It’s been four months since the United States left Afghanistan, leaving behind thousands of allies who worked side-by-side with the American military for 20 years.
While the administration boasts it evacuated over 120,000 Afghans—a majority were not Afghan interpreters or their families, officials say. The Biden administration has pledged to help vulnerable Afghans escape, but some lawmakers and veterans say the government has no plans to rescue perhaps the most critical ally: Afghan commandos. A group built from scratch by U.S. Special Operations Forces.
An U.S. soldier plays with recently evacuated Afghan children. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Those that served alongside them say the Afghan commandos did the lion’s share of the fighting and endured horrific casualties all the way until the final U.S. evacuation flight departed.
U.S. officials say over 20,000 Afghan commandos have been abandoned.
“The Taliban are hunting them down,” Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla, the first Green Beret elected to Congress, said in an interview with Fox News.
“The administration just wants this to go away. They just want to turn the page. It’s one of the most heartless things I’ve ever encountered,” he added.
Critics of the administration think nobody has been held accountable for leaving Afghanistan. At one point last summer, the plan was to leave 650 American troops at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and maintain a diplomatic presence.
Taliban fighters stand guard next to a Taliban flag during a gathering where Afghan Hazara elders pledged their support to the country’s new Taliban rulers, in Kabul on November 25, 2021. (AREF KARIMI/AFP via Getty Images)
Today, the embassy is abandoned. The Taliban control Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years.
“I think a lot of people should have been fired over the handling of Afghanistan and not just in this administration,” said Scott Mann, a former Green Beret and veteran of the Afghan war who founded Task Force Pineapple in order to rescue those left behind.
Task Force Pineapple rescued an estimated 1,000 Afghans during the fall of Kabul, helping Afghan allies escape on U.S. Air Force transport planes and through other means. Today, Mann estimates that 6,000 Afghan commandos and their families are being kept alive thanks to the tireless effort of veterans and through private donations.
Mann said 20 babies have been born in safe houses funded by Task Force Pineapple.
“When you build a partner force, invest in it, and wholesale abandon them—you have created a national security risk,” Mann says because he thinks potential allies will think twice about helping the United States in the future.
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Last month, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Waltz sent a letter to President Biden’s defense secretary and top diplomat demanding the Afghan commandos be given Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status, which they currently do not have.
“Their plight deserves urgent attention as they cannot safely return home,” the letter says, signed along with a group of 11 bi-partisan lawmakers.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House on August 16, 2021 in Washington,DC. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Outside the Department of Homeland Security in the nation’s capital Wednesday, in freezing temperatures, dozens of Afghans demanded more attention be given to the plight of the Afghan commandos by the Biden administration.
“There are videos coming out now on social media that the Taliban are rounding up people not for working with American forces or foreign forces, but for having a picture with a soldier from the national army,” said one Afghan who could not be immediately identified.
Mann predicted the U.S. military will one day have to return to Afghanistan to fight terrorist groups such as ISIS, but the job will be much more difficult for the next wave of Americans.
“They’re going to be facing potentially 25,000 commandos, who have had to starve through a winter,” said Mann. “Now they’re looking through crosshairs of optics of our weapons that we abandoned and night vision goggles that we left behind at our troops as they come in.”
The U.S. military left behind $85 billion worth of weapons, according to estimates.
Other veterans groups have teamed up with Task Force Pineapple to help evacuate other vulnerable Afghans. A representative from Save Our Allies says it has information about “dozens” of American citizens left behind in Afghanistan, likely dual citizens. There are also hundreds family members of current active-duty U.S. military service members desperately trying to escape. The group says it is in touch with 27,000 Afghans who want to flee.
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In October, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about the decision to leave Afghanistan.
“President Biden ended the longest war. He made sure that another generation of Americans would not have to go to fight and die in Afghanistan. And I think when all of this settles, that’s profoundly what the American people want.”
That same month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was asked at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels about the Afghan commandos.
“We’ll work as hard and as long as we need to take care of as many people as we possibly can,” Austin replied. (A spokesman later clarified that the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan had concluded and the secretary was referring to the “U.S. government role.”)
Mann, the former Green Beret, is concerned about all of his fellow veterans exhausting, not only their time, but their life savings as well. Mann admitted he has struggled with his own mental health and wants people to know about the heroic efforts being made to rescue the Afghan commandos and other vulnerable Afghans.
“I wonder what’s going to happen with so many of these volunteers, these veterans who have given so much to have to hang up the phone or have to tell a family that they can no longer afford to pay for their safe house,” Mann said visibly emotional.
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“Or when no one picks up when they call, and they learned that the commando they’re helping has been executed–after four months, this is happening now.”