For in recent weeks, Lt. Col. Jonathon Myers, a retired Marine Intelligence Officer, has led an insomniac and exhaustive effort to bring U.S. citizens and green card holders in contact with Marines in Afghanistan out of the countries before the August 31 withdrawal deadline.
On Monday afternoon, that mission went from terrible and dangerous to clandestine for the hundreds of American citizens and the thousands of green card holders and journalists stranded when the last military plane left Kabul airport.
âThe situation as of Monday is heartbreaking,â Myers said. The Virginia native was part of the US response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi and the rescue of Captain Scott O’Grady from Bosnia.
Myers’ last posting before his retirement last year was as an intelligence officer under the direction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.
Myers worked with two other retired Marines, Katy Garroway from Maryland and Rico Reyes from Texas. In the past 12 dark hours in Kabul, no matter what military leaders or President Joe Biden have said, no American who reached the airport has been able to get out, Myers said.
âIn the past 12 hours, I have had four US citizen buses outside the door,â he said. “They were mostly pregnant women and babies, including a child with spina bifida, all piled up waiting at the door.”
Myers said his team paid the Taliban with a large bribe to allow their buses to pass. “They got to the gate, and there was an aid organization that was supposed to meet us with representatives, with the lists, and tell the Taliban to wait for them.”
The humanitarian organization did not show up.
âMe, in panic mode, I called and called and called all my marine networks, got the number of one of the main commanders there, I explained the situation and we had a fight when he told me that the Taliban were making the calls. down here, âMyers said.
They never went out.
No American has been able to get out on the last five jets to leave Afghanistan, as General Frank McKenzie, head of the US central command, confirmed on Tuesday. He said the Americans had desperately tried to get to Kabul airport for the latest evacuations, but failed.
Myers spoke to Germany’s Washington Examiner after Biden proclaimed the withdrawal “an extraordinary success.”
He says what happened in the last few days in Afghanistan does not look like any type of success. Based on what he saw, he doesn’t believe Biden’s claim that 90% of people who wanted to leave did so.
On Wednesday, NBC News reported that of the 120,000 people Biden claimed to have evacuated, only about 8,500 of those who left Afghanistan were Afghans, according to early figures. This is a small number compared to the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the US government and applied for special US visas. In that same report, advocacy groups told NBC that when you combine the number of Afghans who worked with the U.S. government with their family members, you look at over 70,000 people, most of whom are now in the United States. hands of the Taliban.
Myers said he started this effort after he started receiving messages from fellow Marines asking if anyone knew how to help the interpreters who had helped them. âAt the same time, I received messages from a friend of mine who was at Transcom, which is the organization that manages all planes for the military. He said, ‘Hey, Jon, if you start hearing about Navy interpreters, call me, because I’m working on these planes going over there.’ “
Myers said he took it upon himself to start hunting down the performers because there was clearly no plan to get them out. âThe State Department does not follow our allies and our interpreters, and the Marine Corps does not follow them. Basically, I was providing all these names to the Marines over there in Kabul, âhe explained.
Myers brought in a friend of his, Garroway, a former Navy sergeant, and another friend of his, Reyes, a former Navy major and lawyer in Texas, and they started collecting names of people to go out. . “I know there is a lot of effort going on, but ours was a little different as it turned out that we were well connected with the task force that was carrying out the mission.”
Myers said what increasingly frustrated them in the weeks and days leading up to the final evacuation is that the US government has repeatedly said that anyone can get out if they wanted it with the procedures in place. âBut the point is, we couldn’t get anyone through that wall. We couldn’t get anyone through the wall, âhe repeats with frustration.
âI even resorted to sending American citizens to a certain location. Then I would send them an aerial photo of where they needed to be to meet our network of Marines.
He told a desperate 17-year-old boy to wear a white shirt with a pink bandana. âSo he went to that place and he stood there. And then I coordinated with the Marines inside the wire. When they saw him he ran and jumped into the sewage channel, full of excrement, swam across it, ran, showed his passport and they shot him over the top. wall, âhe explained.
âHe was an American citizen. This is how desperate we were to get people over the wall.
It has been several days since he slept and exhaustion, he says, is starting to wear him down. âWhen Katie, Rico and I started doing this, we just thought it would be the right thing to do,â he said.
But the weight of not getting someone, anybody out is overwhelming for them. âTelling people, ‘I can’t help you save your family’ wasn’t something I had planned. But go through spreadsheets and say this family can live because they have four members and I have four seats, but this family cannot because they have five members and I don’t have enough seatsâ¦ âhe said, his voice dropping.
âWe shouldn’t be doing this. We shouldn’t be the ones to do it. It should have been taken care of by the government. I literally tell people that their families are going to die because I have no room for them.
The operation has gone underground since the US military abandoned thousands of US citizens, green card holders and journalists to the Taliban.
The Myers team is always working to ‘get people out’; he just doesn’t discuss the details.
The regular and intelligence officer, who has spent three decades at the epicenter of the action, is furious not only at Biden, but also at the very military man he served honorably for nearly three decades.
Myers says when people make comparisons to Vietnam and the failures there, he argues that what happened in Afghanistan is on a whole new level of indifference and neglect of duty.
He is also rigid with anger at the lies of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the administration was not leaving any Americans stranded in Afghanistan. âThey were lying. So many times over the past week I have seen people lie. I literally have stranded Americans calling me and begging me all day and night, and emailing me saying, “We’re stuck.” We have blue passports. We have been stuck here. The Taliban are shooting at us, âhe said.
âI sent an American family in the middle of the night on the phone, leading them through town, because I had heard that maybe they could get in through that one entrance. And the Taliban started shooting them with automatic weapons, and they were hiding under the cars, âhe explains.
“It was four blue passports with children,” he said solemnly.
Myers says his distaste for senior military personnel stems from the way the ideals of the political class have infiltrated our national security apparatus. âImportant national security decisions that affect our lives and our troops are now hyper-politicized. There has always been some political influence, but they are hyper-politicized, âhe said.
Myers said he and his team shifted their mission to get out any U.S. citizens they could get out because the State Department didn’t care. “I pulled 20 today,” he explained.
As we speak, Myers says he has US citizens messaging him, begging him for help. He adds that his issue, along with the numbers of his partners, circulated widely among U.S. citizens and left-behind performers, starting before the deadline and continuing after the U.S. military leaves.
âI have this American with an American passport who has been hiding for a week and a half, terrified, who has never been contacted by the State Department,â he said.
Myers explains that they took her on a bus to another place where they can try to steal people.
“I don’t know how successful we will be up there, because I guess the Taliban will decide to stop us from flying at some point.”
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Key words: Afghanistan
Original author: Salena zito
Original location: For these Marines, a constant rush to zero hours to save stranded Americans