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Fast-Spreading Delta Variant Threatens Europe's Reopening; Haiti Police: Man Arrested Had Plans of Becoming President; Racist Abuse Directed at England Players After Defeat; Top U.S. General Steps Down as Part of Withdrawal; Taliban Claim to Control 85 percent of Afghan Territory; IOC President Praises Tokyo's Preparation; "Graphic" COVID Ad in Australia Sparks Backlash; Chinese Companies Subject to Review Before Listing Overseas. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

In the hour ahead, England's vaccine gamble -- ending all pandemic restrictions, despite a rising number of new COVID infections.

Crisis in Haiti. Police say that they've arrested the main suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. New details of the mercenaries which were allegedly hired, and the alleged presidential aspirations of the main suspect.

And, for England, the agony of losing to Italy in the European Football Championship now overshadowed by the disgrace of racism.


VAUSE: With the delta variant now fueling a surge in new COVID infections across Europe, most countries are moving to tighten, or reimpose pandemic restrictions. But, England is, notably, taking a very different path.

In France, meantime, vaccinations will now be mandatory for all public health workers. And President Emmanuel Macron warns that jab 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 people. But, I have made the choice of trust, and I am appealing to all of our non-vaccinated countrymen to go out and get vaccinated, as soon as possible.


VAUSE: Infection rates in the Netherlands soared just weeks after restrictions were lifted. Now, the government has backtracked and a reimposing limits on numbers allowed at 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: We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday the 19th of July as it was before COVID. We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions, and to lift social distancing. But we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces, where you come into contact with those that you do not normally meet, such as on public transport.


VAUSE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that Johnson & Johnson vaccine could increase the risk of a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. The FDA says it's unclear if the vaccine causes it, but noted an increase in reports of, the sometimes, paralyzing condition.

In the meantime, Israel will now offer a 3rd shot of the Pfizer vaccine to adults with compromised immune systems. That's after the drugmaker, said last week, it was seeing waning immunity, and says that a booster shot could be needed in six months to a year. But, the FDA, as well as the CDC, immediately denied that claim, insisting it's not needed for fully vaccinated Americans.

Pfizer presented data to U.S. health officials on Monday, as a courtesy, but we are hearing the federal guidance has not changed.

In the meantime, the World Health Organization is making a clear, it's frustrated by any booster shots when millions across the world have no access to any vaccine, whatsoever.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Instead of Moderna and Pfizer prioritizing the supply of vaccines, as boosters, to countries whose populations have relatively high coverage, we need them to go all out, to channel supply to COVAX, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, and low and middle income counties which have very low vaccine coverage.


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: You know, I cannot recall any country easing pandemic restrictions while the number of COVID infections was actually going up. On Monday, Holland reimposed restrictions, which had been lifted just a few weeks earlier because the numbers were falling, but then surged eight-fold because of the reopening.

The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday told reporters: What we thought would be possible, turned out to not be possible in practice. We had poor judgment, which we request, and for which, we apologize.

So, is the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson essentially betting the house here on the vaccine rollout in England? 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 populations, and still, ratcheting up on the fully vaccinated.

But at the same time, there has been a big spike in cases. A much lesser ratio for that of hospitalizations, and death, but still, on the uptick. There are some signs, in recent days, that the growth of cases, and hospitalizations started to slow, which is good, but that's going to be a tough one in the face of next Monday, this so-called Freedom Day.

So, it's going to take some time to see. There's going to probably 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 is what we have to hope for.

VAUSE: 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 as many in the White House on Monday, the drug company was told, there is no need.

Here is 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 have right now, we don't need a booster, and that doesn't mean that that won't change. And we might -- we might may need, as a matter of fact, at some time, to get 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 is one thing. That is not the case. Billions are yet to be fully vaccinated. One official at the W.H.O. who said that when it comes to vaccines, the wealthy nations not only want their cake, and eat it too, but go back for 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 immuno- compromised people, and people with serious prior medical conditions. So, we have the same problem of this imbalance of vaccinations when we need to have global containment. And 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 are to 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 of those who don't have as intact an immune response, they're probably going to need protection from 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, and the prime minister has more than life will return the way it was, before the pandemic, when tens of thousands of people were crammed together in a stadium, yelling and cheering their team on. The finals, perhaps, of a European Football Championship match, perhaps. That was the start on Sunday night, leaving health officials frustrated, angry, incredulous.

