Pentagon Orders ‘Blackout’ of Congressional Visits to Afghanistan

Taliban still on the march as Obama plans troop withdrawal

Afghan National Army soldiers fire artillery during a battle with Taliban insurgents in the Chahardara district of Kunduz province northern of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 3
Afghan National Army soldiers fire artillery during a battle with Taliban insurgents in the Chahardara district of Kunduz province northern of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 3 / AP

The Pentagon has advised lawmakers and their staffs against visiting Afghanistan this summer ahead of expected offensives by the Taliban, the Daily Beast reports.

The announcement has raised concerns that Afghanistan remains in a fragile state as President Obama plans to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of his presidency:

While the Pentagon’s ban was officially issued as "guidance," congressional aides are calling it a "blackout" that prevents lawmakers from performing their oversight duties. The U.S. has spent trillions in taxpayer dollars fighting a war in Afghanistan and training and equipping the country’s security forces. But this summer sees the beginning of the traditional fighting season, when Taliban violence flares up. And with thousands of American troops pulling out of the country, the Pentagon doesn’t have the equipment and manpower to keep visiting legislators and their staff safe, officials said.

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"What we find problematic about this is that it highlights the fact that we don’t have enough troops there to support the mission," one senior Senate aide told The Daily Beast. "Concerns regarding taking U.S. congressional staff or lawmakers to the region show that there aren’t enough resources in the region to take people there safely—and that it’s not safe even though [the Obama administration] said the war is over."

The Pentagon has issued travel restrictions during the summer for the past several years. But the fact that these restrictions are now continuing through the official end of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan highlights the fragile security situation nearly 14 years after the U.S. invaded the country to topple the Taliban and attack Al Qaeda terrorists.