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Bush on Afghanistan Exit: It Will Cause "Unspeakable Harm"; Official: Afghans Who Helped America May Be Relocated to U.S.; Taliban Respond to CNN Report of 22 Executed Afghan Solders; COVID Cases Surges in 46 States as Vaccination Rates Plummet; Australia COVID-19 Cluster Linked to a Limo Driver with Delta Variant Growing; Notorious Ransomware Gang "Revil" Suddenly Offline. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Following America's withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is launching something called Operation Allies Rescue.

That's a mission to relocate the thousands of Afghans who helped the United States over the course of the nearly two-decade war.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Also, former President George W. Bush, who launched America's longest war, is openly criticizing President Biden's move to draw down troops within weeks.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sadly, I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Is it a mistake to withdraw?

BUSH: You know, I think it is, yes. Because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.

I'm sad. I spent -- Laura and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women, and they're scared.

I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only U.S. troops but NATO troops.

And they're just -- it seems like they're just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. And it breaks my heart.


BLACKWELL: CNN Pentagon reporter, Barbara Starr, and CNN correspondent, Anna Coren, are with us now.

Barbara, let's start with you and Operation Allies Rescue. You've got new reporting on where these Afghans could be headed. What do you know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, initially, administration officials had indicated it would likely be locations overseas, perhaps Guam, the Persian Gulf, perhaps Central Asia.

Now an administration official familiar with the latest planning says it is very possible, likely, that some of the first will come potentially to military installations in the United States.

That they feel they can find a way to clear the legal obstacles to that and bring them to the United States. That might be a very efficient, quickest way to get it done.

They are going to have to, of course, leave Afghanistan by air.

The State Department overseeing now what may be a massive effort to use civilian passenger aircraft to move perhaps tens of thousands of people out of Afghanistan.

And get them to a safe haven where they can then apply for visas and have some sort of residency in the United States, if, indeed, that is what they want.

But look, security with the Taliban on the march still is essentially item number one.

Even as the administration announced this effort today, they would not say how many people, when, where they are going. They said it was all due to operational security.

CAMEROTA: Anna, what do they think with this plan in Kabul?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, for those who meet the criteria for special immigrant visa, this is a life-changing moment.

These are people who obviously worked with the Americans and are absolutely stoked that they are going to be leaving this war-ravaged country.

To stay behind they know their lives are at risk. For everyone left behind, there's a sense of fear, of panic, of abandonment.

Every single Afghan you talk to discussing their exit strategy out of here. And that fear increased by what is happening on the battlefield.

Just today, Alisyn, the Taliban took a major border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I mean, they are now in control of most of the border crossings between Afghanistan and its neighbors, bar two.

It really is frightening at the speed with which the Taliban are moving.

BLACKWELL: Anna, let's stay with you. And the Taliban now denying the alleged execution of these 22 unarmed Afghan commandos as they were trying to surrender. CNN obtained footage, which the Taliban is calling fake.

What do you know? What are they saying?


COREN: Yes, look, the Taliban is launching a P.R. offensive trying to discredit our reporting, saying that the footage is fake, that it is government propaganda.

We must warn our viewers that it is extremely disturbing.

Take a look.






COREN: As you can see, a group of commandos walking out hands in the air surrendering and are executed seconds later.

The Taliban denies that this ever took place, that they have never executed soldiers who have surrendered.

But CNN spoke to five eyewitnesses who confirmed that this massacre took place.

The Ministry of Defense has described this as war crimes but that it's not the first time that the Taliban has executed members of the military or civilians.

Amnesty International also weighing in saying that these are war crimes.

You know, it comes as the Taliban is trying to portray itself as this legitimate alternate governing body that has modernized and evolved.

You know, they're trying to hold peace talks with a high-level delegation from the Afghan government in the next few days.

But what this video shows -- that we stand by -- is that they are still the same brutal, violent, primeval group that they have always been.

CAMEROTA: That video is horrifying to see.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it is.

CAMEROTA: Horrifying to see.

BLACKWELL: Anna Coren, in Kabul, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you both.

CAMEROTA: Back here, U.S. hospitals are filling up with COVID patients again, even though vaccinations are free and have already saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be here with his take on this situation.



BLACKWELL: This really is heart breaking --


BLACKWELL: -- this new forecast from the CDC. Because after months of decline, the agency now projects that COVID hospitalizations will increase over the next four weeks.

CAMEROTA: But it doesn't have to be that way.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, just published an op-ed in which he writes:

"It may be that some parts of the country really haven't gotten the memo on the importance of vaccines. Or, even worse, they are receiving another far more insidious message that it's the vaccines themselves that are the problem."

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now.

Sanjay, great to see you as always.

How frustrating is it for you in your position, where you've tried to guide us every single day through this pandemic, to now see cases spiking?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought we'd be having a very different conversation right now. I mean, we started to have this different conversation as we saw the trend lines all improving.

You and I talked about when the CDC lifted the mask recommendations. That was a sign maybe things were near the finish line. And frankly, they were near the finish line.

The reason I decided to write this article is because we've talked about this race for some time between the virus and the vaccines, between the strain and the vaccines.

And we had a finish line determined, which was fewer than 10,000 cases per day.

We got tantalizingly close to that, 11,299 cases, and then the number started going back up.

This is concerning. We still have the capability to really contain this. But right now, the numbers are going back up at the same time that the vaccinations are falling.

So we're not vaccinating enough. About 48 percent, roughly half the country is fully vaccinated and we're seeing this trajectory line. So those trend lines are going in the wrong direction.

What I'm worried about, and I think what a lot of people are starting to worry about is, given the Delta variant and how transmissible it is -- and we can contextualize that -- we will start to turn into a situation where you have not vaccinated and vaccinated in this country. You're going to have vaccinated and infected.

