Scott Mann: Operation Pineapple Specific, a Ultimate Mission

The abrupt departure of the ultimate American troops from Afghanistan final 12 months after 20 years of warfare plunged Kabul into anguished chaos. Watching protection of the withdrawal at house in Tampa, Florida, Scott Mann sank into livid disbelief.

The previous Inexperienced Beret had served a number of excursions within the nation, coaching Afghan particular forces commandos and later working to increase the attain of the democratic authorities via village stability operations in rural areas. He knew the Taliban’s return to energy would unwind the advances of the earlier 20 years—and expose the commandos and their households to brutal revenge.

Retired Lt. Col. Scott Mann tells his story in Final Out: Elegy of a Inexperienced Beret in 2019. Photograph courtesy of Scott Mann.

Mann had hung up his Army uniform in 2012 after 22 years of service, disillusioned by the warfare’s path and what he considered the career-first mindset of U.S. navy commanders. However as his telephone stuffed with textual content messages from Afghan commandos determined to flee, and with American forces missing a cohesive evacuation plan, the retired lieutenant colonel discovered himself pulled into one final mission from 8,000 miles away.

Operation Pineapple Specific, which got here out from Simon & Schuster in August, presents Mann’s account of enlisting a volunteer group of fellow veterans to construct a digital underground railroad for Afghans fleeing the Taliban. Related by a Sign chat room from factors world wide, the group’s members labored with U.S. troops on the bottom at Kabul’s airport to information greater than 750 “passengers” in another country.

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Mann’s satisfaction within the work of Process Pressure Pineapple—the identify derived from the code phrase “pineapple” {that a} commando used to achieve entry to the airport—contrasts together with his sharp criticism of American navy leaders. He spoke from his house in Tampa about why he considers the U.S. withdrawal a mistake, the sense of obligation that drove U.S. veterans to assist Afghans escape, and the lasting toll of the longest warfare in U.S. historical past.

Let’s return to earlier than the evacuation. How did you view the choice to drag out all U.S. forces?

We went into Afghanistan on the heels of probably the most catastrophic terrorist assault on our soil in historical past. It’s not a stretch to say that the absence of a stable floor intelligence community—and dependable native companions to function an antibody to violent extremism—vastly contributed to that assault. For 20 years, our navy fought to place in place each an intelligence community and a dependable partnership with the Afghan safety forces that might function an antibody to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Former Green Beret and Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann wrote a book about the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the attempt to help Afghans flee the country.

Former Inexperienced Beret and Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann wrote a e book in regards to the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the try to assist Afghans flee the nation.

The companion that did the majority of the combating was the Afghan particular operations forces. You’re speaking about 25,000, 30,000 particular operators. I consider that our senior administration officers—beginning with the president—ought to have requested themselves, “What do we have to do to make sure that they’ve what they should maintain the nation?”

So the U.S. navy ought to have saved troops on the bottom?

We all the time mentioned, with village stability operations and constructing capability with the commandos, you’re speaking about a long time, not years. Inexperienced Berets sometimes give it some thought that method: It’s an extended recreation; it’s all devices of energy. What might which have seemed like? A small U.S. power that stayed centered on counterterrorism and capacity-building with the Afghan particular forces models that have been maintaining the Taliban at bay.

Would the Taliban have been capable of make strikes within the outlying provinces? Sure, and possibly there would’ve needed to have been an organized peacekeeping deal. However I do consider we might’ve maintained a presence in that nation that was acceptable, notably if we had continued to work with NATO. We might have continued to assist maintain area in order that the safety forces and the relative democracy that was in place might proceed to develop. As a substitute, we actually walked away, understanding the way it was going to finish.

As Kabul fell into disarray and also you started listening to from Afghan commandos you knew, what was your response?

At first, I used to be wrestling with, “I can’t consider no person else is doing something,” and, “Man, I actually don’t wish to become involved with this once more.” However sooner or later, it was identical to, “Screw it. We gotta do one thing.” Then after I began calling a number of the others who grew to become a part of Pineapple, I noticed that they have been in the identical place. They have been dealing with the identical fears and frustrations and guilt, they usually have been realizing the identical factor: We are able to at the very least do one thing.

Nezamuddin Nezami, an Afghan commando, and Scott Mann pose after a combat patrol in southern Afghanistan in 2010. Mann, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, helped Nezami and his family escape Kabul last year after U.S. troops withdrew from the country. Photo courtesy of Scott Mann.

