India Crypto Exchange

Best Bitcoin Trading Platform

Tag Archive : pentagon

Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft as winner of disputed JEDI deal for cloud computing

Washington: The Pentagon on Friday reaffirmed Microsoft as winner of a cloud computing contract potentially worth USD 10 billion, although the start of work is delayed by a legal battle over rival Amazon’s claim that the bidding process was flawed. “The department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the government,” the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon had requested time to review how it evaluated certain technical aspects of the bids after the judge who is presiding over Amazon’s bid protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued a preliminary injunction on February 13. The judge said that Amazon’s challenge likely had merit in some respects.

The contract was awarded to Microsoft last October, prompting Amazon to cry foul.

Amazon Web Services, a market leader in providing cloud computing services, had long been considered a leading candidate to run the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI. The project will store and process vast amounts of classified data, allowing the U.S. military to improve communications with soldiers on the battlefield and use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities.

In a statement Friday, Amazon said the Pentagon’s further review was not based on the relative strengths of the two companies’ bids.

“That is exactly where we find ourselves today, with the DoD’s re-evaluation nothing more than an attempt to validate a flawed, biased, and politically corrupted decision,” Amazon said.

Amazon has asserted that the bidding was improperly influenced by President Donald Trump‘s dislike of Amazon and its chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos. Bezos owns The Washington Post, a news outlet often criticized by Trump. In its statement Friday, Amazon said its concerns about political corruption have only grown.

“We strongly disagree with the DoD’s flawed evaluation and believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence,” it said.

“The question we continue to ask ourselves is whether the president of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the Department of Defense to pursue his own personal and political ends?”

In April, a government watchdog concluded that the contracting process was in line with legal and government purchasing standards. The Defense Department inspector general found no evidence of White House interference in the contract award process. But the report said investigators could not fully review that aspect of the matter because the White House would not allow unfettered access to witnesses.

US vows to isolate Taliban if they take power by force

A U.S. peace envoy brought a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan won’t be recognized internationally after a series of cities fell to the insurgent group in stunningly quick succession.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy, traveled to Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to tell the group that there was no point in pursuing victory on the battlefield because a military takeover of the capital of Kabul would guarantee they will be global pariahs. He and others hope to persuade Taliban leaders to return to peace talks with the Afghan government as American and NATO forces finish their pullout from the country.

The insurgents have captured five out of 34 provincial capitals in the country in less than a week. They are now battling the Western-backed government for control of several others, including Lashkar Gah in Helmand, and Kandahar and Farah in provinces of the same names.

After a 20-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and shoring up Afghan forces, many are at odds to explain why the regular forces have collapsed, fleeing the battle sometimes by the hundreds. The fighting has fallen largely to small groups of elite forces and the Afghan air force.

The success of the Taliban blitz has added urgency to the need to restart the long-stalled talks that could end the fighting and move Afghanistan toward an inclusive interim administration.

The new pressure from Khalilzad follows condemnations from the international community and a similar warning from the United Nations that a Taliban government that takes power by force would not be recognized. The insurgents have so far refused to return to the negotiating table.

Khalilzad’s mission in Qatar is to “help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” according to the U.S. State Department.

He plans to “press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement, which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.

Meanwhile, the Taliban military chief released an audio message to his fighters on Tuesday, ordering them not to harm Afghan forces and government officials in territories they conquer. The recording was shared on Twitter by the Taliban spokesman in Doha, Mohammad Naim.

In the nearly five-minute audio, Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, also told the insurgents to stay out of abandoned homes of government and security officials who have fled, leave marketplaces open and protect places of business, including banks.

It was not immediately clear if Taliban fighters on the ground would heed Yaqoob’s instructions. Some civilians who have fled Taliban advances have reported that the insurgents imposed repressive restrictions on women and burned down schools.

There have also been reports of revenge killings in areas where the Taliban have gained control. The insurgents have claimed responsibility for killing a comedian in southern Kandahar, assassinating the government’s media chief Kabul and a bombing that targeted acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, killing eight and wounding more. The minister was not harmed in the attack.