Here's Mike Ryan from the W.H.O., listen to this.


DR. MIKE RYAN, HEAD OF W.H.O. HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: 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, if we move on to other matters, then I think that we will be judged, as a journalist asked before, about the mass gathering events, when you look back in anger. And I think we will look back in anger. And we will look back in shame.


VAUSE: It is one, you know, if you saw that on Sunday, your thoughts were seeing so many people crowded together, with no masks, no social distancing.

TOPOL: Yeah, no, it's just befuddling, John, because we know it's not just about vaccines. We know about physical distancing, and masks, and aerosol transmission, and all of these things.

So, you know, this is just a recipe for trouble. And if it doesn't lead to substantial spread, it just got away with it. But, we will need to pull out all the stops, because as you mentioned at the onset, the delta variant is remarkably formidable. We haven't seen a version of this virus that is nearly this sufficient for finding new hopes. And so, we got to make sure that they'd be extraordinarily cautious to keep this under containment.

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

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

TOPOL: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: At least 50 people are now confirmed dead, 33 remained critically hurt after hospital fire in Iraq, which may have been caused by the explosion of oxygen tanks in an ICU treating COVID patients. The fire is now out, but Iraq's president blames the tragedy on corruption and mismanagement. In April, 82 people died under similar circumstances, at a hospital fire in Baghdad.

Well, first came the protests in Cuba, now the government crackdown, which includes restricting access to the Internet, in particular, social media sites.


Havana was relatively calm, Monday, but just one day earlier, thousands took to the streets, in the first major protest of the post- Castro era. Many angry and frustrated by lack of food, and medicine.

According to an exiled Cuban rights group, at least 100 protesters, activists, and independent journalist, have been detained.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has more now, reporting in from Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The protests that swept across Cuba, the largest in decades, stunned the communist-run government and quickly turned violent.

Demonstrators pelted patrol cars with stones and police forcibly arrested scores of people.

Repression, this woman told CNN, all that we have here is repression.

Counterprotesters organized by the government tried to shut them down. Some chanting that they are Fidel Castro.

But Fidel Castro died in 2016, and his brother, Raul, retired in April.

Now, the job of managing Cuba's worst crisis in a generation falls to their handpicked successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who called the protesters criminals.

They stoned the police force, damaged cars, he said, a behavior that is completely vulgar, completely indecent.

Tensions have been building for months and Cuba, over increased sanctions, first imposed by the Trump administration. The pandemic has further wounded and already ailing economy. Cubans wait for hours in crowded lines, each day, to buy what little there is, as the number of COVID-19 cases surge. Cuba's food prices appear to get worse, and worse, as the pandemic goes on longer and longer. The people here, saying that they don't want to be waiting hours in these lines, but they feel that the choice they have is run the risk of getting infected or going hungry.

The Biden administration warned the Cuban government not to crack down on the protesters.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We call on the government, government of Cuba, to refrain from violence, their attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.

OPPMANN: But after a day of angry clashes, that warning may have already fallen on deaf ears.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


VAUSE: U.S. sanctions on Cuba have been in place for decades. There are significant ease during the Obama administration, only to be ramped up, again four years ago, by then-President Donald Trump. During the last U.S. presidential campaign, then candidate Joe Biden talked about ending those Trump era policies, which Biden said, inflicted harm on humans.

So, why are those Trump era sanctions still in place?

Here is the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Even under the embargo, there are a number of exemptions, I should say. Humanitarian assistant, medical supplies that we continue to provide assistance to the people of Cuba, even with that in place. But I have nothing to preview for you in terms of a change of policy.


VAUSE: Now to the new details about those who may have played a key role in the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise. CNN has been told a number of suspects once worked as informants of U.S. law enforcement, and at least one had close ties to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Moise was gunned down last Wednesday morning, inside his Port-au-Prince home. His death has plunged Haiti into political turmoil. The acting prime minister has promised to hold elections by the end of this year.

