I didn’t say anything about “unofficial” operations going on in Afghanistan while our forces were still there, because feedback reaching me was that there was extreme tension between the US military command there and independent groups that were doing what US troops had been forbidden to do. Basically, our troops on the ground actively supported and encouraged what the unofficial groups were trying to do, while their senior commanders appear to have been under orders to not only discourage it, but actively interfere with it and shut it down wherever possible. As confirmation, I offer this report from Michael Yon (who’s far from the only observer pointing this out).
However, outside Kabul there were (and still are) many activities going on; and now that our forces have evacuated Kabul airport, more is going on there, too. I’ll try to describe some of the operations I’ve been told about, in general terms so that nothing specific can be used against those involved (or leaked to the Taliban so that they can act against them).
A number of former US Special Forces operators, who were active in training and setting up Afghan equivalents, learned some weeks ago that their former proteges were now being actively targeted by the Taliban, and murdered rather than being allowed to surrender. It soon became obvious that no official provision was being made to get these forces – the most active against the Taliban, and the best-trained and -equipped in Afghanistan – out of harm’s way. Therefore, individual and collective decisions were made to do so unofficially.
Funding was available through various sources, both externally from sympathizers and internally from US-supplied funds that were being left behind (some said deliberately) to be seized by the Taliban. It doesn’t matter where dollars come from as long as they’re in cash, and gold is a universal language. Such funds were “liberated” from the Taliban “liberators”, either before they arrived, or after they’d already seized them. No need to go into detail – use your imagination. Weapons, vehicles and other necessities were also “liberated” in a similar way, or were taken by the Afghan SF troops as they “voted with their feet” and left their bases rather than wait to be killed. They took their families with them.
I’m told there are at least four groups of former US SF troops, and their Afghan SF allies, operating in different parts of the country. They’re cooperating with each other, and funneling convoys from one area to another as they ferry people to safety. They’ve been heading for border areas where they know they can cross into neighboring countries. They’re confident they’ll find at least a temporary welcome there – enough to “get out of Dodge” to a safer location. Apparently lots of “liberated” dollars, in cash, are a useful lubricant in dealing with potentially hostile and/or otherwise stifling bureaucracies and administrations. Who’d o’ thunk it?
There are other arrangements in hand outside Afghanistan. I understand some of the aircraft flown to other countries by Afghan pilots making their own escape have been “borrowed” by support groups, and are flying supplies in and people out on an ad hoc basis. (At least one former South African pilot is involved in this.) Arrangements are coordinated by those who know the drill. A couple of larger aircraft are apparently available for “charter flights”, carrying groups of people to safer and more friendly climes. (There are a number of “airlines” in that part of the world that offer no-questions-asked, cash-on-the-barrelhead freight and other services to other locations. If the “freight” happens to be breathing, well, arrangements can be made at cargo terminals with
greedy receptive officials . . . and once a non-Afghan genuine passport is obtained – by whatever means – and officially stamped, who’s going to ask questions? Ironically, US State Department mistakes have helped contribute to such rescues.)
The Taliban are trying to tighten their grip on Afghanistan, and slowly succeeding: but there’s still chaos and confusion everywhere, particularly because not all armed groups in that country are Taliban, and some regard each other with suspicion. Everybody seems to be out for what they can get, and local and regional authority has not yet been stabilized. A lot of the more gung-ho fighters headed for Kabul to confront the American forces there, and to get their hands on the loot that was flowing in that city like water. That meant they weren’t available to patrol their own areas, or support local administrations. The groups I’ve mentioned haven’t been slow to take full advantage of the confusion.
Some of my contacts are now back in friendly territory, and are sharing some of the details of what they’ve been doing with those they can trust. If anyone ever writes a book about it, it’s going to be an edge-of-your-seat best-seller real-life thriller . . . but they’ll probably never do (or allow) that, because it would expose too many people to retaliation. Suffice it to say that when their government fell down on the job, they stepped up to the plate and did what needed doing, as far as it was within their power to do so. I think many thousands of Afghans and others will owe them their lives, when this is all over.
One such person is the man I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. He made it to a bordering “Stan” after more than a few adventures, although he’s still bogged down in bureaucracy there, trying to get himself and his colleagues back to their home countries. At least he’s out of danger right now. His descriptions of things he saw and experienced while getting out of Afghanistan are nightmarish. While waiting to proceed with his journey, he’s helping to coordinate contacts inside Afghanistan between those wanting (and willing) to help, and others who deserve a chance to get to freedom.
Such private efforts aren’t enough to save the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with or for US forces during the occupation; but they can hopefully save at least hundreds, if not a few thousand. It’s a blot on our national escutcheon that we haven’t done more, through official channels, to save as many of them as possible, instead abandoning them to the not-so-tender mercies of those who want them all dead.