A couple of days ago I described "private" efforts by former US Special Forces personnel and others to rescue their former colleagues, people they'd trained and trusted, out of Afghanistan with their families before the Taliban could wreak revenge. Obviously, I couldn't provide many details, because this sort of work is highly sensitive, and any exposure of the way things are working might invite lethal retaliation.
However, a few news reports are surfacing that provide more details of what's being done. I can't speak to the accuracy of all of them, but I thought you might be interested to read them for yourself.
In the panopticon that is today's internet age, peculiarities stand out. One such surprise was seeing a gleaming-white, but quite geriatric 727-200 appear on Kabul's ragged skyline, landing at the under siege airport amongst the constant flow of C-17s, A400Ms, C-130s, a few modern airliners, and other usual suspects.
. . .
It turns out that Niel Steyl, the Captain of a four-decade-old 727-200 that flies for Safe Air Company, an airline and charter outfit based in Kenya, answered an emergency call from the U.S. State Department for immediate airlift assistance after a complex terrorist attack, which started with a suicide bombing, killed 13 U.S. troops, as well as at least 170 Afghans, on August 26th.
At the time, Steyl, his crew, and their 727, which carries the Kenyan registration number 5Y-IRE and is aptly nicknamed Irene, were forward based out of neighboring Kulob, Tajikistan.
. . .
Their cargo for the dangerous sortie would be hundreds of ex-Afghan special operations forces that were being lodged in a warehouse within the confines of the airport. These troops had worked with the Americans for years and they would be top Taliban targets, but finding room on military airlifters leaving the country became a huge challenge. Hence the mercy flights by Irene.
It only took just 40 minutes to load up 308 people onto the cargo-configured 727, which would normally carry between a half and a third of that load during the type's career as an airliner.
There's more at the link. It's an interesting read. (I told you at least one former South African pilot was involved, didn't I? I've since learned he's not the only one.)
The Pineapple Express, a network of special operations veterans and contacts on the ground who came together to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies, is moving to the next phase of their operations — getting the hundreds of Americans left behind in Afghanistan to safety.
“We’re having to move from what was a very network-centric starfish kind of thing to way more of a deliberate recovery. That focuses on two things, moving people to safety, getting them immediately out of harm’s way from retribution and targeting and then ultimately some of them to freedom,” said Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret who co-founded the Pineapple Express.
“Categorically, we’re looking at American citizens that are still a couple of hundred, at least, that are still in country,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News on Tuesday.
He said they are also looking to aid Afghan partner forces, at-risk Afghans, innovators in democracy and the arts, women, prosecutors, judges, and young girls who have participated in non-profit art endeavors.
“Nobody else is coming,” he said.
Mann did not detail exactly what those plans were, but said he and his teammates would rely on networks in place for “years and years.”
“Green Berets are good at working by, with, and through indigenous populations and cultures, and we don’t have to be on the ground to get things done, you know, and, and that’s, that’s the bottom line,” he said.
The Pineapple Express helped to get about 700 Americans and Afghans inside the Kabul airport in three days, using a “shepherd concept.” Mann said former special operators used their contacts in and outside of Afghanistan to get people inside.
Again, more at the link. Go read about their "encrypted chat room" and how everything was coordinated online. (I understand those 700-odd evacuees were the ones who flew out on that old 727.)
Peterson is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and a board member with Ark Salus, “a group of private American citizens and former U.S. Special Operations advisors with unique expertise,” driven by a “moral obligation to assist and protect the Afghans who assisted and protected” them during the War in Afghanistan.
“Myself and two others developed it about three weeks ago prior to the fall of Kabul,” Peterson said, explaining the origins of the Ark Salus organization.
“Our goal was to evacuate the families of the commandos,” Peterson continued, “so the commandos could stay and fight and stand for Kabul.” Unfortunately, Kabul fell to the Taliban “a lot quicker than anticipated,” so the mission of the organization changed from getting the families of the commandos to safety to getting both the commandos and their families to safety.
. . .
Peterson then explained the experience he and his colleague Jariko Denman experienced when they arrived in Afghanistan during the final weeks of the U.S. withdrawal ... “Unfortunately, everything was destroyed,” Peterson said. “It was absolute destruction. I’ve done so many things in my life and been so many different places. It just took me, it took my breath away, to be honest with you.”
. . .
According to Peterson, his team has been able to rescue around 200 to 300 people, all people who are exposed and on the Taliban’s enemy list.
“All of my commandos, all my commandos and all my pilots and flight engineers. That’s what I’m doing this for, was for those guys specifically, and then it just kind of turned into a massive evacuation of anybody that we could grab,” Peterson said.
Asked whether an end is in sight for this mission, Peterson said that they “will keep going as long as we can for as many as we can.”
“There’s still 500 American citizens in Kabul right now. American citizens that cannot get out and our government left them behind. Now, multiply that with all of the Afghans that helped us for the last 20 years that fought side-by-side with me,” Peterson explained. “Saved my life numerous times, countless times, and I owe them this and I’m talking to them daily, hourly, by the minute, from their command structure, all the way down to their lowest guy, trying to come for them.”
“They know that death is coming for them,” Peterson added. “They know it’s the very next day, or the hour. They know their children, their wives are going to be burned alive.”
These aren't the only groups doing similar work in Afghanistan. I'm aware of at least three more - but for obvious reasons, since their information is not in the public domain, I can't talk about them in any detail. (I will note, in passing, that a large number of Afghan Air Force aircraft were flown out by escaping pilots and their families to air bases in neighboring countries, where they've been impounded. However, the count of aircraft impounded appears to be shrinking . . . at least four Afghan Mil Mi-17 helicopters that were around last week aren't around today. [For a photograph, see here.] No prizes for guessing where those
missing "borrowed" aircraft are, or what they're doing. Afghan crews are trained to fly and maintain them, and spares are lying around all over the country, which makes them a logical choice over the more advanced American-supplied UH-60's. They'll be returned [so I'm told] when they're no longer needed. A handful of hundred-dollar bills can be a useful lubricant, in certain situations . . . )
I've been informed that in the past five days, since US forces abandoned Kabul Airport, at least 1,000 individuals have been assisted to reach and cross the borders of various "Stans" surrounding Afghanistan, to temporary safety and security. At least as many again are en route to those borders, with thousands more to be gathered up if and when possible. There have been a number of short, sharp firefights with Taliban patrols in the process. It's not just a jaunt in the wilderness; it's a lethally dangerous exfiltration exercise. So far, so good for most of them.
Measures are being taken to find long-term homes for the evacuees in other countries. One in particular, in the Persian Gulf area, has a long tradition of hiring mercenaries for its armed forces, and is apparently very interested in former Afghan Special Forces troops who come "guaranteed", for want of a better word, by former US Special Forces personnel with whom they've trained in the past. One might call it a match made in heaven, if one were fanciful . . . which, of course, I'm not. Perish the thought!
All those I know who are involved have voiced a similar warning: there are many fraudsters trying to "fund-raise" for similar efforts who are doing nothing at all to help. They cited a number of examples, including more than one group that claimed to have rescued the crated dogs seen in news photographs at Kabul Airport, and were asking for funds to get them out of the country. Needless to say, those claims were false. The groups with whom I have personal contact are funding their own operations through donations from some rather wealthy individuals, plus a certain lack of scruple in "liberating" from the Taliban dollars, gold jewelry and other valuables left behind by Afghan warlords and others as they fled. I'm glad it's being put to what I consider good use.