[guest post by Dana]
Reuters has an eye-opening report about the leaked transcript of a phone call on July 23 between President Biden and now-in-exile Afghan President Ghani. It’s surprising how President Biden didn’t seem concerned about a Taliban threat. However, it was only weeks before that he told us that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” so… Anyway, the phone call centered on “perception problem,” and Biden’s thoughts on how to address those:
In the last call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of the country, the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics, but neither Biden nor Ashraf Ghani appeared aware of or prepared for the immediate danger of the entire country falling to insurgents, a transcript reviewed by Reuters shows.
In much of the call, Biden focused on what he called the Afghan government’s “perception” problem. “I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” Biden said. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
Biden told Ghani that if Afghanistan’s prominent political figures were to give a press conference together, backing a new military strategy, “that will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think.”
The American leader’s words indicated he didn’t anticipate the massive insurrection and collapse to come 23 days later. “We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows,” said Biden.
After the call, the White House released a statement that focused on Biden’s commitment to supporting Afghan security forces and the administration seeking funds for Afghanistan from Congress.
While President Biden didn’t appear to feel that time was of the essence, President Ghani at least had an inkling of what might come:
Ghani told Biden he believed there could be peace if he could “rebalance the military solution.” But he added, “We need to move with speed.”
“We are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this,” Ghani said. Afghan government officials, and U.S. experts, have consistently pointed to Pakistani support for the Taliban as key to the group’s resurgence.
The White House has not responded to the report.
It’s still mind-boggling to me that there didn’t appear to be any real concern that the Taliban would rise up en masse at the opportunity and that we might find ourselves scrambling to get our people out. And most unbelievably, while completely reliant on the generosity of the Taliban. I’m guessing that whoever leaked the transcript of Biden and Ghani’s phone call must have felt an even more intense shock and revulsion.