Pentagon scolds Meijer, Moulton for Kabul airport visit

Although Meijer and Moulton “got a chance to talk to commanders … [and] to talk to troops” while on the airfield, Kirby indicated the lawmakers’ presence was disruptive and unnecessary as the Pentagon seeks to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul in the few days remaining before President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

“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 said. “I mean, there was certainly a pull-off of the kinds of missions we were trying to do to be able to accommodate that visit.”

Meijer and Moulton “certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day,” Kirby added, although he was unable to say with certainty whether the lawmakers also occupied seats on departing U.S. military aircraft that could have been filled with evacuees.

“I honestly don’t know what the seat capacity was on that aircraft,” Kirby said. “But they are out of the country now.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) avoided direct criticism of the lawmakers Wednesday, noting that both Meijer and Moulton are veterans who were irritated by the inadequate level of transparency they were receiving from the administration about the situation on the ground. Still, he advised other members of Congress not to follow their lead.

“I don’t think it was right that they went, but I understand their frustration of why they would want to go, by the lack of answers they were getting,” McCarthy told reporters. “So yes, they made a decision to try to do something on their own.”

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.