• Show Notes
  • Transcript

With Joyce away this week, Preet speaks with NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, who is reporting on the unfolding crisis on the ground in Afghanistan. Speaking from the airport in Kabul, Engel gives an update on the status of the U.S. military’s evacuation effort as the Taliban solidifies control of the country. And he doesn’t mince words. 

We hope you’re finding CAFE Insider informative. Email us at letters@cafe.com with your suggestions and questions for Preet and Joyce. 

This podcast is brought to you by CAFE Studios and Vox Media Podcast Network. 

Tamara Sepper – Executive Producer; Adam Waller – Senior Editorial Producer; Matthew Billy – Audio Producer; Jake Kaplan & Sam Ozer-Staton – Editorial Producers

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS:

AFGHANISTAN

“Remarks by President Biden on Afghanistan,” Biden Administration, 8/16/21

“Chaos Ensues at Kabul Airport as Americans Abandon Afghanistan,” NYT, 8/16/21

“Chinese state media rips U.S. over chaotic Afghanistan exit,” NBC News, 8/16/21

“‘We’re at war; America’s at the mall,’” CBS News, 9/2006

VIDEO: “Richard Engel: Scenes Of Chaos And Desperation At Kabul Airport,” MSNBC, 8/16/21

VIDEO: “Richard Engel: ‘I’m Not Surprised At All’ Kabul Fell To The Taliban So Quickly,” MSNBC, 8/15/21

VIDEO: “Engel: Taliban Are Now ‘Victorious’ As They Return to Kabul,” NBC News, 8/15/21

Richard Engel, Twitter

Richard Engel tweet, 8/16/21

Richard Engel tweet, 8/16/21

Preet Bharara:

Hey, folks. Preet here. Joyce is away this week. So, instead of our usual episode of CAFE Insider, we’re going to address the gut-wrenching story many of us are attempting to process: the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan. As Afghanistan’s government collapsed over the weekend, effectively ceding control to the Taliban, the US military scrambled to evacuate thousands of civilians trying to flee the country. The 20-year US war in Afghanistan, it appears, is ending right where it began, under Taliban rule.

To help us wrap our minds around some of these stunning developments, I’m joined today by NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, who’s been covering the situation on the ground in Kabul. No stranger to the realities of war, Richard has been stationed all throughout the Middle East from Baghdad to Beirut, to Benghazi. In 2012, he and his crew were abducted in Syria, where they were held hostage for five days. Richard joins me now on the ground at the airport in Kabul. Richard Engel, thanks for being on the show.

Richard Engel:

Sure. It’s my pleasure.

Preet Bharara:

The first thing I want to say is I hope that you and your crew are safe. I’ve seen you ubiquitously on television. There’s lots of bad things going on. Where are you right now? We’re recording this at around 10:00 AM, Eastern time on Tuesday, August 17th. Where are you, and what is going on?

Richard Engel:

I am in a very strange place. And in Kabul at the airport. I’m watching the evacuation process take place. And overhead, there are fighter jets. There are evacuation planes taking off and landing. And there are lots of troops and lots of contractors who are still here. I thought that the evacuation was going much more quickly. And I got onto this base today, and I was surprised at how many people are still here. And then, all around the perimeter of the base, that’s what makes it so strange and so surreal. We are on what is effectively the last American base, last international base that is being evacuated. Still more people here than I expected.

And then, all around are refugees, people crowding to get in, people pushing around the entrances. So, getting onto here was not easy at all because there are many people who get on these flights, Afghan civilians, who are trying to get out. We saw those images yesterday and the day before of people bursting onto the civilian side of the airport, which is just a few hundred yards away, and then, coming onto the military side. And then, the rest of the city of Kabul is controlled by the Taliban.

Preet Bharara:

What’s the frequency of flights? How many people are being evacuated, on what timeframe at the moment?

Richard Engel:

The flights seem to be moving pretty quickly. They will come in, I don’t know, every 10 minutes. They seem to come waves. So, maybe in half an hour, three will come in or two will come in, and in pretty quick succession. They’re not on the ground very long. And then, take off again. So, there’s a pause. And then, there’s another batch that comes in. They’re not on the ground, and they move out. They do seem to be making up for lost time because when the runways were overrun, they had to stop this evaluation process for about half a day.

