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Leaked Biden-Ghani phone call transcript shows both were clueless about Taliban blitz

On July 23, the two leader chatted for around 14 minutes. Ghani departed the presidential house on August 15, and the Taliban took over Kabul.

Leaked Biden Ghani phone call transcript on Taliban blitz gcw
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Washington D.C., First Published Sep 1, 2021, 5:37 PM IST
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Before the Taliban gained control of the nation, US President Joe Biden spoke with his Afghan counterpart about military help, political strategy, and communications techniques. Nonetheless, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, neither Biden nor Ashraf Ghani appeared to be aware of or prepared for the immediate prospect of the entire country falling to the Taliban.

On July 23, the two leaders chatted for around 14 minutes. Ghani departed the presidential house on August 15, and the Taliban took over Kabul. Since then, tens of thousands of desperate Afghans have fled, and 13 US troops and hundreds of Afghan civilians were murdered in a suicide attack at Kabul's airport during the frenzied US invasion.
During the call, Biden offered aid if Ghani could publicly demonstrate that he had a strategy to deal with Afghanistan's mounting problem. Biden further said the US would continue to give close air support if they know what the strategy would be.

Also Read | Joe Biden on Afghanistan exit: Decision designed to save American lives

The US conducted air attacks to help Afghan security forces just days before the call, which the Taliban said violated the Doha peace deal. The US president also encouraged Ghani to seek support from influential Afghans for a future military plan and choose a "fighter" to lead the endeavour, a reference to Defense Minister General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.

Biden praised Afghanistan's armed forces, which were trained and supported by the US government. While speaking to Ghani, he said Afghanistan has 300,000 well-armed soldiers against 70-80,000 capable of fighting well. Days later, the Afghan military began folding throughout the country's provincial capitals, with minimal resistance from the Taliban.

Much of the conversation focused on what Biden called the Afghan government's "perception" problem. Following the discussion, the White House issued a statement emphasizing Biden's commitment to assisting Afghan security forces and the administration's request for funding for Afghanistan from Congress. Biden informed Ghani that holding a news conference with Afghanistan's key political players supporting a new military approach would "alter perception."

Also Read | Ex-Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani vows to return, says 'Don't trust people who say I betrayed you'

The American president's remarks suggested that he did not expect the significant insurgency and collapsed 23 days later.  Ghani's most recent public remark, thought to have been made in the United Arab Emirates, was made on August 18. He stated that he fled Afghanistan to avoid bloodshed. The US was already into its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan at the conversation, which Biden had delayed from the May deadline set by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

According to US intelligence estimates from August 11, Taliban militants may isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days and perhaps take it over in 90 days. Instead, the collapse occurred in less than a week. However, the White House, officials of Ghani or Karzai have not commented yet.

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