By James Gordon Meek, ABC News, 27 August 2021
With the Taliban growing more violent and adding checkpoints near Kabul’s airport, an all-volunteer group of American veterans of the Afghan War launched a final daring mission on Wednesday night dubbed the “Pineapple Express” to shepherd hundreds of at-risk Afghan elite forces and their families to safety, members of the group told ABC News.
Moving after nightfall in near-pitch black darkness and extremely dangerous conditions, the group said it worked unofficially in tandem with the United States military and U.S. embassy to move people, sometimes one person at a time, or in pairs, but rarely more than a small bunch, inside the wire of the U.S. military-controlled side of Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The Pineapple Express’ mission was underway Thursday when the attack occurred in Kabul. Two suicide bombers believed to have been ISIS fighters killed at least 13 U.S. service members – 10 U.S. Marines, a Navy corpsman, an Army soldier and another service member – and wounded 15 other service members, according to U.S. officials. There were wounded among the Pineapple Express travelers from the blast, and members of the group said they were assessing whether unaccounted-for Afghans they were helping had been killed. As of Thursday morning, the group said it had brought as many as 500 Afghan special operators, assets and enablers and their families into the airport in Kabul overnight, handing them each over to the protective custody of the U.S. military.
That number added to more than 130 others over the past 10 days who had been smuggled into the airport encircled by Taliban fighters since the capital fell to the extremists on Aug. 16 by Task Force Pineapple, an ad hoc groups of current and former U.S. special operators, aid workers, intelligence officers and others with experience in Afghanistan who banded together to save as many Afghan allies as they could.
Comment: Earlier this week I mentioned the James La Porta story of last Saturday about Chinooks ferrying 96 Afghans into the airport for evacuation along with SOF teams, DIA and CIA officers operating outside the wire performing the same mission. I mentioned my unbridled joy upon reading this story. This new story brought up a range of emotions. Unbridled joy, pride and awe of course, but there was something else. I thought of Shakespeare’s lines from Henry V in the morning hours before the Battle of Agincourt.
“And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
I’m old, certainly not as tough and skilled as I once was and my knowledge is dated, but son of a bitch, I’m not dead yet. That’s why I feel at least a little “accurs’d.”
When I commented on that James La Porta story, I mentioned that we’d be doing this kind of thing with or without official approval. I spoke from experience and first hand knowledge. I guess I knew what I was talking about this time. Note in the full story that the vets had assistance from US troops inside the wire, troops who were faced with the choice between embracing their sacred honor and risking a court martial. They stood in the breach and chose their sacred honor.
So, along with voicing our outrage over the many past and present blunders in Afghanistan, remember the audacity and courage of Task Force Pineapple and the SOF, DIA and CIA teams who are undoubtedly still operating outside the wire. And remember the courage of the 6,000 US troops at the Kabul Airport who continue to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans and Americans in spite of yesterday’s deadly attacks.
Good luck to all, and bless the CF for their high-visibility mission, giving space for others.
This will end on Sunday…
“The Scarlet Pimpernel” writ large. I assume the operation has stopped, or changed its character, by now because the Taliban has access o ABC News too…… If it hasn’t we are asking for more trouble.
I’m sure the only reason the story is out now is because that operation has concluded. I doubt all SOF/IC operations have ended. They won’t be walking/driving into the airport. They’ll be taken to one time use LZs for pickup. I’ve worked with SOF helicopters. The little birds are as silent as owls. They could land on your roof and you wouldn’t know it.
TTG, there might a deal in place. Why anyone would leak this beyond stupid.
How many ways did Biden screw this up – add one more – turning Bagram over to the Taliban allowed them to release “thousands” of ISIS-K prisoners, who then snuck back to attack US forces:
How did this clear risk get overlooked when Biden and military brass were debating whether to protect Bagram or the downtown Embassy? Oh that’s right, Biden trusted the Taliban to provide US protection.
Deep, did you forget that it was Trump who forced Ghani to release the 5,000 prisoners in his deal with the Taliban? They were released before the 2020 election. Trump then refused to share intelligence with the Biden team after the election. What was Trump’s game? Was his real collusion with the Taliban?
TTG, I wasn’t aware of Trump’s deal to release those 5000. Were those guys Taliban or ISIS? I understand the ISIS prisoners were being held at Bagram and didn’t get out until a few days later after the Taliban entered Kabul.
