Two members of Congress — Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) — traveled to the Kabul airport over the weekend to get a first-hand look at the evacuation. In so doing, they incurred the wrath of state and defense department employees who are working hard to evacuate as many Americans and Afghan allies as possible before the Taliban-mandated deadline of August 31.
Both members served in Afghanistan and decided to see for themselves how the evacuation is going. It’s a mystery how both of them were able to get to Afghanistan in the first place since the trip was unscheduled and unauthorized. They left Afghanistan a few hours later on an evacuation flight — something that did not sit well with state department officials.
“It’s as moronic as it is selfish,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a frank assessment of their trip. “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.”
In a joint statement from Moulton and Meijer emailed to The Washington Post by Moulton spokesman Tim Biba, the two pushed back on the notion that their trip caused a distraction.
“We have been on the other side of this argument while we were serving and it just isn’t accurate,” Moulton and Meijer said. “Trust us: the professionals on the ground are focused on the mission. Many thanked us for coming.”
As far as “taking seats away” from anyone trying to evacuate, widespread reports indicate that many planes have left with just a few people on board. As for the reason they went, we should be grateful they did. We shouldn’t trust the Biden administration on anything relating to this evacuation so a bipartisan set of eyes to tell us what’s going on is needed.
The two members cited their military experience in their statement.
“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 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.
Moulton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, has been pushing for years to hasten special immigrant visas for Afghans. He has been one of the only Democrats to call out Biden for his incompetent handling of the crisis.
“To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest,” Moulton said in a statement released the day Kabul fell. “Worse, it was avoidable.”
Jetting off to Kabul airport is hardly a “junket,” although both members disobeyed the rules of the House and may, indeed, have made life a little harder for the bureaucrats. It will be interesting to hear a fuller account of their trip.