Corrected: Appeal for CIA, DoD Clandestine Ops to Rescue Afghan Allies
Retired Green Beret Scott Mann says situation increasingly ‘dire’ for Afghan special ops troops hunted by Taliban hit teams as winter comes
An earlier version of this story said Scott Mann “runs” Spirit of America, a private organization that augments the work of U.S. military units and diplomats around the world. He is on its Board of Advisers.
Retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann says President Biden should authorize the CIA and Pentagon to rescue “tens of thousands” of former Afghan special operation troops who are being hunted down by Taliban hit teams armed with payroll records and biometric data left behind during the chaotic U.S. evacuation last August.
Mann, who led a successful private rescue effort last August, is just one of a number of veterans and groups trying to help their former allies, also says Congress needs to pass legislation bestowing Special Immigration Visas on the troops and their families, who are moving from house to house to evade the Taliban. With winter closing in, their situation is increasingly “dire,” Mann tells SpyTalk.
Contrary to reports, “they fought to the last bullet,” Mann said in an interview. “They gave everything, they've risked probably more than anybody in terms of...commitment to the nation. And they are not even categorically eligible for the SIV. And I think we need Congress to take legislative action to expand that and direct the State Department to adhere to it.”
Spokespersons for relevant congressional offices and the White House could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday afternoon. Former CIA officers have told SpyTalk since the collapse of the Kabul regime that the agency has maintained contact as best as possible with their former allies. A number have urged the Biden administraton to support resistance efforts, but there appears to be little effort for that since the last holdouts were routed in September and October.
In late August, Mann led a private, clandestine mission, dubbed the Pineapple Express, to shepherd several hundred Afghan “special operators, assets and enablers and their families into the airport in Kabul overnight, handing them each over to the protective custody of the U.S. military,” according to the report by ABC News.
Rescue and support efforts by Afghanistan war veterans in the U.S. have continued, taking a harsh emotional toll on them, according to a recent report in the Military Times.
“We’ve got videos of ...all the atrocities happening, these people being, you know, shot with their families in their homes or [the Taliban] going door to door looking for people,” a Green Beret trooper at Ft. Bragg, N.C. told reporter Howard Altman. “It’s happening 24/7. What I had to look at for the last two weeks, you know, it was eating me alive.”
Mann, who now runs a corporate coaching outfit called Rooftop Leadership, said that “most of [the Afghans] have had to take their belongings, leave their homes, and they're on the run, and that's what makes it even tougher as winter approaches.”
He called the personal and private rescue efforts “very heartbreaking, and very, very damaging to our veterans.”
“What a lot of people are not understanding right now is that the bulk of the people who are working these issues are not in the government, right?” he added. “This is not the VA. This is not DHS. These are mostly veterans from the special operations community who have multiple tours in combat and have been severely traumatized already, and have essentially been re-traumatized by answering the phone when nobody else would.”
The State Department, which is in charge of the overall effort, is focusing on U.S. citizens, Green Card holders and their families stuck in the country.
American veterans don’t have the resources to get significant numbers of their former allies out, Mann said, especially if they don’t have SIVs. False papers aren’t likely to fool Taliban checkers at the airports. If they make it overland to, say, Tajikistan, they have find find safe places to hide—not easy in the Russia friendly nation. Pakistan has ling been a Taliban ally.
“The best you can do is try to reassure them that you're going to do everything you can,” said Mann, a 23-year Army Special Forces veteran who did tours in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan. “You have to remind them that the onus is on them to stay alive, that they have to keep themselves composed, that they have to keep themselves in the present and do whatever they have to do to stay alive. But no matter what happens, you know, our ability to get them on airplanes, to get them a visa, is excruciatingly limited. And, and right now, the best we can do in many cases is to try to get them in a safe house to try to get them out.”
An Afghan who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development recently filed suit against the U.S. government for not getting his two sons, all that remains of his family, out of the country, as his contract had promised him.