As the last US military plane took off from Kabul just after midnight on Tuesday, it left behind around 60,000 Afghan allies and hundreds of US citizens who had not been able to escape in time – for many a dismal end and dishonorable in the 20th year of conflict.
For retired LTC Scott Mann, who has flown several missions in Afghanistan, this was not something he was prepared to live with. “We instinctively know, you know, in our guts, in our solar plexus, that we don’t leave our friends. We are leaving no one behind and we are keeping our promises, ”he said.
Mann, along with other Afghan veterans, is launching Operation Recovery, a major mission to continue the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan partners and their families who have been left behind.
In an interview with The independent: he said: “We are about to embark on a private recovery operation of Western citizens as well as Afghan allies to whom we have made a pledge. “
“If you’re a citizen and you’re under duress, you know we’ll find you eventually.” Stay low, stay safe, be smart, and do whatever you can to survive. Ditto with our Afghan partners. We do everything we can to find you, reach you and help you reach safety.
Mr. Mann explained that the United States made a promise to its partners: “If it was too hot or too dangerous because of their sacrifice for their country and for us, the State Department would provide them with a visa. special immigration to keep their families safe. “
But as the August 31 withdrawal deadline approached, hands were torn from Washington to London when it became increasingly clear that in thousands of cases that promise was not going to be kept.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mann, along with an ad hoc group of retired Green Berets, SEALs, Marines and other volunteers, were busy leading a monumental effort to get as many people out as possible. at risk, as part of an operation called “Pineapple Express”.
The group, working remotely, used an encrypted application on their cell phones to take advantage of field networks and trusting relationships that, as Mann described, “last for 20 years in depth.”
Members of the group coordinated the passage of those they were helping through the town, which was dotted with Taliban checkpoints, to Kabul airport. Mr Mann estimates that up to 700 people were brought to safety in three days, often during extremely arduous journeys.
“There were secret passages between the Taliban checkpoint and the airfield itself. There were holes in the fence. You had to move through the sewer canals and things like that.
Families have suffered beatings and other horrors on their dangerous journeys, and many have been lost along the way.
Mr Mann, a veteran who spent 23 years in the United States Army, including 18 as a Green Beret, said: “It was the most horrible and difficult thing I have ever seen.”
Today, Mann is calling on President Biden to order embassies to be ready to receive American and British citizens as well as Afghan allies who have been granted visas.
“You gave them the requests, you approved and now they are coming in and the staff at your embassy are therefore ready to deal with them. It is the right thing to do and to do otherwise is a moral travesty. he said.
He added: “We need a presidential conclusion in Congress that covert activities must continue in Afghanistan with the Defense Ministry and other agencies, with us, with the Pineapple Express and other voluntary organizations. , so that we can responsibly convey the recovery effort that were making. It would go a long way to righting all the strategic and political wrongs that have been done here. “
As a veteran, his motivation for the mission is clear. “To abandon our American citizens and our Afghan allies behind the lines of the Taliban – is to crumble into the moral wound of that, not only individually, but as a collective nation. It’s a complete loss of our story. And our soldiers and veterans understand that. In fact, I think most Americans understand this.
Mr Mann added that he had a direct message for President Biden.
“We are going to move these people, they are coming out of this country, we are not asking for permission. We keep our promise as veterans.
The Independent Gt