And it is just the strangest thing because you have these three layers, three realities, three worlds. I’m on this base. It looks and feels like… I don’t know if you’ve spent any time on a US military base. There’s gravel. There’s sandbags. There’s Defax. There are lots of different vehicles moving around. There’s soldiers on bicycles moving back and forth. So, it looks and still feels like a base. People are carrying boxes around. A lot of soldiers with guns moving around, packing up things, grabbing bottles of water. Then you have the outer perimeter with all these people desperate to get in. And then, you have Taliban country.

Preet Bharara:

What’s the level of desperation among the Afghans who are trying to get out? Is it abating? Is it getting worse? Who have you talked to? What are they saying about how badly… We saw those scenes of people clinging to aircraft.

Richard Engel:

Yeah. Well, they’re not clinging to the aircraft anymore. They managed to get the people out. The way the actual geography of the place is important. You have the civilian side of the airport where commercial planes came and went. That side is closed right now. And when the people rushed in, that’s where they entered first. They climbed over the fence. They forces through the gates. And then, the tarmacs, the runways of the commercial side and the military side are quite close together. There’s barb wire between them, but that doesn’t stop people. But once they got into the commercial side, they spilled over onto the military side. They’ve now been pushed out of both parts of the airport, both the military and the civilian side. Civilian side is shut down. And that’s why the process is ongoing.

Richard Engel:

So, we’re not seeing desperation here. We’re seeing desperation the people who are trying to get on to this base, the people who were or would have otherwise been trying to cling to the bottom of those planes. And they’re angry. People throwing stones, people throwing sticks. There’s anger. Why are you able to get in? And a lot of Afghans feel that the evacuation is for the Americans, for the personnel, for contractors. And what about us? We want to go, too. And there’s a lot of frustration, and anger, and bitter-ment.

But then, also some here. And I spoke to a group of Afghan workers here. And it was a little, I don’t want to say… I’ll say it. It was shocking. They’ve been working on this base for several years. One had worked on the base as a cleaner. Another work in the dining facility, serving food, doing some food prep. And they make around $500 a month. And they’ve been living on the base because of COVID. For the last six months, they couldn’t home. Because of that, they were getting an extra $6 a day.

And they’re here on this base watching the planes leave, and they haven’t been able to get those visas to leave. And I said, “This is shocking to me. You’re on the base watching the visas, and you don’t even have the visa?” They said, “No, our families came today. They couldn’t get in. They were waiting outside for hours and hours.” I said, “Well, you’re here. You’re looking at the plane. Go. Nobody’s given you a special visa because you’re at risk because they worked for the Americans, clearly for years and years.” And they said, “No.” Nobody was willing to vouch for them.

Preet Bharara:

You’ve referenced anger and frustration on the part of Afghans. I’ve known you for a long time. The public has known you for a long time. Fair to say that you’re angry too.

Richard Engel:

It’s a different kind of anger. The Afghans are angry because they were building lives. They were building their future. They had expectations. They felt betrayed that they were… They had a deal with the Americans that were here for 20 years. The ones who work directly with them, had a deal that was… And they’re angered because they feel personally betrayed. I’m shocked at how disorganized it has been. I’m angry for them. I think that’s fair to say. And I tell you what I tell them. One of these guys who told me, this guy, he worked in the dining facility, and he was telling me a story, how his kids and his wife were outside the gate in the crowds for eight hours today, pushing in. And the base commander said, “No, no, we’ll work it out. Don’t worry… anymore.”

And he told me, he said, “You know, you’re the first person…” Me, I was the first person, he said, who even asked him how he was. And I told him, I said, “Look, I can’t apologize because I didn’t do it.” I said, “But as an American, I’m really sorry. I’m embarrassed that this is how you’re being treated.” That after working here for, I think it was, five years serving out food. And now, because he did that, he can’t go home without fearing death because he was a collaborator with the enemy… And nobody’s even asking him how he’s doing? So yeah, you could sort of say my angry is, it’s not the same. It didn’t happen to me, but I’m shocked and I’m sorry for him. And I’m embarrassed that he and so many others are being treated this way.

Preet Bharara:

The reason I’m asking, Richard, is that there’s a lot going on. You’re putting yourself in harm’s way. And I think that’s heroic, to make sure that we are getting images, and pictures, and stories from what is going on in Afghanistan, as you’ve done another war zones throughout your career.

I just want to give you an opportunity to respond to some folks. Overnight, it’s a dubious distinction, you were trending on Twitter. I don’t know if you’re aware of that. You have more important things to worry about.

