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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on December 19, 2021

12/19: Face The Nation
12/19: Collins, Gottlieb, Milgram 45:26

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner
  • Anne Milgram, DEA administrator
  • Hamdullah Mohib, former Afghan national security adviser

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: There is frustration and fear as we head into the holiday season amid what top U.S. health officials are calling an incoming tidal wave of COVID cases.

It has been more than two full years since the mysterious and deadly virus started circulating in parts of China. Now, here in the U.S., COVID-19 cases are setting new records, seemingly out of control. The Delta variant still accounts for most new infections, but the ultra-contagious Omicron is now in at least 43 states.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): Omicron is here. It's going to start to spread much more rapidly at the beginning of the year.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: The scenes are familiar, long lines for testing, overwhelmed hospitals and medical personnel, and revised plans from business and some schools to go back to virtual.

Still, officials are adamant: It may feel like deja vu, but it's not. We have tools to protect people, so use them.

(Begin VT)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If you're vaccinated and you had your booster shot, you're protected from severe illness and death, period.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk with the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, for the latest on our COVID winter wave. And, as always, we will check in with former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Plus: the other surge in the U.S.; 100,000 Americans are dead from opioids this year. We will ask the new administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Anne Milgram, about what her agency is doing to stem the tide.

Finally, we will have a dramatic look at the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan from former President Ghani's top aide, Hamdullah Mohib, who fled that country alongside Ghani as Kabul fell.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's reports that you had to fly at low altitude because you were trying to avoid the Americans knowing that you were fleeing.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB (Former Afghanistan National Security Adviser): Absolutely.


MOHIB: Trust was gone. There was no trust.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. With less than a week to go until Christmas, it's tough to be effusive with holiday cheer, as a COVID tidal wave builds and is likely to worsen due to holiday gatherings.

Officials around the world are struggling to learn more about the Omicron variant. What they do know is that your best protection is to get vaccinated and boosted.

Mark Strassmann begins our coverage.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): Omicron's alarm bells ring out across America.

In California.

WOMAN: When I look around the corner ahead, what I see is a deluge of Omicron.


GOVERNOR MIKE DEWINE (R-Ohio): People are gathering together. Our medical personnel have just been slammed. All of this constitutes this perfect storm.

MARK STRASSMANN: And especially New York.

GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL (D-New York): I believe it's going to get even stronger and more virulent. And we are in for a rough ride this winter season.

MARK STRASSMANN: New Yorkers stampede for testing. COVID cases nearly doubled in one week. Twice this week, the state set the highest single-day count of new cases since the pandemic's early months.

WOMAN: I feel like everyone has COVID, and I'm just trying to be safe, you know? This week has been crazy.

MARK STRASSMANN: Two years into the virus, America's seeing a run on testing once again. We're left to make our own COVID calculus, evaluating personal risk and exposure moment to moment.

America's bruising from a one-two punch, Delta and Omicron, the newest variant about to become dominant, its severity unclear, its contagiousness overt. Cases more than double every few days. Experts warn about a potential tsunami of sickness.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winner of severe illness and death for unvaccinated, for themselves, their families and the hospitals they will soon overwhelm.

MARK STRASSMANN: Another milestone in mourning. Bells told Thursday for 800,000 Americans dead from the virus. That's almost the population of San Francisco. Roughly 1,200 Americans still die daily from the virus.

WOMAN: Today was pretty hard because it's my third one this week.

MARK STRASSMANN: One of many American hospitals buckling under caseloads.

The NFL is reeling from a blindside blitz of outbreaks, three of this weekend's games postponed for a couple of days. The NBA, the NHL and the NCAA are also playing defense to keep COVID from spreading. Multiple apply that risk of community spread on college campuses. On many, COVID has exploded again, just in time for the holidays, as infected students head home for winter break.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: With Christmas next weekend, more than 100 million of us will travel at least 50 miles over the next few days.

So many people are sick from COVID. Everyone is sick of COVID. And home for the holidays has an irresistible appeal, but an undeniable risk -- Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our Mark Strassmann in Atlanta.

U.S. health officials are closely watching Omicron cases in the United Kingdom for signs as to what could be headed here.

CBS News foreign correspondent Imtiaz Tyab reports from London.

IMTIAZ TYAB: Margaret, good morning.

Well, London really now is the epicenter of Omicron infections right across the U.K., with over half from the new variants, all of which is wreaking havoc nearly everywhere.

