Reuters has obtained an audio recording and transcript of a phone conversation between Joe Biden and President Ghani of Afghanistan that took place on July 23. A partial transcript is here. The conversation had several notable aspects.
First, Biden noted the perception that the war was not going well, and suggested that Ghani try to create the opposite impression, “whether it is true or not.”
BIDEN: You know, I am a moment late. But I mean it sincerely. Hey look, I want to make it clear that I am not a military man any more than you are, but I have been meeting with our Pentagon folks, and our national security people, as you have with ours and yours, and as you know and I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.
And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.
Biden went on to explain how that might be done. Second, Biden promised that the U.S. would maintain air support for Afghanistan’s army at least through the end of August:
You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing. And all the way through the end of August, and who knows what after that.
President Ghani emphasized the importance of U.S. air support:
Second, what is crucial is, close air support, and if I could make a request, you have been very generous, if your assistance, particularly to our air force be front loaded, because what we need at this moment, there was a very heavily reliance on air power, and we have prioritized that if it could be at all front-loaded, we will greatly appreciate it.
This was one of many promises that Biden broke. The U.S. did not maintain close air support of Afghan forces, which is widely viewed as an important cause of the collapse of the Afghan army.