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100-Plus Dead after Catastrophic Flooding in Western Europe; U.S Intelligence Assessments on Afghanistan Paint Increasingly Bleak Picture of Taliban Advance. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Just catastrophic flooding in Western Europe has killed now more than 120 people with hundreds still missing this morning.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: You've got entire communities, entire villages swept away in hard hit Germany where areas have not seen that much rainfall in 100 years. The president of the European Union said the flooding is evidence of a need for urgent action on climate change.

Let's go to our colleague, Bill Weir, our Chief Climate Correspondent on all of this.

We know you were on a week ago talking about the extreme heat we're seeing across the United States, now 100-year rainfall across Europe. it is all connected.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The science has been warning us now for a couple of generations that when humans turn up the thermostat, a planet holds moisture in some places and not enough in others.

What you're seeing in Germany, this is a top tier country when it comes to flood warning and risk management, assessments, even barriers. But when if t rains an inch an hour for nine straight hours, their systems now are sort of sitting and pounding these communities with misery and this is going to lead to further flooding on Rhine, which will affect barge traffic, which is all about trade.

So people around the world should maybe start making friends with the Dutch, who have been managing water their entire existence and know more than anybody about how to live in a world like this. But it is also a lesson in how we both have to, as a species, adapt to this new normal and learn to live with this as a regular occurrence while trying to mitigate the cause.

And the E.U. yesterday put out this ambitious plan, incredibly detailed, hundreds of pages, about how they hope to de-carbonize their economy really fast. The United States now, the Democrats have come to an agreement on a $3.5 trillion plan that I think American environmental activists are excited about but they have zero details on how they pay for it or what they really do.

SCIUTTO: I mean, you need, though, do you not, sustained activity over years, perhaps decades, to address warming, right, given the politics in our country, you might pass a plan under the Biden administration here, get the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Accord, as President Biden has done, and then a few years time, if the political winds change, right, then you're out of it.

I mean, is there any -- you follow this so closely. Is there any sense that this hard data and experience is piercing the climate deniers' bubble?

WEIR: I mean, it is a good question, but I think COVID is a troubling precursor to give us a glimpse into human nature. Your neighbors, your family members are dying and people are not accepting the truth of that, so get a shot or wear a mask, so when it comes to having a new kind of home and car and food and everything else, that is all the harder.

We don't know if democracy can fix a problem like this because it takes so long because the laws of thermodynamics don't wait for our election cycles or our quarterly reports, they just keep working. So I don't know, if we just normalize this kind of pain, and adjust to it, like our baseline just keeps getting more and more horrible so our kids don't know a world where this is normal or if it wakes up everybody in a simultaneous way.

We're capable of incredible things medically, all of the vaccines are a proof that, what happens when all the scientists around the world focus on one thing, but, politically, nothing is happening.

HARLOW: What has been interesting and in the dividing line in this debate, Bill, is the conversation, especially in the United States, has been, and to some extent, still is about economy versus climate and jobs and fossil fuels.

But you just made -- I mean, Manchin issued those concerns a few days ago, right, about the climate bill. But you just made the point, that look at what happens to the Rhine and that means barges can't get through and trade can't -- I mean, it is not two separate issues. They are actually incredibly intertwined.

WEIR: There is no healthy economy without a climate. It can't exist. And we owe so much of our wealth, our life span, to the fact that this planet was warming up for, you know, a couple of hundred million years before we showed up and balanced itself out and we've just enjoyed that kind of balance. Those days are over now.

And, yes, it is -- you could have an incredible new economy getting ready for this though. That is the other part of it, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. What more information do folks need, what more evidence? Bill Weir, always good to have you on, thanks very much.

WEIR: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: Right now, CNN is learning that the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating as the U.S. nears completing its withdrawal there with the Taliban posing an increasing threat around the country, accelerating their takeover.


New reporting from myself and my colleagues, next.


SCIUTTO: New this morning, CNN is learning about new intelligence assessments that say that the Taliban is advancing quickly, even more quickly than originally assessed across the country and an increase threat to the capital as well of Kabul.

