WASHINGTON (AP) — Two members of Congress flew unannounced into Kabul airport in the middle of the ongoing chaotic evacuation Tuesday.
The visit stunned State Department and U.S. military personnel who had to divert resources to provide security and information to the lawmakers.
Officials say Massachusetts Democratic congressman Seth Moulton and Michigan Republican congressman Peter Meijer flew in and out on charter aircraft and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours.
The legislators say they went to conduct important oversight and made sure not to take seats that would otherwise have gone to evacuees. The two issued a joint statement:
“As veterans, we care deeply about the situation on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport. America has a moral obligation to our citizens and loyal allies, and we must make sure that obligation is being kept. Like many veterans, we have spent the last few weeks working without sleep to try to get as many people as we could through the gates and to safety.
As members of Congress, we have a duty to provide oversight on the Executive Branch. There is no place in the world right now where oversight matters more. 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. We 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.
Washington should be ashamed of the position we put our servicemembers in – they represent the best in America. These men and women have been run ragged and are still running strong. Their empathy and dedication to duty are truly inspiring. The acts of heroism and selflessness we witnessed at HKIA should make America proud.
We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st deadline. After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation firsthand, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, no matter what we do, 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.
In the coming days, we will have more to share with our colleagues and the American people about what we learned, but after meeting with Marines, soldiers, and dedicated State Department officials on the ground — we want the world to know first and foremost that we have never been prouder to be Americans.”