IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 8/24/21

Guests: Ben Rhodes, Sam Stein, Irwin Redlener, Don Calloway, Susan Del Percio, Clint Watts


President Biden says he`s sticking to the August 31 deadline to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan and complete the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies. Taliban is reportedly blocking Afghans from Kabul airport. Reps. Moulton and Meijer fly into Kabul. House passes $3.5 trillion budget blueprint. Students return to school amid COVID surge. South Dakota Governor vows to block vaccine mandates. Biden warns of ISIS-K to U.S. troops in Kabul.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 217 of the Biden administration. President now facing the most critical week in his eight months in office thus far. Just this evening, he told the nation he`s sticking to the August 31 deadline to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan and complete that evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies. That means he has exactly seven days to get this done.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are currently on pace to finish by August the 31st. The sooner we can finish, the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops. But the completion by August 31, depends upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport for those who were transporting out, and no disruptions to our operations. The longer we stay, starting with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group known as ISIS-K. We know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport, attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.


WILLIAMS: Those remarks came nearly five hours after their original scheduled airtime, which was noon today. The President added he`s asked the State Department and the Pentagon to draw up contingency plans as they do in case there was a need to adjust the timetable here.

Biden says he gave our European allies in the G7 the very same message many have wanted the president to extend the mission. Past 31 August the U.S. has stepped up the pace of evacuations out of the Kabul airport. Just today about 12,000 people were flown out. Since the 14th of August over 70,000 have been evacuated. There`s still some question about the number of Americans still in the country. Biden has asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to have an exact number for him by tomorrow.

Today we learned CIA director William Burns held a secret face to face meeting yesterday with the Taliban`s de facto leader. NBC News confirming this report from the Washington Post. They put it this way, "Biden dispatched his top spy, a veteran of the Foreign Service and the most decorated diplomat in his cabinet amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from Kabul International Airport."

Taliban has said it will not budge on that deadline calling any effort to extend it crossing a red line. They`re now also reported to be blocking Afghans who are trying to leave their own country from traveling to the airport raising new concerns about the ability to evacuate those who were allied with us.

Tonight, came word that two members of Congress, Democrats Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Republican Peter Meijer of Michigan, both of them previously served tours of duty in the military in Iraq. While they both flown on announced in the Kabul airport in the middle of this ongoing evacuation both have been critical of the administration`s handling of this withdrawal thus far. Earlier this evening, Speaker Pelosi sent out a letter to members expressly asking members not to make such a trip.

Along with this crisis in Afghanistan, White House of course also trying to stop the relentless spread of the virus here at home. Officials say there are signs more Americans are getting vaccinated. They`re now seeing about 450,000 shots a day. That`s way off our highest levels. But it is an increase of over 70% since just last month. Earlier today, Dr. Fauci offered a cautious indication of when things just might begin to turn around.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If we get the overwhelming majority of those 80 to 90 million people who are not yet been vaccinated, who`d been reluctant to get vaccinated or had not had the opportunity. I believe we can see light at the end of the tunnel where we reach a point where there`s enough of a veil of protection over the community if we do it right and get through the winter, I hope as we get to the spring of 2022. We`ll be there.


WILLIAMS: Not long ago, The Washington Post reported the President has received what it says is an inconclusive classified intelligence reports on the so-called origins of the virus. Post says, "despite analyzing a raft of existing intelligence, as well as searching for new clues, intelligence officials fell short of a consensus." Officials telling the newspaper the intel community it will seek to declassify parts of the report within days.

On Capitol Hill today, Democrats push forward some key parts of the President`s domestic agenda in a 220 to 212 strictly party line vote. The House voted to move forward with a $3.5 trillion budget resolution after the Speaker committed to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September the 27th. House today also passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, 219 to 212 also along party lines, that measure now heads across to the U.S. Senate.


With that, let`s bring in our starting front line on this Tuesday evening, Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser for President Obama, his latest book is, After The Fall: Being American in the World We`ve Made, Andrea Mitchell, my colleague for close to 30 years, our NBC News Senior Washington Correspondent, longtime Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, and of course, the host of Andrea Mitchell reports on this network and Sam Stein, Veteran Journalist, who is now White House Editor for Politico.

