Before Afghan collapse, Biden pressed Ghani to ‘change perception’
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.
The men spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul. Since then, tens of thousands of desperate Afghans have fled and 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during the frenetic U.S. military evacuation.
Reuters reviewed a transcript of the presidential phone call and has listened to the audio to authenticate the conversation. The materials were provided on condition of anonymity by a source who was not authorized to distribute it.
In the call, Biden offered aid if Ghani could publicly project he had a plan to control the spiraling situation in Afghanistan. “We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is,” Biden said. Days before the call, the U.S. carried out air strikes to support Afghan security forces, a move the Taliban said was in violation of the Doha peace agreement.