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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/30/21

Guests: Lucas Kunce, David Rothkopf, Russel Honore, Dr. Mark Kline, Joe Cirincione


U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, ending 20-year mission. An intensive search and rescue operation is underway in Louisiana where more than a million people are currently without power. Four hospitals in Louisiana were evacuated as Hurricane Ida approached this weekend. Antony Blinken is the eighth secretary of state to serve during the war in Afghanistan.



And President Biden is going to address the nation tomorrow about the end of the war in Afghanistan, which is something we have never seen before. I have been looking back a lot, working with my partial memory of events, but researching April, May 1975, the end of the Vietnam War.

And President Jerry Ford never said a word, never once. There was no press conference. There was no statement to the country. He issued a written statement after the final helicopter came out. There was none of what we`re seeing in these last two weeks.

And, so, we have seen two of these. We have seen two big losses after multi-decade wars. This is very different from Vietnam.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And it is actually a good point. We saw the commander today formally announce that the last aircraft was clearing Afghan air space. We then saw Secretary of State Blinken give a formal address to the country explaining things in terms of the diplomatic mission of doing those things. We have just seen tonight a statement from Lloyd Austin. But now we`re going to get another speech on this matter.

We have seen several already from President Biden. He says he`s going to talk about his decision to not extend past August 31st and the military advise he got not to do that and why he thinks it`s all right to leave. It is a lot of accountability in terms of people saying, yeah, this is me. This is happening on my watch and here is why I did it this way. That is not what we`re used to.

O`DONNELL: Last time what we got was a written statement read by the press secretary, Rob Nessen, a written statement by the president and Henry Kissinger, secretary of state, also attending the press briefing at the White House. But it was astonishingly routine. It was not that big a day in the White House press briefing room.

People saw it coming for quite a while. And there was a tremendous amount of relief, really. There were the questions that are similar to what you are hearing now, but nothing like the ongoing analysis of every little bit of the exit. And at that time, they were only aware of two helicopter pilots who have been killed in the evacuation. Turns out there were two marines who were shot and killed that no one even knew about at the time the final day.

So, it is a very different thing. But the echo is very strong between the two.

MADDOW: Oh, yeah. And, I mean, and with all of these things, no war is like any other war and no exit from any war is the same. But the echoes from our history, but from our own experience from Vietnam, from the Soviet`s experience in Afghanistan, I mean, the British experience before then, I mean, you hope that you learn. But basically you it rate and it doesn`t always necessarily get you smarter.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. We`ll see what the president says tomorrow.

MADDOW: Yeah. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

At 3:29 p.m. today, East Coast Time, America`s war in Afghanistan came to an end. Here is how it began 26 days after 9/11.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime. I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands. Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the al-Qaeda network and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in your country.

None of these demands were met. And now, the Taliban will pay a price. We will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenging with determination and will and purpose.

We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it. The name of today`s military operation is Enduring Freedom. We will not waiver. We will not tire. We will not falter. And we will not fail.

Peace and freedom will prevail. Thank you. And may God continue to bless America.



O`DONNELL: The American news media and the political class found nothing to criticize in that speech, not one word.

But we did waiver. And we did tire. And freedom didn`t not endure in Afghanistan.

Here is how it ended.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Good afternoon, everyone. I`m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan in the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans. The last C-17 lifted off from Hamad Karzai international airport on August 30th this afternoon at 3:29 p.m. East Coast time

Tonight`s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11th, 2001. It is a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end, along with many of his al-Qaeda coconspirators. It was not a cheap mission. The cost was 2,461 U.S. members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured. Sadly, that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber.

We honor their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments.

No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served, nor the emotions they`re feeling at this moment.


O`DONNELL: Also killed in the 20-year war were at least 66,000 members of Afghanistan`s military and police, 51,191 members of the Taliban and other opposition fighters, 47,245 Afghan civilians including children and babies. 1,144 allied service members including from NATO member states, 444 aid workers, and 72 journalists.

