A group of special ops veterans, including retired Green Berets and SEAL Team commanders, secretly rescued hundreds of allies from Afghanistan out of fear those who assisted the United States throughout the 20-year mission in Afghanistan would otherwise be left behind and likely killed, the group told ABC News.
The covert operation, dubbed “Pineapple Express,” was carried out over a week by the highly trained veterans. Working throughout the night in almost pitch-black and exceedingly dangerous conditions, the veterans worked unofficially with the United States military and U.S. embassy to transport people to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“Dozens of high-risk individuals, families with small children, orphans, and pregnant women, were secretly moved through the streets of Kabul throughout the night and up to just seconds before ISIS detonated a bomb into the huddled mass of Afghans seeking safety and freedom,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret commander who led the private rescue effort, told ABC News.
According to ABC, operation Pineapple Express was already underway when an ISIS terrorist attack rocked the airport in Kabul, leaving 13 active-duty U.S. service members dead and 18 other service members wounded.
Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman said the effort saved at least 630 Afghan lives, but the group was largely frustrated “that our own government didn’t do this. We did what we should do, as Americans.”
Another participant in the operation, Army Maj. Jim Gant, a retired Green Beret, said it was the most incredible mission he’s ever worked on.
“I have been involved in some of the most incredible missions and operations that a special forces guy could be a part of, and I have never been a part of anything more incredible than this,” Gant told ABC News. “The bravery and courage and commitment of my brothers and sisters in the Pineapple community was greater than the U.S. commitment on the battlefield.”
“I just want to get my people out,” he added.
ABC noted that some of the Pineapple Express evacuees were injured in the airport terrorist attack, but it is unknown if any of them were killed.
“This Herculean effort couldn’t have been done without the unofficial heroes inside the airfield who defied their orders to not help beyond the airport perimeter, by wading into sewage canals and pulling in these targeted people who were flashing pineapples on their phones,” Mann said.
Mann added that the rescue efforts continued “up to just seconds” before the attack.
Retired Navy SEAL commander and former counterinsurgency advisor in Afghanistan Dan O’Shea said, “Leaving a man behind is not in our SEAL ethos. Many Afghans have a stronger vision of our democratic values than many Americans do.”
The Biden administration has admitted that some Americans will likely remain in Afghanistan after evacuation efforts have ended, with some reporting thousands could be left behind.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a reporter to ask the State Department about the number of Americans still stranded behind enemy lines in Afghanistan.