Meantime, Haitian police say the man who helped orchestrate the assassination had aspirations of becoming president himself. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian man who had reportedly have been living in Florida was arrested Sunday. According to police, he arrived last month to organize a group of 28 mercenaries who, allegedly, carried out the attack.

We are also learning new details about how the attack unfolded.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more now reporting from Port-au-Prince.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours after Haiti's president was assassinated, gunfire still crackled through Port-au- Prince. But, this time, it was the alleged sessions under attack, as bullet slammed into the concrete walls around the group, one fighter called his sister.

He told me, they were in a house, she says, under siege, under fire, and fighting. She added he's not a killer.

Just 36 hours after a group of two dozen Colombians and two Haitian Americans, allegedly assassinated the president, most were either detained, or declared dead.

This is how that happened, according to a source with knowledge of the operation, to track them down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DEA operation, everybody back up! Stand down!

RIVERS: Nighttime video from around the time of the president's death, quickly went viral, where you can hear a suspect claiming there was a DEA operation ongoing.


Later, a convoy of five cars, seen leaving the area with ease, but down the road, a trap was being set.

As the convoy traveled down Kenscoff Road, 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 raced toward it, immediately taking the stairs to the 2nd floor.

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

About 12 hours later, after baking in 90-plus degree Haitian heat, authorities throw tear gas in front of the building and it's enough to force negotiations and the Colombians inside eventually send out four people, including this man, one of two Haitian Americans who 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.

According to our source, at some point during the negotiations, a group of Colombian still here come out of this building and start heading up this hill on the back side of the building. And eventually, they make their way to a seemingly strange destination. Just about 100 meters up the hill from the building lies the Taiwan embassy. Our source thanks to Colombians went there because it wasn't an easy place for police to enter given its diplomatic immunity.

In order to get all the way here to the embassy however they had to walk through a pretty residential area. According to our source somebody tipped off authorities that this group of heavily armed men with here. When they arrived at the embassy they found a largely empty building except for two security guards whom they tied up. Security forces quickly surrounded the embassy and then turned their attention back to the building below, where they believe a few suspects remained. It was time to go in.

A small assaulting went in on the ground floor and were met with fierce fire as you can hear. From a handful of Colombians that were still inside. The hour-long fire flight 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 check CCTV cameras and found nearly a dozen Colombians in a room. They ended up giving up without more fighting. Nearly a half dozen still have not been found.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


VAUSE: Well, the military has been deployed in South Africa to restore calm after days of violent protests and looting. The unrest was triggered by the jailing former President Jacob Zuma. At least six people have died so far, 100 arrested. In televised national address Monday, South Africa's president still called for calm, while also condemning 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: CNN's David McKenzie has more now from Johannesburg were violence erupted on Monday.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Johannesburg, there's been scenes of chaos all day. The firefighters are trying to put out a store that was set ablaze in these protests and looting. Throughout the country, specifically in this province and in KwaZulu-Natal province, there has been looting, police have had little impact on stopping people from doing this. Up ahead if we can push in, that is mostly private security, some of them with live firearms.

We were at a mall south of the city, where it was just total scenes of chaos. Three or four police trying to hold the line already that mall was looted. There is a sense that this protest action, the worst that South Africa has seen for many years and this looting is getting totally out of control. They've said the military will be deployed onto the streets.

It started because of the President Jacob Zuma, former president being put in prison for contempt. But then it seems to have gone beyond that.


People taking advantage of the chaos in this country and looting in many malls and shops often near poorer areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. These are the scenes here, private security trying to stem the looting. But so far, they are having limited success.

David McKenzie, CNN Johannesburg.


VAUSE: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, the condemnation of racist abuse directed at the few members of England's football team has been quick and widespread. But here's the question, why does it keep happening?

Well, racists are losers, winners are grinners. We'll head to Rome after a break and a heroes welcome for the 2020 European Champions.


VAUSE: Crowds lined the streets of Rome Monday to welcome home the European Football Champions, and winners of Italy's first European Championship title in more than 50 years. The coach spoke about the dramatic win during a penalty shootout.


