The White House quietly corrected a gaffe President Biden made during his Thursday news conference in which he appeared to mix up the names of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and the controversial former head of Pakistan’s military.
“And General Austin is — just met with Kayani and I’m waiting for the briefing on that,” Biden said Thursday.
But the official White House transcript of the briefing now says “Ghani” instead of Kayani.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani departed the Pakistan military in 2013. In a retrospective on Kayani’s leadership, The New York Times reported that Kayani was often accused of “double-dealing and bad faith.”
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But besides confusing Ghani with Kayani at the briefing, Biden appeared to question the legitimacy of Ghani as Afghanistan’s president.
“He is the — the ‘leader,’ quote, in Afghanistan and Kabul. And there’s a U.N.-led process that’s beginning shortly on how to mechanically get people — how to end this war,” Biden said.
That quote was not changed in the White House official transcript.
Ghani won a contested presidential election that was held last year and was sworn in in March. His rival continues to contest the election results but the U.S. has recognized Ghani as the winner of the election.
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Zalmay Khalilzad ‒ an American diplomat who has served under every president since George W. Bush and is at the center of the peace efforts in Afghanistan ‒ and Gen. Austin Miller, along with many other diplomats, attended Ghani’s recent swearing-in, according to the Times.
Biden’s news conference on Thursday was the first of his presidency, 65 days after he was inaugurated.
The president also addressed other topics, from the legislative filibuster to election reform. The most prominent topic during the presser was the situation at the southern border. Biden adamantly defended his actions rolling back Trump administration policies by executive order.
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“First of all, all the policies that were underway were not helping at all, did not slow up the amount of immigration,” Biden said. “Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers? Make no apology for that.”
“Rolling back the policies of ‘Remain in Mexico,’ sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat? I make no apologies for that,” Biden said. “I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law ‒ international law ‒ as well as on human dignity. And so I make no apologies for that.”
The president also said that he is committed to transparency on the border after his administration begins to put in place certain actions and said that North Korea is his top foreign policy issue.