The number of civilian deaths could be much larger, but that is the official number, 47,245. You can call the 20-year war America`s longest war only if you are willing to overlook the 300 years of war waged against the people who were found on this continent when the Europeans arrived. America`s genocidal war against native tribes did not officially end until the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, President Biden issued a written statement saying: I want to thank our commanders and men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled in the early morning hours of August 31st Kabul time with no further loss of American lives.

The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in U.S. history, evacuating over 120,000 U.S. citizens, citizens of our allies and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism and resolve. Now our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended. I have asked secretary of state to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan.

And joining us now, one of the 800,000 people who served in the military in Afghanistan, Lucas Kunce, a former U.S. marine captain who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He`s now the Democratic candidate for Senate in Missouri.

Also with us, David Rothkopf, foreign affairs analyst and columnist for "The Daily Beast" and "USA Today". He is the host of "Deep State" radio podcast.

Lucas, let me begin with you as someone who served there. You were thanked today by General McKenzie, by President Biden.

What are your feelings as this 20-year war has now finally officially come to an end?

LUCAS KUNCE (D-MO), CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: Yeah, thanks, Lawrence.

For me, it is just this -- this feeling of grim relief that it`s final over and that it should have happened a long, long time ago. And, so, you know, America kind of forgot what was going on over there for a long time. And last week when we lost 13 service members, that was a reminder to them of what many of us experienced while we were overseas.

And, so, for me this week and what I`m seeing right now is just, you know, it is really a reminder of probably the saddest, most somber moment of my life. And that was standing on a line in Afghanistan in the middle of the night with about 100 other marines saluting the dead body of a fallen member of our battalion as he put into an airplane for his final ride.


That is what the cost of war is. We`ve been reminded of it, and I`m just grimly relieved that there`s not going to be another U.S. member experiencing that.

O`DONNELL: David Rothkopf, I find it striking President Bush`s announcement of this war. What he said in that speech about the objectives. And for everyone in the last two weeks who has been saying we should stay there longer and we shouldn`t be exiting the way we`re exiting. We shouldn`t be exiting quickly on the Biden schedule, if you can call that quickly after 20 years.

Not one of them, not one of the justifications for staying in Afghanistan was included in anything George W. Bush said in the announcement speech for this war. It was always to preserve something or some kind of condition that existed after the war started. The arguments about what`s going to happen to liberal education in Afghanistan, issues that had absolutely nothing to do with the start of the war.

DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yeah. I think there was a brief period of grace there for George Bush where he got it right. He got the response to 9/11 right. And I think he got launching this mission right. If he had done what he said in that speech, he probably would have been okay.

I think any U.S. president would have done precisely what he said. Send in U.S. troops for a mission that was counter terrorism targeting al-Qaeda, targeting the Taliban that was helping al-Qaeda.

But he didn`t speak of an exit. He didn`t speak of the broader mission that we drifted into. And what happened was that we, as you have pointed out several times over the past couple of weeks, Lawrence, we drifted back into the same sorts of mistakes that led to the Vietnam debacle.

We didn`t have a clear exit. We didn`t have sufficient force. We didn`t have a clearly defined mission. That was the lesson that General Colin Powell had drawn from Vietnam. And we forgot about it.

And the consequence was the casualties you listed and the lives of 800,000 Americans who served alongside Lucas being changed forever, some in the worst way possible. But all of them, as Lucas indicated, haunted by the experience.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what President Bush said on October 7th, 2001, about what the mission was. And it certainly does not sound like a 20-year mission.


BUSH: By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans. Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.


O`DONNELL: Lucas, I think when we were listening to that, whether people were in favor of it or not, it didn`t sound like this is going to be ten years. This is going to be even five years. This sounded like not exactly a surgical strike, but it sounded like it was going in there, not trying to build a nation, certainly. There wasn`t one word about building a new government or a new military in Afghanistan.

KUNCE: Yes, Lawrence. And here`s the thing. You know, that mission that he just described was accomplished very quickly. The Taliban was scattered. Al-Qaeda was bumped out of Afghanistan and we accomplished that military mission.

And you know what? Back then the Taliban was extremely weak and maybe the government would have had a chance to sort of recover and build an Afghanistan that looks a little different.

