President Biden to deliver remarks on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan tomorrow. Rescue operations underway after Hurricane Ida pummels Louisiana. January 6 committee seeks phone records of GOP lawmakers in Capitol riot investigation. Interview with Virginia Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The Britain invasion in Afghanistan in 1939. They were in charge in India right next door. Their reach as the British Empire extended around the world. They were worried that the regime in charge in Afghanistan in the 1830s, they are worried that they were siding with Russia instead of them, giving Russia too much influence in a place where Britain thought they should be in charge.
So in 1839, the Brits invaded Afghanistan. They tried to install their own guy who they had hand-picked to run Afghanistan which would make Afghanistan closer aligned with them. The British stayed for several years fighting that war, but in the end, it didn`t work out.
The Brits left in 1842. But then 35, 40 years later, the British army tried again. The Brits were freaked out all over again that a place they thought ought to be allied with them was actually more inclined toward Russia, the same thing that had driven them 35, 40 years before. So in 1848, the British invaded Afghanistan again. And again, they installed their own hand-picked guy, this time for a hot minute they actually thought they had won and that Afghanistan would have a long-term alliance with Britain, which is what they were seeking in that first and second war.
But their guy they installed in the government, he abdicated, and the Afghanistan went way and British left again. How long does it take to forget? It was 35 to 40 years between the first war of Afghanistan and the second one. It was another 35 or 40 years until they invaded a third time.
At the close of World War One, the British again invaded Afghanistan and fought another war there. That one ended with Afghanistan signing a treaty that recognized its independence. Great Britain invaded Afghanistan three different times to try to keep Afghanistan in their orbit, three invasions, three wars, the answer was no every time.
Fast forward 102 years, it was just earlier this month, August 19th, that Afghans celebrated what they to this day call independence day Afghan Independence Day every year celebrates that peace treaty that gave them their independence as a nation in 1919, independence from Great Britain at the end of the third British invasion of Afghanistan.
And it is gravely, gravely over some oversimplifying to say it this way. But if you -- if you did have to boil it down, the reason great Britain kept invading Afghanistan over and over again is because they really did think that Afghanistan was too cozy with Russia. They wanted to stop that alliance. They wanted Afghanistan in their British orbit instead.
After the peace treaty in 1919 which Afghanistan formally got its independence after fighting off three different British invasions, well, the Afghan government at the time actually did kind of sign themselves up with the Russians. They were one of the first countries to recognize the new Soviet states after Russia had its revolution in 1917.
I mean, in playground terms, again, in, grossly oversimplified terms, that means in the battle for having influence over Afghanistan, the Russians sort of won and Britain lost despite years and years of fighting in three different wars there, despite the Brits losing thousands of soldiers there.
But the Russians as, you know, soon the Soviets, they would end up having their own drama and trauma with the Afghan people and the Afghan government because the Afghan government while it had recognized the post-czarist so soon to be Soviet states, while they had alive themselves with Russia this thing that Britain had been so worried about for so many generations, ultimately even when they had a government that had allied itself with the soviet union, the population of Afghanistan didn`t necessarily like that, they didn`t necessarily like or want Afghanistan being run by a communist soviet allied government and so they started an insurgency against it.
After all those wars, the British fought in the previous century to try to keep Afghanistan on their side, all of which ultimately failed, it was Russia, the Soviet Union, that felt it necessary to invade Afghanistan themselves in 1976, to try to keep the Afghan government on their side, despite an insurgency in the country that rejected Russian influence.
In that war, after the Soviet Union invaded, the United States got involved tentatively at first and then ultimately with some considerable enthusiasm on the side of the insurgents who were making it making things so hard for the USSR.
But with us or without us, the history of Afghanistan, even the modern history of Afghanistan, is enough to have made the outcome of the Soviet Union`s war there sort of a foregone conclusion. Why do outside invaders, even big, powerful, influential, rich, well-resourced invaders keep losing wars there? Is it because of something about the invaders or is it because of something about Afghanistan?
