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Fast-Spreading Delta Variant Threatens Europe's Reopening; Police Crack Down As Cubans Take To Streets in Rate Protests; U.S. Expresses Support For Cuban Protesters; Surrendering Afghan Commandos Gunned Down by Taliban; Tokyo Under COVID Emergency with Summer Games in 10 Days. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Vause and coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM. England's vaccine gamble, ending all pandemic restrictions despite a rising number of new COVID infections. Crisis in Haiti, police say they've arrested the main suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. New details of the mercenaries he allegedly hired and his alleged presidential aspirations. And for England, the agony of losing to Italy in the European Football Championship now overshadowed by the disgrace of racism.

With the Delta variant now fueling a surge in new COVID infections across Europe, most countries are moving to tighten or re-impose pandemic restrictions, but England is taking the opposite approach. Public health officials are warning the highly contagious variant will represent 90 percent of all COVID infections across the E.U. by the end of next month. The orange and dark here represents areas where cases increased last week.

In the Netherlands, infection rates soared just weeks after restrictions were lifted, and now the government has backtracked re- imposing limits on numbers of nightclubs, restaurants, and music festivals. New infections are also on the rise in the U.K. but Prime Minister Boris Johnson says England remains on track to end all pandemic restrictions by next Monday, or Freedom Day as it's known, but he is urging caution.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution. And I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough. This pandemic is not over. This disease, Coronavirus, continues to carry risks for you and your family.


VAUSE: Boris Johnson is relying on a successful vaccine rollout to limit the number of new COVID infections as well as hospital admissions. And across Europe, the public is again being urged to get vaccinated. While in France, vaccination will now be mandatory for all public health workers and President Emmanuel Macron warns vaccination could be nationally mandated for everyone.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Depending on the situation, no doubt we will have to ask ourselves the question of mandatory vaccination for all the French. But I have made the choice of trust and I'm appealing to all our non-vaccinated countrymen to go out and get vaccinated as soon as possible.


VAUSE: And the French president has also announced that a COVID pass, proving either vaccination or negative test will be required for diners at restaurants and cafes, as well as for entry to hospitals, museums, theme parks, for long distance train travel. The controversial move will take effect a week from next Wednesday. More details now from CNN's Melissa bell.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mandatory vaccinations for those working in the healthcare system, a controversial measure that had been debated for some time here in France announced by the French President on live national television on Monday night. Emmanuel Macron also announcing that the COVID pass that allows the French to travel, for instance to other European countries, would now be used for things like concerts and shows, restaurants and cafes. Essentially, people are going to have to prove either that they've been fully vaccinated, or that they have a PCR negative test. The idea, to encourage the vaccine hesitant to get vaccinated as quickly as they can.

We're seeing the same thing across many countries in the European Union and the United Kingdom. We heard from the British Prime Minister also on Monday who announced that while England was going ahead with its planned reopening from next Monday, he was encouraging people to get vaccinated as quickly as they could. The delay already of that announcement by four weeks has allowed more than seven million people to get an extra dose of the vaccine, either first or second since those four weeks began in England.

Now the rest of Europe's seeing a similar problem, how quickly they can get populations vaccinated to stay ahead of the variants and specifically the Delta variant that the ECDC, that is the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, expects should represent 90 percent of new cases by the end of August here in the European Union.


How to convince those populations to get vaccinated, the European Union has announced that it has delivered enough vaccine to E.U. member states to vaccinate 70 percent of the block's adult population. The trouble, of course, will be now both the vaccine rollout in individual countries and convincing those who are not yet convinced of the need to get vaccinated as quickly as they can. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris. VAUSE: To La Jolla, California and Dr. Eric Topol, Founder and

Director of the Scripps Research Institute. He's also a Professor of Molecular Medicine, and one of the top 10 most cited researchers in medicine and we're grateful to have you with us. Good to see you.


VAUSE: I cannot recall any country easing pandemic restrictions, while the number of COVID infections was actually going up. On Monday, Holland re-imposed restrictions, which had been lifted just a few weeks earlier, because the numbers were falling, but then surged eightfold because of the reopening. The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, on Monday told reporters "What we thought would be possible turned out not to be possible in practice. We had poor judgment, which we regret, and for which we apologize."

So is the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, essentially betting the house here on the vaccine rollout in England? And if so, is it a good bet?

