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Biden Announces All U.S. Troops to be Out of Afghanistan by 9/11; Prosecution Cross-Examines Pathology Expert in Chauvin Trial. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 14, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That turned lower Manhattan into a disaster area, destroyed parts of the Pentagon, and made hallowed ground of a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and sparked an American promise that we would "never forget."

We went to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al Qaeda, to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States planned from Afghanistan.

Our objective was clear. The cause was just. Our NATO allies and partners who rallied beside us.

And I supported that military action, along with an overwhelming majority of the members of Congress.

More than seven years later, in 2008, weeks before we swore the oath of office, President Obama and I were about to swear, President Obama asked me to travel to Afghanistan and report back on the state of the war in Afghanistan.

I flew to Afghanistan to the Kunar Valley, a rugged, mountainous region on the border with Pakistan.

What I saw was on that trip reenforced my conviction that only the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country.

And that more, an endless American military force could not create a sustain a durable Afghan government.

I believe our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place, to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack or homeland again.

We did that. We accomplished that objective.

I said, among with others, we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, if need be. That's exactly what we did. And we got him.

It took us close to 10 years to put President Obama's commitment into form, and that's exactly what happened. Osama bin laden was gone.

That was 10 years ago. Think about that. We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we've stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since.

Since then, our reasons to remain in Afghanistan become increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved.

Over the past 20 years, the threat has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe.

Al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries, in Africa and Asia.

With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country, at a cost of billions each year, makes little sense to me and to our leaders.

We cannot continue this cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result.

I'm now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan, two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth.

After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the vice president, as well as with Mr. Ghani, and many others around the world, I've concluded that it's time to end America's longest war.

It's time for American troops to come home.

When I came to office, I inherited a diplomatic agreement duly negotiated between the government of the United States and the Taliban that all U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just three months after my inauguration.

That's what we inherited. That commitment.

It's perhaps not what why have negotiated myself. But it was an agreement made by the United States government. And that means something.

So, in keeping with that agreement and with our national interests, the United States will begin our final withdrawal, begin it on May 1 of this year.

We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We'll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely.

We will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do. The Taliban should know, that if they attack us as we draw down, we

will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal.

[14:34:59]

Our allies and partners have stood beside us, shoulder to shoulder, in Afghanistan for almost 20 years. And we are deeply grateful for the contributions they have made to our shared mission and for the sacrifices they have borne.

The plan has long been "in together, out together." U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th.

But we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat.

We will reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantially assets in the regions to prevent reemergence of terrorists and the threat to our homeland from over the horizon.

We'll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.

The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well.

And we'll focus our full attention on the threat we face today.

In my direction, my team is refining our national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terrorist threats not only in Afghanistan but anywhere they may arise. And they're in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

I spoke yesterday with President Bush to inform him of my decision.

While he and I have had many disagreements over policy throughout the years, we're absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage and integrity of the women and men of the United States armed forces who served.

I'm immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone that they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments.

We, as a nation, are forever indebted to them and to their families.

You all know that less than 1 percent of Americans serve in our armed forces. The remaining 99 percent of them, we owe them. We owe them.

They have never backed down from a single mission we have asked of them.

I have witnessed their bravery firsthand during my visits to Afghanistan. They have never wavered in their resolve.

They have paid a tremendous price on our behalf. And they have the thanks of a grateful nation.

While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.

We'll continue to support the government of Afghanistan. We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan national defenses and security forces.

Along with our partners, we have trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel today, and hundreds of thousands over the past two decades.

They will continue to fight valiantly on behalf of the Afghans at great cost.

They'll support peace talks, as we will, support peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations.

And we'll continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls by maintaining significant humanitarian and development assistance.

We will ask other countries, other counties in the region to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey.

They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan.

Over the next few months, we will also determine what a continued U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan will look like, including how we'll ensure the security of our diplomats.

Look, I know there are many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust U.S. military presence to stand as leverage.

We gave that argument a decade. It's never proved effective. Not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan. Not when we're down to a few thousand.

Our diplomacy does not hinge in having boots in harm's way, U.S. boots on the ground. We have to change that thinking.

American troops shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.

You know, that's nothing more than a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

I also know there are many who will argue we should stay fighting in Afghanistan because withdrawal would damage America's credibility and weaken America's influence in the world. I believe the exact opposite is true.

We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021.

[14:40:00]

Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.

We have to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that have spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11.

We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition we're facing from an increasingly assertive China.

We have to strengthen our alliances and work with like-minded partners to ensure that the rules and international norms that govern cyberthreats and emerging technologies that will shape our future are grounded in our democratic values, not those of the autocrats.