I mean, think about it. The British tried three times and failed. It takes brass to call that a British problem especially since they did iterate they did learn from their previous mistakes a little bit they did get a little better at fighting those wars with each successive invasion. I mean they had war one. Then a do-over, then war two, then another do-over. Each time they got a little better at achieving some interstitial strategic objective that ostensibly made the war worth it, that ostensibly pointed them towards some sort of victory.
But regardless, in the end, big picture three tries, three losses. And Russia knew that history when they themselves invaded in 1979. And maybe Russia thought it was just something wrong with the British that made them fail in all their wars. Maybe they thought we the Soviet Union will do it better. Who doesn`t think they could do a better job than the last guy who failed.
But the problem wasn`t necessarily the character of the invasion the way the invaders waged the war. They tried a lot of different versions of it. The problem more likely was Afghanistan which for all its poverty and internecine conflict and everything else, Afghanistan doesn`t particularly want to be under any other country`s remote control. And so, when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979, the modern history of Afghanistan would have told them how that would end, but they invaded and then just shy of a decade after they invaded in 1989, the Soviets went home too. They went home February 15th, 1989.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The end of an era. The last of the Soviet troops leaving Afghanistan after nine years of humiliation and defeat.
ANNOUNCER: "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw.
BROKAW: Good evening.
It really is one of the most remarkable military stories of our time. A nuclear superpower defeat bid a sordid band of rebels who waged a hit and run war for almost a decade. Tonight, Afghanistan is free of soviet troops and the next bloody phase of this war is set to begin.
SANDY GILMORE, REPORTER: The Soviet`s long war in Afghanistan officially ended as the last unit crossed over into Amu River and entered Soviet territory just before noon.
Lieutenant General Boris Gromov who has commanded Soviet forces in Afghanistan for five years was the last to leave. He walked the final 200 yards with his young son. You saw that I didn`t look back, he says.
My thoughts were with the soldiers and those that did not get out alive.
In this border town, the soldiers were told they did their patriotic duty, bravely helping the Afghan people. There was no parade that they won.
With the pullout of Afghanistan scheduled, the Soviet`s failed military adventure in Afghanistan has come to an end. But there is no victory to celebrate, no proud ending to this war, it is simply over, over there.
It`s over despite more than nine years of battling the Muslim guerrillas who had defied Soviet supported regimes. At home, Soviet mothers warned their sons, and Soviet leader Gorbachev declared the war a bleeding wound. He decided last year to pull out the troops.
In Moscow today, there was relief that the pullout was finally over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I`m happy. Happiness is all I feel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We all think the withdrawal is a positive move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think the intervention was a mistake. But the withdrawal is wise, although a somewhat late decision on part of our government.
GILMORE: In Termez, bands played and patriotic speeches were made. But this was a defeat, and now the country will try to heal what Gorbachev called that bleeding wound.
Sandy Gilmore, NBC News, Termez, near the African border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: February 15, 1989. Remember we talked about the length of time between all the various British invasions in Afghanistan, those three different wars, 35, 40 years between them.
How long does it take to forget? How long does it take to decide to do it again?
Today marks roughly 32.5 years, 12,000 days since the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan between the end of that war and the end today of ours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.
While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues, and I know that you have heard and I know that you`re going to hear more about that from the State Department shortly.
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 2001. It`s a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end along with many of his al-Qaeda co-conspirators, and it was not it was not a cheap mission. The cost was 2,461 U.S. service 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. But I will say that I`m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Proud that both my son and I have been a part of it. That`s a reminder of how concentrated U.S. military service is in our country, families often sending multiple generations into the service even, even simultaneously while the vast majority of Americans don`t serve in the military. Also a reminder that of the young soldiers and airmen and marines who died just last week in Afghanistan, some were literally babies on 9/11. They weren`t even walking or talking at the time of the precipitating event for the war in which they died. They were toddlers at the time the starting gun was fired to start this war that ultimately ended their lives.
