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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/17/21

Guests: Lotfullah Najafizada, David Rohde


Hospitals across U.S. are overwhelmed by COVID surge. The Biden administration is grappling with U.S. COVID surge as Taliban takes Afghanistan amid U.S. withdrawal. President Biden is expected to make an announcement to the country about recommended booster shots, additional vaccine shots.


MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Mehdi. Thank you, my friend, much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

This was the front page today of the "Florida Times Union" in Jacksonville, Florida. See the headline there: COVID kills 19 people in three days at University of Florida hospitals. Then over on the right side, the A-1, hospitals bursting, fear staff shortage. Again, that is Jacksonville, Florida, today.

Here`s Biloxi, Mississippi, "The Biloxi Sun Herald." Front page today, nearly 8,000 new virus cases part of unbridled spread on the Gulf Coast.

Here`s the "Opelika Auburn News" in Alabama, in Auburn, Alabama. Only two ICU rooms in state of Alabama are unoccupied.

Here`s the front page today in Rome, Georgia. "The Rome News Tribune": Rooms scarce for COVID-19 patients. As serious COVID cases rise, the influx of patients is stressing local hospitals.

Here on the left side of your screen is Beaumont, Texas. COVID stretching the hospitals. More nurses needed. On the right side of your screen, that`s Waco, Texas. Virus depths and hospitalizations grow.

Look at this from Melbourne, Florida, today. This is the newspaper "Florida Today." Very dramatic front page from them today. It says "We are on the precipice," that is their front page. Look at that. Our hospitals are overrun with COVID patients. Again, that`s Melbourne, Florida, today.

And if you notice, I wanted to show you not just those articles but the whole front page and what those look like because as big as the COVID crisis is, all of those sort of dire front page COVID stories today, all of them shared space with the news out of Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover of that country and what it means after our country`s 20-year-long war there.

But with, you know, tonight Texas` virulently anti-mask governor, himself testing positive for COVID. Governor Greg Abbott who has not only opposed mask rules but has banned them in his state, who has demagogued public health requirements with vaccines with this frankly worrying news of Governor Abbott testing positive with the news that he is receiving monoclonal antibody treatment. Way more Americans should be getting monoclonal antibody treatment when they test positive in order to keep them from getting hospitalized.

With that sort of shocking news tonight out of Texas, alongside the devastating numbers in multiple states in the South, multiple states having their hospitals just swamped right now, we are back in a sort of split screen news world with these two very different kinds of disasters, unspooling hour by hour. Disaster internationally in Afghanistan, the disaster with COVID at home, the U.S. government trying to cope with both of these disasters. And honestly, the future of both of these situations feeling quite unknowable and quite worrying, to say the least.

That said, this is the top of "The Washington Post" website right now. Taliban`s de facto leader arrives in Afghanistan. If you`re old enough to remember the battle days of the last Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the start of the U.S. war there, you might remember a lot of international attention and U.S. press for the Taliban leader then who was a man named Mullah Omar, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

He was one of the founders of the Taliban when the Taliban took over the Afghanistan government for the first time in the 1990s, he was the leader of the Taliban. He became the Taliban`s leader of that country when they took Kabul. When the Taliban was doing public executions in stadiums and terrorizing women in every corner of the country and blowing up the historic giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan province. That was all under the leadership of Mullah Omar.

And when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, he ended up leading the Taliban war, the Taliban insurgency against U.S. forces and all the other allied countries that forced them at least for a time out of power. Mullah Mohammed Omar died more than ten years into that war.

The Taliban interestingly did not announce his death until 2015, but they said when they announced it that he had died a couple of years earlier. So when did he die? Somewhere in there.

But who`s the head of the Taliban now? It`s the guy who was one of Mullah Omar`s partners in founding the Taliban in the first place back in the `90s. It was in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan in the `90s that Mullah Omar and man named Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, they ran an extremist, fundamentalist religious school, a madrassas, in Kandahar.


And from that as their base, they together founded the Taliban in the `90s. The Taliban took over Kandahar first and then eventually they did take over the whole country and now 25 years later, the Taliban once again is taking over the government of Afghanistan. But this time their leader from before, Mullah Omar, is dead, so it is Mullah Baradar instead who will be running the Afghan government for the Taliban this time around. At least, at least we think so.

