Despite what some TTAG staff and members of my own family may have thought, I was not in Afghanistan and I haven’t been there in a decade. I wasn’t part of the Pineapple Express, and to be honest I’m not completely sure what that is. I am not special forces and definitely not one of the cool kids.
I was teaching emergency rescue techniques in South Africa to the local tribal anti-poaching units and when I came out of the bush late last week I found out about all that was happening in Afghanistan. I was in pure disbelief.
I was so sure that what I was hearing was internet make-believe that I called people who happened to be there on the ground in Afghanistan to confirm. They confirmed it was not as bad as I was hearing. It was far worse.
Since then, I’ve been assisting with the extraction of American citizens and their families. That assistance has included providing information directly to, and getting briefings directly from, the Americans and their families who are on the ground in Afghanistan.
Based on what I heard on the radio on my way into town this morning, there is a good deal of misinformation on the regular news channels. I say misinformation because it is contrary to easily verifiable information from sources on the ground throughout the country of Afghanistan.
I can verify a few things.
There are still American families trapped in Afghanistan. I know this because I spoke with them myself this morning. Some of these people passed up earlier opportunities for escape through civilian operated means. They did this at the express instructions of the US government, which told them that Special Operations Forces were on the way to take them to the Kabul airport.
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) August 31, 2021
Instead of taking the much longer and more dangerous routes provided by incredibly brave American civilians, they chose to believe their government would provide them a safer, shorter path. The US government did not pick them up, and stopped communicating with them, in effect abandoning them. I have directly verified this information.
There are still thousands of Afghans who worked for the US government and US military who are trapped in Afghanistan. I can’t verify all of them, but I can verify some through direct communication.
They simply had no way to safely get to the Kabul airport and get out. This is especially true for unaccompanied women and their children whose husbands have already been killed while they were in hiding. These surviving families are being targeted and hunted. I have directly verified this information by talking to them, one as late as last night.
The path out of the country for these people has become much more difficult and dangerous over the last 12 hours and it is about to get worse. Internal division among the Taliban is currently limiting their ability to effectively cordon and search major population centers.
Taliban command and control has rapidly improved over the last day. Some Taliban checkpoints that were simply taking payments to allow people through only a day ago are now searching vehicles, checking phone numbers, and executing those with American contacts in their mobile phones. I have verified this information through multiple direct witnesses on the ground, including survivors of these checkpoints.
The Afghanistan withdrawal is one of the biggest debacles in modern American military history. The withdrawal has exposed failures throughout the command structure the likes of which I never thought that I would see, and certainly never want to see again.
If you want to know what can be done about it, demand transparency and accountability from your government. That’s the very least Americans should expect.
ED: The accompanying photographs were added in the editing process and were not selected by the author.