House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday told House members not to travel to Afghanistan amid a chaotic withdrawal of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from the war-torn country after two lawmakers reportedly traveled to the region for several hours.
In a letter to House members, Pelosi said the “desire of some Members to travel to Afghanistan” is “understandable” and reflects the “high priority that we place on the lives of those on the ground.”
However, Pelosi noted the State and Defense Departments have recommended against Americans traveling to Afghanistan, adding that trips to the region “unnecessarily divert needed resources” from the effort to evacuate Americans and Afghans.
The letter comes after Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) said in a joint statement they conducted a “secret” trip to Kabul to “conduct oversight” on the evacuation effort.
The visit by the lawmakers infuriated officials at the State and Defense Departments, according to the Associated Press and the Washington Post, with the Post quoting one unnamed official calling the lawmakers “moronic” and “selfish.”
The lawmakers pushed back against criticism in the statement, claiming they flew to the country on a plane with empty seats and were there to “gather information, not to grandstand.”
Lawmakers in both parties have criticized the Biden administration over the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, with several House Democrats on Tuesday calling for President Joe Biden to extend an Aug. 31 deadline to pull out all U.S. troops over fears not all Americans and Afghans will make it out in time.
70,700. That’s how many people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug. 14 – when the Taliban captured Kabul and left a shellshocked U.S. scrambling to get Americans and Afghans applying for special immigrant visas out of the country – Biden said in a speech on Tuesday.
“We’ve already had gunfighting break out. We run a serious risk of it breaking down as time goes on,” Biden said Tuesday of his decision to maintain the Aug. 31 deadline, calling the situation in Kabul “tenuous.” Threats from the terror group ISIS-K have “significantly worsened” the security situation in Afghanistan, according to Politico.
“Whether it is Haiti or Afghanistan, taking up space in a disaster zone for your own ego helps no one,” Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) tweeted in response to news of Meijer and Moulton’s visit.