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Combat in Afghanistan to End in 2014; Hollywood Turning Against President Obama?; Could California Rampage Have Been Prevented?; New Info Released in Flight 370

Aired May 27, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Almost all American troops out of Afghanistan by 2016. Will the Afghans be ready?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, a major announcement by the commander in chief, the next-to-zero option. Combat operations will finish in Afghanistan by the end of this year. Nearly 10,000 troops will stay behind for training and support, but they will soon head for the exits as well. Critics ask, what happen if al Qaeda comes back?

The national lead. What caused the man who killed six people in Santa Barbara to suddenly snap? Well, actually, it doesn't seem as though it was sudden at all. We're learning his chilling plans were years in the making.

And the pop culture lead. All you have to do is look at one of his fund-raiser lists to see how many fans President Obama has in show business, but have some of his controversial policies finally turned Hollywood against him?

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the world lead.

It's the longest U.S. war ever, 12 years, seven months, 21 days. And in that time, the war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 2,184 American service men and women, 22 this year alone, not to mention those with wounds both physical and otherwise, or the thousands and thousands of Afghan civilians killed.

Operation Enduring Freedom has been enduring, all right. There are high school freshmen who cannot remember a United States that was not at war. But, by the end of this year, it will be over. Combat operations will be, anyway, with more than two-thirds of the 32,000 U.S. troops currently serving there leaving before New Year's, as President Obama announced just a short time ago.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's combat mission will be over by the end of this year. At the beginning of 2015, we will have approximately 9,800, 9,800 U.S. service members in different parts of the country. By the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we've done in Iraq.


TAPPER: The president today appearing to take something like a close- to-zero option,an almost full withdrawal by 2016, though a senior administration official tells me the U.S. will still probably have close to 1,000 U.S. service members remaining there after 2016 to protect the embassy and to help train the Afghans on how to use weapon systems, for instance.

Here is how the withdrawal will work. By the end of this year, the combat mission in Afghanistan for the U.S. is set to conclude and the U.S. shifts fully to an advisory role, logistics, training. In early 2015, 9,800 U.S. service member will still be in different parts of Afghanistan providing regional support to the Afghans, managing counterterror operations, but by the end of that year, the troop level will be cut by roughly half and they will consolidate in Kabul and at Bagram Airfield.

And then by the end of 2016, poof, the U.S. will have nothing but that normal embassy presence in Kabul and a minimal security presence, not unlike the 200 U.S. military personnel left in Iraq right now.

But what about the critics who warn that a total U.S. exit by 2016 could leave the door open to al Qaeda just waiting until the ball drops on 2017? A senior administration official said today -- quote -- "We never signed up to have a permanent security force in Afghanistan against the Taliban" -- unquote.

Are the Afghans really ready to fend for themselves?

Let's bring in Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Admiral Kirby, thanks for joining us.

Senators McCain, Graham, Ayotte are calling this -- quote -- "a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy."

Now, yes, it's clear ending this war will be popular with the American public. The big question, of course, are the Afghans really ready to go it alone?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NAVY: Well, Jake, I think they are getting -- they more ready every single month.

And that's a big part of the component of going forward here, the mission going forward. Now, the combat mission ends at the end of this year, but assuming we get a bilateral security agreement and we can stay in Afghan in the next year, a major mission for our troops there is going to be to advise, train, and assist to help continue to develop their capacity and their capability.

But they are getting better and they have been getting better month by month. A good friend of mine took command there in the east just a few months ago, and shortly after he arrived on stage -- and he hadn't been in Afghanistan for maybe a year or so -- and he told me it was night and day, the difference that he saw in the Afghan troops just from the time that he had been away. And they continue to improve.

TAPPER: But, Admiral Kirby, as you know, the last time I was in Afghanistan, commanders on the ground, majors, lieutenant colonels, not the generals, they told me that their big concern was not so much the Afghan security forces. They thought that they would be up to task.

But, rather, they were worried about the support for the security. This is the not-sexy part in a military that nobody likes to talk about, but the resupply, the ammunition, the food. When I was embedded with a medevac unit, we sat on an Afghan tarmac for half-an- hour with a wounded Afghan border guard just waiting for the ambulance to get to us.

