You may have heard rumors by now of a group of special forces veterans who were conducting a real life “Pineapple Express” mission in Kabul to get out Americans and Afghan allied forces and their families.
The elite group of former military personnel, which calls themselves “Task Force Pinnapple” reportedly coordinated its own “privately funded operations” to heroically evacuate Afghan allies from the Taliban regime, members of the group told ABC News.
The missions originally began on Aug. 15 as a rescue mission to save one ex-Afghan commando who was already receiving death threats form the Taliban because he worked with U.S. forces in the past, the task force, dubbed “Pineapple Express” for short, felt they should continue to rescue Afghan allies and their families.
Wednesday night marked the task forces’ final mission ahead of the withdrawal deadline this week.
The Afghan passengers represented the span of the two-decade war there, and participants included Army Maj. Jim Gant, a retired Green Beret known as “Lawrence of Afghanistan,” who was the subject of a 2014 “Nightline” investigation.
“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. “The bravery and courage and commitment of my brothers and sisters in the Pineapple community was greater than the U.S. commitment on the battlefield.”
“I just want to get my people out,” he added.
“Our own government didn’t do this,” former Navy SEAL Jason Redman told ABC. “We did what we should do, as Americans,” he said.
Working unofficially with the U.S. military and embassy to get people out, the week-long “Pineapple Express” operation safely transported more than 600 special operators, and families, sometimes “one person at a time” or “in pairs” to the Kabul airport.
Many Afghans the team rescued would otherwise be left for dead at the hands of the Taliban which is ready to kill anyone opposing their totalitarian ideology.
Retired Green Beret Capt. Zac Lois told ABC he modeled this mission after Harriet Tubman’s historic “Underground Railroad” that helped hundreds of American slaves escape to freedom.
As the Taliban tightened checkpoints at the Kabul airport, making entry more difficult, the task force successfully smuggled people through in the middle of the night by flashing pictures of pineapples on their cell phones to indicate to Afghans that they were there to help, the outlet added. The fruit was also used as a password with active U.S. service members stationed at the Kabul airport to allow them entry.
“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,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret commander who led the private rescue effort, told ABC News.
“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”, Mann noted.
Former Navy Seal Dan O’Shea added the following.
“Leaving a man behind is not in our SEAL ethos. Many Afghans have a stronger vision of our democratic values than many Americans do,” said Dan O’Shea, a retired SEAL commander and former counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan.
“We have lost comms with several of our teams,” texted Jason Redman, a combat-wounded former Navy SEAL and author, who was shepherding Afghans he knew.
“The whole night was a roller-coaster ride. People were so terrified in that chaotic environment. These people were so exhausted, I kept trying to put myself in their shoes,” Redman said.
Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret commander, said to ABC that the covert rescue mission continued until just mere seconds before ISIS-K detonated the suicide bombings that killed 13 U.S. service members, wounded 18 U.S. troops, and left nearly 200 Afghans dead.
Thank you to these heroes for doing what should have been done by our government and military. Lives were saved, spared, and changed because of you.