Aug 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Twenty days to set 20 years

Rep. Peter Meijer is seen walking down the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Peter Meijer. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The next 20 years in Afghanistan will be dictated by what happens during the next 20 days, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) tells Axios.

Why it matters: The Iraq war veteran visited Kabul exactly a week before the United States' impending withdrawal. "The best-case scenario is the country becomes like Iraq today; the worst-case scenario is it becomes like Syria today. I don't think we know right now what path it's going to take."

  • "The worst thing we could do is to, after this withdrawal, forget about this region and not fulfill our obligation," Meijer said during an interview Friday night.
  • The U.S. also must remain engaged diplomatically both for developmental and security reasons.
  • The worst-case scenario, the freshman Republican said, would be allowing the Taliban to be riven by infighting and lose control of the country — triggering a civil war.

Between the lines: Meijer blames the State and Defense departments for much of the chaotic withdrawal.

  • "We've all seen those timeline estimates — back in July — that the Afghan government will last six to nine months after withdrawal," he said. "In early August, it became 30 to 90 days after Aug. 31. We didn't even make it to Aug. 15."
  • "It is shameful that our men and women who are on the ground have been put in this position. And it's shameful that the administration waited so long to start these ... evacuations."

Meijer also blamed Congress for not being as involved as it should have been. He said he believes the House and Senate must reclaim war powers.

  • "So much of this — and this goes across administrations — comes down to how Congress has stepped back from its role and basically left this solely in the hands of the president," he said.
  • "It’s not enough for Congress to just be sitting in the cheap seats, casting critical words here and there."

In addition, Meijer said he finds the level of information Congress is receiving on Afghanistan "insulting."

  • "In its simplicity, it's often lagged behind what anyone with a Twitter account and an interest will learn."
  • "I felt that being dependent on senior leaders at DoD, State and in the White House to be presenting what was going on left me unprepared to execute and offer the decision-making that is expected of someone in my role."
  • He said the need for more oversight is why he and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) decided to take their secret trip to Afghanistan last Tuesday.

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