Andrea, given the news tonight, I want to begin with you, seven days to finish this massive and messy evacuation, give us some idea of what this administration is now up against with the clock ticking?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, it`s only going to be a few more days, because it`s going to take three or four days to lift the military that are there on the ground, they already reduced it by 300, today or yesterday. And so, it`s going to take a number of days to move out. And if they`re going to make the August 31 deadline basically, there are two or three more days to evacuate people who are desperate to get out. People who still can`t get to the airport, can`t get past the gates.

I was with a woman tonight, an Afghan woman pleading with me to help her husband and others were there, addressing a Washington audience of women supporters who have been helping these Afghan women. I`ve been getting calls, emails, can`t tell you how many from Afghan journalists, women, I have met, an interview there, as well as women I`ve met at the university, the co-ed university that of course, would never have been created under the Taliban. It was something that Laura Bush and others in the Bush administration helped create, girls telling me how they divide their fathers and village elders to come to Kabul and come to the school. So, all of these people, the people who are not SIVs, and are not P1s or P2s, in other words, who are not directly connected to American companies, to the American military, have very little hope of getting out. And that is basically the judges, the lawyers, the human rights activists and everyone else who has targets on their backs to say nothing of the millions of Afghan women who have aspirations for an education.

WILLIAMS: Ben, to that, and I know, I`ve asked you some form of this before, what`s on the line for us globally as of tonight?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think look, first of all, there`s a real moral question about whether we`ll do whatever we can to get Afghans out who are vulnerable. And those are people who work with us. I think you have to take Andrea`s point about Afghans who stepped up. Some of those people received U.S. government funding, USCID (ph) funding. If you started the human rights organization or a school, we should be getting those people out. And so I think that even though our global settings, obviously taking a hit, for the way this was ending, our capacity to successfully evacuate as many people as we can, including if it goes beyond August 31, I think does matter in terms of the message we want to send about how we stood by people who stood with us, I think that the bigger play that the Biden ministration is making their calculation here is of course, there is going to be some kind of blow to U.S. prestige when you see these types of scenes in Afghanistan, and you see a 20 year project. And let`s face it proceeded Joe Biden`s presidency ending in this kind of Cataclysm. At the same time, I think their calculation is, look, we have to be able to focus on the problems of now in the future. And that`s climate change. That`s China. That`s democracy receiving around the world. That`s revanchist Russia. And frankly, we will be better positioned, even with the hit we`re taking with this withdraw, to have more resources and more time and more attention to put against those challenges. They`re going to have to go around the world, particularly to our allies, and make that case in Europe and other places, as I`m sure President Biden did today, that while this is very difficult right now, it was inevitable. And we have to turn our focus to a really consequential set of issues for the next several decades here.

WILLIAMS: So, Sam, that`s beyond our borders. Let`s talk domestic politics here. In Biden`s remarks today, it looks like about 50% devoted to his domestic agenda, in your view is that the old veteran campaigner correctly summing up his hunch that primary voters are not going to be motivated to go to the polls one way or another based on Afghanistan?

SAM STEIN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE EDITOR: Yeah, there is a sense in the White House that as horrible as these past 10 days have been, both domestically and internationally as much of a hit as we`ve seen U.S. prestige take and also Biden`s political standing take that ultimately, when we`re looking at the next midterm elections, for instance, this is not going to be a top of mine issue for voters. Of course, that routine relies a lot on getting the situation under control and making sure there`s no residual impact or a messy drawdown that we`ve seen. But he also concludes that ultimately if you can get a massive infrastructure deal passed on a bipartisan manner and if you can get a sweeping social safety net agenda passed, like they`re envisioning with this reconciliation package, then that`s the type of direct pocketbook issues that people do, in fact, care about, at least when it comes to elections.


You know, I`m not comparing the two, it`s not because they`re quite different politicians. But this is sort of the Trump model of presidential leadership, which is that it`s butter, not guns, that people really care about bringing troops home and getting jobs at home. And, you know, Biden, obviously is a quite different politician. He`s going about things quite differently than Trump. But as a sort of broad general thesis of politics, there are similarities there.

