Congressmen who visited Afghanistan defend trip, criticize handling of withdrawal
DETROIT (Tribune News Service) — Reps. Peter Meijer and Seth Moulton once again defended their controversial trip to Kabul, Afghanistan, last week and condemned what they described in an interview with CNN Sunday morning as "some of the worst of American leadership" they had ever seen in the handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Their comments came just as reports surfaced of another explosion near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, following a blast on Thursday that left scores of Afghans and 13 U.S. service members dead a few days after the congressmen's 12-hour visit to Kabul.
Meijer, R-Mich., and Moulton, D-Mass., served in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, respectively, and both spent time in Afghanistan as civilians.
Two officials familiar with the flight said that State Department, Defense Department and White House officials were furious about the their trip because it was done without coordination with diplomats or military commanders directing the evacuation.
But Meijer says their experiences, both military and civilian, meant they were "uniquely situated to be able to get in, get out, be as quiet as possible, but also take away as much information as possible."
They pair flew on a charter aircraft and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours, officials said. The two House members were flying out of Kabul on another charter aircraft, prompting officials to complain that they were taking seats that could have gone to other Americans or Afghans fleeing the country.
Before the trip, both congressmen supported extending the the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline, but said their time there made them reconsider.
For Meijer, this was because of the "absurd scenario" in which the U.S. troops are "wholly dependent on the cooperation of the Taliban."
"If it came down to an urban combat scenario, you are talking about a multiplied casualty count, you are talking about grave civilian harm," he added, saying that the U.S. would not be able to get Afghan allies and American citizens who are trapped in Afghanistan out.
Moulton agreed, adding that the only way he could imagine the situation going worse is "if it had happened under Trump with the May 1 deadline. (...) And he probably wouldn't have had any effort to evacuate our (Afghan) allies because he's so anti-immigrant."
"But the point is that this has been the failure of multiple administrations," said Moulton.
On Friday, Meijer told the Detroit News that while he thinks the present focus should be on getting as many people as possible out of Afghanistan and to safety, "there will be a time for accountability soon," and did not rule out Republican calls for impeaching President Joe Biden over his administration's handling of the situation.
The 20-year war in Afghanistan reportedly cost the United States more than $2 trillion and resulted in the deaths of, according to some estimates, over 200,000 Afghans, many of them civilians, and thousands of U.S. service members and private contractors.
When asked if he thought the war was worth the cost, Meijer said, "I think it's impossible to sit here today and say 'yes,' knowing what we know, knowing what we saw."
"This is a failure upon failure."
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