This is an unforgiving variant. It has a thousand times roughly the viral load, according to some of these studies, as compared to the original strain of COVID.

So we -- this is -- this is a call to say it is still within our reach, but we have to act during these summer months.

BLACKWELL: The White House is announcing this effort to combat disinformation.

And it really is so much bunk out there about vaccines. Some of it coming from politicians, some from media outlets. That's one side of this question, this conversation.

The other side is that Dr. Fauci says that 99.5 percent of the deaths in the U.S. are of unvaccinated people.

So what is the disconnect here?

GUPTA: That is a remarkable statistic, Victor. You think about it, we knew that the vaccines were good at preventing serious illness and hospitalization. But those are in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people.

Now you have close to a billion of these doses given out around the world and the data has held up.

So if you -- right now, if you go into a hospital and see a patient with COVID, you're going to notice two things about them.

They are younger than they used to be. Because the older people have been increasingly vaccinated as compared to 30, 40 and 50-year-olds.

And the second thing is that they're almost always, 99 times out of 100, unvaccinated. That is the message.

I don't know what works, carrot or stick.

The carrot is, look, if you're vaccinated, you get to do all these things that you wouldn't otherwise get to do.

The stick is that people who are dying are still getting very sick of this disease are almost always unvaccinated.

They work, they're free, they're widely available. Countries around the world don't have access to them.


It is -- I've seen disconnects before. I've been doing this for a long time. This is as bad as I've ever seen it.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, explain the flip side of that. We know what's happening to unvaccinated people. And 48 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Is there any way to quantify what impact that has had on the virus?

GUPTA: Yes, there is. It's a really good question. I guess this is sort of half carrot, half stick, if you will.

You can model and sort of project what would life have been like, what would have happened if there weren't vaccines.

Let's show that. These are models. Some of this comes from the Commonwealth Foundation.

But, basically, they look at these trajectories. And the green line is us, the vaccinations. It's done a remarkable job.

The red lines will show those peaks and valleys, those curves that we would have likely seen had there been no vaccine.

You want to put a number on it? What they say is that these vaccines in the United States alone probably saved around 280,000 lives up until the end of June -- 280,000 lives.

Think about any other therapeutic, any other intervention, anything that can do that and you're not going to find one.

So it's, again, a remarkably effective vaccine. The real-world data has held that up.

To your question, yes, we can predict just how much of a tangible impact they have had.

BLACKWELL: Sanjay, this Australian limo driver, this case is getting some attention. Tell us about it. And what does it teach us?

GUPTA: First of all, there's countries around the world that can be very effective at contact tracing.

Because they have so few cases, when they see these cases, they quickly do a deep forensic analysis to find out exactly what happened.

Using CCTV footage and other tactics, they were able to determine that what they described as a remarkably brief encounter between this individual, I think, walking at some point close to somebody else, there was able to be two transmissions of the virus as a result of that.

Something that we would sort of not really pay attention to, think wouldn't be a problem, there was just a brief sort of walk-by almost that actually resulted in a viral transmission.

The point of that contact tracing study and that case report is that the Delta variant is far more transmissible. We knew that.

But now it seems like it's maybe three to four times more transmissible than that original variant.

And within your body, as I mentioned, you could be carrying a thousand times the viral load if you have the Delta variant and are unvaccinated.

A thousand times the viral load compared to what we were seeing at this point last summer.

If you have a thousand times the viral load, you're much more likely to transmit, be contagious and be a source of spread.

CAMEROTA: Those numbers are staggering, Sanjay. And the idea that you can just walk by somebody, and just in the air waves, as you walk by, you can catch the Delta variant is really stunning.


CAMEROTA: Sanjay, as always, thank you very much for all the information.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So the notorious ransomware group that attacked a U.S. business has mysteriously disappeared from the Internet. Who got to them? Who made them vanish? That's next.



CAMEROTA: This cyber-criminal gang behind several high-profile ransom attacks has disappeared from the Internet. Revil, which is believed to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe, is thought to be the group that hacked the meat suppliers, JBS Foods and a major IT software vendor.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Cyber security experts say they're just gone. They seem to have vanished from the Internet.

We also know there's a White House briefing that being prepared for lawmakers on ransomware threats.

CNN's Brian Fung is with us now.

Brian, do we know, does anyone know who took them offline? BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: At this stage, we don't know. And

experts are guessing as to who the culprit may have been.

What we do know is, this week, cyber security experts, who tracked this group very closely, found themselves unable to connect to the Web sites belonging to this organization.

The Web sites that this organization uses to list all the victims its hacked as well as to collect ransom payments.

With the Web sites being taken offline, the big question is whether or not the U.S. government or the Russian government may have been involved somehow.

Or whether or not these hacker groups may have decided to lay low for a bit of time with all of the high-profile hackings that's been engaged in.

Including, as you said, the JBS Foods hackings, as well as the recent hack that affected hundreds of businesses, small businesses worldwide.

Revil is one of the most ruthless ransomware actors the world has seen. So for the group to be taken down this way, without a peep, without a government claiming responsibility for it, is a very big deal.

We'll try to find out more details about these briefings later today and we'll have more updates for you then.

CAMEROTA: OK. Brian Fung, come back to us when you have more.

Thank you very much.


BLACKWELL: We know some schools are reopening in just a few weeks. And a new health warning shows -- from health officials -- why children could face the consequences of the adults who do not get vaccinated.


BLACKWELL: It appears Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis's anti-rioting law does not apply to everyone equally.


Just yesterday, as Cuban-Americans shut down the Palmetto Expressway in Miami over the civil unrest in Cuba, Governor DeSantis said this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): This has been a long time coming. This is a -- they are protesting Communist oppression. That's what they are rebelling against.