That 5,000 was a big part of the Trump-Taliban deal. The Taliban were expected to release 1,500 of their prisoners. There were also 7,000 in Parwan prison outside of Bagram under Afghan control. When the Ghani government took off, the Taliban released those prisoners. There definitely were al Qaeda and ISIS-K fighters and leaders at Parwan. By the time Biden came in, there were only 2,500 US troops left in country.
Were those guys Taliban or ISIS?
Is it that easy to distinguish who’s who?
What are the basic criteria? TTG?
How can we know ISIS was behind the attack? Ok, haven’t paid even minimal attention.
Impossible, there could be Talibans too that bear a grudge?
The 29 February 2020 Pompeo-Baradar agreement at Doha for a U.S. troop withdrawal called for Kabul to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for the release by the insurgents of government detainees.
Ghani did not want to release them. But he was strong-armed into it by Pompeo.
Mike Pompeo sets out for the record situation in Afghanistan that Trump left when Biden took over in Jan 2021. It was also a Biden media myth Trump refused to share status information with the incoming Biden administration:
“Trump then refused to share intelligence with the Biden team after the election. ”
So people on active duty or still employed by the various agencies are actively denying the administration information?
“Was his real collusion with the Taliban?” You mean there wasn’t any Russia Collusion but let’s throw this out there to get the blame game rolling.
Fred, you don’t remember all the drama about denying office space and briefings, including DoD briefings, to Biden’s transition team? It was all part of Trump’s “I really won by a lot” shtick. His appointees were doing the obstruction of the transition. Others, the active duty and federal employees, were just following orders.
Active collusion is hyperbole, but forcing the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, cutting the Kabul government out of negotiations, reducing troop strength to 2,500 before removing any equipment or American citizens and actively resisting the evacuation of Afghan nationals sure didn’t set old Joe up for a smooth withdrawal. Trump was still crowing about all that in late July. But still, every decision after the inauguration is on old Joe.
No I don’t.
“were just following orders.” You mean that all ended in January.
“reducing troop strength to 2,500 before removing any equipment or American citizens…. a smooth withdrawal. ”
Rather than argue about what the troop count should, would, or could have been I’ll simply point out that Joe Biden, 4+ decades of government experience including 8 as VP, has been in charge for months. He changed the date, unilaterally, for withdrawl.
The public reports are his administration chose to close Bagram, which as you know also contained a prison, so that Blinken’s people could stay in that wonderful brand new Embassy complex. The administartion also recieved a flow of reports of the accelerating decline of Afghan government. This is on him and his people. The only one he’s fired so far is a LTC who stepped out of line to publicly say how incompetent the leadership has been in this debacle.
No, TGG – that was media ginned up drama that Trump was denying updates, so of course we all remember that. One more of the many long string of Democrat/media lies about Trump. We also remember the rebuttal to those Democrat/media claims. Where do you still get your news about things Trump?
Fred and Deap, you’re suffering from selective amnesia. The Trump appointed GSA Administrator refused to sign a letter starting the transition process until late November 2020. Absolutely noting could start until then. The Trump appointed acting SecDef stopped all briefings and cooperation with the Biden transition team “for the holidays.”
But none of that excuses the decisions made by Biden and his administration since 20 January.
Thanks TTG. I had forgotten that one person and three weeks of delayed transition. I wonder what could possibbly been in the news other that Covid.
“But none of that excuses the decisions made by Biden and his administration since 20 January.”
I agree. I also think he needs to resign – after firing Blinken and the JCS.
The leadership at the CIA, DOD, FBI, etc., from Day 1 of the Orange Man’s Administration was working against him. They all share the same ideology as the Usurper Biden so there was no “denying of information”. In fact, they were all working together to get rid of the Orange Man for 4 years.
Deap – military brass?
I still don’t understand why the military should carry the can. This was a negotiated withdrawal. Complicated by the fact that neither side expected Kabul to fall so quickly. I’ve seen no suggestion that the military failed to carry out orders, or failed in carrying out orders.
Are we blaming the military because we don’t like the orders they were given? Surely any blame for those orders must attach to the politicians who gave them. And much as I dislike the general run of politicians it’s still difficult to see how those orders could have been much different.
Maybe it’s because I’m seeing all this from a European perspective; but from all sides there have been calls for a withdrawal from Afghanistan for years. From many sources there have been accounts of how our mission has failed over there and why it failed. Now we’re getting out all seem to be turning around and objecting to the fact that we’re doing so.
The root problem is that we’re leaving behind Afghans who fear – and with good reason – the new regime. That’s probably most of the urban population and not a few of the rural population.
