by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
With packed airplanes leaving Kabul as the United States hurtles toward the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan, Vice President Kamala Harris dispensed Christmas shopping advice from a great distance.
“The stories that we are now hearing about the caution that if you want to have Christmas toys for your children it might be the time to start buying them because the delay may be many, many months,” Harris warned during a roundtable discussion in Singapore earlier this week.
She opened her speech on the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region, with references to the situation in Afghanistan — “We are laser-focused on the task at hand,” she said of efforts to evacuate Americans and allies — but focused on Southeast Asia.
“At the same time, it is also imperative that as we address developments in one region, we continue to advance our interests in other regions, including this region,” Harris said on Tuesday.
Aside from her claim to be the last person in the room when President Joe Biden decided to complete the pullout from Afghanistan back in April when it was relatively uncontroversial, Harris has kept a low profile on the chaos in Kabul.
Harris has played the good soldier, touting the success of the drawdown even as the images out of Afghanistan have helped move the polls against her boss. But she has been less prominent as a public face for the policy than Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, or Biden himself.
Perhaps that is appropriate, given Blinken, Austin, and Sullivan’s portfolios and Biden’s statement, “The buck stops with me.” But it does create the impression that Harris, the likeliest 2024 Democratic presidential nominee if the now 78-year-old Biden isn’t a candidate, is keeping herself out of the line of fire — and risks making her appear out of the loop.