A few days before the U.S. fully pulled out from Afghanistan, a group of volunteer American veterans carried out operations to help hundreds of Afghan elite forces and their family members escape the country. The operation, “Pineapple Express,” was conducted on the night of Aug. 25; it continued into the next day. It utilized the cover of darkness to move people.
When the operation began, the situation on the ground was extremely dangerous. The vets worked unofficially in tandem with the U.S. embassy and military to move Afghans into the Hamid Karzai International airport in Kabul. The mission was still underway when an ISIS-K suicide bomber attacked the airport on Aug. 26. The incident killed 13 American service members and wounded 15 more.
The suicide attack also affected the mission since many people were wounded by the blast. By Thursday morning, the vets had securely rescued 500 Afghan special operators and their families. They were handed over to the U.S. military for protection. An additional 130 people were rescued by the group in the 10 days before.
“Dozens of high-risk individuals, families with small children, orphans, and pregnant women, were secretly moved through the streets of Kabul throughout the night and up to just seconds before ISIS detonated a bomb into the huddled mass of Afghans seeking safety and freedom,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann told ABC News in an interview. Mann is a retired Green Beret commander who led the private rescue effort.
Mann thanked the “unofficial heroes inside the airfield” who defied their orders not to provide any help beyond the perimeter of the airport. Since these people were unable to move out of the base, they helped the vets by coordinating movements and providing overwatch support. The Aug. 25 operation was part of “Task Force Pineapple” that began as a mission to get a former Afghan commando to the airport. The commando had previously worked with Mann. It later expanded and ended up rescuing 630 more people.
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Jason Redman, a combat-wounded former Navy SEAL who remotely guided a group of Afghans during the night, is deeply frustrated that “our own government didn’t do this. We did what we should do, as Americans.”
Zac Lois, a former U.S. Army Green Beret and social studies teacher, was part of the task force. In an interview with Fox News, Lois claimed that the Pineapple Express mission has brought more than 1,000 people to safety. Lois joined the group in mid-August after running into roadblocks while trying to get his former teammates from Afghan special forces out of the country.
“The way I see it right now the evacuation hasn’t ended, it has just begun… We are playing the long game… We plan on being here for a while. So that is why any support people can really give to Task Force Pineapple, it would be really beneficial moving ahead,” Lois said in the interview.
America’s exit from Afghanistan has left some Americans stranded in the war-torn country. According to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 100 to 200 U.S. citizens wanted to leave Afghanistan but could not catch the last flights.
Out of the 123,000 people evacuated by the United States during the past few days, only 6,000 were American. According to U.S. Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie, these Americans represent the “vast majority” of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. However, the fact that some Americans will be left at the mercy of Taliban militants and other terror outfits has made the Biden administration a target of intense criticism.
“At the direction of @POTUS, the U.S. has now stranded hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan after giving their names to known terrorists. We can’t fight endless wars, but the scope & consequence of Biden’s failure here is staggering. We cannot rest until all Americans come home,” Republican Senator Rick Scott tweeted.
The senator was referring to reports that Washington had handed over the names of American citizens to the Taliban in a bid to smooth out the evacuation process. Republican Representative Michael Waltz, a former army officer, warned that the U.S. might have to soon go back to Afghanistan.
“The word across the region is that jihad has won, and democracy has lost. That’s shameful… And that is going to make America less safe and get future American soldiers killed that have to go back to deal with this mess,” Waltz said during a Republican roundtable on America’s Afghanistan exit.