Biden told Ghani to lie and pretend it’s all OK
Joe Biden flattered and cajoled former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in their last phone call as he sought to reassure him that the US-trained Afghan army could fend off the Taliban, a leaked transcript has revealed.
In the call on July 23, the US President urged his Afghan counterpart to make a public show of strength for Afghans and the world.
Mr Biden told him: “The perception around the world is, I believe, that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban and … whether it is true or not,
there is a need to project a different picture.”
The details emerged as Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s National Security Adviser, refused to describe the Taliban as the enemy or an adversary. “It’s hard to put a label” on them at the moment, he told MSNBC.
And General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was possible the US would co-ordinate with the Taliban on counterterrorism strikes against Islamic State militants and others.
However, General Milley called the Taliban ruthless, adding: “Whether or not they change remains to be seen.”
It also emerged that in April, the CIA began destroying facilities at its Eagle base on the outskirts of Kabul that was used to launch covert operations, for interrogations and to train Afghan counterterrorism troops. The entire base was razed before the US withdrawal, officials told The New York Times.
Mr Ghani, 72, called for more air support from the US and cash to increase the pay of Afghan troops in the 14-minute call with Mr Biden. Three weeks later he fled into exile as the Taliban took over.
“You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70,000 to 80,000, and they’re clearly capable of fighting well,” Mr Biden said, according to the transcript of the call obtained by Reuters. “We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we’re doing.”
But Mr Ghani replied: “We are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10,000 to 15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis.”
Pakistan has denied any involvement in the insurrection, although its government has publicly endorsed the Taliban and welcomed its return.