004. – Stepping in for the Government

A friend of mine interviewed an new NGO in Texas that is trying to help Afghans get out of the country;

August 23, 2021

College Station, TX — As the Afghanistan crisis worsens and tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies remain stuck in the country, NGOs and private citizens are stepping in to bolster the foundering evacuation. Over the last week in College Station, the home of the Fightin’ Texas Aggies, a group of veterans and former students went from responding to personal requests for help to creating a registered NGO dedicated to assisting the extraction.

“My friends contacted me because I’ve worked internationally in a variety of capacities, both with the military and in non-governmental roles,” said John Muns, the founder of Task Force Foxfire (TFF). “As I tried to help them, more and more people started calling. So at that point I knew I had to bring some people together and create something capable of securely handling a lot of information.”

Since receiving the first phone call on August 16, Muns and his team have received close to 200 requests for assistance. Set up in his house amid a tangle of laptops and energy drinks, he and five friends work around the clock responding to incoming requests for assistance. The majority come from Afghans fearing Taliban reprisal for their work with Americans during the war, and who despite references from veterans and current US military personnel, are struggling to navigate the extraction process.

“We’re mainly dealing with people who are stuck in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process or who are eligible for it but don’t even know where to start,” Muns said. “What we’re doing is helping them get the paperwork they need, entering them into our tracker, and identifying them to the government and other organizations on the ground that can get them out.”

The first call came in reference to a young Afghan-American who had served as an interpreter for the US military. He had been living stateside since 2017, but had gone back to Afghanistan in June to get married. Shortly after his wedding the government fell, trapping him and his bride in Taliban-held Kabul. With no help forthcoming from the State Department, he turned to his former colleague in the US Army. The situation made it’s way back to TFF, which through a network of contacts found a US Army officer at the Kabul airport who plucked him and his wife from the crowd and onto a C-17.

Despite these early successes, Muns said the situation in Kabul was deteriorating and that TFF’s ability to provide direct assistance was diminishing. Not only has the number of people amassed at the airport’s gates increased, but the US military and Department of State have, as of August 18, reportedly prohibited personnel on the ground from communicating with anyone trying to coordinate relief.

“We have good contacts on the ground but the situation is falling apart,” Muns said. “With the number of requests coming in, although we’d like to, it’s simply not feasible to ask personal favors for everybody that’s calling us.”

At the moment, TFF is focused on helping Afghans complete their paperwork and enlarging its tracking list so that those conducting evacuations can find and extract them as quickly as possible.

“We don’t like it but right now it’s the best we can do,” Muns said. “Things are changing fast, and we’ll see what the Department of State does. We’re not ruling out mounting operations of our own. At the end of the day that’s the American way; private citizens rolling up their sleeves and doing it better than the government.”

If you or anybody you know is trying to leave Afghanistan and needs help accessing information or the proper visa documentation necessary, contact Task Force Foxfire by email at advocate@taskforcefoxfire.org. For more information visit www.taskforcefoxfire.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: