Nearly a year to the day the last US service members left Kabul, veterans who worked tirelessly to get their Afghan allies out of the war-torn country are feeling like the federal government has left them and their partners behind.
Retired Lt. Colonel Scott Mann, who served in the Middle East as a US Army Green Beret, told DailyMail.com that he feels ‘a very deep sense of betrayal’ that the Biden administration and military leaders did not do more to help those who fought alongside Americans for two decades in Afghanistan.
‘When I look at the moral injury that’s happened to our people, our veterans, our volunteers, and the national security impacts of this abandonment at every level, it really makes me – I really want to see some accountability,’ Mann said.
‘I feel like the Biden administration has really tried to just move past this.’
Exactly one year ago on Monday, Afghanistan’s capital fell to the Taliban in a lightening-fast offensive just four months after President Joe Biden announced he would honor Donald Trump’s agreement with the Taliban for a full military withdrawal.
Amid the chaotic evacuation from Hamid Karzai International Airport, current and former members of the military as well as other government workers came together in an unprecedented effort to help vulnerable Afghans escape. Those largely volunteer groups got very little formal aid from the federal government.
Mann is head of on of the most recognizable – dubbed ‘Task Force Pineapple’ for the symbol evacuees would flash at the gates of the crowded, volatile airport to then be pulled up over its walls to safety.
He documents his involvement as well as the harrowing experiences of Afghan refugees and other volunteers in the forthcoming book, ‘Operation Pineapple Express,’ to be released by Simon & Schuster on August 30.
Task Force Pineapple is the nickname of one of several volunteer groups that worked to help vulnerable Afghans escape the Taliban’s takeover (pictured is a group of Afghans who were successfully led inside the bounds of Kabul airport by Task Force Pineapple)
‘Shepherds,’ some in-person but the vast majority remote, guided Afghans in the dead of night through safety checkpoints and to Hamid Karzai International Airport (pictured is another successfully saved group inside the airport’s borders)
An Afghan girl seen crying last year after her father was beaten by the Taliban and a bomb went off nearby
Her family is pictured in the aftermath in this photo taken by Task Force Pineapple
He and other military members worked remotely as ‘shepherds,’ guiding Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants – and other vulnerable groups – to various checkpoints in the dead of night from thousands of miles away, with the goal of reaching the Kabul airport.
They did so using their own money and little communication or funds from the government.
But according to Mann, hundreds of people are still left behind with no recourse – specifically, Afghan commandos who do not qualify as SIVs because they were not employed by the US government or related organizations. These fighters would be valuable Taliban targets for their advanced military knowledge from American troops.
‘There’s almost no pathway for an Afghan commando,’ Mann said, adding that the US State Department has ‘no visible interest’ in helping them.
‘I would be lying if I didn’t, you know – I still feel a very deep sense of betrayal,’ the Green Beret told DailyMail.com.
‘I feel like our institutional leaders – not only did they dropped the ball on the – and this includes military leaders too, senior leaders – dropped the ball on the withdrawal, but just the wholesale abandonment of our partner force, particularly our Special Operations partners and the [Afghan National Mine Removal Group], and then just turning the page like it never happened.’
Mann said getting these groups out of Afghanistan has not been a priority for the Biden administration ‘at all.’
Retired Lt. Colonel Scott Mann is a US Army Green Beret who has done tours in Colombia, Iraq and Afghanistan
He’s authored a new book on his experience with Task Force Pineapple called ‘Operation Pineapple Express The Incredible Story of a Group of Americans Who Undertook One Last Mission and Honored a Promise in Afghanistan’
Here, Mann is pictured with his friend Nezam, an Afghan commando whose harrowing experience fleeing his home country is recounted in the forthcoming memoir
‘I think it’s safe to say that the president has a history of not really 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 Viet Cong.
But the failure runs deeper than just the administration, Mann believes, stating that the Pentagon has ‘100 percent’ failed Afghanistan veterans by leaving their allies behind.
‘Just look at the scope of the moral injury,’ he said.
Mann cited a study from last year that revealed more than 30,000 service members have been lost to suicide since 2001, when the US first invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 terror attacks – and he fears scores more will emerge in the aftermath of how the government handled the withdrawal.
‘Where are the generals? Where are the Pentagon leaders, the Special Operations senior leaders stepping forward and saying, “Okay, we clearly have a problem here. There’s a massive moral injury that has been inflicted on our population. We’re going to own this and we’re going to start working on it.” Do you hear any of that? You don’t hear any of it,’ Mann fumed.
Taliban fighters parade in the streets as they celebrate one year since they seized the Afghan capital, Kabul, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022
Mann told DailyMail.com that the withdrawal and US government’s ‘betrayal’ to Afghan allies causes a grave ‘moral injury’ to America’s veterans
He said many Afghan commandos and other special forces fighters still remain in their country – with Taliban targets on their backs
‘And that’s where I think the biggest failure has come from our community, and it’s in our military. Our active duty and former senior leaders are not stepping forward to address this moral injury.’
In his forthcoming book, Mann details both the life-threatening situations undergone by Afghans trying to flee as well as the psychological – and even financial – toll taken by their allies in the US trying to help them.
‘It’s like my friend Duke says; he says, this is an Uncle Sam-sized problem that veterans tried to solve with their personal checking accounts,’ Mann told DailyMail.com.
While some refugees found safety and solace in the United States, the memoir also makes clear that others were not as lucky – including those caught up in the ISIS-K suicide blast that killed nearly 200 people, including 13 US service members.
Throughout its pages, it becomes increasingly clear that the volunteers realized they were undergoing the monumental task of planning escapes without help from the government.
Mann himself is no stranger to putting his military experience down on paper.
The US military finished its withdrawal from Afghanistan two weeks after the Taliban took the nation’s capital
One of his other works is a stage play about his time on tour in the Middle East titled ‘Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret.’
But for ‘Operation Pineapple Express,’ Mann described a writing process that at times brought ‘catharsis’ but was ‘brutal’ at other points – given how soon after its events unfolded that he began the book.
‘I was ready to get back to my life. And writing a book of this caliber, and with that kind of just weight, I just – my God, you know? And my wife and I had to have a really long conversation about it. But it really came down to the fact that I was in a place to really tell the stories of the Afghans and their shepherds in a way that I think could be compelling,’ Mann explained.
He refers to each person in the memoir, including himself, in the third person in order to ‘tell their stories,’ such as ‘the Afghans that were still stuck over there…shepherds who had lost people they were guiding in the explosion and just were wracked with guilt.’
‘The interviews were brutal and they lasted about 45 days, and then the writing however, there was a catharsis in the writing. Because I felt like I was telling their stories,’ Mann said. ‘I’m the storyteller.’