The intensifying war has driven thousands of people to Kabul, and many are living in parks without adequate access to water and other necessities in the summer heat. The fighting has also increased the number of civilian casualties.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that its staff has treated more than 4,000 Afghans this month in their 15 facilities across the country, including in Helmand and Kandahar, where Afghan and U.S. airstrikes are trying to rein in the Taliban onslaught.

“We are seeing homes destroyed, medical staff and patients put at tremendous risk, and hospitals, electricity and water infrastructure damaged,” Eloi Fillion, ICRC’s head of delegation in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“The use of explosive weaponry in cities is having an indiscriminate impact on the population,” Fillion added. “Many families have no option but to flee in search of a safer place. This must stop.”

The surge in Taliban attacks began in April, when the U.S. and NATO announced they would end their military presence and bring the last of their troops home. The final date of the withdrawal is Aug. 31, but the U.S. Central Command has said the pullout is already 95% complete.

On Monday, the U.S. emphasized that the Biden administration now sees the fight as one for Afghan political and military leaders to win or lose – and showed no sign of stepping up airstrikes despite the accelerating Taliban gains.

“When we look back, it’s going to come down to leadership and what leadership was demonstrated, or not” by Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a Pentagon news conference. “It’s their country to defend now. It’s their struggle.”

Khalilzad, the architect of the peace deal the Trump administration brokered with the Taliban, was expected to hold talks with key regional players, as well as unspecified multilateral organizations to see how to restart talks and halt the Taliban onslaught.

The U.S. envoy will also likely seek a commitment from Afghanistan’s neighbors and other counties in the wider region not to recognize a Taliban government that comes to power by force. When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, three countries recognized their rule: Pakistan, Saudi Arabi and the United Arab Emirates.

Senior Afghan officials have also travelled to Doha, including Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the government’s reconciliation council. Pakistan’s national security adviser, Moeed Yusuf, on Monday called for “reinvigorated” efforts to get all sides in the conflict back to talks, describing a protracted war in Afghanistan as a “nightmare scenario” for Pakistan.

Yusuf, speaking to foreign journalists in Islamabad, refused to definitively say whether Pakistan, which holds considerable sway over the Taliban, would recognize a Taliban government installed by force, saying instead that Pakistan wants to see an “inclusive” government in Kabul.

Afghanistan chaos gut wrenching but I stand by my decision, says a defiant Joe Biden

A defiant President Joe Biden rejected blame Monday for chaotic scenes of Afghans clinging to U.S. military planes in Kabul in a desperate bid to flee their home country after the Taliban’s easy victory over an Afghan military that America and NATO allies had spent two decades trying to build.

At the White House, Biden called the anguish of trapped Afghan civilians “gut wrenching ” and conceded the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected. The U.S. rushed in troops to protect its own evacuating diplomats and others at the Kabul airport.

But the president expressed no second thoughts about his decision to stick by the U.S. commitment, formulated during the Trump administration, to end America’s longest war, no matter what.

“I stand squarely behind my decision” to finally withdraw U.S. combat forces, Biden said, while acknowledging the Afghan collapse played out far more quickly than the most pessimistic public forecasts of his administration. “This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” he said.

Despite declaring “the buck stops with me” – Biden placed almost all blame on Afghans for the shockingly rapid Taliban conquest.

His grim comments were his first in person to the world since the biggest foreign policy crisis of his still-young presidency. Emboldened by the U.S. withdrawal, Taliban fighters swept across the country last week and captured the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, sending U.S.-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.

Biden said he had warned Ghani – who was appointed Afghanistan‘s president in a U.S.-negotiated agreement – to be prepared to fight a civil war with the Taliban after U.S. forces left. “”They failed to do any of that,” he said.

Internationally, the spectacle of the Taliban takeover and the chaos of the evacuation effort was raising doubts about America’s commitments to its allies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “bitter” to watch the complete collapse in a war that Germany and other NATO partners had followed the U.S. into after the 9/11 attacks, which were plotted from Afghanistan. The humiliating scenes seemed certain to give comfort to American foes.

