After secret Kabul trip, Meijer has ‘lost complete faith’ in Biden administration honesty

After secret Kabul trip, Meijer has ‘lost complete faith’ in Biden administration honesty
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Republican Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer was at the Kabul, Afghanistan, airport on a secret, unauthorized trip along with Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton just two days before a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of civilians outside the airport’s Abbey Gate.

“That day, we were told it was less chaotic than most. We also planned our visit to be in the time when it's a little bit of a lull, during the hotter part of the day,” Meijer said in an interview with the Washington Examiner on Friday. “There have been fears and concerns about just such an attack.”

The two congressmen, both veterans of the Iraq war, tried to “minimize” their time in higher-threat areas, but they did visit the gates and checkpoints that thousands of Afghans have swarmed as they attempt to leave the country.

“Every minute that gate was opened was another minute where lives were being saved. And it was because of that selfless service,” Meijer said. “Those men who sacrificed their lives probably saved thousands in the process.”

Meijer and Moulton spent a whirlwind less than 24 hours at the airport on Tuesday — cut short after President Joe Biden’s administration leaked to the Washington Post that they were there without authorization — to see the situation for themselves and get answers about the evacuation operation. They and other congressional veterans had spent months pressing the administration on speeding up the processing of Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

PAIR OF MILITARY VETERANS IN CONGRESS MAKE SECRET, UNAUTHORIZED TRIP TO KABUL

Meijer has said that one reason he and Moulton made the trip is that they felt the Biden administration was lying to them.

"That there was no residual al Qaeda presence, that there weren't Americans who were stranded, that the Taliban wasn't obstructing entrance to the airport for American citizens — I mean, those are all rapidly disproven," Meijer said. “I've lost complete faith that this is an administration that will be forthright and honest.”

But the troops in the country executing the evacuation, he said, rose to the occasion “more than beyond our imagination.”

“We were both just in awe of how they had, under intense pressure, executed such complex operations around the clock, running themselves ragged,” Meijer said.

He said it was “heartbreaking” to see experienced professionals who “broke down” and said that they did not want to attend another ramp ceremony, a memorial for a fallen soldier whose body is loaded on to an aircraft, and then two days later seeing the deadliest day for the U.S. military in 10 years.

And the trip changed his mind on another key policy criticism — the Tuesday deadline for removing all troops from the country. Last week, Meijer warned that the deadline was creating chaos and panic at the airport.

“After talking with folks on the ground, with commanders and with others, [we] realized, you know, this was not a situation where we have flexibility,” Meijer said. “Our forces could engage the Taliban. And we obviously have great firepower. But to do so would result in the loss of untold numbers of American service members. It would shut down any possibility of continuing the evacuation of large numbers of citizens, permanent residents, and special visa holders.”

The situation is an “impossible mission,” he said.

“It is not lost on any of the individuals we spoke to how utterly bizarre, and, and just upside down it is that we are relying on the Taliban for force protection, that they are our security partners,” Meijer said. “You have folks there who spend most of their careers, you know, on kill-or-capture missions against the Taliban, who are now sitting across from them deconflicting.”

Meijer and Moulton spent a few days planning trip logistics, and when it came together, they had hours to get to the airport and into the region on a self-funded flight. But Meijer would not get into the specifics of how he used “non-U.S. resources” to get to Kabul. They had also planned to leave on a non-U.S. plane but left on a military plane after news got back to the White House and the Washington Post that they were there.

The White House, Pentagon, and congressional leaders scolded the trip. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said Wednesday that it was "deadly serious” and distributed two letters to colleagues warning them not to travel to Afghanistan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also said that member travel there “creates a bigger risk.”

“We felt it was our duty,” Meijer said. “We were able to be self-sufficient and do so in a way that was as minimally invasive, as minimally disruptive as possible. Also, having the benefit of civilian networks on the ground that were ready to assist us.”

Meijer said he has briefed one of his committees and other members about what he learned. He declined to say if he has spoken with Pelosi or McCarthy.

After leaving Kabul, Moulton and Meijer saw processing facilities for Afghans who left the country in Kuwait and Qatar. While the officials are doing good work, he said, they are “overwhelmed,” and the numbers are “far higher than they can sustain.”

But he did see a display of processing speed that “impressed” him. At the Abbey gate, where the bombing happened two days later, Meijer saw a man with a U.S. green card who had some “adorable young children.” They got into the Kabul airport, and Meijer later saw him getting ready to board a plane. The next day, he saw the family in the processing and vetting stage in Kuwait.

In response to the suicide bombing on Thursday, a wave of Republicans called for Biden and others in his administration to resign or be impeached over their handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

“I certainly understand that frustration,” Meijer said. “I'm very much cognizant, as somebody who still is receiving messages and relaying them on an hourly basis, that we are still in the midst of this emergency.”

But when it comes to those who advised Biden “on this horrifically mismanaged withdrawal,” he said, “the honorable thing is for some of those individuals to resign.”

“We need to have accountability for this catastrophically failed withdrawal,” Meijer said. “I fully support a 9/11-style commission on just our War on Terror for the past two decades. … This is a failure that has a thousand fathers.”

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He suggested that Congress hold a vote every two years on war power authorizations.

“Imagine ... how much more invested we would be in the outcome, and how much more scrutiny the military officials and the president's team would have had at every level to justify what the continuing mission was,” Meijer said. “Imagine if for every arms sale that was conducted, you know, there had to be a majority of the House and a majority of the Senate giving that approval.”

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Tags: News, Congress, Afghanistan, Interview, Joe Biden

Original Author: Emily Brooks

Original Location: After secret Kabul trip, Meijer has ‘lost complete faith’ in Biden administration honesty

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