Vice President Kamala Harris at last spoke publicly on what is happening in Afghanistan as Americans and Afghans try to exit the country due to the Taliban’s swift takeover, but she refused to weigh in on the U.S. government’s decision-making that led to the current situation.
During an appearance alongside Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, both leaders were asked about the U.S. withdrawal and evacuation process, with Harris being asked what she thinks went wrong.
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“So, I understand and appreciate why you asked the question. And I think there’s going to be plenty of time to analyze what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the vice president said. “But right now, we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children.”
Harris added that “we have a responsibility and we feel a deep commitment to making sure that folks who helped us are safe.”
The vice president went on to praise President Biden for having “shown great emotion in expressing sadness about some of the images we have seen” but reiterated that the U.S. cannot be “distracted in any way from what must be our primary mission right now, which is evacuating people from that region who deserve to be evacuated.”
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Later on, Harris was again asked about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, specifically whether or not she agreed with the steps taken in making the decisions, even if the results were not what were planned. The vice president said that “there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened” but repeated that “right now, there is no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens.”
Lee was asked about American credibility in light of current events and said that what happens next will be key for how the U.S. is perceived in the future.
“What will influence perceptions of U.S. resolve and commitment to the region will be what the U.S. does going forward: how it repositions itself in the region, how it engages its broad range of friends and partners and allies in the region, and how it continues the fight against terrorism,” Lee said.
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“Countries make calculations and take positions, and they have to make recalculations and adjust their positions from time to time,” Lee continued. “Sometimes it can be done smoothly; sometimes there are hiccups. Sometimes things go awry and take time to put right.”
Lee also discussed Singapore’s past involvement in Afghanistan, noting that the Singapore Armed Forces had helped international forces in Afghanistan and Singapore had also sent teams to assist with reconstruction. As for the present, Lee said he understood Biden’s reasons for the withdrawal and offered use of the Singapore Air Force’s Airbus 330 Multi-Role Tanker and Transporter for use in airlifting people who are still there.