'as moronic as it is selfish'
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) made an unauthorized trip to Kabul on Tuesday, leaving several officials at the State Department and Pentagon furious, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.
With the Taliban now effectively in control of Afghanistan, U.S. officials are working around the clock to try to get American citizens and Afghan translators and contractors who worked for the U.S. military out of the country. There are U.S. troops at the Kabul airport, and on Sunday National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned that the threat of an attack by the Islamic State against the facility is "real" and "acute."
Moulton and Meijer are both veterans who served in Iraq and critics of President Biden's Afghanistan strategy. Moulton's spokesman Tim Biba told the Post they first flew to the United Arab Emirates and then "figured out a way onto an empty military flight going into Kabul." They left less than 24 hours after they arrived, taking up space on an airplane the United States is using for evacuations. Biba said Moulton and Meijer decided ahead of time they would only leave Kabul if they could get on a plane with at least three empty seats, so they weren't taking a spot that could have been used by an evacuee.
"They ensured the flight was not going to be full," Biba said. "They also believe this method of travel, which will take them to an area where evacuees have been temporarily relocated, will provide them with additional information and increase their ability to provide oversight." In a joint statement, Moulton and Meijer told the Post they spoke with service members and State Department officials in Kabul, and believe Biden should extend the Aug. 31 deadline to evacuate Americans and vulnerable Afghans from Afghanistan.
Several U.S. officials and diplomats pushed back at the congressmen, saying they distracted military and civilian workers who are frantically trying to get people out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. One irate diplomat told the Post this was "one of the most irresponsible things I've heard a lawmaker do. It absolutely deserves admonishment." Another senior administration official described the jaunt as being "as moronic as it is selfish. 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." Read more at The Washington Post.