Richard Engel:

I am not. I am not aware of that.

Preet Bharara:

You were trending on Twitter because people have noted your anger and your frustration, which I think is well-placed. And the question is, what do you say to folks who think that that has affected your objectivity in reporting this?

Richard Engel:

I think maybe they’re referring to last night, because I was a little bit, I don’t want to say angry, but I was a little bit… It struck me, because they were asking what would be the reaction. It was less, or what would be your reaction there about the Biden’s speech? And he said, “Well, human rights are the cornerstone of our foreign policy.” He’s bringing up human rights being the cornerstone of this administration’s foreign policy and his foreign policy, on the day that people are trying to cling to aircraft coming out of this space because they don’t want to be left behind.

It seemed, incongruous at the very least. It seemed like an odd moment to be thumping your chest and talking about being a champion of human rights. So I don’t know, I didn’t know why I was on Twitter. Maybe it was in the tone of my voice, I don’t know. I’m not trying to be angry. I think I am objective, and I’m telling you what I’m seeing, and I’m telling you what’s happening here, and I’m not trying to go on a rant here.

But when you talk to people, certainly it impacts it.

Preet Bharara:

When the current President says, “We prepared for all contingencies,” based on what you have seen and reported from the ground, does that seem like a fair statement?

Richard Engel:

How can there be all these contingencies to get these people out when they can’t even get the people out who work on the base who are watching the planes go?

I spoke earlier today, before I got in this space, with two other translators. Both are in hiding, and both are terrified for their lives. One was in tears. What contingencies? What contingencies? I don’t know if people fully realize how complicated and bureaucratic it is to deal with the US government from afar.

The US government is generally pretty bureaucratic anyway, but to get one of these special visas, you need to go to the State Department’s website, in English, and submit lots of forms, in English. And all the spellings have to match. You have to submit letters of recommendation. One little error and your form gets rejected, your file gets rejected.

Almost all the people I spoke to, their files are still pending because there was some paperwork missing, or not properly accounted for. These are Afghans, some of the people here, some of these, because they’re not all translators, some of them just worked on the base, they don’t speak very good English. How could they be expected… And this is a country where there’s not a lot of internet, and there’s not a lot of places to go and print out documents, and get photographs, and submit these things.

So what contingencies? If you’re in the middle of Kabul now, and the place has you surrounded by the Taliban, the Taliban are in communications, looking at people’s phones, they’re looking to see if they have documents just like this, to prove that they worked for the US military. So how are you going to then prove your case that you… It’s an unrealistic expectation that they have to go through this enormous bureaucracy, and anyway…

I was a little shocked is that the people who are here on the base, watching the plane, even they don’t have it, let alone the translators who I spoke to who are in hiding in Kabul.

Preet Bharara:

There are a couple of things, one is the bureaucracy itself. And the other is how early they began doing this. There have been some people who have suggested, and I wonder what you think of this, had the US government started in earnest trying to evacuate interpreters and allies quickly, that would have looked like desperation?

Richard Engel:

Well, would it really? I don’t know. Would it really? Because you’re giving people paperwork, you’re giving people visas, people who had already applied for the visas. That’s going to collapse the Afghan government? That’s going to demoralize the government?

One of the guys I spoke to today, he’s been waiting for four years. Four years. I spoke to him this morning. He’s in tears. He’s hiding. Do you know how long it took me to verify his story? This guy worked for several years for the US military, on combat missions, translating. And if you’re a translator on a combat mission, it’s not like being a translator at the United Nations. You’re helping troops in real time find the enemy, whether that’s Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban, or ISIS. You have to translate for them, their meetings with Afghan elders, and convey the meaning and relate the tone.

You’re an integral part of that mission. You are the eyes and ears of that mission. So they were helping US troops protect themselves, and hunt down their enemy. This guy did many of these missions. And he has all kinds of letters. He gave me the email of his commanding officer he worked with. I emailed him. He wrote back. I had him on the phone in 45 minutes. He said, “Oh yeah, I remember him. He’s great. He was great.” And his story matched. Took me 45 minutes. He’s been waiting for four years, and now he’s crying in downtown Kabul.

Preet Bharara:

Do you agree that there’s a difference between the decision to exit Afghanistan, which is why, by the way, quite broadly popular in the US, a difference between the decision to exit and the way it was executed? Given the context, and some people have been critical, of critics of Biden, who say, “Well, his hands were tied a little bit on the issue of exiting because there were mistakes made by Trump and Obama and others going back to Bush.

