But, Pelosi said, officials at the Departments of State and Defense had urged lawmakers not to travel to the highly volatile region “during this time of danger.”
“Member travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding countries would unnecessarily divert needed resources from the priority mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating America and Afghans at risk from Afghanistan,” Pelosi said in the letter Tuesday evening.
Meijer and Moulton said their trip had been “to gather information, not to grandstand.“
Addressing concerns about their use of resources, the two said they “left on a plane with empty seats, seated in crew-only seats to ensure that nobody who needed a seat would lose one because of our presence.“
Moulton spokesperson Tim Biba said the two lawmakers paid “out of pocket” for their own flights to the United Arab Emirates and then took military flights to and from Kabul.
The trips comes as White House, military and diplomatic officials are undertaking a massive, dangerous airlift campaign in the country that saw the sudden collapse of its U.S.-backed government just last week. The situation has been quickly deteriorating on the ground as the Taliban tighten their grip on the country.
Moulton and Meijer said they had gone into their trip advocating to extend the end-of-month deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but after their trip, they believed “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, even by September 11.”
“Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban,” they said.
Asked about the note, Pelosi later told reporters a “large number” of members had asked about trips.
The trip was first reported by The Associated Press.
Both Moulton and Meijer voted by proxy on Tuesday. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) proxy-voted for Moulton, and Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) voted for Meijer.
Moulton has been one of the most critical members of Biden’s own party to speak out.
“To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest. Worse, it was avoidable,” Moulton, a Marine who served four tours in Iraq, said in a statement last week.
Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.