We have to defeat this pandemic and strengthen global health systems, prepare for the next one, because there will be another pandemic.

You know, we will be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20.

Finally, the main argument for staying longer is what each of my three predecessors have grappled with. No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave.

In 2014, NATO issued a declaration affirming that Afghan security forces would, from that point on, have full responsibility for their country's security by the end of that year. That was seven years ago.

So when will it be the right moment to leave? One more year? Two more years? Ten more years? And $10 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion more than the trillion we have already spent?

Not now? That's how we got here.

In this moment, there's a significant downside risk to saying beyond May 1st without a clear timetable for departure.

If we, instead, pursue the approach where America -- U.S. exit is tied to conditions on the ground, we have to have clear answers to the following questions:

Just what conditions will be required to allow us to depart? By what means and how long would it take to achieve them? If they could be achieved at all? At what additional cost of lives and treasure?

I've not heard any good answers to these questions. If you can't answer them, in my view, we should not stay.

The fact is, later today, I'm going to visit Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60. In that sacred memorial to Americans' sacrifice, Section 60 is where

our recent war dead are buried, including many of the women and men who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There's no comforting distance in history in Section 60. The grief is raw. It's a visceral reminder of a living cost of war.

For the past 12 years, ever since I became vice president, I've carried with me a card that reminds me of the exact number of Americans troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That exact number, not an approximation or rounded-off number, because every one of those dead are sacred human beings who left behind entire families. An exact accounting of every single, solitary one needs to be had.

As of today, there are 2,488 U.S. troops and personnel who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom Sentinel, our Afghanistan conflicts. And 20,722 have been wounded.

I'm the first president in 40 years who knows what it means to have a child serving in a war zone.

Throughout this process, my North Star has been remembering what it was like when my late son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq.

How proud he was to serve his country. How insistent he was to deploy with his unit. And the impact it had on him and all of us as home.

We already have servicemembers doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war.

We have servicemembers who were not yet born when our nation was attacked on 9/11.

War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.

We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives. Bin laden is dead. And al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq, in Afghanistan.

[14:45:03]

And it's time to end the forever war.

Thank you all for listening.

May God protect our troops. And may God bless all those families who lost someone in this endeavor.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: It's time to end this forever war.

Let's jump right into analysis with CNN military analyst, Retired Major General Spider Marks, with me now.

General, first to you on the president's announcement. And also, what do you make of the timing?

LT. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, as expected, President Biden's remarks are incredibly eloquent. They're personal. He lost his son in combat. And I think he does that exceptionally well.

The timing clearly is -- if you kind of bore into the details, the timing is concerning in that the Taliban has stated emphatically that if foreign forces are not out by 1 May, we will resume our efforts against them, we're going to attack U.S. forces and anybody else who is in country.

That's a challenge. So we certainly have to keep an eye on that.

As the president indicated, the departure of forces from Afghanistan will not be immediate. It won't be a sudden about-face, let's get on the aircraft and go. There would be a drawdown.

The ability to do that requires incredible intelligence exchange, being out there on the horizon, making sure we can pick up those leading indicators of where any of those potential attacks might take place.

So the timing, I think, makes sense. I don't know that it's exactly a recommendation I would make. Nobody was asking me.

But on the anniversary of 9/11, 20 years ago, we now depart where we were attacked and shamed on 9/11, you know, our head rocked back. It was the first home game that the United States had lost since the Civil War, in many cases.

So I look at that and I realize, look, we cannot be there forever.

And really three things come to mind if we are chasing conditions, whether we will be chasing those conditions forever.

There is a deep, emotional tie to our engagement in Afghanistan because of the numbers that we have lost. And the president so impassioningly described that, very personally described that.

The third thing that comes to mind is that Afghanistan remains ungoverned space. You have the Taliban. You have al Qaeda. You have ISIS. They don't necessarily agree in terms of what conditions need to look like.

And clearly, the government in Kabul still needs to reach to those far corners in order to try to establish some degree of governance over that very un-governed space.

It probably will remain un-governed for the nearest the nearest horizon that we can and, clearly, beyond that.

Those are the problems that we're facing right now.

So we've got to maintain a very strong alliance with our partners in Afghanistan. We still have to have to be able to have an incredibly strong intelligence collection.

And I can guarantee you there will be mil-to-mil, military to military, exchanges where we'll have temporary presence in country.

So we'll be a presence. We'll be a face in country. But it won't be this enduring, long-term presence we've had for two decades.

BALDWIN: I'm going to ask Nick about your "un-governed" pointed with the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS in just a second.

But, Kaitlan, to you.

