Reps. Peter Meijer, Michigan Republican, and Seth Moulton, Massachusetts Democrat, visited Kabul on Tuesday amid ongoing efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan refugees, which they said has no chance of completion before the Biden administration’s Aug. 31 deadline.
The trip, which the two veterans-turned-lawmakers did not make public until they had departed from Afghanistan, drew attention from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who warned them not to travel to the war-torn country.
The congressmen said they went to “conduct oversight on the mission to evacuate Americans and our allies” during their visit.
“As veterans, we care deeply about the situation on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the lawmakers wrote in a joint statement late Tuesday. “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.”
Both lawmakers have also been vocal opponents to the Biden administration’s Aug. 31 deadline for a full troop withdrawal, joining a growing chorus on Capitol Hill to extend the deadline until the administration has ensured all U.S. citizens and Afghan refugees are evacuated.
“We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st deadline,” the lawmakers wrote. “After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation firsthand, 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 September 11.”
The Taliban has warned of violence if the U.S. extends its presence in Afghanistan beyond August. President Biden confirmed late Tuesday that the U.S. intends to remain committed to the end-of-month deadline.
In a letter to the lawmakers obtained by Politico, Mrs. Pelosi said State Department and Pentagon officials urged members of Congress not to travel to the war-torn country amid the volatility as the U.S. departs.
“Member travel to 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,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Nevertheless, the California Democrat did concede in her letter that the lawmakers’ decision was “understandable and reflective of the high priority that we place on the lives of those on the ground.”
They said in their statement that they “were there to gather information, not to grandstand,” and would share what they observed on the ground with their colleagues on the Hill once back home.
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