WILLIAMS: Andrea, shifting our focus back overseas, we`ll play this for you in our audience. This is the former CIA Director Brennan reacting to the current CIA Director going over to talk with the de facto leader of the Taliban earlier today.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It says the President is serious about sending a very senior and experienced emissary to talk to the Taliban, to make sure that they understand exactly what the U.S. position is, that this administration wants to move forward, and we`re going to engage with them as necessary.


WILLIAMS: So, Andrea, please walk everyone watching through the obvious risks of such a mission?

MITCHELL: Well, on the plus side, as John Brennan also said today, that it was not a State Department official, it was not conferring legitimacy on them. It was a CIA operative, in this case, a former diplomat, of course, but now working for the CIA. So, it was intelligence official to Taliban leader, it`s more of an equal status there were when they`re talking about security issues.

One thing that I thought was very striking in the President`s speech today, is that they have been saying at the State Department at the White House, that the justification is the mission has been accomplished, because the original mission after 9/11, was to make sure that Afghanistan could never again become a haven for terrorists. But the rationale for getting out by August 31, is that there is a real risk to the U.S. now from ISIS-K, which is a splinter group of ISIS, which of course, formed in Iraq after we withdraw arguably too quickly from Iraq and had to go back in.

So, it`s inconsistent, that anyone really believes that Afghanistan is not going to be a haven for terrorists. There still Al-Qaeda remnants. And we know all of the worst of the worst prisoners were released from Bagram Prison and all the other prisons, prison in Kabul, by the Taliban as they made their lightning strike, march through to the Capitol to take over. So that is inconsistent.

The allies, as Ben alluded to, are really furious. And I`ve heard people, Brits and the French and the Germans talking about this, because Joe Biden came to Brussels, we were all in Brussels for the NATO meeting, America is back, I`m not going to do what Donald Trump did, and not only undermine NATO, but withdraw from Syria, against the advice of his defense secretary who quit over it at the time. This was against the advice of the Defense Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And the President decided to go his own way. And I think it`s because he was so burnt in 2009, by being the lone voice in the National Security Council, then remember this, that he was the lone voice against the surge. And he was really eviscerated in Bob Gates` book, The former Defense Secretary and fellow camera member to the Vice President, for always being wrong on foreign policy. And he is not forgotten that. And so, he was very strong and stubborn, frankly, against the advice of the military. And I don`t know, but the suspicion is that his national security adviser and Secretary of State didn`t want to argue with him about it. They know Joe Biden better than any of us do. But I tell you that hearing that they -- the briefing they did for the Hill today was a disaster on both Democratic and Republican fronts. I talked to a leading Democrat tonight, who was said, it was just embarrassing for them to be presenting this case, because it is so inconsistent.

WILLIAMS: Ben, take a minute and backup the story, as Andrea told it about the inside deliberations during the Obama administration?

RHODES: Well, this is consistent where Joe Biden has been since I started working with him at the beginning the Obama ministration when you had the military come to Obama and ask him for 30,000 to 40,000 troops.

The only person at the table in the situation room who oppose that surge was Joe Biden. And his point was nation building is not going to work in Afghanistan. We should purely have a counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan requires a much smaller force, and that we should be planning a withdraw of the rest of our force and a much quicker if the military wanted, and he obviously lost out on that debate. But I think he maintains a consistent view that look, our capacity to nation build in Afghanistan is inherently limited.


There`s a counterterrorism mission, which we`ve already degraded al Qaeda. Andrew is absolutely right, that they`re going to continue to be terrorist threats from within Afghanistan. But I think that what Joe Biden`s advisors would say is, look, there terrorist threats in other countries where we don`t have U.S. ground forces there. And we can take military action with the drone strike or an air strike. And we can reserve the right to do that in Afghanistan.

