2 House lawmakers make secret trip to Afghanistan amid evacuations
Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) made a surprise trip to Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on Tuesday to conduct oversight of evacuation operations.
“As veterans we care deeply about the situation on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport. America has a moral obligation to our citizens and loyal allies, and we must make sure that obligation is being kept. Like many veterans, we have spent the last few weeks working without sleep to try to get as many people as we could through the gates and to safety,” the congressmen said in a joint statement provided to The Hill.
They conducted this trip in secret, not speaking of it until they had departed in order to “minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand.”
The congressmen stated that they sat in crew-only seats so that their presence didn’t reduce the number of available seats for others. They left Afghanistan less than 24 hours after arriving, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the trip.
“We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st deadline. After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time, even by September 11,” they added.
The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.
Moulton on Tuesday tweeted photos from the Kabul airport.
“Today with @RepMeijer I visited Kabul airport to conduct oversight on the evacuation,” he wrote. “Witnessing our young Marines and soldiers at the gates, navigating a confluence of humanity as raw and visceral as the world has ever seen, was indescribable.”
Today with @RepMeijer I visited Kabul airport to conduct oversight on the evacuation.
Witnessing our young Marines and soldiers at the gates, navigating a confluence of humanity as raw and visceral as the world has ever seen, was indescribable. pic.twitter.com/bWGQh1iw2c
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) August 25, 2021
“It’s a reminder of why America’s values—when we live up to them—matter to people all over the world,” he added. “I’ve never talked to more public servants, from salty Marines to the most seasoned State Department officials, who came to tears describing their work.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter on Tuesday afternoon in an apparent response to their trip.
“Given the urgency of this situation, the desire of some Members to travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding areas is understandable and reflective of the high priority that we place on the lives of those on the ground,” Pelosi wrote. “However, I write to reiterate that the Departments of Defense and State have requested that Members not travel to Afghanistan and the region during this time of danger.”
“Ensuring the safe and timely evacuation of individuals at risk requires the full focus and attention of the U.S. military and diplomatic teams on the ground in Afghanistan. Member travel to the Afghanistan and the surrounding countries would unnecessarily divert needed resources from the priority mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating America and Afghans at risk from Afghanistan,” she added.
The trip has angered officials at the Pentagon and State Department, according to the Post.
“It’s as moronic as it is selfish,” a senior administration official told the Post. “They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans — while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk — so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.”
“It’s one of the most irresponsible things I’ve heard a lawmaker do,” one diplomat familiar with the situation told the newspaper. “It absolutely deserves admonishment.”
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