On Tuesday, August 24, Representatives Peter Meijer (R-MI) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) traveled to Kabul on an unannounced trip to perform one of their primary duties as elected representatives: congressional oversight. Both were primarily interested in seeing the situation at the airport for themselves rather than sit by idly and accept White House press statements at face value. They were reportedly discontent with the Biden administration’s refusal to elaborate on the number of Americans and Afghan allies still awaiting the opportunity to escape the country, choosing to take matters into their own hands to inform themselves about the reality of the situation in Kabul.
Meijer and Moulton are both veterans of the Iraq War and vocal critics of the Biden administration’s response to the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan. Previously, the two had cited the need for the president to unilaterally extend the August 31 deadline for the evacuations to a later date, arguing that more time would be needed for the emptying of the airport to take place. Upon seeing the situation in Afghanistan firsthand, Meijer and Moulton have backtracked on their positions and begun to argue that the August 31 deadline should be followed to avoid further antagonizing the Taliban. Supposedly, extensions of the ongoing departures would do very little to finish the job even by September 11, contrasting some statements made this week about the likelihood of the mission being accomplished by the original deadline.
The actions of these congressional veterans have brought renewed attention to the events in Afghanistan. The Biden administration has continued to blame others, deflecting criticism for its mishaps. Until recently, it refused to provide estimates on the number of Americans and Afghans still waiting to flee the country. The Pentagon has also aligned itself with the Biden administration’s haphazard decisions, preferring to criticize the two members of Congress for doing their jobs and gathering valuable information in the face of executive branch resistance to public transparency. Mainstream Democrats continue to overwhelmingly support Biden’s agenda despite his sinking approval rating, leading them to depict Meijer and Moulton as performative legislators on social media.
House leaders have expressed varying levels of criticism towards the veteran congressmen. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the two legislators for “freelancing on their own” and allegedly taking resources and attention away from those waiting to be evacuated in Kabul. House Minority Kevin McCarthy advised that no other Republican should seek to follow in Meijer’s footsteps. However, his remarks were much less harsh and instead called on the Biden administration to further promote transparency regarding its actions in the region. The public also levied significant amounts of criticism on the two for the decision to travel in secrecy, suggesting that the congressmen were more focused on a photo op than genuine intelligence gathering. The legislators earnestly refuted this narrative in an interview after the visit, pointing out that their fact-finding mission was an attempt to navigate the ever-changing circumstances at the Kabul airport. From their point of view, calling ahead would have led to an inauthentic mission with personnel standing by at all times to depict the mission in a more positive light.
Congress has long held record-low approval ratings for their inaction on so many issues Americans face daily. This week’s events have shown that some members of Congress may have had enough with the deceptive and vapid updates on the situation in Kabul coming from the Pentagon and White House. Congress has the essential job of providing oversight on the actions of the president and executive branch as a whole. Whether the Biden administration likes it or not, our legislators have the responsibility to communicate with their constituents when critical information is being withheld from them. Why should the president and his team be upset that Congress is doing its job while his administration fails to do its own?
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