- Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle denounced a "secret" Kabul trip by two members of Congress.
- Reps. Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer traveled to Afghanistan to push President Biden to extend the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline.
- But several US officials and lawmakers criticized them for the informational trip, citing the potential risks.
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Two members of Congress who went to Kabul after the Taliban takeover faced bipartisan criticism over their "secret" informational trip.
Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, chartered a direct flight to Afghanistan in an effort to push President Joe Biden to extend the August 31 deadline to evacuate Americans and others who helped the US.
"We conducted this trip in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimize the risk and disruption to people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not grandstand," the lawmakers, who are both veterans, said in a statement Tuesday.
"Washington should be ashamed of the position we put our service members in, but they represent the best in America," they added.
In the statement, Moulton and Meijer said, "after talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation" in Kabul, he believes that it likely won't be feasible to complete evacuations by the deadline set by the White House.
"Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban," the lawmakers said.
Moulton and Meijer's trip drew backlash from both sides of the aisle on Wednesday, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
"This is deadly serious," Pelosi said. "There's a real concern about members being in the region."
In a letter sent Tuesday night, Pelosi asked lawmakers not to travel to Afghanistan and warned them that such trips could "unnecessarily divert needed resources from the priority mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating Americans and Afghans at risk from Afghanistan."
House GOP leader McCarthy also said he understands the initiative of the two lawmakers but believes the trip could have "put people in jeopardy."
"I explained to them that I don't think they should," he said during a press conference. "I think it creates a greater risk. You've got enough Americans over there that could be held hostage. They'd make a point out of a member of Congress. I think you take military away from doing their job of getting as many Americans out we can."
Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told MSNBC on Wednesday that he thought the trip was "a pretty irresponsible thing for these two members to do."
"The bottom line is we are just trying to secure our troops and soldiers, we're trying to get as many people out as possible, and the only thing that I thought about when I heard this is how many Afghan women and children were not able to be evacuated yesterday because they had to pull Marines off the line or out of rest to provide security for VIPs?" Crow said. "It shouldn't have happened."
GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher told Fox News that he thought the trip was a "publicity stunt."
"As for members going to Afghanistan on their own, I think it's a bad idea," he said. "I think it's a publicity stunt, and I think it actually is counterproductive to the effort as getting as many people out as possible."
Rep. Sara Jacobs, a California Democrat serving on the House Armed Services Committee, also denounced the trip on Twitter.
"Whether it is Haiti or Afghanistan, taking up space in a disaster zone for your own ego helps no one," she tweeted.