Nearly a year after the final US troops departed Kabul, veterans who laboured to evacuate their Afghan comrades felt abandoned.
Retired US Army Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann told DailyMail.com he felt ‘a very profound feeling of betrayal’ that the Biden administration and military commanders did not do more to support those who fought with Americans in Afghanistan for two decades.
‘When I look at the moral harm to our people, our veterans, our volunteers, and the national security ramifications of this desertion at every level, I really want to see some responsibility,’ Mann added.
I think the Biden administration is trying to move on.
Afghanistan’s capital fell to the Taliban in a lightning-fast onslaught exactly one year ago on Monday, four months after President Joe Biden indicated he would uphold Trump’s deal with the Taliban for a complete troop pullout.
Current and former military troops and government personnel helped vulnerable Afghans escape the airport’s chaotic evacuation. Federal funding to these volunteer organisations was minimal.
Mann heads Task Force Pineapple, named after the sign evacuees flashed at the airport gates to be brought to safety.
In his upcoming book, ‘Operation Pineapple Express,’ Simon & Schuster will detail his role and the tragic stories of Afghan refugees and other volunteers.
He and other military soldiers worked remotely as’shepherds,’ escorting Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants via checkpoints in the middle of night to reach Kabul airport.
They used their own money and received minimal official support.
According to Mann, hundreds of Afghans are still left behind with little recourse, notably Afghan commandos who aren’t SIVs since they weren’t hired by the US government or allied corporations.
American forces may use their considerable military expertise to target these Taliban militants.
The US State Department has ‘no obvious interest’ in aiding Afghan commandos, according to Mann.
‘I would be lying if I didn’t,’ the Green Beret told DailyMail.com.
‘I feel like our institutional leaders – and this includes military leaders, senior leaders – dropped the ball on the withdrawal and the wholesale abandonment of our partner force, especially our Special Operations partners and the [Afghan National Mine Removal Group], and then turned the page like it never happened.’
Mann said the Biden administration hasn’t prioritised getting these people out of Afghanistan.
‘I think it’s safe to say the president has a history of not digging into that kind of thing, all the way back to Vietnam when he was a senator,’ he said, referencing the then-lawmaker from Delaware’s insistence against further military involvement in that conflict months before Saigon fell to the Vietcong.
Mann feels the Pentagon has ‘100%’ betrayed Afghanistan soldiers by abandoning their friends.
“Consider the moral damage,” he continued.
Mann referenced a study from last year that found more than 30,000 military personnel had committed suicide since 2001, when the US invaded Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.
He thinks dozens more may emerge as a result of how the administration handled the drawdown.
Who’s in charge? Where are the Pentagon’s special operations leaders? “There’s an issue. Our people has been morally damaged. We’ll own it and go to work.” What’s that? Mann fumed, “You’re not listening.”
Our military has been our community’s worst failure. Active-duty and past top commanders aren’t addressing this moral wounds.
Mann outlines the life-threatening scenarios Afghans fleeing face as well as the psychological , financial toll on their US friends.
Mann said DailyMail.com, ‘This is an Uncle Sam-sized issue that veterans sought to fix with their own bank accounts.’
Some refugees found shelter and peace in the U.S., while others weren’t as fortunate, including those caught in the ISIS-K suicide explosion that killed almost 200 people, including 13 US military personnel.
It becomes evident that the volunteers were preparing escapes without official support.
Mann often writes on his military experience.
‘Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret’ is a theatre piece about his Middle East tour.
Mann characterised the writing process for ‘Operation Pineapple Express’ as ‘cathartic’ at times and ‘brutal’ at others, considering how soon after the events he started writing.
‘I was ready to move on. Writing a work of this level and weight…my God, you know? We had a lengthy discussion about it with my wife.
I could relate the tales of the Afghans and their shepherds in a fascinating manner,’ Mann said.
He speaks to everyone in the book, including himself, in the third person to ‘convey their tales,’ such as ‘the Afghans still imprisoned there…shepherds who lost those they were leading in the explosion and were tormented with remorse.’
‘The 45-day interviews were harsh, but the writing was cathartic. Because I was relaying their tales,’ added Mann. “I tell stories.”