OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Vice President Kamala Harris faces a steep challenge in convincing America’s partners in Southeast Asia that the Biden administration is up to the task of serving as a dependable partner amid global condemnation of America’s disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.
Amid Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and its fall to the Taliban, Harris’ trip to Southeast Asia may be coinciding in the worst way possible as Biden struggles to convince the world that he is doing a good job.
During a visit to Singapore on Monday, Harris boasted that “the US is a global leader,” and that it vows “enduring engagement” in Asia. The Vice President offered assurances of Washington’s commitment to the region, years after it neglected its Asian partners and allowed China to expand its sphere of influence. Harris’ remarks come just days after the Taliban seized power in Kabul.
“Our administration is committed to enduring engagement in Singapore, into Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific,” Harris said. “The reason I am here is because the United States is a global leader, and we take that role seriously.”
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan casts a shadow on the United States’ influence on the world stage and comes amid China’s and Russia’s efforts to court American allies.
As reported by Conservative Brief, Harris dodged questions about whether US credibility has been damaged by the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan, saying only that the Biden administration’s focus was on “evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children.”
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was amicable to Harris’ reassurances during their two-hour meeting on Monday, the Daily Mail reported.
He noted to the press that Singapore was offering military aircraft to help in the evacuation from Kabul airport, which is being overseen by the US military.
Prime Minister Lee said that Singaporeans had America to thank for 20 years of peace, and hopes that the troubles do not return following Biden’s pullout from Afghanistan.
“For this, Singapore is grateful,” he said. We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again.”
“It shows that the US has both strategic and economic stakes in Southeast Asia. We value the US renewing ties with its friends and partners here, especially Singapore,” he said.
Joe Biden ran on a campaign of turning American into a stabilizing world force during the 2020 election and promised the public that there would be no more instability with him in office.
Despite Biden’s promises, the seizure of power by the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan with an iron first between the years of 1996 to 2001 enabled terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda to establish training camps in Afghanistan and carry out numerous terrorist attacks throughout the western hemisphere, may bring about a return to Afghanistan’s darkest hour.
As previously reported by the Conservative Brief, Harris faces criticism for being tone-deaf for visiting Vietnam, as the first US vice president to visit the country since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 amid the crisis in Afghanistan.
The New York Times compared the fall of Saigon in 1975 to that of Kabul, with striking similarities between the evacuation of US forces from a war it fought and ultimately lost.
Despite the poor timing, US officials insist that the trip was planned long before the crisis occurred and remain focused on the Biden administration’s strategic goals in Asia, which will be carried out by Harris in the week-long trip.
The New York Times reported:
It was 1975, the tumultuous backdrop was Southeast Asia, and Washington largely opened America’s doors, letting in some 300,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia over the next four years. Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a young senator from Delaware, co-sponsored landmark legislation that won unanimous passage in the Senate and was signed into law in 1980, divorcing refugee admissions from U.S. foreign policy and generally expanding the number allowed into the country each year.
Now, as similar scenes of chaos and desperation unfold in Kabul with the conclusion of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, most analysts say there is little chance the country will repeat the extensive refugee resettlement effort that accompanied the end of the war in Vietnam.
Decades of lukewarm public sentiment over refugees, a toxic political stalemate over immigration, and contemporary concerns over terrorism and the coronavirus pandemic have all but eliminated the possibility of similar mass mobilization.