New York Daily News
Two members of Congress slipped into Afghanistan for a quickie “fact-finding trip” — and jetted out on an evacuation flight.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) failed to notify U.S. officials in advance of their Tuesday jaunt, in which they spent several hours at the beleaguered Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
“We conducted this visit in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We were there to gather information, not to grandstand.”
The trip drew criticism from military and diplomatic officials, who said the pair created an unnecessary distraction for overburdened troops. They accused them of effectively taking seats away from refugees on their flight out of Kabul, even though the congressmen said they took an outbound flight with space available.
Officials say they only learned about the visit when the lawmakers were already en route to Kabul.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement late Tuesday reminding lawmakers not to travel to Afghanistan.
“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,” Pelosi said.
Moulton and Meijer made no secret of their desire to push President Biden to extend the evacuation effort beyond Aug. 31, even after his decision Tuesday to stick by the 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,” the pair said in their statement.
Moulton and Meijer are both centrists and military veterans who previously served in the Middle East.
Moulton briefly mounted a Democratic presidential primary campaign in 2019 before dropping out of the race. Meijer is one of 10 GOP lawmakers who voted to impeach former President Trump.
The two lawmakers had journeyed to the Persian Gulf and flew into Kabul on a nearly empty plane heading to pick up Afghan allies and Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan. They left hours later on a charter flight packed with refugees.
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.”
The White House said early Wednesday that another 16,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul in the previous 24 hours, meaning that 80,000 people have been evacuated since the Taliban swept to power less than two weeks ago.