(Begin VT)

IMTIAZ TYAB (voice-over): Britain is convulsing under the strain caused by Omicron. In Central London, violence broke out between police and anti- vaxxers outside Parliament, where demonstrators were demanding an end to vaccine mandates and other COVID measures.

The address comes as chilling new government figures show England has recorded the highest number of children admitted to hospital with COVID since the start of the pandemic; 65 under-18s were hospitalized with COVID on December the 12th, with more than half just 5 years old and under.

WOMAN: They're a lot younger than the patients that we used to -- that we had in the first and second surge.

IMTIAZ TYAB: As record numbers of new infections threatened to strain the U.K.'s already struggling national health system, Britain's booster shot program has been turbocharged.

Every minute, 100 people are being boosted in London alone.

MAN: So, the waiting time is two-and-a-half to three hours.

IMTIAZ TYAB: Despite the long lines in places, few here were complaining.

Is that why you're getting your booster?

WOMAN: Yes, definitely, peace of mind, really, if anything else.

IMTIAZ TYAB: Across Europe, Omicron concerns have led to a wave of new COVID restrictions, including in the Netherlands, where holiday shoppers were given just a few hours' notice the country was going into a full national lockdown until at least mid-January.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the country will have -- quote -- "another Christmas that is completely different from what we would like," calling it very bad news.

But there is a glimmer of hope. The first at-home treatment for COVID has been given to patients in the U.K. as part of a major Oxford University study. Molnupiravir will be tested on 10,000 people at risk of serious illness, a move and a medication being described as a game-changer.

(End VT)

IMTIAZ TYAB: Now, officially, Britain is still open for business, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas plans are once again in disarray, as people right up and down the country are canceling plans because of Omicron -- Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Imtiaz, thank you.

We go now to the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins.

Good morning.

And before we begin, Doctor, I want to note that this is your last day as director. You're not retiring, but you are stepping aside from NIH, so thank you for your service to the country.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS (Director, National Institutes of Health): Thanks, Margaret. It's great to be with you this morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you step aside, it seems like the virus, though, is not going along with you.

In fact, this Omicron variant seems to be raging around the world. Did you see this mutation coming? And is our health system prepared for what is about to hit?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: Yes, this is a big challenge.

It's a brand-new version, and it is so different that it has the properties to potentially be invasive of the vaccines and the other measures that we've taken. I'm glad to say it's not totally successful at that.

A big message for today is, if you've had vaccines and a booster, you're very well-protected against Omicron causing you severe disease. So, anybody listening to this who's in that 60 percent of Americans who are eligible for a booster, but haven't yet gotten one, this is the week to do it. Do not wait.

What do we know about Omicron? We know that it's very contagious. You saw what happened in South Africa initially, then in Europe and now in the U.S. It's doubling about every two to four days, and we're going to see that number of cases go up pretty steeply over the course of the next couple of weeks.

And that's obviously something that's going to require all of us to double down on the things that we know we should be doing in terms of being safe, wearing masks, avoiding indoor gatherings of other people who aren't vaccinated.


You predicted a few days ago we could see a million cases a day of Omicron infection. Is the health system prepared?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: Big question is, are those million cases going to be sick enough to need health care and especially hospitalization?

This is a big remaining question, Margaret, is this virus actually not quite as capable of causing severe disease? There are some encouraging signs in South Africa that there's not as much in the way of hospitalization, even though the virus just ran crazy through the area around Johannesburg.

But that's their population. Ours may be different. I don't know what this virus will do to somebody who's unvaccinated and maybe has a medical condition or is over 65. Just sort of holding our breath to see how severe the cases will be.

There's certainly some chance, though, that our hospitals are going to be pretty stressed. They already are with Delta, of course. Government is prepared now to start sending out surge teams as needed to places that are really hit hard, and the president's going to have more to say about that in a speech on Tuesday.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Among the unvaccinated are those who are not eligible yet, the very young.

In South Africa, we did see a high number of infections in children and hospitalizations. Do you have any insight into why?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: That's another really good question. I was on the phone for an hour-and-a-half yesterday with the South African public health people looking at some of that data.

You know, it's not absolutely clear what's going on there. It's also possible that, because people are really worried about kids, they're more likely to get put in the hospital in South Africa just as a precaution. I'm not absolutely convinced that the evidence says that Omicron is more dangerous than Delta was.

