A partial transcript of a 14-minute call between former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. President Joe Biden on July 23 revealed that Ghani made the United States fully aware that his country was facing a “full-scale invasion” by the Taliban.
The transcript was leaked to Reuters “provided on condition of anonymity by a source who was not authorized to distribute it,” and made public on Aug. 31. Reuters says the audio recording, provided alongside the transcript, was reviewed to authenticate legitimacy.
Perception is reality
Biden opens the call by apologizing to Ghani for being late and then quickly segues into emphasizing he had met with Pentagon and U.S. national security leaders as a basis to voice his concerns about “perception around the world.” The President said, “I believe…that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.”
Biden continued, “And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
The President promised air support to the Afghanistan government “all the way through the end of August,” lauding their forces as “the best military.”
“We are also going to continue to make sure your air force is capable of continuing to fly and provide air support. In addition to that we are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows because it is clearly in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, that you succeed and you lead,” continued Biden.
He then continued to focus on his concerns about “perception” when he said, “But I really think, I don’t know whether you’re aware, just how much the perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition, which it is not, not that it necessarily is that.”
Ghani’s reply to Biden was solemn, “Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this, so that dimension needs to be taken account of.”
He then asked for the U.S. air presence to be “front loaded” saying “there was a very heavily reliance on air power.”
Ghani also asked Washington to provide financial aid to support the military, which he said had not seen a pay raise in a decade, and made a vague reference to weak air support from the United States and an agreement with the Taliban, “There are agreements with the Taliban that we [or ‘you’ this is unclear] are not previously aware of, and because of your air force was extremely cautious in attacking them.”
The Afghan leader said Peace Council Chief Abdullah Abdullah had “went to negotiate with the Taliban,” but “the Taliban showed no inclination.”
Reuters said the White House declined to comment on the story.
A quick about-face
A few days earlier on Aug. 28, The Washington Post, relying on information provided by multiple anonymous Afghanistan and U.S. government sources, chronicled the fateful moves of the distracted and complacent Biden and Ghani administrations shortly before the Afghan president abandoned his country, fleeing to the United Arab Emirates via helicopter in the afternoon of Aug. 15.
The expose revealed on Aug. 14, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had brokered with Ghani in Biden’s place a “U.S.-brokered arrangement with the Taliban in which the militants would remain outside Kabul if the Afghan leader would step aside as an interim government took charge.”
The goal was to create time for negotiations with the terrorists that were “aimed at forming an inclusive government that involved the Taliban, as well as others.”
Ghani fled the palace for his life the next day after several advisors waited for Presidential Palace staff to be out on lunch before feeding the Afghan leader false intelligence claiming the Taliban had stormed the building and were searching room by room for him.
After Ghani’s defection left Washington blindsided, The Post revealed U.S. CENTCOM Commander Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie met with the Taliban’s Chief Political Officer in Doha, where McKenzie was told by the Taliban, “We have a problem…We have two options to deal with it: You [the United States military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.”
This revealed the U.S. administration was given the option to avert a series of catastrophes and chaos that resulted from multiple nations attempting to flee the country through the Kabul Airport. However, the sources reported, “Throughout the day, Biden had remained resolute in his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. The collapse of the Afghan government hadn’t changed his mind.”
As a result, McKenzie told the Taliban “that the U.S. mission was only to evacuate American citizens, Afghan allies and others at risk,” and that they were only interested in the Kabul Airport.
Picking up the pieces
In the aftermath, former Vice President Amrullah Saleh said that not only had he stayed behind in now-Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, but former President Hamid Karzai, along with Abdullah Abdullah had remained in the country in attempts to negotiate with the Taliban.
Saleh, who says he is the rightful President under the country’s 2004 Constitution after Ghani’s defection, made a shocking claim that Ghani’s administration had released thousands of ISIS-K prisoners under orders from Washington, “Unfortunately, the Americans asked us in a very wrong and undiplomatic way to release these prisoners and threatened to cut off economic, weapons and military aid to Afghanistan. We made it clear that if we let go of these prisoners, they would go back to fight us,” he told EuroNews on Aug. 27.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby claimed, however, that it was the Taliban who freed the extremists.
ISIS-K is the group that claimed responsibility for suicide bombings that saw 13 U.S. soldiers lose their lives at Kabul Airport.
Saleh also said ISIS-K was simply a branch of the Taliban and that the Taliban itself was just a “proxy group” for Pakistan.
In 2015, Melanie Hart, the Biden administration’s China Policy Coordinator for the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, co-authored a paper during her time at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in conjunction with a Chinese Communist Party United Front Work Department entity, the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), which advocated for Washington to work with Beijing to pave the way for the installation of the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure, debt trap, and hegemony project in Afghanistan.
The 84-page paper said the U.S. should utilize its own New Silk Road project in the region to “serve as a foundation and opportunity for the Belt and Road projects in Central Asia, as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“Both NSR and the Belt and Road initiative offer significant investments that can bolster Afghanistan’s economic sustainability…If the Belt and Road initiative and the NSR work in tandem, they can complete large, concrete projects in the region.”
“As the Belt and Road initiative gains momentum, it has the opportunity to bring unprecedented infrastructure and economic connectivity to Central Asia, Pakistan, and in particular Afghanistan. Yet the depth of need in the region is extraordinary. The Belt and Road initiative and the NSR are more likely to succeed and generate significant returns if they complement one another rather than compete for the same resources,” claimed the paper.
Pakistan itself is a signatory to the BRI. In 2019, China Construction, a CCP state-run enterprise, installed a 244-mile highway that runs between Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces. Between 2015 and 2019, the cost of the project is reported to have ballooned from $45 to $62 billion while the majority of the high level jobs in the project were awarded to Chinese immigrants living in the country.
In March, there was an uproar in the Pakistan Senate after Chinese spy cameras were found during a secret ballot to determine a new Senate Chairman.