White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday refused to discuss the transcript of a shocking phone conversation between Joe Biden and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, even though she once called for more transparency regarding a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.
During the phone call in question, Biden pressured Ghani to create the “perception” that the Taliban weren’t winning, “whether it’s true or not,” knowing that the insurgents had already taken over about half the country.
“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 during the July 23 phone call, according to a transcript and audio obtained by Reuters. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
The White House has repeatedly claimed that the State Department, for months, urged Americans to leave the country, implying that if they were still there when the Taliban took over, it was their own fault. This bombshell transcript reveals that weeks before the Taliban overran the country, Biden was urging the Afghan president to project a sense of calm to give everyone the wrong impression.
“I’m not a military guy, so I’m not telling you what that plan should precisely look like, you’re going to get not only more help, but you’re going to get a perception that is going to change in terms of how … um … our allies and folks here in the States and other places think you’re doing,” Biden said.
Asked on Wednesday about the transcript, which has led to calls for Biden’s impeachment, Jen Psaki replied, “I’m not going to get into private diplomatic conversations or leaked transcripts of phone calls.”
This is a far cry from what the then-CNN contributor tweeted in 2019, in the wake of the coordinated leak of then-President Donald Trump’s unremarkable phone call with his Ukraine counterpart, in which he urged an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter’s corrupt dealings in Ukraine. The ensuing “scandal,” which many on the right believe was manufactured to protect the Biden family, ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment.
During the early days of the controversy, Psaki tweeted: “It is not just the call transcript. The whistleblower complaint would likely have more details. We need both. And not just the call.”
It is not just the call transcript. The whistleblower complaint would likely have more details. We need both. And not just the call.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) September 24, 2019
During Wednesday’s press briefing Psaki took the opportunity to again point out that the administration was blindsided by the Taliban’s quick progress.
“What I can reiterate for you is that we have stated many times that no one anticipated … that the Taliban would be able to take over the country as quickly as they did or that the Afghan National Security Forces would fold as quickly as they did.”
Indeed, during the July phone call, Biden recited his oft-repeated talking point about the “300,000 well armed [Afghan] forces” versus approximately 70,000 Taliban insurgents.
“You clearly have the best military,” Biden said. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70, 80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well,” he said, going on to promise that the United States would continue to provide support all the way until August and beyond.
“We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is … And all the way through the end of August, and who knows what after that,” he said.
That is not what ended up happening, however, according to Sami Sadat, a commander in the Afghan National Army.
In a recent oped in the New York Times, Sadat wrote that the Afghan Army’s “air support dried up and our ammunition ran out.”
The Afghan forces were trained by the Americans using the U.S. military model based on highly technical special reconnaissance units, helicopters and airstrikes. We lost our superiority to the Taliban when our air support dried up and our ammunition ran out.
By July, he said, most of the 17,000 support contractors who maintained their bombers and attack and transport aircraft had already left.
On Wednesday, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell waved off calls for Biden’s impeachment over the Afghanistan fiasco.
“The president is not going to be removed from office,” McConnell told Republicans at an event in Kentucky. “Its a Democratic house, a narrowly Democratic Senate, that’s not going to happen.”