The grueling evacuation of Americans and Afghan army allies continues, weeks after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and amid recent bombing and violence.
President Biden’s top military generals have testified that they advised keeping 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan as a transitional force, a contradiction to what Biden had claimed.
America’s veterans are now helping in an attempt to save those who remain, and much of these dangerous rescues are being carried out from upstate New York.
What would you like to know
- The US military evacuated Bagram airfield in Afghanistan on July 6
- The Taliban entered the Afghan capital as US diplomats fled by plane on August 15
- The veterans implemented the “Pineapple Express” mission, which brought hundreds of at-risk Afghan allies and their families to safety on August 25.
- 13 US soldiers were killed in an attack at Kabul airport on August 26
Zac Lois, a former Green Beret and teacher in the Syracuse City School District, strategized during a morning call abroad.
“There might be a few small groups and assets that actually have a passport in hand that would take this in hand,” said Lois, a key force on the Pineapple Express.
He and other veterans are working to evacuate all Americans and their allies left behind in Afghanistan. Lois is now working as the Operation Recovery Officer in Afghanistan.
“We have forged very close relationships with our Afghan counterparts,” Lois said. “So I had been in contact with them, probably a few weeks before the fall of Afghanistan. We were trying to get them out. I was also trying to get my combat interpreter out.
The problem weighed so heavily on Lois that he left summer vacation with his family and took a year off from his job as a social studies teacher.
“They would contact me, ask me for help,” he said. “They were trying to go through the proper channels of the State Department. It would go back to the State Department, and that’s sort of where they would die. So I’m frustrated.”
That’s when he logged into the Pineapple Express mission.
“And then we started to develop a plan to help get these people out during the three consecutive nights of Kabul airport operations,” Lois said.
Last month, Pineapple Express was able to rescue more than 600 Afghan special operators and their families, he said.
Lois continued the negotiations over the phone.
“I don’t know if you would be able to take action on this, but I just wanted to handle it in case, you know, there are networks through which we can get these people out,” he said. declared.
He said another big motivation for keeping families out of harm’s way was his students.
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“When I stand in front of a class … and look around my classroom, and see a lot of young Muslim girls or young Muslim boys, especially from this area, I really couldn’t live with myself. if I only knew I left when I had the skills and experience to make a difference, ”Lois said.
On the phone, you can hear a booming voice on the other end of the line.
“So we’re not trying to be refugees, we’re not trying to stay there,” Lois said. “We just want to cross the border, get to an airfield and take a flight …”
In a committed tone, he said, “And the operation has really just started. So, we’re kind of on the one-yard line. And we’re looking to play the long game.”
The best way to help with the rescue is to contact your local representatives and the United States Department of State.
Operation Recovery is a group of veterans working to repatriate Americans and Afghan allies. If you want to learn more and support them, you can connect with them here.