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S’pore offers use of RSAF transport aircraft to US for Afghanistan evacuation

SINGAPORE — Singapore has offered the use of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) A330 multi-role tanker transporter to help in the evacuation of United States citizens and Afghan refugees from Kabul, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (Aug 23).

An RSAF Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft.

An RSAF Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft.

  • PM Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore is grateful for US’ intervention in Afghanistan, which stopped it from continuing as a base for terrorists
  • He said he understood the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan
  • US vice-president Kamala Harris thanked Mr Lee for the offer of the jet
  • Her visit to Singapore underscored the US’ enduring relationship with the region, said Ms Harris


SINGAPORE — Singapore has offered the use of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) A330 multi-role tanker transporter to help in the evacuation of United States citizens and Afghan refugees from Kabul, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (Aug 23).

“Countries all over the region, and I’m sure all over the world, are watching the developments in Afghanistan very closely. Foremost in everybody’s minds, it is the safety and security of civilians and I hope all sides will work to ensure this,” said Mr Lee in a joint press conference with US vice-president Kamala Harris at the Istana.

He added that the Singapore Armed Forces is familiar with the challenges in Afghanistan, having deployed military personnel to support the United Nations’ International Security Assistance Force to the country in the past. 

Singapore has also previously sent provincial reconstruction teams to Afghanistan to help with rebuilding efforts.

Responding, Ms Harris, who is on a three-day official visit to Singapore, thanked Mr Lee for Singapore’s offer to aid the US in its Afghan evacuations and said that she looked forward to following up on the discussion.

The US’ thorny withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has led to a flood of Afghans attempting to leave the country and resulted in several deaths, was one of many issues raised during a 90-minute meeting between Mr Lee and Ms Harris.

During the press conference, Singapore and international media pressed Ms Harris about how the evacuation operation has unfolded, and quizzed both leaders about the implications of the withdrawal on US ties with other countries, including Singapore.


Ms Harris said that the US’ priority in Afghanistan now is to evacuate American citizens as well as Afghans who had worked with them and other vulnerable civilians, including women and children.

“There is going to be plenty of time to analyse what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan… We cannot be, in any way, distracted from what must be our primary mission right now, which is evacuating people from that region who deserve to be evacuated,” said the US vice-president.

Mr Lee said that Singapore is grateful to the US for its intervention in Afghanistan that effectively stopped terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, from using the Middle Eastern country as a safe base of operations, emphasising that these groups had direct links with the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group that plotted attacks in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

“The US had invested considerable blood and treasure in Afghanistan, but it was an intractable task given the complex history, geography, and tribal rivalries of that place. Successive US presidents have declared their resolve to withdraw from Afghanistan. I told the vice-president that we understand president (Joseph) Biden's reasons for his decision,” he said.


Mr Lee was asked whether the US’ pullout from Afghanistan has affected Singapore’s calculations about American commitments in the region.

He responded that what will influence how others view the US’ resolve and commitment to the region is what the superpower does next, and how it engages its partners.

Mr Lee said countries do make their own calculations and adjust their positions towards their partners from time to time, but that they maintain their long-term interests with long-term partners.

“Sometimes it can be done smoothly, sometimes there are hiccups, sometimes things go awry and take time to put right… It is a mark of a country which can succeed (when) it takes these interests and partners seriously, in a dispassionate way, and maintains them over the long term,” said Mr Lee.

Ms Harris said her visit to Singapore underscored the US’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, and pointed to the deals struck between both sides during her visit.

“Because of our commitment to a longstanding relationship, which is an enduring relationship with the Indo-Pacific region and with Southeast Asian countries and, in particular, with Singapore, the agreements that Prime Minister Lee and I have reached today are evidence of that enduring relationship and commitment,” she added.

Related topics

Lee Hsien Loong Kamala Harris diplomacy Afghanistan RSAF USA

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