U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is welcomed by Singapore foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan during her arrival on Sunday. Photo courtesy Vice President Kamala Harris/Twitter
Aug. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said during a visit to Singapore on Monday that President Joe Biden's administration is focused on getting the remaining American citizens and Afghan aides out of Afghanistan as the Taliban tightens its grip on the country.
Harris made the comments in Singapore during a joint news conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Harris is on her first trip to Asia as vice president. She and the Singaporean prime minister met to discuss broader issues of climate change, COVID-19 and supply chain concerns. She noted, however, that Afghanistan is the chief priority at the moment.
"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 said at the news conference.
"We have a responsibility and we feel a deep commitment to making sure that folks who helped us are safe."
"I just want to say that we are all grateful to those men and women in uniform, and the embassy staff on the ground for bringing safety to Americans and to the Afghans who work side by side with us, and to other Afghans at risk," Harris told reporters later aboard the USS Tulsa at the Changi U.S. Naval Base in Singapore.
On Sunday, the Pentagon activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to help evacuations in Afghanistan. American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines all provided commercial flights in the effort.
The flights will meet up with evacuees at temporary safe locations, but won't fly directly into Kabul.
Harris is in Singapore to promote relations and pledge cooperation with the Singaporean government on various issues including digital economy, infrastructure, clean energy and strengthening the supply chain, the White House said.
"The reason we are here is important. The Indo-Pacific is critical to the security and the prosperity of the United States," Harris told reporters and service members at the naval base. "I do believe a big part of the history of the 21st century will be written about this very region where you now serve.
"And we want to be the ones who are helping to shape and dictate that history. You in your service are going to be the ones who helped shape that history."
Harris will visit Vietnam on Tuesday before returning to Washington, D.C.