It is Mullah Baradar`s return to Afghanistan that is getting front page treatment in "The Washington Post" because of that expectation that he will be that country`s new leader, amid all of the consternation and worry about what Taliban rule will mean there, it is expected that he`ll be in charge.

Today, we spoke with an Afghan journalist named Fasil Monila Kazisay (ph) who has lived his whole life in Afghanistan. He`s freelance for NPR, among other Western outlets. He told us that Mullah Baradar returning to Afghanistan is a big change for Afghanistan. He said he is an esteemed leader and co-founder of the Taliban. His return to Afghanistan, quote, probably means the end of any talks between the Taliban and Afghan politicians in Kabul.

In other words, the implications there are that this is somebody who is recognized by everybody involved as the new guy in charge. And so anybody left over from the previous government is now, you know, not just out of a job but no longer in a position to speak on behalf of any government because with Mullah Baradar returning to Afghanistan, everybody knows that he`s going to be running the new government. At least that`s the implication, that`s what it looks like for now.

Don`t quote me when things ultimately take some radically different course that we didn`t anticipate. It`s not like we haven`t been surprised in Afghanistan before from this vantage point.

I will say, though, an awkward detail, I think, for us and for us in understanding what`s going on there now is the fact that as Mullah Baradar returns to Afghanistan today, as he shows up in Kandahar today, birth place of the Taliban, and that is recognized in Afghanistan and around the world as the sign that he will be the new leader of the Afghan government as the Taliban takes it over, awkward background to that, particularly for us as Americans, is that today marks the first time that this guy, Mullah Baradar, has been in Afghanistan in more than a decade.

Where has he been all this time? Well, in 2010 after the CIA reportedly tracked him down in Pakistan, Mullah Baradar was arrested in Pakistan and put in prison in Pakistan, basically at the request of the U.S. government, and held there for years. Until, until we had a new idea under the last president.

Here`s Julian Borger writing for "The Guardian" newspaper. Quote, in 2018, however, Washington`s attitude changed and Donald Trump`s Afghan envoy asked the Pakistanis to free Mullah Baradar, to release him from prison so he could lead negotiations in Doha, Qatar, with the United States.

In fact, Baradar ended up signing the Doha agreement with the U.S. government in Doha in February, 2020. What the Trump administration then hailed as a breakthrough toward peace which now appears a mere staging post toward total Taliban victory.

So he was in prison in Pakistan for years. Trump administration asked for him to be released so they could participate in talks with him. They did participate in talks with him. And now today that same guy, Mullah Baradar, having been sprung from prison at the request of the Trump administration so he could participate in talks with Trump administration figures like Mike Pompeo who signed a deal with him that promised the total withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, now today that guy is back in Afghanistan for the first time in a decade. Apparently ready to lead the new Taliban government in Kabul.

Like I said, the awkward truth for Americans watching this unspool hour by hour and now day by day in Afghanistan.

The total number of U.S. troops back in Afghanistan as of today topped 4,000, the Pentagon reported, and U.S. reporters confirmed that those 4,000 troops which are focused almost entirely on the airport in Kabul, they have now established control of the airport and flights are regularly arriving and leaving on the military side and semi regularly arriving and leaving on the civilian side of that airport.

We just learned from the White House in the last hour that today the U.S. military says they evacuated about 1,100 U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents and their families on 13 flights using C-17 and C-130 aircraft. A briefing earlier today at the Pentagon, General Hank Taylor reported that within 24 hours, meaning by tomorrow, they expect to be flying out one C-17 military transport plane every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day, which theoretically means that instead of the 1,100 people they got out today, it means the U.S. could by tomorrow be evacuating 5,000 to 9,000 people a day from here on out.


Now, how people get to the airport who do want to leave and potentially who qualify to leave, that`s another question. U.S. forces only control the airport itself. They can`t help you with the Taliban checkpoints that are set up outside it. Just as a bare minimum.

