President Joe Biden and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke by phone on July 23. Here are excerpts from that call, based on a transcript and recording reviewed by Reuters:
BIDEN: Mr. President. Joe Biden.
GHANI: Sure, Mr. President, it’s so nice to hear your voice.
BIDEN: You know, I’m a moment late. But I mean it sincerely. Hey look, I want to make it clear that I’m not a military man any more than you, but I’ve had meetings with our Pentagon people, and our national security people, as you have with ours and yours, and as you know and I don’t need to tell you that the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I think, is that things are not going well in terms of fighting the Taliban.
And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different image. …..
BIDEN: If you authorize Bismillah [Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi] to execute a strategy that targets key areas of the population centers, and I’m not military, so I’m not telling you exactly what that plan should look like, not only will you get more help, but your ‘You’ll get a picture that’s going to change in terms of how, uh… our allies and people here in the United States and other places think you’re doing it.
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. And all the way to the end of August, and who knows what after that.
We will also continue to ensure that your Air Force can continue to fly and provide air support. In addition, we will continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically and economically, to ensure that your government not only survives, but is supported and grows, because it is clearly in the interest of the people of Afghanistan that you succeed and lead . And although I know it is presumptuous of me on the one hand to say such things to you so directly, I have known you for a long time, I think you are a brilliant and honorable man.
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 ask you to consider is to bring everyone together from [Former Vice President Abdul Rashid] dostum, to [Former President Hamid] Karzai and in between, if they stand there and say they support the strategy you devised, and put a warrior in charge, you know a soldier, [Defense Minister Bismillah] Khan responsible for executing that strategy, and that will change the perception, and that will change a lot I think. …
GHANI: Mr. President, we are facing a large scale invasion consisting of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15 000 international terrorists, mainly Pakistanis thrown in here, so that dimension has to be taken into account.
Secondly, what is crucial is air support, and if I could make a request, you have been very generous, if your aid, especially to our air force, is loaded from the front, because what we need at the moment , there was a very heavy reliance on air force, and we prioritized the fact that if it can be front-loaded at all, we’ll really appreciate it.
And thirdly, as for the procedure for the rest of the aid, for example, the military pay has not been increased for more than ten years. We need to make some gestures to bring everyone together, so if you could point out the National Security Adviser or the Pentagon, anyone you want to work with us on the details, so our expectations, especially regarding your air support. There are agreements with the Taliban that we [or “you” this is unclear] were not previously aware, and because of your air force was extremely careful when attacking it.
And the last point, I just spoke to Dr. Abdullah, he went to negotiate with the Taliban, the Taliban showed no inclination. We can only achieve peace if we rebalance the military situation. And I can assure you…
GHANI: And I can assure you that I’ve been to four of our major cities, I’m constantly traveling with the Vice President and others, we’ll be able to gather. Your assurance of support goes a very long way in enabling us to mobilize really seriously. The resistance in the cities, Mr President, has been extraordinary, there are cities that have been under siege for 55 days and that have not surrendered. Again, thank you and I’m always just a phone call away. This is what a friend says to a friend, so please don’t feel you’re forcing me.
BIDEN: No, well, look, I, thank you. Look, close air support only works if there’s a military strategy on the ground to support.