I think really the verdict of this, Brian, you talked about global standing, you talk about allies. It`s kind of, what does Joe Biden do next? Where does he take American foreign policy? He`s trying to put a period on this post 9/11 chapter that we`ve lived through. Look, when Vietnam happened in 1975, the U.S. took a huge hit to our credibility with the end of that war. But 15 years later, we`d won the Cold War. So, I mean, this is always, you know, living legacy here. And I think that what he has to do is show that he can effectively evacuate people, he can effectively resettle Afghans who stood by us, he can effectively deal with counterterrorism challenges going forward. But they can also reposition America to deal with these other challenges, from climate change to China, to the promotion of democracy in the world, there`s no guarantee that he`ll succeed. But his bet is to say, we need to move beyond this period of time that we`ve been in that, frankly, the failures in Afghanistan have already taken place. And what we`re seeing is the manifestation of the last 20 years of network nation building Afghanistan not succeeding. Obviously, this has been handled in a way that put people at risk in terms of Afghans who worked with us, they have a window of time here. And I think that they should extend that deadline if they need to. Because once you pull up stakes and are gone, anybody who`s left there is going to have a really hard time to get out. So, I think right now they have to focus on how much can they get people out? And then how much can they demonstrate to the world that this is not just about getting into Afghanistan, because there`s some political effort at home, it`s about repositioning America going forward to be a stronger and more effective nation in the world than we have been in prosecuting the war on terror the last 20 years (ph).

WILLIAMS: So, Sam, let me give you the last word, and it`s in the brass tacks category. By my count, the White House is trying to exit Afghanistan, slow down a pandemic and pass an ambitious domestic program, two out of three, not bad?

STEIN: It`s a fair, a fairly hefty agenda, I suppose. Yeah, I mean, I think it`s fair to say that the White House felt it would have been in a better position at this point on the pandemic. I mean, you look back two to three months ago, when they were talking about, you know, the revised CDC guidelines on masking, there`s the idea that the summer would be a sort of a re-entry of society. And we of course, we`re having the Delta variant. So, they took a setback there. Same with Afghanistan, the initial idea was, we would have a sort of semi-orderly withdrawal. As much as you can have one, by September 11, you would commemorate 20 years of the war with some sort of commemoration. And that would be the end of that chapter of the post 9/11 foreign policy. And then you would have a instruct to do by now.

So, all of these have been pushed back. All the deadlines have been missed. All the expectations that the Biden administration had for success have been downgraded. And at this juncture, if you look at it, I mean, it`s hard to see where they can score, what would be categorized as sort of a clean- cut win. I mean, they feel very bullish about the fact that they`ve gotten 70,000 people out of Kabul in the past 10 days, and it`s a notable achievement. But to Ben`s point, I mean, I think the big question is what comes next? Do they have to push back the August 31 deadline?

In terms of the Delta variant, Fauci may be a little bit more optimistic about getting under control. But what happens in the fall if schools begin to shuttering go back to rote learning? Does that complicate things? And then we have this reconciliation deadline that`s up in the air because of what has moderates have done over the past couple of days. So, a lot of balls in the air? I suspect they get to, they`d be very happy, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Great conversation from our frontline tonight, Ben Rhodes, Andrea Mitchell, Sam Stein, greatly appreciate you starting us off this evening. Thanks.

Coming up for us, is it safe to go back to school? I`ll ask the public health expert who has some thoughts on keeping 55 million school children from turning our classrooms into breeding grounds for this new variant.

And later, Republicans, hoping to paint Afghanistan as a Biden disaster just in time for the midterms, but some stubborn facts may get in their way among them the deal Trump made with the Taliban, all of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on a Tuesday night.




DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH DIRECTOR: Pfizer is not yet submitted their data to the FDA on five to 11-year-olds that`s expected maybe by late September. I don`t think we`re going to see approval for kids under 12 until late in 2021.


WILLIAMS: Yet young children remain, of course, dangerously vulnerable right now. Just as our new school year is getting underway. The Associated Press reports COVID outbreaks have already delayed or closed down in-person learning in over a dozen of our states. In his latest column. Our next guest warns, "we have to proceed with caution, we must recognize that the pandemic is in a new and highly dangerous stage that puts children at far more risk than we had anticipated."

