‘We Have to Try’: Lawmakers Rush to Assist in Afghanistan Evacuations.

Frustrated with the Biden administration’s evacuation plans and inundated with requests for help, members of Congress in both parties have thrown themselves into urgent extraction efforts.

By Luke Broadwater and Catie Edmondson

WASHINGTON — Consumed with trying to help dozens of Afghans escape their country as U.S. troops prepared to withdraw, aides to Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, shifted their work schedules to Afghanistan’s time zone, coming in after midnight so they could talk evacuees through Taliban checkpoints.

Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, and her staff began what she called “a tense, 10-day odyssey” involving two nations’ militaries and several nongovernmental organizations to help evacuate 114 Afghans from Kabul.

Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia, called a former military officer working for a private company as part of a frantic effort to try to extract two orphans lost in a crowd at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Flooded with thousands of urgent requests from Americans and Afghans in the weeks since Kabul fell to the Taliban, dozens of members of Congress have become deeply involved in helping to arrange evacuations.

According to interviews with a dozen lawmakers and aides who participated, they have spent sleepless nights fielding panicked calls, navigated what they described as infuriating bureaucratic hurdles and braced for the agony of informing families that there was little chance that they would be rescued.

The stories, from both Democrats and Republicans, help explain the intensity of the bipartisan anger at the Biden administration for the way in which it planned for evacuations and its insistence on holding to the president’s Aug. 31 withdrawal date.

More than 123,000 people, most of them Afghans, have been evacuated since the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15, administration officials said. But thousands more will be left behind. The last U.S. military plane left Afghanistan on Monday, formally bringing an end to America’s longest war.

Members of Congress were so aggressive in trying to secure the rescue of stranded Afghans that they “overwhelmed” the American task force in Kabul orchestrating high-priority evacuations, said Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, who traveled to Afghanistan on a secret trip last week.

But in many cases, lawmakers gave up on the administration-led operation weeks ago, turning instead to their own connections to foreign officials, private organizations and individuals navigating private charter flights in and out of Afghanistan.

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