But we have got to watch that closely. Obviously, we don't want to see that happen in our country as well. And, certainly, kids who haven't yet been vaccinated -- and, of course, that's any under 5, really, we ought to think about surrounding them with vaccinated people to keep them from getting infected.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you advise people against traveling this winter? I mean, what you're talking about, it almost seems inevitable that people will get ill.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: Well, certainly, this virus is going to be all around us. I'm not going to say you shouldn't travel, but you should do so very carefully.

And I think airplanes, now with required masking, probably being on an airplane is a fairly safe place to be. But think about how you're going to get there and how you can make sure you're safe along the way. And that certainly means, if you're not vaccinated, I would say travel is really not a great idea, because you are in a very vulnerable place now with Omicron.

If you are vaccinated and boosted, wear your mask when you're in any kind of public place. You don't know who might be around you might actually be infected without being even aware of their symptoms, because Omicron can do that too. Just do so with great -- careful.

And particularly avoid those large indoor gatherings with a lot of people where sometimes caution gets thrown to the winds. You know, people are listening to this, Margaret, and they're all going, I am so sick of hearing this.



But the virus is not sick of us, and it is still out there looking for us, and we've got to double down on these things if we're going to get through the next few months.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But as people learn to live or manage around this, they are increasingly reliant on the testing that the administration has emphasized we all need to rely on as sort of a regular staple in our lives.

Dr. Fauci said this week we're getting information that not all of the diagnostic tests will be accurate with Omicron. So, for families who want to gather and test ahead of time, which tests work?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: Well, FDA is working on that intensively right now.

And I will say with some pride NIH is deeply engaged in helping out with that, and I think in the next few days we'll have more definitive answers about that. Right now, I'm pretty reassured by the early evidence that the commonly used tests that you can get in the pharmacy that allow you to do testing at home are probably going to be OK.

So, hold tight on that. There are a few of these so-called PCR tests, actually ones that are not in very heavy use, that may not work for Omicron, and those are posted on the FDA Web site.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We keep hearing it'll be different this time because we do have tools that work.

One of the things we did...


MARGARET BRENNAN: ... hear, though, is that there's really only one of the available monoclonal antibodies that seems to be effective for those who are sick with COVID.

What does that mean in terms of taking tools out of the tool chest? Do we have enough supply of the only one that works? If someone gets sick, do they need to ask for it by name?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: Yes, that's a really good question.

It is the GSK Vir monoclonal antibody that still sticks to the spike protein that Omicron has. Remember this -- I'm holding up my virus here. Those spikes are what the antibody has to stick to, and the Omicron version of the spike is just different enough that some of the other monoclonals don't stick. This one does.

There is a big push to increase the production of those. And, obviously, we're going to have to be careful to save that particular monoclonal for the people at really high risk, because they're the ones who are going to benefit most from it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Supply and preparedness, we will watch that.

Thank you very much, Doctor. And good luck to you in your, not retirement, but your new line of work.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: Well, thank you very much.

And a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Merry Christmas.

Face the Nation will be back in one minute. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to former FDA commissioner and Pfizer board member, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Good morning to you, Doctor.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB (Former FDA Commissioner): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The administration and certainly Dr. Collins really issuing some warnings there to take this seriously.

They still, even though Omicron was discovered nearly a month ago, don't seem to have a lot of answers to big questions. Does what you've seen so far indicate that this will cause a more severe illness?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: There's no indication that it causes more severe illness.

What we've seen in South Africa, in particular, is a decoupling between the cases and hospitalizations. So, hospitalizations are down about 30 percent relative to cases, and we're probably not measuring all the cases in South Africa. We're probably only picking up a small fraction.

And more severe cases requiring ICU admissions are down 80 percent relative to past waves in cases versus ICU admissions, so it does appear to be a less severe illness. Now, a lot of people believe, including myself, that the reason why it's manifesting as a less severe illness is probably because we have baseline immunity in the population.

Probably around 80 percent of Americans and 90 percent of South Africans have some level of immunity, either from prior infection or through vaccination. So even though we're still getting infected because this is spreading through immune evasion, it's spreading by evading the immunity that we've acquired. We have some baseline immunity that protects us from getting very sick.

And that's, in fact, what you're probably seeing in terms of these hospitalization statistics.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that takes us to the unvaccinated or ineligible.

As we said, you sit on the board of Pfizer. We learned this week that when it comes to their vaccine, for those under the age of 5, that it's going to take more time. You had been predicting first quarter of 2022 for young children to be vaccinated. Can you level-set for parents? How much longer do we have to wait?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It depends on what the circumstances are.