TOPOL: It's a tough one, John, because the vaccination rates are quite high in the U.K., in the high 80s now among adult population, and still ratcheting up and fully vaccinated. But at the same time, there's been a big spike, in cases, a much lesser ratio for that of hospitalizations and deaths, but still on the uptakes. There's some signs in recent days that that growth of cases and in hospitalizations is starting to slow, which is good. But that's going to be a tough one in face of next Monday, this so-called Freedom Day.

So, it's going to take some time to see. There's probably going to be some -- like what you saw, what you reviewed in the Netherlands, most likely there will be some of that. But perhaps it will be, you know, limited and that's what we'd have to hope for.

VAUSE: You know, in places where vaccination rates are high, the next question now seems to be about the need for a booster shot to protect against variants. Pfizer has been especially vocal about the need for another shot. But there was a meeting at the White House Monday, the drug company was told there is no need. Here's Dr. Anthony Fauci. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The CDC and the FDA said that based on the data that we know right now, we don't need a booster. That doesn't mean that that won't change. And that we might need as a matter of fact, at some time, to give boosters either across the board, or to certain select groups.


VAUSE: If this debate was happening in a world where global vaccination rates were high, I guess that's one thing, but that's not the case. Billions are yet to be fully vaccinated. There's one official at the W.H.O. who said when it comes to vaccines, the wealthy nations not only want their cake and to eat it too, but then go back for even more cake and eat that as well. I mean, is that a fair statement?

TOPOL: Well, it's quite a metaphor. I mean, as you know, John, in Israel, they are starting the third booster shots for immunocompromised and people with serious prior medical condition. So, we have the same problem of this imbalance of vaccinations when we need to have global containment. It's a very tricky balance. And fortunately, the data, which hasn't been presented or published from Pfizer, isn't compelling enough to change the minds of CDC and FDA.

So right now, at least, we're not having to face this issue here in the U.S. but it's going to continue to be a challenge because we do know that in people of advanced age, or those who don't have as intact an immune response, they're probably going to need for protection for the Delta variant and perhaps subsequent variants, they're probably going to need some help along the way, perhaps not this year, but at some point in the next year.

VAUSE: When it comes to England and Freedom Day, the Prime Minister has warned that life will not return to how it was before the pandemic, you know, when tens of thousands of people would cram together at a stadium yelling and cheering their team on, you know, the finals perhaps of a European Football Championship match, perhaps, you know, that was the start on Sunday night left to health officials frustrated, angry, incredulous, that includes Mike Ryan from the W.H.O. Listen to this.


MIKE RYAN, HEAD OF W.H.O. HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: And what part of this is a global crisis are we not getting? This is still a global crisis. And it is a time to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. And if we don't do that, and if we move on to other matters, then I think we will be judged. A journalist asked before about the mass gathering events when we look back in anger, and I think we will look back in anger and we will look back in shame.


VAUSE: Just wondering here, if you saw that on Sunday, what your thoughts were on seeing so many people crowded together, no masks. No such things.


TOPOL: Yes, I know. It's just befuddling, John, because we know it's not just about vaccines, we know about physical distancing, and masks, and, you know, aerosol transmission and all these things. So, you know, this is just a recipe for trouble. And if it doesn't lead to substantial more spread, it's just got away with it. But we need to plot all the stuff because as you mentioned at the outset, the Delta variant is remarkably formidable. We haven't seen a version of this virus. It's nearly this efficient for finding new hosts. And so we got to make sure that you'd be extraordinarily cautious to keep this under containment.

VAUSE: Yes. Everyone wants it to be over, but it's not over until it's over, I guess.

TOPOL: Right.

VAUSE: And Dr. Eric Topol, as always, thank you for being with us.

TOPOL: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Rescue crews are searching for survivors after a deadly hospital fire in Iraq, which may have been caused by the explosion of oxygen tanks in an ICU treating COVID patients. At least 41 people are confirmed dead. Five remain critically hurt. In April, 82 people died under similar circumstances at a fire at a hospital in Baghdad.

Well, first came the protests in Cuba, now the government crackdown, which includes shutting down the internet. Monitoring site, NetBlocks says social media sites are being restricted and network data usage shows the extent of internet disruptions. Havana was relatively calm on Monday. But just a day earlier, thousands took to the streets in the first major protests of the post-Castro era. Many angry, frustrated over a lack of food as well as medicine in a pandemic.

According to an exiled Cuban human rights group, at least 100 protests -- protesters, activists, and independent journalists have been detained. Cuba has been dealing with a growing economic crisis fueled by U.S. sanctions made so much worse because of the COVID pandemic.

