Special op veterans carry out secret ‘Pineapple Express’ mission to rescue 500 Afghans

Families were smuggled through Kabul by night to safety

Helen Elfer
Friday 27 August 2021 17:45 BST
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A group of US war veterans launched a highly dangerous mission to save hundreds of at-risk Afghan allies and their families.

Members of the volunteer group, called the “Pineapple Express” told ABC News that as many as 500 Afghans and their families had been smuggled into Kabul’s airport under cover of night, and handed over to the protective custody of the U.S. military.

The group, made up of current and former U.S. special operators, aid workers, intelligence officers and others, had banded together to bring as many Afghan allies to safety as they could, working unofficially with the United States military and U.S. embassy.

The risky week-long effort was still underway when suicide bombers, believed to have been ISIS fighters attacked the airport on Thursday.

Some of Pineapple Express’ passengers were wounded in the bomb blast, and the group said they were looking into whether missing Afghans they had been helping had been killed.

“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,” said Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret commander who led the private rescue effort.

The operation was an element of “Task Force Pineapple,” an informal group who had been urgently trying to help a former Afghan commando who had served with Mr Mann, and was being texted death threats by the Taliban.

He and his family of six were saved, and the rescue effort expanded to aid hundreds of others throughout the week.

Mr Mann said moments of the operation were dramatic enough to rival a “Jason Bourne” movie, as groups of Afghans repeatedly encountered Taliban foot soldiers en route, who beat them but luckily didn’t identify them.

“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,” said Mr Mann.

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