At home, it all sparked sharp criticism, even from members of Biden’s own political party, who implored the White House to do more to rescue fleeing Afghans, especially those who had aided the two-decade American military effort.

“We didn’t need to be seeing the scenes that we’re seeing at Kabul airport with our Afghan friends climbing aboard C-17s,” said Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat and Iraq and Afghanistan military veteran.

He said that is why he and others called for the evacuations to start months ago. “It could have been done deliberately and methodically,” Crow said. “And we think that that was a missed opportunity.”

Besides the life-and-death situation in Kabul, the timing of the crisis was unfortunate for Biden’s domestic efforts at home. It could well weaken his political standing as he works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and build congressional support for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and an even larger expansion of the social safety net.

Still, the focus at home and abroad on Monday was on Kabul’s airports, where thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the tarmac and clung to U.S. military planes deployed to fly out staffers of the U.S. Embassy, which shut down Sunday, and others.

At least seven people died in the chaos, including two who clung to the wheels of a C-17 and plunged to the tarmac as it flew away, and two others shot by U.S. forces. Americans said the men were armed but that there was no evidence that they were Taliban.

With tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and others as well as Afghans desperate to escape, Biden insisted the U.S. had done all it could to plan.

In fact, Afghan leaders had asked the U.S. not to publicly play up any advance efforts to evacuate former military translators, female activists and others most at risk from the Taliban, saying that in itself could trigger what the Afghans said could be “a crisis of confidence,” Biden said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said late Monday that the U.S., which had taken charge of air traffic control at the Kabul airport, had resumed airlifts out, after suspending them due to the morning’s stampedes onto the runways by frightened Afghans.

Kirby said U.S. forces are planning to wrap up their oversight of the evacuation by Aug. 31, also the date Biden has set for officially ending the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan.

The U.S. hopes to fly out up to 5,000 people a day once more of 6,000 U.S troops being deployed to secure the evacuation arrive, and once more transport planes can land, he said.

Biden pledged to work to also evacuate private U.S. citizens and citizens of foreign governments, as well as Afghans who formerly worked with Americans in the country, journalists, prominent women and other Afghans considered most at-risk of Taliban reprisal.

As of July, the U.S. had a visa application backlog of 18,000 former Afghan employees alone who were seeking a haven in the United State, and had been able to evacuate only a few thousand in what was meant to be a sped-up process over the last month.

Veterans groups, and non-profit groups that worked with Afghan women, appealed to Biden on Monday to keep troops at the Kabul airport at least through the end of the month, to keep the escape route out of Taliban hands.

In Video: ‘US mission was never supposed to be nation building’: Biden stands ‘squarely behind’ Afghan decision

Haitian arrested as alleged tie to assassination masterminds

The head of Haiti’s national police announced Sunday that officers arrested a Haitian man accused of flying into the country on a private jet and working with the masterminds and alleged assassins behind the killing of President Jovenel Moise.

Police Chief Leon Charles identified the suspect as Christian Emmanuel Sanon, without giving any personal information about him, though it appears he has been living in Florida. The chief also gave no information on the purported masterminds.

Charles said the alleged killers were protecting Sanon as the supposed president of Haiti, adding that officers found several items at his house, including a hat emblazoned with the logo of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people.

“We continue to make strides,” Charles said of police efforts to solve the brazen attack early Wednesday at Moise’s private home that killed the president and seriously wounded his wife, Martine Moise, who was flown to Miami and remains hospitalised.

Charles said a total of 26 Colombians are suspected in the killing of the president. Eighteen of them have been arrested, along with three Haitians. He said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.

“They are dangerous inpiduals,” he said. “I’m talking commando, specialized commando.”

The chief said police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets.

Charles said Sanon was in contact with a firm that provides security for politicians and recruited the suspects, adding that the suspect flew into Haiti with them in early June. The men’s initial mission was to protect Sanon, but they later received a new one: arrest the president, the chief said.