Given that the ANA was only ever a paper force that abandonment could only have been avoided by staying in, as such as Blair want. But that would have meant us putting in many more troops and staying in forever.
And this argument one hears on all sides, that we’re dishonouring our dead by abandoning the mission they fought for. Is that reason for continuing with a failed mission? Do we honour those dead by adding pointlessly to their number?
Bless ’em. May their success continue. Although I fear that with the press coverage also being read by the Haqqanis, future outside-the-wire ops will be hunted by Badri Commandos who also have state of the art night vision goggles. Easy enough to set up ambush sites at likely egress and ingress sites.
“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.
Coming from Gant that says a lot. This post is a plug for his book, or more precisely his wife’s book about him. Long kicked to the curb yet here he is, still putting his neck on the line. They were left with modest means, Ann and Jim. The least we can do is buy his book. It’s worth reading to boot.
Marine Lt.Col. posts video on social media demanding accountability of the Generals and gets fired pronto.
We can be certain none of the generals or the Pentagon, IC and State Dept top brass will be held to account. In days of yore, the Captain went down with the ship. Now the top decision makers only fail upwards. USA! USA!!
Breitbart carried the full 4:44 minute version of LTC Scheller’s video, you should watch it all. Everyone should.
This is a Big Deal. If an LTC feels strongly enough to end his career over the lack of honor among the higher command just imagine how the lower ranks feel. Scheller’s “growing discontent and contempt for my perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level” had darn well better elicit some resignations. If not, well I have already expressed my view of the similarities to widespread feelings of discontent and contempt for senior leaders felt by the French military in 1958, as a result of FP ineptitude.
Recent report claims the Lt Col will not be fired for his outspoken video, according to WH press office. Mixed feelings – where is the bright line between military chain of command discipline and military personnel first amendment rights. Truman vs Gen McArthur all over again?
He was relieved of his command, not fired. An ignominious fate for a career officer, but Scheller fully expected he would be relieved for his actions. He said he would have done the same thing. Chances are he can still complete his 20 and retire, but I doubt he’ll like his remaining assignments.
He’s an officer in the Marine Corps. He knows he’s subject to the UCMJ and cannot just do or say what he pleases. He did what he thought he had to do and will now endure the consequences of his actions. It would be foolish and naive to think otherwise.
If you’re “speaking out” aligns with the fascists, then it is promotion time. If it is against fascist interests then off to the gulag.
Sam – Vindman was not promoted. His brother Yevgeny was the one that made Colonel.
Scheller passed on his shot at that last three years in with his latest. Perhaps he has been already told he will be drummed out.
Mark Logan, I think Scheller read one 8kun posting too many and went off the deep end. In that last video, I fully expected him to yell out “Evil! Pure and simple! From the eighth dimension! Grab them!”
I’m sure many in the military feel the same way as LTC Scheller but how many have the courage of their convictions?
We’ve already achieved woke military status as the Afghan withdrawal demonstrates. Fat Milley was more interested in CRT and transgenders than developing a sensible withdrawal. Fail upwards has been the norm at least since “Heck of a job, Brownie”! Do we have a single example if anyone in the top echelons have been held to account for FUBAR in the past 20+ years? It is always some mid-level guy who got the shaft.
If “failure” was promoting the fascist agenda, then it is success.
” And remember the courage of the 6,000 US troops at the Kabul Airport who continue to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans and Americans in spite of yesterday’s deadly attacks.”
They are amazing. Wonderful people. It’s how you cope when you’re landed with a real mess that shows quality.
But TTG – this was always going to be a mess, Trump, Biden or whoever. Unless we were going to stay in Afghanistan for ever there was no way round it.
But TTG – this was always going to be a mess, Trump, Biden or whoever. Unless we were going to stay in Afghanistan for ever there was no way round it.
Otherwise I agree. Not that my mind does not vaguely respond to the phrasing here: ” to shepherd hundreds of at-risk Afghan elite forces and their families to safety”
No doubt, not a bad idea, and kudos.
English Outsider, I agree it was going to be a mess getting out. If Biden followed through on Trump’s planned exit date, the mess would have happened at the end of April rather than the end of August. Trump didn’t want to evacuate Afghans at all. That would have been a massive moral failing, but it would have made getting our remaining troops out of country easier. We could have also written off any American citizens left behind as woke losers who didn’t have the sense to leave when they could have. So many people won’t get out of the way of hurricanes, fires, Taliban or ISIS until these things hit them between the eyes. That’s human nature. But in the end, I’d rather be disappointed with our military and political screwups in Afghanistan than be absolutely ashamed of our moral failings in how we left Afghanistan.
