days? >> look, it does matter. we have a mission, and that is to protect americans both here and abroad. we need to make sure that everyone knows that when americans are in harm's way we're going to do everything we can to get them out. so this is not -- this should
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not deter us, and that's exactly what isis-k wants to do, deter us from our mission, use this as an opportunity to do recruitment and fund-raising or, number three, to keep us in afghanistan so they can continue to do the recruitment and fund-raising. but our goal is very clear we need to get out the americans that want to get out. we need to continue to evacuate as many of those afghans that helped us that we possibly can and then end this combat operation altogether in afghanistan and bring our troops home. >> congressman, does what happened today change the strategy, change the equation at all? >> look, i don't think it should. we need to continue to finish this mission, combat mission at this point. you can't be deterred from our goal of saving the afghans as well as the u.s. civilians that need to be there. when you answer an alter your
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mission to terrorism, it really at that point terrorism is winning. so it's hard to say. it's hard to say what we should do, but, unfortunately, what it means we have to do is continue this mission now. it doesn't mean we shouldn't be more aggressive or use other levels of deterrence if we have known isis targets in afghanistan, we should probably target them right now to show some level of deterrence that there will be consequences, but in the meantime we have to continue with this mission. >> general mckenzie during his briefing at the pentagon talked about the president asking whether or not there was enough force on the ground, his assuring the president there was, in fact, enough force on the ground currently to meet the level of threat. i'm wondering if you can walk us through so that we can all understand the choreography of what a withdrawal will look like in these coming days. help us understand what it looks like in this moment and what it will look like to meet that
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deadline. >> well, it will be extremely difficult. essentially two things. you have to get out all the civilians. then you start collapsing the perimeter from without. in that regard this is where we have a working relationship -- we don't trust the taliban but we have a working relationship with the taliban to hold a perimeter while we slowly collapse our perimeter. we're getting more and more troops onto planes and slowing and shrinking the pocket of where we are so we're both keeping ourselves safe and everyone else within the pocket safe and at the same time having standoff distance from the taliban as well as making sure we have the operational capability of taking off. this is a multifaceted step that will require coordination and, unfortunately, we have to do this with the taliban at this point. the taliban and isis-k are enemies to each other right now. so we need to do some coordination with them to secure the remainder of the airfield once we're out to make sure we
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don't get overrun by civilians or isis-k. but at the same time we need to coordinate with them on any type of offensive action we need to do between now and us leaving to really deter isis-k. unfortunately, the problem is when you're dealing with these situations especially in urban environments, it is very easy for terrorists to win. there's a lot of people walking around. anytime they even kill one american it's a success. >> congressman, to this conversation about the evacuations, dozens of california students and parents trapped in afghanistan according to "the new york times." almost two dozen students and their parents from san diego county in california trapped in afghanistan after they visited the country this summer, the authorities said. the 20 students and 14 parents are stuck in afghanistan and have requested government assistance to fly home.
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according to a statement from their school district. in a tweet from darrell issa, the children range from preschool to high school. you said you were working to get people out. they are directing people not to go to the airport. what are they supposed to do if the airport has been closed? >> still call the state department because we need to figure out where you are. there are operations leading from the airfield. i won't go into detail, to pick up u.s. citizens. continue to give us information about where you are so we know exactly where you are so we can pass on that information and plan to work with other people like i've been working to get this done. the other thing i would say is that it was very inappropriate for those family members to go to afghanistan. there were direct warnings from the state department they should not have gone. it is an unstable region in the
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summer there were multiple, multiple warnings, and i just want to point out this is the kind of thing you should be listening to the state department because now we're going to put men and women's lives in danger trying to go get these groups of students. it's not the students' fault but the parents' faults or any adult who allowed this to happen. there will have to be dangerous missions to get them out and it is ridiculous they did not listen to the state department warnings and the warnings to leave. the state department had many warnings throughout the summer encouraging americans to leave afghanistan. it was extremely irresponsible that they did not do it. >> congressman, we're going to be hearing from the president around 5:00 tonight. we know his message will, of course, be for the general public. what do you think veterans need to hear from the president tonight? >> he needs to be very crystal clear what is the remaining mission. we all, especially marines, understand the idea of a mission
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objective and sometimes that means you have to sacrifice men and women to do that. we need to be clear what is the end game here? what is going to be the line that tells us to get out after we have x amount of u.s. citizens out or other evacuees, what is going to be the payback? we cannot have this type of attack on our forces without a disproportionate response on isis-k. they need to hurt for this, to understand this is not something that we will stand for. and we need to do it rather quickly. and then, lastly, he needs to show empathy. this is a very awful situation, losing this many marines or any service members in one action is difficult. it has not happened that often during war. as i said, unfortunately, one of the instances i was there when it happened and it is
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traumatizing to the families, traumatizing to the service members and traumatizing to the public. the president needs to be clear that our objective is done. when our objective is done, and this is why and, again, he needs to reiterate why we need to leave afghanistan this is an unattainable situation not in our long-term national interests, in terms of our security, and that we need to finish the mission, get the u.s. citizens out, get the other evacuees out that we want to get out and leave afghanistan. >> congressman ruben gallego, thank you. to matt bradley near the ramstein air base in germany, the largest u.s. air force in europe which has been an evacuation hub for thousands of afghans over the past week. you spoke with some air force pilots who are flying to kabul. what was their reaction to this attack? >> reporter: i have to tell you, alicia, i was interviewing them before this happened, before this horrible news broke. when it did happen i pitched it
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to them, what's going on? how do you feel about this? they weren't surprised. this incident had been telegraphed by u.s. intelligence agencies, by foreign intelligence agencies, by the taliban themselves. it didn't surprise the pilots who now i'm sure are heading into kabul right now and didn't seem to concern them because for them this is sort of par for the course. these men i was speaking with, they're not regular air force. they're reservist air force. they normally spend their time flying commercial jets around domestic u.s. destinations. and so they're up for it. they were ready to fly right back in. they volunteered for this mission weeks ago when they found out they were going to have to be flying back and forth trying to pick up afghan evacuees and bring them to qatar and here to ramstein. they were up for the danger then. they're up for it now. and i think for a lot of service men and women who i've been speaking to here at ramstein, as you mentioned, the biggest u.s.
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air base outside of u.s. borders. this makes the mission more worth it, it makes the mission more imperative, more crucial and even more wind to their backs. >> officials expecting more to land tonight despite the chaos in kabul? >> reporter: not just that. they said what's going on right now today is the busiest day that they've seen or will be seeing since the beginning of the crisis. there's about 6,000 afghan evacuees right now at ramstein air base. they said the occupancy of this enormous air base, the whole community of americans, this is the largest community of americans outside u.s. borders anywhere in the world, they said this community has basically tripled or quadrupled in size in just the last couple of weeks since this crisis started and have come together, ramped up and built up as much capacity as they can.