The last U.S. planes left the airport in Kabul today, August 30th East Coast time, which was it was basically midnight in Kabul when they left. It`s the deadline set by President Biden, the last two Americans on the ground before the plane closed its doors and took off were General Christopher Donohue who was directly in charge of overseeing the Kabul airport airlift, that`s him here in this image released tonight by the Defense Department, the last U.S. soldier leaving Afghanistan. Also on that plane, the other man left as the last man aside beside him was Ross Wilson who`s the top U.S. diplomat in Kabul.
Tonight, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken gave extended remarks on the end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and what he called the start of a new diplomatic mission for the U.S. in that country, including efforts to continue to get more people out of that country, even without Kabul airport as a bridgehead for doing so. One of the first concrete signs of the end of the mission today was an FAA notice to airmen which is a notice to pilots worldwide and it was blunt as all get out in case. It was not clear before.
Quote, effective immediately Hamid Karzai International Airport is uncontrolled. No air traffic control or airport services are available. Aircraft operating into or out of or through Kabul should use extreme caution. Taliban now controls the airport.
Over the past 17 days, the U.S. airlift brought more than 122,000 people out of Afghanistan through that single runway airfield single largest non- combatant evacuation in the history of the U.S. military by a lot.
President Biden tonight said this in a statement ahead of what`s expected to be a major speech to the nation on Afghanistan tomorrow. He said, quote: I want to thank our commanders and the 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 at the United States. They`ve done it with unmatched courage professionalism and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.
Tomorrow afternoon, he says, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31st. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the joint chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.
I`ve asked the 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 that country. This will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport, allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance the people of Afghanistan.
For now, the president says, quote, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer tonight for three things. First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results -- excuse me -- unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation guide them to the airport and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who`s now and who will welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world and in the United States.
Again, the president calling for grateful prayer tonight for those three things. He then closes with a call for gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week while facilitating those civilian evacuations from the airport, in his statement tonight, list them all by name.
Again this from the president tonight as the U.S. ends the longest war in our history, as the United States becomes the third world superpower to leave Afghanistan after years of fighting thousands of casualties and no certain outcome that bears resemblance to the stated objectives that justified continuing the war for this long. It was the British. It was the Russians. Today, it`s us.
President Biden will address the country tomorrow. For now, it is something to see the headlines across the front pages tonight at "The New York Times", at "The Washington Post", at "The Wall Street Journal", and "USA Today", and all these papers with national reach.
It`s just stunning to see the state will in fact live in history.
Tonight, we`re going to have more on what happens next for Afghans who want to leave particularly for Afghans who the U.S. has accepted responsibility for, in terms of agreeing to try to get them out. The airlift is done. The ambassador is gone from the U.S. embassy, but the Pentagon and the State Department are both explaining today that there`s more people still to get out and they are still planning to get more people out. How that will work with zero U.S. troops and a closed U.S. embassy, there`s interesting reporting along those lines.
I will -- like I said -- we`ll have more on that tonight. That`s a continuing developing story.
And all of that, of course, is unfolding at the same moment that the country has been dealing with one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the United States. What was Hurricane Ida has now been downgraded to a tropical depression. It`s still dumping heavy rainfall across Mississippi tonight, as it makes its way toward the Tennessee Valley and then ultimately up to the Northeast.
But when it made landfall on the Louisiana coast around midday yesterday, Ida was a cat 4 hurricane with sustained winds topping miles per hour, one of the largest and strongest hurricanes to ever hit the mainland United States, one of the top five.
Since dawn broke this morning, Louisiana has been coming to grips with just how much havoc Ida left in its wake particularly along the coast and around the great American city of New Orleans.
This is LaPlace, Louisiana, today, northwest of New Orleans. Overnight, some residents were trapped by rising flood waters there. People retreated their attics, calling for help. But the winds were too strong for any rescue efforts overnight until early this morning.