Haitian police say the man who allegedly helped orchestrate the assassination of the country's president had plans of becoming president himself, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian man who reportedly had been living in Florida was arrested Sunday. According to police, he arrived in Haiti last month to organize a group of 28 mercenaries who carried out the attack. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says some of the men involved in the operation previously worked as U.S. law enforcement informants.

Jovenel Moise was gunned down last Wednesday morning at his Port-au- Prince home. His death has plunged Haiti into political turmoil. But the acting Prime Minister says elections will be held by the end of this year. And we are also learning new details about how this attack unfolded. CNN's Matt Rivers has more now reporting in from Port-au- Prince.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hours after Haiti's president was assassinated, gunfire still crackled through Port-au-Prince, but this time, it was the alleged assassins under attack. As bullets slammed into the concrete walls around the group, one fighter called his sister. "He told me they were in the house," she says, "Under siege, under fire, and fighting." She added "He's not a killer."

Just 36 hours after a group of more than two dozen Colombians and two Haitian Americans allegedly assassinated the President, most would either be detained or declared dead. This is how that happened according to a source with knowledge of the operation to track them down. Nighttime video from around the time of the President's death quickly went viral where you could hear a suspect claiming there was a DEA operation ongoing. Later, a convoy of five cars can be seen leaving the area with ease, but down the road, a trap was being set.

As the convoy traveled down (INAUDIBLE) a roadblock was ready. Heavily armed security forces would not let them pass without a fight. Arriving and seeing they couldn't go any further, the convoy stops, part of which you can see here. Our source says the suspects jumped out and saw this building across the road. They race toward it, immediately taking the stairs to the second floor.


RIVERS: It's in this building that these alleged mercenaries will begin defending themselves, but at the same moment they're coming in here, according to our source, Haitian security forces are making a crucial decision. They know that these alleged attackers have limited food, water, ammunition, and no power. So they essentially decide to wait them out.


RIVERS: About 12 hours later after baking in 90 plus degree Haitian heat, authorities throw tear gas in front of the building. It's enough to force negotiations and the Colombians inside eventually send out four people, including this man, one of two Haitian Americans whom authorities have detained. He's joined by the other Haitian American and two Haitian hostages, a pair of police officers who were at the president's house.


RIVERS: According to our source at some point during the negotiations, a group of the Colombians still here, come out of this building and start heading up this hill on the backside of the building.


And eventually, they make their way to a seemingly strange destination.


RIVERS: Just about 100 meters up the hill from the building lies the Taiwan embassy. Our source thinks the Colombians went there because it wasn't an easy place for police to enter given its diplomatic immunity.


RIVERS: In order to get all the way here to the embassy, though, they had to walk through a pretty residential neighborhood. And according to our source, someone tipped off authorities that this group of heavily armed men was here. When they arrived at the embassy, they found a largely empty building except for two security guards, whom they tied up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: Security Forces quickly surrounded the embassy and then turn their attention back to the building below where they believed a few suspects for me. It was time to go in. A small assault team went in on the ground floor and were met with fierce fire that you can hear from the handful of Colombians that were still inside. The hour-long firefight shattered windows, scarred concrete ceilings and walls. And in the end, the government says at least three Colombians died in the fighting.

The next day, with Taiwan's permission, authorities went into the embassy. Our source says authorities checked CCTV cameras and found nearly a dozen Colombians in a room who ended up giving up without more fighting. Nearly a half dozen still haven't been found. Matt rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Brett Bruen is President at the Global Situation Room, an international consulting firm and before that he was Director of Global Engagement in the Obama White House. He's with us this hour from Washington DC. Good to see you, Brett. It's been a while.


VAUSE: OK. We just heard about the latest from Cuba and Haiti and then there's a situation in Venezuela. The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, says he was confronted at his home by armed men on Monday. Some reports say possibly Venezuelan Special Forces. He was threatened with arrest. Another opposition leader has been arrested. So link the dots here, are the protests in Cuba playing a role in how the Maduro regime in Venezuela is now dealing with the opposition. Is there a relationship here?

BRUEN: Yes, there's literally an open line between Miraflores, the presidential palace in Caracas, and the presidential palace in Havana, Cuba. Maduro, the Venezuelan leader, was brought up trained by Cuban officials at their academies, and has -- he has long depended on Cuba's support for his control over the country. And before him, certainly were Chavez. So there are both literal links between the countries. But I think also politically, and for their survival, they see themselves as intertwined and interdependent. So today's events in Caracas are not an accident.

