US VP Harris: Focus must stay on Afghan evacuation

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Vice President Kamala Harris asserted Monday that the U.S. must maintain its focus on evacuating Americans and vulnerable Afghans and shouldn't get...
SINGAPORE (AP) — distracted by questions over what went wrong in the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

Speaking at a news conference in Singapore, Harris repeatedly declined to engage when asked what she felt should have been done differently in the withdrawal.

"There's no question there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened, but right now there's no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children," she said.

Harris took questions alongside Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after the two met for about two hours to discuss issues ranging from the COVID-19 response to cybersecurity and supply chain cooperation. The news conference was dominated by Afghanistan, after the messy U.S. withdrawal sparked concerns about America's commitments to its allies globally.

Harris' visit to Singapore and Vietnam this week is seen as the first real test of the Biden administration's ability to reassure key allies of its resolve.

Prime Minister Lee offered his country's support for the U.S. decision to withdraw, however, and said Singapore was "grateful" for the U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. He also offered the U.S. the use of the Singapore Air Force's transport aircraft to help with the evacuation, and said the country is now watching what the U.S. does next.

"What matters is how the U.S. repositions itself in the Asia Pacific, engages the broader region and continues to fight against terrorism, because that will determine the perceptions of the countries of the U.S.′ global priorities and of its strategic intentions," he said.

Harris' Southeast Asian trip, which brings her to Singapore and then later to Vietnam this week, is aimed at broadening cooperation with both nations to offer a counterweight to China's growing influence in the region.

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ALEXANDRA JAFFE
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