Richard Engel:

Good. I’m glad you asked me that question, because this allows me to go back full circle. You asked me, does the anger, or the emotion effect my objectivity? It’s not up to me to say, “Oh, we shouldn’t have pulled out.” I’m not dictating policy here. Nobody asked me. I’m a journalist. It’s not up to me. I’m not an elected official. Nobody elected Richard Engel President of United States.

But I can tell you, having watched it, that the way it was carried out was sloppy. And the way it is being carried out is leaving many people behind. And that’s objective. I’m watching it now. Whether you want to pull out, don’t want to pull out, whether the war is going to work, whether it would have worked keeping 2,500 troops, which were more like 3,500 troops here, whether that was the right policy decision, you can endlessly debate that.

But you can’t really endlessly debate that this has gone well, that this pullout has gone smoothly and that this is a glorious moment of transition. That’s not debatable.

Preet Bharara:

On the question of exit, you tweeted yesterday, “President Biden says the failure in Afghanistan proves he was correct.”

Is that prayers?

Richard Engel:

That is. Yes, there is a mosque on the base, but I can still hear you.

Preet Bharara:

So President Biden and his and his team can defend themselves on their own, but isn’t part of the point that Biden was making, is that the fact that there was such a spectacular failure upon exit means, as he has said otherwise, staying for another six months, or a year, or five years, at some point, the Afghan forces and the Afghan government were going to topple immediately upon our departure. Isn’t that fair?

Richard Engel:

Maybe. Maybe, maybe. There were indeed problems here. It’s not like this was some utopia before. The Afghan government was corrupt. That Afghan soldiers weren’t getting paid. There were units that were clearly capable. Ashraf Ghani, according to many people I’ve spoken to, was a terrible leader and especially was not a good wartime leader. He made some disastrous decisions, moving people around, changing his defense establishment, his minister of defense, putting in people who were not particularly competent. There were serious, serious problems here.

But what I meant, is it odd logic is, when something is broken, it’s hard to then say, “See, it inevitably would have been broken.” Like when something drops on the ground and if you drop a pot, it’s broken. Say, “Ah, see? That’s proof. It was fragile.” Maybe. Maybe it would have inevitably broken. Maybe there was no hope ever for Afghanistan.

But I spoke to lots of Afghans a year ago, two years ago, and the place was feeling better. It felt stable. The Taliban were in retreat. They were losing. American troops weren’t dying here. The last Americans who were killed in combat was something like two years ago. There weren’t many troops out on patrol. They weren’t kicking down doors. They were on bases like the ones now assisting the mission.

So you had a few thousand troops who weren’t dying, assisting the mission, and they were holding the place together. So the question is, was that better than we have now?

Preet Bharara:

Right. But now you’re making an argument not against exit, not just about the execution of the exit, right?

Richard Engel:

Well, the execution of the exit precipitated the collapse. In the way the withdrawal from Bagram airbase, for example, was done. It was done overnight, switched off the lights, leave the troops, goodbye, we’re done. And then, I went there and the Afghans couldn’t turn the lights back on. And there were all these vehicles just left abandoned on the tarmac. This was a quick exit. The US left and turned off the lights. And when you do that to a fragile army is, they crumble, is what happened.

Preet Bharara:

The big problem here is whether you call it an intelligence failure or something else, and you’ve called it an intelligence failure. Is how quickly the government fell, how quickly the forces fell… The Biden folks thought they had more time to do all these things with the interpreters and others. They thought they had months. Turns out they barely had days. And you tweeted a couple of days ago on this intelligence failure, quote, “I know some US military commanders anticipated it. They told me. Yet, somehow their voices were not heard,” end quote. I’m not asking you to name names.

Richard Engel:

…ask me to name names. Who were they?

Preet Bharara:

No, I’m not going to ask you to name names, but who were they and how high-ranking were they? And why were they ignored?

Richard Engel:

I really don’t know what goes on in the NSC, and who’s up and who’s down, and who’s whispering. There are plenty of people you can get to talk to you on the Washington front. They can tell you the politics of inside the White House.

Other people here in Afghanistan, including some senior military officials and many Afghan officials who were in contact with the State Department, were predicting that… Not all of them. There were divergence of voices, but the voices were out there that once the cracks started emerging, that they would be profound. That it would snowball quickly…

Preet Bharara:

Immediately. And immediately.

