Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) made a secret visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday where they learned that evacuations cannot be completed by President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline, according to commanders in charge of the situation.
In a joint statement, Moulton and Meijer said their surprise mission was to “conduct oversight on the mission to evacuate Americans and our allies,” arguing that Members of Congress “have a duty to provide oversight on the executive branch.” The two representatives were also clear that they ensured their visit would not take away seats from those in need:
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, 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. 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.
Washington should be ashamed of the position we put our service members in, but they represent the best in America. These men and women have been run ragged and are still running strong. Their empathy and dedication to duty are truly inspiring. The acts of heroism and selflessness we witnessed at HKIA make America proud.
After speaking with commanders present on the ground in Kabul, Moulton and Meijer were convinced the evacuation of Afghanistan started much too late and could not possibly conclude by August 31 — and not even by September 11:
We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st 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, even by September 11. Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban.
In the coming days, we will have more to share with our colleagues and the American people about what we learned, but after meeting with Marines, soldiers, and dedicated State Department officials on the ground—we want the world to know first and foremost that we have never been prouder to be Americans.
According to John Hudson of The Washington Post, Pentagon officials are reportedly furious with Moulton and Meijer for making the surprise trip to Afghanistan, denouncing it as performative at best and reckless at worst.
“It CANNOT be overstated how angry Pentagon & State Dept officials are at Rep. Moulton & Rep. Peter Meijer for flying to Afghanistan in the middle of an evacuation,” announced Hudson on Twitter. “‘It’s as moronic as it is selfish. They’re taking seats away from Americans,’ official says.”
It CANNOT be overstated how angry Pentagon & State Dept officials are at Rep. Moulton & Rep. Peter Meijer for flying to Afghanistan in the middle of an evacuation. “It’s as moronic as it is selfish. They’re taking seats away from Americans,” official says https://t.co/oY9IBbg1iC
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) August 25, 2021
On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that it is “very unlikely” evacuations in Afghanistan will be over by August 31 due to the overwhelming number of Americans, Afghan allies, and potential refugees currently stranded in the region amid an increasingly hostile security threat. Less than 24 hours later, President Biden committed to being out by the August 31 deadline after the Taliban would not agree to extend the date any further.
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