A leaked transcript and audio recording of a call between President Joe Biden and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about three weeks before Kabul fell showed that as the Afghan president warned of a Taliban “invasion,” Biden pressed him to change the “perception.”
According to a report by Reuters, in a 14 minute call between Biden and Ghani on July 23, 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.”
But Biden on the call pressed Ghani to publicly project he had a plan to control the worsening situation in Afghanistan in order to receive air support. According to Reuters:
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.
Biden also told Ghani, “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 also praised the Afghan military as “the best,” and “clearly capable of fighting well,” and promised that the U.S. would “continue to fight hard” non-militarily to make sure the Afghan government survives and grows.
Reuters noted that as the two presidents spoke, Taliban insurgents controlled about half of Afghanistan’s district centers, indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation.
Later that day in 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.
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.”