Group of BCS veterans, former intel officers helping evacuate families out of Afghanistan
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A group of local veterans and former intelligence officers started a non-government nonprofit last week that’s already played a significant role in successfully helping a handful of evacuees get out of Afghanistan safely.
Conditions on the ground in Afghanistan are dire as tens of thousands of people are desperate to leave the country. The worst of it started just nine days ago when the Taliban took over the government. The very next day, former Iraq veteran John Muns started a nonprofit called Task Force Foxfire to help get people out.
“I had three personal contacts reach out to me asking if there was any way I knew how we could get their individuals and their families out of Afghanistan,” Muns said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of government connections as well as international connections.”
Muns and Task Force Foxfire run a 24-7 operation with a team of five to six volunteers during the week. Those numbers expand to 20 to 25 people over the weekends when they’re able to get help from those who want to lend a helping hand but live out of town. Most of them come from backgrounds in the military, intelligence, or international consulting communities.
So far, Task Force Foxfire says they’ve helped about 30 people make it out of Afghanistan.
“We do the follow up with the information that we need specifically for these individuals so that we can either refer their SIV status to the Department of State or help them get their SIV application started,” Muns said.
Muns says his team facilitates tracking the status of each individual trying to leave the country. They also determine their disposition as a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or SIV eligibility and then get the necessary information to the proper authorities through their congressional channels or direct points of contact with the state department.
“We started an encrypted communications system and our own security protocols to make sure that individuals’ personal information was not compromised in our communications with the official channels,” Muns said.
Topher Cason is a Task Force Foxfire director who served 11 years in the U.S. Army, the last four of which he served as a counterintelligence special agent.
“The video of the airplane going down the runway with all the people chasing it, that was my initial gut-check moment, and I realized that I wanted to do something to help,” Cason said. “I happened to talk to John, and he said he was starting up to try to help people, and I said, ‘What can I do?’ Using our intel backgrounds, we put our heads together and started coming up with the procedures we wanted to follow and do things in an operationally secure way.”
He says communication half a world away is becoming more difficult as the Taliban tightens its grip on the country.
“Early on, we had a little better communication with the situation on the ground,” Cason said. “As the days have progressed, that communication has become a little more difficult, trying to express specifically what we need in order to advocate the best we can.”
Muns says it’s been difficult constantly adjusting to a situation that changes on an hourly basis, especially over the past five days as the Taliban has made it more and more difficult for people to progress through their checkpoints.
“We’ve had almost gridlock, and it’s been impossible for us to move our people within an accessible range of people on the ground who might be able to help them,” Muns said.
Although he never served in Afghanistan in nearly a decade of his military service, Muns says he knew he had to get involved because he understands the bond that’s developed with those you’ve fought with side by side, along with the anguish that’s felt when those same people are left in danger.
“That’s a bond that really, really will tear you up if you see a situation like this and you don’t know if you can help. Just knowing how important that bond was to my fellow U.S. veterans, I knew we needed to do something,” Muns said. “We have the capabilities of doing more, and we’re going to do more until we can get everybody out.”
Muns says it’s difficult to help in these situations unless you personally know an American or Afghan family stranded in Afghanistan. If you want to help or know someone who needs help, visit Task Force Foxfire’s website.
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