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World Kamala Harris in Singapore: Afghanistan fallout engulfs Harris' first day of Southeast Asia trip

09:10  06 september  2021
09:10  06 september  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Harris holds steady on Southeast Asia trip as crises loom

  Harris holds steady on Southeast Asia trip as crises loom HONOLULU (AP) — In Singapore, in between a foreign policy speech and a roundtable talk about supply chain issues, Vice President Kamala Harris stopped to smell the flowers. Specifically, she checked out an orchid that the country named after her — a light fuschia hybrid named Papilionanda Kamala Harris — a diplomatic honor also bestowed on former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden during past visits to the country. “Oh,Specifically, she checked out an orchid that the country named after her — a light fuschia hybrid named Papilionanda Kamala Harris — a diplomatic honor also bestowed on former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden during past visits to the country.

Vice President Kamala Harris, undertaking a suddenly high-stakes visit to Southeast Asia this week amid the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration, was on the receiving end of questions Monday about the US' withdrawal from Afghanistan for the first time since the chaotic fall of Kabul.

Kamala Harris looking at a laptop: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris attends a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP) © Evelyn Hockstein/AP U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris attends a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

Harris' stops in Singapore and Vietnam have assumed outsized importance for their potential to reassure foreign leaders of the United States' continued commitment to its allies. Particularly in Vietnam where Harris heads Tuesday -- as images of the 1975 fall of Saigon have stirred comparisons to evacuations in Kabul -- the vice president will work to maintain her focus on Asia, a region President Joe Biden wants to prioritize as he ends 9/11-era conflicts.

Save the brave women of Afghanistan

  Save the brave women of Afghanistan If we do not evacuate them, they will be sitting ducks for the Taliban. Our involvement in Afghanistan deteriorated very slowly, even imperceptibly to the vast majority of the public. It just took a few compromises with warlords, a couple of suspect elections left uncorrected, some wedding parties bombed based on faulty intelligence, and the steady grind of corruption starving the Afghan forces of weapons, ammunition, and food. The rot set in, the hope drained away, and a country that had proudly thrown off the Taliban was subjugated to them once again.And early reports from the Taliban's rule are chilling.

Yet on Monday, reporters beamed in on a monitor from another room to pepper Harris on the tumultuous Afghanistan exit as she stood alongside Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon in a joint press conference after their first bilateral meeting, providing a first look at how the vice president is approaching the unfolding crisis.

"There's no question there will be, and should be, a robust analysis of what has happened," Harris said, as she sidestepped answering whether she was personally satisfied with the operational steps being taken during the US withdrawal. Officials separated reporters traveling with the vice president from the politicians because of Singapore's Covid-19 restrictions.

Harris said in April she was among the last advisers Biden consulted before making his decision to end the Afghanistan war, and she has joined the multitude of briefings he's received on the matter over the past week. Her advisers had faced questions ahead of her trip about whether the tumultuous end to the 20-year war would undermine her message to leaders in Asia about America's commitments abroad.

Poland, Belgium end Afghan evacuation as clock ticks down

  Poland, Belgium end Afghan evacuation as clock ticks down WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland and Belgium ended their evacuations from Afghanistan, but other European nations vowed Wednesday to press on for as long as possible, as the clock ticks down on a dramatic airlift of people fleeing Taliban rule ahead of a full American withdrawal. President Joe Biden said he will stick to his Aug. 31 deadline for completing the U.S. pullout, as the Taliban insisted he must, ramping up pressure on the already risky operation to fly people out of Kabul. © Provided by Associated Press Hundreds of people gather near an evacuation control checkpoint outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug.

There had already been some questions about Biden's attention to southeast Asia; he hasn't spoken directly to a leader from the region since taking office. Part of the reason he's explained for ending the Afghanistan war is a desire to shift focus to modern-day issues, like countering China's rise.

On Monday, even as Harris sought to project the administration's focus on bolstering its influence in Asia, she still faced questions about the Afghanistan crisis.

"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. She also defended President Joe Biden, saying he'd shown "great emotion" over the images coming out of Afghanistan.

Responding to the Afghanistan crisis while on foreign soil is part of the steep challenge Harris faces this week as she travels to Singapore and Vietnam, as the once-low-risk trip to friendly nations comes at the same time as a chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At least three babies have been born during US evacuation efforts from Afghanistan

  At least three babies have been born during US evacuation efforts from Afghanistan Three babies have been born amid evacuation efforts from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country, U.S. officials confirmed.Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday one of the babies was born on a C-17 military aircraft, and the other two were born in a hospital at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Political experts, and even her own allies, say Harris faces enhanced pressure to fulfill dual responsibilities largely unfamiliar to her in the seven months she's been in office: Deliver a foreign policy win for an administration in crisis and embody Biden's call to pivot US focus abroad to counter a rising China.