My colleague, Zachary Cohen, Kylie Atwood and I reporting that these U.S. intelligence assessments on the situation in the country paint an increasingly bleak picture of that Taliban advance.


A congressional source tells me the security situation is deteriorating even more rapidly than previous assessments, that that advance is, quote, accelerating at an accelerating pace.

Multiple sources say Kabul not an imminent risk of takeover but there are clear signs the militant group is tightening its grip as the U.S. completes its troop withdrawal. U.S. intelligence agencies currently believe the Taliban could effectively choke off the Afghan government's import supply if they choose to do so. They already control a number of border crossings. One source tells us they will likely encircle much of the country in the very near future.

HARLOW: Well, as the Taliban advances through Afghanistan, as Jim just showed in his reporting, a crucial question is what does it mean especially for Afghan women and girls.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has reported extensively through Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq and she writes in a CNN op-ed, across 18 years of conflict and three U.S. presidential administrations, too many international policymakers have never fully stopped seeing Afghan women's rights and full participation in society as something nice to have instead of an indispensable must-do. Now we must see in real-time what happens to women as the Taliban encircle.

Gayle is a Senior Fellow on Council Foreign Relations and the author of this new book, The Daughters of Kobani. She joins me now.

Gayle, you have been a voice on this for years and years and years, and now, it is such a test of what is the Taliban going to do. Will women and girls go back to the terror that they lived under before? GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: This is, I think, a real moment for the United States to think about both exercising leverage and preparing for the exits, exercising leverage in terms of diplomatic push and muscle to get folks to the table and say you can't take the cities without a negotiation. And then preparing for the exits, there are going to be refugee waves heading for Pakistan, heading for Tajikistan and work to help make that as a little bit less worse than it looks like it is going to be is critical.

HARLOW: Look at this map. This is data as of July the 8th, and all of the dark gray spots, so that would be more than half of Afghanistan, is held now in Taliban

control. And as you just heard in Jim's reporting, it continues to advance. This is personal for you. You tweeted, we can pull it up about a girl, what was once a young girl who you met whose father went to Kandahar for a job during the Taliban '90s and then fled because they were trying to force her to marry their fighters. What happened to her then and what does it mean for her now?

LEMMON: This is such a critical question because the SIV visas are urgent and important for all of the translators who worked for the United States. But what about the translators for the embassy? What about the translators for the aid workers, right? They were young women. And it was largely young men working with the military and largely young women working across Afghanistan.

That is how I met this young woman whose father faced down the Taliban in the 1990s that came and said, you can have -- either marry your daughter to us or you face the consequences, which was death. And he and he fled in the night. This girl went and got to Pakistan, got educated and became part of this new generation that doesn't remember life under the Taliban.

HARLOW: Right. Well, what specifically are you calling on the Biden administration to do? Because we've seen a lot of the pressure, a lot of it from Democrats, by the way, and Republicans in Congress, like Seth Moulton and others, to act and issue more special immigrant visas and to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghan interpreters from the country has been effective. I mean, there is progress on that front. What specifically could the Biden administration do on top of that for these women and girls?

LEMMON: Well, I think, first of all, we must think about women activists. I was just talking actually ten minutes ago to a group of women activists across the country, none of whom has a way out right now, all of whom have been very visible and very aligned with the U.S. presence. So I think it is thinking through how do you help core women activists, whether that is helping them resettle in the region or helping them come to the U.S.

Secondly, how do you think about diplomacy? And this administration already is thinking about this. But how do you use diplomatic muscle to avoid the worse case scenarios and figure out what the Taliban leverage is that you have. In 1996, when the Taliban took Kabul, the first thing they wanted was the U.N. seat. They wanted respect and recognition. And the U.S., if it is going to engage in that way, must think about including women as part of the conversation about leverage.

HARLOW: Yes, not a nice to have, as you wrote, but a must-have. Gayle, thank you --

LEMMON: Yes, not a pet project but a partner.

HARLOW: There you go. Thank you for today but for your extensive reporting on this and staying focused on it.


Up next, faith, future and fury, the complex story of Jerusalem's past as the fight for peace continues.


HARLOW: 3,000 years, three major faiths, one city. In order to understand the conflict in the Middle East today, you have to know the complex story of Jerusalem's past.