That base case is now getting pushed out to the second quarter of 2022. So, what we've done, what Pfizer did was test a significantly lower dose in young children, in the toddlers. It's a 3-microgram dose, compared to a 10- microgram dose that's being used in children 5 to 12, and a 30-microgram dose in teenagers and adults.

And the reason to go with a substantially lower dose is, you're very focused on tolerability in young children. You don't want to have vaccine- related side effects, like injection site reactions, pain, fevers. And so they test at very low doses to try to achieve a very tolerable vaccine.

Now, in 6 months to 2 years, that low dose produced a comparable effect in terms of the immune response when compared to 16-to-25-year-olds. And what you're measuring is antibody response. So, the antibody response in the very young children was comparable to the antibody response we see in 16- to-25 year olds.

But in 2 to 4, it was less. And so what the company is doing right now is going back and extending the trial and looking at three doses, to see if three full doses -- and we know this is going to be a three-dose vaccine -- regardless whether three doses produces a comparable level of immune response, compared to the 16-to-25 year olds. We believe it will. I believe it will.

But I also think that if we start to see bad outcomes in kids -- hopefully, we don't. But if we see kids getting in trouble with Omicron, I do believe FDA will be in a position to make an earlier authorization on the basis of the data we have right now, because even that lower antibody response in the 2-to-4-year-olds is still providing some baseline immunity that should protect them from more severe outcomes from this disease.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that could be key because, as Dr. Collins said, he still doesn't have a good answer as to why there were those larger infections among small children in South Africa.

Back here, we've been talking for months now, Doctor, about learning to live with COVID. But now we've got this Delta wave and the overlay of Omicron on top of it. Do we need to put the brakes on the return to normal?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think people are really tired of living diminished lives from COVID generally. And you're seeing that in terms of what people are doing.

They're reengaging activity that we know are going to be conducive to the spread of this virus. Omicron really has thrown a curveball here. I think that this is a temporary incident. I think Omicron is going to blow its way through the population probably very quickly, when you look at what happened in South Africa and even what's happening in the U.K. right now, where it's moving very fast.

But we do face a hard four to six weeks ahead of us, as this moves through the population. I think it is prudent, especially for people who are going to be around vulnerable individuals, to take added precautions heading into the holidays.

Try to use testing. Make sure you're boosted. Take precautions within your settings and your social settings as well. Use the high-quality masks when you go out. I don't -- a lot of people don't want to be a link in a chain of transmission that could get to a vulnerable individual, either a young child or an older individual, even if they themselves know that there is significantly less risk from a bad outcome from this virus.

So, we should be prudent over the next four to six weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Being prudent means testing before you go into those family settings.

You heard Dr. Collins say: Stay tuned. We'll tell you which tests work.

Do you have any indication which ones do?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, FDA is testing the -- testing the tests. It's evaluating them against live virus this weekend.

And so are the manufacturers. So, they've gotten hold of plasma from patients who've been infected with Omicron and live virus, and they'll be doing those evaluations. I think we're going to know much more very early in this week.

Every indication is that the mass market tests that people are using should be -- should hold up with this new virus. They should be able to detect it. So, I think most of the tests that individuals are using are going to be just fine. It might be some of the smaller market tests that aren't in wide use that might be more suspect.

But things like the BinaxNOW, which have been evaluated very carefully, should be fine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said weeks ago that the confusing language around the rollout of boosters was one of the most costly mistakes potentially of the pandemic.

We just heard from Dr. Collins that, when it comes to one of the few tools in terms of monoclonal antibodies that seems to work, that they need to ramp up supply, that America doesn't have the stockpile it needs right now. Why not?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think we haven't looked ahead at the unknown unknowns, tried to predict what could happen and prepare for it.

The Vir, BioNTech antibody we always knew was going to be preserved against a lot of different mutated forms of this virus. We should have crashed the production of that stockpiled much more. The government only contracted for that about a month ago. We have 55,000 doses right now that are finally being forward-deployed, and we'll have 300,000 in Jan.

There's another drug. Lilly has a drug that's cleared two phase two studies that could be ready to be deployed as well. There's 300,000 doses sitting on pallets waiting to be forward-deployed. It's pending regulatory review by the FDA. That's another one that we should be looking very hard at, trying to move that to the market more quickly.

We have to get to a platform where we can update these monoclonal antibodies more quickly as new variants arise, similar to what we're doing with the vaccines. The vaccine division has moved very quickly to allow new iterations to come to market as the virus has evolved. We need to do the same thing with drugs and not treat each monoclonal antibody against each iteration of this virus as if it's a brand-new drug.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, should parents expect to send their kids back to in-person school after Christmas?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think, in most places of the country, the answer is yes.