By the real irony about the 20 years we spent there is the fact that the Taliban got to use those 20 years practicing against the greatest fighting force in the world. If you want to get good at something, you should practice against the person who is the best, right? So they learned to fight, they learned to organize, they learned to lead, they learned to do PR. They learned to do all of these things and that is why they were able to take over in just two weeks, because they learned how to do all of that.

The real tragedy for me here, like a huge tragedy, is that I still see on TV people talking about how we need to stay just one more day, just one more month, just one more dollar as if -- as if the 20 years, the 2,500 lives, the $2.3 trillion that collapsed in two weeks weren`t enough. They`re the same people that, you know, their reputations are at line on this. They`re making money for it and they`re deciding they want to keep us there because they feel like it is the right thing to do for them.


It is a huge systematic institutional set of dishonesties that is really like just torn the American people psyche as they saw what happened in the two weeks. That`s really something we need to not lose sight of and make sure that we fight that narrative.

O`DONNELL: Lucas, let me follow up on that because president bush also said in that announcement speech for that war, speaking directly to military personnel, he said, your mission is defined. Your objectives are clear. Your goal is just.

When you were in Afghanistan, did you feel that your mission was defined and your objectives were clear?

KUNCE: When I was in Afghanistan -- so I learned Pashtu, the language of southern Afghanistan, and I deployed there twice. The winter of 2012/`13 and then 2014 for most of the year. And my job was to work with the Afghan forces to try to make sure that they were ready for the mission.

Mind you, this is after we had been there for 13 years on that second deployment. And my job was still to make sure they got all the equipment, all the ammunition, all the food and everything else that they needed to get through the fighting season.

After 13 years. And so at that point, like how can my mission be to solve this in six months if it hasn`t been solved in 13 years? And the answer was that it was never going to happen. The only reason we were there is because people on both sides of the Atlantic, right, you got Afghans at the very top of their stratosphere and then people here in America who were making money off of that war, a grab and go operation and leaving the rest of us to try to solve out the problems while Afghans aren`t getting any food or equipment because it is all getting taken off the top.

So, yeah, I had a mission, but it wasn`t anything that was ever going to be successfully concluded. The Taliban takeover in 2014 was inevitable and we saw that inevitability play out over the last month.

O`DONNELL: Lucas Kunce and David Rothkopf, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight.

David, please stick around for more later in the hour. Thank you both very much.

Coming up, we have breaking news on the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, an intensive search and rescue operation is underway in Louisiana where more than a million people are currently without power. We`ll have the latest next.



O`DONNELL: The second person has been confirmed dead in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida made land fall, south of New Orleans as a category four storm yesterday. Sixteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.

Today, Louisiana`s governor said this.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: I will just tell you that I had a number of conversations overnight and today with parish presidents and other officials who believe that the death count attributable to the hurricane will go up because they see catastrophic damage in certain places that they have every reason to believe were inhabited at the time the damage occurred.


O`DONNELL: There are more than 2,000 people in shelters tonight. The levies around New Orleans did not fail as they did in Katrina. More than a million people do not have power in Louisiana. There is no power in the city of New Orleans.

Crews are working to restore power, beginning with hospitals that are now relying on generators. A Louisiana power company says it may take up to three weeks for some people in the areas to have their power restored. Ida is now a tropical storm moving north through Mississippi.

Today, President Biden told the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and mayors in both of those states how to get more help from the White House.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The main thing I want to make clear to all of you is we`re providing any help for you that you are going to need. And, so, I`ve got -- as I said, I`ve got my senior adviser here with me. You all know him. He`s a New Orleans native. He`s a congressman from Louisiana, was a congressman of Louisiana`s second district for ten years.

He knows the area. He knows the people and those who have been affected by Ida and he knows how to get things done in the government. While FEMA is our lead for on the ground response, if there is something you need that needs my attention, send the direct line to the White House throughout this recovery, and I mean that.

Whatever you need, go to Cedric, he`ll get to me. We`ll get you what you need, if we can.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi, who is in New Orleans.

Ali, what is the latest tonight?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR, "VELSHI": The latest is this is a dark, dark city. This is a roofing from a nearby building that collapsed. But I`m here in the French Quarter that would look like this if you had lights, but there are no lights anywhere in New Orleans. That`s because while the cities levies and pumps which they spent about $16 billion on since Katrina worked to keep this city dry during this storm.

Take a look at this. This is Decatur Street. There are no lights anywhere. There is no power going to anywhere in this city whatsoever. Entergy, the company that produces the power here says all eight transmission lines are dead. So there are bucket trucks and people going around fixing trees that have fallen on power lines.

They`re repairing all of that. But it doesn`t matter because there is no power coming from the source. Entergy says that they will try to get power to people between 7 to 10 days. The sewage and draining company authority here, they obviously need to be able to sanitize water, so they`re getting some help from the electric utility.

Police, infrastructure like street lights, they`re going to try and get to them, first hospitals. But if you are a commercial or a residential power, you are not getting power.


If you don`t have a generator in New Orleans and it is a densely packed city, so a lot of people don`t have generators here, you are not getting power for 7 to 10 days. In the hard hit areas, they`re saying three weeks or longer. Some of the parishes outside of New Orleans that did flood, by the way, they are not getting power for a while.

While there is very little loss of life in New Orleans, I believe we only have one confirmed death in the city, there is a lot of threat in outlying parts of Louisiana in those parishes that border New Orleans Parish to the west. There are still rescues on the way on some of those places, due south of us in Lafitte, Grand Isle, so they are somewhat prepared to ride it out.

So, this is not the catastrophe that a lot of people were worried about. This is entirely different. And we can only hope in these hot muggy nights that people in the city get their power back fairly soon, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Ali, is there any temporary plan on power, or is it just sit and wait until the system begins to work again?

VELSHI: Yeah. The mayor has actually said, if you left the city don`t come back. Do not come back. You are going to be in a hot place. People are actually walking around. You don`t see too many of them but people are walking around because their houses get very hot. It gets to 90 in the day. Feels like 100 because this is a humid city.

There are shelters and cooling centers being opened. Not everybody has figured out how to use them just yet because they`re hoping this changes soon. But as they realize on day two, three, four it will be this hot, you may start to see some of those places being used.

O`DONNELL: Ali Velshi, thank you. Really appreciate it.

VELSHI: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Joining us now lieutenant general, former commander of the joint task force for hurricane Katrina.

What -- General, what is your assessment of the situation and what needs to happen next?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, FORMER COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: Well, we have good coordination between the state and the federal government and the parishes, with good communications at all those points. All that is a result of lessons learned from Katrina and the levees held.

The issue now is the grid is broke. The grid is broke. Water and electricity is broke.

And I don`t see how we`re going to sustain half a million to a million people without clean water and without sewage in a metropolitan area or in the countryside. I think the conversation now must turn to search and rescue, get the people out that are stuck in their attics or need to be gotten out immediately and then focus on the evacuation plan.

And that word "Evacuation" come up again twice today as when we completed one and we need to start another one. People cannot live in that metropolitan area without water and without sewer. And which leaves the other thing, the ability to cook. And a lot of infrastructure is broke. Stores are closed. There is a few around that have some food, but the infrastructure is broke.

We need to encourage people, and I think FEMA has the capacity and the will to provide hotel vouchers. That program needs to start immediately because the leadership today, with all due respect, they were out doing assessments and doing search and rescue. But the next phase of this, we need to start encouraging people by people can go get gas, couch serve with relatives or go to a hotel.

We cannot keep that many people in that city with the grid as broke as it is right now. And on top of that, the electrical grid and water grid, the telecommunication grade is broken. And so many people we operate now on the ability to be able to talk and get information. A lot of people need to hear what`s being said on television don`t have the ability to see or hear it because the grid is broke. And I think that the language and the focus has to be now on encouraging people to evacuate, providing them hotel vouchers.

And FEMA as the capacity to do that, but that need to be the charge of the day once the search and rescue is completed.

O`DONNELL: So, General, there is no point in trying to truck in massive amounts of drinking water. Is it your view that you really have to get the people out? That`s the mission?