And there`s the issue of getting permission to come to the United States or at least to be evacuated by the United States. Today, more than 40 U.S. senators, Democrats -- excuse me, 43 Democrats and two -- excuse me, 43 Democrats and three Republicans, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy and Jim Inhofe for the Republicans. These 40-plus senators wrote today to the secretary of state and secretary of homeland security in our government, asking them to create a new category for humanitarian parole, for people who would qualify to be evacuated from Afghanistan that way.

They want a new humanitarian parole category created for Afghan women leaders, women journalists, women judges, women activists, women lawyers, women police officers, women soldiers, for women who have held jobs and held positions in Afghan society and government while the Taliban has been held at bay who now have so much to lose and so much to fear from the Taliban takeover. The letter asks Homeland Security and the State Department to create that new humanitarian parole category for women to qualify for visas and then they`re calling on Homeland Security to increase processing capability at the U.S. customs service for handling those visas.

Right now, it`s hard enough for the group of mostly male Afghans who worked with the U.S. military as translators and other support roles, it`s hard enough for those mostly male Afghans to get out under this visa program that they`re trying to rapidly expand and expedite. That visa program for Afghans who worked directly with U.S. forces that, lets them apply to leave directly from Afghanistan and to get out if they can. It is hard enough and dire enough for those men who worked as, again, mostly almost entirely Afghan men who worked with U.S. forces along with their families.

But the kinds of visas that most women might qualify for from Afghanistan, since they for the most part weren`t working directly with the military, they were doing other kinds of work, either in Afghan society and government or with other types of U.S. affiliated and Western affiliated agencies and organizations, women don`t necessarily qualify in any significant numbers for those visas that are mostly targeted for people that worked with the military. They qualify for other kinds of visas that make it even more difficult.

Visas -- for example, these P-2 visas that you can only ask for, you can only apply for if you are applying from another country, from a third country that is neither here nor Afghanistan. How do you get to a third country at this point?

The senators say in their letter today, quote, particularly for women who are current targets, the path to protection and safety under the P-2 designation is not accessible. For these women to access a third country for processing is almost or completely impossible with all border crossings closed or controlled by the Taliban.

We spoke today with an Afghan woman who was able to get out with her family just a week and a half ago. She and her immediate family, her husband and her children are safe now in California where we spoke with her today.

But she told us her mother and other people who are trying to get out of Afghanistan right now, this P-2 visa that supposedly allows all these folks to qualify to get out, she told us today that it is a practical impossibility for anybody to take advantage of that, both because of the complexity of what the State Department demands as part of that application but also specifically because of this requirement that in order to apply for that visa, you have to leave Afghanistan.

Well, how do you do that? When the Taliban now controls the government and the border crossings, as well as internal transportation within the country to a certain extent.

President Biden yesterday authorized $500 million, which is a significant amount of money, to supercharge the evacuation efforts and the handling of visa requests. The State Department told us tonight that they are surging both resources and crucially more personnel, more State Department personnel back into Kabul to try to get more people processed, to get more people out. They say they expect to have double the number of consular personnel on Friday as they do today.

Today in Kabul, this brave little group of women stood up in a demonstration for women`s rights. This is today in Kabul. They are saying work, education and political participation is every woman`s right. This is near the presidential palace in Kabul today.

"The New York Times" today also captured this photo of a female journalist working for an Afghan media company that`s led by women. It`s an outlet called Baano TV. Forgive me if I`m pronouncing that wrong. It`s Baano TV.

You see the headline accompanying that photo of her at work. A woman is allowed to interview Taliban fighters, in this case in the street in Kabul. Quote: How long will it last?

But look at this. This is something that you should see. This is something that should burn into your retinas from these days.

This is an interview that took place today, Tuesday, in Afghanistan live on Afghan television at the studios of TOLO, the independent and very, very popular TV network in Afghanistan. That is a top Taliban official that you see on your screen right there being interviewed live on set by a female anchor for TOLO, whose name is Beheshta Arghand. She`s doing a one-on-one, face-to-face interview with him live in studio at TOLO.

