Biden lauded Afghan military in last call with Ghani, discussed ‘perception’ problem: report


President Biden lauded the Afghan military and discussed the government’s “perception” problem in his final call with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani before the Taliban takeover.

Biden and Ghani spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23, according to Reuters, which reviewed a transcript of the last call between the two leaders and listened to audio of their conversation.

The phone call came just weeks before the Taliban overtook the capital city of Kabul and Ghani fled the country, leaving Afghans without a government.

During the phone call, Biden praised the Afghan armed forces, which were trained and funded by the United States government, telling Ghani, “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,” he added, according to Reuters. Days later, however, the Taliban continued their military offensive in the country, seizing control of key provincial capitals before overrunning Kabul.

Biden also brought up a “perception” problem he recognized within the Afghan government, specifically when it came to its ability to defend against the Taliban.

“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, according to the wire service.

“And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture,” he added.

Biden suggested a solution to the issue would be having Afghanistan’s top political figures hold a press conference together that endorses a new military strategy.

“That will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think,” the American president said.

In a readout of the call between Biden and Ghani released at the time, the White House said the two presidents “discussed the situation in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring bilateral partnership.”

Biden also reportedly reaffirmed the U.S.’s support for Afghanistan, and the two leaders agreed that the Taliban’s offensive went against the negotiated settlement.

“The two leaders discussed the importance of Afghans coming together to support their common interest in security and peace, and President Biden underscored continued U.S. diplomatic engagement in support of a durable and just political settlement,” the readout said.

Reuters reported that Biden affirmed the U.S.’s commitment to helping the Afghan government survive and grow, without indicating the potential for a quick collapse of the government that would occur weeks later.

“We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows,” Biden said.

According to the wire service, Ghani told Biden that he believed there would be peace in the country if he could “rebalance the military solution,” adding “we need to move with speed.”

Ghani fled Afghanistan on Aug. 15, when the Taliban took Kabul. He stated later that he did so to avoid clashes with the insurgent group and to prevent future bloodshed.

The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Aug. 18 saying that Ghani and his family were welcomed into the country “on humanitarian grounds.”

U.S. forces evacuated their final troops from Afghanistan on Monday, bringing an end to the 20-year conflict. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment. 

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