In some hard-hit parts of the country where there is a high prevalence of Delta right now, high flu prevalence like the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, and now Omicron later on top of that, where health care systems could get pressed, I think that you could see some districts make decisions to extend the breaks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr Gottlieb, thank you very much.

And we'll be right back with much more Face the Nation.


MARGARET BRENNAN: This week, I will be sitting down for an in-depth interview with Vice President Kamala Harris.

You can see it across our CBS News platforms, starting with the CBS Evening News Monday, then CBS Mornings Tuesday. And we will have more on Face the Nation next Sunday.

Be sure to also catch excerpts on our digital network, CBSN, and on That is starting tomorrow evening on CBS.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a look at the growing opioid crisis with the head of the DEA, Anne Milgram.

We will also hear from Hamdullah Mohib, the national security adviser under former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, about the dramatic moments the day Kabul collapsed under the Taliban.

Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We now turn to the growing opioid crisis, and we want to welcome to the program Anne Milgram, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Good morning to you.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Why is it so hard to cut off the flow of fentanyl, which is the drug that seems to be fueling these overdoses.

ANNE MILGRAM: Fentanyl is a different drug threat than we've seen before. It's synthetic, meaning that it's manmade, it's made of chemicals. Right now those chemicals are largely sourced from China. They're going to the Mexican criminal drug cartels that are then mass producing, often at an industrial scale, fentanyl.

Fentanyl, tiny, tiny amounts can be deadly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are people seeking it out as a drug, or is it just something that they're surprised is mixed into the drugs their seeking?

ANNE MILGRAM: The cartels are mass producing these pills in Mexico mostly, and they're making them look like they're real oxycodone, like they're real hydrocodone, Percocet, Adderall. And then they're bringing them, flooding them into the United States and falsely advertise them, marketing them as though they were real pharmaceuticals. So you have a teen on Snapchat, an older American who's looking for a pain medicine that they might be able to get cheaper online, and they're finding these pills -- Americans believe that they're getting the actual pharmaceutical pill. They're not. What they're getting is fentanyl. And that is why we're seeing 100,000 overdose deaths this year, 64,000 of those are attributed to synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden signed two executive orders to fight drug trafficking, and it allowed for a crackdown on fentanyl producers, particularly in China. What tools does this give you now? I mean how do you get Beijing to hand over the bad guys?

ANNE MILGRAM: There are hundreds of thousands of unregulated chemical companies in China that are sending these drugs, these precursor chemicals that can be made into fentanyl. Those chemical companies are adverting, you can use this to make fentanyl. So we know what they're doing. China knows what they're doing. They need to do more.

What the president's executive order does is it gives us new tools, particularly around illicit finance. One of the things that drives drug trafficking worldwide is money laundering, taking those profits and laundering them through different means. We see a lot of that illicit finance happening both in China and in Mexico. The other EO by the president set up an organization across government focused on transnational organized crime. That is narcotic trafficking.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The social media companies you have said are very much a conduit, TikTok, Snapchat.


MARGARET BRENNAN: How -- are people seeking out these drugs intentionally on these social media platforms? And what are you doing to get the companies to crack down?

ANNE MILGRAM: Drug traffickers are harnessing social media because it is accessible. They're able to access millions of Americans. And it is anonymous. And they're able to sell these fake pills and to lie on those social media sites about that. So we know every single day across America that drugs are being sold on these social media sites, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook.

When you go on your smartphone, wherever you are, those traffickers are there, too. And the minute you open up one of those social media apps, they're there and they're waiting. They want to make it one click to get drugs into people's hands.

We know what's happening, and so do the social media companies. In our takedown, 76 of our cases are directly linked to social media websites, where there is extensive narcotics trafficking happening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're building a case against the social media companies?

ANNE MILGRAM: We built a case against the -- at this moment, the criminal drug networks. And we've drawn the line between the Mexico criminal cartels that are mass producing elicit fentanyl and making these fake pills and pouring it into the United States.

What we're doing is investigating. We want to understand everything about how this is happening. And, of course, the social media companies need to do more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what would you tell parents who are listening at home, terrified at what you're describing, what can they actually do?

ANNE MILGRAM: Well, they need to sit and talk with their kids. The researcher is clear that when parents talk to their children, drug use goes down in half. And we know that there are kids who don't understand these risks. We know that there are older Americans as well.

