Kamala Harris will be at Joe Biden‘s side for his Afghanistan speech today amid pressure from feminist groups and others to speak out about the increased threat to Afghan women and girls, as she readies to embark Friday on a southeast Asian tour aimed at reassuring allies of American resolve following the chaotic end of a two-decade war.
It will be the first time she’s seen at a public engagement with Biden since August 10, after the White House released a photo of her at his side in the situation room on August 18.
Harris is the first female and minority vice president – just this fact has led to some criticism that Harris should be more vocal about helping women and children fleeing Afghanistan as the Taliban is historically bad for women’s rights.
‘Kamala’s silence on protecting Afghan women and children is deafening,’ Georgia Rep. Jody Hice wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
A Rhode Island congressional candidate similarly blasted her on the site, writing ‘Vice President Harris, you will not be able to save the women and young girls who will brutalized by this regime.’
Former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said she ‘Would love to hear from the “First Woman Vice President” on how her reckless, naïve actions will cause most harm to Afghan women.’
Vice President Kamala Harris will join President Joe Biden for his Afghanistan remarks today after not being seen at a speaking engagement with him since August 10
She has been pictured a few times in meetings with President Joe Biden and his top Defense and military advisers as the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate
Harris made her first public appearance in six days when she made pre-recorded remarks to the National Association of Black Journalists conference on Thursday
The vice president spoke out about the importance of female empowerment at her first United Nations speech in March.
In a 2019 interview, then-2020 candidate Harris sent a passionate message to young women.
‘You are powerful and your voice matters. You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on,’ she said in Marie Claire.
Now as first female vice president, Harris’s appointment was lauded by feminist groups. Those same groups are now urging her to take action while the vice president presses ahead with her diplomatic trip.
Critics slammed the vice president for her silence on women and girls in Afghanistan
The trip, which begins Friday and includes stops in Singapore and Vietnam, will provide a forum for Harris to assert herself more directly in foreign affairs. She will have opportunities to affirm what she and Biden view as core American values, including human rights – especially important given concerns about the future for women and girls in Afghanistan with the Taliban back in power.
A letter signed by 85 individuals and groups addressed Harris and Biden by name and begs them to ‘take actions to protect Afghan women and girls and to address this unfolding human rights and humanitarian catastrophe.’
‘Vice President Kamala Harris has worked over many years for women’s rights, especially women of color. That is why we are appealing to you to fulfill the promises made to protect human rights globally, especially Afghan women and girls whose lives and futures are now in peril.’
It also notes Biden’s record on combating violence against women both in the Senate and as vice president before calling on Biden and Harris to immediately evacuate Afghan feminist activists and women’s rights leaders.
International concern has been focused on Afghan women and girls who saw their rights and freedoms stripped away under the Taliban’s previous regime
Poet Amanda Gorman, who spoke at the inauguration in January, sent the Biden administration a letter urging it to ‘honor its commitment to gender equality’ by immediate action to help female Afghan journalists, activists, leaders and direct service providers.
The letter, obtained by Axios, also calls on Biden and Harris to expand Special Immigrant Visas typically allocated to Afghans who worked with the US military to include at-risk women.
Poet Amanda Gorman, pictured at the Biden-Harris inauguration, is one of the voices begging the administration to do more for Afghan women
Another group called the National Organization for Women, which runs a PAC under the same name, wrote a similar letter urging the Biden administration to ‘immediately expand the refugee program for Afghan women and children seeking asylum.’
‘The advances in women’s rights over the last 20 years are now void as Afghan women are already reporting that they are like prisoners in their homes.’
Harris has spoken out in support of her boss’s Afghanistan exit on Twitter since the Taliban took Kabul and forced a hasty and chaotic evacuation. However, she has yet to mention Afghan women and girls specifically.
Her silence was blasted by Twitter users who criticized her for not mentioning Afghan women in her statements.
Under an August 17 tweet stating the US mission ‘is to get our people, our allies, and vulnerable Afghans to safety,’ a user named Tom Harding asked, ‘Does that include the Afghan women who can no longer live their life with the same level of freedom?’