"It's going to be a real sticking point for her to exude that America is here and we're committed to the things that we say we're committed to," a source close to Harris told CNN last week.

Harris' comments on Monday echoed Biden's statements in previous days, saying that the time for reflection and criticism will come later as the focus remains on the dangerous mission of evacuating tens of thousands from the now-Taliban-controlled city. But that notion has not stopped the barrage of questions over the administration's competency and who is to blame for the collapse in Kabul.

"The reason I'm here is because the United States is a global leader, and we take that role seriously, understanding that we have many interests and priorities around the world," Harris said Monday. "I am here in Singapore as a reaffirmation of our commitment to our membership in the Indo-Pacific region."

Kamala Harris Speaks Out Against China for the First Time As Vice President

  Kamala Harris Speaks Out Against China for the First Time As Vice President The vice president made the unmistakably pointed remarks in her most notable foreign policy speech to date on Tuesday, during a three-day visit to Singapore and a week-long stop in Southeast Asia.In prepared remarks on Tuesday, Harris told a forum at Singapore's Gardens by the Bay that the U.S. was ready to support allies and partners against threats posed to the existing rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, a region that, more than ever, is the focus of U.S. attention and resources.

Monday agreements

Following Harris' meeting with Lee, the White House announced several initiatives with the Singapore government aimed at "strengthening and deepening" the administrations' partnerships in Southeast Asia. The agreements focus on easing supply chain issues compounded by the pandemic, combating cybersecurity threats, addressing climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Harris and Lee will launch the US-Singapore Dialogue on Supply Chain, according to a fact sheet provided from her office, which would be a "high level dialogue on enhancing cooperative efforts to promote greater supply chain resilience.' CNN reported Friday that trade would factor into the theme of global competition on the vice president's trip, as the US grapples with the global microchip shortage

On cybersecurity, the pair announced they've finalized "three agreements that will expand cybersecurity cooperation with respect to the financial sector, military-to-military engagement, and regional capacity-building.'

And the US and Singapore say they will track Covid-19 variants together more closely as well as partners in research for treatments, among other agreements on defense issues.

Afterward, the vice president received a briefing from Singaporean defense officials on the US-Singapore defense relationship at the Changi Naval Base before addressing US sailors aboard the USS Tulsa.

Afghan withdrawal overshadows Harris' 1st Asia trip as vice president

  Afghan withdrawal overshadows Harris' 1st Asia trip as vice president Harris' visit to Singapore was meant to signal the U.S.' staunch commitment to regional partners in the face of a rising China, but chaos in Kabul is marring America's image as a reliable ally.In prepared remarks to rolling cameras, both Harris and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong focused on cooperation on COVID prevention and regional stability, but in an open question and answer session that followed, reporters focused on Afghanistan, not the intended themes of Harris' trip.

She thanked troops for their efforts in Afghanistan, as discussions are underway about the potential for remaining in Kabul beyond the August 31 deadline to exit the country so US troops can finish the evacuation effort.

"The men and women who have served in Afghanistan -- including some who are here today, and I have read about your service -- and those who are serving there right now, I just want to say we are all grateful to the men and women in uniform and the embassy staff on the ground who are bringing safety to Americans and the Afghans who worked side by side with us and to other Afghans at risk," Harris said.

"And they're doing this mission in an incredibly challenging and dangerous environment, and the President and I are thankful for their service."

Then Harris turned back at the task at hand, deepening the relationship in the Indo-Pacific, a region she called "critical" to the United State' security.

Biden has centered his domestic economic policy agenda around beefing up the country's infrastructure and manufacturing ability to compete with China, making it no secret he intends to fight the battles of the "next 20 years," instead of the last, a part of his reason for withdrawing from Afghanistan.

"At the same time, other missions continue all around the world. So, you all are here in Singapore -- and Southeast Asia, and the Indo Pacific -- with a mission of your own, a mission that is vital to the American people," Harris said to US sailors after touring the combat ship USS Tulsa. "The Indo-Pacific is critical to the security and prosperity of the United States."

The vice president is scheduled to give remarks Tuesday in Singapore laying out the administration's vision for the region, a White House official said, focused on security, economic partnerships, and global health.

"The Vice President will discuss a theme she has discussed many times before -- she believes we are embarking on a new era. Our world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before, therefore, the only way to move forward is together," the official .

The Latest: Pakistan says Afghanistan in crisis helps no one .
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister says it is the collective responsibility of the international community to help Afghanistan to avert a humanitarian crisis. In a statement Friday, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that despite having limited resources, Pakistan a day earlier sent a plane carrying food and medicines to Kabul. Qureshi said more such aid will be dispatched to Afghanistan via land routes. Qureshi made his comments ahead of the visit of his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel Albares, who was expected to arrive in the capital, Islamabad, later Friday, for talks on Afghanistan.

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