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now they have 6,000 evacuees here. they're expecting 10,000 as we speak coming in. they are expecting to reach their capacity of 17,000, around 17,000 evacuees living in a massive tent city, living in these gigantic hangars that are normally meant for huge transport aircraft and repairs. if you walk through that you can see the scale of what they had to build in order to accommodate the influx of these people. so really this was one of the big bottlenecks in this whole rescue effort. now they said they've actually managed to increase the rate of processing people by double in just the last 24 to 48 hours. they've increased their rate of getting people from here to the united states, and i spoke with a lot of afghan evacuees just about ready, just boarding on their final flight in this horrific journey they've endured.
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they said they couldn't be more grateful to be reaching their final destination, dulles airport, outside washington, d.c. alicia? >> promising news on what has otherwise been a dark day. when we come back more on the isis splinter group that's claiming responsibility for the attack that has killed 12 u.s. service members. the terror group suddenly back in the picture. what the u.s. can do in the final days in afghanistan is next. xt ayy, ayy, ayy ♪ ♪ yeah, we fancy like applebee's on a date night ♪ ♪ got that bourbon street steak with the oreo shake ♪ ♪ get some whipped cream on the top too ♪ ♪ two straws, one check, girl, i got you ♪ ♪ bougie like natty in the styrofoam ♪ ♪ squeak-squeakin' in the truck bed all the way home ♪ ♪ some alabama-jamma, she my dixieland delight ♪ ♪ ayy, that's how we do, ♪ ♪ how we do, fancy like, oh ♪ that delicious omelet was microwaved? get outta here. everybody's a skeptic. paper money. it's the future!
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we're back with more on today's breaking news out of afghanistan. the pentagon confirming that 12 u.s. service members were killed and 15 more were injured in today's attack at the kabul airport. we are waiting for president biden scheduled to address the attack shortly. let's turn to "washington post" national security reporter john hudson. john, how will this impact the dynamic between the taliban and u.s. forces currently on the ground? >> i'll tell you one way it's impacting that dynamic right now is they are basically security partners at this point in time. they have gone from enemies battling each other on the battlefield to now security partners united in this purpose of securing the airport. obviously it's not a perfect union because of this tragic attack that happened today. but they are in constant contact talking about threats, have been in contact prior to this
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assault. this was obviously feared for a long time. we can only assume that because this u.s. evacuation effort is going to continue, the united states and the taliban are going to continue to cooperate with each other in the hopes of diminishing this threat which no one believes is gone at this point. it's still present. >> what can you tell us about isis-k, the group believed to be behind this attack? >> u.s. officials have said that is the prime suspect. one u.s. official i talked to today said that -- went even further in expressing confidence in isis-k, that's because of communication that the group made around the time of the attack. so there is a lot of information that the united states possesses right now. this group is a sort of blood enemy with the taliban. they have fought with each
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other. they've fought a lot just in the last year. and so they are by no means allies in this, but it does emphasize how much of a difficult and dangerous security environment this is as thousands and thousands of people are airlifted out of the country. >> earlier today my colleague richard engel described this attack as an attention grab, an effort on the part of isis-k to reinject themselves into the conversation. how do you grapple with the fact that this attack did happen? it does seem they are the prime suspect, and yet their motivation, it would seem for this attack is to be a part of this discourse around what is happening in afghanistan? >> yeah, well, the reality is this was an extremely soft target. people are feeling very exposed at the airport. our military is exposed. our diplomats -- i'm currently
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at the state department right now, and this is the nightmare scenario they've been fearing for a long time. now one of the big problems here is that -- and president biden communicated this earlier in the week, he did not want to go past this august 31st deadline because he cited this threat from isis-k. he had to do serious pushback against some of our closest allies, the british, the french, the germans, our nato allies. they were pressing the united states to continue this. what biden said on tuesday was the longer we sit around, the longer that we're sitting ducks over here. and, unfortunately, that has been realized by this attack today. >> to your point about the international community, what reaction have you heard and what reaction are you expecting? >> this is being condemned universally around the world by the leading nations. we should only expect that to
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continue. now i think this will fortify the argument that the biden administration was making that they have to get out sooner rather than later given these threats. of course there is opposition. there's opposition in the united states congress where some republicans have said this is a reason to push harder outside the perimeter and take larger control. the reality is this is an extremely dangerous environment, and it looks like the biden administration was going to continue the evacuation mission but the idea this will be the beginning of an even broader and longer stay for the evacuation, i think, is extremely unlikely. >> do we expect to see any changes in the procedures around the airport? >> well, that's unclear. i think that you are going to see perhaps even more coordination. i think that they -- i would imagine that there are a number of different things that they
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are going to try to put in place given the limited resources, given the cramped environment that they're in to diminish the threat now that they've seen sort of the first opening salvo by isis-k, but that's going to really depend on the military's calculations and decisions to proceed forward. >> you've seen the same numbers from the state department that i've seen, though you are reporting to us from the state department. so perhaps you have seen even fresher numbers. according to them 5,000 americans have been evacuated from afghanistan. that 5,000 number includes 500 americans identified by blinken yesterday as having received instructions on get to go the airport that have since been evacuated. given what we are watching happen at the airport, how does that complicate things? what does it mean for people who are trying to get there in an effort to evacuate? >> it's very difficult. now what the military says is they still have the capability
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of bringing people outside the airport into the airport. these are specifically orchestrated group transfers. the gate opens, people move in. the gate closes. what they don't want to have happen is people just coming to the gates without coordinating with the state department. that has been a huge source of frustration among people here at the state department, people desperate to flee have just shown up sometimes with the support of american groups, siv advocate groups, veterans, even some sitting lawmakers have been supporting these sort of caravans that just come in. for state department officials that's an extremely worrying situation. because they are sitting ducks for the types of attacks we just saw. that said, they're doing as much as they can to try to get americans out of the airport. they're going to continue doing that and continue to run flights
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as your correspondent noted flights are still taking off. >> john, from your perch at the state department, what do you think we're going to hear from the president tonight? >> well, i think we're going to have to hear clarity on the mission given this devastating attack. i think we should expect a signal from him, probably get this because we've already gotten this from the military that the evacuations will continue but with a limited time line on that. i think we're also going to hear the president express grave sorrow for what has happened. the key thing that the president has had on his mind and as an objective in this withdrawal is protecting american troops. that's the reason why we're pulling out and ending 20 years of war. so the fact that we have these fatalities, these tragic fatalities, this is exactly the type of thing that he wanted to
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avoid, but it was also something that they knew was a possibility. it's very difficult to extract oneself from a 20-year war without drawing blood as we've seen today. >> all right, john hudson, thank you so much. we're minutes away from president biden expected to address the nation on the explosion at kabul airport that's left 12 american service members dead and 15 injured. brian williams picks up our special coverage. on today's attack in afghanistan, we've heard so far from the pentagon on camera and at the top of the hour brian. brian? >> alicia menendez, thank you for that. we continue our coverage now of what may be the third bloodiest day in 20 years of warfare that the u.s. has been involved in at afghanistan, this tragic news, the loss of a dozen u.s. marines who died serving their country and think of the people alive
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today because of the actions of these u.s. in a reasons over the past several days, part of this successful air bridge the united states has established getting americans and their afghan counterparts out of that country. retired retired u.s. army four star general barry mccaffrey among those with us for our coverage as we are awaiting president biden at the top of the hour. all indications from the white house are that he is, indeed, on time and we will be hearing from the president at 5:00. general mccaffrey, i know you have been in touch with colleagues of yours. i know you have been watching the coverage as it has unfolded. if you are the combatant commander on the ground in afghanistan, where are your thoughts and priorities right now? >> well, i think general mackenzie, who is a superb, very experienced commander, laid out his thinking fairly straightforwardly. he is going to try to continue the evacuation.