You can see why it was so dangerous to send out rescue crews last night from this quite scary footage of people being rescued from a flooded highway in New Orleans in the middle of the storm last night. There have been two confirmed deaths from the storm. One of them was a man who drowned when his vehicle tried to go through flood waters on this same highway. Once daylight came today, you can see here, search and rescue teams finally reaching Laplace, where all those people had their homes filled with water all those people were trapped in their attics trying to get away from the rising waters.
Louisiana`s governor said tonight that the National Guard had rescued 191 people, also 27 pets. It`s not clear how many more people may still need rescuing right now as we speak.
Today`s operations have largely been responding to all the 911 calls that couldn`t be answered last night. 911 systems were down in multiple locations for much of the night and the day today, including for a long time in New Orleans.
The governor of Louisiana says teams will do a grid search in the hardest hit areas. They`ll go street by street, block by block, and then they`ll do a secondary search to make sure they didn`t miss anyone in the first one. Meanwhile, the state is bracing for the knock-on effects of the biggest problem facing southeastern Louisiana in the wake of Ida. The lack of electric power.
This is a collapsed transmission tower in New Orleans today. The power company Entergy says all eight of the transmission lines that come into the city of New Orleans were knocked out by the storm. There`s distribution lines within the city the big towers the big transmission lines that bring high voltage current into the city, there`s eight of those coming into New Orleans, all eight knocked over out.
Over a million homes and businesses are without power in Louisiana, including the whole city of New Orleans.
Entergy says it`ll take days just to determine the extent of the damage and far longer to restore electricity that means most people will be without for example air conditioning as the heat index tops degrees over coming days. Officials are warning about the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from people using portable generators inside, inside a home or a garage. That`s actually what caused most of the deaths in Louisiana from Hurricane Laura last year. So they are urgently trying to get that word out about the use of portable generators.
The other thing we`re keeping an eye on in Louisiana is the hospitals. As you know from recent reporting, including here on this show, Louisiana`s hospitals are already full to bursting with very sick COVID patients.
You might remember a video we played on the show a few weeks ago. Navy medical team, a uniformed active duty navy medical team arriving at one hospital in Louisiana to help relieve the overwhelmed doctors and staff there. That Navy team who played this footage was remarkable to see that loud sustained ovation they got from the hospital staff. The staff that was so overwhelmed with COVID patients.
Well, that was at Ochsner Lafayette General Hospital, which is about miles west of New Orleans. That same health care system, Ochsner, has had to evacuate over 60 patients from two of their smaller hospitals near New Orleans early this morning because of what their CEO described as partially torn off roofs, failed generators, water running down the walls, blown out windows from the hurricane. They`re also helping a partner hospital evacuate patients just tonight.
This is after we saw a harrowing video yesterday of a portion of a roof being blown off of one Ochsner hospital. But it is a challenge to find anywhere for patients to go right now, even before the storm hit. All the state`s hospitals are full, as well as the hospitals of all of the neighboring states because of COVID, and now on top of everything these hospitals are bracing for the possible arrival of people who are being rescued from flood waters or people who get sick or injured in coming days while they try to cope with having no electricity from what may be in an extended period of time in what may be extreme heat conditions.
So the challenges here are myriad, and we are watching that developing story tonight. I mean, that and the news out of Afghanistan is enough to power a normal news cycle until the end of this year at least, right?
But on top of that, we`ve also tonight got eyes on a Washington story, a Washington story that is historic in its own right. According to new reporting from CNN, the phone records of former President Donald Trump are being requested from telecom companies by the committee that`s investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, the attack by Trump supporters as they tried to stop the certification of the election in which Mr. Trump lost to Joe Biden.
Last week, as we reported here on the show, the committee investigating the January 6th attack, they contacted eight different federal agencies, including the National Archive and Records Administration, which is the custodian for Trump White House records. The National Archives, along with the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, a whole bunch of other agencies, they were all told that they had a two-week deadline to hand over a lot of records and communications related to the attack on the Capitol and related to the broader effort by former President Trump to try to seize power, to try to stay in power even after he lost re-election.
