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'I'm not Rambo': GOP congressman defends attempted Afghanistan trip

Rep. Markwayne Mullin said he was only trying to help Americans who were stuck in Afghanistan, and "would do it again tomorrow."
Image: Markwayne Mullin
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, on Sept. 16, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

A Republican congressman from Oklahoma who tried to fly into Afghanistan defended his actions Friday in an interview with Fox News, saying he was trying to help stranded Americans and "wasn't trying to go over there and be a cowboy."

"I'm not Rambo. I never pretended to be Rambo," Rep. Markwayne Mullin told Fox's Bret Baier of his mysterious international trip, which he acknowledged included an argument with the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan.

The Washington Post first reported on Mullin's efforts to get into Afghanistan earlier this week — and cited two anonymous U.S. officials who said Mullin had threatened the diplomat, John Mark Pommersheim, for not assisting in getting him into Tajikistan with a large sum of money.

"The ambassador was not helpful at all," Mullin told Baier. He did not say he'd threatened the ambassador, but did admit to telling him he needed to bring in a large amount of cash in order to get people through checkpoints in Afghanistan.

"He says 'I can't assist you. I can't help you. I was told not to,'" Mullin said.

Word of Mullin's trip came days after Reps. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., were the subject of bipartisan criticism for making an undisclosed trip to Afghanistan to observe the U.S. military’s frenzied evacuation efforts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had urged members not to try to follow in their footsteps, because such trips would "unnecessarily divert needed resources."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., struck a similar note, saying it "creates a greater risk." "I think you take military away from doing their job of getting as many Americans out we can," he said.

Mullin said he was approached in about making the trip by U.S. military veterans who wanted help getting an interpreter out, and eventually asked if he'd "sponsor" a flight out of the airport in Kabul. "That's the only way they could get in," Mullin said, so he agreed to make the trip. Baier reported that Mullin paid for the trip himself "with help from private contributions."

"We were trying to do the job President Biden wouldn't do," Mullin said.

Mullin did not say where his flight departed from or when, but they were turned away while on approach to Kabul. "We circled the airport probably for an hour," he said. Mullin added he didn't know who turned the flight away "but I think it was 100 percent directed from the State Department."

It's unclear when he returned to the United States.

Asked if he had any regrets about his actions, Mullin said, "Absolutely not. I would do it again."

"Everybody has a different way of helping," he said.