Vice President Kamala Harris said evacuating Americans and U.S. allies in Afghanistan is the administration’s “highest priority” while answering reporters’ questions in Vietnam on Thursday. 

She reiterated the U.S. has already evacuated more than 80,000 people since the Taliban took Kabul earlier this month. Still, thousands remained in limbo and the State Department issued a warning Thursday urging people to get away from the Kabul airport because of an “imminent” terrorist threat. 

“Each day and night we continue to evacuate thousands, understanding it’s risky for them to be there,” Harris told reporters in Hanoi, acknowledging it’s a “dangerous, difficult mission but it must be seen through and we intend to see it through as best we can.” 

Asked what the U.S. will do to help women and children in the country specifically, she said she has spent her “entire career on the protection of women and children.”

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She said the administration was working with allies to ensure “we keep a focus on this issue to do everything we can” regarding evacuations and to protect women living in the region. 

The Taliban has made threats in the past against girls and women who attend school or work. 

Harris’ news conference came at the end of a short swing through Southeast Asia, which also included Singapore, and sought to stress the U.S.’ commitment to the region and counter Beijing’s. 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets with civil society change makers who work on LGBT, transgender, and disability rights and climate change, at the U.S. Chief of Mission's residence in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (Associated Press)

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets with civil society change makers who work on LGBT, transgender, and disability rights and climate change, at the U.S. Chief of Mission’s residence in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (Associated Press)

She also held an event earlier in the day with LGBTQ and climate change activists and met with the country’s prime minister and president on Wednesday, promising an additional 1 million Pfizer vaccine doses to the country on top of the 5 million already sent. 

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In Singapore, she spoke bluntly about China. 

“We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” she said in a foreign policy speech on Tuesday in which she laid out the Biden administration’s vision for the Indo-Pacific. “Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”

Harris avoided the unscripted gaffes that overshadowed her first foreign trip, to Guatemala and Mexico in the spring, where her declaration to migrants — “do not come” — and her flip dismissal of questions about her refusal to visit the border drew criticism from both sides of the aisle. Harris took questions from reporters at multiple points that trip and sat for an extended cable news interview.

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On her trip home, Harris will stop at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii to meet with service members. Then she’ll turn her focus to U.S. politics at an event in the San Francisco area for California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall attempt.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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