Harris says administration ‘singularly focused’ on Afghanistan evacuation
Vice President Harris said Monday that the Biden administration is “singularly focused” on evacuating American citizens, Afghan allies and at-risk Afghans and that questions about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan would be answered after that mission is complete.
“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,” Harris said during a news conference in Singapore alongside the country’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong.
“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,” she said.
Asked later whether she is satisfied by the execution of the withdrawal, which has resulted in the U.S. scrambling to evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans following the Taliban takeover, Harris did not answer directly but insisted there would be a “robust analysis.”
“There’s no question there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened. But right now, there is no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children. That has to be our primary focus and where we are placing our attention on the issue of Afghanistan,” the vice president said.
Harris said that the Biden administration has conducted a successful drawdown of the embassy in Kabul and evacuated thousands of people already, noting that there have not been American casualties in Afghanistan. At the same time, she acknowledged the difficulty of the ongoing mission.
The remarks represented Harris’s most extensive comments to date on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban took control more than a week ago amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the 20-year war.
Harris is traveling to Singapore and later Vietnam, part of her second foreign trip since becoming vice president. Harris announced new partnerships between the U.S. and Singapore on climate change and cybersecurity, though the news conference on Monday was dominated by Afghanistan.
Lee offered support for Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“The U.S. intervention has stopped terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a safe base for 20 years. For this, Singapore is grateful,” Lee said.
“We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again. And post Afghanistan, in the longer term, what matters is how the U.S. repositions itself in the Asia Pacific, engages the broader region, and continues the fight against terrorism, because that will determine the perceptions of the countries of the U.S. global priorities and of its strategic intentions,” Lee continued.
President Biden and his administration have withstood a barrage of criticism over the execution of the withdrawal, which left tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans who assisted U.S. forces in the war stranded in Afghanistan.
As of Monday, the U.S. military had evacuated or facilitated the evacuation of roughly 37,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, according to the White House. The Biden administration has not specified how many Americans remain in Afghanistan because officials are still trying to determine the number.
Speaking about the evacuations on Sunday, Biden acknowledged that his administration is discussing whether to extend the Aug. 31 withdrawal date so that U.S. troops can remain in Afghanistan to help evacuate remaining Americans and Afghans.
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