VAUSE: Right. Then the protests in Cuba, and notable for a number of reasons, they're the first in the post-Castro era, they're widespread in terms of both geography and support, you know, in a cross cultural of a society. The anger is over bread and butter issues, not politics. Given president Miguel Diaz-Canel is not a child of the revolution, his name is not Castro, will he be able to control these protests by just sort of brute force alone? Because that seems to be the current plan.

BRUEN: Yes, and it's going to be a challenge for him. He only took over control of the party in April. So, he's relatively new in terms of being able to pull the real levers of power on the island. I think this is going to certainly be a test for him. And let's, you know, also acknowledge that there's a whole lot of pressure in this situation, not just the increased sanctions that the Trump administration put in place that Biden has held for the moment, but also obviously COVID, as well as very challenging political, geopolitical conditions. So this is perhaps Cuba's most difficult moments in six decades.

VAUSE: And here's what U.S. President Joe Biden had to say about the protests in Cuba, who was speaking on Monday, here he is.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think we've seen anything like this protest in a long, long time, of course, frankly ever. And the United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba, as they assert their universal rights and we call on the government, the government of Cuba to refrain from violence, their attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.


VAUSE: Is that the right response here, framing all of this really as an issue between the Cuban government and the Cuban people essentially?

BRUEN: You know, standing firmly by the Cuban people, it's a phrase he's used on Afghanistan, as well as on Burma, obviously two situations where America's disengagement has been noticed and noticeable. I think this is one of those situations where the Biden administration is trying to practice the detached distinct diplomacy not get too entangled in the situation. And so you're not hearing a whole lot of specifics out of the White House today or yesterday around what they're planning to do on Cuba other than these sort of general expressions of support, and that was really under political duress, because there was such outrage here in Washington. They hadn't done more in the first day of the protests.

VAUSE: The U.S. may be hoping to avoid direct involvement in Cuba, but it seems it's directly involved in the crisis in Haiti, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, one of the suspects involved in the cessation of Haiti's president was a confidential informant who contacted the DEA and that's when a DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities, and along with a U.S. State Department official provided information to the Haitian government, that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual.

The main suspect is a Florida-based doctor. But even without his, you know, alleged involvement, the Haitian government has requested U.S. military support, the White House is considering that, he's also facing humanitarian crisis, there's a possibility of a flood of refugees around the region, it seems U.S. intervention, would it be more likely than not? And if so, what does that look like?

BRUEN: I think it's necessary. Again, it comes down to whether or not the Biden administration's policy of trying to disengage, whether it was from Afghanistan or for that matter, on a lot of fronts around the world is also going to apply and hold us back from Haiti. I think it would be a mistake because Haiti right now is in a very dangerous period, and I think will be so not just up until the elections on September 19, but as the new government tries to take power, so having even a small American presence on the ground would certainly reassure Haitians at a time where politicians are jostling for power and control, I think the United States and other countries in the region need to step up.

VAUSE: Brett, it's good to have you with us. We appreciate your insights and your experience.

BRUEN: You bet.

VAUSE: In South Africa, the military has been deployed to restore calm after days of violent protests and looting. The unrest was triggered by the jailing of former President, Jacob Zuma. At least six people have been killed so far, hundreds arrested. In a televised national address on Monday, South Africa's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, call for calm, also condemning the violence.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: I address you this evening, South Africans, with a heavy heart. Over the past few days and nights, there have been acts of public violence of a kind rarely seen in the history of our democracy.


VAUSE: Vaccinations at a number of sites were put on hold because of the violent -- violence and President Ramaphosa is warning the national vaccine rollout has been severely disrupted and that will have a lasting impact on the economy and its recovery.

Jacob Zuma was jailed for a contempt of court after refusing to appear at an anti-corruption commission hearing. He denies all allegations of bribery as well as fraud. His supporters say he's the victim of a political witch hunt.

When we come back, the U.S. military taking another major step away from Afghanistan. The withdrawal continues just to head. There is new evidence though of Taliban atrocities that has the world worried about what happens next. Also online racist abuse targeting England football players after their loss to Italy at Euro 2020. The King's manager and the British Prime Minister are speaking out.


JOHNSON: To those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players, I say shame on you.



[00:26:22] VAUSE: A heroes' welcome for Italy's football team after defeating England in a dramatic penalty shootout of the Euro 2020 final. Crowds lined the streets of Rome as the footballers with trophy in hand made their way through the city. Italy's first European Championship title in more than 50 years also meant the team was invited to a ceremony at the Presidential Palace.

