The Pineapple Express, a network of special operations veterans and contacts on the ground who came together to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies, is moving to the next phase of their operations — getting the hundreds of Americans left behind in Afghanistan to safety.
“We’re having to move from what was a very network-centric starfish kind of thing to way more of a deliberate recovery. That focuses on two things, moving people to safety, getting them immediately out of harm’s way from retribution and targeting and then ultimately some of them to freedom,” said Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret who co-founded the Pineapple Express.
“Categorically, we’re looking at American citizens that are still a couple of hundred, at least, that are still in country,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News on Tuesday.
He said they are also looking to aid Afghan partner forces, at-risk Afghans, innovators in democracy and the arts, women, prosecutors, judges, and young girls who have participated in non-profit art endeavors.
“Nobody else is coming,” he said.
Mann did not detail exactly what those plans were, but said he and his teammates would rely on networks in place for “years and years.”
“Green Berets are good at working by, with, and through indigenous populations and cultures, and we don’t have to be on the ground to get things done, you know, and, and that’s, that’s the bottom line,” he said.
The Pineapple Express helped to get about 700 Americans and Afghans inside the Kabul airport in three days, using a “shepherd concept.” Mann said former special operators used their contacts in and outside of Afghanistan to get people inside.
He said he even received calls from inside the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for help to get people out.
“I’ve had calls from inside the White House in the West Wing and the Joint Chiefs to get their people out,” he said.
Mann said it all started with one Afghan commando he has been friends with since 2010, who even went through the U.S. Special Forces qualification, or “Q,” course. The Afghan commando had applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) to come to the U.S. two years ago, but it had not yet been approved.
When Kabul fell, Mann started receiving text messages from him. A small group consisting of veterans, a Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) staffer, ABC News reporter James Gordon Meek, and two active-duty Green Berets, joined together to get the Afghan commando out.
“He was hiding in his uncle’s apartment like Anne Frank. And we figured we’ve got to move him across the city, we’ve got to move him through the Taliban perimeter, and then we’ve got to get him up close to the guards without getting shot,” Mann said. He said:
So we just collaborated in a encrypted chat room. We became his eyes and ears. We used open source technology to look at ways to move. We used indigenous networks to move him. We got him within four feet of the guards. And then James Meek, the reporter made a call inside the perimeter, found a guy that was a guy with authority and a former special operator. He knew that we had a vetted guy in this throngs of thousands, and he said, ‘Tell him to say pineapple and we’ll pull him.
And so we were on the phones and he had like 10% [battery] left on his phone and we’re like, ‘Pineapple!’ And we heard him say it. The next thing we know, he sends a picture inside [the airport] and the pineapple meme started flying, and then that became Taskforce Pineapple.
And then we just decided, you know what, there were all these other Navy SEALs, Green Berets Rangers, Marine SOF, who were trying to do the same thing, and they were frustrated. And we just said, ‘Hey, you know, come into our room, Taskforce Pineapple, and you can be a shepherd for your flock. You leverage your relationship and trust with them. And, uh, and then you can move them. And so what we did was we created a room where we had a concerted picture that was flat and collaborative, and then the shepherds were in there.
And then this one elementary school teacher, Zac, a former Green Beret inspired by Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, made contact with a couple people inside the wire that did not like the standing orders they had been given. And they agreed to be conductors on the railroad. And we guided our shepherds through different holes in the wall where they told us to go, through sewage canals and then brought them, the guys on the wall side had green chem lights. One guy had funny red glasses. And then our people would show pictures of pineapples on their phone and they would get pulled in. And we, we got about 700, and in three days before the bomb went off.
Mann said they were able to save Afghan interpreters, commandos, and civilians in duress.
He said in two days, Task Force Pineapple grew from five people to 150 people from all over the country and from across the political spectrum.
“The thing they all had in common was the singular purpose to honor the promise made to Afghan forces and interpreters that the U.S. would help them in exchange for their service.
“It was really beautiful to see … combat veterans showing us, showing our political leaders what it needs to look like,” he said.
Mann implored the U.S. State Department to either formally partner with these informal efforts to get the remaining American citizens and Afghan SIV applicants out, or to at least help them.
“We need help,” he said. “They can open the borders to Tajikistan. It’s very hard to get across and if we’re going to move people that’s one place we’d love to go. They could increase capacity in the embassies so that they’re ready to process.”
The State Department could allow private organizations to bring helicopters around the periphery of Afghanistan and fly people in duress out. The Biden administration could issue a presidential finding [to] keep the Pineapple Express rolling, with the the need for clandestine activities that would allow a private-public partnership to occur, where we are a citizen liaison network leveraging 20 years of relationships that we’ve already proven and working hand in glove with responsible DOD entities to honor the promise and get our people home.
“I mean, those are some very specific things and very doable,” he said.