- Wir hielten hier fest, in Sachen Kabul habe die Rolle der Vizepräsidentin Kamala Harris in Geheimdienstkreisen zu scharfer Kritik geführt.
- Nun findet das Unbehagen gegenüber der Vizepräsidentin (und denkbarer Kandidatin für Bidens Nachfolge) in etlichen angelsächsischen Zeitungen Niederschlag.
- So schreibt die “Los Angeles Times”, das führende Blatt der Westküste, der ehemaligen kalifornischen Staatsanwältin Harris eine zweifelhafte Rolle bei Bidens Entscheiden zu. Im April habe sie sich gerühmt, die Letzte beim Präsidenten gewesen zu sein, bevor dieser den Befehl erteilte, alle Truppen seien bis zum 11. September 2021 zurückzuziehen. Der Redaktor Noah Bierman kommentiert am 18. August 2021:
“It’s just really tough to do,” Kamarck added.
Even as she has been a team player and will share responsibility, it is unclear how much actual influence Harris has wielded with Biden, who has spent decades engaged in foreign policy debates and is surrounded by a small cadre of loyalists.
When Biden returned to Camp David after Monday’s speech, he was accompanied by Steve Ricchetti, one of a handful of confidants the president is known to lean on most heavily as a sounding board.
Harris, who declined an interview request, will leave later this week for her second foreign trip as vice president — to Singapore and Vietnam. Her first trip, to Guatemala and Mexico, was marred by an interview with NBC News in which she gave a flip answer about her reluctance to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to address the migration increase. Advisors said she will remain engaged in the Afghanistan response while in Southeast Asia.
Unlike Biden, Harris does not have a long or deep history with Afghanistan, although as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2017 to 2021 she would have had access to classified information about the country unavailable to Biden, then a private citizen. As a senator, she spoke infrequently about the conflict and traveled to the country just once, at the end of 2018, while she was preparing to run for president.
She did not mention the issue in her 2019 memoir, nor include it in her presidential campaign stump speech.
The vice president has expressed a general skepticism of lengthy foreign engagements that may have been inculcated when, as a girl in Berkeley, she saw her mother march in anti-Vietnam War protests. A former aide said Harris was struck during her trip to Afghanistan by the number of military personnel she met on their fourth or fifth tours who recounted long periods away from their families.
An advisor who would not agree to be quoted by name pointed to Biden’s statement Monday that the buck stops with him but also said Harris is “100% all in.”
“She hasn’t shied away from this,” the advisor added.
Neither Harris nor administration officials would say what, if any, questions, concerns or reservations Harris raised about the withdrawal plans or the fate of thousands of Afghans who aided U.S. forces. It is also unknown whether she expressed any skepticism about intelligence assessments that a Taliban victory was more than a year away.
Even though the speed of the Taliban’s takeover caught them by surprise, White House officials have generally defended the administration’s planning, insisting in interviews Tuesday that they were prepared for all contingencies and positioned military forces to quickly evacuate Americans.
And although the withdrawal has been tumultuous and the toll on the Afghan people will probably be costly, Americans have long favored ending the conflict, and Biden and Harris may end up benefiting politically from the decision to withdraw.
Harris said during the 2020 primary that she supported a pullout from Afghanistan, and she voted for an unsuccessful 2017 effort in the Senate that would have rescinded the 2001 authorization to use force throughout the region.
She wrote that her support for withdrawing was contingent on ensuring “that the country is on a path to stability, that we protect the gains that have been made for Afghan women and others, and that it never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.”
All of those conditions are in significant doubt. Most observers expect the Taliban will treat women harshly, returning to rules that exclude them from schools and the rest of society and subject them to violence and death if they resist. The country’s president has fled. Intelligence experts worry it will become a haven for terrorists.
“There’s no question that people understand that these are people’s lives here,” the Harris advisor said, when asked if the vice president has empathy for those left behind, including women. “Obviously, she has been a champion for women her entire career.”
The official said the administration is doing everything it can to support women and girls.
If anyone understands Harris’ predicament it is Biden. As vice president, he was tethered to another president’s policy in Afghanistan. Unlike Harris, he has long tried to make it known that he disagreed with President Obama’s decision to send in a surge of 30,000 additional troops in 2009 and instead would have opted for a drawdown.
But Biden had by then already established his own track record as a longtime senator who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee.
“It’s quite normal that she would be in the learning mode but not really central to this,” Kamarck said, adding that Biden “was a thought leader on this ages ago.”
That is why it didn’t surprise foreign policy experts when Biden, who spent the 2020 campaign sharply criticizing then-President Trump’s policies, followed through on plans laid by Trump to pull out U.S. forces this year.
Most vice presidents maintain a more dutiful posture. Mike Pence, who served a tumultuous four years under Trump, spent four years praising the president in such hyperbolic terms that he drew ridicule.
He rarely differed with his boss in public until the end, when Trump inflamed masses of violent rioters who tried to overturn the 2020 election results on Jan. 6 and attack Pence for doing his constitutional duty.
Pence read numerous biographies of prior vice presidents and absorbed the lesson that “when you’re in that role, it’s your job to advocate the policies of the president,” said Marc Short, his former chief of staff.
Short said he expects Pence, a hawkish conservative who has presidential aspirations, will make his personal views on Afghanistan known in the near future.
But like Harris, he will own a piece of the withdrawal that Trump negotiated and Biden carried out.