Those eight federal agencies were sent those demands last week. Then after that, social media companies were sent to records demand as well asking them to preserve records related not just to the capital attack directly but also to efforts to sabotage or overturn the election. Well, now, in addition to the federal agencies, in addition to the social media companies, now, it is telecom companies, cell phone providers, who are being told to preserve communications related to a whole bunch of people, including certain Republican members of Congress who attended or promoted the stop the steal events in Washington on January, the events that led to the capital attack.
Telecom companies are also being told to preserve records from adult members of President Trump`s family, members of his family who were also involved in those same events on January 6th, including the former president`s adult children, Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric. They`re also being told to preserve the phone records of former President Trump himself, which is a pretty remarkable thing, right, to have a congressional investigation trying to obtain the detailed personal phone records of the former president and his kids and serving members of Congress who may or may not have abetted his efforts to try to seize power and stay in office after losing the election.
That`s something, right?
I know we are just buried in news right now but this itself would be a showstopper at any other time. We`re going to have more on all of those stories and more over the course of this very busy hour tonight.
Do stay with us.
MADDOW: For more than a month now, Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan has had trouble giving a straight answer to a pretty simple question. Congressman, did you speak to President Trump on the day Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLI)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you talk to the former president that day?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I`ve talked to the former president umpteen times, thousands, I mean --
JORDAN: Countless times.
BAIER: On January 6, Congressman.
JORDAN: Yes, I mean, I`ve talked to the president -- I`ve talked to the president so many -- I can`t remember all the days I`ve talked to him.
TV HOST: On January 6, did you speak with him before during or after the Capitol was attacked?
JORDAN: I`d have to -- I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don`t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not, and I just don`t know. I`d have to go back and -- I mean, I don`t -- I don`t -- I don`t know though that when those conversations happen, but --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the answer is -- the answer is the, what, the answer is yes? Those bumbling answers to straightforward questions, those answers were the closest we have had to an admission from Republican Congressman Jim Jordan that he did speak with President Trump the day Trump supporters were attacking the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of the election.
Well, now, thanks to a scoop from politico.com, we know that the congressman and President Trump did speak that day multiple times. Congressman Jordan now admitting, quote, look, I definitely spoke to the president that day. I don`t recall. I know it was more than once, I just don`t recall the times.
Perhaps you will have the opportunity to have that memory refreshed soon. Today, the House Committee that`s investigating the January 6th attack sent letters to multiple cell phone providers, directing them to preserve phone records that may be relevant to the committee`s investigation. CNN reporting that the list of individuals whose phone records the committee wants includes President Trump himself, several of his family members.
The committee also wants the companies to preserve the records of several Republican members of Congress, including Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Mo Brooks, Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Jody Hice, Scott Perry and, yes, Jim Jordan -- all of whom played some role in promoting or appearing at or furthering the aims of the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol that day.
It is really something though for an investigating committee to obtain phone records from a former president, from a former president`s family and from serving members of Congress.
Joining us now to help us understand the ambition of this request and why this is necessary is a member of the House Select Committee on January 6, Congresswoman Elaine Luria from the great state of Virginia.
Congressman Luria, it`s a real pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thank you for taking time.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Thank you.
MADDOW: Do you agree that this is a remarkable request? I don`t -- I feel like I`ve covered a lot of congressional investigations, phone records of serving members of Congress, let alone a former president, it just -- I don`t know if it`s exactly unprecedented, but it does feel like a big deal.
LURIA: Well, Rachel, you know, this committee is tasked with fully discovering and understanding the facts of everything that happened on January 6th and everything that led up to January 6th, which obviously we know is an unprecedented attack on our democracy and our institution of government. So the committee is using these preservation requests to ensure um that telecommunication companies preserve these records.