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we are committed to being out by midnight on tuesday, the 31st. the president would be ill-advised to try to stay on beyond that unless the taliban agreed, and even then i think it is a bad idea. the situation on the ground for these troops will get more and more complex and risky. at some point by tuesday there will be one company of army paratroopers sitting on the runway in the dark waiting to come out. so i think the actual processing of people out of the kabul airport is going to come to an end rapidly, and should. >> general, as best you can for our civilian audience watching, can you explain the relationship between the taliban, between what we americans came to know as al qaeda and between this newly-branded isis-k that is
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taking the blame and/or the credit in their propaganda videos earlier this afternoon for this attack? >> i was listening to our cia msnbc commentator who had a tremendous grasp of the situation, but there's 40 million people there. afghanistan is barely governable. we now have a brutal sixth century force of the taliban in charge of the country, sort of. the haqqani network in kabul is more of a criminal nation than jihadist. we have a fairly small group of terrorists, isis-k, who have been fighting with the taliban. look, there's no -- there's no scorecard here. once we pull the u.s. military presence, once the government collapsed, the afghan security forces collapsed, the war is over. now we have to extract as
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rapidly as possible. >> general, a lot of people were surprised to hear general mackenzie today say that the taliban had, indeed, thwarted attacks in their work at the check points outside the airport. you and i on our broadcast so many weeknights over these past two weeks have talked about, you know, rethinking the wisdom of limiting ourselves to that one airport with one runway in crowded kabul, though bagram, of course, is over an hour to the north. be that as it may, the general was, it seemed to me, trying to credit the taliban with at least fending off what could have been worse. >> sure. i think, look, at the highest level in the taliban right now, they want us out. they want us out without any more security forces back in there or being put under
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political pressure to respond to the latest attack. we've got general chris donahue, a delta force operator who is the primary point of contact to deal with the taliban, that seemed to be working pretty well. the cia is still in country with all of its contacts. so it has been remarkable we could identify and deal with in a cooperative way the taliban, but, again, you know, brian, at some point, maybe saturday, you have to start getting 1,000 troops out a day. our perimeter will collapse on us. we will lose counter mortar rocket capability. i have heard all sorts of knowledgeable, smart people like h.r. mcmaster, calling on president biden to reverse course and stay beyond tuesday, the 31st. i have heard congressmen, who ought to know better, calling
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for re-occupation of bagram airfield. that would be the biggest parachute assault since world war ii. this is all nonsense. we started the draw down. it needs to end expeditiously with the best possible safety for the troops on the ground. >> because our viewers have become accustomed to seeing richard engel in virtually all dangerous places over these past 20 years, it makes sense we received a number of questions after today's news as to where richard's whereabouts where. i'm happy to say he was able to get out and joins us now from doha. richard, i know you have been watching what has happened in the wake of your departure there in afghanistan. i want to hear your thoughts on it. >> reporter: so i was at that airport this morning, and this
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is what every soldier, marine on that base fears. they are trying to evacuate the people, but a lot of the people showing up don't have documents, they don't know exactly who they are. some of them have been screened by the taliban on the outer perimeter, some of them apparently have not. but at one stage they're going to have to go through that air base in order to get on to the aircraft. so they come into contact, and there are a variety of different approaches that the different countries employing. some countries are taking a softly, softly approach. i saw the italian troops there today. they were joking, they were laughing, they were being very cordial with the afghans. the germans are guiding the afghans around with german shepherds, and that has profound historical implications as well when you see german guards with dogs moving groups of evacuees around a base. so every country has a slightly
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different approach, but at some stage there is that first contact where you have to pat them down and figure out is this person legitimate, are they going to be evacuated, are they going to be put on an aircraft. and as general mccaffrey was saying, as the u.s. shrinks its footprint it becomes more and more dependent on the taliban. just a few weeks ago the u.s. was bombing the taliban. now they have become security partners. that is not unprecedented in war where an old enemy becomes a foe. this has happened extremely quickly and it has happened with a foe that is very, very ideologically diverse, a foe that claims to be different, a foe that now says it wants to open a new chapter of relations with the united states, an enemy that still denies that osama bin laden was responsible for 9/11, but now an enemy that at least in the short term is cooperating closely with the united states
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through, as general mccaffrey just said, i'm sure a very, very taxed, very stressed out delta force general who has probably the most complicated job in the world being that liaison. >> indeed. no doubt about that. richard, a time check for you and our viewers watching here domestically. we have about two-and-a-half minutes before we hear from the president. what is your basic primer curious to what isis-k is, starting with where the "k" came from and continuing with their relationship currently with the taliban? >> reporter: they do not have a good relationship with the taliban. they are an al terntive. the taliban are an indigenous group. they cross the border between afghanistan and pakistan. by the way, brian, i think the spillover effects of what we are seeing now, this withdrawal and the sort of reigniting of the
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great game in that part of central asia is going to spill over into pakistan at one stage. but the taliban are a local group in afghanistan with deep roots. they used to be in power there in the 1990s. isis is an offshoot of the iraq war. it is the extremists who carried on fighting after the u.s. left iraq. they were able to spread their wings in syria when that country fell into civil war, and at one stage they had their own state, the caliphate, and they used that state to export terrorist attacks all around the world. the paris bataclan attacks. they were defeated. they were on the decline. they were losing relevance around the world. at one stage all we talked about was isis. now we are talking about the taliban and that the taliban after 20 years were able to push out american forces. it seems that isis wanted to tag along. they wanted to get back in the headlines.
