White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused during Wednesday’s press briefing to address an explosive report from Reuters this week that said Democrat President Joe Biden pressured Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani during a July phone call to make false claims about the nation’s fight against the Taliban.
In the call, Biden offered aid if Ghani could publicly project he had a plan to control the spiraling situation in Afghanistan. “We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is,” Biden said. …
In much of the call, Biden focused on what he called the Afghan government’s “perception” problem. “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,” Biden said. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
On the call, Ghani reportedly said that he was 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.” When the call happened, the Taliban had already seized control of approximately half of the country’s district centers.
Psaki was pressed on the issue during Wednesday’s press conference. “I’m not going to get into private diplomatic conversations or leaked transcripts of phone calls,” Psaki answered in-part the first time she was asked about the call.
.@SRamosABC asks Jen Psaki about the Reuters report of a call b/w Biden and Afghan President Ghani in which both "appeared completely unaware that the Taliban would take over" and would offer spin that "Afghan forces were still in control." pic.twitter.com/RSQ5Eqwkau
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 1, 2021
“Was the president in any way pushing a false narrative in that call with the Afghan President?” a second reporter asked Psaki later during the press conference.
“I think it’s pretty clear, again, I’m not going to go into details of a private conversation,” Psaki responded.
"I am not going to go into the details of a private conversation,” Jen Psaki says when asked about a leaked call in which Biden pressured Afghan's president to claim the fight against the Taliban was going good “whether it is true or not” in exchange for aid from the U.S. pic.twitter.com/keCOK2OzPD
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) September 1, 2021
“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,” Biden told Ghani. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
Reuters noted that a second call was placed to Ghani later that day by top officials in the Biden administration, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and U.S. Central Command Commander General Frank McKenzie.
“The perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum, and a narrative of Taliban victory,” Milley reportedly told Ghani. “And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around.”
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