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War in Afghanistan; Tigray Conflict; Doctors Scramble to Contain Growing Outbreaks in Asia. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired July 3, 2021 - 00:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.

We begin in Afghanistan, where the threat of civil war looms, following the most significant step yet in the withdrawal of American forces. All U.S. troops finished pulling out of Bagram Air Base on Friday, a major compound that became the center of military power over the past two decades.

The base has been turned over to Afghan forces as the Taliban makes gains right across the country. According to "The Long War Journal," which reports on the global war on terror, the Taliban control 163 out of nearly 400 districts in Afghanistan while the government controls only 80.

The journal determined that 154 districts, you see them there in red, are those that are contested. CNN has not independently confirmed these details.

Meantime, the White House says the full withdrawal will be complete by the end of August, despite warnings of civil war by even U.S. military commanders once American troops are gone. President Joe Biden says it will be up to Afghanistan to decide its own future.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am concerned that they deal with the internal issues that they have, to be able to generate the kind of support they need nationwide, to maintain the government. We can be value-added, but the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves.


NEWTON: Quite blunt. And the president grew quite frustrated with the mounting questions. That's because America's top commander in Afghanistan warns that the security situation there is not good.

There are concerns that the U.S. is leaving behind a country no safer nor more stable than when its forces arrived two decades ago. CNN's Anna Coren is there for us. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vast might of the U.S. military transformed this dusty airstrip into a miniature city and the nucleus of America's longest war. Ultimately, that might could not transform Afghanistan.

Friday morning, nearly 20 years after U.S. soldiers captured Bagram Air Base as a launch pad for the war on terror, the last U.S. servicemen and women departed Afghanistan, a nation not left strong, prosperous or secure, despite the sacrifice of more than 2,400 American lives and over 100,000 Afghan civilians, according to the United Nations.


COREN (voice-over): Many of those fallen soldiers repatriated from these runways. Now in the position of Afghan government forces, as they continue their lonely fight with the Taliban, they are the only ones who will consider Friday's U.S. departure a victory.

GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: The security situation is not good right now. That's something that's recognized by the Afghan security forces and they're making the appropriate adjustments as we move forward.

COREN (voice-over): Taliban fighters have seized back swaths of the country Americans fought and died to liberate. After once boasting a force of over 100,000 in Afghanistan, there will remain as few as 600 U.S. troops here to provide security for American diplomats.

EDWARD PRINCE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We intend to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul. That is something that is important to us, given our enduring desire to have a continued partnership with the Afghan government and, crucially, with the Afghan people.

COREN (voice-over): The forever war will continue, as Joe Biden wades out of the mire, mire that trapped his predecessors in a brutal and bloody stalemate.

Bush, Obama and Trump, each bouncing in and out of Bagram, pledging Afghanistan will never be a haven for terrorists, as it was when Al Qaeda plotted the tragedy of 9/11, those terrorists long since routed out and destroyed.

Now, nobody guarantees that violent extremists won't reenter the vacuum left by the United States, as the last American soldiers out of Afghanistan return to a nation that has long waited to welcome them home -- Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.


NEWTON: A top U.N. official says more than 400,000 people in Ethiopia's war-torn Tigray region are now suffering famine and almost 2 million more are on the brink. [00:05:00]

NEWTON: A warning came during Friday's Security Council meeting on Ethiopia. Washington's ambassador to the U.N. said the U.S. called the meeting to let those involved in the conflict know the U.S. is now watching.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: If the parties to the conflict fail to seize this moment, the consequences for the people of Ethiopia will be devastating; more fighting, more famine, more abuses, more suffering by ordinary Ethiopians and a far more destabilized Horn of Africa.

For the fighting poses a risk to the integrity of the Ethiopian state and to the stability of the entire region.


NEWTON: It was the Security Council's first public meeting on Tigray since the fighting began in November, pitting government forces and Eritrean soldiers against those of Tigray's former ruling party.

A key bridge meantime for delivering aid in the region has now been destroyed. The U.N. says government allies are responsible.


NEWTON: The Delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a renewed surge of cases in Europe. New infections are up this week over the week before. But health officials say the rise in cases is also getting a push from people's behavior.


NEWTON (voice-over): You've seen that video many times by now.

I mean, look, does that look like a place where people are social distancing?

Authorities say fans returning from the ongoing Euro 2020 championship have triggered significant case spikes. On Friday, British football fans found their tickets canceled for Saturday's match in Rome. That came at a request of the Italian government.