This is a preliminary step and, you know, there`s a lengthy list of people who are involved and I won`t comment specifically on any of the names but I would say that you know we`re taking a broad look we`re casting a wide net to make sure that we understand all of the facts about what happened that day and have those records available as the investigation moves forward.
MADDOW: Do you and other members of the committee anticipate that these requests are going to lead to legal fights either when it comes specifically to the former president or to serving members of Congress? I know you don`t want to talk about any individuals but given the reporting and given what Chairman Thompson has said about the scope of these requests for information, are you sort of building into your timeline and expectation that some of these things may end up in court?
LURIA: It`s certainly possible and I think the committee`s approach has been so far with these record requests and these preservation requests, that we`re essentially sending out requests and providing a deadline in order for the telecom companies or government agencies depending on their quest to comply with that timeline. And then we have more tools moving forward. There is the possibility of issuing subpoenas if necessary but our hope would be especially if it were to involve current or former members of the administration or government that the people will willingly comply with these requests.
But we do have tools available in order to enforce those requests with subpoenas later on if necessary.
MADDOW: I said at the outset of the show tonight that this is a show- stopper of a development in terms of the investigation as to what happened on January 6, particularly given the committee`s willingness to look not just specifically at the physical attack on the Capitol, but how it was seated in what appears to have been a larger effort to try to subvert the election results and keep the former president in power despite his loss. It`s a show-stopping development to have these requests going out and to think about the scope of this investigation and what was at stake for our country.
It also happens at a time that we`ve got these incredibly historic and harrowing other developments in the world, not just Hurricane Ida, which we are watching the continued impact of in the Southeast, not just the this terrible moment that we are at in terms of COVID, and the strain on our country and its hospitals particularly in the Southeast.
But today is the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. And as someone who served in the United States Navy for two decades, who rose to high levels in the United States Navy and in fact was in a command position for a very long time, I just have to ask -- I have to ask your reflection on this moment both this work that you`re doing and what it means today to end this longest war?
LURIA: Rachel, you know, I reflect back. I was in uniform myself on 9/11. It was actually a time when I was potentially coming to the end of my service. I had finished my service commitment for being commissioned as an officer. And when I saw those tragic attacks on our homeland on the United States, on the Twin Towers, I was serving on an aircraft carrier at the time, you know, it was a moment when I knew that I needed to continue to serve because what I was doing was important, my time in uniform was important, and defending our country was essential. So, you know, from that point forward, I served for another 15 years.
And I think there`s so many people and, you know, I mourn the tragic loss of the 13 Americans who died during the evacuation, and they put their life on the line to continue to defend our country overseas, and understand that we have enemies overseas and they`re still there and they`re still seeking to harm us and to harm our allies. And, you know, when I look back and I think about our 20 years in Afghanistan, you know, the success of that was truly that we did prevent terrorists from gaining ground and planting a seed in Afghanistan from which they could launch attacks against our country.
But now as we withdraw, I think it`s an incredibly tenuous time. We`ve seen even with the -- then the time frame of this evacuation, that you know there are terrorists there who are willing to harm us, who have already harmed -- you know, the loss of life of 13 Americans and other injured and many Afghans killed from this tragic terrorist attack within recent days.
So it`s a very tenuous and dangerous time. And above and beyond that, we`ve left behind Americans and we`ve left behind partners who served with us during those 20 years. We still have a mission at hand to make sure that we can rescue them, that we can bring them back, that we can bring them to safety. So this mission is not over, until the mission is complete, and we brought every American home.
MADDOW: We still have a mission at hand indeed, and that`s actually going to be the focus for the rest of our hour tonight.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria, from the great state of Virginia, member of the House Select Committee on January 6, thank you for your extended service in the Navy, thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you.
All right. We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: At the top of the sow, we showed a graphic listing the names of the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in Afghanistan last week. One of the pictures on that slate of was apparently doubled the first time that we put up this slate with their with their names and photos.
This is the correct one, I`m not sure how the double photo happened before how that mistake happened but I`m going to find out. I`m sorry about that.