KIRBY: Sure.

TAPPER: Are the Afghans going to be able to do that part of the job?

KIRBY: Well, that's another thing that we're going to be working with them on, Jake, to be honest with you.

These are called -- those are called enablers, enabling functions, the kind of things in the background that you don't always see supporting the troops that are actually out in the field. These are capabilities we know that they continue to need help with. And we're committed to doing that.

TAPPER: What is to keep al Qaeda from just biding their time? We fought for 12 years there. What is a wait of two more years for them?

KIRBY: Well, look, I'll tell you.

If -- first of all, al Qaeda leadership, core leadership in that part of the world has been severely degraded. But let's take your hypothetical out for a spin. If they show up in January, February of next year, they are still going to see a significant U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. But, more importantly, Jake, they are going to be more capable, more competent and frankly more skilled Afghan national security forces that don't want them in their country either.

TAPPER: What about counterterrorism in Pakistan? As you know, there are a lot of drones that the U.S. operates out of Afghanistan that go into Pakistan, obviously, the operation to get bin Laden out of FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. Where are U.S. counterterrorism forces going to be located to go into that country, where many argue the real enemy is?

KIRBY: Well, look, we're taking a regional approach here.

We have taken a regional approach. It isn't just about the threat inside Afghanistan. You're right about that. And I won't detail the specifics in terms of exactly how counterterrorism operations are going to work going forward. But, as the president made clear, that is certainly another one of the tracks, the missions that our troops are going to be doing, is assisting the Afghan national security forces with counterterrorism as well.

And we're going to stay at that challenge. We know it's a persistent challenge, and nobody is going to turn their back on that.

TAPPER: If things spiral into chaos, the way they have in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal there, would this timeline be reconsidered or is this a hard out, 2016, out?

KIRBY: Well, a couple of things.

The president was pretty clear about the timeline that we're going to follow. We execute those orders. But it's not a hard out. It's not, as you put it in the lead-in, sort of poof and they're gone. We have always said that we want to keep a strong military-to-military relationship with Afghanistan, that our relationship with Afghanistan is going to be beyond just military as well, to diplomatic and economic.

And as you rightly said at the lead-in, we're going to have some troops in the embassy to help continue advising and assisting the Afghans moving forward. So, we're not turning our back on Afghanistan from a security perspective. We're going to keep this relationship as strong, but more normal as possible going forward.

TAPPER: Rear Admiral John Kirby, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

KIRBY: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: In other world news, yes, the people of Ukraine elected a new president just two days ago, but exactly how much of Ukraine, as we know it, will he really preside over?

Gunfire between pro-Russia separatists and forces loyal to the Ukrainian government erupting at the airport in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the deadliest outbreak of violence yet in a city that has become a flash point in this conflict -- at least 40 people have been killed in that fight, according to the mayor, including two civilians.

A spokeswoman for the pro-Russia forces says at least 35 of the dead are rebels. The battle for control of the airport broke out just hours after Ukraine's newly elected president said he would like to potentially negotiate a way out of this crisis.

Our own Nick Paton Walsh is standing by live for us in Eastern Ukraine.

Nick, you're there covering the battle for the Donetsk Airport. What have you seen?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yesterday's violence really replaced today by a sense of a city trying to wake up and assess the aftermath of the worst clash we have seen inside a city that thought really it was immune to the unrest swirling around this region.

And I should say, Jake, we're hearing signs from a NATO official that Russian troops may be preparing to move back from the border, perhaps a ray of light, but certainly unsettling too for separatist militants who woke up today to see that many of them had been killed.


WALSH (voice-over): At the morgue, they are counting the dead, the signs of the Ukrainian army's resolve to take back the airport, little dignity in the hurry.

Nearby, a woman, her head blown clean off -- doctors said the wounds were from bullets or heavy weapons and that locals had been to collect some of these men, their relatives that morning. At the airport, cordoned off, but not controlled by separatists, living side-by-side with the police, still occasional blasts, gunfire.

This truck, where so many militants died, Ukraine's army finally resorting to all its firepower -- in a nearby grass, the first aid given, the bodies dragged away in the woods.

Shocked locals did not want their faces shown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people (INAUDIBLE) fighting.

