It actually appears to be the rule, not the exception, that presidents attach political strings to the military aid that they provide to their nominal allies.
Reuters exclusively reported on the transcript and audio recordings of the last phone call between US President Joe Biden and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on 23 July that it received from an unnamed source on the condition of anonymity. The outlet purports that the American leader made a quid pro quo offer of military support to his Afghan counterpart against the Taliban in exchange for Mr. Ghani lying about to the public about state of his country’s military preparedness against the group.
This evokes very strong shades of former US President Donald Trump’s phone call last year with incumbent Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. At that time, the American leader implied what Congress interpreted as the quid pro quo of his country’s military aid to the Ukrainian government on the condition of it investigating the corruption that Biden’s son Hunter was allegedly involved in there. Trump was ultimately impeached as a result of that phone call, but it’s unclear whether the same humiliating fate awaits Biden.
According to Reuters, Biden said the following: “We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is…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. And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.” In other words, Biden wanted Ghani to lie otherwise the US wouldn’t provide any more close air support for his country’s forces.
It should also be pointed out that the potential strikes that Biden was promising in this quid pro quo would have violated the US’ February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban. This makes his call doubly scandalous because not only was he doing the same thing that got Trump impeached by offering a quid pro quo of military aid in exchange for a foreign leader doing him a public favor, but he would have also risked the Taliban carrying out reprisal attacks against US forces in Afghanistan and thus endangering his troops’ lives.
Reuters’ report exposes the dark reality that America’s leaders want to hide from the world. It actually appears to be the rule, not the exception, that presidents attach political strings to the military aid that they provide to their nominal allies. Trump’s scandal was exploited by the then-opposition for political purposes related to influencing the upcoming presidential elections at the time and tarnishing his reputation as revenge for him consistently fighting against their agenda. That’s the only reason why it was even made public.
The situation is somewhat different with Biden though since the next presidential election is three years away though the midterm ones will be held next year. Even so, the implied purpose behind leaking his conversation with Ghani doesn’t seem to have been related to electoral motivations but might have arguably been patriotic ones as perceived from the American perspective. Even though it would have been a violation of the Doha Deal, Biden might have successfully stemmed the Taliban’s advance had he bombed them without preconditions.
His decision not to do so due to Ghani failing to fulfill his end of the deal by refusing to include former Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Biden’s proposed press conference that Reuters also reported about resulted in the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and dealing the most humiliating blow ever to America’s reputation. It directly led to the chaotic situation outside the Kabul Airport that was soon thereafter exploited by ISIS-K during its terrorist attack that killed over 190 people including 13 US troops.
By contrast, Trump’s quid pro quo with Zelensky didn’t lead to any loss of life, especially not of American citizens or fleeing refugees. It can therefore be said that the Biden-Ghani call might be more damning than the Trump-Zelensky one. The first-mentioned was leaked for pressing electoral reasons while the latter was likely released in order to provide evidence for what some Republicans have described as Biden’s “dereliction of duty” while threatening to impeach him for the Afghan fiasco last month.
The whistleblower responsible for providing Reuters with this damning information wanted Americans to know that everything might have been different during the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan had Biden remained loyal to his Afghan allies and bombed the Taliban to prevent their ultimate takeover of Kabul. They evidently wanted to imply that Biden has the blood of 13 US troops on his hands. If the same standards that were applied to Trump are applied to Biden, then he might also be impeached, but only if the Democrats also support it.