‘Not a word about the Afghan women and girls by the first female VP,’ user Saabira Mohideen wrote under an August 16 Harris tweet praising US servicemembers.
Afghan-American women and others also protested outside the White House last weekend, demanding Biden and Harris help vulnerable Afghan civilians and blaming them for abandoning the war-torn country.
Kamala Harris’s most recent tweet on Afghanistan also made no mention of women
Twitter users blasted Harris for making statements on Afghanistan without mentioning the plight of women and girls there
One woman at the event told Fox, ‘They’re raping our women, they’re killing our children. They have no mercy on anyone.’
Harris’s last public engagement was Thursday when she made pre-recorded remarks to the National Association of Black Journalists conference.
The vice president was last pictured with the president on August 10 during Biden’s remarks on the Senate finally passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
She held her last live public event on August 12 when she met with CEOs to discuss the care economy.
In a gaggle before the event, a reporter asked Harris if ‘Afghanistan is lost to the Taliban?’. She did not answer the question, but said she would be leaving for a briefing on the situation after the roundtable on Thursday.
August 15: Harris was last seen on Sunday in a picture released from the White House of Biden on Zoom talking about the situation in Afghanistan. The vice president is pictured (center) joining the call virtually
August 16: President Joe Biden made remarks from the White House on Afghanistan on Monday and noticeably was not joined by the vice president
Afghan-American women and other protested outside of the White House last weekend begging the Biden-Harris administration to help vulnerable Afghan civilians
The vice president was also pictured in a Zoom meeting on Sunday with the president and other intelligence and global entities in an image released from the White House of Biden on the call from Camp David.
Her office said on background that Harris is being briefed regularly on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and is actively engaged in White House and interagency discussion. They also insist her briefings will continue during her visit to Southeast Asia.
The reason Harris will not postpone her trip, the office noted, is because the Biden administration is still committed to ‘advancing our strategic interest in other regions on other issues’ while simultaneously managing developments in Afghanistan.
The vice president leaves from Washington on Friday and will arrive in Singapore on Sunday. While there, Harris will deliver a speech laying out the future of America’s relationship with the region increasingly under pressure from Beijing.
Harris‘s standing among likely voters is falling as 55 per cent reveal they do not think the vice president is qualified to run the nation as she spoke publicly for the first time in six days in pre-recorded remarks for a black journalism conference.
A new poll shows 55 per cent of likely voters believe Vice President Kamala Harris is ‘not qualified’ or ‘not at all qualified’ to run the nation. There was a 6 per cent drop in those who feel she is qualified from April to August
When likely voters were asked in a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday if Harris is ready to be U.S. president, 47 per cent said she is ‘not at all qualified’ while 8 per cent said she’s ‘not qualified.’
Only 14 per cent of the 1,000 polled between August 12-15 said she is ‘qualified’ and another 29 per cent said she is ‘very qualified’ to run the nation.
The latest is down from her April standing, when 49 per cent of respondents said the vice president was qualified to become president.
It also comes as questions emerged over Harris’ role in the chaotic and bungled U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has garnered massive criticism from Democrats and Republicans.
Harris boasted she was the ‘last one in the room’ with President Joe Biden before he made his announcement in the spring of a total withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban takeover of the nation in just over a week, however, the vice president has been mostly absent from any public events. While she has been at several briefings on the situation with the president, she did not stand next to Biden on Monday during his address on the developing situation.
‘This morning, the President and Vice President met with their national security team to discuss security, diplomatic, and intelligence updates in Afghanistan,’ according to a White House official. ‘They discussed the status of operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA)… our efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens, Embassy personnel, SIV applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans as quickly as possible; and that every day we operate troops on the ground are at risk.’
‘The President, Vice President, and their team also discussed their focus on monitoring for any potential terrorist threats in Afghanistan, including from ISIS-K,’ the statement continued.
It was also noticed by Americans when Harris did not join Biden for his remarks on COVID-19 and vaccinations on Thursday – despite usually standing behind the president’s right shoulder when he speaks.
The vice president was pictured in three images released from the White House – two on Zoom calls with Biden over the weekend as he was briefed on Afghanistan while at Camp David and a third with the president and his top military brass in the Situation Room on Wednesday.