ROBERT MANCINI, ITALY COACH (through translator): Yesterday, we lived a day of festivities. The whole country finally managed to celebrate together. I don't hide our satisfaction for what we've accomplished, to given moments of joy to our co-nationals, and writing along to them, thanks to their enthusiasm, one of the most beautiful pages in the history of soccer. This victory demonstrates that when there is strong believe in what one is doing, and an achievable dream can become a reality. We dedicate this victory completely to the Italians who can finally rejoice with us.


VAUSE: And CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau has more now on the celebrations from Rome. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Winning night celebrations give way to national pride as Italian fans came out in droves to welcome the heroes home after a victory against England. Thousands of people lined the streets waving Italian flags as the bus drove through the historical center. The team was honored that the presidential palace by Sergio Mattarella who personally thanked the MVP of the tournament who happened to be the goalkeeper who stopped the English penalty kicks.

The team then moved on to the prime minister's office were Mario Draghi thanked them for uniting the country in celebration, telling them they made all Italians proud.

The victory somewhat marred by the racial tensions in England, just what Italy needed after 18 months of the pandemic. This tournament which kicked off in Rome, concerns of curve with 19 infections came full circle. Everyone here couldn't be more proud to be Italian.

Barbie Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


VAUSE: On the flip side of the celebrations, there is the targeting of three members of England's football team with racist abuse online. After each one missed their penalty kicks in Sunday's loss to Italy. Twitter says more than 1,000 tweets were being removed and suspended a number of accounts permanently due to racist posts.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more now reporting from London.



SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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. BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: 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, to drive (ph) 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.

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: Let's say with the story a little longer.

Joining me now, CNN World Sports, Patrick Snell.

So, Patrick, thank you for taking time to be with us.

But my question, I know that there are racist incidences in other major sports. But not this often, not this prevalent, and it's not this, sort of, ugliness that so prevalent in football.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS: John, you are spot on. It's the cowardly online racial abuse that seems to rear its ugly head at these times. We've seen it. We've reported it repeatedly here on CNN, on CNN World Sport as well. Throughout the season, it just ended, one of the England players indeed at the center of this, Marcus Rashford, he in fact joined the past campaign speaking out about racial abuse, even joined the past season with his club side Manchester United because he received it.

I want to use, actually, Rashford as a kind of example to tell his own powerful story. By this is absolutely, John, this is going to renew the cause for the social media companies to do more in terms of policing their platforms. The half strides have been made, but more work required. No question about that.

Now, Rashford comes from the hometown area of Manchester. There he has a mural honoring him. What happened on Monday? John, this is despicable. That mural was defaced after his penalty missed in the spot kick shootout that ultimately decided the final. But that should be irrelevant what he did from the penalties.

Well, police are now investigating. But the Artwork Commission, just to reset for our viewers worldwide because he'd worked so tirelessly, Rashford, in recognizing the need to tackle and do so much better for child poverty in the U.K. He's made massive strides with that person.

Then what happened later on Monday? This was really great to see, John, an outpouring of love and support, people stepping up to the plate, messages a positivity like they were using words like, hero, and role model to cover up the vile graffiti. Rashford actually seeing on social media that response alone had him on the verge of tears.

Then he tweeted, I want to break down part of his tweet, because it was very powerful. He said he felt like he let everyone down, adding in part, I've grown into a sport where I expect to read things about myself, whether the color of my skin, where grew up, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch.


I can take critique of my performance all day long. My penalty was not good enough. It should've gone in. But I will never apologize for who I am and where I came from."

Then he added this, John. "I'm Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, in south Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have that. For all the kind messages, thank you. I'll be back stronger. We'll be back stronger."

Those are really, really powerful words. And I just want to give more context here. We saw in the piece yesterday with Salma (ph) that the England players before the tournament, making it very clear they were going to continue to kneel. Why? To show unity in the fight against inequality and racism.

And just again, to reset, Rashford one of 3 England players abused along with teammates, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.


GARETH SOUTHGATE, ENGLAND MANAGER: For some of them to be abused is unforgiveable really. I know a lot of that has come from abroad. You know, the people that track those things have been able to explain that. But not all of it. And it's just not what we stand for. We -- I think have been a beacon

of light in bringing people together, in people being able to relate to the national team. And the national team stands for everybody.


