A group of highly trained US military veterans has been secretly rescuing hundreds of allied operatives from Afghanistan — volunteering over fears those allies would otherwise be left for dead, according to a report.
The weeklong secret operation dubbed “Pineapple Express” has been carried out by a group of special ops veterans including retired Green Berets and SEAL Team commanders, they told ABC News.
They were driven by deep frustration “that our own government didn’t do this,” former Navy SEAL Jason Redman told ABC.
“We did what we should do, as Americans,” he said.
They initially formed to rescue an ex-Afghan commando who was getting death threats from the Taliban for having worked with US special forces and elite SEAL Team Six, ABC said.
After the Taliban’s target and his family of six were rescued, the task force continued rescuing Afghan allies — and has so far helped at least 630 get through the deadly ring of steel outside Kabul airport to safely evacuate.
They normally smuggled people into the airport in the middle of the night, either one person at a time or in pairs.
“That is an astounding number for an organization that was only assembled days before the start of operations and most of its members had never met each other in person,” former Green Beret Capt. Zac Lois told ABC.
The group dodged heavily militarized Taliban checkpoints to smuggle people through to the airport, using images of pineapples on their phones to show those being brought in that they were on their side.
The tropical fruit was also used as a final password — since changed — that was given to US military members at the airport who were working unofficially in tandem with the heroic veterans, ABC said.
They defied deadly chaos that one member compared to scenes worthy of a Jason Bourne flick happening every 10 minutes.
“I just want to get my people out,” Maj. Jim Gant, a retired Green Beret who ABC said has been dubbed “Lawrence of Afghanistan,” told the network of the daring operation.
“I have been involved in some of the most incredible missions and operations that a special forces guy could be a part of, and I have never been a part of anything more incredible than this,” Gant insisted.
“The bravery and courage and commitment of my brothers and sisters in the Pineapple community was greater than the US commitment on the battlefield,” he said.
The volunteer force was led by another retired Green Beret commander, Lt. Col. Scott Mann, who told ABC the team was proud to have helped “dozens of high-risk individuals, families with small children, orphans, and pregnant women.”
“This Herculean effort couldn’t have been done without the unofficial heroes inside the airfield who defied their orders to not help beyond the airport perimeter, by wading into sewage canals and pulling in these targeted people who were flashing pineapples on their phones,” Mann said.
The rescues continued “up to just seconds before ISIS detonated a bomb into the huddled mass of Afghans seeking safety and freedom” on Thursday, Mann told ABC.
ABC said some Pineapple Express travelers were injured in the terror attack, and the group was still assessing whether any were among the more than 180 killed.
Some of those rescued said they witnessed people just inches away from them being killed, while others refused to leave unless their family members were also evacuated.
“Leaving a man behind is not in our SEAL ethos. Many Afghans have a stronger vision of our democratic values than many Americans do,” said Dan O’Shea, a retired SEAL commander and former counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan.
Former deputy assistant secretary of defense Mick Mulroy said the task force felt it was their duty to save allies who “never wavered” in supporting the US.
“I and many of my friends are here today because of their bravery in battle. We owe them all effort to get them out and honor our word,” Mulroy said.