WALSH (on camera): Who can stop this?


WALSH: Putin?


WALSH: Would you like him to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only -- only this help Russia. I don't see any way.

WALSH: Can this part of the country ever be part of Ukraine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Ukraine will be destroyed.

WALSH (voice-over): Onlookers said the dead were nashy (ph), Russian for "our guys" -- heavy casualties for Kiev's enemy, but perhaps new martyrs in some eyes here.


WALSH: Jake, where does this leave us? Well, there are some who think perhaps yesterday was a show of force by a Ukrainian government that seems to stumble when it introduces its military in the past month, perhaps looking to be seem tough ahead of any negotiations. Petro Poroshenko did offer that potential. But there's also a fear we're into a new, more violent phase here, a military lacking in resources at times against separatists lacking really clear political leadership, bickering amongst themselves and now seeing Russia increasingly distant -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine, thank you. Stay safe.

Coming up next, there were warning signs, but so few took them seriously -- now some shocking new details into the mind of a killer who had been plotting for years.

Plus, she's arguably the most recognizable name on the list of potential 2016 presidential candidates, and Karl Rove says that also makes Hillary Clinton -- quote -- "old and stale."

Stay with us. Our politics lead is ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our national lead, CNN has just obtained brand-new video showing patrons at a pizza place ducking for cover during the drive-by shooter in Isla Vista, California, on Friday.

Today has been declared as a day of mourning at UC-Santa Barbara. The campus and others across California will gather later tonight to remember the victims of Friday night's rampage, which left six dead, alongside their murderer, 13 others were injured, such as Nick Pasichuke. Both of his legs were broken when the killer struck him with his car.

Nineteen-year-old Veronika Weiss was killed outside her sorority. Her father Robert recounted the frantic search for her after he heard about the shooting.


ROBERT WEISS, FATHTER OF VICTIM VERONIKA WEISS: We got on her iPhone and located it in the middle of the crime scene and then we actually were looking at the phone while they were moving her body.


TAPPER: The killer left behind plenty of evidence. Rantings posted on YouTube and writings from his journal showed that he first started to plan some sort of attack in December of 2012 when he bought his firsthand gun.

He singled out his middle school crush writing that her, quote, "cruel behavior" towards him is what made him view women as, quote, "heartless creatures." The girl's father told "The New York Daily News" that she is devastated by his actions and that she does not even remember him, let alone remember teasing him. There were signs that this young man was disturbed, that he needed more than the professional help he was already getting. But his parents tried. His mother even called the police last month to check on her son. Could anything have been done to prevent this tragedy?

Joining me is psychiatrist Gail Saltz, author of "Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie."

Dr. Saltz, thanks for joining us.

What does it tell you that he took the time too create this narrative for himself and these videos and this 141-page writing?

GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: About all I could say, without obviously have investigated and spoken to him, is that these were thoughts there for quite some time. It's important to know that many people have fantasies of revenge that never act on it but in this case, obviously, these were ongoing vengeful, angry thoughts and that being aggrandized was an important part of this, that being recognized, being viewed, being read was an important part because, as he says in the video, he felt like a nothing and he wanted to go out letting the world know that he was a something.

And that's why I think it's so important during these horrible, horrible incidents that we remember not to go on too much about the perpetrator because it inspires someone else who is feeling angry and disenfranchised and vengeful to think that this is a way to go out in some sort of infamy.

TAPPER: He writes that back in 2011, he threw drinks on two different couples, because he did not like to see them happy, he didn't like to see them kissing. He had attacked people with super soakers.

This kind of behavior, obviously, does not usually become what it ended up becoming. But I'm wondering if you see it as any sort of a warning sign.

SALTZ: Jake, this is the problem, that many people who do things that are, let's say somewhat anti-social or a little anti-social, you know, don't go on to commit heinous, violent acts of mass proportion like this and not only is it difficult for often law enforcement to know who it is going to be, it's even difficult for mental health professionals that that the person is seeing to know who it is going to be because if they don't say who is going to do it, we can't read minds and we don't necessarily always know. So, we're not always good at predicting which ones will go on to commit the really heinous acts. In fact, the red flags that we would look for are things like substance abuse, which is not the case here or prior really violent behavior, which was also not the case here.