SNELL: And a show of support as well. This was interesting actually from French World Cup winning star Paul Pogba. He's also a teammate of Rashford and incoming star at Old Trafford Central. Telling the trio in part, "You took the courage to take those penalties. And you showed your worth to help your country reach the final. We cannot tolerate or stand for racism anymore. And we will never stop combatting it. You boys should hold your heads high and be proud of your confidence. You are examples of the beautiful game. Never forget that. Be proud of yourselves. The world of football is proud of you."

And that is a good strong note to end on. But there is so much work still to be done. That is what is concerning here. That is what is disturbing.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Rashford made a good point. Say what you want about how I played the game, just leave all the other stuff out.

SNELL: Exactly.

VAUSE: Patrick, good to see you. Thanks, mate.

SNELL: Yes. Thank you, mate.

VAUSE: Well, the U.S. military takes another major step from Afghanistan. When we come back, there is new evidence though of Taliban atrocities that has the world worried about what happens next.


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


VAUSE: Another milestone in America's total withdrawal from Afghanistan with the commander of U.S. forces stepping down. General Austin Scott Miller is not going quietly though. He's sounding the alarm about the Taliban's recent military gains. Also the potential for civil war.

General Kenneth McKenzie is now in command of the few remaining troops. He promised to support the government there as well as prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a terrorist haven.

Taliban claims to control 85 percent of the country. And peace talks with the Afghan have produced little progress.


GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: One of the U.S. military officers has had the opportunity to speak with the Taliban. And I've told them, I said it's important that the military side set the 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, what's very difficult to achieve is a political settlement.


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 CNN's Anna Coren contains some very 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. 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 a Faryab Province in northern Afghanistan. All confirmed these events took place.

"The commandoes 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 is 32-year-old commando, Surab Azi (ph), the son of a retired Afghan general. This born leader did this military training in the United States and was due to marry his American fiancee next month.

His father said Surab tried to call in 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 are accepting the surrender of Afghan troops. But that PR 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 the Surab's unit was called in.

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

Our witnesses 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 it collected at least two dozen more bodies of Afghan commandoes from Faryab (ph), 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 traumatize 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 are now the last line of national defense. Without U.S. troop support or intelligence they alone are fighting for this country survival.

Anna Coren, CNN -- Kabul.


VAUSE: Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling served in the U.S. Army for 37 days, retired as the commanding general of U.S. Army, Europe and 7th Army. These days he is a CNN military analyst. General Hertling, good to see.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: John, it's good to be with you tonight.


VAUSE: Ok. So in just over two months, a Taliban offensive has swept across Afghanistan. Take a look at this. The dark red parts here. That represents the districts falling to Taliban control since April -- a total of 131, which means the Taliban directly controls 204 districts, (INAUDIBLE) half the total number of all districts nationwide.

The government in Kabul now controls 70 districts -- that's down from 115. And part of that offensive has been the Taliban taking control of three key border crossings. These are dry ports. And they are a major source of revenue for the government.

So just from a military assessment, how significant is this? And was it always going to play out this way with the possible exception that it's all happening kind of faster now than many expected.

HERTLING: Yes John, I don't think there's any surprises to anyone that knows Afghanistan or has watched this. It's been a tenuous fight for the last several years. With the reductions in the number of forces that are there, it's going to be even tougher now.

And it's obvious that the Taliban, in their part of the peace talks, were obviously not very candid in what they were going to do.

And in fact we were in the wrong for trusting them because we know kind of an organization it is. It's an Islamic movement and a military organization that is very interested in governing all of Afghanistan through intimidation and through their religious beliefs.

So yes, none of this is surprising to a lot of people. What is surprising is the fact that the number of Afghan soldiers who had been trained and put as part of the Afghan government in terms of security force, are going to have challenges, probably in the near term rather than the long term.

VAUSE: On that, here's the Afghan national security adviser who remains optimistic for some reason. Here he is.


HAMDULLAH MOHIB, AFGHAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There will be no takeover of the Taliban. The Afghan people are determined and resolute in that determination to defend its country, our country, our people and our values.

You've seen popular uprisings throughout the country. And I think that speaks volumes to those who think that they could take Afghanistan through military force.


VAUSE: You know, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies which follows the situation in Afghanistan closely, Afghan forces protecting all three dry ports, the ones we just spoke put up little resistance in all three instances.