This is a new threat. So people shouldn't be expected to know it. We need to help people understand, one pill can kill. The only medicine that they should take is what's prescribed to them personally and filled at a local pharmacy.

And, also, the other piece of this is what we see dealers and drug trafficking networks doing now is that they're lacing other drugs with fentanyl. They're lacing cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, even - there was a case recently in Connecticut with marijuana being laced with fentanyl. So, no drugs are safe right now because fentanyl is being put into those drugs because it's highly addictive.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But then they're killing their customers unintentionally.

ANNE MILGRAM: They're killing their customers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why isn't intervention working?

ANNE MILGRAM: It is working in one sense, which is that we've taken off 20 million fake pills this year. We estimate, at the DEA lab, that four in 10 of those pills are potentially deadly. We've taken off 15,000 pounds of fentanyl this year. That is enough potentially lethal doses to kill every single American. We're focused on tracking those overdose deaths and working back to understand the full network, from Mexico to main street, that is causing harm and is killing Americans. It's not enough for us to do one drug trafficker here and there. We have to be targeted at the entire network so that we can take them down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is the current Mexican government doing when you ask them to help you?

ANNE MILGRAM: We have to do more than we've ever done before. And so does Mexico and so does China. The administration has a new high-level security dialogue with Mexico. And my message to all of our partners is that the DEA is standing up to do more to protect American communities.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But where do you fit into the migration crisis right now? I mean is -- is stopping the flow of drugs a required step to stop the flow of people as well, if it's the cartels who are behind both?

ANNE MILGRAM: The cartels will do anything to get drugs in, in every way you can imagine. Yes, we see it coming through the border. We see it coming through ports, through airplanes, through freight services, through parcel delivery services.

Fentanyl, tiny quantities, are deadly and extremely potent and addictive. So it's not in years' past where someone would have to bring kilos upon kilos into the United States. It is almost minuscule qualities right now.

So the threat has changed enormously.


Anne Milgram, thank you for your time today.

ANNE MILGRAM: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We learned last week that more than 60,000 Afghans, who had helped the U.S., were left behind, following the chaos of the Biden administration's scramble to get Americans and those who support us out of Afghanistan. Under Taliban control, Afghanistan is facing a severe crisis. The U.N. predicts that more than one million children under the age of five could die of starvation this winter.

We've spoken with U.S. officials about the Afghanistan withdrawal and the day the elected president, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country. But President Ghani has not spoken publicly. And we are now hearing for the first time from Hamdullah Mohib, Ghani's national security advisor, in an exclusive U.S. television interview.

Although Mohib told us that we all share the blame for what happened, that's not what President Biden told the American people.

We begin by playing a clip of the president for Mohib when we spoke with him earlier.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Afghan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometime without trying to fight.

We gave them every tool they could need.

We provided close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you make of that assessment? Did you lack the will?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB, FORMER AFGHAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Absolutely not. The Afghan people made tremendous sacrifices for Afghanistan. I think it's -- it would be dishonor to take that away. What happened was the rug was pulled under the Afghans' feet. The decision to talk directly and engage the Taliban and make a deal with the Taliban that didn't include the Afghan government was protested, myself, in this city, about what was going to happen to our government, what was going to happen to us, the --

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was a U.S. agreement under the Trump administration with the Taliban that the Biden administration honored?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Exactly. And -- and those decisions, that decision to talk directly to the Taliban without the presence of the Afghan government, and -- and then the full transparency with the Afghan government led to the collapse that happened on -- on August 15th.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was the day that the Taliban seized control. They were already in the city. By the end of the day, they had seized control.

Did you have any idea when you woke up that money that you would be fleeing the country?



HAMDULLAH MOHIB: In fact, the -- the -- the night before, my staff contacted me and asked if we would -- if we should start shredding and burning sensitive documents. And we -- I didn't believe that it would be so -- so soon. We still thought the Taliban had at least two more weeks until the U.S. presence in Kabul. We had several cities and provinces around Kabul that were still under Afghan government's control. But by that morning, by 4:00 a.m. that morning, we had lost all of those provinces, plus a key district in Kabul and --

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you woke up that morning knowing that the Taliban is essentially knocking on the door of the capital?


MARGARET BRENNAN: When did you decide to flee?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Well, about 2:30 p.m. The news that came in at that point made me understand that we no longer have -- no longer have a consolidated force. There was no single power to control it. Most of them had abandoned their posts. Kabul was a city that was not ready for that kind of fighting. It was a city -- and security forces could do crimes, but they weren't ready to fight against the Taliban in a battle in -- in that.

