America's first woman VP has been silent about what women are suddenly facing in Afghanistan

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The LA Times published a story this morning which notes that VP Kamala Harris made herself part of the Afghan withdrawal story and now she owns it:

Vice President Kamala Harris has been, at least visually, front and center as President Biden has overseen America’s retreat from Afghanistan. She attends most of his security briefings and had to leave a meeting with business leaders Thursday afternoon to attend an urgent intelligence session as the Taliban rapidly cemented control over the country.

When the White House released a photo Sunday of Biden sitting alone at a telebriefing from the situation room in Camp David, Harris was on the other end of the screen, occupying the center square among Biden’s coterie of virtual advisors. She watched his high-profile speech Monday from a nearby room at the White House, a detail officials made sure to highlight in a continuing effort to brand the “Biden-Harris administration” as an unusually close team.

The harrowing images of the United States’ retreat from Kabul this week, with desperate Afghans futilely chasing a packed Air Force plane, is likely to be a defining moment in Biden’s presidency. But the execution of the withdrawal will also be added to Harris’ resume, underscoring the complex challenge she faces as Biden’s understudy during what is arguably the first crisis of his presidency.

Let’s pause and note that only the LA Times would consider this the first crisis of Biden’s presidency. Have they heard about the record number of crossings at the border, the overcrowded facilities full of kids, the shut down of HHS care facilities like Fort Bliss after reports of mismanagement? I guess they missed all of that.

In any case, Harris wouldn’t speak to the LA Times about the crisis but an unnamed advisor told them that Harris was “100% all in” with Biden on his decision. That’s a change because back when she was running for president herself, Harris supported a withdrawal with some specific caveats: [emphasis added]

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.

When you think about it for a minute, it’s pretty striking that America’s first female VP hasn’t said a peep about the women and girls who are being abandoned to the Taliban. The NY Times published a story today about the difference between the Taliban’s newly moderate image and what is really happening out of view of the cameras:

“The entire world now recognizes that the Taliban are the real rulers of the country,” said the official, Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a member of the Taliban’s media team. “I am still astonished that people are afraid of Taliban.”

The remarkable scene of a Taliban official taking questions from a woman journalist was part of a broader campaign by the Taliban to present a more moderate face to the world and to help tame the fear gripping the country since the insurgents seized the capital on Sunday.

But hours later, a prominent anchorwoman on state television, Khadija Amin, tearfully told a Clubhouse chat room that the Taliban had suspended her, and other women employees, indefinitely.

“I am a journalist and I am not allowed to work,” said Ms. Amin, 28. “What will I do next? The next generation will have nothing, everything we have achieved for 20 years will be gone. The Taliban is the Taliban. They have not changed.”

So the situation is looking increasingly grim for women and girls and this is something Harris cared about not long ago. But it seems she has nothing to say about it now because there’s really no way to bring this up without undercutting the president.

Her silence has to be disappointing to women here as well as those in Afghanistan, but it seems a lot of people on the left are content to stay silent about it for the same reason Harris is, i.e. they don’t want to undercut Biden when he’s already on the ropes over the bungled withdrawal.

So that pretty much leaves right-leaning women as the only ones willing to point out the disconnect between Harris’ vaunted status as the first woman VP and her silence about what’s happening. Here’s the Outnumbered panel leaning into this criticism. I don’t know that this will resonate now simply because so many in the media will pretend not to notice, but the next time Harris claims the mantle of champion for women, you can bet her calculated silence now will come up.