“The operation started from there,” he said, adding that an additional 22 suspects joined the group and that contact was made with Haitian citizens.

Charles said that after Moise was killed, one of the suspects phoned Sanon, who then got in touch with two people believed to be the intellectual authors of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police knew who they are.

The chief said Haitian authorities obtained the information from interrogations and other parts of the investigation.

It was not immediately clear if Sanon had an attorney.

Sanon has lived in Florida, in Broward County and in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast. Records show he has also lived in Kansas City, Missouri. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled “Leadership for Haiti.”

In the video, he denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt, accusing them of stripping the country of its resources, saying that “they don’t care about the country, they don’t care about the people.”

He claims Haiti has uranium, oil and other resources that have been taken by government officials. “With me in power, you are going to have to tell me: ‘What are you doing with my uranium? What are you doing with the oil that we have in the country? What are you going to do with the gold?'”

He also added: “This is a country with resources. Nine million people can’t be in poverty when we have so much resources in the country. It’s impossible. … The world has to stop doing what they are doing right now. We can’t take it anymore. We need new leadership that will change the way of life.”

Sanon has posted little on Twitter but has expressed an interest in Haitian politics. In September 2010, he tweeted: “Just completed a successful conference in Port-Au-Prince. Many people from the opposition attended.” A month later, he wrote: “Back to Haiti for an important meeting regarding the election. Pray for me for protection and wisdom.”

The announcement of Sanon’s arrest was made hours after hundreds of Haitians sought solace in prayer at early Sunday church services as a political power struggle threatened to further destabilize their fragile country.

Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders asked for calm and told people to remain strong as anxiety about the future grew, with authorities providing no answers or theories about who masterminded the killing by a group of gunmen early Wednesday at the president’s home. Martine Moise, the president’s wife, was critically injured and was transported to Miami for treatment.

“Facing this situation, we will not be discouraged… You must stay and fight for peace,” Father Edwine Sainte-Louis said during a sermon broadcast on TV that included a small picture of Moise with a banner that read: “Haiti will remember you.”

Prosecutors have requested that high-profile politicians including presidential candidate Reginald Boulos and former Haitian Senate President Youri Latortue meet officials for questioning as the investigation continues. Authorities also said they plan to interview at least two members of Moise’s security detail.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is currently leading Haiti with the help of the police and military, but he faces mounting challenges to his power.

Ariel Henry, whom Moise designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, has said he believes he is the rightful prime minister, a claim also backed by a group of legislators who are members of Moise’s Tet Kale party. That group also supports Joseph Lambert, head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, as the country’s provisional president.

Haiti, a country of more than 11 million people, currently has only 10 elected officials after it failed to hold parliamentary elections, leading Moise to rule by decree for more than a year until his death.

While the streets were calm on Sunday, government officials worry about what lies ahead and have requested US and U.N. military assistance.

“We still believe there is a path for chaos to happen,” Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said on Fox News Sunday that the Pentagon is analyzing the request to send troops to Haiti and that no decisions have been made. He said a team, largely comprising agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, were heading down to Haiti “right now” to help with the investigation of the assassination.

‘I think that’s really where are our

energies

are best applied right now, in helping them get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who’s culpable, who’s responsible and how best to hold them accountable going forward,” Kirby said.

The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990. The last UN peacekeeping mission arrived in 2004 and all military peacekeepers left the country in 2017. But a stabilization group stayed behind to train national police, help the government strengthen judicial and legal institutions and monitor human rights. That mission ended in 2019 and was replaced by a political mission headed by an American diplomat, Helen La Lime.

In addition to helping normalise the country, the UN peacekeeping force played an important role after a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people and after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. But UN troops from Nepal are widely blamed for inadvertently introducing cholera, which has afflicted over 800,000 people and killed more than 9,000 people since 2010. Some troops also have been implicated in sexual abuse, including of hungry young children.

Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and Duke University professor, said questions over Moise’s assassination could remain unanswered for a long time.

“There are so many potential players who could be behind it,” he said, adding that the political strength of Pierre, the interim prime minister, is an open question. “There is going to be some jockeying for positions of power. That is one big worry.”

In Port-au-Prince, resident Fritz Destin welcomed a priest’s sermon urging people not to be discouraged.

“The country needs a lot of prayers,” he said. “The violence makes life a little uncertain.”

Pentagon asks airlines for help moving evacuees

The Pentagon said Sunday that it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have gotten out of their country. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has activated the initial stage of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, asking for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the Department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation.

According to Kirby, those aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

They will be used to move passengers from way stations once they leave Kabul, allowing the US military to focus on the Afghanistan portion of the evacuation.

Turning from Afghanistan, the US sets focus on China

After two decades of focus on Afghanistan, the United States’ withdrawal this week allows the country to shift its concentration to the east, where superpower rival China is now the number-one priority.

In an indication of Washington’s strategic turn, Vice President Kamala Harris was in Southeast Asia last week even as the US pullout from Afghanistan moved into its turbulent final days, hoping to strengthen US allies’ pushback against the region’s giant.

Harris accused Beijing of “actions that… threaten the rules-based international order,” particularly its aggressive claims of territory in the South China Sea.

Her tour of Singapore and Vietnam was seen as an effort by the administration of President Joe Biden to reassure Asian allies, who were left somewhat disquieted by the US pullout from Kabul after the sudden fall of the Afghan government that Washington had propped up for nearly 20 years.

Ryan Hass, a foreign policy specialist at the Brookings Institution, said the debacle of the US pullout from Afghanistan will not have a lasting impact on Washington’s credibility in Asia.

“America’s standing in Asia is a function of its shared interests with its partners in balancing China’s rise and in preserving the long peace that has underpinned the region’s rapid development,” Hass said.

“None of those factors are diminished by events in Afghanistan,” he said told AFP.

The US turn to East Asia will “open up new opportunities” for the US and its partners in the region, he told AFP.

Lawmaker Adam Smith, head of the Armed Forces Committee in the House of Representatives, said that the US exit from Afghanistan is not likely to change the balance between the United States and rival superpowers Russia and China.

He rejected suggestions Tuesday that the seeming momentary display of weakness by the Americans could encourage China to invade Taiwan or Russia to attack Ukraine, for example.

“I think anyone who thinks that their [Russia’s or China’s] calculation has significantly changed because we just pulled the last 2,500 troops out of Afghanistan — I really don’t see that,” Smith said during an online Brookings conference.

“There are a lot of other issues that go into whether or not Russia and China are going to feel like they have the ability to be aggressive in those parts of the world,” he said.

Derek Grossman, a former Pentagon official and now a defense expert at the Rand Corporation think tank, said China could seek advantage in fostering good relations with the Taliban, the militant Islamist group US forces fought for 20 years before they again seized power in Afghanistan August 15.

Beijing could decide quickly to recognize the Taliban government, even as Washington and other Western governments hold off as they hope to convince Afghanistan’s new rulers to moderate their hardline policies.

“China, as a new great power in competition with the United States, probably wants to demonstrate its unique way of handling world events, which tends to be — often reflexively — the opposite of Washington’s approach,” Grossman said.

“Recognizing Taliban-run Afghanistan would contribute to the perception that it is Beijing, and no longer Washington, that is now setting the agenda and shaping the future regional order,” he said.

In Video: Taliban in Afghanistan: As US departs battlefield Kabul in haste, what lies ahead now

US to prioritise evacuations from Kabul until final hours

The US military airlift of Americans and others from Kabul will continue until the final hours of President Joe Biden‘s Aug. 31 deadline for ending the frantic evacuation from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

John Kirby, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said more than 4,400 American citizens have been evacuated thus far, an increase of about 400 from Tuesday. More than 80,000 people, mostly Afghans, have been airlifted since Aug. 14, he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to elaborate later Wednesday on details of the evacuation of Americans. The State Department has not publicly said how many Americans it believes are still hoping to leave.

Kirby said the U.S. military will preserve as much military airlift capacity at the Kabul airport as possible in the coming days. The military will “continue to evacuate needed populations all the way to the end,” he said. He added that in the final days and hours there will have to be a balance in getting out evacuees as well as U.S. troops and their equipment.

The number of U.S. troops at the airport has dropped by about 400, he said, to 5,400, but the final withdrawal has not yet begun.

Kirby said that in coming days, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will consult directly with Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command and overseer of the evacuation operation, before McKenzie moves ahead with the final withdrawal.

Biden said Tuesday that although he is sticking with his self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline for ending the evacuation, he has asked Austin and Blinken to provide him with contingency plans in the event that timeline needs to be adjusted.

2 US lawmakers’ Kabul trip prompts questions, criticism

Two members of Congress are facing criticism and questions following their surprise visit to Afghanistan this week, which perted resources from the U.S.’s chaotic withdrawal, enraged military leaders and led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to declare it not “a good idea.”

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., flew in on a charter Tuesday and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours before flying out on a military plane.

They billed their “secret” visit as an effort to conduct congressional oversight of the Biden administration’s handling of a rapidly deteriorating situation after the Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of the country.

But it stunned State Department and U.S. military personnel. They said the resources needed to protect the congressmen detracted from the evacuation effort and raised the possibility that the lawmakers’ flight out could have deprived seats to other Americans or Afghans looking to flee the country before President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal.

“We are obviously not encouraging VIP visits to a very tense, dangerous and dynamic situation at that airport and inside Kabul generally,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday, adding, “they certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day.”

The congressmen now face criticism for showboating as politicians – which they vehemently deny – while adding needless confusion to a dire situation. But they also tapped into a frustration of those who feel that standing by and doing nothing is also not an option.

Both have served in the military, with backgrounds in the region. Moulton, a Marine who has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq War, served multiple tours in Iraq. Meijer was deployed as part of the Army Reserves and later worked in Afghanistan at a nongovernmental organization providing aid. Moulton serves on the House Armed Services Committee and Meijer is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Their offices did not provide further comment Wednesday. But in a joint statement issued Tuesday night, Moulton and Meijer said they took seats that were already empty on their flight out and disputed suggestions they made the trip to “grandstand.”

“We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st deadline,” their statement read “After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation firsthand, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time.”

Back home, however, their effort received a chilly reception.

“This is deadly serious. We do not want members to go,” Pelosi said Wednesday, while warning other lawmakers against following suit. “It was not, in my view, a good idea.”

Striking a rare note of agreement, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed Pelosi, saying his message to other lawmakers who want to visit Afghanistan is “not to go.”

Members of Congress who want to take such a trip typically need permission from committee chairmen. Moulton did not consult in advance with the House Armed Services Committee, according to an aide familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it. McCarthy said Meijer also did not seek permission.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was similarly not made aware of the trip. She said their guidance to lawmakers was the same as it was to all Americans.

“This is not the time to travel to Afghanistan,” she said.

Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the trip a distraction, and advised others against it, but added, “I understand the frustration.”

Rep. Sara Jacobs, a freshman California Democrat, was less sparing, tweeting, “Taking up space in a disaster zone for your own ego helps no one.”

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

The U.S. military found out about the visit as the legislators’ aircraft was en route to Kabul, according to the officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations.

One senior U.S. official said the administration saw the visit as manifestly unhelpful, and several other officials said it was viewed as a distraction for troops and commanders at the airport who are waging a race against time to evacuate thousands of Americans, at-risk Afghans and others.

The Pentagon has repeatedly expressed concerns about security threats in Kabul, including by the Islamic State group. When members of Congress have routinely gone to war zones over the past two decades, their visits are typically long planned and coordinated with officials on the ground in order to ensure their safety.

“The secretary, I think, would have appreciated the opportunity to have had a conversation before the visit took place,” said Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.