US Congressman Rips Criticism of Afghan Trip as ‘Laughable' Attempt to 'Distract' from Pullout Chaos
An unannounced trip made by two US Congressmen, Republican Peter Meijer and Democrat Seth Moulton, to Taliban-controlled Kabul this week amid the frantic evacuation effort underway by Western forces has come under heavy criticism from the Pentagon and other Representatives, who have called the act “reprehensible”.
Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) has responded to criticism of the secret trip to Kabul
he made with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
“The opprobrium from the Defense Department, from the White House, from the State Department is frankly laughable,” said Meijer on Wednesday, appearing on Fox News’s “Special Report with Bret Baier”.
The two congressmen are currently in Doha, Qatar, according to the Michigan Republican, after visiting Al Udeid Air Base, where refugees are being held.
Meijer sad that the trip to Kabul was supposed to be “entirely independent” of the US military as they “needed to see for ourselves” the situation on the ground after not getting the information they need from the Biden administration.
“Our plan was not to be dependent on anything related to the U.S. Government… And just the decision on behalf of the president, of the secretary of Defense, and the secretary of State to obfuscate here are more intended to distract from the underlying issues, from the chaos of the withdrawal than to really tell how we make sure we learn the right lessons, support the individuals on the ground today, and keep the promises we have made to American citizens and those who have loyally served us in Afghanistan,” said the lawmaker.
The two members of Congress travelled to Afghanistan on Tuesday to observe the massive airlifting operation amid unclear information regarding numbers of Americans and Afghans who still need to be evacuated. They also indicated they were acting on reports that US citizens were experiencing difficulties getting to the airport.
“I'll be honest, I did not support the decision to end our operations on August 31st before I went. After talking with commanders on the ground, I trusted their judgement. And I believed it. That is what I want to take back to my fellow members of Congress. Those are the stories that I want to tell that aren't being told of the individuals on the ground who are committing some of the most heroic acts I have seen in my life.”
Responding to questions regarding the secret nature of the trip, the American politician and business analyst serving as the US Representative for Michigan's 3rd congressional district since 2021 added:
“We did make ourselves known on arrival for situational awareness to the individuals who were there.”
Meijer, who serves on both the Committee on Homeland Security and Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the politicians did not fly into Afghanistan on a military plane but left on a military plane at the “encouragement of individuals who were there”.
Furthermore, Rep. Peter Meijer added that they had waited for a plane with available seats to ensure that they weren’t taking them from anyone seeking evacuation.
The trip drew widespread criticism, with the Pentagon claiming it had to take “time away” from helping Americans and Afghan allies in Afghanistan to protect the two members of Congress.
The Pentagon said it was not “encouraging VIP visits”.
“To say there wasn't a need to alter the day's flow, including the need to have protection for these members of Congress, that wouldn't be a genuine thing for me to assert… They certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day,” said Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby.
The two lawmakers have been facing a backlash
from a chorus of Democrats, with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) blasting the “selfish” trip.
"To me, to go now is not to help. It's selfishness. It's to try to get some attention for yourself, and that doesn't help the people that we want to be helping right now," said Meeks.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a briefing:
“I think it creates a greater risk. You've got enough Americans over there to be held hostage. They would make a point out of member of Congress.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the White House had no knowledge the lawmakers were making the journey, adding, “Now is not the time to travel to Afghanistan”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced there were an estimated 6,000 US citizens wanting to leave Afghanistan when the airlift began on August 14, as the Taliban* Islamist group seized the capital, Kabul, at the conclusion of their sweeping offensive against Afghan government forces.
About 4,500 Americans have been evacuated so far, Blinken said on Wednesday, and as many as 1,500 Americans may be awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan.
that “evacuating Americans is our top priority ” and added that Washington is “committed to getting out as many Afghans at-risk as we can before the 31st,” in a reference to President Joe Biden’s self-imposed deadline to pull out the remainder of American troops.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia.