Risking Their Lives to Rescue Afghans Left Behind

Air Force veteran Travis Peterson, a former Air Force pilot, decided that he would return to the United States on his own in August 2021 after the U.S. army pulled out Afghanistan.

Peterson recalls that “Before i knew it,… I was jumping onto an airplane.” “I didn’t know what was about to follow that.”

Peterson served 10 years in Afghanistan and wanted to assist the Afghans he had fought and worked with. Special immigrant visas are available for those who have partnered up with the U.S. government over the course of the occupation’s 20-year duration. Peterson stated that he was obliged to help.

He said, “I would not be alive without these guys.” There are reasons. “There are many other people like me who wouldn’t have been alive if it wasn’t for the intelligence that was on the battlefield and the willingness to put themselves in front me.”

Peterson eventually found a network of veterans, civilians, active-duty military personnel, and philanthropists.  

These individuals are members of Afghan Special Operations Units, which were funded and trained by the American military. Their lives are at risk and they are hiding from the Taliban because of their direct involvement. The State Department is not allowing them to leave the country because they were not employed directly by the American military.

“If we could just re-designate these guys to qualify for special immigrant visas or a humanitarian parole,” he says, “we could have them out today.”

Peterson rescued some men from the crowds during the chaotic week that followed the U.S. withdrawal of August 2021. Peterson escorted the men to security at the airport, where he verified their identities. Private donations enabled him to arrange for four flights out Afghanistan in a span of just two weeks.

Peterson was present at Kabul’s airport on the day that ISIS attacked it, killing an estimated 170 Afghan civilians as well as 13 U.S. troops.

Many of those who were able to escape did not work for the U.S. military. Peterson met three of his brothers outside Kabul Airport trying to get onto a plane. They looked scared and distraught so I took them under my wing. They now reside as refugees on the East Coast and have asked us not to reveal their identities or whereabouts.

Peterson met a group of people who were also interested in helping Afghans stranded after he returned to the U.S. Zach Van Meter, from Florida, is a venture capitalist and rented a conference space at the Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C. in August. He was coordinating a private effort to move people.

Van Meter stated that “we set up tables, and anywhere between 40-60 people worked there for a whole week. People were sleeping on the ground,” There are reasons.

The United Arab Emirates Government was contacted to assist with the evacuation, and 13,000 Afghans were evacuated.

Nearly 130,000 people were evacuated by private entities as well as the U.S. government. Many are currently in camps across the U.S., as they await lengthy screening. There are still tens of thousands hiding.

Ben Owen, the founder and CEO of Flanders Fields is a non-profit that assists refugees within the U.S. It also maintains safe homes to keep those in hiding fed.

“We pay rent, keep them warm and try to keep them busy. “We send coloring books for children,” he said. He said, “We have to keep food on the table. That’s always a struggle.”

Flanders Fields belongs to a network of 60 Afghan safe homes that is nonprofit. Owen estimates that Owen has borrowed approximately $23,000 to pay for his expenses.

Although the Biden Administration is not currently helping to evacuate the Afghans, many people within the U.S. government have worked with them and assisted with private evacuations.

Van Meter describes a friend as “literally taking some of the government salary to send food money for people,” Van Meter said. Van Meter said that he hasn’t met the people before. It’s not easy for everyone to get involved in the press.

Afghans still in Afghanistan are caught in a dilemma: In order to be granted an SIV they can leave, the Afghans must attend an interview. The U.S. is unable to conduct interview in Afghanistan.

Josh Jenkins, an Army Veteran who has served eight years in Afghanistan. He is currently employed by Amplio (a non-profit that uses technology to combat poverty) and assists with evacuations.

Owen, Jenkins and 15 other non-profit organizations have joined Moral Compass (a Peterson-founded federation) to coordinate logistics and funding for Afghan refugees.

This federation is entirely dependent on private donations. It’s currently exploring other strategies to aid more Afghans fleeing the country, including a plan to create a humanitarian village in Kosovo.

“We had doctors, lawyers. Jenkins stated that Jenkins was able to cover everything from the top down, and even volunteer workers who just wanted to help. Jenkins says that they had no expectations to be paid.

Jenkins reports that Jenkins said the Kosovar government would agree to sign the agreement if the U.S. State Department issued a no objection certificate. This certifies that it is not opposed to the plan. The State Department refused.

There are thousands of Afghans stuck at vetting station on U.S. bases across the U.S. For six months, they have been waiting for processing. Some of them will become stateless if their applications are denied. Around 14,000 permanent U.S. residents, and 400 American citizens are still in Afghanistan. They have no way to migrate or want to be separated from their families. Antony Blinken (U.S. Secretary Of State) felt that it was crucial to emphasize the dual citizenship of American citizens currently living in Afghanistan.

Biden’s administration was responsible for the withdrawal. However, it also continues to protect and enforce the U.S.’s flawed immigration system. It admitted just 18% of refugees it allowed to under the self-imposed limit in 2021.

Biden has created a new program which will allow 600 Afghans to be evacuated per week. However, there are approximately 100,000 Afghans who have been granted SIV status. This means that evacuations can take several years. The evacuations will be delayed by the fact that there are still thousands of unprocessed applicants.

Jenkins states that the United States is obligated continue to assist our Afghan allies.

“We must be able to follow our word and accomplish what we promised.”

NoorGreene produced and edited the script; Danielle Thompson added graphics; Ian Keyser recorded audio. Isaac Reese shot Isaac Reese. Mike Koslap shot Jim Epstein.

U.S. Air Force/U.S. Central Command Public Affairs/Newscom. Hassan Majeed/UPI/Newscom. EyePress/Newscom. U.S. AIR forCE/UPI/Newscom. Mark Lawson/U.S. Central Command Public Affa/Newscom; Sayed Najafizada/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; EyePress/Newscom
Rod Lamkey / CNP / SplashNews/Newscom; White House/ZUMA Press/Newscom; US DOD/U.S. Central Command Public Affa/Newscom; U.S. Marines/U.S. Central Command Public Affairs/Newscom; U.S. Central Command Public Affa/Newscom; Donald R. Allen – US Air Force v/CNP / Polaris/Newscom; Valery Sharifulin/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; CNP/AdMedia/SIPA/Newscom; U.S. Air Force/U.S. Central Command Public Affairs/Newscom; Cameron Smith/White House/Newscom; Sayed Najafizada/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; CNP/AdMedia/Newscom; U.S. Marines/U.S. Central Command Public Affairs/Newscom; SGT. BRANDON CRIBELAR/UPI/Newscom; STAFF SGT. BRANDON CRIBELAR/UPI/Newscom; Abaca Press/Europa Press/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom.

Music: “There” by Laurel Violet via Artlist; “Lost and Found” by Theatre of Delays via Artlist; “Polemos Mons” by Charlie Ryan via Artlist; “First Launch” by Piotr Hummel via Artlist; “Mulholland” by Theatre of Delays via Artlist; “Attya Ensoria (The Holy and the Damned)” instrumental version by Ian Post via Artlist; “Distant Echoes” by Salt of the Sound via Artlist; “Odd Numbers” by Curtis Cole via Artlist; “The Old Friend” by Max H. via Artlist; “The Fall” instrumental version by Or Chausha via Artlist; “Blood Meridian” by SPEARFISHER via Artlist; “Goosebumps” by Veaceslav Draganov via Artlist; “No Decides” by Or Chausha via Artlist; “Take Flight” by Seth Parson via Artlist; “The Blue Dot” by Shahead Mostafafar via Artlist; “Shadows Rise” by Doug Kaufman via Artlist; “Legends” by C.K. Martin via Artlist; “Transition riser airy whoosh” by Amusia via Artlist; “Deep-end sub-bass drop distant boom reflection” by Adam Pietruszko via Artlist; “Hard heavy transition” by Eytan Krief via Artlist; “Belgium ambience parking lot cars distant traffic” by Eneas Mentzel via Artlist; “Antisystem glitch distortion beeping” by Sampletraxx via Artlist; “Cinematic fuel whooshy transition” by Giorgio Riolo via Artlist; “The glitch reverberant error” by Sound Response via Artlist.