Two members of Congress made an unauthoritzed visit to Kabul on Tuesday amid a massive U.S. military effort to evacuate U.S. citizens and allies in a dire security environment.
Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), both of whom served in Iraq before being elected to Congress, cited their military experience via a Moulton spokesman, Tim Biba.
“America has a moral obligation to our citizens and loyal allies, and we wanted to make sure that obligation is being kept,” they said. “As members of Congress we have a duty to provide oversight on the executive branch. There is no place in the world right now where oversight matters more. We conducted this visit in secret to minimize the risk to the people on the ground.”
The two flew into the United Arab Emirites by a commercial flight, paying with personal funds.
From there they “figured out a way onto an empty military flight going into Kabul,” Biba said. There was no clear plan for them to get out of Kabul, but they pledged to leave on a flight with empty seats, and Biba said they sat in seats designated for crew members.
The State Department, Defense Department and White House officials were furious about the incident because it was done without coordination with diplomats or military commanders directing the evacuation. Typically visits to war zones by Congress members are coordinated with officials on the ground for safety.
The two lawmakers said that they met with service members and State Department officials during their brief time at the airport and said that they believe Biden should extend the Aug. 31 deadline for evacuating Americans, allies and vulnerable Afghans. “After talking with commanders on the ground today and seeing the situation for ourselves, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time, even by 9/11,” they said.
Speaker Pelosi issued a statement on Tuesday to House members 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.”