Would it have been better to evacuate through Bagram? I’m not sure. It may have been easier to defend, but that’s only true if we kept all Afghans away from the base. Much earlier I talked about digging in with interlocking fields of fire, but that didn’t take account of the throngs of Afghans either at Kabul or Bagram. The threat wasn’t primarily from the high ground or buildings overlooking Kabul Airport, but from those throngs of Afghans wanting to leave with us. A suicide bomber at a gate at Bagram would have done just as much damage as the bomber at the Kabul Airport gate.
I still think holding Bagram until the end would have been a better choice, but it would have taken at least another 6,000 US troops to initially hold both the Kabul Airport and Bagram. It would have looked strikingly similar to the initial Soviet invasion. Calls for Biden’s resignation would have been just as loud if not louder. And in the end we’d still have to go through the extremely dangerous DLIC (detachment left in contact) phase. If we were going to evacuate 100,000 Afghans or more, we’d still be under the same threat at Bagram as we are at Kabul. We obviously need better ideas on how to do a NEO and refugee evacuation operation of this scale. It’s also obvious that we shouldn’t be getting ourselves in this situation in the first place. That should be our main lesson learned.
The indications are that a much smoother changeover of power was planned. I read that into statements made over here, particularly a fine and straightforward statement from Mrs Merkel. Plus all those meetings and conferences over the last few months.
All messed up by the unexpected collapse and Ghani’s flight. I don’t see how in these circumstances it’s possible to do an orderly evacuation. If a million were rescued there’d be another million or more hoping to leave. As you say – “The threat wasn’t primarily from the high ground or buildings overlooking Kabul Airport, but from those throngs of Afghans wanting to leave with us.”
As said before, the impression gained is not as so many are stating. It is of a highly competent military reacting quickly to the unexpected.
The reproach, I suppose, lies in us getting so heavily involved and that reproach lies with all the Western powers. As you say, and have said consistently, “It’s also obvious that we shouldn’t be getting ourselves in this situation in the first place. That should be our main lesson learned.”
May I cite the late Susan Sontag?
Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
Draft deal is done, the Turks are going to run HKIA – for the Taliban.
Damn! My hats off to every “Pineapple Express” veterans for setting an honorable and courageous example here. They flew several thousand miles and risked their lives in a dump like Afghanistan to help with the evacuation. I wonder if those who got evacuated by these guys could appreciate the value and risks of such operation in a time like this.
A real honorable act.
Tnx TTG for this little update
NATO would benefit too, I presume. There is also this other thing that has become somewhat of a burden to Sultan Erdogan in the past few months, namely the allocation of several thousand HTS and Turkey-supported jihadi militias that are in Idlib, Libya, northern Iraq, Karabakh, and now I’d assume Afghanistan. Russia doesn’t want want them in Syria and has been pressuring Erdogan to ‘deal’ with them. So there’s this too.
I suspect you are right about HTS in Afghanistan. According to UN counterterrorism office, at least 70 ISIS went from Syria to Afghanistan over the last several years. If ISIS could get there then so could HTS, perhaps with the blessing of Erdogan and Turkish Airlines.
I am not of the warrior caste, but I understand the sentiment expressed in Henry V and why you feel a little “accurs’d” for not being there. The fact is though that you no doubt served with honor because that’s the kind of guy you are. The brave souls outside the wire in Kabul are of the same breed. What we desperately need is men and women of honor in positions of power, both in the military top brass and civilian leadership. I pray that this shameful episode is the catalyst that brings this about.
Teddy Roosevelt – San Juan Hill
Franklin Roosevelt – Yalta
Truman – Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Korean Peninsula
LBJ – Gulf of Tonkin
Nixon – China, Old Executive Office Bldg storage closet
Clinton – Serbia, Kosovo
Bush – Iraq
Obama – Benghazi
Trump – MAGA
Biden – Bagram
Far away places and strange sounding names ……… now also linked to one man’s name.
Trump was all hat and no cattle. No Swamp was drained. Instead the Swamp were hired to run his Administration.
In the worst possible scenario, we are bringing in more Omar Mateens to our country. Next worse scenario is that many of these refugees will hate Americans like fellow refugee Ilhan Omar.
America needs these people like a hole in the head.
State Media is reporting this. The FUBAR was entirely Biden administration and Fat Milley + other Generals.