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they want to capture this moment as u.s. troops leave. there is nothing more that they would want than to be -- that they would want than to shoot down the last u.s. plane leaving afghanistan so that they can somehow claim credit for having pushed out the americans, not the taliban. many of them were in jail in afghanistan until the security there completely collapsed during the taliban takeover, and they were able to break out. >> 5:00 p.m. in the east. we are joined by general barry mccaffrey and richard engel. richard is in the safety of doha. we want to let our viewers know. it was at this hour we were supposed to hear exactly right now from president biden. members of the press pool at the white house have set up cameras and lights. they were ushered in, then ushered out. we cannot show you the shot because it was taken down. we presume this to be a brief delay. there is the white house. obviously when the signal comes up, when we can see the room we
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will go there and take the shot. also, obviously, we are on the air today covering this horrendous news, the death of a dozen u.s. marines, many more injured in one and then two different suicide attacks in kabul. there have been various reports over just the past few hours, some of them from journalists, some of them from civilians of further explosions, further concussions in afghanistan in and around the airport perhaps. the u.s. commanding general there has warned he does not expect these incoming attacks to stop. he has assured the american press corps during q & a today that he believes he has the power on the ground that he needs, that he is in constant contact with defense secretary austin and will ask for more should he deem it necessary. but as general mccaffrey pointed out, the american mission is
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coming to an end. that can only come to an end when the last american is boots off the ground on an aircraft leaving, these massive c-17 cargo planes carrying all of the personnel and all of the equipment, some of it vital, some of it sensitive, a lot of it electronic, that they can get off the ground having used it to run this extraordinary air bridge that has gotten tens of thousands of people out of the country. again, our guests, richard engel and barry mccaffrey. general mccaffrey, what can the president of the united states say at this hour beyond, of course, his role in extending condolences on behalf of a grateful nation to these fallen marines? >> well, obviously that is a primary thing he has to say. in his own mind, he understands that the next five days this
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dwindling u.s. military footprint in kabul airport is going to be in increasing danger. again, i would underscore something that seems obvious to most of us with military experience. those who are urging the president to reverse course, to stay on the ground beyond tuesday night, you know, if you grab the average lieutenant colonel at national defense university and said, what a good idea, one brigade on the ground, kabul airport surrounded by mountains, 600 miles from the sea and the u.s. navy, 7,000 miles from home, and your air power is 1,200 miles away, is this a good idea? the answer is, no, it isn't. so i think the president had political detractors. there's room for those arguments about whether we should have stayed with 25,000 nato troops or not. those arguments are behind us. now he has to focus on the
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mission to extract u.s. presence remaining in afghanistan. >> richard engel, i'm guessing you want in on this. nbc news and msnbc viewers saw you not long ago after the abrupt closure of bagram air force base riding a bicycle down one of the aircraft ramps, down one of the taxi ways. we left in the dark of night, pulled the power, pulled our men and wome and as much of our equipment as we could fly out of there. we should also point out that while it limited our operations to the urban city center airport in kabul and its one main runway, bagram for its vastness, for the fact that it was a defended perimeter is, what, if memory serves an hour and 15 minutes on a good day north of kabul. so that would have been a further complicating factor for
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getting the people to this air bridge we've witnessed over the past two weeks. >> reporter: retaking bagram at this stage is a nonstarter. you would have to go back to war. you would have to reoccupy afghanistan, send in a massive force. obviously break the relations that have just been formed with the taliban and potentially enter into years, if not more, of conflict. the taliban at this stage are cooperating fully, trying to extend the deadline. i've spoken to taliban commanders just yesterday, i spoke to several of their very top leaders, and they are happy to cooperate with the u.s. they want a new chapter of relations with the united states, but they want u.s. forces out of their country. already the taliban have condemned isis for doing this. brian, i didn't answer you earlier, it is isis-k.
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isis khorason. it is for the isis branch in the region of afghanistan, and they tend to use the old islamic names for it. the same way isis is in the levant, refers to the area in the middle east where isis has a base, this is the isis branch that operating in the afghan region. but the taliban are already blaming this attack while they're condemning it, they're saying the only reason that it took place and the only reason there are about 60 afghans who lost their lives this afternoon in afghanistan is because the u.s. presence is there, because it is a magnet, because it is drawing in extremists and because it is drawing in afghans. the taliban commanders i spoke to were furious that those planes are still there. they say that afghans are going to the airport because those planes, they can see them taking off and landing, and that they are like a magnet. afghanistan is an extremely poor country. generally people are seeking asylum, and now when they have these train -- these planes all
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day long coming and going and there is this expectation, this rumor, these hopes that if you can just get to the gate, maybe convince the guards there, maybe pay some money, there's lots of rumors that you can get in and you can get to italy or you could get to doha, you could start a new life and bring your family. it is a tremendous attraction, and the taliban believe that once u.s. forces are gone things will calm down, that the airport won't have these crowds, and it won't have these crowds and they won't have -- they may have the extremists but the extremists won't have the targets to attack. >> richard, we aired your interview here in the states last night with the taliban spokesperson. as fascinating to watch as it was, tense to watch. talk about the structure around them. how does a journalist approach, get granted permission to sit down with them? what's it like at their
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headquarters? what is the command structure around this group that now owns a nation? >> reporter: -- with the taliban. they are figuring it out, we are figuring it out. so the taliban spokesperson who i spoke to yesterday, he was not just a spokesman. he is one of their top leaders, i would put him in the top ten of the entire organization. he was a ghost. he was the person that you would call on the phone, and if you remember, brian, we did these kind of interviews many times where i would stand on a hilltop and i would put a phone on speakerphone and i would talk to him, and he was the only reliable, confirmed taliban source about anything. but nobody knew what he looked like. he came out of hiding, exposed his face a few days ago at a press conference. it was the first time anyone had seen him. people weren't even sure that it was one person. they thought maybe there were
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several people pretending to be the same person because he was quite responsive over the phone, only reliable source, only confirmed source. he came out and did a press conference, and we were, i think if not the first, one of the first face-to-face sitdown interviews with him where we were able to ask free range of questions. so now they are trying to come out of the shadows, literally coming out of the shadows, engage with the press. if you listen to the interview, most of what he said is, we're not a threat, we want to work with the west, we want to engage with the nations, we want to engage with the world. he -- and they don't travel alone, by the way. there are several. he didn't just show up. there were lots of different taliban commanders and foot soldiers and security. they all were very friendly toward me. they said they want to open a new chapter. they hope one day there will be exchanges of diplomats, opening the embassy. they have not ransacked the embassy in kabul, by the way. they are hoping one day u.s. staff will return there. other countries have left their
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diplomatic staff in kabul. whether they are able to turn a page, whether they have changed in their hearts is a major open question. it is such an open question, and many millions of afghans do not believe that they have changed, that they are rushing to the airport to try to get out in addition to those who are just trying to get out because it is a poor country and they see a possibility to change their lives. >> just after midnight in dohar, qatar, where richard engel has flown to safety. richard, i have been told you need to go fly a report and we have lost our time with you for now, but thank you. it is terrific to see you. thanks for lending your expertise. let's bring in correspondent mike memoli to talk about the process likely underway at the biden white house today and this evening. mike, first off, do you have any intel about why the delay? we were supposed to see the president coming up on 11 minutes ago. >> reporter: well, brian, as we've become very familiar with
