The Biden administration has relied on skilled United States military veterans and volunteers to provide critical services for Americans stuck in chaotic areas, according to new reports.
Organizations with U.S. former special operators helped to get Afghan allies out of Afghanistan after seeing that the Biden administration abandoned thousands during the country’s collapse to the Taliban in 2021.
Following the recent crises that left Americans stranded in conflict zones like Ukraine, Sudan, and now Israel, these groups have come to help where the U.S. government lacks the resources, officials, or will help bring American citizens to safety.
“I think it might become more of a standard for conflict areas where a lot of Americans are and there’s a difficulty getting out,” Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and retired CIA paramilitary operations officer, who also worked on Afghanistan evacuations, told the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF). In Afghanistan, it was a matter of one’s personal integrity to keep our word,” he added.
Volunteer evacuations have occurred in Sudan and Ukraine since the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal. In Israel, the circumstances have been dramatically different, given that there was no army overrunning the country despite Hamas’ initial attack and flights out, though limited, were still available.
“The ability to get people out was so contingent diplomacy that only the U.S. government and the Israeli government in official channels could engage in,” a State Department official with knowledge of the subject told the DCNF. “I don’t think the groups really were able to play the same kind of role in the situation that they were in the past,” the official added.
Mulroy predicts that should the current Israel-Hamas conflict further deteriorate with the Iranian-backed Shiite Lebanese proxy Hezbollah firing its rockets against Israel, volunteer groups will play a significant role in arranging transportation for Americans to evacuate from danger.
“Should we have to do this? I don’t think so. Should there be a need for us to do this? I also don’t think so. But we do have to do it,” said Tim Kennedy, a U.S. Army Special Forces master sergeant and sniper, told the DCNF.
Kennedy is co-founder of Save Our Allies (SOA), a group that originated during the failed Afghanistan withdrawal to rescue members of the Afghan security forces who partnered with the U.S. military and received promises of safety in America. SOA and another veteran-run organization, the Special Operations Association of America (SOAA), worked together at times to evacuate Americans from Israel following the Hamas attack.
Both groups fill in gaps where the U.S. government cannot operate, and Washington did not recruit or pay them to carry out humanitarian and rescue activities, group leaders told the DCNF.
The U.S. government has not deployed special operations units in Israel for rescue and recovery or combat operations.
“That would fall into the purview of different organizations that have paramilitary units that are able to do that. There’s no Title 10 money — Congress hasn’t said we’re going to authorize the use of these types of groups to go and do this thing,” Kennedy told the DCNF.
“It falls into a gray zone; that gray zone is a gap, and that gap is where Americans effectively are trapped,” he added. “Not that I want to go into every war zone, but when it comes to Americans, I cannot stand by and let horrific things happen to Americans or our allies.”
Following the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas against Israel, the State Department has sent warnings to American citizens against traveling to Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East region. Despite warnings from the U.S., the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terrorist proxies have attacked numerous American bases in Iraq and Syria and attacked American ships in the Red Sea.
While the U.S. military has successfully destroyed various facilities belonging to Iranian-backed terrorist groups, the administration has not directly targeted Iranian officials, hoping to “de-escalate” tensions in the Middle East.