HONORE: I think that`s the mission. If you brought bottled water in, you`re talking a couple gallons of water for everybody to drink and then there is no place, the sustainable way because the lift pumps -- you can try to put generators on them. So you`ve got to focus your infrastructure on the critical things like the hospitals because the hospitals are full because we`ve got a lot of people in Louisiana who refuse to take the shot.

So those hospitals are fixed. They have to stay where they are taking care of the people. And on top of that, we`re doing this in a COVID environment. We used to have places where we would put 500 people in auditoriums and gyms. A 500-person shelter now might hold 150 to 200 people because we got to follow COVID rules.

And wherever we send the people to, they`ve got to be able to follow COVID protocols because so many of them don`t have vaccination. In metropolitan New Orleans, we`re in a lot better shape. But when you`re out in the rural parishes, there is a lot lower level of vaccinations.

So we need to get on with evacuating folks until we can get the grid back up and keep the city and the metropolitan as well as the countryside safe.

The industrial complex took a big hit. There will be no economy in New Orleans. The fast (INAUDIBLE) amount of rain. The federal government is going to have to figure out how they`re going to subsidize those government immediately so they can continue to pay their payroll in two weeks.

The same thing happened after Katrina. Most of these parishes don`t have a lot of cash on them. They depend on sales tax coming in. So all those issues got to be dealt with.

But first survival. Search and rescue and let`s get on with a viable evacuation plan providing gas to people so they can drive and giving them a voucher or bringing wide-bodied airplanes into the airport and fly them out.

O`DONNELL: General Russel Honore, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate your expertise tonight.

HONORE: Good luck to the first responders, Lawrence, and to those people who are waiting help, help is on the way.

O`DONNELL: That`s the message they have to hear. Thank you, General. Really appreciate it.

And coming up, we will be joined by a doctor at Children`s Hospital New Orleans, which is dealing with the hurricane aftermath amid the coronavirus surge there. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Four hospitals in Louisiana were evacuated as Hurricane Ida approached this weekend. This video shows part of the roof of one of the evacuated hospitals being blown off yesterday. Hospitals in Louisiana are overwhelmed with COVID patients, more than 2,400 people are hospitalized in Louisiana tonight for COVID-19.

Joining us now is Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief of Children`s Hospital New Orleans. He`s a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist.

Dr. Kline, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. This is a much more difficult night than when you have been with us before. What is the situation tonight at your hospital?

DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: Well, Lawrence, you know, we have taken a couple of punches to the gut. We were dealing with COVID, of course, for the past couple of months, and that have been exhausting for our nurses and our doctors and hospital`s had been very full along with most every hospital in Louisiana.

And about the last thing in the world that we needed was a category four hurricane, but you know, here it is. And we have been locked down since early yesterday morning about 6:00 a.m.

We brought in a crew of doctors and nurses and other health care professionals. And we locked the doors and we literally rode this thing out.

We had some substantial, not structural damage to our hospital. We were more fortunate than others. We had some water on the ground floor, some water coming through the roof on some upper floors. But over all, we did reasonably well.

We lost power like everyone else in the city of New Orleans and went on the backup generators. We`re still on those today.

And -- but the good news is that all of the patients came through safely. Our team took good care of them and they have weathered the storm. And now we`re on the other side and it is just dealing with the aftermath.

O`DONNELL: How long can you run on the backup generators? and has patient care been affected?

DR. KLINE: Patient care has not been affected, Lawrence, fortunately. The generators give us lights and power for all of the medical equipment in all of the patient care areas. It is really only the nonessential areas of the hospital like my office, for example, that don`t have air-conditioning or lights. So we`re in the dark in those sorts of areas.

We have about a six-day supply of diesel right now for the generators. There is six generators, so there is some redundancy there. But I`m assured that more diesel is on the way and there is no issue with trucks getting in and supplying us on a continuous basis.

So although we have done some contingency planning around what might happen if we needed to evacuate, we have (AUDIO GAP) fuel to keep the generators running.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Kline, what about your own life and then the lives of the other medical personnel there? Can you go home? Are people -- have people`s homes been affected so that they either cannot go home or cannot get back to the hospital to work from home?

DR. KLINE: Yes. It`s an excellent question. And I haven`t seen my house. So I couldn`t tell you what it looks like or if it`s been damaged at this point.

And that`s true for all of the health professionals who have been locked down here in the hospital. These are mostly young doctors and nurses. And it`s really a fantastic story. These are people who have small children in many cases.


DR. KLINE: And we even have examples of doctors who took their spouses and their kids to safety, evacuated them to places like Atlanta and Birmingham. And then came back to serve the hospital and to take care of other people`s kids.

And it is a remarkable story of selflessness and commitment. Anyone who thinks that the younger generation that`s coming up is not committed to the work that they do is dead wrong. They should see these health professionals and the fantastic job they`re doing.

And many of them don`t know whether their houses are still standing or inundated with water. And they won`t until they have an opportunity to leave the water in some number of days.

O`DONNELL: What is your guess about when you will see your house for the first time?

DR. KLINE: Maybe Saturday. Maybe at the end of the week. I`m hoping. But you know, that`s ok. I`m happy and privileged to be working alongside some fantastic people here.

And I don`t think I have ever been prouder to be a pediatrician, Lawrence. I have to be honest with you. To see the work that these young doctors and nurses and pharmacists and everyone -- to see the work that they`re doing has been really inspiring for me. Even for someone like me who has been at it as long as I have, I just find myself incredibly impressed.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Mark Kline, thank you very much for the heroic work that you are doing and that everyone you are working with is doing at that hospital. We really appreciate you joining us tonight.

DR. KLINE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Antony Blinken is the eighth secretary of state to serve during the war in Afghanistan. And today he became the first secretary of state to describe America`s objective in post-war Afghanistan.

That`s next.




ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We discussed how we will work together to facilitate the safe travel out of Afghanistan, including by reopening Kabul civilian airport as soon as possible. And we very much appreciate the efforts of Qatar and Turkey in particular to make this happen.

This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward. We`re also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents and Afghans who have worked with us and who may choose to depart via overland routes.

We have no illusion that any of this will be easy or rapid. This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded. It will take time to work through a new set of challenges, but we will stay at it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Joe Cirincione, national security expert and distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. And back with us is David Rothkopf.

And Joe, as I was listening to the secretary of state today, I was thinking back about what secretary of state Henry Kissinger had to say when we left Vietnam. And we really just have these two multidecade wars that we were driven out of in defeat to compare to each other.

And Henry Kissinger and the American government had absolutely no plan about how to deal with Vietnam in any way and have any communication with them about anything after we fled that country.

And so, what we are seeing today is an approach that wasn`t even dreamed possible leaving Vietnam. And as the future turned out, Vietnam became such a peaceable friend of the United States of America that that`s where the vice president of the United States was being welcomed as a distinguished visitor just last week while the evacuation from Afghanistan was going on.

All of which is to say I think from my perspective, we have no idea what`s going to will be happening in Afghanistan in the next 10 years or 20 years.

JOE CIRINCIONE, NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT: I was really struck by secretary of state Blinken`s address today because you are seeing the pivot. You`re seeing him start to pivot to what Joe Biden has said he wanted to do in the beginning of his administration.

When he introduced his national security team nine months ago, they talked about reimagining national security, about shifting away from war as the primary instrument of U.S. power and a diplomacy first approach that would address the real security threats we face after this failed 20-year global war on terrorism, meaning climate change, pandemics, racial injustice, income inequity, threats to democracy, et cetera.

And you see Tony -- secretary of state Blinken start to take this burden on. And that includes trying to find a way to relate to the Taliban, the ragtag group armed with basic weaponry that just defeated the world`s only remaining super power.

And we now have the task, unlike Henry Kissinger, Tony Blinken now has the task of how do you develop relations with this group. Can there be flights? Can you get the rest of the Americans out of Afghanistan? Can there be regular flights were people, as the Taliban said today, where people could freely leave Afghanistan? Are there incentives that we have to induce the Taliban to do this?

So you`re right, Lawrence, we have no idea how this relationship could develop. We could be looking at a very different story than the one that`s been painted in Washington circles over the last two weeks.

O`DONNELL: I want to take a look at this image released by the Department of Defense of apparently the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan.