For England, the loss alone was heartbreaking. Adding to that defeat now is the disgust over online racist abuse. It's been directed at three players who missed their penalty kicks for England on Sunday's final. Among them, forward Marcus Rashford. In a statement, he said "I can take critique of my performance all day long. My penalty was not good enough. It should have gone in but I would never apologize for who I am and where I came from." CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more now reporting from London.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What began as a joyous night for English football fans ended with a whimper as their team lost the Euro 2020 final. The match came down to penalties. Three star players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka missed the mark. The heartbroken squad braced for impact, anger and grief was inevitable. And with it came racist backlash from some with bigots blaming the trio for England's loss and using the players' bad fortune yet again as a license for hatred.

Vile comments flooded the athletes' social media accounts, 19-year-old Saka bearing some of the worst of it. In Manchester, Rashford's hometown, vandals defaced a mural of him with profane graffiti. It was quickly covered up. Their teammates quickly took to social media on Monday to make clear they stood as one. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke out, too.


JOHNSON: And to those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players, I say shame on you and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged.


ABDELAZIZ: But many are calling out the hypocrisy. Campaigners say the government has long fueled a defensive backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier in the tournament, the Home Secretary refused to criticize fans who booed players for taking a knee for racial equality.


PRITI PATEL, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: I just support, you know, people participating and, you know, that type of gesture, gesture of politics (INAUDIBLE) the right outcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the -- so the England fans have right to boo?

PATEL: Well, that's a choice for them, quite frankly. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ABDELAZIZ: And a report commissioned by Johnson's government last year claimed there was no evidence of institutional racism in the U.K. That was condemned by the U.N. as normalizing white supremacy. England's team manager Gareth Southgate and his players entered into this moment of racial reckoning, advocating for a more inclusive and tolerant form of English nationalism. It drew fire.


GARETH SOUTHGATE, ENGLAND FOOTBALL TEAM MANAGER: For some of them to be abused is unforgiveable, really. I mean, we can't control that. We can only set the example that we believe we should and represent the country in the way that we feel you should when you're representing England.


ABDELAZIZ: England lost the game, but Southgate and his team will keep fighting for a fairer, more equal England. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN London.

VAUSE: Police removed dozens of people after scuffles broke out in the nation of Georgia's parliament on Monday. Journalists and members of the opposition tried to force their way into the lower house. They were protesting the death of a cameraman. He was reportedly found dead, days after being attacked at an anti-LGBTQ demonstration.


Hundreds rallied at the capitol Sunday following the cameraman's death. They want the prime minister to resign, because he failed to protect journalists from violence.

Still ahead here, the Taliban accused of a mass execution as Afghan national forces struggle to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a haven for terrorists.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan stepping down as the withdrawal of American forces is nearly complete. General Austin Scott Miller is sounding the alarm about the Taliban's recent military gains and the potential civil war. The new commander, General Kenneth McKenzie, vowed to support the Afghan government and to keep Afghan from becoming a terrorist haven again.

The Taliban, though, now claimed to control 85 percent of the country. Peace talks with the government have produced little progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: One of the U.S. military officers who's had the opportunity to speak with the Taliban. And I've told them, I said, it's important that the military sides, to set conditions for a peaceful and political settlement in Afghanistan. We can all see the violence that's taking place across the country, but we know that with that violence, it would -- it's very difficult to achieve, as a political setup.


VAUSE: Battlefield atrocities are another threat to a political settlement. Video obtained by CNN shows one horrific incident from June in northern Afghanistan. And a warning: this report from Anna Coren contains some graphic content.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After over two hours of heavy fighting, all ammunition spent, Afghan commandoes walk out with hands in the air.

"Surrender, Commander, surrender," yells a Taliban member.


COREN: But the rules of war don't exist on this battlefield. Seconds later, more than a dozen members of the elite special forces have been executed. The Red Cross confirmed the bodies of 22 commandoes were retrieved.


A villager pleads with the Taliban to stop shooting, asking, How are you Pashtun, and you're killing Afghans?

CNN has spoken to five eyewitnesses to this massacre, which occurred last month in Dawlat Abad, a district of Faryab province in northern Afghanistan. All confirm these events took place.

The commanders called for air and ground support, but none came, says this local resident. Then they surrendered, but the Taliban just shot them.

Among the dead, 32-year-old commando, Siryab Azini (ph), the son of a retired Afghan general. This born leader did his military training in the United States and was due to marry his American fiancee next month.

