The U.S. stuck to its promised rescue deadline of Aug. 31 and entirely withdrew its troops from Kabul airport in Afghanistan, but it does not mean it was the end for Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann.
More than 114,000 individuals have been flown from Kabul airport as part of the U.S. effort in the last two weeks. But as the last U.S. troops departed on Aug. 31, they had to leave behind 60,000 Afghans and hundreds of Americans, per The Independent.
But to LTC Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret commander, their rescue mission had not terminated.
“We know instinctively, you know, in our gut, in our solar plexus, that we don’t leave our friends. We don’t leave anybody behind and we keep our promises,” he said.
Aiming to continue rescuing vulnerable citizens out of the now Taliban-governed Afghanistan, Mann and other Afghan veterans proceeded with a mission termed Operation Recovery.
“We are about to embark on a private recovery operation of western citizens as well as Afghan allies who we made a promise to,” Mr. Mann told the newspaper.
He told the people awaiting their escape from Afghanistan to “stay low, stay safe, be smart,” and try to survive while they find a way to get to them.
“We’re doing everything that we can to find you, to reach you, and to help you reach safety,” the veteran added.
Before the end of the August deadline, Mann was already on an operation called “Pineapple Express.” He and ad hoc groups of retired Green Berets, SEALs, Marines, and other volunteers were doing their best to escort vulnerable evacuees to Kabul airport.
It was known that not all refugees could access the airport due to Taliban checkpoints and overcrowded people.
The group would use an encrypted app to assist them in the rescue effort, which would move people through Kabul city, bypassing the Taliban checkpoints, to the airport.
Mann estimated that up to 700 individuals were rescued in three days, frequently after a completely nerve-straining journey with danger around every corner, including beatings and even loss of lives along the way.
“It was the most horrific and challenging thing that I’ve ever had to see,” Mann recalled.
“There were secret passages between the Taliban checkpoint and the actual airfield itself,” he said. “There were holes in the fence. You had to move through sewage canals and things like that.”
To president Joe Biden, Mr. Mann stressed even if the deadline had passed, the rescue efforts had not ceased, and federal agencies are obligated to keep on their work with secret missions in Afghanistan.
“We are going to move these people, they are coming out of this country, we‘re not asking permission. We’re honoring our promise as combat veterans,” he said.
He said U.S. embassies should be ready for more refugees with granted visas from Afghanistan to keep arriving.
“You gave them the applications, you approved and now they are coming and so have your embassy staff ready to process them. That’s the right thing to do and to do otherwise is a moral travesty,” Mann stressed.
During the early days of U.S. evacuation efforts, President Joe Biden had said, “if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out” in an interview with ABC News.