So we -- we saw the police and many other forces abandoning their posts and -- and not turning up to work that day.

But what happened at 2:30 was that I got the news that two helicopters, one that was part of the president's fleet, was hijacked by a rogue ADSF (ph) element and then another was shot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A rogue soldier?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Yes. I understood that this is the end, that even the airport is no longer secure for -- for the Afghan president or anyone else around. And the fight is now going to be inside the city. And that was the only thing left that the president could do to save lives and -- and to ensure that -- that there was still American troops left to be able to secure -- because they were in the negotiations.


HAMDULLAH MOHIB: It wasn't the Afghans that were negotiating anymore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: At 2:30, you walk up to President Ghani and you say what?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: I tell him it's time to leave, sir.


HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Because there was no other decision left for him to do, right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think would have happened if you'd stayed?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Well, fighting would have ensued. We had -- we had two weeks. We could have continued fighting inside Kabul, destroy most of the city. And thousands of people --

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who would have been fighting, though, because you're describing forces melting away?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Forces -- well, whatever forces were left.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know you are harshly criticized, as is President Ghani, for choosing to flea that day.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: We had to make a decision that was right for Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What did you take with you on that plane? You know there's been allegations of corruption and that money was taken.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Look, those are allegations that are -- people know no person with the right mind would believe. The decision to leave was a very last-minute decision. This wasn't --

MARGARET BRENNAN: You didn't take cash with you?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Absolutely not. No.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What did you take with you?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: We didn't -- we just took ourselves. Most of the people that came on that flight didn't even have another -- a change of clothes. So, in -- in -- in Uzbekistan and in the Emirates, even for the president, we had to buy him a change of clothes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You took helicopters from the presidential palace to another country.


MARGARET BRENNAN: To Uzbekistan. There is reports that you had to fly at low altitude because you were trying to avoid the Americans knowing that you were fleeing?



HAMDULLAH MOHIB: The trust was gone. There was no trust.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What did you think the Americans were going to do?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: I had asked the Americans for something simple the day before. And it was a test to say, if this deal doesn't work out, a deal that would have a transfer of power to the Taliban, and if this didn't work, would we be rescued? And the response was non-committal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You asked the United States to help you evacuate from Afghanistan?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: I did. If this deal didn't work, would that be the case? There were intelligence supports both from Afghan sources, the Americans, and -- and independent that the plan for -- by -- not by the Taliban, their sponsors was, they wanted Ashraf Ghani's head. And it's embarrassing enough to have lost our country. We're not going to lose another president and be embarrassed like that in Afghanistan and be killed.

What we've tried to see was to see if there was anywhere that the president could go and resist and continue to be in Afghanistan, but that was no longer possible. Now --

MARGARET BRENNAN: There was no safe place in Afghanistan for the president to be?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: There was no safe place. Absolutely. Unless he wanted the war to continue, unless we wanted to see a civil war return.

What was being discussed in Doha was nothing less than a surrender. And if it is a surrender, why take two more weeks and risk the lives of millions of Afghans and -- and then in the end do exactly the same thing anyway?

MARGARET BRENNAN: The argument is now that had you had a peaceful transfer of power, instead of the Taliban taking it by force, that we wouldn't have children starving to death in Afghanistan right now because money would have still poured into this new government, even though the Taliban was part of it, that international aid organizations would be able to provide food, oxygen, and hospitals.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: What is stopping that from now -- from happening now?

MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States and the world having sanctions on the Taliban.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Well, why? The question is, if we were to give the Taliban exactly what they wanted, then, you know, the legitimacy given by the president but for a surrender, you know, this is not an argument. This doesn't make sense to me in any way. In any way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, this is what the Biden administration would argue, and many Afghans, that there was a very narrow sort of window of opportunity where in those final weeks President Ghani could have negotiated an exit that would have avoided the situation and the chaos that ensued. Was there a deal on the table?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: There was no deal on the table. This is an excuse. Look, I was -- I was --

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is what Secretary Blinken, on this program, said it was there that he spoke to President Ghani on -- on August the 14th. He thought he had a deal and the next day Ghani fled.

