Meijer on CNN: 'Impossible to say' Afghanistan war was worth it

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Reps. Peter Meijer and Seth Moulton once again defended their controversial trip to Kabul last week and condemned what they described in an interview with CNN Sunday morning as "some of the worst of American leadership" they had ever seen in handling the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Their statements came just as reports surfaced of another explosion near the Hamid Karzai International Airport this week, following a blast on Thursday that left at least 60 Afghans and 13 US troops dead a few days after the congressmen's 12-hour stint in Kabul. 

This combination of photos released by the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton/U.S. Department of Defense shows twelve service members killed in the Kabul airport bombing in Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2021. Top Row, from left: Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif., Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif., Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska, and Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Bottom Row, from left: Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo., Navy Corpsman, Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee. Not pictured is Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Roseville, Calif., was also killed.

Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, and Moulton, D-Mass., served in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, respectively, and both spent time in Afghanistan as civilians.

Two officials familiar with the flight said that State Department, Defense Department and White House officials were furious about the their trip because it was done without coordination with diplomats or military commanders directing the evacuation. 

But Meijer says their experiences, both military and civilian, meant they were "uniquely situated to be able to get in, get out, be as quiet as possible, but also take away as much information as possible."

They pair flew on a charter aircraft and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours, officials said. The two House members were flying out of Kabul on another charter aircraft, prompting officials to complain that they were taking seats that could have gone to other Americans or Afghans fleeing the country.

Before the trip, both congressmen supported extending the the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline, but said their time there made them reconsider. 

For Meijer, this was because of the "absurd scenario" in which the US troops are "wholly dependent on the cooperation of the Taliban."

"If it came down to an urban combat scenario, you are talking about a multiplied casualty count, you are talking about grave civilian harm," he added, saying that the U.S. would not be able to get Afghan allies and American citizens who are trapped in Afghanistan out. 

The Massachusetts democrat agreed, adding that the only way he could imagine the situation going worse is "if it had happened under Trump with the May 1 deadline (...) And he probably wouldn't have had any effort to evacuate our (Afghan) allies because he's so anti-immigrant."

"But the point is that this has been the failure of multiple administrations," said Moulton. 

Michigan's 3rd District Congressional Republican candidate Peter Meijer speaks at a campaign rally, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

On Friday, Meijer told The News that while he thinks the present focus should be on getting as many people as possible out of Afghanistan and to safety, "there will be a time for accountability soon," and did not rule out Republican calls for impeaching President Joe Biden over his administration's handling of the situation. 

The 20-year war in Afghanistan reportedly cost the United States over $2 trillion and resulted in the deaths of, according to some estimates, over 200,000 Afghans, many of them civilians, and thousands of US service members and private contractors.

When asked if he thought the war was worth the cost, Meijer said "I think it's impossible to sit here today and say 'yes', knowing what we know, knowing what we saw."

"This is a failure upon failure."