Afghanistan has excellent female reporters and anchors and journalists, and they have been singled out by the Taliban and other extremists for particularly intense threats and intimidation and even murder. News organizations the world over face all kinds of challenges, including intense threat environments for their journalists for all kinds of reasons right now.

But with TOLO in Afghanistan, this incredibly successful, incredibly popular and trusted network in Afghanistan, they have got their -- which has been set up since 2004, since the U.S. -- since after the U.S. invaded in 2001.

TOLO, this incredibly important cultural force in Afghanistan, like I say, very, very, very popular, they have got their female anchors and their female reporters and their female journalists out there face first as the Taliban literally take over their country. It is inspiring and terrifying in equal measure. I do not envy them the bravery it takes to do their work right now.

Joining us now is Lotfullah Najafizada. He`s a head of TOLO TV news in Afghanistan.

Mr. Najafizada, I`m so grateful that you were able to take time to be here. Thank you for joining us.

LOTFULLAH NAJAFIZADA, HEAD OF TOLO NEWS: Thank you, Rachel, for having me. And thank you for the very nice words you said.

MADDOW: Well, I am almost sure that my perspective from here looking at what`s going on in Afghanistan today, both in the news business and generally, I am almost sure I am getting something wrong, it is refracted through so much distance and so many different lenses.

Let me give you a chance to tell me if anything I explained there was wrong or if you think that if I`m putting emphasis on anything wrongly and if there`s some other way we ought to be looking at things.

NAJAFIZADA: No. I think the past 20 years has been an extraordinary journey. We are in this new chapter. We are trying to make sense of it. We are trying to see if this is going to work.

I think the bravery of media, which is probably the only last thing segment of what Afghanistan has built in the past 20 years, is trying to see if it`s going to work. Colleagues Beheshta Arghand are back at work interviewing the Taliban. We don`t know how it`s going to unfold.

We don`t know what the new administration in Kabul, the Taliban government, how will they react long term. I hope that people like Beheshta Arghand and other journalists, like Hasiba Attakpal, like Zahra, like Annisa (ph), who are the backbone of our newsroom, will be able to do their work.

MADDOW: These women who you describe as the backbone of your newsroom, first of all, if they`re listening tonight, I hope they`re hearing that and they know that their boss believes that about them. What sort of contingencies --

NAJAFIZADA: I mean it.

MADDOW: And I can tell.

What sort of contingencies do you have to plan for? Obviously there`s so much uncertainty. There`s been lip service paid by Taliban officials thus far to allow the media at large to continue to do its work, to allowing women to participate under some sort of restrictures that they`re not yet describing. The fear among Afghan journalists is palpable. I know that you and your colleagues are very aware of the reality of these sort of threats.

How do you plan? How do you make plans for the future?


NAJAFIZADA: I think we were already thinking about trying to save media and TOLO in a way that we will be able to continue our work remotely or from other places that were well under way. But the speed of the transformation and development I think were unprecedented. It took many, many people by surprise.

So as we speak, I think what`s crucially important is that we should be able to continue our operation in Kabul. And then at the same time we should also explore other opportunities. How can we be able to do it freely without interference, without a lot of meddling, without getting dictated?

I think that is -- that depends on how the relationship will unfold for the Taliban. I must say there is so much lack of clarity and there is so much uncertainty still there, still in the air.

MADDOW: Let me ask I guess a sort of sensitive question. Sensitive only because I hope it doesn`t betray my own ignorance so it`s sensitive to me.

Is there a way that the western media and that some of the nonprofit organizations and journalistic organizations who support freedom of the press worldwide and stand up for journalists worldwide, are there things that the rest of us who believe in the free press and the rest of us in the media worldwide can do to support Afghan journalism and Afghan journalists? Or is it dangerous to talk in those terms now because anything that`s seen as a western outreach would necessarily be targeted or would potentially put even more of target on your folks that are doing this hard work? Can we help, or would it only hurt by trying to help?

NAJAFIZADA: I think, yes, of course you can help. Of course the international community can help. I think the media in Afghanistan can be only supported if the country is helped, if the country is assisted. And that can be only done when those in charge are held accountable.

Now that there is going to be a new government, how that new government is shaped, how inclusive and broad based that new government is. How principled that new administration is.

