Report: Biden Advised Ghani to Portray Fight Against Taliban as Successful 'Whether True or Not'
00:47 GMT 01.09.2021 (Updated: 13:23 GMT 06.08.2022)
© REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNSTU.S. President Joe Biden meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah at the White House, in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2021.
A recently disclosed conversation has revealed that both the American president and fugitive Afghan leader were not expecting Kabul to fall so quickly to the Islamists, although intelligence made such warnings as the US was hastily evacuating its people from the country.
US President Joe Biden advised his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, to demonstrate to the world that the fight against the Taliban* was going well, "whether it is true or not", a transcript of their July 23 phone call obtained by Reuters showed.
In a 14-minute conversation, Biden reportedly advised Ghani on what he called the "perception problem", apparently referring to the US intel assessment that the Afghan government was unable to combat the Islamists and it would capitulate just several months after the US troop withdrawal is completed. In reality, it happened long before that.
"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 reportedly said. "And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture."
If high-profile Afghan officials were to give a press conference touting a new military strategy, "that will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think", Biden reportedly told Ghani.
In the call, the US president also reportedly offered to provide the Afghan government "close air support", if the United States knows what plan the Afghan authorities had to get the situation under control. Later in July, the State Department threatened that Afghanistan would become a "pariah state" if the Taliban took over the country, and suggested that in that case, Kabul would not see any international aid to rebuild after the war.
Ironically, as the US ramped up evacuation efforts, billions worth of US-supplied weapons, initially intended to boost the Afghan military's capabilities, fell into the hands of the Islamists, as they were seen flaunting US military gear and equipment on pictures circulating online.
"We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows," the US president reportedly assured Ghani on the call.
Biden praised the Afghan military, seemingly with no expectation that Kabul would fall just three weeks later without any resistance. On August 15, as the Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital, Ghani fled his country with vehicles filled with cash, according to media reports, though Ghani has claimed he only took his boots, turban, and a book.
On Tuesday, Afghan Ambassador to Tajikistan Muhammad Zohir Agbar told Sputnik that Ghani hed a scheduled meeting with government officials and departed just as they were waiting for him, without prior warning.
“Ghani not only fled, leaving his associates to the mercy of fate, but also grabbed budget money, robbing the people. None of his deputies knew that he planned to flee. According to the defense minister of the Ghani government (I spoke with him personally yesterday), an adviser to Ashraf Ghani called the Defense Ministry and said he would be there at 4 p.m. for a meeting," Agbar said.
"They prepared, were waiting for him, but at that time three planes, where Ghani and his relatives were, took off from Kabul airport," he said.
Meanwhile, US media reported earlier that the Afghan government was working on a peaceful power transfer and Ghani's resignation just prior to Kabul's fall.
As Biden faces mounting pressure from both sides of the political spectrum over the chaotic evacuation and deadly terrorist attacks that came in between, the Taliban has claimed full control of the country, with Panjshir province remaining the only pocket of resistance in Afghanistan. However, the leader of the resistance forces, Ahmad Massoud, said on Tuesday that he is ready to step down if the Taliban guarantees an inclusive government and equal rights for all Afghans.
*A terrorist organization banned in Russia