This is Major General Chris Donahue (ph). He`s the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division and he was the last person to board the C-17, the final C-17 leaving Kabul.


O`DONNELL: And David, that seems to be the final, that image of the American presence in Afghanistan. That will be juxtaposed with the final image of the American presence in Vietnam which, of course, was the helicopter taking off.

And so with that -- on this final day, what can be said about what America accomplished and what America learned?

DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I hope we learned a lot. Clearly there was some benefits that were brought to the Afghan people in terms of increased literacy, access to the Internet, exposure to ideas like democracy and so forth.

But when we went in to Afghanistan with the objective of eliminating terrorists, there were perhaps several scores of terrorists there. One estimate was 170 al-Qaeda members in 2002.

By the time we left, there were terror cells throughout the world. The number of terrorists had grown a hundred fold. The terror threat was much greater.

The war on terror was the wrong idea, executed in the wrong way and it failed. While we remain safe here, threats exist throughout the world.

But I think we have to ask ourselves: how did we get into a situation where, once again, we entered into a war. It drifted without mission. It lasted 20 years. It cost 170,000 lives overall. It cost $2 trillion, and it distracted us from all the things that Joe just enumerated.

And so, on the one hand we need to learn those lessons. And on the other hand, we need to make that pivot.

The real lesson of Afghanistan is to put it behind us, to manage it in a way that Secretary Blinken described. And then to move forward building back better, investing in ourselves and finding a way to engage with the world as Secretary Blinken described several months ago, not from the perspective of American exceptionalism, but from the perspective of engagement with equals in real partnership.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what Secretary Blinken said today about what our lessons should be.


BLINKEN: The war in Afghanistan was a 20-year endeavor. We must learn its lessons and allow those lessons to shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy.


O`DONNELL: Joe, that was the lesson we were supposed to learn from Vietnam, the fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy. And the lesson I learned from Vietnam as a teenager was, don`t do that again. Don`t do any kind of war like that again.

And that, seems to me, was one sentence away from what Secretary Blinken was saying in that passage.

CIRINCIONE: That`s exactly right. And for 20 years we did not. I mean, what is now referred to as Vietnam syndrome was when we listened to those lessons, when we understood that this was a lost war that we never should have started. That that was profoundly mistaken.

But what then happened in Washington was the determined effort to turn that narrative around and it developed first with Nixon and Kissinger and then with other proponents in the Washington foreign policy establishment -- a stab in the back narrative, a myth that we didn`t lose the Vietnam war.

No, cowardly politicians in Congress cutoff funding for it. That`s why we lost. And you saw that justified. You brought up in the early days of the Iraq invasion to say, no, we could have won the Vietnam and we could win the Iraq war. We just have to stay it.

And you see it now in Washington with this insidious myth that`s being developed that this withdrawal, as one person called it, was a withdrawal of choice, that we could have stayed in Afghanistan, that we could perhaps have won in Afghanistan if cowardly politicians on the far left had not declared the war lost.

This is an extremely important debate to happen and to shape the future of American foreign policy.

O`DONNELL: Joe Cirincione and David Rothkopf thank you both very much for joining us again tonight. Really appreciate it.

CIRINCIONE: Thank you.

ROTHKOPF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We`ll be right back with tonight`s Last Word, which includes the poem quoted by General McKenzie today.



O`DONNELL: Today General Kenneth McKenzie thanked every American who went to Afghanistan in the 20-year war.


GENERAL KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I would like to offer my personal appreciation to the more than 800,000 service members and 25,000 civilians who have served in Afghanistan and particularly to the families of those whose loved ones have been lost or wounded.

Your service as well as that of your comrades and family members will never be forgotten. My heart is broken over the losses we sustained three days ago.

As the poem by Lawrence Binyon (ph) goes. We will remember them.

The last 18 days have been challenging. Americans can be proud of the men and women of the Armed Forces who met these challenges head-on.


O`DONNELL: The poem General McKenzie quoted by Lawrence Binyon was publish in the "London Times" in 1914. The poem is entitled "For The Fallen".

This is the passage General McKenzie quoted:

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."


O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD.