Oklahoma congressman threatened embassy staff as he tried to enter Afghanistan, US officials say

The appeal for the US ambassador to Tajikistan arrived on Monday. Online, said two U.S. officials, Representative Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., With an unusual and urgent request: He needed help transporting a huge amount of cash into the country, saying he was on his way to the country. in neighboring Afghanistan to help. five US citizens, a woman and her four children, stranded in the country. They planned to hire a helicopter for the effort.

Mullin told the embassy he plans to travel from Tbilisi, Georgia to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, in the next few hours and needs the help of the top diplomat, the two close US officials say. of the incident, who requested anonymity to disclose private conversations. on a sensitive subject.

The answer was no. Embassy officials told Mullin they couldn’t help him bypass Tajikistan’s laws on cash limits as he traveled to one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

Mullin was outraged by the response, officials said – threatening U.S. Ambassador John Mark Pommersheim and embassy staff and demanding to know the names of staff members with whom he was speaking.

The episode marked Mullin’s second attempt to travel to Afghanistan in as many weeks for an unauthorized evacuation effort despite the perilous security environment. Last week, Mullin visited Greece and asked the Defense Ministry for permission to travel to Kabul. The Pentagon rejected Mullin’s request, an administration official said.

Mullin’s behavior has alarmed senior US officials who say he has made extraordinary efforts to defy US warnings. The attempt follows another unauthorized trip to Afghanistan by Representatives Seth Moulton, D-Mass., And Peter Meijer, R-Mich., Last week, which Pentagon and State Department officials criticized as a public relations stunt that squeezed government resources at a national conference. -security crisis.

On Tuesday evening, U.S. officials said they were unsure of Mullin’s exact location. Mullin’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“To say this is extremely dangerous is an understatement,” said a State Department official, requesting anonymity to discuss the sensitive situation.

More coverage of Afghanistan

The remaining US troops in Afghanistan left on Monday, ending America’s longest war. The US military has helped evacuate more than 120,000 people, including US citizens, allies and Afghans at risk. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Monday that there were fewer than 200 U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan. The department has suspended embassy operations and moved its mission to Qatar, where diplomats are trying to find ways for at-risk Americans and Afghans remaining in the country to leave.

The State Department reissued a Level 4 travel advisory for the country on Monday urging Americans not to travel “due to civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, terrorism, kidnappings and COVID-19 ”.

The State Department declined to comment on Mullin’s trip or interactions with the embassy. The White House declined to comment on Mullin, but referred to comments by Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week urging Americans not to visit Afghanistan.

Mullin, 44, grew up in Stilwell, Oklahoma, where he was an outstanding wrestler and earned a scholarship to Missouri Valley College. Injuries derailed his athletic career, and at the age of 20 he took over his father’s plumbing business. He was also briefly a professional mixed martial arts fighter, and after being elected to Congress in 2012, he became known on the Hill for leading intense training courses. A member of the conservative Republican study committee, Mullin voted against the certification of the 2020 election results.

Unlike Moulton and Meijer, Mullin did not serve in the United States Army. He strongly criticized the exit of the Biden administration from Afghanistan.

“It is a sad day for our country,” Mullin said in a statement Monday night. “The Americans were stranded in Afghanistan by the Biden administration and must now defend themselves against the terrorists invading the country. One of the mottos of our soldiers is “leave no man behind”. But today, that’s exactly what President Biden did.

Mullin’s repeated attempts to enter Afghanistan follow multiple efforts by the Biden administration to dissuade members of Congress from visiting the country after Moulton and Meijer’s unauthorized trip last week. The two members, who organized their own transport to the country, said they wanted to oversee evacuation efforts at the airport. They eventually left on a flight used to evacuate Americans and Afghans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Has issued several warnings against lawmakers trying to get there.

“We don’t want anyone to think it was a good idea and that they should try to do the same,” she said last week.

Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Agreed, “I don’t think it’s smart for others to go there,” he said last week. “You are putting yourself – not just yourself, but you are putting the Americans – in danger, if the military is to protect you, which they will.”

McCarthy fell silent and walked away on Tuesday after being asked if he had spoken to Mullin or if he knew where the Oklahoman was.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post contributed to this report.