So, we`re happy to have back with us tonight, Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, he advises us on public health. It`s also a professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Doctor, is there -- given the variables between states, is there a blanket way of saying we must do X to ensure kids back in the classroom cross the country for in-person learning in the fall?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yes, Brian. So, there`s a lot that we can say and do about this. But the first thing is we have to dispel some assumptions that some people may have made. When you look at the map right now, where COVID is most intense, it`s in the under vaccinated states, with a lot of communities spread. And if you looked at it as a static image, you`d say, well, maybe in the northeast, we`re living in a bubble, we don`t have to worry about it. But I would say definitively that there`s a lot more that we don`t know about the Delta variant, how it spreads, how it`s going to spread in the future, and what are the variants might be out there. So, we may feel secure in various parts of the country, but we shouldn`t get too complacent about it.

So, we can have some principles that should be applied nationally, to make sure we`re protecting children and starting with the fact that no adult human being should enter a school at all if they have not been vaccinated. No exemptions for religion, no exemptions for anything else except maybe some severe medical condition.


So absolute mandatory vaccinations for every single adult, teacher and otherwise working in the schools, number one. Number two, we need to enforce mask wearing in every classroom for every child. Especially, Brian, those kids under the age of 12, who are not even eligible to be vaccinated yet.

Thirdly, for kids over 12, we should -- they need to be required to vaccinate as well. And finally, it seems like a technical issue, Brian, but the reality is, we really do need to make sure that the ventilation systems are working properly in all the classrooms. This is going to be a tough road to hoe here. But we want to keep our kids safe in an unknown increasingly dangerous pandemic, we got to buckle down and we`ll do what we need to do, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Because you`re a pediatrician by training this tweet caught my eye last night. Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Trump friends, staying on MAGA brand, has tweeted about avoiding mandates in her state. We`ll put it up on the screen. She vows vaccine mandate war as the Newsweek headline put it, that`s her tweet at the bottom. If Joe Biden illegally mandates vaccines, I will take every action available under the law to protect South Dakotans from the federal government. To which Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut pointed out the South Dakota law that requires that any pupil entering school receive immunization against polio, myelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, tetanus, meningitis, chickenpox, according to the recommendations of the state.

Think about it, Doctor, just in the course of our lifetimes, the inoculations we all took and we all took for granted. But if mandates do go through, doesn`t that have a kind of fortifying effect? One company does it, the next company feels braver, and sooner or later more people get the vaccine?

REDLENER: Yeah, I think that`s what we`re hoping for. The craziness of governors who are doing everything possible to impair our ability to get mandates passed. There`s no explanation. It`s just crazy, or it`s craven politics, whatever it is, it`s really almost criminal negligence for the governor. It`s not to the opposite, which is to encourage mandates. Encouraged mandate state wise and encouraged the mandates like you`re talking about every university, every business, every event, needs to say you want to come in here, you want to go to the workplace, you want to go to this event, you must be vaccinated, and you`ve got to prove it.

The idea that we have such political fooling around with what is a public health matters really pretty startling. I don`t think we`ve seen this in a long, long time in our country. And there`s many things that the governments require that nobody questions, including the childhood vaccinations that you mentioned, but you can`t drive without a license, you can`t scream fire in the theater and on and on and on. This is not a matter of personal freedom. As some governors like to put it, it`s a matter of taking care of our health, our public self, and right now our children`s health, Brian.

WILLIAMS: We call it public health for a very good reason. Dr. Irwin Redlener has been our guest tonight, always happy to have you. Thank you so very much.

Coming up for us, a closer look at the political implications as the Biden administration confronts these challenges we`ve been talking about here from both near and far.




REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R-TX) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: This is one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, world stage standpoint, I can`t think of a weaker posture that we can put ourselves in.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER: I don`t think would infrastructure bill should come up. We should be spending our time on this right here. And looking at the past, speaking to Mr. Pompeo, speaking to the former President, I know this would not have taken place.


WILLIAMS: As the Biden administration takes on both foreign and domestic crises, Republicans as you may have heard there see political opportunity. The McClatchy News Service points that out this way, "While Biden has to contend with harrowing images of Afghans trying to flee after the Taliban takeover, former President Donald Trump orchestrated the withdrawal agreement, and another potential 2024 GOP contender, that would be Mike Pompeo, was photographed with the Taliban leader who is now among those taking charge of Afghanistan."

