Since the last military flight out of Kabul and the Khider District Massacre, both events occurring on 30 August 2021, Chapman and Pritchard have co-authored numerous heartbreaking stories about Afghans in peril.
By Scott Chapman and Russ Pritchard
Operation Freedom Birds facilitates safe and reliable air transport for American Citizens and Afghan Allies, including asylum seekers currently hiding in Afghanistan. Acronyms associated with these categories include: AMCIT’s, SIV, P1, and P2. The acronyms represent human beings hunted by the Taliban. Primarily a volunteer organization with a pending 501C3 nonprofit status, Operation Freedom Birds does not hold a political view. It is a humanitarian operation to save lives in imminent danger from the Taliban. Through working relationships with other evacuation efforts and maintaining open lines of communication with the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Members of Congress, and numerous subject matter experts, Operation Freedom Birds provides transport from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and operates strictly within airports and legal air spaces.
Flooded by requests from around the world, the unanimous message vocalized to Operation Freedom Birds is a fear-driven plea for help. In recent weeks, many have had friends and family tortured and killed by the Taliban; many are actively being hunted and in peril. Entire families, 15 or more, move every few days, hoping to stay ahead of the Taliban while waiting for a mechanism of transport to safety.
This is Colonel Halimi’s story:
Colonel Halimi spent his youth watching Afghanistan fight the Russians. It was a bleak era for the people of Afghanistan, but a triumph over the Soviet invaders. His father served in the Afghan Army, and his mother was a housewife. In his teens, the family moved to Kabul hoping to find a secure place to live and formal education for their children. Halimi soared through primary school then followed in his father’s career path. He graduated from Army basic training in 1991 and had plans to enter the Military Academy but the civil war between the Mujahedin and the Taliban derailed his career plans. From 1996-2001, Halimi worked as a shopkeeper to support his family. It was a small shop, and he was able to earn enough money to provide the basic necessities for everyone he cared about.
When the coalition forces invaded Afghanistan and silenced the Taliban in 2001, Halimi was inspired to help defend his country. He joined the Afghan National Army (ANA) and graduated as a Second Lieutenant in 2002. Within his two-decade military career, he had orders to travel to the United States on four different occasions.
In 2008, Halimi left Afghanistan (and his family) for more than a year to attend the Defense Language Institute (DLI) at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After successfully completing DLI with a full comprehension of English, his new orders took him to the United States Army Quartermaster School in Ft. Lee, Virginia. Two years later, Halimi returned to the United States with orders to report to the U.S. Logistics University, also at Ft. Lee, Virginia. Hamili was home with his family in Afghanistan for less than eighteen months, then received another set of directives to attend training at the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 2012. Attending that prestigious school meant another year away from his family.
Upon completion of the General Officer training program in Leavenworth, KS, the Governor proclaimed him to be an honorary citizen of Leavenworth. He was even eligible for a State of Kansas driver’s license. A trivial task for a teenager to achieve, but a monumental achievement for a decorated Afghan National Army leader. Halimi returned to the United States for the final time in 2019 to attend a series of classes at the National Defense University in Washington D.C.
Beginning in 2012 and lasting until the final American plane left Kabul, Halimi worked with the Ministry of Defense (MOD). “I worked shoulder to shoulder with the US forces serving my country and doing my part in the name of Global War on Terror,” says Halimi. “Like all the coalition forces who were sacrificing time away from their families, I worked day and night to improve the quality of life in Afghanistan for Afghans. We had a strategic agreement and long-term goals. I never thought the U.S. and coalition forces would abandon the Afghan people after twenty years of help and support.”
In a letter dated August 17, 2021, a GS 14 DoD official wrote a Memorandum for the U.S. Embassy, Kabul which stated the following:
"3. Colonel Halimi was one of the most visible members of the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense….Colonel Halimi provided critical assistance coordinating actions with my office...Given his track record, there is no doubt in my mind regarding his safety; and the safety of his family being in jeopardy."
"4. Men like Colonel Halimi provided loyal and faithful service to their nation as well as taking action that was in the direct interest of the United States.we have a moral obligation to demonstrate our own loyalty and keep faith with them during this time.
An August 18, 2021 a Letter of Endorsement to a U.S. Senator from staff at the Command and General Staff College stated the following:"
"C. Integration potential: COL Halimi values education, to include education of females. His personal level of education, and his support of education for his wife and children indicate they would be adept and prepared for smooth integration into U.S."
“After the last plane left Kabul, the Taliban came looking for me and everyone I love. When they first came, I was hiding with my wife and my children in the basement of an abandoned building. They were heavily armed, and we had no way to defend ourselves. My father told me not to tell anyone where we were hiding because he knew the Taliban would return. After five days, they came back and tortured my dad hoping to extract my location. The Taliban beat my dad severely, but he gave them nothing. The Taliban took our car and destroyed our house. We move every few days living in basements trying to stay ahead of the Taliban. Many officers like me hide with their families waiting for help. Some have already been caught. These are people I know well. I don’t want to think about what the Taliban did to them, but the world must know what’s happening. The Taliban killed them and their families; all for trying to make Afghanistan a better place. We have no rights. No voice. We’ve given everything to our country and supported the coalition forces in any way they asked; and now the world has abandoned us. We don’t know what will happen to us if no one comes. All we know now is fear.”
Help us bring Halimi’s family to safety. Help Operation Freedom Birds.
Scott Chapman is an independent journalist, author, former Army Ranger, OGA Blackwater contractor, entrepreneur, husband, dog lover, and astrophysics scholar. Scott is the co-founder of the Afghan Medical Corps and can be reached at ScottChapmanAuthor@Protonmail.com
Russ Pritchard is an independent journalist, professional writer, former Chief Marketing Officer, flight medic, triathlete, husband, father, and grandfather. Russ is the co-founder of the Afghan Medical Corps and can be reached at RussPritchard@Protonmail.com