A leaked transcript and audio recording of phone conversations between President Biden and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani show the Afghan president warned of a Taliban “invasion,” Biden urged him to change the “perception.”
The 14-minute call between Biden and Ghan on July 23, according to a report by Reuters, Ghani, the Afghan president, told Biden, “We are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists.”
According to Reuters, while on the call, Biden pressed Ghani to publicly project that he had a plan to control the worsening situation in Afghanistan to receive air support:
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.
Ghani was told by Biden, “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.”
“And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture,” he told Ghani and urged him to give a press conference with Afghanistan’s prominent political figures backing a new military strategy.
“That will change perception, and that will change an awful lot, I think,” Biden said.
Biden praised the Afghan military as “the best” and “clearly capable of fighting well” while promising the U.S. would “continue to fight hard” non-militarily to ensure the Afghan government survives and thrives.
Reuters noted as the two presidents spoke, there were indications of a rapid deterioration of security as Taliban insurgents controlled about half of Afghanistan’s district centers.
Another call also leaked to Reuters National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Central Command commander Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie pressed Ghani to change the “perception” of the war later the same day.
Milley told Ghani, “the perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum and a narrative of Taliban victory. And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around.”
McKenzie added: “I do not believe time is our friend here. We need to move quickly.”