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over the course of his presidency and me over the years i have been covering him, this president is not always on time, but obviously with the speech of this gravity and with constantly evolving situation and circumstances on the ground, i think we will allow there might be other additional reasons why this speech is not on time. now, brian, today the center piece of the white house schedule, what we were expecting to be talking about was the first meeting of president biden with the new israeli prime minister bennet. that's a reminder of what up until about two weeks ago was the only major foreign policy crisis that this president had tackled so far, which was those 11 days of rocket fire in and out of gaza, the tension there in the middle east, which when it was resolved the president took a measure of credit for helping to defuse over 11 days of careful diplomacy. what instead happened beginning around 10:00 this morning when the president's top as visors,
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members of his cabinet, senior staff were gathering in the situation room to prepare for a briefing was the president was those first reports came in of an explosion near the kabul airport. by the time the president arrived they were able to brief him about that incident, and then as that meeting in the situation room continued the president was actually getting real-time updates from commanders on the ground in afghanistan about the continuing violence and, unfortunately, now we know significant loss of life, both of american service members and obviously civilians, afghans as well. that led to, of course, the cancellation first of that meeting with the prime minister. we expect that will take place instead tomorrow at this stage. there was also supposed to be a meeting this afternoon in which the president was convening a number of the nation's governors who have offered voluntarily in most cases to accept a significant numbers of those afghan refugees once they go through the vetting and clearance process that the white
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house has spelled out. so obviously a day that has changed dramatically. now i think it is safe to say, brian, is the darkest day of this president's young term so far. the first combat deaths in afghanistan in 565 days, coming just ahead of the deadline for the end of what was supposed to be our 20-year involvement in afghanistan. now, we haven't gotten much of a preview of what to expect to hear from the president. based on my experience covering this president i would expect first and foremost he will lead with empathy. the loss of life here is tragic, and this is a president who has shown through the course of his career that he can speak to such moments of tragedy with great poetry at times. so that is a moment for the president to console the families of those who are just being notified obviously of the loss of life that occurred. but then he has some serious and significant questions to answer, some which he may preempt in the course of his remarks and others we expect and hope would come from the reporters who are going
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to be in the east room during the president's speech. there has been a significant focus on our part heading into this august 31st deadline of the potential consequences of what could happen after that deadline should the president choose and should circumstances dictate that we need to stay beyond that august 31st deadline. the risks involved from the taliban. but increasingly it has been of note to look back over the president's comments during the course of this crisis, in particular comments he made on sunday in which he talked about the risk that was posed. as he put it, the longer we stay on the ground in afghanistan the larger the risk of an attack from isis-k would be. so this was something that other white house officials have been telling me has been his first and foremost concern, why there was significant efforts being made to accelerate, which we did see in recent days, the pace of evacuations from afghanistan. but obviously now the president has to confront the reality, and already the political reality as
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we see a number of republicans in congress calling for his resignation. we have even speaker pelosi saying that we must and expect continued briefings from the administration about what has happened here, brian. >> mike memoli just outside the white house where inside at any moment we hope to hear from the president. again, his appearance delayed now by 15 minutes. the press pool, once the cameras and journalists are allowed back in the room, we should see that shot come up. we have been watching the building based on the expectation that the flag will be lowered, by the way, in memory of these 12 marines. barry mccaffrey for one quick question before we bring in two other guests. general, the quaint phrase is the community of nations. we all grew up with that, especially those of us who date back to the u.s. state department and the cold war and a very different view of the world. is it your expectation -- and
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you touched on this in an earlier answer -- that the taliban is going to want that mythical admission into the community of nations? we are guessing they're going to want and need foreign investment, and are they laying the groundwork now for that, knowing their actions now will count forever? >> well, we're about to find out in the coming year. i don't believe it. i think the taliban are going to turn to pakistan, china, russia -- excuse me -- and iran more so than -- i'm going to have a hard time speaking here. more so than nato and the u.s. >> all right. general, take a drink. we have two gentlemen who can address this very question and answer. michael crowley is with us, "new york times" diplomatic correspondent. mark jacobson is also here,
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combat veteran who served in afghanistan back in '06. he also served in kabul as deputy nato representative, was a senior adviser to defense secretary ash carter back in the day. gentlemen, welcome to you. who better than mr. crowley, the diplomatic correspondent, to perhaps finish the answer that general mccaffrey started. on the quest for legitimacy, if i'm reading it right, by the taliban and barry's answer that there are other actors, other parties standing by on the figurative outskirts of kabul waiting to come into that vacuum, michael. >> yeah, that's right, brian. i mean the situation in afghanistan is still very much in flux. the taliban took control much faster than anyone had anticipated. as we all know the government and security forces stumbled and
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collapsed so the taliban stumbled in to some degree. it is not clear they're going to be able to run and govern the country without resistance. you are seeing some pockets of resistance, the former northern alliance up in the panshir valley is trying to rally support. isis was a significant force in that country a couple of years ago. there was a lot of brutal fighting, you know, largely led by the taliban with the supportive the u.s. kind of as de facto allies to basically eradicate isis, but they could make a comeback. amid all of this, the taliban is going to be trying to form some kind of a government that they hope can have international legitimacy and, above all, win international aid from the u.s. and other countries to try to reconstruct a country that is so badly broken. so, brian, it is harder to imagine a more difficult situation. >> also, michael, while i have you one more questions i have been asking our guests about
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their knowledge of the relationship between what we now know in this region as isis-k and this version of the taliban. >> they are enemies, brian. you know, the thing to remember -- and i always found it one of the most incredible concepts of the last several years -- is that, you know, al qaeda and isis split. in essence, al qaeda decided that isis was too extreme. now, imagine that. it boggles the mind, but al qaeda and isis are enemies. the taliban have been de facto allies of al qaeda going back to the time when osama bin laden plotted the 9/11 attacks in afghanistan. so al qaeda, and so isis -- so the taliban and isis have been fighting in that country. again, some pretty pitched battles in the last couple of years that isis largely lost and found themselves driven out as a result of. but they are not allies. it is important not to confuse
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them. isis in mounting an attack like this succeeds not only in tragically killing americans, which is something that is a key goal of isis, but also disrupting the situation in kabul for the taliban. it wants to make life difficult for the taliban. it is not there to see the taliban take over the country and run it as it wishes. >> yeah, michael, i share your desire to kind of label and explain isis-k vis-a-vis the taliban, especially for viewers just joining us in light of today's news. we are going to be hearing so much more about these two groups and this fractured relationship between them, especially concerning today's attack. mark, if you can start out by putting your military hat on. if you are the combatant commander at this airport, you are faced with the aftermath of today's attack, virtually the
