Loafers on the ground
Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) got a bipartisan rebuke Wednesday from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for their 24-hour unauthorized trip to Kabul's international airport during the massive airlift of foreign nationals and the Afghans who assisted them. The Pentagon wasn't pleased, either.
"We actually apologized to people for showing up unexpected, and several people said, 'This is great, because we didn't have to do anything to prepare for it,'" Moulton told The New York Times in a joint interview with Meijer. And the trip changed their mind about President Biden's Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw U.S. forces, the two congressmen — both Iraq War veterans — told the Times.
"Almost every veteran in Congress wants to extend the Aug. 31 deadline, including us, and our opinion on that was changed on the ground, because we started the evacuations so late," Moulton said. "There's no way we can get everyone out, even by Sept. 11. So we need to have a working relationship with the Taliban after our departure. And the only way to achieve that is to leave by Aug. 31."
Moulton and Meijer "are clearly not happy with how Biden handled this," Politico reports. "But they were chastened enough by the facts on the ground to change their minds about the policy going forward — and they're now off Team 'Extend the Deadline.' There was a very different reaction from Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who did not travel to Kabul, but on Wednesday night secured the backing of the 58-member House Problem Solvers Caucus to endorse an extension.
The security situation on the ground has deteriorated since Moulton and Meijer's visit, with Western governments warning of an imminent threat of a terrorist attack at Kabul's airport.
The White House said early Thursday that another 13,400 people were airlifted from Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing the total since the airlift began on Aug. 14 to 95,700 evacuees. Earlier Wednesday, the State Department said up to 1,500 Americans still need egress.