SINGAPORE — Vice President Kamala Harris says the United States is still a global leader amid the Biden administration facing backlash at home and abroad for its handling of U.S. troops exiting Afghanistan.
Harris spoke to reporters in Singapore on Monday during a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to begin her Asia trip. The United States’ credibility is now at stake following the Taliban taking over Afghanistan in such a rapid manner that left the world stunned and questioning Washington’s commitment to global allies.
“The United States is a global leader. We take that role seriously, understanding that we have many interests and priorities around the world,” Harris said. She added the trip to Singapore still went ahead as planned to reaffirm those relationships with global allies.
“I’m here in Singapore as a reaffirmation of our commitment to our membership in the Indo-Pacific region, our longstanding partnerships with Southeast Asia, and a longstanding relationship with Singapore as it relates to our issues and our mutual issues on security and economic strength and development and now increasingly global health,” she said.
Minister Lee told reporters the Biden administration was faced with an “extremely difficult” situation and said his country is grateful for the United States stopping terrorists from using Afghanistan as a hub for terror.
“The U.S. intervention has stopped terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a safe base for 20 years,” Lee said. “For this, Singapore is grateful.”
Harris’ comments came less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden touted the progress his administration has made in evacuating thousands of Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan but said the United States still “has a long way to go”.
“We have a long way to go,” Biden said. “And a lot could still go wrong.”
Harris doubled down on her boss’ words Monday, saying the United States’ primary focus is to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from the threat of the Taliban following their return to power.
“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. “We have a responsibility and we feel a deep commitment to making sure that folks who helped us are safe.”
The Vice President arrived in Singapore on Sunday to mark her first official trip to Southeast Asia since taking office. She is expected to visit Vietnam on Tuesday before departing the region.
Harris and Lee met to discuss several important topics such as supply chain issues to climate change and tackling the global pandemic health crisis.
The United States and Singapore also announced partnership plans currently in the works to strengthen bilateral and regional collaboration in trade and investment, climate, and environmental governance.