Congressmen Blasted For Secretly Flying Into Kabul on 'Ego' Trips

Two congressmen have been criticized after making an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, amid the hectic ongoing evacuation following the Taliban's takeover.

The trip by Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat, and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican, stunned State Department and U.S. military personnel who had to divert resources to provide security and information to the lawmakers, the Associated Press reported.

The trip drew the ire of State Department, Defense Department and White House officials because it was done without coordination with diplomats or military commanders in charge of the evacuation in Kabul.

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.

— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) August 25, 2021

"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," Moulton and Meijer, who are both military veterans, said in a joint statement.

The congressmen flew in and out on charter aircraft, prompting criticism that they may have taken seats that could have gone to Americans or Afghans fleeing the country.

"We insisted on leaving in a plane that was not full, in a seat designated for crew so that we didn't take a seat from someone else," Moulton responded in a tweet.

Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee alongside Moulton, blasted her colleagues for making the trip.

"Whether it is Haiti or Afghanistan, taking up space in a disaster zone for your own ego helps no one," she tweeted.

Whether it is Haiti or Afghanistan, taking up space in a disaster zone for your own ego helps no one.

— Sara Jacobs (@SaraJacobsCA) August 25, 2021

A senior U.S. official, speaking to AP, described the lawmakers' visit as unhelpful, while other officials said the visit was viewed as a distraction.

"It's as moronic as it is selfish," a senior administration official told the Washington Post. "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."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement on Tuesday evening, saying she was writing to "reiterate that the Departments of Defense and State have requested that Members not travel to Afghanistan and the region during this time of danger."

She added: "Ensuring the safe and timely evacuation of individuals at risk requires the full focus and attention of the U.S. military and diplomatic teams on the ground in Afghanistan. Member traveling to Afghanistan and the surrounding countries would unnecessarily divert needed resources from the priority mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating America and Afghans at risk from Afghanistan."

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.

— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) August 25, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he will adhere to his August 31 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and that the U.S. and its allies were on track to finish evacuating Americans and some Afghans by then.

On Twitter, Moulton said he and Meijer went into their visit "wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend" the deadline.

He wrote: "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."

Moulton, a former Marine, served multiple tours in Iraq, while Meijer was deployed there as part of the Army Reserves. Meijer also worked in Afghanistan at a nongovernmental organization providing aid.

Representatives for Moulton and Meijer and the White Hous have been contacted for comment.

Soldiers at Kabul Airport
Soldiers stand guard near a canal as Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul on August 22, 2021. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images