Harris also made her first public appearance in six days when she spoke in pre-recorded remarks to the National Association of Black Journalists conference on Thursday and said: ‘A free press is essential to any democracy.’
‘You turn the light of truth on some of the most consequential issues of our time,’ she told the conference focused on journalism in the black community. ‘You are keeping the American people informed about all of the issues that impact their lives every day.’
The Islamic militant group has vowed to respect women amid their takeover, despite a history of oppression.
Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn asked ‘where’s Kamala?’ to stand up for women in Afghanistan.
‘Where is she, defending women and girls, standing up for human rights, standing up for these women and girls who we know are going to be pushed into sex slavery?’ she questioned in an interview with conservative network Newsmax on Thursday.
‘We know that they are going to be brutalized,’ Blackburn continued. ‘We know the women who have worked with us with our Secretary of State’s program for women and girls, these are women that are going to be murdered.’
‘I even said where is the Squad on this? They’re always about women and defending women in human rights. But where are they?’ she added in referencing the so-called ‘squad’ of progressive lawmakers, which includes Representatives Alexandrioa Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressey and Ilahn Omar – who once was a refugee fleeing Somalia for the U.S.
Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Wednesday that he would not use military force to address women’s rights issues in Afghanistan if they begin to deteriorate under Taliban rule.
‘Beyond Americans, what do we owe the Afghans who are left behind, particularly Afghan women who are facing the prospect of subjugation again?’ the ABC host asked in the president’s first chat with media following the chaotic withdrawal.
‘As many as we can get out, we should. For example, I had a meeting today for a couple hours in the Situation Room just below here. There are Afghan women outside the gate. I told ’em, ‘Get ’em on the planes. Get them out. Get them out. Get their families out if you can,’ Biden said.
‘But here’s the deal, George,’ he leveled. ‘The idea that we’re able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational. Not rational. Look what’s happened to the Uighurs in western China. Look what’s happening in other parts of the world. Look what’s happening in, you know, in – in the Congo.’
‘I mean, there are a lot of places where women are being subjugated,’ the president continued. ‘The way to deal with that is not with a military invasion.’
‘The way to deal with that is putting economic, diplomatic, and national pre– international pressure on them to change their behavior,’ Biden concluded.
The vice president’s office confirmed on Wednesday Harris still plans to depart on Friday for her second foreign trip in office to Singapore and Vietnam despite the ongoing chaos and the comparisons between the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the toppling of Kabul by the Taliban over the weekend.
Before the Thursday reports to the journalism conference, Harris’ previous public event was held on August 12 when she met with CEOs to discuss the so-called care economy.
In a gaggle before the event, a reporter asked Harris if ‘Afghanistan is lost to the Taliban?’. She did not answer the question, but said she would be leaving for a briefing on the situation after the roundtable last Thursday.
The vice president was pictured in a Zoom meeting on Sunday with the president and other intelligence and global entities and in another image with the president in person during a Situation Room meeting.
‘This morning, the President and Vice President were briefed by their national security team on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,’ reads the tweet included with the image from the White House account. ‘They discussed the evacuations of U.S. citizens, SIV applicants, and vulnerable Afghans, and the monitoring of any potential terrorist threats.’
On Tuesday she tweeted her support for the withdrawal and said the mission was now to get Americans, allies and Afghans out of the country safely – but has not made any other public remarks on the situation.
‘We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago. Now, our mission is to get our people, our allies, and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of the country,’ she wrote earlier this week.
Harris campaigned on the bid to get US troops out of Afghanistan during her Democratic primary run in 2020 – though it was not part of her stump speech.
Biden was bashed for remaining silent on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan for six days, which has seen a dozen confirmed deaths as of Thursday.
He finally addressed the country in a White House speech on Monday, which the vice president was absent from, before promptly returning to Camp David.
Harris, a White House official said Monday, watched the speech ‘from the Green Room.’
During the remarks, Biden doubled-down that the withdrawal was the right move despite almost the whole of Afghanistan falling to the Taliban in just over a week and U.S. troops questioning what the two-decade war was for.