His father said Siryab (ph) tried calling air support during the attack, but it never came.

"Anyone would be angry if that happened to their son," he tells me. "Why didn't they support the operation, and why did someone tell the Taliban they were coming?" Ever since the U.S. announced its withdrawal, an emboldened Taliban

has launched offensives across the country. The militants have gone to great lengths to show they're accepting the surrender of Afghan troops, but that P.R. effort is contradicted by the commando execution.

A week before the massacre, this video was taken of Afghan special forces in the same district, attempting a clearing operation. When that mission proved unsuccessful, Siryab's (ph) unit was called in.

The Taliban said, when foreigners lead, they will stop fighting and make peace. How long will they continue killing our brothers in this country?

Eyewitnesses say they did not understand the language spoken by the militants, evidence the fighters weren't local, or that some may have come from outside Afghanistan.

And just last week, the Red Cross says they collectively released two dozen more bodies of Afghan commandoes from Faryab, the result of new fighting.

(on camera): U.S. President Biden says he believes in the capability of the Afghan forces, despite the mass casualties.

But when U.S.-trained soldiers, like the commandoes, are dying in such high numbers, many people in this traumatized country are questioning if the military can defeat the Taliban on its own.

(voice-over): These young Afghan warriors stretched thin and dying at an alarming rate. And now, the next line of national defense.

Without U.S. troop support or intelligence, they alone are fighting for this country's survival.

Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.


VAUSE: Ten days before the start of the Olympics, and Tokyo is under a new COVID state of emergency. The spectators mostly banned, new security measures in place. We'll have the last NATO has been new security measures in place.

We have the latest on a live report from Tokyo, in just a moment.



VAUSE: A new COVID ad by the Australian government, which seems to encourage young people to get vaccinated, has been criticized as overly graphic, insensitive, and contradictory. Here's part of the ad, which does contain disturbing images.



VAUSE: Officials say the sight of this young woman, gasping for air, is meant to be graphic. Critics say, it's insensitive, and scare tactic and misconceived, given that most Australians under the age of 40 are not yet eligible for vaccination.

Parts of Australia are struggling with recent outbreaks, and only nine percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Well, Tokyo is under a new COVID state of emergency, with the Summer Games now just days away. And security adjustments are being made, and spectators are banned from most events.

CNN's Blake Essig joins me now live from Tokyo. Pretty much what everyone expected to happen, has happened.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, John, I've talked to medical professionals for months now who really predicted what we're experiencing right now. There was a potential for a fifth wave of infection to be hitting just as the Olympics are set to start, and we are ramping up, as that fifth wave seems to be taking shape.

Now, any minute now, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto, are set to meet, face to face for the first time since Hashimoto became president, arriving in Tokyo, on July 8, and was isolated in his hotel for his first three days in Japan.

In addition to attending meetings with Tokyo 2020 organizers in the buildup to the games, Bach's also planning to visit Hiroshima at the end of the week, to coincide with the start of the Olympic truths.

Now, these truths, which was adopted by the United Nations, is meant to pause hostilities and allow for the safe passage of athletes.

Now, while the opening ceremony is still 10 days away, with the Olympic village now open, Olympic officials say that today marks the official start of the games.

Although athletes have already been entered into Japan for weeks. We will likely see even more arrivals in the coming days, as the village gears up to house them.

Now at the same time the Olympic Village is opened for business, many bars and restaurants in Tokyo are closed. That's because of on Monday, the capital entered its fourth state of emergency order. The COVID-19 infection rate continues to climb.

In fact, for the 23rd straight day, the daily count has risen week to week in Tokyo, and experts with the metropolitan government believe the infection levels will exceed the previous wave nationwide, where the vaccination rate still stands at about 17 percent. That prediction is based on the highly transmissible Delta variant,

which is behind the most recent surge in cases, and an increase in the movement of people, despite a state of emergency order.

People in Tokyo have been living in a constant state of emergency, or quasi-state of emergency order since April. And it's clear that the fatigue is setting in.

Unlike previous state of emergency orders, there's a noticeable increase in the number of people out and about. I personally noticed less people wearing masks around town, which, John, would have been unthinkable here in the past.

VAUSE: We won't mention the U.S. basketball team's lost to first Nigeria, and now Australia in the past hour or so.

Of course, we're out of time. Blake, it is good to see you. Thank you.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is up next with Patrick Snow. That's after a short break. See you at the top of the hour.