Biden Pressed Afghan President To Change ‘Perception’ Problem Weeks Before Taliban Takeover

Biden Pressed Afghan President To Change ‘Perception’ Problem Weeks Before Taliban Takeover

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
September 1, 2021

President Biden pressured former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to change the “perception” to the world of a “different picture” regarding the Taliban’s advancement in the country “whether it is true or not,” during a phone call with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani less than a month before the militant group toppled Kabul, according to a shocking transcript report revealed.

According to a transcript and audio of the presidential phone call reviewed by Reuters, Biden during the nearly 15 minute conversation with Ghani was focused much on his obsession over the “perception problem” regarding the Afghanistan government and the U.S. trained and funded Afghan armed forces.

“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 to Ghani. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”

In the last call between Biden and Ashraf Ghani on July 23, both leaders, despite downplaying the Taliban strength underestimated how quickly the Islamic militant group could regain control and defeat the “300,000 well-armed” Afghan forces. Biden’s advice to the Afghan president also indicated that he did not anticipate just less than a month later the Taliban would seize control, as U.S. intelligences were led to believe the militant group would need 3-6 months to topple the Afghan weak armed forces in its takeover of the war-torn country.

“But I really think, I don’t know whether you’re aware, just how much the perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition, which it is not, not that it necessarily is that, but so the conclusion I’m asking you to consider is to bring together everyone,” Biden said. “If they stand there and say they back the strategy you put together, and put a warrior in charge, you know a military man…  in charge of executing that strategy, and that will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think.”

At the time the two leaders spoke in late July, the Taliban had controlled about half of Afghanistan’s district centers, indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation. Ghani informed Biden that Pakistani was behind the Taliban resurgance, an allegation that the Pakistani Embassry denied, and warned the U.S president that Afghan were “facing a full-scaled invasion,” a notice that the U.S. largely ignored as it focused largely into its planned withdrawal from the country.

The Afghan president shifted its military strategy and informed Biden that it was focusing on protecting “population centers” such as  major cities in the war-torn country over protecting “rural territories.” Biden would “approvingly” of the strategy, saying the military shift would help with the international “perception” needed to “shore up world support for the Afghan government.

“I’m not a military guy, so I’m not telling you what that plan should precisely look like, you’re going to get not only more help, but you’re going to get a perception that is going to change in terms of how… our allies and folks here in the States and other places think you’re doing,” Biden said.

Biden also offered aid in exchange if the Afghan president would publicly project that he had a solid plan for his military to control the spiraling situation unfolding in Afghanistan.

“We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is,” Biden said. “And all the way through the end of August, and who knows what after that.”

Following the call, the White House released a readout statement detailing what the two leaders “agreed that the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement’s claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict.” The readout also stated that Biden “reaffirmed” commitment in “supporting the Afghan security forces to defend themselves,” noting he requested from Congress in his fiscal budget for 2022 of over $3.3 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.

Three weeks later,  Ghani fled Afghanistan with the Taliban taking over control of Kabul and the majority of the country. During the time following the final call on July 23 and Kabul falling on Aug. 15, the Taliban was rapidly capturing several provincial Afghan capitals, with the US refusing to interfere in the matter, saying it was up to Afghan security forces to defend the country.

During Tuesday’s remarks on the U.S ending 20 years of war in Afghanistan, Biden reiterated the claim that his administration was under the impression that the Afghan government would be able to hold off the Taliban for longer.

“The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces that we had trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the Taliban. That assumption that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown — turned out not to be accurate,” Biden said. “But I still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality — even that one. And that’s what we did. So, we were ready when the Afghan Security Forces — after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own — did not hold on as long as anyone expected.”

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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