The Afghan security forces and customs officials abandoned their posts and fled across the border.

You said they could have some challenges in the near term. What are the chances though that they'll even hold the capital?

HERTLING: Well, I think we're going to see different parts of Afghanistan under different circumstances. I believe they will hold the capitol. The Taliban may not have interest in that.

They are looking at taking over outlying provinces and outlying posts as you said. But it's going to put a stranglehold on the Afghan government.

There are certainly, as the national security adviser just said, some great soldiers in the Afghan army. They have been trained. The U.S. and NATO allies have trained over 300,000 Afghan forces.

The problem is, John, as we saw in Iraq, when you don't have a government supporting the army, in an overall country approach, if the government is not supportive, and they don't have the leadership that they can depend on, any military unit is going to -- is going to face challenges and problems. And I think that's what we're going to see in Afghanistan.

VAUSE: Yes. You know, the small number of U.S. forces remaining in the country now come under control of Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie. Here he is speaking on Monday.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I will continue to exercise authority over the conduct of any and all counter- terrorism operations needed to protect the homeland from threats emanating from Afghanistan.

And we will continue to lead U.S. efforts to develop options for the logistical, the financial and the technical support to Afghan forces once our retrograde is complete.

The most important thing that continues is our support to the people of Afghanistan and to its armed forces. We are confident in you. We are confident you have what it takes to protect your country.


VAUSE: That is quite the job he has especially given this insignificant troop presence. And with authorization for airstrikes ending with (INAUDIBLE) by end of next month.

HERTLING: Yes. And for your listeners, John, I have to point out that General McKenzie is what we in the military call the CentCom commander. So he is in charge of an area of one of the global combatant commands, central command, which has more than Afghanistan in its purview.

It has a wide swath of area throughout the Middle East and the Near East. So we are talking about an individual who is not only responsible for the rest of the area of operations -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guards -- that are in that seat (ph).


HERTLING: But now he is taking over responsibility from General Scott Miller for Afghanistan. He's not going to be able to focus directly on Afghanistan because he has a much greater portfolio that is under his purview.

It's going to be challenging. And you know, the plans that the U.S. military and the U.S. government has been attempting to make, plans for over the horizon assaults on any kind of counter-terrorism action against terrorist groups, but it's going to be much more difficult without individuals on the ground from both a fighter's perspective and from an intelligence gathering perspective. It's going to be tough.

VAUSE: Yes, just how tough, I guess, we will find fairly soon.

General Mark Hertling, good to see you. Thank you sir.

HERTLING: Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

VAUSE: Lightning strikes in northern India have killed at least 65 people. Severe thunderstorm were reported across the region on Sunday. Lightning struck a watchtower, of course (ph), that's popular with tourists.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his condolences, and has offered financial compensation to the families of the dead.

Well ten days before the start of the Olympics, and Tokyo is under a new COVID state of emergency. But the head of the International Olympic committee still says Tokyo is the best prepared city ever in all time for these games.

We'll have the very latest with a live report from Tokyo.


VAUSE: Welcome back.

Just a short time ago, the president of the International Olympic Committee declared Tokyo the best ever prepared city for the Olympics. Preparation will be crucial, given a surge in coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo which is now under a new COVID state of emergency, which means there'll be virtually no spectators in the stands, and security measures are being reviewed and adjusted.

CNN's Blake Essig, joining me now live from Tokyo. And he said this with a straight face, apparently.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, John, allegedly the best prepared city for the Olympics of all-time. But at that same time, Tokyo is struggling with potentially a fifth wave of the coronavirus.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto, did meet face to face for the first time since Hashimoto became president. They avoided the pleasantries, no hugs, elbow bumps, or handshakes.

Now, during the opening remarks as you mentioned, he was very complimentary of Tokyo, saying it was the best prepared city for the Olympic Games, ever.

Now, in addition to meetings with Tokyo 2020 organizers, Bach is also planning to visit Hiroshima at the end of the week, to coincide with the start of the Olympics truce -- the truce which was adopted by the United Nations is meant to pause hostilities to 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 coming to Japan for weeks.