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assurance of more attacks prior to getting everybody up and out of there, what is your stance now other than force protection? do you get small? do you retract your footprint, or do you try to expand, try to take on one or more check points to create a larger safe zone knowing the safe zone you had this morning was easily violated? >> well, from an emotional standpoint i don't like the idea of outsourcing our security to the taliban. however, there's a very practical situation here in the sense that there are two missions. you have the force protection, the security of the airport so that air bridge can be used to evacuate americans, evacuate afghan citizens as well, and the marines, the 82nd airborne, 10th mountain have been doing an incredible job at it in a very dangerous environment. but there's also this issue of making sure we get those afghans
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out who served side by side with us and fought with us and that the president made a commitment to get them out and said there was a home in america for them. i will tell you there are still u.s. passport holders, american citizens who are out there in kabul. i have been in touch with them and they still can't get to the airport, so there's a balance. what the military will do is do what it takes to do both of those. i also think that general mackenzie, who i have a great deal of respect for, i served with in afghanistan, he has an incredible amount of air power available to him. i know that's not going to do much for bb ieds and suicide bombers, but i do think if there needs to be a bit of a covering force to get these folks out, if the president is serious about getting american citizens out and about getting afghan siv holders and their families out, we may have to stay longer or we may have to increase the flow of afghan -- afghan citizens into the airport. that just hasn't been happening. you still have had aircraft,
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humanitarian aircraft exiting afghanistan empty. that's just unacceptable. >> mark, let me ask you about a middle ground, and that is a stand-off forces from a great distance. is it your assumption that we have live eyes on everything between aircraft over-flights, satellite over-flights and drones? will we have good intel on the immediate area surrounding the airport grounds? >> i have no doubt that our technical capabilities are really masterful and able to see a great deal, but something that's missing and something that will be missing once we withdraw is human intelligence, people on the ground, sources on the ground. there's actually a story to be told later about an incredible volunteer network that's working with afghans on the ground to provide information real-time to help get people to the airport. that's also identifying
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potential security threats, too. when people see something wrong, when people are crowding in an area. but i worry one thing the u.s. military can't do right now is have human intelligence, eyes on the ground. i actually don't know to what degree we are still able to partner with the nds from the former government, their cia, if you will, and with the commando units and others. these people are trained to get out the same as anybody else. that's where i think the blind spot is. the geography, the physics of the situation make it so desirable and make it difficult to prevent every attempt at a suicide bombing from getting through. >> i want to also make it clear to our viewers, there is no cause for celebration of anything on a day when we lost a dozen of our best young marines in service to this country, but what this was not was a failure of intelligence. in all likelihood we had an informant, we had reason to
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believe there was urgent reason to get americans out of harm's way, that an attack was under formation. here is the president from the east room. it's been a tough day. this evening in kabul as you all know terrorists attack that we've been talking about and worried about, that the intelligence community has assessed, has undertaken, an attack by a group known as isis-k. took the lives of american service members standing guard at the airport and wounded several others seriously. it also wounded a number of civilians and civilians were killed as well. i have been engaged all day, in constant contact with the
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military commanders here in washington, in the pentagon, as well as in afghanistan and doha. and my commanders here in washington, in the field, have been on this with great detail, and you have had a chance to speak to some so far. the situation on the ground is still evolving. i'm constantly being updated. these american service members who gave their lives -- it is an over used words but it is totally appropriate, were heroes. heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others. they were part of an airlift, an evacuation effort unlike any seen in history, with more than
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100,000 american citizens p p, american partners, afghans who helped us and others taken to safety in the last 11 days. just the last 12 hours or so another 7,000 have gotten out. they were part of the bravest, most capable, most selfless military on the face of the earth, and they're a part of simply what i call the backbone of america. they're the spine of america, the best the country has to offer. jill and i, our hearts ache like i'm sure all of you do as well, for all of those afghan families who lost loved ones, including small children, or have been wounded in this vicious attack. and we're outraged as well as heart broken. being the father of an army
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major who served for a year in iraq and before that was in kosovo as a u.s. attorney for the better part of six months in the middle of a war, when he came home after a year in iraq, was diagnosed, like many, many coming home, with an aggressive and lethal cancer of the brain, who we lost. we have some sense, like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. you get this feeling like you are being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. there's no way out. my heart aches for you. i know this. we have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of
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you, the families of those heroes. that obligation is not temporary. it lasts forever. the lives we lost today were lives given in the service of liberty, the service of security, and the service of others. in the service of america. like their fellow brothers and sisters in arms who have died defending our vision and our values in the struggle against terrorism, of the fallen this day, they are part of a great, noble company of american heroes. for those who carried out this attack as well as anyone who wishes america harm, know this. we will not forgive. we will not forget. we will hunt you down and make
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you pay. i will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command. over the past few weeks, i know many of you are probably tired of hearing me say it, we have been made aware by our intelligence community that the isis-k, an archenemy with taliban, people who were freed when both of those prisons were opened, has been planning a complex set of attacks on the united states personnel and others. this is why from the outset i have repeatedly said this mission was extraordinarily dangerous and why i have been so determined to live with the duration of this mission. as general mackenzie said, this is why our mission was
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designed -- this is the way it was designed to operate, operate under severe stress and attack. we have known that from the beginning. as i have been in constant contact with our senior military leaders -- and i mean constant, around the clock, and our commanders on the ground throughout the day, they made it clear that we can and we must complete this mission, and we will. that's what i have ordered them to do. we will not be deterred by terrorists. we will not let them stop our mission. we will continue the evacuation. i've also ordered my commanders to develop rational plans to attack isis-k facilities. we will respond at the place we choose and at the moment of our choosing. here is what you need to know. these isis terrorists will not win. we will rescue the americans in
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there. we will get our afghan allies out, and our mission will go on. america will not be intimidated. i have the utmost confidence in our brave service members who continue to execute this mission with courage and honor to save lives and get americans, our partners, our afghan allies out of afghanistan. every day when i talk to our commanders i ask them what they need, what more do they need, if anything, to job done. as they will tell you, i granted every request. i reiterated to them today on three occasions that they should take the maximum steps necessary to protect our forces on the ground in kabul. i also want to thank the secretary of defense, the military leadership of the pentagon, and all of the commanders in the field. there has been complete unanimity of every commander on the objections of this mission and the best way to achieve
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those objectives. those who have served through the ages, have drawn inspiration from the book of isaiah when the lord says, "whom shall i send, who shall go for us." the military has been answering for a long time, "here i am, lord, send me." "here i am, send me." each one of these women and men of our armed forces are the heirs of that tradition of sacrifice, of volunteering to go in harm's way, to risk everything, not for glory, not for profit, but the defend what we love and the people we love. i ask that you join me now in a moment of silence for all of those in uniform and out, uniform, military and civilian who have given the last full measure of devotion.
