Inside the volunteer effort to rescue the stranded men and women who worked with the U.S. military.
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Peterson, who served 10 years in Afghanistan, wanted to help the men and women he had worked and fought with to escape. Those who had partnered with the U.S. government during the 20-year occupation could be eligible for special immigrant visas, or SIVs. Peterson says that he felt obligated to help.
During that chaotic week following the U.S. withdrawal in August, 2021, Peterson extracted some of the men he’d worked with, picking them out of the crowds.
When he got back to the U.S., Peterson connected with a growing community of volunteers also committed to helping stranded Afghans. Zach Van Meter, a venture capitalist from Florida, rented a conference room at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in August to coordinate a private volunteer effort to get people out.
Private entities and the U.S. government worked together to airlift out nearly 130,000 people. Most are now living at camps in the U.S. and other parts of the world, awaiting a lengthy vetting process. Tens of thousands are still in hiding.
Ben Owen is the founder of Flanders Fields, a nonprofit that helps resettle refugees inside the U.S. and maintains a network of safe homes that keep the individuals in hiding fed and sheltered.
Flanders Fields is part of a nonprofit network that maintains 60 safe homes in Afghanistan. Owen says he has taken out about $23,000 in personal loans to cover expenses.
Josh Jenkins is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan for eight years. Now he works for the nonprofit Amplio, which uses technology to fight poverty and is now helping with the evacuation efforts.
Owen, Jenkins, and other 15 nonprofit organizations joined a federation started by Peterson called Moral Compass, which seeks to better coordinate funding, logistics, advocacy, and food programs for stranded Afghans by putting them under one umbrella.
Thousands of Afghans are stuck in vetting stations on U.S. bases inside the U.S. and around the world. They have been awaiting processing for over six months now. If rejected, some will end up stateless. There are around 14,000 U.S. permanent residents and 400 American citizens still stuck in Afghanistan who have no pathway to immigrate or are unwilling to leave their families behind.
Written and produced by Noor Greene, edited by Danielle Thompson; additional graphics by Regan Taylor; audio by Ian Keyser; shot by Isaac Reese, Adam Czarnecki, Mike Koslap, and Jim Epstein.
Photos: 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 ; “Polemos Mons” by Charlie Ryan; “First Launch” by Piotr Hummel; “Mulholland” by Theatre of Delays; “Attya Ensoria (The Holy and the Damned)” instrumental version by Ian Post; “Distant Echoes” by Salt of the Sound via Artlist; “Odd Numbers” by Curtis Cole; “The Old Friend” by Max H.; “The Fall” instrumental version by Or Chausha; “Blood Meridian” by SPEARFISHER; “Goosebumps” by Veaceslav Draganov ; “No Decides” by Or Chausha ; “Take Flight” by Seth Parson; “The Blue Dot” by Shahead Mostafafar ; “Shadows Rise” by Doug Kaufman; “Legends” by C.K. Martin; “Transition riser airy whoosh” by Amusia via Artlist; “Deep-end sub-bass drop distant boom reflection” by Adam Pietruszko; “Hard heavy transition” by Eytan Krief; “Belgium ambience parking lot cars distant traffic” by Eneas Mentzel; “Antisystem glitch distortion beeping” by Sampletraxx; “Cinematic fuel whooshy transition” by Giorgio Riolo; “The glitch reverberant error” by Sound Response, via Artlist.