Two members of US Congress secretly fly to Afghanistan on 'fact-finding trip'

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By Reena Bhardwaj

Washington [US], August 26 (ANI): Two members of US Congress secretly travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan, as the US evacuates tens of thousands of Americans and vulnerable Afghans after the country fell to the Taliban.

Representatives Seth Moulton, a Democrat, and Republican Peter Meijer, made a visit to the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Tuesday "to conduct oversight" on the evacuation, their offices said in a statement after they departed for Afghanistan.

"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," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "We were there to gather information, not to grandstand."

Moulton and Meijer are both military veterans who previously served in the Middle East journeyed to the Persian Gulf and flew into Kabul on a nearly empty plane heading to pick up Afghan allies and Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan. They left hours later on a charter flight packed with refugees.

Moulton and Meijer made no secret of their desire to push President Biden to extend the evacuation effort beyond Aug. 31, even after his decision Tuesday to stick by the deadline.

"After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won't get everyone out on time," the pair said in their statement.

Federal officials say they only learned about the visit when the lawmakers were already en route to Kabul.

Moulton and Meijer faced criticism from other government officials over the unauthorized trip.

"We can confirm that we advise against any Americans, whether elected or not, attempting to travel to Kabul right now," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday during the daily briefing. "The focus must continue to be evacuating American citizens and our Afghan partners who fought alongside us for the last twenty years, and that is best left in the hands of the Department of Defense and the State Department."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chastised the lawmakers Wednesday after issuing a statement, warning others not to travel to Afghanistan or the region."This is deadly serious," Pelosi said. "We do not want members to go. . . We don't want anyone to think this was a good idea."

In a series of tweets, Moulton said he was deeply moved by the dedication of U.S. service members stationed at the Kabul airport. "The world has truly never seen anything like what America is doing in Kabul this week -- deeply tragic and highly heroic. Fear and desperation at their worst; hope and humanity at their finest," he said. "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."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday (locale time) said that the United States has evacuated 4500 out of 6000 American citizens identified in Afghanistan. He also added that an estimated 1,500 Americans are still waiting to be evacuated from the war-torn country. (ANI)

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