Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reprimanded two veteran congressmen, both of whom served in the Middle East, for traveling to Afghanistan to investigate the deteriorating situation surrounding the U.S. military-assisted emergency evacuation.
In a letter acquired by Politico, she warned legislators not to “unnecessarily divert” U.S. resources by taking trips to the war-torn country amid the time sensitive airlift and withdrawal that have demanded an additional installment of U.S. troops on the ground, military jets, as well as volunteered planes from commercial airlines.
Democratic Representative Seth Moulton and Republican Representative Peter Meijer, who have slammed the Biden administration’s haphazard management of the pull-out, disclosed their risky expedition in a joint statement Tuesday.
“Given the urgency of this situation, the desire of some Members to travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding areas is understandable and reflective of the high priority that we place on the lives of those on the ground,” Pelosi wrote.
However, she added, State and Defense departments officials have advised lawmakers to refrain from visiting the tumultuous area “during this time of danger.”
“Member travel 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,” she said.
In defense of their private mission, which Associated Press first reported, the congressmen said they intended to “gather information” rather than make a distracting political statement.
The pair insisted they wouldn’t be taking resources from vulnerable refugees that might need them. They said they “left on a plane with empty seats, seated in crew-only seats to ensure that nobody who needed a seat would lose one because of our presence.”
While Congress was in session Tuesday, the members had respective party counterparts case a vote for them in their absence.
Pelosi’s response letter came after “large number” of members had asked about the veterans’ trips, she told reporters.
Moulton and Meijer represent the bipartisan nature of much of criticism targeting the Biden administration’s conduct in Afghanistan. Both sides of the aisle have rallied together to expedite the rescue of American citizens, allied Afghan personnel, such as interpreters, and others from the territory recently returned to Taliban control.
“To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest. Worse, it was avoidable,” Moulton, a Marine and multiple-tour Iraq veteran, said in a statement last week.