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Two U.S. Congressmen make an unauthorized trip to Kabul amid hurried evacuations, prompts questions

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Two U.S. members of Congress, Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, have elicited controversy after they flew to Kabul amid the confusion and chaotic evacuation. The two military veterans shocked the U.S. State Department and military officials, who had to divert resources to quickly provide them with a secure cover.

Following the backlash, the two Congressmen released a joint statement assuring the public that their unauthorized trip was well within their duties to provide oversight. Part of the statement read, “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. We were there to gather information, not to grandstand.”

Officials speaking on conditions of anonymity stated that military administrators only knew about the trip when the chartered aircraft was inbounding to Kabul. The actions by the two Congressmen came at a time when the State Department and the military were in a race to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans, and other critical personnel.

President Biden reiterated his commitment to continue the evacuations until August 31. And though the two Congressmen stated their travel was to force Biden to reconsider his deadline, it was clear that neither Biden nor the State Department is willing to do so.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added to the issue by recognizing the desire by some members of Congress to travel to Afghanistan. “I reiterate that both the State and Defense Departments request members not to travel to Afghanistan as the situation is still very volatile. Ensuring the timely and safe evacuation of those at risk entails the complete focus of the U.S. military and diplomatic groups on the ground in Afghanistan,” she added.

Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs, a member of the Armed Services Committee, also discouraged her colleagues’ decision to travel overseas. In a tweet, she wrote, “Whether it is Haiti or Afghanistan, occupying space in a disaster zone for your ego does not help anyone.”

Reps. Moulton and Meijer cast doubts on a successful evacuation, stating that there was no way to get everyone out before the deadline or even before September 11. They added, “Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban.”

The congressmen also criticized the backing U.S. troops in Kabul are receiving. “Washington should be ashamed of the position we put our service members in, but they signify the best in America,” they said in a statement. “These men and women have been run ragged and are still running strong. Their empathy and dedication to duty are truly inspiring,” argued Moulton and Meijer. The two House members ultimately departed Kabul 14 hours later, in seats they say were allotted for crew members, not evacuees.

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