A Republican congressman attempted to organize a rescue mission to Afghanistan in order to extract American citizens left behind by the Biden administration — and threatened US diplomats who declined to help him in the endeavor, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The effort by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) was in defiance of warnings by US officials — as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — not to attempt to travel to the region.
The Washington Post reported that Mullin tried to reach the US ambassador to Tajikistan Monday, as the final evacuation flights were taking off from Kabul’s international airport. The lawmaker said he wanted to fly into Tajikistan from Tbilisi, capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and needed assistance transporting a large sum of money he planned to use to hire a helicopter to take an American woman and her four kids out of Afghanistan.
After embassy officials declined to help, Mullin reportedly threatened both the ambassador, John Mark Pommersheim, and embassy staff — at one point demanding to know the names of the officials he was speaking to. The nature of Mullin’s threats were not immediately clear.
The Washington Post further reported that Mullin traveled to Greece last week and sought permission from the Pentagon to continue on to Kabul, which was declined.
Congressional leadership warned lawmakers off going to Afghanistan after Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) made an unannounced visit Aug. 24 to observe the evacuation operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport. The presence of Moulton and Meijer, both combat veterans, drew the ire of officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, who argued vital resources had been diverted to look after the congressmen.
“This is deadly serious. We do not want members to go,” Pelosi said last Wednesday, later 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.”
McCarthy concurred, telling reporters that same day: “Any member that I’ve heard that might go, I explained to them that I don’t think they should. 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.”
Two days after Moulton and Meijer visited the airport, an ISIS-K suicide bomber struck at the airport’s Abbey Gate, killing 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans.
Mullin, 44, was first elected to Congress in 2012. He issued a statement Monday that called the conclusion of the Afghan withdrawal “a sad day for our country.”
“Americans have been stranded in Afghanistan by the Biden Administration and are now left to defend themselves from terrorists overrunning the country,” he said. “One motto of our military is ‘leave no man behind.’ But today, that’s exactly what President Biden did. American exit did not have to be this way and there must be accountability for this complete and utter failure. The service and sacrifice of our service members and their families was not made in vain, and it will never be forgotten.”
Though the Washington Post reported that Mullin’s exact whereabouts were not known, the congressman’s spokeswoman Meredith Blanford said late Tuesday that he “has been and is currently completely safe. He and the Office of Oklahoma’s Second District will continue to do anything in our power to bring home all Americans from the war zone that President Biden abandoned. The safety and security of the American people will always be his top priority.
“We have no further comment at this time.”