Richard Engel:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

It wouldn’t take months.

Richard Engel:

The debates I was having three months ago were not, “Will Afghanistan hold?” Because the provinces, the outer regions were already folding. It was, “Will Kabul hold?” And I remember having this discussion, open discussion over coffee and harder drinks with Americans and with Afghans about, “The place is falling apart. Will Kabul hold?”

And there were two schools of thought. One, that Kabul would be the rock, and that people here are armed, and they generally are armed, and that they would defend themselves. They’d be firing out of the apartment windows. And I was saying at the time, “It’s never going to happen. They’re going to go home. They’re going to go back to their villages. They’re not going to fight for the capital, because Kabul is… It’s not anyone’s Homeland.” It’s not like Mazār-e Sharīf, or Herāt, where you have an ethnic group, or Bamiyan, where you have an ethnic group that lives there and is based there.

Kabul, that’s an international place. It’s home to all and home to none at the same time. And I thought, “Okay, if all the provinces are around, nobody’s going to stay and fight for Kabul. They’re going to run back to their home provinces to protect their families. And they’re certainly not going to protect the government of Ghani, which was very unpopular.”

Preet Bharara:

Everyone is rightfully concerned about what the Taliban is going to do, both as a matter of government and as a matter of violation of rights of women, and turning the clock back. There have been reports that there are Taliban fighters going door to door to try to find people who they believe were treacherous, executing them, taking child brides. Is any of that confirmed? Is the Taliban engaging in that behavior, or is that exaggerated at this moment?

Richard Engel:

On a small scale, it’s happening, according to multiple witnesses. Not so much in Kabul, but in the areas that they took earlier up in the north. There are reports that the fighters will sweep through, and if there are unmarried women, they’ll take them as brides against their will. And there are reports that they went house to house looking for people’s phones. Actually one of the translators I spoke to today said his brother had a knock on the door and they were asking him questions about who he was, and what he did in the past.

So they are inspecting. The place where we used to live, our office, had a visit. The Taliban are going around. They’re going in to meet the organizations. They’re knocking on the door. They’re confiscating weapons. They’re checking out who’s who, what’s what, and what people have in Kabul now.

At the same time, they’re saying that they’re issuing this broad amnesty, that everything’s going to be good. They’ve turned a page. There was a picture of the Taliban going to a Shia mosque today to show solidarity with the Shia, or the Ashura holiday. They said that women should go back to work.

So they’re saying all the right things. But in the provinces, there are these reports of grabbing child brides, and certainly going house to house. And I know in Kabul, they’re looking around. They’re knocking on doors inside. They’re looking mostly for weapons, they’re not flipping over beds. But they’re getting the lay of the land. And if you worked for the military, or you worked for NATO, or you’re a contractor, that’s very, very worrisome.

Preet Bharara:

I know, Richard, that you’re not a domestic policy guy, but a lot of the issues relating to Afghanistan have to do with what the appetite of the American people is to remain in a country, whether you call it an occupation or not, whether you call it a war or not.

And we think of the old phrase, I think from some years ago, where some unknown military official said, “America is not at war. The military is at war. America is at the mall. And that until Americans care more about foreign policy, military commanders are at a loss to try to do what they want to do.”

Preet Bharara:

And someone else has speculated that, notwithstanding all the uproar now, within not too long a period of time Americans will forget about this, move on, and they’ll do that also at the mall. What do you think is the longstanding consequence in America, and then for America’s standing, from what’s happened over the last couple of days?

Richard Engel:

I’m not a psychologist. And the American psyche, will Americans move on and shrug their shoulders and forget? Maybe. Maybe. Because Afghanistan is complicated. Maybe they feel bad about it now because the journalists are here and we’re focusing a lot of attention on this story, and we’re talking about the plight of women. Will they still be concerned in two weeks, two days, six months? Maybe not.

But that doesn’t mean that the problems go away. That doesn’t mean that the world forgets about Afghanistan and the world forgets about what has happened. Even if Americans aren’t thinking about it and they’re going to the mall, it’s almost irrelevant. There was an op-ed in a newspaper today, a Chinese newspaper, warning Taiwan, “Look what happened. America is not going to be there for you either. If there’s a war, they’re going to leave you high and dry.” Russia is saying, “We’re here. We’re staying. We stick by. We’re not the problem.” China also said that the US is the greatest exporter of chaos around the world. The Taliban is saying they defeated the US and this is a glorious victory for the global jihad. Al-Qaeda offshoots are saying, “This is a divine intervention.”