[01:49:58] ESSIG: And we will likely see more arrivals in the coming days, now that the village is ready to house them.

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

Now, this is the 23rd day in a row that the daily count has risen, week to week in Tokyo, and experts with the metropolitan government believes the infection levels will exceed the previous wave of infection nationwide, and as well, mainly, because of the fact that, still, only about 17 percent of the people here in Japan, are fully vaccinated.

Now, that prediction is based on the highly transmissible Delta variant, which is behind the most recent surge in cases. And an increase in people's movement despite the state of emergency order in effect.

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

Unlike previous state of emergency orders, there is a noticeable increase in the number of people out and about. And John, I will tell you from just my own personal experience, you know, in an area that I live as well as going in and around Tokyo, you're seeing a lot more people out and about. People are not wearing masks and really, that was something that you wouldn't have seen in previous state of emergencies.

Now, just for context, we're not talking about a lot of people without mask, but even seeing a handful of people is pretty shocking.

VAUSE: Blake, very true. Also wondering if they will give the Delta variant the gold medal for transmission. We will find out.

Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there, live in Tokyo.

ESSIG: Right.

VAUSE: Well, a COVID ad -- a public service announcement made for the Australian government to encourage vaccination among young adults is being criticized as overly graphic, insensitive and contradictory.

CNN's Angus Watson has the story, and a warning, some of the images in this report are disturbing.


ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: A graphic advertisement meant to scare Australians into protecting themselves against COVID-19, has angered many in this country who feel that the government has not done enough to help them get vaccinated. The 30-second advertisement shows a young woman in ICU, gasping for breath, presumably with COVID-19. She glances around for help, but there appears to be no one there to assist her. The advertisement ends with an encouragement to get vaccinated.

Part of the reason this advertisement has caught so much controversy is because as it's first airing, Australians under the age of 40 haven't been widely eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. That is despite young people in ICUs right now in Australia's largest city of Sydney, as the city battles an outbreak of the Delta variant.

Australia has administered just around 9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for its 25 million strong population. That is one of the lowest rates in the OECD.

Critics of the government say they did not procure enough Pfizer vaccines. Instead, relying on domestically-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But as this advertisement is airing, Australians under the age of 60 have been told not to get that AstraZeneca vaccine, because of the very rare chance of blood clots associated with it.

Instead, they've been told to wait for Pfizer. This, all as the Delta variant moves through Sydney, Australia's largest city on lockdown, until at least July 16.

But speaking Monday, the premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian said it is very unlikely that that lockdown will be able to lift this Friday.

Angus Watson, CNN -- Sydney, Australia.


VAUSE: Coming up next, CNN NEWSROOM, China's Internet watchdog is cracking down again on big tech. When a company is targeted, all have one thing in common.

We will tell you what it is, in just a moment.



VAUSE: Well, China says new restrictions on Internet companies are intended to protect personal data and the tech companies which are being targeted, all have a large international presence overseas, particularly in the United States.

CNN's David Culver reports now from Shanghai.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China's powerful Internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China, flexing its muscle once again. This weekend, the CAC moving ahead with another crackdown on big tech. The agency proposes that any company with data on more than one million users must seek the Cyberspace Administration's approval before listing its shares overseas.

It also proposed companies submit IPO materials for review before listing. The reason, it goes back to China's widening (ph) concerns over national data security.

The agency fears that personal information held by companies trying to list overseas could be compromised. But they do not name the U.S. specifically, but no question, that is where it is primarily directed.

In recent weeks, the Cyberspace Administration, punished Didi, China's largest ride-hailing service and banned them from app stores. It happened just days after the company went public in the U.S. CAC claimed Didi seriously violated national security laws.

Over the weekend, the agency punished Didi further by banning 25 of the company's other apps used for other services. Didi is not the only tech company feeling the pressure. Chinese regulators also blocked the merger of two of China's top video game streaming Websites tearing that it might give their largest shareholder, Tencent, too much control of the marketplace.

Both Didi and Tencent say they comply with their respective agency's request. But this goes to show Beijing crackdown on big tech is only growing.

David Culver, CNN -- Shanghai.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us CNN NEWSROOM continues with Rosemary Church, after a very short break.

You're watching CNN. See you tomorrow.