Anger as US politicians fly to Kabul amid evacuation efforts | Afghanistan

US officials said two members of the US Congress flew unannounced to Kabul airport in the midst of the chaotic evacuation, stunting State Department staff and military personnel who had to divert resources to provide security and information to lawmakers.

Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Peter Major, a Republican congressman from Michigan, flew on a charter plane, and were on the ground at Kabul airport for several hours. That prompted officials to complain that they might take up seats that would otherwise go to other Americans or Afghans fleeing the country, but members of Congress said in a joint statement they made sure they were leaving on a plane with empty seats.

“As members of Congress, it is our duty to provide oversight to the executive branch,” the two said in a statement. “We conducted this visit in secret, and did not talk about it until after we left, to reduce the risks and disturbances to people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to stand on the ground.”

The two deputies are both veterans, with backgrounds in the region. Moulton, a Marine who was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War, served several tours in Iraq. Major was deployed as part of the Army Reserve and later served in it Afghanistan In a non-governmental organization that provides assistance. Both serve on the House Armed Services Committee.

Three officials familiar with the trip said State Department, Defense Department and White House officials were outraged about the incident because it was done without coordination with the diplomats or military leaders who directed the evacuation.

Officials said the US military discovered the visit while the lawmakers’ plane was on its way to Kabul. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior US official said the administration deemed the lawmakers’ visit distinctly unhelpful, while other officials said the visit was seen as a distraction for forces and commanders at the airport who are in a race against time to evacuate thousands of Americans at risk. Afghans and others as soon as possible.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Tuesday night taking note of some lawmakers’ desire to visit Afghanistan and said she was writing to “emphasize that the Departments of Defense and State have asked members not to travel to Afghanistan and the region.” During this dangerous time.”

“Ensuring the safe and timely evacuation of individuals at risk requires the full focus and attention of the US military and diplomatic teams on the ground in Afghanistan,” she added.

The US Department of Defense has repeatedly expressed concerns about security threats in Kabul, including threats from the Islamic State. When members of Congress have routinely gone to war zones over the past two decades, their visits have long been planned and coordinated with officials on the ground in order to ensure their safety.

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he was Stick to the August 31 deadline To complete the perilous airlift as people flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The two congressmen said they went to their visit willing “to push the president to extend the August 31 deadline. After speaking with leaders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is clear that since we started the evacuation process so late, no matter what we do, we will not We get everyone out on time, even by 9/11.”

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