If we have any hope in that, if there is anything that the international community can do to change the environment. So within that environment media can survive. Otherwise, if you talk about individuals, if you talk about specific things, then the only thing we talk about is evacuation.

MADDOW: Lotfullah Najafizada, the head of TOLO TV news in Afghanistan, which itself is a remarkable story of success and creativity and resilience and adaptation under intense and bizarre circumstances, thank you so much for your work tonight. Stay in touch with us, please, and please convey our best wishes to you and all your colleagues as you go through this really difficult transition.

NAJAFIZADA: Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: I mentioned earlier in the show that Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has announced tonight that he has tested positive for COVID-19, I`m sorry to have to tell you and to show you this picture proving it. His announcement of his diagnosis tie comes 24 hours after he hosted a jam- packed Republican event in Collin County, Texas last night, with no social distancing and few masks, there were 600 people in attendance at that indoor event.

Governor Abbott said on Twitter the event was standing room only, he was excited about that. The governor was there in person, he was there, you see that`s him circled on the right side of the screen. That`s his tweet from last night again, this event the 600-person standing room only no mask event was last night, and today is when he announced he tested positive for COVID.

Among other things, spare taught for the contract chasers working on that particular case, right? Okay, Governor, you say it was you and 600 people in the room? Do we have a list of who was in attendance?

Governor Abbott is one of the governors who has fervently oppose any mask rules or vaccine rules in his state. He`s not just against them, he`s blocking them. Last month he issued an executive order banning any locality in Texas from issuing any such rules. One local school district and counties like Dallas, and Bexar County defied him anyway, he decided he would take his fight to the state Supreme Court, but now, Governor Abbott has COVID. His spokesman says he`s isolating in the governor`s mansion, doesn`t have symptom but that he is receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, which is interesting.

It`s becoming more and more apparent that new effort to make monoclonal antibody treatment more well-known, more available and more used, that`s an important new part of the response of this part of the pandemic. I wish he was getting more attention than it is. It might not, with Governor Abbott`s decision not only announces diagnosis but announced that`s how he is being treated.

The Biden administration has been encouraging people to seek out this kind of treatment, the idea is that if you find out that you have COVID, and you have even just mild symptoms, you should get a monoclonal antibody infusion before you get sick, before you need to be rushed to the emergency room or the hospital.


Monoclonal antibody treatments can reduce hospitalizations by 80 percent among people who are at high risk of progressing in their COVID disease to that need for intervention. We are seeing the federal government surge personnel and resources to some of the worse off state, mostly in the South to try to increase among other things uptake of these lifesaving drugs. This antibody therapy is now a big part of the strategy to keep people out of the hospital, keeping people out of the ICU, trying to keep beds open as the delta variant keeps spiking and hospitals in multiple states are getting swamped.

You will recall our reporting from last week about the University of Mississippi Medical Center opening a field hospital in a parking garage at that flagship hospital for the state of Mississippi in Jackson. As I mentioned last week, about half of that new facility is devoted to outpatient antibody treatment.

Again, for people who are not yet quite sick, who do not yet need to be in the hospital but who can come in, you can sign up in Mississippi -- at You can sign up there if you`re not sick enough to be in the hospital yet, but you got a COVID diagnosis. Make an appointment on that side, come to the parking garage, get your infusion, you get monitored for a few minutes afterwards, go back home and hopefully never occupy a hospital bed at all.

Again, that parking garage field hospital opened last week. Half of it beds for people with COVID and who are too sick to not be hospitalized. The other half of it that antibody infusion center. A big value added for that state`s medical system, which has been pushed far past its limits.

That field hospital, though, in the basement at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is still not enough in Mississippi. And today, Mississippi health officials held a press conference to announce a second field hospital being opened in a second parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

One of the doctors at the press conference today, Dr. Alan Jones, said last week that the state was on the brink of the state`s hospital system failing. A reporter today asked him to give an update on that, to let people know if that was still the case. This is what he said.


DR. ALAN JONES, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER ASSOCIATE VICE CHANCELLOR: In the systems of care right now, there are across the state makeshift ICUs. ICU patients in hallways, ICU patients being held in ERs, med-surge patients on high flow oxygen and more invasive devices that are in nontraditional areas that they should be.

Look, in terms of the state of the hospital system, we`re standing in a garage with field hospitals. I think that speaks for itself. I mean, health care in Mississippi is not good right now in terms of what we can do just from -- just from the standpoint of being able to care for the patients the way that we as physicians would expect to care for a patient. These are not ideal situations.

But this is not something that we`ve ever dealt with before. So we`re making the best use of the resources that have been given to us. You know, if people want to know how they can help, go get a vaccine. I hear people all the time they want to do their research about the vaccine. I think you should do the research about what it would be like to be taken care of in a field hospital in a garage versus getting a vaccine.

I mean, this is -- this is serious business when we`re putting patients in a place that we`re not normally taking care of patients.


MADDOW: Health care in Mississippi is not good right now. People tell me they want to do research about the vaccine. I think you should do research about what it would be like to be taken care of in a field hospital in a garage versus getting the vaccine. This is serious business. We are putting patients in places we are not normally taking care of patients. That`s the clinical director at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Alan Jones, giving that update from the latest, the second parking garage COVID ward hospital that`s had to be set up in the state of Mississippi in the space of a week.

We are seeing federal resources increasingly getting tapped now for these mostly Southern states of that having these big surges. Again, mostly southern but not entirely.

In Mississippi, we do have dozens of federal health workers from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, they`re a disaster team that`s on site staffing one of the parking garage COVID units. In recent days, both the state of Oregon and state of Tennessee announced their National Guard would deploy in hospitals in those states to try to backstop very, very, very overstretched medical staffing in the state`s hospitals.

Today, at the Pentagon briefing which for obvious reasons was mostly about Afghanistan, the Defense Department had to announce their COVID response news. They have prepared five teams, five disaster teams of medical experts that they are readying to fan out across the country to help hospitals treat patients.


They said they`re responding to local requests from places that need their help. Again, these are Pentagon, these are military, these are Defense Department resources. They have got five of these disaster response teams set up within the Pentagon. One of those five teams specifically is deploying this week to a hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana. That`s in response to a request from FEMA and the state of Louisiana, but we expect those four Pentagon teams will also be deploying to other sites as they get the request and as hospitals continue to be overwhelmed.

And, of course, in Texas, just tonight before we learned about the governor`s own COVID diagnosis, we learned of Texas` latest request to the federal government for help. They`re asking for five mortuary trucks from FEMA. FEMA agreed to the request and those mortuary trucks are being deployed to San Antonio as we speak, expected to arrive by the end of the week. They will then be deployed across the state of Texas to handle the dead bodies that are piling up faster than Texas funeral homes can handle them because of COVID.

Cases and hospitalizations increasing rapidly all across the country. The federal government innovating and moving into new phases and new ways to help in order to try to cope. But this is all hands on deck.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Yesterday, "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" did something together, which is unusual for pretty rival newspapers.

But together they all sounded an alarm. The publishers of all three papers issued this joint statement directed to President Biden saying that they have more than 200 journalists, support staff and their families stuck in Afghanistan in imminent danger. They ask for the U.S. military`s help to get them out.

Quote: Dear President Biden, for the past 20 years, brave Afghan colleagues have worked tirelessly to help "The Times", "The Post" and "The Journal" share news and information from the region with the global public. Now those colleagues and their families are trapped in Kabul, their lives in peril.

The statement goes on to ask the U.S. government for help in three very specific ways. First, they want help facilitating protected transportation for these folks to the airport in Kabul. Second, they want help getting those folks into the airport safely. And then third, of course, they want them on flights out of the country.

Kabul, of course, is now under Taliban control with Taliban military checkpoints and curfews. That`s why the papers` publishers want U.S. military help in getting their employees to the airport. The airport is the only part of the country under any semblance of U.S. control. That`s also why these publishers specifically want help getting their staff into the airport but into it, physically past the gates.

We got a bit of good news on that front today. "The Washington Post" announcing that they got some of their employees and families out of the country. Caveat of that good news is that "The Post" employees and their families who got out made up of 13 of the more than 200 people these three publishing groups are trying to evacuate.