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thank you. may god bless you all and may god protect the troops and all of those standing watch for america. we have so much to do, within our capacity to do it. we just have to remain steadfast. steadfast. we will complete our mission. we will continue after our troops have withdrawn to find means by which we can find any american who wishes to get out of afghanistan. we will find them and we will
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get them out. ladies and gentlemen, they gave me a list here. the first person i was instructed to call on was kelly o'donnell of nbc. >> reporter: mr. president, you have said leaving afghanistan is in the national interests of the united states. after today's attack, do you believe you will authorize additional forces to respond to that attack inside afghanistan and are you -- are you prepared to add additional forces to protect those americans who remain on the ground carrying out the evacuation operation? >> i have instructed the military, whatever they need, if they need additional force, i will grant it. but the military, from the chairman of the joint chiefs, the joint chiefs, the commanders in the field, have all contacted me one way or another, usually by letter, saying they subscribe
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to the mission as designed, to get as many people out as we can within the time frame that is allotted, that is the best way they believe to get as many americans out as possible, and others. and with regard to finding, tracking down the isis leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are. not certain. and we will find ways for our choosing without large military operations to get them, wherever they are. trevor, reuters. >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. there has been some criticism even from people in your party about the dependence on the
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taliban to secure the perimeter of the airport. do you feel like there was a mistake made in that regard? >> no. i don't. look, i think general mackenzie handled this question very well. the fact is that we're in a situation -- we inherited a situation, particularly since as we all know that the afghan military collapsed 11 days before -- in 11 days, that is in the interest of, as mackenzie said, in the interest of the taliban, that, in fact, isis-k does not metastasize beyond what it is, number one. and, number two, it is in their interest that we are able to
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leave on time, on target. as a consequence of that, the major things we have asked them, moving back the perimeter, giving more space between the wall, stopping vehicles from coming through, et cetera, searching people coming through. it is not what you would call a tightly commanded, regimented operation like the u.s. is, the military is, but they're acting in their interest, their interest. and so by and large -- and i have asked this very same question to military on the ground, whether or not it is a useful exercise. no one trusts them. we are just counting on their
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self-interest to continue to generate their activities. it is in their self-interest that we leave when we said and that we get as many people out as we can. like i said, even in the midst of everything that happened today, over 7,000 people we have gotten out, over 5,000 americans overall. so it is not a matter of trust. it is a matter of mutual self-interest. and, uh, but there is no evidence thus far that i have been given as a consequence by any of our commanders in the field that there has been collusion between the taliban and isis in carrying out what happened today, both in front of the hotel and what is expected
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to continue for beyond today. amir, associated press. >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. you have spoken, again, powerfully about your own son and the weight of these decisions. with that in mind and also with what you have said, that the longer we say the more likelihood that there would be a major attack, how do you weigh staying even one more day considering what has happened? >> because i think what america says matters. what we say we're going to do and the context in which we say we're going to do it, that we do it unless something exceptional changes. there are additional american citizens, there are additional
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green card holders, there are additional personnel of our allies, there are additional siv card holders, there are additional afghans that have helped us, and there are additional groups of individuals that have contacted us, from women's groups to ngos and others, who have expressly indicated they want to get out and have gathered in certain circumstances in groups on buses and other means. that still presents the opportunity for the next several days between now and the 31st to be able to get them out. and our military, and i believe to the extent that we can do that, knowing the threat,
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knowing that we may very well have another attack, the military's concluded that's what we should do. i think they're right. i think they're correct. after that we are going to be in a circumstance where there are -- will be, i believe, numerous opportunities to continue to provide access for additional persons to get out of afghanistan, either through means that we provide and/or are provided through cooperation with the taliban. they're not good guys, the taliban. i'm not suggesting that at all, but they have keen interest.
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as many of you have been reporting, they very much would like to figure out how to keep the airport open. they don't have the capacity to do it. they very much are trying to figure out whether or not they can maintain what is the portion of an economy that has become not robust but fundamentally different than it had been. so there's a lot of reasons why they have reached out, not just to us but to others, as to why it would be continued in their interest to get more of the personnel we want to get out, we can locate them. now, there's not many left that we can assess that want to come out. there are some americans we have identified, we have contacted the vast majority of them, if not all of them, who don't want to leave because they are dual nationals, they have extended families, et cetera. then there's others who are
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looking for the time. so that's why we continue. i will take a few more questions, but -- you, sir. >> reporter: i wanted to ask you -- >> that's okay. >> reporter: -- you say that what america says matters. what do you say to the afghans who helped troops who may not be able to get out by august 31st? >> i say we're going to continue to try to get you out. it matters. look, i know of no conflict, as a student of history, no conflict where when a war was ending one side was able to guarantee that everyone that wanted to be extracted from that country would get out. think about it, folks. i think it is important for -- i know the american people get this in their gut.
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there are, i would argue, millions of afghani citizens who are not taliban, who did not actively cooperate with us as sivs, who if given a chance they would be on board a plane tomorrow. it sounds ridiculous but the vast majority of people in communities like that want to come to america given a choice. so getting every single person out is -- can't be guaranteed for anybody because there's a determination all who wants to get out as well. any rate, it is a process. i was really pointing to you, but you, sir. >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. there are reports that u.s. officials provided the taliban with names of americans and afghan officials to evacuate. were you aware of that, did that
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happen? and then, sir, did you personally reject a recommendation to hold or to recapture bagram air force base? >> here is what i have done -- answer the last question first. on the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, i gather up all the major military personnel that are in afghanistan, the commanders as well as the pentagon. i ask for their best military judgment, what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission. they concluded, the military, that bagram was not much value added, that it was much wiser to focus on kabul. so i followed that recommendation.
