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 Omer’s story:
While the Afghan president fled the country, according to various news sources, in a helicopter full of cash and cars, Colonel Omer remained at the Ministry of Defense to protect and, if necessary, destroy confidential information. The offices appeared vacant to anyone on the outside. As the Taliban advanced faster than expected, there wasn’t time to utilize the designated burn barrel behind the building. Colonel Omer lit a fire in a metal trash can and opened every window in his office. The still air of the Kabul summer afternoon heat provided little airflow to ventilate the room. The heat from the fire and the stress from the sounds of gunfire added to the sweat on Omer’s brow as he destroyed anything that would identify Afghans who assisted the Americans.
A binder with wrinkled edges and worn creases sat on Colonel Omer’s desk. It held twenty years of certificates, diplomas, letters of commendation, military award letters, recognition letters, and confirmations of training events within the United States. It also contained color copies of Omer’s passport, his wife’s passport, photographs of his children and represented everything he would need to emigrate to the United States. Two weeks prior, Colonel Omer had taken this binder to the American Embassy in Kabul to obtain supportive letters from high ranking American officers to facilitate his eventual evacuation from Afghanistan.
Colonel Omer’s throat burned as he jammed files into the fire at rate just fast enough to not snuff out the flames. Broken pieces of shattered electronics crunched under his feet. Gunfire erupted in the hallway that once housed military Afghanistan National Army security officers. Through the open windows, Omer saw Taliban fighters. Glass shattered around him, and he fled to the opposite side of the building.
Halfway down a stairwell, Colonel Omer realized he had forgotten to grab his precious binder. There hadn’t even been time to lock the door. He ran through the Ministry of Defense compound and out the main gate. As he exited for the last time, he looked back and saw Taliban fighters in his office. His heart sank. They now knew everything about his two decades of service with the Americans, had photographs of his wife and children, and worse still, they knew where he lived.
Omer entered military service with the Afghan National Army in 2002 and his two decade career saw him hold various positions as an Officer at the Bagram prison, in the Ministry of Defense (MOD), and assigned to a protection detail for the National Security Council. Four times, Omer traveled to the United States for training. In 2008 and 2010, Omer received English Language training at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. In 2014, Omer attended the United States Army Logistics University at Ft. Lee, Virginia. A sentence in his military file from this period reads, “...you are now a part of the legacy of unified action partners who have served alongside the U.S. Army fighting to ensure our continued freedom and prosperity.” signed Michael Lundy, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army Commanding.
During a lengthy period during 2016-2018 , Colonel Omer attended the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The City of Leavenworth, Kansas made him an honorary citizen in 2017, and Colonel Omer received multiple offers to remain in the States and bring his family, “I traveled throughout the United States during my training and was given many opportunities to move my family there,” says Omer “But I could not turn my back on my people and my country,”
Colonel Omer’s positions with the Ministry of Defense and National Security Council put him and his family at risk from the Taliban. “From early on in my career, the Taliban threatened me for working alongside the U.S. Government,” says Omer. “ The last few years, the threats became so bad I had to move my family every few months from place to place to protect them. I changed my car even more often so the Taliban would not figure out where I lived and target me and my family.”
On August 18, 2021, a letter on Department of the Army (US) letterhead titled “MEMORANDUM FOR EVACUATION COMMANDER KABUL, AFGHANISTAN” opened with the following sentence: “COL Omer and his dependents have met all Department of State, US military, and host nation requirements to qualify as ‘At Risk’ Afghans and requires immediate assistance and evacuation from Kabul. COL Omer has spent over 20 years supporting the US in Afghanistan and has been sponsored by the US government on multiple occasions. Due to his position in the Afghan Army, COL Omer and his family are at a greater risk and need to be prioritized for immediate evacuation.
“I spent the last twenty days the Americans were here moving people in and out of the airport. The blast that killed those 13 Marines occurred one hundred meters from me. I supported the United States for twenty years up until the very last day they were here. I used to own a home and leased out my land for crops. We had to abandon our home, our cars, all of our possessions; everything is gone but the clothes we can carry. Our bank accounts are closed. We live in hiding in basements and move every other night. I have a wife, four sons, and a daughter. Up until a month ago, all they have ever known was a life of freedom. My wife and I can’t be seen during the day time. We send our oldest boy, a young teenager, out each day to scavenge for food. Each time he leaves the house, I fear he won’t return. When the Taliban find him, they will take him and we will never see him again. We need help. We need to be evacuated. We won’t survive much longer.”
Help Colonel’s Omer’s family get 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