"The Wall Street Journal" tells us while some of their journalists have been able to leave, the situation on the ground remains, quote, extremely perilous. Quote: "The Journal" continues to request immediate assistance in facilitating safe transport for the rest of their staff into the airport where access continues to be limited by Taliban checkpoints.

"The New York Times" declined to comment. The State Department is not providing any specifics on this group of journalists either.

But in following this last night and today, I`ll tell you the first person who came to mind for me when I heard about these journalists now stuck in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was our friend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Rohde. David Rohde was a reporter for "The New York Times` when he and two Afghan colleagues were kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan while on a reporting trip in 2008. They were held hostage together for over seven months before they made an escape that is almost too daring and too unlikely to be believed.

They got out. David survived in part because his Afghan colleagues saved his life and got him out. If anybody can help us understand the situation these journalists and staff and their families finds themselves in tonight, it is David Rohde, who has been engaged in his own effort to try to get his former colleagues and their families out to safety right now.

Joining us now is David Rohde, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He`s executive editor at

David, it`s nice to see you, in difficult circumstances. Thanks for making time for us to help us understand.

DAVID ROHDE, THE NEW YORKER: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: So, you wrote today about your personal efforts to try to get your colleague Tahir`s family out of Afghanistan. Can you give an update on what you`ve tried to do and with the situation is now?

ROHDE: So, Tahir is in Washington. He`s an American citizen. He came here right after he saved my life. I want to repeat that again, he saved my life. He helped me escape from Taliban captivity.

His wife and most of his children remain in Kabul. For three months, we`ve been trying to get the American government to grant his request that his children come with him and live in the United States. That`s his right as an American citizen.

And nearly, you know, for months have passed and these visas won`t approve, there`s a staggering backlog of visas and his wife and children are now trapped in Kabul. The Taliban or controlling outside of their house, the family`s terrified that some neighbor will say to the Taliban, hey, that`s the home of the Afghan who helped an American journalist escape from Taliban captivity. An Afghan whose bravery, humiliated the Taliban.

And I have been trying for three months, and this is strange for me, I`m not used to advocating, you know, contacting White House officials, State Department officials begging them for help. And this is just one case.

And the American government`s response has just been staggeringly slow and disorganized, and it`s humbling for me. Just lastly, you know, we call -- I would visit Tahir in Washington, I would call his wife and children, they expect me to save their lives because he saved mine. And I`m going to keep trying and maybe something will happen, but it`s been a really disappointing experience.

MADDOW: David, from what you have experienced trying to get his family help, from what you have learned from that process, again which is an unusual thing for you, this advocacy, and calling U.S. government officials not just for information but to try to get them to do something -- does the kind of escalation and additional resources that have been put towards this problem sound like the right kind of stuff to speed it up?

What we`ve been told is that they will have one C-17 taking off an hour as of tomorrow, today, in Afghanistan. They are going to surge State Departments personnel to handle the processing of visas. They`re going to search them into Kabul. They are going to free up $500 million on the presidents order to try to supercharge the entire process.

Are those the kinds of things you think might open these clogged arteries any further, any faster, is this the right escalation?

ROHDE: They might, I`ll say that another person right out of the story is Waheed Wafa. He`s a reporter for 10 years for "The New York Times", he was at the airport on the very first day and they`re supposed to be, I don`t know the exact number but the administration they said 5,000 troops there, but he saw about 500 Americans who were surrounded by tens of thousands of Afghans, they were scared it seems the Americans were being overwhelmed by this crowd.

So, they -- these resources have to come in and we`re just talking about extending this effort for a week or two. What`s amazing is behind the scenes there is a massive effort, you mentioned the three news organization. There`s women rights advocates who have charted planes to try to come and the brightest female students out of Kabul, they`re attending universities. They`re there all of these charters that are trying to get into bring these Afghans out by the organization, trying to save Afghans who`ve helped us all for 20 years and they can`t get in because of the lack of organization, and again the lack of planning by this administration.