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with regard to -- there are certain circumstances where we have gotten information -- and, quite frankly, sometimes from some of you, saying you know of such and such a group of people who are trying to get out and they're on a bus, they're moving from other people, and this is their location, and there have been occasions when our military has contacted their military counterparts in the taliban and said, for example, this bus is coming through with x number of people on it, made up of the following group of people. we want you to let that bus or that group through. so, yes, there have been occasions like that. to the best of my knowledge, in those cases the bulk of that has occurred, they've been let through. but i can't tell you with any certitude that there's actually
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been a list of names. i don't -- there may have been, but i know of no circumstance. it doesn't mean it does not -- it didn't exist, that here are the names of 12 people that are coming, let them through. that could very well have happened. i will take one more question. wait, wait, wait. let me take the one question from the most interesting guy that i know in the press. >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. >> that's you. >> reporter: mr. president, there had not been a u.s. service member killed in combat in afghanistan since february of 2020. you set dead line, you pulled troops out, you sent troops back in, and now 12 marines are dead. you said the buck stops with you. do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks? >> i bear responsibility for fundamentally all that's happened of late, but here is the deal. you know, i wish you would one day say these things, you know as well as i do that the former
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president made a deal with the taliban that he would get all american forces out of afghanistan by may 1. in return the commitment was made -- and that was a year before. in return he was given a commitment that the taliban would continue to attack others but would not attack any american forces. remember that? i'm being serious. >> reporter: mr. president -- >> no, i'm asking you a question, because -- >> reporter: -- mr. president -- >> no, no, wait a minute. i'm asking you a question. is that the accurate to the best of your knowledge? >> reporter: -- things that people have -- -- the way that this has happened. >> i think they have an issue that people are likely to get hurt, some as we've seen have
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gotten killed, and that it is messy. the reason why, whether my friend will acknowledge it or has reported it, the reason why there were no attacks on americans as you said from atta date until i came into office was because the commitment was made by president trump. i will be out by may 1st. in the meantime you agree not to attack any americans. that was the deal. that's why no americans was attacked. >> reporter: you said, you standby your decision to pull out. >> yes, i do. look at this, this way. i have another meeting for real. imagine where we would be if i had indicated on may the 1st, i was not going to re-negotiate
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evacuation date. we were going to stay there. i would only have one alternative. pour thousands more troops back into afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won relatively by the reasons we went in the first place. i have never been in a view that we should be sacrificing american lives to try to establish a democratic government in afghanistan, a country that has never once in its entire history been a united country and it is made up of and i don't mean this as a derogatory, made up of different tribes who have never ever, ever gotten along with one another. as i said before and this is the last comment i would make.
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we have more chance to talk about this unfortunately beyond because we are not out yet. if osama bin ladin, would we ever had gone to afghanistan. even though the taliban completely controlled afghanistan at the time, would we have ever gone? i know it is not fair to ask you a question. this is a rhetorical. raise your hands if you think we should have gone and given up thousands of lives and tens of thousands wounded. our interest in going was to prevent al-qaeda from reemerging, first to get osama
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bin laden and prevent it happening again. i have said it a hundred times. we don't have military and encampment there. ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end a 20-year. thank you so much. >> a stressed president during a difficult time still new to the job but easily the darkest days of the still young biden presidency. as joe biden started his remarks talking about these twelve seoul souls we lost today, these 12 u.s. marines killed in the line of duty. killed on the job while saving
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the lives of others outside the gate of the airport in kabul. he ended up with a force square defense of his own position and decision and a bit of a history lesson over the past 20 years supplying for the fox news correspondents. the only portion he withheld in his question and that had to do with the deal made with the taliban by the previous administration. we have two new guests bringing in the conversation who have been watching all this with us. peter baker with "the new york times" and greg myri, he was one of the first reporters to interview members of the taliban. peter, i would like to begin with you, your job by today and observing and writing about u.s. presidents. if you take the first remark, the first ten minutes, i don't
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think we have ever seen a tour of the range of emotions of a chief executive quite as kaleidoscoically as we saw them there. he called them the best of america, seconds later, we'll not forgive, or forget. we'll hunt you down and make you pay. we saw remarks that went from genuine and deep empathy to a promise of overwhelming violence and overwhelming retribution. i am curious to get your thoughts on it. >> he said what you expect a commander in chief to say. you have to combine the empathy and the humanity of the tragedy that's be fallen on our own troops there and demonstrate the results.
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the question of course is going to be not the words he said today but the actions he takes in the days and weeks to come. can he fulfill the vow he has made to respond to people who did this in a way that you know has a mark of credibility. it has been a very difficult few weeks already. the idea of body bags coming home of american troops is heartbreaking. of course, it undermines the mark of success or the standard of success. they said we are accomplishing this extraordinary evacuations without any american lives caused. what happens going forward? he did not offer any change of course, we'll continue forward. the mission as he has already laid out but we don't know for sure what will take place between now and tuesday of this
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deadline he sets comes to tuition. >> the president of afghanistan skipped town. number two, had we try a soft launch to use the marking vernacular of this evacuation for all the reasons richard engel discussed earlier in kabul, just try landing a dozen c-17s quietly in the dark of night and not attracting interests. if word had gotten out, if you are an american, green card holder or one of the afghans who helped us of the past 20 years, quietly make your way to the airport. does any of that strike a cord with you as a veteran of the region and the topic? >> this was not going to be an
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easy scenario no matter how it played out. and even we have seen the talk we were talking about may be 20,000 afghans and some family members. now we are hearing of 100,000 afghans and almost all of them are afghans had been taken out. this was never going to be easy and could not be done quietly. there certainly would be other ways to do it. you have the president talking about hunting down isis for this attack today. well, the u.s. is really not in a great position to do that with the troops hunkered down at the airport. you certainly had this force that was sort of reduced to an airport force and he's still talking about things that may have to be done. i did get a chance of unfinished business. there will be efforts to pull people out after next tuesday. efforts perhaps to track down a group like isis.
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u.s. maybe gone from afghanistan but it won't be done with afghanistan. >> also, greg, i think you would agree there is a great military term, operational security and members of the news media have been aware of other extractions and aware of other plans that would make no castor prints. there are other options open to americans and maybe clandestine forces. >> sure. that's absolutely true. we heard the cia director, william burns and others say their abilities are shrinking. there is this symbiotic relationship with the military and agency and able to operate around the country because they had the u.s. military protecting
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them. with the military gone, the cia can't operate in the same way and the afghans they worked with is not assessable. and now to try to find the people responsible for this attack or future attacks is a much more different position. >> to our viewers just as i took the baton from alicia mendez, i am going to pass it to ari melber. we thank our guests, peter baker and greg mire. we'll be going live to jen psaki as the president departures from the east room heading back to the oval office. jen psaki will take many, many questions, the press corp will have for her. with th


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