So whether Americans want to forget or not is a little irrelevant because the rest of the world is going to see this and might not forget. I hope Americans don’t forget. They shouldn’t forget. But the world is not going to forget. Afghans certainly aren’t forgetting. The Pakistanis aren’t going to forget. The Irani aren’t going to forget. The Turks aren’t going to forget because they’re still going to be dealing with this. This is a big part of the world.

Preet Bharara:

Here’s something that people that have not forgotten because it keeps getting invoked in the last couple of days, and that’s the fall of Saigon and images from the fall of Saigon. Do you think it is a fair comparison or an unhelpful exaggeration to compare what’s happened in Kabul and Afghanistan to Saigon?

Richard Engel:

I had a military official who spoke to me, not in an official capacity, said this is worse than Saigon, a larger scale than Saigon. There are many people who are comparing this to Saigon. So I understand the analogy. When you see people clinging onto the bottom of aircraft, they can leave, so that they’re not left to the fate that they’re being left to, where you have people who worked with the Americans who don’t want to be left behind [inaudible] quite a few parallels. And many people I’ve been speaking to, including some of them then in the military, believe…

Preet Bharara:

Can I ask, based on everything that you’ve been seeing on the ground and the blow back and the criticism, is there any reason to believe that the Biden administration, with respect to getting interpreters and allies safe, for want of a better phrase, are they getting their shit together or not?

Richard Engel:

No. No, they’re not. I mean, not as far as I can tell.

Preet Bharara:

I know you have to go in a minute. Do you have concerns about your personal safety and your crew?

Richard Engel:

No. I don’t want to sound cavalier, but we’re on this base right now. We’re kind of through the gauntlet. But no, I think at this stage we’re in the bubble. Operating in Kabul is different. So far the Taliban have been quite friendly to the journalists, although not all of them equally so. We’ll see if that lasts. But thank you for asking. But we’re all good.

Preet Bharara:

How long will you stay?

Richard Engel:

I don’t know. Depends on these planes and the availability and our ability to keep reporting, but we play it as it comes. But probably not too much longer, I don’t think.

Preet Bharara:

Just a final question. What do you say to folks who ask the question, was all of this a waste? The $2 trillion, the 20 years, the loss of life, was it all a waste?

Richard Engel:

That’s a tough one. A waste? Maybe we’re even worse than we were before. So I don’t know. If you spend money and you’ve done damage, is that a waste? Or if you spent money and actually harmed yourself? A few weeks after 9/11, the Taliban… A few weeks after 9/11, with 400 Americans, about 100 CIA and 300 special forces, they toppled the Taliban and had Al-Qaeda on the run. This was just weeks after 9/11 and cost very little. One American was killed, CIA officer Mike Spann. That happened right after 9/11. Didn’t cost much. There was no presence on the ground. What happened for the next 19 years was the US kind of coasted. It boosted the troops up, but it went down. It went to Iraq. It saw troops come back in. And the US was on a kind of a treadmill.

Many people said that this was not a 20-year war, it was 20 one-year wars because each year you’d have a new commander come in and new units would come in and [inaudible] and they would fight their tour. And then they’d go back and then the new group would come in and they’d fight their tour and go back. And that there was never… We had more or less the Taliban beaten and Al-Qaeda on the run a few weeks after 9/11. So was it all a waste? Where we are now, it’s probably in a worse place than where we were just a few weeks after 9/11, because the Taliban is in power.

Preet Bharara:

Is that what the military people you speak to say? Do they say that about their own government and their own military and the plan there?

Richard Engel:

Well, right now they’re busy with this evacuation. So it’s not like I’m having these long philosophical conversation with troops here. They’re focused on moving… But troops who’ve served, they’re starting to write articles. They’re starting to reflect. They’re starting to talk about the time here. And yes, I’ve spoken to numerous people recently in very senior positions. I’m actually working on an hour documentary that’s going to come out soon in which I feature some of these interviews, in which many, many people who had senior positions expressed these exact sediments, that the US accomplished a great [inaudible] for a few weeks, and then for 20 years, fought 20 one-year wars, kind of starting over each time.

Preet Bharara:

Richard Engel, I know that you’re busy. You have a lot going on. Please stay safe. Thank you for your service, and we’ll talk soon.

Richard Engel:

All right. Thank you.

Preet Bharara: