House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led an unannounced congressional visit to Afghanistan over the weekend, Pelosi’s office said Sunday evening.
The secret trip was made as Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Jordan, where her office says they discussed Middle East peace and Syria with members of the country’s royal family.
“This evening, our bipartisan delegation was honored to meet with His Majesty King Abdullah II, Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and senior Jordanian officials,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “We expressed our continued appreciation for the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Jordan and engaged in a constructive dialogue on regional stability, counterterrorism, security cooperation, Middle East peace, economic development and other shared challenges,” she said.
The delegation — consisting of eight Democrats and one Republican — then met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, other senior Afghanistan government officials, civil society members and top United States military commanders and diplomats. The group also met with United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who visited the country at the same time for the first time during his current position. “Our delegation received briefings from Ambassador John Bass and other top diplomats on reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, which has been responsible for violent attacks in Afghanistan. We also heard more about the still-pending status of results from the Afghanistan presidential election in September, which we all hope will be available soon,” Pelosi said in a statement Sunday night,
“Meeting with and hearing directly from our troops and diplomats on the ground is essential for Congress to conduct effective oversight of our mission in Afghanistan. We will return to Washington strengthened with the facts and the first-hand knowledge we have gathered at this critical time for our nation’s Afghanistan policy and inspired by the courage of our servicemembers and diplomats on the front lines,” she added.
The delegation discussed security, governing and economic development during the visit, focusing on reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, among other things. “Our delegation emphasized the central importance of combating the corruption which endangers security and undermines the Afghan people’s ability to achieve a stable and prosperous future,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We underscored that the women of Afghanistan must be at the table for reconciliation talks.”
The nine-member congressional delegation included House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson and Republican Representative Mac Thornberry, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee who has announced he will not seek reelection. Neither country released details of the talks until the congressional delegation left for the United States Sunday morning. The trip came as a five-day cease-fire in Syria was struggling to take hold entering its third day.
Pelosi had earlier called the cease-fire deal “a sham” that gave a pass to Turkey’s military at the expense of the Kurds, an essential ally to the recent fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
Pelosi has been extremely critical of Trump’s move in Syria, which was greeted with dismay by governments throughout the region. Israeli security experts called it a betrayal of the Kurds, and many saw Pelosi’s sudden appearance in Amman as a direct criticism of the president.
Sources: CNN 10/20/19; CNN 10/20/19 TWP 10/20/19