SCIUTTO: Now, the new CNN original series, Jerusalem, City of Faith and Fury, looks at how six epic battles for Jerusalem has shaped the city of God into the coveted, the fought over capital that it is today. Here is a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time I went to Jerusalem, I thought it was probably one of the most beautiful places I'd been to on Earth. But when I was on ground, and I started to see the tensions between everyone, I felt as though this was a city of contradictions, a city that had much history, but a city that also had a lot of sorrow and a lot of pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Jerusalem, beside its religious significance, it is the center of national aspiration of two communities, the Israelite and the Palestinian community. That adds another layer of complexity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is impossible to imagine fixing the present and building a better future for Jerusalem without understanding that many stories of its past.


SCIUTTO: Joining us now CNN Global Affairs Analyst Aaron David Miller, also happens to be a former Middle East negotiator for the State Department, now a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. Aaron, good to have you on.

I love Jerusalem. I think of all of the history crammed into those few square miles, right? You say in the series, the past is never dead, and if there is a city in the world where that applies, it is Jerusalem. Tell us how we see that today.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I'm quoting (INAUDIBLE), who said the past is never even dead, it is never even past. All cities have -- all great cities have histories. But I can think of none that's so centrally figure in the history of the world's three Abraham Lincolns competition for trade routes, for great powers, for civilizations, clashing (ph) empires, and as you alluded to, the issue of Jerusalem figure centrally in the ongoing and seemingly intractable conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

I remember the former president, Mr. Trump had argued that Jerusalem -- he had taken Jerusalem off the table by recognizing Jerusalem is Israel's capital. But the reality though is that Jerusalem has become the table. And without a resolution of these problems, it is going to be a source of conflict for a long time to come, sadly.

HARLOW: So much of trying to come to a solution, and I say that full well knowing how difficult it has been for every administration across the Middle East, but is it true it is a real understanding of history. And I just wonder what you think in terms of this film and how important it is for more people to be able to see it and have a fuller understanding.

MILLER: I mean, I think it is critically important. I think history may repeat, or maybe no strict repetitions. But I like what Mark Twain said. He said history rhymes. And it's the rhythmic patterns of the past that are worth paying attention to. And the reality is -- I think the sad reality is that if the history of Jerusalem teaches anything, sadly, tragically, it teaches that, at least as history would describe it to you, if history could speak to us, it basically says, look, this is a city that cannot be shared. It needs to be dominated in the name of one's god, one's tribe, one's national identity with a certain triumphalism that still marks the realities of Jerusalem to this day.

The film, I think, did a very good job and in very limited and economical amount of time in sketching out the biblical and post- biblical period, the clashing (ph) empires. It stops in 1967, which is probably the most decisive moment when, in fact, the (INAUDIBLE) it turns it now to a united city, largely under Israeli control.

But I would argue to both of you that that is when the story actually gets really interesting. And if there is hope for the city, it is the last 50 years or so that may, may inspire us to believe that we have enough political skill and determination, there may well be a chance to solve this, however grave the situation is.

SCIUTTO: But is there though? Because for your -- peace have been built right on sharing Jerusalem and going in the opposite direction and people talk about the end of the two state solution. I mean, briefly, is there hope for sharing Jerusalem?


MILLER: No, I think that is a problem for 20-plus years and I've given up most of my illusions (ph). In Camp David on the 8th day of July 2020 -- I'm sorry -- of 2000, we grappled with the institution. We posed sovereignty of middle ground for the Palestinians to protect the mosques, sovereignty below ground for the Israelis to protect the remains (INAUDIBLE), none of it worked.

So, yes, but I can't given up hope, Jim, and I don't have the right or responsibility to do that. So, yes, I'll still keep prospects alive.

SCIUTTO: Unfairly, we'll have to leave it there but we hope there is reason for hope. Aaron David Miller, thanks so much.

MILLER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Please be sure to tune into the all new CNN original series, Jerusalem, City of Faith and Fury. It premieres Sunday at 10:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

Thanks to all of you for joining us today and all week. Have a good, safe weekend. We'll see you on Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto, a happy weekend to you.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a short break.