Edited by: TJVNews.com
President Biden stressed the need for changing the “perception” of the Taliban’s progress in Afghanistan, “whether it is true or not,” during a phone call with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani less than four weeks before Kabul collapsed, according to an exclusive Reuters report.
According to a transcript of the July 23 presidential call reviewed by Reuters, Biden didn’t anticipate the Taliban’s rapid advance across Afghanistan, which ended when they stormed Kabul on Aug. 15 and Ghani fled the presidential palace. Instead, Biden focused much of the 14-minute call on the Afghan government’s “perception” problem, Reuters reported.
“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. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
Reuters reported that Biden told Ghani that if Afghanistan’s prominent political figures were to give a press conference together, backing a new military strategy, “that will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think.”
“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,” the news agency said.
According to the report, Biden lauded Afghan armed forces and said, “You clearly have the best military”. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well,” Biden told Ghani in the 14-minute phone call. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well,” Biden said to Ghani.
“We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives but is sustained and grows,” said Biden.
After the call, the White House released a statement that focused on Biden’s commitment to supporting Afghan security forces and the administration seeking funds for Afghanistan from Congress, according to the Reuters report
Ghani told Biden he believed there could be peace if he could “rebalance the military solution.” But he added, “We need to move with speed.”
Reuters reported that in a follow-up call later that day, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, General Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie spoke to Ghani. Reuters also obtained a transcript of that call.
In this call, too, an area of focus was the global perception of events on the ground in Afghanistan, as was reported by Reuters. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 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.”
“I do not believe time is our friend here. We need to move quickly,” McKenzie added.