A transcript obtained by Reuters reportedly reveals the extent to which President Biden was oblivious about the situation in Afghanistan in late July. The phone call between Biden and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani shows that both men were completely unaware what was coming. The American president apparently expected the government of Afghanistan to put up a viable resistance to the Taliban and did not expect such a swift collapse.
Call reveals priorities
The brief call on July 26 is revealing in what it shows as the Biden Administration’s priority in Afghanistan, a priority which the president did not hide from his Afghan counterpart.
Biden’s main priority appeared to be bringing about a change in public perception of the war in Afghanistan, rather than achieving a real victory.
With the deadline for American withdrawal rapidly approaching Biden was determined to make Ashraf Ghani do his part to let the White House present the decision to the world as a success.
Biden expressed confidence in the plan being adopted by the Afghan government to focus on defending the provincial capitals and major cities of the country.
This plan would prove to be disastrous as cities fell to the Taliban with minimal resistance in the weeks after the call between the two presidents.
A follow-up call included Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who echoed the president in focusing on the media narrative, rather than military solutions to the situation.
Confidence in Ghani and his government as expressed in the call was clearly misplaced, as events in following month would show in a humiliating fashion for Biden.
As the Taliban closed in on major cities and began to advance on Kabul the Afghan president continued to demand resistance and a defense of the capital city.
By the time the Taliban arrived in Kabul Ashraf Ghani had already fled the country, allegedly taking large quantities of cash from the government with him on his flight into exile.
Rather than seeing any warning signs about Ghani’s incompetence and cowardice in the face of the Taliban advance, Biden stated that the United States would happily continue to support his regime.
Biden seemingly neglected to put any pressure at all on the Afghan president regarding the urgent need to reform a government capable of holding on to the country. The first step for this would have been the removal of Ghani.
The fruitless call with Ghani reveals that Biden was either unaware of the extent to which Afghanistan was ready to fall or was not concerned enough about the situation to urge much productive action.