US President Joe Biden and former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani spoke for the last time on July 23, just weeks before Taliban took over Kabul on August 15.
According to a report by Reuters, the last call between the duo lasted for roughly 14 minutes and they discussed military aid, political strategy, etc. But neither Joe Biden and Ashraf Ghani appeared aware of or prepared for the immediate danger of the entire country falling to Taliban, the news agency, which went through the transcript of the conversation, said.
"Reuters reviewed a transcript of the presidential phone call and has listened to the audio to authenticate the conversation. The materials were provided on condition of anonymity by a source who was not authorized to distribute it," the news agency said.
As per the report, Biden told Ghani that the US will provide close-air support if Ghani spells out a plan against the Taliban offensive. "We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is," Biden said.
The US President 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 possible reference to defence minister General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, reported Reuters.
Joe Biden praises the Afghan army?
According to the report by Reuters, Joe Biden lauded the Afghan armed forces. "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," Biden told Ghani.
“We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives but is sustained and grows,” said Biden. The White House on Tuesday declined to comment on the call, Reuters reported.
Full Pakistani planning and logistical support: Ghani tell Biden
During the 14-minute phone call, Ashraf Ghani told Joe Biden that Afghanistan was facing a full-scale invasion. "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 was thrown into this," Ghani told Biden, reported Reuters.
The Pakistani Embassy in Washington has denied the allegations. "Clearly the myth of Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan is, unfortunately, an excuse and an afterthought peddled by Mr. Ashraf Ghani to justify his failure to lead and govern," an embassy spokesman told Reuters.
President Biden defends US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden vigorously defended the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of conflict, describing it as the "best" and the "right" decision for America which ended an era of major military deployments to rebuild other countries.
In his address to the nation from the White House on Tuesday, Biden said there was no reason to continue in a war that was no longer in the service of the "vital national interest" of the American people.
"My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over," Biden said. "I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America," he said.
Biden's address to the nation came just 11 days before the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that precipitated the US intervention in Afghanistan. The last C-17 cargo aircraft carrying US forces took off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in the early hours of Tuesday, ending America's military campaign in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, ousted from power by the US shortly after the 9/11 attacks, now control nearly all of the country. Biden said the real choice in Afghanistan was "between leaving and escalating." "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit," he said.
"We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. And we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war," he said.
"This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It's about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries." Biden also highlighted the evacuation of more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan, saying the "extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals." Biden has been widely criticised over the abrupt manner of the US withdrawal, which led to the unexpected collapse of the Afghan security forces US troops had trained and funded for years.
"We've been a nation too long at war. If you're 20 years old today, you have never known an America at peace," Biden said. Biden said that he was the fourth President who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war.
(With inputs from PTI)
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