September 1, 2021 3:45pm
Updated: September 1, 2021 4:26pm
In the final call between President Biden and the leader of Afghanistan before Kabul fell, neither appeared to grasp the Taliban was poised to overrun Afghan security forces and instead sounded focused on trying to change the international "perception" of imminent defeat.
Details of the conversation were made public Tuesday by Reuters, after the wire service reviewed a transcript and audio recording of the call on July 23 — just weeks before Taliban forces took control of Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul.
The wire service says the material was provided on the condition of anonymity by a source not authorized to distribute it.
In the roughly 14-minute call, Biden and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics, apparently unaware and/or unprepared for the entire country falling to the Taliban, despite the insurgents having already taken over several regions.
In the call, Biden offered aid if Ghani could publicly project he had a plan to control the spiraling situation.
"We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is," said Biden, days after the U.S. carried out air strikes to support Afghan security forces.
The White House Tuesday declined to comment to Reuters about the call.
Biben also advised Ghani to get buy-in from powerful Afghans for a military strategy going forward, and then to put a "warrior" in charge of the effort, a reference to Defense Minister General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.
Biden also lauded the U.S.-trained Afghan armed forces, which days later folded to the surging Taliban, and focused on what he called the Afghan government's "perception" problem, the wire service also reports.
"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," he said. "And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture."
Biden told Ghani that a press conference by Afghanistan's prominent political figures, backing a new military strategy, would "change perception."