You know, for people who were tuned into CNN, let's say, October of 2001, where this president currently stood in the Treaty Room, was exactly the same spot that President George W. Bush -- here's the screen grab -- from October of 2001, announcing those air strikes.

We heard the president mention that he did speak to President Bush yesterday about his decision.

Can you tell me more about the thinking that went into all of this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think one of the things he really tried to highlight there, Brooke, was this is not a decision that he alone has grappled with.

It's something that multiple presidents have struggled with. And he didn't want to pass that responsibility on to someone else.

So he was speaking from the Treaty Room. This was obviously intentional. This isn't a room you obvious see the president speak from.

But it seemed like the White House wanted to make this loop, have that bookend.

This is where it started with President Bush in 2001. And here is where we are announcing this forever war, this longest-running war that the United States has had from the same backdrop in the Treaty Room of the White House.

Yes, he did say he spoke to President Bush yesterday, informed him of what's going on.

And I thought it was notable how he talked about the struggle that other presidents have had, his predecessors have had.

He even talked about the agreement that former President Trump struck with the Taliban to get U.S. troops out of there by May 1.

And while he said that that was not an agreement that he, himself, would have negotiated, Brooke, he said he felt like it was important to honor it because the U.S. put its name on it.

That is something you often saw President Trump face criticism for, backing out of agreements that the U.S. had signed onto.

And President Biden said he did not want to be a part of that and continue that.

[14:50:02]

But there was also a little bit of veiled criticism of the way that his predecessors ended up handling this ultimately.

He said none of them wanted to be in Afghanistan forever. But he said, every time it came time for them to be in the hot seat making the decision, they always decided now is not the right time to go.

That seemed to be a hint at what some of his Pentagon advisers have been telling him. Because we know, with this decision, this not being conditions based, he is overruling some of those national security advisers.

BALDWIN: Nick, what about the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS? The president just said, "The Taliban should know, if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal."

Once the final troops are out, September of this year, Nick, what condition is the U.S. leaving Afghanistan in?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, it's not correct to call parts of Afghanistan un-governable. They are, in effect, being governed. But they're being governed by the insurgency, by the Taliban.

That is the reality of what's occurring in much of Afghanistan already, except places like the prosperous bubble here of Kabul. And that will continue to worsen for many Afghans as time goes by.

Perhaps some of them feel the Taliban are a comparative order than the chaos that swirled around them for decades.

A couple of interesting things, though, in the details of what Joe Biden said.

He talked about how they're going to begin leaving on May 1st. The Taliban have said very clearly that the U.S. has got 16 days for a full withdrawal and then they might think about joining peace talks.

Obviously, those two timetables can't alight.

And Biden was very clear, too, to say that if they are attacked or their allies or partners are attacked during that withdrawal, then they'll strike back.

So that potentially provides a month's-long period where the U.S. could hit Taliban targets under the premise of this particular scheme as well.

Kaitlan also pointed out the sort of way he threw a lot of decision- making back towards President Trump, saying he wouldn't necessarily have done it this way himself.

But I have to say, I was broadly struck at a man who's lived this entire experience.

He pointed out the salient fact so many people forget when they talk about U.S. troops serving here. That 1 percent of Americans have been involved in these wars. And the other 99 percent most often have opinions about what should occur next.

He's seen himself the sacrifices, clearly feels deeply what Americans have left behind here, lives, limbs, vast years of their lives.

And those Americans, if they, too, were listening to that speech, will be feeling it very heartfelt, quite what the sacrifice has left.

You asked me about Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS.

The Taliban is doing well. They may or may not go to peace talks. Most think they probably do need some sort of negotiated settlement to keep international aid flooding in. We'll see.

ISIS have been degraded.

The main reason, though, we came here in the first place, the U.S. came here, al Qaeda.

But a U.S. treasury assessment just in January said they were growing in strength because they were cooperating with the Taliban. They haven't been removed. They are still here.

Counterterrorism operations have massively changed. It is entirely possible that within the fine print of talking about the possibility of security for the U.S. diplomatic presence here.

And just how counterterrorism works now with local partners and drones and surveillance, that the U.S. can continue to hunt them whilst not having 2,500 troops here.

But I genuinely felt, listening to that speech, it was courage brought from experience, from seeing this war over many, many years. And also possibly the courage to know when to say stop, almost when to quit, if you like.

Because there's some degree of correctness in what he was saying.

That U.S. have tried, frankly, everything here. They've tried invading. They tried a surge. They tried drawing down the surge. They've tried sticking to counterterrorism, negotiation.

And now the only real thing left, it seems, is to leave and see what that does to this ongoing conflict here.