So, you know, that's very concerning. The sad point, I think, however, is that the police were called and there was concern from the family, you know, about his taking -- hurting himself and his own well-being which actually by the way is most often the case e when someone has a mental illness. And, you know, we really need to empower and also train the first line responders on what to look for and where to look with social media, et cetera, available in terms of being able to spot a potential violent act.

TAPPER: You say where to look. And we know from the killer's own writings that the police came to his house in April and they did not ask to look in his room and if they had, according to him, they would have seen guns, they would have seen a stockpile of ammunition, the jig would have been up, as he wrote himself. Do police need to say, hey, it's a serious thing for a mom to call the police on her son because she's worried that he might be violent in some way, can I see what's on your computer, can I look into your room, can I look into you're closet?

SALTZ: Right, right.

TAPPER: Do they need to do that?

SALTZ: Well, you know, obviously, that person can say no and without probable cause, the law prevents them. However, they could look online and investigate what the parent is talking about and had they seen any of these YouTube video, frankly, they would have had probable cause. And they could have looked in his room.

So, you know, unfortunately, technology has moved forward at a rate that we haven't kept up with this. Our awareness of mental health and how it plays into these issues, we've not kept up with that either. So, we really need to take a look at the multiple interactors in this and how we can, frankly, update our systems to try and catch these people.

But I think it's also important to know that most of the people that commit these mass violent acts are not actually seriously mentally ill. They are angry, lonely, disenfranchised young men who want revenge, who are hell-bent on committing an evil act and they are not always predictable, they don't always leave signs and, unfortunately, that's the reality.

TAPPER: A sad reality.

Gail Saltz, thank you so much.

SALTZ: My pleasure.

TAPPER: When we come, it's a question that's been asked for nearly three months. How could a Boeing 777 simply vanish? But now, with new data, (AUDIO GAP) expert be able to find something that was missed.

And later, they watched their friends die and they were nearly killed themselves. So why do those in the military have such a desire to go back to war once they are home?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In other world news -- well, there is finally some new evidence to pour through when it comes to that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. That is, if you're an expert in reading communications logs.

After weeks of prodding from families, Malaysian authorities finally released the 47-page document with raw data that the British satellite company Inmarsat used to calculate where the missing airliner carrying 239 people may have crashed. So, does this document bring any answers for the families?

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh explains.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critics are now pouring over the newly released data.

DUNCAN STEEL, PHYSICIST: (INAUDIBLE) is we want to make sure that Inmarsat didn't make any mistakes.

MARSH: If authorities thought that the release of the data would satisfy the critics, they were wrong. The raw numbers explained how they arrived at the conclusions. It doesn't reveal the calculations and assumptions.

STEEL: Scientific or technological-type analysis, assumptions are vital and we need to be working from the same page, if it were, to verify that no mistakes have been made.

MICHAEL EXNER, CO-FOUNDER, AMERICAN MOBILE SATELLITE CORP.: Right now what we have, our hands are really tied. We've got the raw data but we don't have a good explanation of how to interpret all of those values.

MARSH: Inmarsat says they provided what investigators asked for.

NUPERT PEARCE, CEO, INMARSAT: We have absolutely no problem putting our model in the public domain and that's the decision for a leading country to put out there.

MARSH: The search for the plane has been focused along the final arc but there is a margin of error. It could be off by six miles either way. Plus, the plane could have glided for 23 miles in either direction.

Put together, that's a margin of error nearly 60 miles wide. This data proves impossible for some of the wilder theories of where the plane might be, like the notion it landed at a U.S. military base in the Indian Ocean. Satellite expert Michael Exner says it's clear the plane went down near the final arc.

EXNER: It had to be on that arc. I think the Inmarsat data is very accurate in that regard. We knew that before and this data released today just reinforces that conclusion. It did not go to Diego Garcia.

MARSH: But some families are not sure just yet.

STEVEN WANG, SON OF MH370 PASSENGER: We are suspicious for the first day that whether they are searching the right place, whether what they are touting is true or not, because it is our loved ones who is the plane. There is no direct evidence. We never believe it.

MARSH: Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.