On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby slammed a bipartisan pair of congressmen that took an unannounced trip to the airport in Kabul on Tuesday, which has been embroiled in chaos amidst evacuations of Americans and Afghan allies.
Democratic Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Republican Representative Peter Meijer of Michigan made the trip on Tuesday to see firsthand the current evacuation operations in Kabul, Afghanistan, where the Taliban took control last week.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Kirby blasted the decision of the congressmen to travel to Kabul, noting that their unannounced arrival forces troops to be pulled off of critical missions for their protection.
"We were not aware of this visit, and we are obviously not encouraging VIP visits to a very tense, dangerous, and dynamic situation at the airport and inside Kabul generally. And the Secretary [of Defense Lloyd Austin] I think would have appreciated the opportunity to have had a conversation before the visit took place," Kirby said, according to the Daily Wire.
"They got a chance to talk to commanders, as I understand it, to talk to troops. But to say that there wasn’t a need to flex and to alter the day’s flow, including the need to have protection for these members of Congress, that wouldn’t be a genuine thing for me to assert," Kirby continued. "There was certainly a pull-off of the kinds of the missions we were trying to do to accommodate that visit."
"They certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day," he added. "And I don’t know, on the aircraft. They did fly out on a military aircraft. I honestly don’t know what the seat capacity was on that" and whether those seats would have been given to evacuees.
In a joint statement issued by Moulton and Meijer, they wrote that they conducted the trip in secrecy to "minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground," adding that they went to gather information.
"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," they wrote.
"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," the statement continued.
The pair commended troops' efforts at the airport in Kabul, slamming the Biden Administration for placing these service members in this situation.
"Washington should be ashamed of the position we put our service members in, but 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 [Hamid Karzai International Airport] make America proud," the pair wrote.
Moulton and Meijer also noted that despite the increase in evacuation flights from Kabul, there is no way that the US will get everyone out by the 31, echoing a statement from the White House.
"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 here, 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," they wrote.