So, we can leave Afghanistan. It doesn`t have to be this chaotic. We have a moral duty to get people like Tahir and Waheed out, and particularly the young women you were talking about earlier in the broadcast. I

MADDOW: I was struck today, David, listening to the Pentagon briefing, with appropriately very hard questions being thrown at the Pentagon spokesperson and a general they had on the podium today. I was struck by the claim from Pentagon spokesman that having 82nd airborne go in, establish corridor, establish not only control over things like traffic control but to secure the perimeter, and to widen the perimeter if that`s necessarily to truly have safeties and freedom of movement around that space.

But that`s something the second airborne does. That`s the kind of mission that nobody has any cynicism about the U.S.`s militaries capabilities to pull off, despite what we`ve seen from this 20-year-old the war and all its complications. I wonder if the unified, very specific focus of the U.S. military here might be able to bring the kind of order in coming days that would allow for the private efforts you are just describing to come to fruition, to get charter planes, whether they`re going to Doha or whether they`re going to Dubai, or wherever they`re flying to, to get clearance for those private efforts?

ROHDE: According to the Afghans I spoke to today, the American soldiers are doing that, they felt bad for the American soldiers. They didn`t barbed wire. They didn`t have any kind of equipment to control the crowds. You`re the only things the American soldiers had that they saw war rifles and machine guns.

There`s a tiny little part of the airport that was controlled, I think it`s expanded today, but the vast majority of the airport is not controlled. Tahir, my friend as an American citizen, he got an email saying that his family should show up at the main gate, thousands of Afghans where there.

There was messaging between journalists that Afghan shouldn`t follow the instructions of the U.S. to go to that gate because the Taliban were there, there is no security.


And I think as the days goal by we report harder, the amount of just poor planning and very poor management carried on by this -- the Biden White House, it`s going to be appalling. I just keep hearing deep frustration from the news organizations that are simply trying to get planes in to bring their people out.

MADDOW: David Rohde, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, executive editor, somebody with personal experience, that gives them not only a unique connection with those men your trying to help but also unique perspective on what needs to be done here.

David, thank you so much for your time and good luck to Tahir`s family and to the others that you`re trying to help.

ROHDE: These journalist are so brave, you saw it earlier from the folks from TOLO. Thank you for having them on too.

MADDOW: Indeed.

All right. Much more news coming ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Something to watch for in tomorrow`s news. Tonight, President Biden is returning to the White House from Camp David, but we`ve learned in the last few hours that tomorrow, he`s expected to deliver remarks to the country on COVID.


Specifically, he`s expected to make an announcement to the country about recommended booster shots, additional vaccine shots. You probably saw the news last week when the CDC recommended additional vaccine shots for people who have immuno -- who are immunocompromised in various ways.

But now with the delta variant raging throughout the country, and overwhelming hospitals with too many people, too sick with COVID, in multiple Southern states, the Biden administration tomorrow is expected to announce its recommendation that there should be additional vaccine shots, not just for immunocompromised people but for everyone.

Now, I don`t have very much detail to give you because there isn`t very much detail available yet, this is a fairly controversial think the president is going to announce in part because the data on which his COVID advisers made this decision is dated that has not been shared with the public, at least not in an easily digestible way.

So, there`s lots of confusion about the potential announcement and advance of it, lots of discussion, wide ranging discussion about what exactly the government is going to end now it`s in terms of recommendation tomorrow but we woke hear directly tomorrow afternoon.

So, watch this space.


MADDOW: If you feel like the news is heavier than heavy right now, that is because you are a smart, aware person and you are correct. I`ll just tell you, a remarkable snapshot of that today at the Pentagon briefing, the Pentagon briefing that the transition from the huge emergency evacuation operations in Afghanistan, to the deployment of disaster medical teams from the Defense Department to U.S. hospitals overwhelmed by COVID, starting with one in Louisiana.

Then they moved on to a long list of Coast Guard and Navy and other military resources they are deploying right now to help with the rescue and recovery operations in Haiti after the earthquake there, including multiple field hospitals that are going to Haiti right now as we speak.

The reason the news feels heavy tonight is because it is. We pray for better days ahead.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow, come hell or high water.


Good evening, Lawrence.