NEWTON: Coronavirus deaths meantime are surging in Russia. The country reported 679 new fatalities Friday, setting a new daily high for the fourth day in a row. Russian health officials say the highest rates of infection are in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Kremlin says it's encouraging more vaccinations and is not considering any new lockdowns.

Meantime, a new German study finds mixing different kinds of vaccines can provide strong protection from COVID-19. AstraZeneca shot uses a virus to deliver immune generating instructions while Pfizer's and Moderna's jabs use mRNA technology.

Researchers say data shows the immune response from a combination of both vaccines is, quote, "clearly superior."

Some countries in Asia are in the meantime scrambling to contain the Delta variant. It's been blamed for a surge in new cases in Indonesia and Bangladesh, where lockdowns are now firmly in place. As Kim Brunhuber reports, some Indonesian hospitals are running out of space for new patients.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It lacks lifesaving ventilators and ICU units. But this small hospital in south Jakarta is packed with coronavirus patients.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): A hospital like ours should not be handling COVID-19 patients. We weren't prepared for this situation.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Across the Indonesian capital, even hospitals better equipped to care for serious cases are feeling the strain of the sheer number of coronavirus patients.

The bed occupancy rate in Jakarta's hospitals hit 93 percent this week. Some facilities are using outdoor tents to treat the sick. As Indonesia struggles with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia, where the Delta variant is spreading.

On the islands of Bali and Java, where 60 percent of the population lives, new emergency restrictions are in place to try to contain the outbreak. For the next 2.5 weeks, schools will be online only. Grocery stores will have limited hours. And there's no dining in restaurants.

A strict new week-long lockdown is also underway in Bangladesh, where COVID-19 cases are surging, especially in rural areas. Armed personnel have set up checkpoints around Dhaka. The police chief says anyone out without a good reason could be fined or jailed. One man says the measures are too severe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We barely have money to buy food. I want to tell the authorities to, please, loosen the lockdown and let us work by maintaining the required hygiene.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): New daily COVID-19 infections in South Korea are the highest they've been in nearly six months. Authorities in Seoul have delayed relaxing social distancing rules. They say 40 percent of the new cases in the past week have been reported among people in their 20s and 30s.

India, where the Delta variant was first identified, just surpassed 400,000 deaths. Half of them have happened in the second wave of the virus though new cases have dropped since their peak in May.

New Delhi recently reopened gyms at half capacity and allowed restaurants to partially open as well.

In Nepal, domestic flight service resumed after a gap of two months.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): But with the Delta variant still circulating, along with a slightly changed version called the Delta plus variant, experts say yet another wave of the virus could be coming if countries relax their rules too soon and don't have enough people vaccinated -- Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


NEWTON: Pressure is now growing on Japan as it gets ready to host the Olympics in less than a month. The country is seeing a new increase in cases, as more nations send their athletes to Tokyo. Our Selina Wang has the latest.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're just three weeks away from the Olympics and COVID-19 cases are surging again in Tokyo. The host city is reporting hundreds of new COVID cases a day, topping 700 others this week, the highest daily tally in more than a month.

Samoa has withdrawn its weight-lifting team from the Olympics, citing Japan's rising rate of infections. People here in Japan are also anxious about the games with just 12 percent of the population fully vaccinated. But the Olympics are still a go with more and more international teams arriving.

Officials said more than 500 participants arrived on Thursday. But organizers are also running into challenges. Two positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among the Ugandan Olympic delegation that arrived last month. This is even though the entire team was fully vaccinated and tested negative before departure.

Since then, organizers have tightened restrictions for participants coming from 12 countries that have been hit hard by the Delta variant. This includes India, Indonesia and Uganda.

All athletes are tested daily and contact-traced. But athletes from those 12 countries are required to test every day, seven days before arriving in Japan. Medical experts also continue to warn that these games could further spread more contagious variants around Japan and around the world.

Despite that, organizers have said spectators will be allowed at the games with the maximum of 10,000 people per venue. But amid growing pressure, the prime minister has said that decision could still be changed. The games could still be held without any spectators, depending on the COVID-19 situation in Japan.

The country's top COVID-19 adviser has already recommended the Olympics be held with no spectators -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


NEWTON: Now we go to Surfside, Florida, where the remaining structure of Champlain Tower South will be torn down in the coming weeks. An emergency order to demolish the damaged building was issued Friday, although no date was yet set.

Two more victims have been recovered from the rubble of the collapsed condo, bringing the confirmed death toll now to 22. With a possible hurricane early next week, officials say those rescue efforts may be suspended; 126 people remain unaccounted for.

I want to thank you for spending part of your day with me. I'm Paula Newton. Stay tuned right now for "MARKETPLACE AFRICA."