Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images
Veterans and Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Peter Meijer, R-Mich., traveled to Kabul “in secret” on Tuesday, drawing the ire of Biden administration officials.
The congressmen are now casting doubt on the Biden administration’s planned Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
“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,” Moulton and Meijer said in a joint statement Tuesday.
The trip was criticized by an official with the U.S. State Department, who said of the congressmen: “They have chosen to put themselves, our servicemembers, and our diplomats at even greater risk — all while potentially depriving those in need of a seat to safety.”
The Associated Press, which first reported on the travel, added that other Biden administration officials were “furious” about the trip.
Moulton and Meijer defended their travel to Afghanistan.
“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, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand,” their statement said. “We left on a plane with empty seats, seated in crew-only seats to ensure that nobody who needed a seat would lose one because of our presence.”
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
The congressmen added: “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. Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban.”
Earlier Tuesday, President Biden said the U.S. is on pace to leave by the Aug. 31 deadline.
The Taliban, which staged a forceful takeover of Afghanistan last week, have said they would not extend the U.S. grace beyond the end of August, and that if forces are still in the country beyond that date, there would be unspecified consequences.
NPR’s Michele Kelemen contributed reporting.