(Begin VT)

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I was on the phone with - with President Ghani on a -- on a Saturday night, pressing him to make sure he was ready to agree with the -- the plan we were trying to put into effect to do a transfer of power to -- to a new government that would have been led by the Taliban, but been inclusive, and included all aspects of - of Afghan society. And he told me on the phone he was prepared to do that. But if the Taliban wouldn't go along, he was willing to fight to the death, and the very next day he fled.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what he says.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: I was -- I was closely involved in that negotiation. I worked out the terms with the Americans on what would be, you know, that peaceful transfer of power. It was not going to happen on August 15th. It was going to happen when we still had multiple provinces under Afghan control and we still had a consolidated force. The Taliban, that day, were all over the city. And we didn't have, like I said, a consolidated force to keep the order. But that basically means a surrender to the Taliban.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's been reported you received a text message from one of the Taliban leaders that day on August 15th. What did he propose?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Surrender. He said, you issue a statement of surrender, and then we negotiate. I told him that's not how it works.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, the Biden and Trump administration's envoy to the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzhad, the former ambassador, who was on this program recently, said the U.S. should have pressed President Ghani harder to make concessions so that there was a peaceful transfer of power. He told my colleague, Michael Moral, that Ghani insisted until the very end he would not leave until a successor was decided in an election. It was late and Ghani was making demands as if he had won the war rather than he was losing the war.

What he is describing is delusion. Did you ever say to him, Mr. President, the Taliban is coming to power, whether we like it or not, we have to take a negotiated deal?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Yes. He wanted elections because he felt that that would be the way he hands over power. But he's not wrong to think that. He was being -- he was being assured in every meeting, on every statement that the international community wants to see a democratic Afghanistan, a sovereign Afghanistan, an Afghanistan that's at peace with itself and its neighbors. So we had these four things to look forward to. In this statement was --

MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States says President Ghani just wanted to stay in power, and that's it.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Well -- well --

MARGARET BRENNAN: He didn't want to negotiate his exit.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: This was never -- this was never clear. There wasn't a U.S. secretary of state, or a national security adviser, anyone higher that has come to Afghanistan, spent a day or two. This is a mission in which we have both shed blood together, made tremendous amount of sacrifices and is worthy of protection.

To spend a day or two, talk with the president and key leaders in Afghanistan to say, here is what the Americans want to do, right. You're right, we didn't read the writing on the wall. The writing on the wall was that a withdrawal will take place no matter what. We thought that the preservation of the last 20 years, the last two decades, mattered, and that is where we -- we -- we -- we -- we misunderstood.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Ghani himself has been described as sort of living in a bubble, reading books on the grounds of the palace while the country is disintegrating.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: I would never believe that just because President Ghani read books led to the collapse of the state. I don't -- I think that's a -- that's a lame excuse, whoever presents it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No, but there are criticism that -- that he was - but the criticism is that he was out of touch with reality, that he was living in a bubble, that there was corruption and ineptness within the government.

You're the national security adviser. You're the one who gives him the hard news, we have to go. Did you ever give him the hard news, Mr. President, we have to agree to negotiate our exit here because the Americans are gone, they're leaving us?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: President Ghani received hard news every second of the day. Afghanistan was at war. Every minute with lost an Afghan across the country. There was no good news.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right now there is, as we talked about, no money flowing into Afghanistan because the Taliban are now running the government. Do you think, if you had stayed, that it would have made a difference?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: No. If the condition was that a Taliban government be in place, there would have been a Taliban government in place just two weeks later.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't feel a sense of responsibility when you hear about what the U.N. is saying, that this is going to be a bleak winter of starvation?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: Absolutely. Well, of course I feel responsible. I feel responsible now, and I fell responsible then. I think what -- what the outcome is, is unfair to the Afghan people. A decision was made to include and be able to have -- to see the Taliban in government, right? And - and then --

MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States, the Biden administration agreed to what the Trump administration agreed to, which was the Taliban's coming back into power.

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: You know, when -- when that decision was made, I think it is important to make assumptions about how there will be collaboration with -- with that government in place. And how we're going to deliver aid to people that are in need.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think your biggest mistake was?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: We should have understood that the United States and -- has made its decision and -- and would withdraw under any circumstances. And I think that probably is one of the -- one of the reasons we weren't able to secure another outcome.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You felt that you were going to have the United States change its mind based on conditions on the ground?

HAMDULLAH MOHIB: No. I felt -- I felt that our partners, the United States included, believed in a democratic Afghanistan, a place where we were going to preserve the gains of the last 20 years. I thought those gains meant something.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: You can watch the full interview on

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. And we want to wish those who celebrate it a very Merry Christmas.

Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.


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