Group Of Veterans Band Together Use Intel To Lead Afghans Around Checkpoints
KABUL - A large group of veterans called 'Digital Dunkirk' which has a member base of 'hundreds of thousands' of people are using analysts and satellite images to report Taliban checkpoint locations around the airport in Kabul and using that intel to help lead Afghan interpreters to the airport so that they can safely evacuate.
According to a Fox News interview with Matt Zeller, a former CIA analyst, Interpreters did much more than simply translating. They were their "eyes and ears on the battlefield" and stated that they would hear orders to shoot the interpreters first through listening to Taliban communications.
Zeller stated, "From the Taliban’s perspective, they won" and said that the interpreters in Afghanistan are the "people who have been helping us to kill them over the last 20 years" and said that they want "revenge" and "retribution" and said that there is no place for the over 200,000 Afghan interpreters trapped in the country now.
Zeller said that the Digital Dunkirk group is working toward evacuating the interpreters in Afghanistan and that the "hundreds of thousands" of people currently involved in helping Afghan interpreters evacuate could grow into the millions by the time all of the interpreters have been rescued.
"If you served in the Afghan war and you still care about these people, chances are you’re probably part of the digital Dunkirk" he told Fox News and stated that it began as an 'army of veterans' getting 'pinged by Afghans' but that the network of veterans has grown to also include human rights organizations, faith and also political advocacy.
"It's incredible" he said. "It’s not just veterans. Literally it’s pastors, it’s my mom, it’s my relatives, people who have never served in Afghanistan … widows, widowers, children of people who served".
"We’ve had intel analysts who have come and started doing satellite imagery analysis and actually putting together products for people where they’re mapping out Taliban checkpoints in real time using social media data" he said to Fox News.
Although the Taliban promised to forgive any Afghans who aided the U.S. military during the 20 year war, they have set up checkpoints and carried out rigorous interrogations to find and kill anyone who helped western forces. Even going door to door and hanging anyone they find with connections to the west.
"If you have an English document on you in that checkpoint, they take that document" Zeller told Fox News. "And they make note that you’re now on their list".
Zeller stated, "I’m spending most of my nighttime texting with Afghans, telling them ‘no, this is the gate you now got to try and get to. Oh, well here’s where this Taliban checkpoint is, you gotta take this street to literally get around them,'"
Even if Afghans or American citizens are able to get past the checkpoints and to the Kabul international airport airport safely, it does not mean that they are out of the country free and clear without any issues at all.
"If you get people who get there, they need to be prepared to wait up to nine, 10 hours, in horrifically hot, humid conditions, with no water, no food no bathroom. Just the worst possible conditions you can think of. Because on top of that, the Taliban are shooting indiscriminately into the crowd and over everybody’s head" he said in the interview. "It’s just complete and total chaos".
Zeller talked of one situation where he was able to get a U.S. citizen into the Kabul airport. "The rest of her family was there behind her. They’re not U.S. citizens yet, and they weren’t allowed in. She had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave her family behind," he continued. "That is being played out over and over and over again."
"I’ve got friends who have told me that they’ve had literally U.S. citizens standing in the crowd waving their blue passports screaming ‘I’m a U.S. citizen,’ and the Marines can’t come get them" he said, saying that the U.S. has a real responsibility in the evacuation of Afghan interpreters.
He said that if the Afghan interpreters are not evacuated immediately, "they’re gonna be dead, and we’ll regret for the rest of our lives having failed them".
Zeller went on in the interview to explain how helpful the interpreters were to the U.S. soldiers. "We would role into a village and [our interpreter] would tap me on the shoulder and say ‘something’s wrong here'. Normally when we come here, that guy comes out with tea, and those kids are over there playing with a soccer ball, and there’s no one around. This is a bad thing. We usually get attacked when it’s like this, and five minutes later we're getting shot at".
"That type of insight saves lives" he said. "That cultural context cannot ever be replaced other than by standing next to someone who came from there".
Zeller spoke of how he promised to pay his interpreter back for saving his life, and was later able to help the interpreter evacuate out of Afghanistan safely and said that the United States will be morally injured of it does not keep its promise to evacuate the Afghan interpreters.
"I’m thankful I got to fulfill it for him, but there are now thousands of others, who Americans made just as equal and just as important of a promise, who are being betrayed and left behind".
"I would love for someone to call up and say ‘Major Zeller, you need to put your uniform on, you’re being sent to Afghanistan to help out with us. I don’t know of a single veteran that I’ve spoken with who feels any differently."
Zeller said that he cannot imagine what those soldiers must be going through who "who have to stand 50 meters away from the Taliban and watch them be thugs and not be able to do a damn thing about it".
He said that the effort of his group in evacuating the interpreters is "America effort … minus the one guy, the only guy, who can give the order to actually truly save these people" speaking of Biden.
This, as the Biden administration is facing a huge political backlash for continually ignoring pleas to use military forces to go into Kabul and rescue the Americans and Afghan interpreters that are currently trapped behind the Taliban checkpoints.
"I was appalled that the secretary of defense said he didn’t have the ability to guarantee the safe movement of Americans to the airport in Kabul" he said. "He absolutely does. He has the United States military. What he doesn’t have is the orders to move those people".
"At the end of a war, there are two questions that loom large" he said. "Was it worth it, and how do you end it? History gets to decide the former, we get to decide the latter".
"Right now, we’ve chosen to end it with profound shame." Zeller stated at the interviews conclusion.