Today, the commanding general of U.S. Central Command said that going forward, getting people out of Afghanistan will no longer be a U.S. military mission. It will be a diplomatic mission. He told reporters both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and Afghans who want to leave, they will not be denied that our opportunity. He said the State Department, quote, is going to work that very hard in the days and weeks ahead.
What does that mean exactly? I mean, clearly, in concept, now that the U.S. military is no longer on the ground in Afghanistan, we are witnessing an administrative handoff of this issue from the military to fully the responsibility of the United States State Department and the nation`s diplomats.
Tonight, America`s top diplomat, secretary of state, gave us the first outlines of what that might look like going forward, while he reaffirmed President Biden`s commitment that the us government will get out everybody out of that country who wants to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week, or a month, or a year, they reach out and say, I`ve changed my mind, we will help them leave. Additionally, we`ve worked intensely to evacuate and relocate Afghans who work alongside us. We will work to secure their safe passage.
This morning, I met with the foreign ministers of all the G7 countries, as well as Qatar, Turkey, the European Union and the secretary general of NATO. We discussed how we will work together to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan, including by reopening Kabul`s civilian airport as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking tonight, announcing a multilateral initiative to try to continue to get Afghan allies and U.S. citizens, dual citizens out of Afghanistan, in part by planning to reopen the country`s main airport in Kabul.
How is that going to work and unless and until that happens what are the other ways out?
Joining us now is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, the host of "ANDREW MITCHELL REPORTS" on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell.
Andrea, it is great to see you. It`s been too long my friend.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS": Thank you. It`s great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So we heard a lot from Secretary Blinken about America`s commitment and thanking our partners and talking about what has just happened. What`s the nitty-gritty in terms of the plan going forward to get additional people out who the U.S. has committed to get out if and when they want to leave?
MITCHELL: This is very, very tough and it depends on relying on some very uncertain people, especially the Taliban. They say that they don`t rely on them, that they will trust them once they prove that they are living up to those commitments, commitments they have made not only to the U.S. but to 100 other countries that have demanded this, and the U.N. Security Council, with importantly Russia and China both abstaining. The rest of the security council, of course, as well as the G7, said today that they have to live up to this commitment to let there be freedom of movement, no repression of women and girls, freedom to move to the borders that anyone who wants to leave including Americans who have allied with the U.S. with targets on their backs at least in the past have to be allowed to leave when they want to.
Is that going to happen? It happened until the U.S. left militarily but now that it`s a diplomatic mission, what leverage do we have? Well, they have some financial leverage, but basically, they have to make this happen by pressuring the Taliban with the finances and trying to get Pakistan and Iran to keep their borders open. Pakistan -- primarily, we don`t have much leverage with Iran.
The Pakistan border, they have not made any commitment. There was a meeting of the five countries minus China surrounding Afghanistan and they have not said that they`ve made a commitment to keep those borders open. In the past, Pakistan has but those overland routes are patrolled by the Taliban. Are they going to let people through? They know who the people are who they suspect or know were involved with the Americans. There are thousands and thousands of people who are SIVs and people who didn`t even get through that process who should have been through that process.
And then more people, the women lawyers, the judges, the teachers, others who have been prominent -- judges who have put Taliban in jail. So they they`ve got documentation of these. They`ve already been going door-to- door.
There`s plenty of evidence that they have not lived up to any of these commitments outside of Kabul and their relationship at the Kabul airport.
MADDOW: In terms of that airport -- obviously, you know, Kabul`s not the only airport in the country and the Taliban takeover of the airport today was also simultaneously and necessarily a statement to the world that the Karzai airport in Kabul is closed.
Is there effort or is there going to be effort by Turkey or by forces from any other nation to get Kabul airport back open? Obviously, the Taliban can`t run it themselves. They don`t have air traffic control capacity and all these other things.
This idea that that airport is going to reopen and that will again be some way that people can leave, how do we get there?
