In the latest phone call between Joe Biden and his Afghan counterpart, the US president said they need to change perceptions of the Taliban’s rapid advance “whether it’s true or not,” according to excerpts published Tuesday.
Four weeks before Kabul collapsed, President Ashraf Ghani called for increased air support and money for soldiers who had not received a pay rise for a decade.
A transcript obtained by Reuters reveals two leaders unaware of the impending disaster and a US president who focused on twisting the message.
“I don’t need to tell you that the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I think, is that the fight against the Taliban is not going well,” Biden said.
“And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project another image.”
The Taliban were already conquering district after district across the country, while the US and Afghanistan disagreed on tactics.
President Joe Biden spoke with President Ashraf Ghani for approximately 14 minutes on July 23. It was their last conversation before the Taliban took over the capital. Biden told Ghani he had a perception problem, saying: ‘There is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different image’
Refugees are led through the departure terminal to a bus at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan
aliban members gather and deliver speeches in front of Herat Governorate following completion of US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Taliban forces patrol a runway for a day after US troops withdraw from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
The two men spoke for about 14 minutes on July 23. It was their last conversation before the Taliban took over the capital.
Ghani fled the presidential palace, Kabul and the country on August 15.
By then, a chaotic evacuation was already underway, taking tens of thousands of people to safety at the expense of 13 US troops and dozens of Afghans killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
But in mid-July, Biden wanted Ghani to deliver a public message and plan that would bolster confidence in the Afghan government.
“You clearly have the best army, you have 300,000 well-armed troops against 70-80,000 and they are clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing,” he said.
He urged Ghani to allow his defense minister, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, to adopt a strategy that would focus on defending major population centers.
And he urged the Afghan president to bring together some of the most powerful anti-Taliban warlords in a show of support to reverse the perception of a crumbling government.
Taliban special forces fighters arrive at Hamid Karzai International Airport after US military withdrawal
“But I really think, I don’t know if you’re aware, how much the perception around the world is that this looks like a lost proposal, which it isn’t, not that it’s necessary, but so the conclusion I’ll give you question to consider is to bring everyone together from [Former Vice President Abdul Rashid] dostum, to [Former President Hamid] Karzai and in between,” he said.
“If they stand there and say they support the strategy you put together, and put a warrior in charge, you know a soldier, Khan who is in charge of that strategy, and that will change the perception, and that will change a lot. think.’
Ghani responded by saying that Afghanistan was not only dealing with the Taliban, but also with their foreign lenders.
“We are facing a large-scale invasion comprising Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10 to 15,000 international terrorists, mostly Pakistanis, thrown in,” he said.
But he also asked that US air support be “frontloaded” to help immediately with the challenges facing the Afghan military.
Details of their conversation emerged a day after the last American troops flew out of Kabul, ending America’s longest war.