So, it`s a good time to have back with us tonight, Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist and Founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund, and Susan Del Percio, MSNBC Political Analyst and a Veteran Political Strategist. Good evening, and welcome to you both.

Don, former Vice President Mike Pence today joined in all of it piling on Biden, some of it a kind of Olympic cauldron lighting version of gaslighting and rewriting history. But who do we see about that?

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, you know, in the grand scheme of things at this point, Mike Pence`s opinion is about as useful as the ashtray on a motorcycle. But I really don`t understand that he would be saying a whole lot different to defend this position. I mean, this is a position that his administration came up with, his administration call for a definitive into the conflict in Afghanistan and Joe Biden follow through on it, we can debate the wisdom of Joe Biden following through on it. And I do think that we should give Joe Biden a little bit more credit for the thoughtfulness and for the planning and for not going to unilaterally as we felt like he probably did when he first rolled this out at the beginning. But at the beginning -- at the end of the day, this is Trump-Pence policy. And if they were still in office, they would be defending it to the fullest. So, whatever he has to say, who really cares, Mitch McConnell`s opinion actually matters because he`s a Senate leader. But at the end of the day, I just find it so ironic and so is mesmerizing, that this is the precise opinion that they would be defending if they were stealing off.

WILLIAMS: Susan, that what about this reporting from the Hill that Republicans see this crisis as a kind of recruitment tool for future candidates? Does that assume that the midterm voters are going to be motivated by Afghanistan or does it assume some kind of Biden weakness instead?


SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It assumes a Biden weakness. And there is something to that if President Biden is continually facing negative stories coming out of Afghanistan, which will happen, Brian, we will see stories of those who were left behind who couldn`t get out over the next year, potentially. And they will be heartbreaking, and they will be something that Republicans will take advantage of. That being said, the other major concern that I think the Biden ministration has to look out for is do we see a return of al Qaeda in a very influential position with the Taliban? It`s happened before, does that happen? Do we see terror attacks? These are every -- these are huge concerns, obviously, for any administration. But there is some argument that the world is -- or that region is less safe without the Americans there, even small force. So yes, I do think they`ll use it. I do not think however, the evacuation will be a major issue come the midterm elections.

WILLIAMS: Don, our friend, Donna Edwards writes this about domestic politics in Washington of The Washington Post, "Progressives may not be the house majority, but most will win their reelections, and the same cannot be said for many of the moderates. They need progressives to give money and raise money for their campaigns. Progressives and moderates need to get on the democratic train. Their political majority depends on it."

Don, talk for a second about how Pelosi has to balance the inner factions in her caucus.

CALLOWAY: Whether you`re on the state level, or here in Washington, D.C., it is very, very difficult to be a leader of a democratic Senate or House caucus. That`s because ideologically, Democrats are the party of the big tent. We have moderates and even conservatives within the ranks of the Democratic Party, whereas Republicans tend to unite around white supremacy and voter suppression. So, they have a very narrow universe of intellectual ideas. So that is the context. It`s very difficult to get five people to agree that the sky is blue, or your name is Brian Williams. So how can you get them all to agree on the proper size of an infrastructure package for even what infrastructure means, as we`re seeing that definition evolve from bridges and roads and tunnels to human infrastructure, such as public education, and fiber optics, and so on, and so forth. So that is the fundamental challenge of a broad and diverse and vibrant Democratic Party, which frankly, looks like the country. And that is the leadership model. That`s why it takes a very strong leader like and Nancy Pelosi.

Donna -- former Congresswoman Donna Edwards is absolutely right. But she`s pointing out a fundamental challenge that comes with leading a diverse, geographically aged, and racially and ethnically, very diverse caucus.

WILLIAMS: And Susan, finally, when McCarthy says we can`t possibly take up this infrastructure measure, while Afghanistan is going on, what does that read like to you? Is that kind of obstruction plus draw grasping?