MITCHELL: Well, that is exactly what Blinken has been working on with Turkey and Qatar. He met and talked virtually with the G7, and also importantly with Turkey and Qatar today and again has been doing this for weeks and this started actually under -- with the president talking to Erdogan, Turkey`s president,. in Brussels, when we were there for the NATO meetings.
There was no commitment then. Now, they say they have that commitment. Now, the airport is a mess, and we destroyed a lot of equipment. We left a lot of 73 -- I think they said broken aircraft, making them unusable. That`s what General McKenzie said and listing all of those assets that we left and made incapable of flying again.
They also took out all of the staff, all of the air traffic controllers, the airport workers, the mechanics. So there`s no way that that can reopen without Qatar and Turkey putting people in. So that is what they`re relying on, and it`s going to take a long time to get that airport up to speed.
They need those overland routes but what we`re learning tonight from the NGOs, the veterans groups we`re talking to, of my colleagues are talking to the refugee groups, they`re telling people right now to shelter in place because there`s no evidence yet the Taliban are going to let people pass. So people are being told to go to safe houses, many of which have been financed in the past by American aid groups. Go to safe houses, go to shelters, try to hide out until we see what the Taliban are going to do.
And then the other thing is what General McKenzie also emphasized is there are now 2,000 fighters, ISIS-K fighters, at least, he said 2,000 hardcore ISIS-K fighters, many of whom were released from the jails by the Taliban which Taliban commanders have agreed with their biggest mistake during their march to encircle and take Kabul.
And those are the hardest of the hard.
They proved what they could attempt to do tragically, last week with the 13 fallen service members, that they killed and so many others injured and so many, you know -- you know, more than we don`t even know how many, 200 Afghans who died in the -- in that terrible assault and the suicide bomb. But they also had the RPGs, five that were aimed at the Karzai at the -- Kabul airport today. So that was repelled by American equipment, that equipment no longer exists.
I would say that the attack on the airport in Kabul was really the opening of the civil war, and there are resistance groups against the Taliban and some of the outlying provinces that had been you know under some of the warlords who had not been, you know, really uh part of the Taliban -- Taliban loyal group. But the other group, of course, is the ISIS-K, that now is going to be going after the Taliban.
And the Taliban has control over Kabul, but can they control the rest of the country? This is going to be another terror war right in the same place as you described at the beginning of the program that has been the subject the country that has been unconvertible by so many invasions, so many times by the Brits, by Russia and by us, and all leading to defeat.
MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" on MSNBC -- Andrea, this is going to be a fascinating story to keep watching. The end of an era in terms of U.S. military presence, but the start of something -- something new and complex. Thanks for helping us understand, my friend.
MITCHELL: You bet. Fascinating and tragic as well.
MADDOW: Indeed. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This weekend, 50,000 people march fed on Washington, D.C., calling on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The House passed both of those currently stalled by the Republicans in the Senate with an assist from conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.
The signs you might have seen in D.C. that said the boy from Troy sent us, those were in tribute to the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis who was born in Troy, Alabama.
There were good size marches held in places like Atlanta. In Phoenix, there were hundreds of people who gathered at the Baptist Church. In Miami, people held up a protect voting rights sign that says tell our senators to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
This is all happening right on time. In Texas, Republicans on Friday passed their new voting rights restrictions through the state House. Texas Democrats had managed to hold this off for nearly 38 days when they fled the state to deny Republicans a quorum so they couldn`t act at all. But now, it`s back on. It may ultimately pass as soon as tomorrow in Texas, and Texas`s Republican governor says he is expecting to sign the bill within a week of it passing the legislature.
If that`s true, it is sort of all over about the shouting in Texas unless there is federal help to stop this kind of stuff. Which means the pressure is all the more back on the United States Senate for a federal remedy to what Republicans are doing in state after state. Watch this space.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. Thanks for being here on a big news night. I`m particularly grateful when we try to spend some of that night with us.
We will be back again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORLD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.