The White House chided two House lawmakers who secretly traveled to Afghanistan to see the conditions on the ground in Kabul, saying Americans should not be traveling to the country amid evacuation efforts.
“Our guidance continues to be to all American citizens, including elected officials, this is not the time to travel to Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
“Our focus, our objectives, our resources, need to be laser-focused on evacuating Afghan partners, evacuating American citizens, and that’s best done in the hands of the Department of Defense and State Department professionals who are on the ground,” she added.
Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), who are both military veterans, traveled to Afghanistan in an effort to urge President Biden to extend his Aug. 31 deadline to pull out U.S. forces.
Psaki said the White House was “not aware when they were en route.”
Moulton and Meijer said after the visit late Tuesday that “it is obvious” everyone won’t be out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, late alone the end of August.
“I would say first that we're on track to have the largest U.S. airlift in history, and I think that speaks for itself,” Psaki said when asked about the lawmakers' criticism about the withdrawal deadline.
When asked if the White House was aware of any other members planning to go to Afghanistan, the Biden aide said she did not have any information.
Pentagon officials were not aware in advance of the two lawmakers’ trip to Afghanistan.
The visit “took time away from what [U.S. military forces] had been planning to do that day” in order to provide protections for the lawmakers, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was critical of the trip on Wednesday and said Moulton and Meijer “have to make their own case as to why they went” but said trips are “deadly serious” given circumstances on the ground in Kabul.
“It was not, in my view, a good idea,” Pelosi said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has also said that he doesn’t think it’s right that the members went but said he was sympathetic to their intention.
“They're both veterans. They're both frustrated,” he said.