It doesn't stop because America goes. It just develops a new chapter, Brooke. That's important to remember for Afghans.

BALDWIN: I appreciate all of that, all of the reporting, all of the context.

There you are, the evening, your time, in Kabul, in Afghanistan.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

General, thank you.

And, of course, Kaitlan, thank you.

We will look for the president to appear, as he referred to it, in sacred memorial, Section 60, of Arlington National Cemetery later this afternoon.

I do want to get everyone back to the trial of Derek Chauvin.

The prosecution -- let me set this up. The prosecution is now cross- examining this expert who claimed carbon monoxide contributed to George Floyd's death.

Let's listen.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: It says, here -- you see this. "The street deaths are much more different than controlled investigations."

Do you see that?

DR. DAVID FOWLER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST & FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Yes.

BLACKWELL: So, Dr. Fowler, does having seen this affidavit from Dr. Ray change your opinion as to whether he had retracted his opinion of concerns about positional -- the prone position as relates to positional asphyxia?

[14:54:58]

FOWLER: So, it appears that he hasn't completely withdrawn his -- his position. But he does go into some additional description, which is the paragraph above, which you did not --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Dr. Fowler, you answered my question.

And if there are other things that Mr. Nelson would like to bring up, he'll have an opportunity to.

Thank you.

Now let's talk for just a moment about your areas of expertise.

We know that you are a forensic pathologist, sir. But you're not a toxicologist or you don't have a degree in toxicology.

FOWLER: That is correct. I'm not a toxicologist. BLACKWELL: And to be clear for the jury, as a forensic pathologist, you don't treat patients?

FOWLER: Correct.

BLACKWELL: We have heard from a pulmonologist, who is also a respiratory physiologist. You're not a pulmonologist or respiratory physiologist, true?

FOWLER: That is true.

BLACKWELL: So you never measured anybody's respiration, that is, their breathing, as a part of your work as a forensic pathologist?

FOWLER: No, I have not.

BLACKWELL: You're not a cardiologist obviously?

FOWLER: No.

BLACKWELL: Just by way of -- just a couple of background things. You told us a good bit about your background. What year was it that you arrived in the United States?

FOWLER: I believe it was 1991.

BLACKWELL: And at what year did you retire?

FOWLER: December 31, 2019.

BLACKWELL: You told us quite a bit about The Forensic Panel. And you're employed as a consultant by The Forensic Panel, is that a fair description?

FOWLER: Yes.

BLACKWELL: To be clear for the jurors, so they're not confused, The Forensic Panel is not a nonprofit, is it?

FOWLER: No, it's not a nonprofit. At least to the best of my ability. I don't know what they're classified as, frankly. I do not know.

BLACKWELL: So through The Forensic Panel, you earn a livelihood. So it's not volunteer time for you, is it?

FOWLER: No. I get compensated by the hour.

BLACKWELL: And The Forensic Panel is not a governmental body?

FOWLER: Correct. It's an independent organization.

BLACKWELL: It's a business?

FOWLER: It's a medical/forensic science practice, which, for legal practices, are business, yes.

BLACKWELL: It's a business.

FOWLER: Yes.

BLACKWELL: I want to talk with you a bit about asphyxia deaths. It's what we've been referring to as death caused by low oxygen.

Do you agree, Dr. Fowler, that positional asphyxia is placing a person into a position that restricts their ability to ventilate their lungs or a position where the head may be in such a position that you can't keep the airways open?

FOWLER: That is correct, yes.

BLACKWELL: And then, at the end of the day, in positional asphyxia, what gets restricted is a person's ability to oxygenate their blood because of the position they're in, correct?

FOWLER: That is correct, yes.

BLACKWELL: Doctor, there are two component methods of ventilating the lungs. One is to move your ribs. And the other is to be able to move your diaphragm. Is that true?

FOWLER: That is true, yes.

BLACKWELL: But the key thing for breathing is that you be able to expand your chest. If you can't expand your chest, you can't breathe?

FOWLER: Correct. You need to expand the capacity of the chest cavity so that the lungs draw air in as part of the process.

BLACKWELL: I would like to focus with you for a moment on the first, roughly, five minutes that Mr. Floyd was under -- on the ground as part of the subdural and restraint under Mr. Chauvin.

Did you analyze where Mr. Chauvin's knees were, relative to the positioning of Mr. Floyd's body in that first five minutes?

FOWLER: I did review the positioning, yes.

[14:59:59]

BLACKWELL: Would you agree with me that for over half of that time period, Mr. Chauvin's left knee was on the neck and his right knee is, at times, on the back, and at other times, on his left arm or pushed in against his left side?