President Joe Biden and President Ashraf Ghani, in their final phone call on July 23, seemed blithely unaware of the true size of the threat posed by the Taliban, a new report from Reuters shows. In that conversation, Biden praised the might of the Afghan military and appeared to shrug off the threat of the Taliban. “You clearly have the best military,” he was quoted telling Ghani, per Reuters. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well.” He also bemoaned Ghani’s government’s public relations problems. “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.
To fix this, he suggested that Ghani hold a press conference with the nation’s top political figures backing a new military strategy. Biden also reassured the other president that the U.S. would continue conducting air strikes to support what was, at that point, an already floundering security situation. Twenty three days later, the Taliban invaded the capital city of Kabul, and Ghani fled the presidential palace.