House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned lawmakers Wednesday not to travel to Afghanistan to observe the ongoing evacuation operation at Kabul’s international airport.
The bipartisan message came down after Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) stole away from Washington Tuesday and flew to Hamid Karzai International Airport on a chartered plane.
The visit prompted Pelosi to remind lawmakers that the Pentagon and State Department “have requested that Members not travel to Afghanistan and the region during this time of danger.”
The Speaker doubled down on that message Wednesday, telling reporters: “This is deadly serious. We do not want members to go.”
“You need the approval of your committee chair in order to do that,” Pelosi explained, before adding: “We put out the word to committee chairs there ain’t gonna be no planes or this or that for people going to the region … We put an end to any thought that anybody was going there right away.”
“Any member that I’ve heard that might go, I explained to them that I don’t think they should,” McCarthy agreed. “I think it creates a greater risk. You’ve got enough Americans over there. They could be held hostage [by the Taliban], they’d make a point out of [holding] a member of Congress. I think you’d take military away from doing their job of getting as many Americans out as we can.”
Fox News reported Wednesday that some House members had planned on going to Afghanistan to help out efforts to evacuate US citizens and their Afghan allies, but none were believed to be en route as of Wednesday evening. However, the report added that there was no real way of knowing whether lawmakers would ignore the warnings of leadership and head to the war-torn country anyway.
The visit of Moulton and Meijer, both military veterans, reportedly enraged officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department — who accused the lawmakers of taking up needed resources during the chaotic withdrawal.
Meijer responded Wednesday evening, telling Fox News’ “Special Report” that “the opprobrium from the Defense Department, from the White House, from the State Department, is frankly laughable.”
“They have done everything they can to obstruct the situation, to deny this reality, and frankly to hide facts from the American people,” Meijer claimed.
Meijer said that he and Moulton had planned their trip so as “not to be dependent on anything related to the US government,” though he acknowledged that the lawmakers flew out of Afghanistan on a military flight “at the encouragement of individuals who were there.”
The lawmaker made a point of lauding American forces who were executing the evacuation in near-impossible conditions.
“I know soldiers who left behind their boots, they’re wearing tennis shoes right now, others who are in the same uniform they had when they evacuated the embassy two weeks ago because they didn’t have time to grab their rucksack,” Meijer said. “They went right into Kabul Airport, into chaos and pandemonium and tens of thousands overrunning the runway, and then pivoted to not only negotiating and having to deal with the Taliban – as frankly, a security partner rather than adversary – but also execute one of the most complicated logistical feats and probably the largest airlift in human history.
“These people are heroes,” he concluded. “Their stories need to be told, and I am so damn proud to be an American from what I saw on the ground in Kabul.”