Nezamuddin Nezami, an Afghan commando, and Scott Mann pose after a fight patrol in southern Afghanistan in 2010. Mann, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, helped Nezami and his household escape Kabul final 12 months after U.S. troops withdrew from the nation. Photograph courtesy of Scott Mann.

You write that U.S. veterans, past a way of obligation to Afghan troopers, acted out of despair over what they noticed as America abandoning its ideas.

Right here’s the factor: These veterans know one thing that the politicians, the diplomats, and the careerist senior navy officers don’t know. It’s that there’s a requirement in our line of labor that “I’ve your again” means one thing. They know that our failure to honor that promise is method larger than the ethical concern.

One of many veterans in our group mentioned, “Not solely did the evacuation wind up on our shoulders, however we discover ourselves making an attempt to revive the honour of the USA.” My goodness. What sort of huge process is that? The redistribution of duty from our institutional leaders onto the shoulders of our veterans is disgusting.

What have been the results on veterans who selected to hold that burden?

The individuals who bore the majority of the price of our withdrawal have been the Afghans and the U.S. troops that went over there. However there was—and is—an unlimited value to those volunteers in teams like Pineapple: excessive stress ranges, lack of sleep, monetary struggles, marital pressure, retriggered trauma.

There are teams that I’m nonetheless working with via the Ethical Compass Federation—18 organizations that banded collectively whose volunteers are nonetheless making an attempt to get Afghans out. These are individuals who don’t know learn how to say no. So how does this finish for them? The extent of ethical damage they’ve incurred is staggering.

The affect of the withdrawal on the veterans’ group—as with the warfare itself—appears all however invisible to most People. Do you are worried that the nation has merely moved on?

A group of Afghans wait at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Task Force Pineapple aided their escape from the country. Photo courtesy of Scott Mann.

A bunch of Afghans wait at Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport in Kabul through the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan final 12 months. Process Pressure Pineapple aided their escape from the nation. Photograph courtesy of Scott Mann.

That’s actually the explanation I wrote the e book: I intend to get as loud as I have to get as a result of this isn’t over. I consider we’re on the entrance finish of a catastrophic fallout with psychological well being with our veterans and navy households. You may have 73% of veterans saying they really feel betrayed [by the withdrawal]; 67% really feel humiliated. So what are we going to be taking a look at when it comes to despair, substance abuse, homelessness? Their sense of betrayal and abandonment—no person is speaking about that. And no person is speaking in regards to the affect when it comes to [military] recruiting and retention. You may have senior leaders scratching their heads, saying, “Wow, I ponder why our numbers are so low.”

Scott Mann, a former Green Beret who trained Afghan special forces commandos during multiple tours in Afghanistan, stands in a valley in Oruzgan province in 2004. Photo courtesy of Scott Mann.

Scott Mann, a former Inexperienced Beret who skilled Afghan particular forces commandos throughout a number of excursions in Afghanistan, stands in a valley in Oruzgan province in 2004. Photograph courtesy of Scott Mann.

You name out—by identify—those that you suppose failed to assist Afghan commandos because the Taliban reclaimed energy, together with two Army generals who at the moment are retired: Richard Clarke, the previous head of U.S. Particular Operations Command; and Austin Miller, the final NATO commander in Afghanistan. What’s your intent?

It’s about accountability. Senior management might have influenced what occurred on the bottom and helped the commandos to at the very least develop an underground plan for guerilla warfare and get their households to security. However there was no effort—in any respect—by the leaders of the Special Forces and Particular Operations Forces. The commandos have been deserted.

What would you like U.S. navy officers to be taught from the withdrawal and its aftermath?

My dad is my hero, and he was the one who mentioned to me early on (about serving to Afghans escape), “Scotty, you guys are honoring a promise, and I’m telling you proper now, you don’t wish to be on the flawed aspect of this.”

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That’s a dialog we have to have with our senior leaders. Careerism is likely one of the best nationwide safety dangers we face in our navy. It has gotten so unhealthy that issues like fundamental humanity and honoring a promise—we don’t arise for these issues anymore on the highest ranges, and that to me is as harmful as ISIS. We have to do away with these individuals—fireplace or demote them—and have individuals step into these positions who’re keen to guide the correct method.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This Warfare Horse function was reported by Martin Kuz, edited by Kelly Kennedy, fact-checked by Jasper Lo, and copy-edited by Mitchell Hansen-Dewar. Headlines are by Abbie Bennett.