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TAMPA, Fla. – This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the consequences of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan one year ago this week.
The retired green beret behind Task Force Pineapple, one of the most prevalent veteran-led groups that helped rescue Afghan allies as the Taliban seized Kabul, reflected on his efforts one year later and blasted the U.S. government for ignoring the more than 20,000 Afghan commandos still stranded in Afghanistan.
Afghans rushed the Kabul airport in hopes to escape as the capital city fell to the Taliban in August 2021. Numerous groups, mostly composed of veterans, organically formed to help their old Afghan allies navigate past Taliban checkpoints and secure transport out of the country.
“They’re the most hunted, at-risk individuals,” retired Lt. Col. Scott Mann said of the commandos still stuck in Afghanistan. “Yet there’s no pathway for them to come to the United States.”
Since the withdrawal ended last year, the Task Force Pineapple team has shifted its efforts to keeping the remaining commandos alive while advocating for a pathway out of Afghanistan.
“It has been a year since Kabul collapsed,” Mann told Fox News. “Like one of my friends says, it’s harder in some ways than the actual collapse because … you realize that not much has changed in a year and there’s still so much suffering from these amazing people.
“It’s just hard to watch,” Mann added.
More than 6,000 Americans and 120,000 Afghans were evacuated during the August 2021 airlift, according to the U.S. government. Another 9,000 Afghans were since evacuated, The Washington Post reported in May.
Task Force Pineapple, meanwhile, was rescued between 700 and 1,000 Afghans, according to Mann. But its operation was cut short after an ISIS-K terrorist detonated a suicide bomb at the airport on Aug. 26, 2021, killing 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghan civilians.
Afterward, Mann and his group of volunteers focused instead on trying to keep the stranded commandos “alive through the winter, working with other volunteer groups to try to facilitate safe houses, medical care, food drops.”
Of the many Afghans still stranded, the commandos are near the top of the Taliban’s most wanted list, according to Mann. The group, trained by U.S. Special Forces, did nearly all the fighting from around 2014 on, he said.
Some members of Mann’s team remain committed to helping their old allies.
“For special operators, for Green Berets, this is something that we’re going to continue to do until properly relieved,” Mann told Fox News. “We understand the value of partnership and friendship.”
“Many of us are alive because of the contributions that these Afghan allies made for us,” he added.
Mann said some of the U.S. veterans of the Afghanistan War have been demoralized by America’s failure to keep the Afghan warriors safe.
“This is where I feel like our government, our administration, the State Department, and, yes, our military generals, past and present, and admirals have dropped the ball,” he told Fox News. “They’re not looking at the impact that this has had on veterans and how they feel about it.”
“They’re just turning the page like it never happened, and we’re going to pay that cost in the lives and mental health of our veterans and the Gold Star families and the military families for years to come,” he continued.
A State Department official didn’t address Mann’s comments. Instead, he pointed Fox News to comments spokesperson Ned Price made in August clarifying that 17,000 Afghans had applied for special immigrant visas and detailed the efforts the government made leading up to the evacuation.
Department of Defense spokesman Army Maj. Rob Lodewick said the Pentagon continues to support the State Department’s efforts to relocate Afghan army veterans by processing referrals from active duty U.S. service members, veterans and others affiliated with DoD.
Mann said the civilians aiding the abandoned Afghan soldiers have limited capability. He said the U.S. government needs to step in.
“It seems to me that the Biden administration, the State Department and our military leadership, they’re just pretending like it doesn’t exist,” Mann told Fox News. “They had their heads in the sand while the private sector is trying to just handle the problem.”
“It is a big, big mess,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include comment from the Pentagon.