DEL PERCIO: Yeah, it`s just desperation. McCarthy has nothing else to go on. He knows that this infrastructure bill is popular. Plus, with the deal that Nancy Pelosi put forward today with a date of September 27, for a vote on infrastructure, that is now a clock that is in place that McCarthy is going to have to deal with because there are a lot of members of his caucus, a lot of Republicans who have signed on to support the infrastructure bill. So, Kevin McCarthy can use Donald Trump`s talking points all he wants as he tries to get money from Donald Trump for his candidates. But it`s not going to work.

WILLIAMS: Two great minds on this stuff, both friends of our broadcast Don Calloway, Susan Del Percio, thank you both so much for coming on and helping us out tonight. Go Stillman, by the way.

Coming up, the confusion and crowds and chaos in Kabul, as America`s presence there begins to come to an end.



WILLIAMS: So, the President`s deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan exactly one week away, many are still desperately waiting and trying to get out. And again tonight, we watch these final days of American presence in Afghanistan through the eyes and the lens of our Veteran Chief Foreign Correspondent who spent so many years covering our longest war and survived so many close calls there. So here again tonight, Richard Engel, in Kabul.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Kabul International Airport, time is running out. The U.S. and NATO allies have just one week to pull out all their citizens and vulnerable Afghans after the Taliban today, again insisted they`d accept no extensions beyond August 31 or there`d be consequences.

The U.S. Embassy apparently feeling the strain issuing a final alert for American citizens to leave tonight or they`d be on their own, then recalling it 30 minutes later.

(On camera): This is now an extremely busy airfield. Every few minutes new planes are coming in. And they are not just from the United States. We`ve seen them from the U.K., Qatar, Australia, civilian aircraft. This is a truly global airlift.

(Voice-over): These satellite images show the huge crowds trying to leave the airport. But now finally the departures are going smoothly. We watched a Qatar Air Force plane bound for Doha being loaded as U.S. forces monitor air traffic from the runway. But will the airlift be done in a week? Maybe but it`ll be difficult because U.S. troops don`t just need to fly out Afghans but also themselves.

(On camera): So, we just left Kabul Airport and you go through the American checkpoint. And then you`re handed over to what looks like another American checkpoint. You`ll see American uniforms. You see soldiers in flak jackets, eye protection, new weapons, M4s, perfect condition. They know how to carry them. But they`re not American soldiers. They`re the Taliban.

(Voice-over): the images are hard to believe that this is how the United States is ending its longest war. American troops just yards from the Taliban helping the U.S. get out and go home.

The Taliban are now on almost every corner in Kabul. They weren`t hostile to us or anyone we saw. The Taliban claimed to have found tolerance since they were in power two decades ago. The old tri-colored Afghan flags still flies and Kabul for now is calm. Traffic cops from the deposed U.S. back government have returned to work. The Taliban move among them, and they`re giving the orders.


There`s an old Taliban expression that the Americans have the watches. And they have the time. It seems they were right. And the Americans time is about to run out.


ENGEL: Brian here in Kabul, the Taliban are now extremely confident, confident that they won, confident that they are getting the United States to withdraw on their terms, and they are very well armed. So, people here in Afghanistan now have two choices. Get out, try and get on one of those last flights in these last few days or stay and accept the Taliban at their word that they really have changed. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Richard Engel, thank you for that reporting tonight in Kabul. It comes along with our wishes and those of all our colleagues and friends that you and your crew stay safe.

Coming up, as President Biden pointed out today, a lot now depends on the Taliban`s willingness to cooperate. We will ask our national security analysts for his take next.


WILLIAMS: To review, Pentagon said today daily communication with Taliban commanders will likely continue. We also learned today the CIA Director met with the Taliban in Afghanistan yesterday. And the President said today meeting the August 31 deadline to leave Afghanistan depends on whether the Taliban goes along.

So, here with us to talk about, Clint Watts, West Point Graduate Army veteran, former FBI Special Agent, and a distinguished research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

So, Clint, let`s do what you do best and that is threat assessment. Tell us what you know about this new ISIS-K that we`re just starting to hear about. It sounds like a fat burning dietary substitute you see on Instagram. It is indeed very serious business. Biden`s worried about them attacking the airport. Are the Taliban worried about them and other sub terrorist groups within their nation, because after all, at some point, they have to join what is called the community of nations?


CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: That`s right, Brian, really, when we think about the Taliban versus U.S., you`re looking at two parties that have a shared interest in the U.S. leaving and with that, that`s why we`re seeing basically some peaceful negotiations, at this point, the Taliban are playing someone nice, particularly by Taliban standards. But the wildcard in all of this is ISIS. When we`ve heard of ISIS, the Islamic State kicking up in Syria and Iraq, when you start to see as affiliates branch out around the world, very similar to the way we`ve seen al Qaeda or ISIS in Corizon (ph), essentially, Afghanistan was one of those affiliates, and one of the stronger ones that emerged at the time that the Islamic State reaches high. And when the Islamic State folded in Syria, they were one of the ones that remained somewhat strong, they don`t really hold territory, they`ve been reduced in strength. But they can play a spoiler, meaning they could execute an attack at the airport, or against any sort of Western target or the Taliban, and create some sort of a quagmire which would bring the U.S. and the Taliban back into conflict. If that were to happen. That is that sort of devastating scenario that you heard President Biden talk about? I`m sure that`s something that the CIA Director was talking about with the Taliban as well.

WILLIAMS: Can you see a scenario where we either ask or say, we`ve got to have a few extra days after the President`s remarks today? How about we use the remaining seven days getting people out? And then we need a couple extra days just to get remaining U.S. military out?

WATTS: Brian, I could see that scenario. But what I also see over time is you will still see extractions of Americans, American allies all the way through the rest of the year, I imagine, something that we`re not really talking about because everything is very much focused on the Kabul airport is in the northern territories of towards Uzbekistan, Kurdistan, you`re already seeing some of the allies, the United States slip across those borders to the north, this is seen as more protected territory.

I also would not be surprised to see over the next year or more, that there will be pockets essentially of places where there will be extractions of allies and interpreters, those that can make it to the borders to third party countries or possibly even, you know, random air lefts that you would see out of the country, in addition as well past August 31.

WILLIAMS: That`s a great point. And I`m glad you made it. I read somewhere this week that the Taliban now owns more Blackhawks than the Australian military but flying them without the foreign contractors and air crews is a different discussion entirely. Clint Watts, we`ll have you back. Thank you so much for your time, and expertise on this still unfolding story tonight.

Coming up, he was an elegant man, a renaissance man, a true gentleman, though you might know him as a rather successful drummer in his spare time, tonight we look back at a legend.



WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, if the cowbell followed by those first big downstrokes at the very top of Honky Tonk Women still gets to you. Same with the grinding beat in, I can`t get no satisfaction or the light touch on the snare as under my thumb just gets underway. Then today`s news hit you hard. It`s not ageism, to say that it`s tough to picture our rock stars at the age of `80. Yet that is how old Charlie Watts was when he died today in a British hospital.

You don`t often hear rock drummers universally described by their peers as elegant, stylish or gentlemanly or meticulous. Yet that was Charlie Watts. He was a craftsman. He started out in jazz and had never really left him. Charlie Watts was born in London as the city was still smoldering after the Blitz in 1941. He showed early talent as the polymath. He later became an adulthood. He was a writer and artist and world class collector. He was a breeder of Arabian horses, and he famously sketched every hotel room he stayed in for the last 50 years. As a kid he tried the banjo but got frustrated, cut the neck off used it as a snare drum and a star was born. But stardom and Charlie Watts they never really got along too well. He was a reluctant icon to say the least who except for a two-year adventure with heroin and related substances, lived a clean civilian life and was married to the same woman for 57 years.

Onstage while Keith and Mick tore it up, Charlie toned it down. He always played a basic old school four-piece kit. His posture was perfect. His bearing was much more like a professor at the London School of Economics. Charlie Watts was indelible, instantly recognizable, his role in rock and roll history is enshrined forever. It was never in doubt.

If the Beatles changed the world, the stones taught it how to dance. And all the while through the decades and on 30 albums, Charlie Watts kept the time. He drove the band. A quiet man who spoke with his sticks and with those two pieces of wood in his hands, he spoke volumes and left us anthems to mark our time together here on Earth.

That is our broadcast for this Tuesday evening with our thanks for being here with us and on behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.