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Veterans' group Project Dynamo evacuates 23, including children, from Afghanistan

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A private, nonprofit veterans' group working to rescue Americans and refugees from Afghanistan pulled off its fifth operation over the weekend, evacuating 23 people from the Taliban-controlled country.

The group, Project Dynamo, is the joint project of two veterans' coalitions, Digital Dunkirk and Dynamo II, based in Tampa, Florida. Digital Dunkirk works to locate at-risk individuals and transport them to temporary safer locations, where they await rescue from Afghanistan. Dynamo II is the air operation, which gets them out of the country.

"We pull Americans, allies and vulnerable Afghans in Afghanistan from the clutches of the Taliban and bring them to safety," Project Dynamo co-founder Bryan Stern told WTVT-TV in an interview.

When President Joe Biden withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August, thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies were left behind. The Taliban, an Islamic terrorist group, quickly seized control of the country and began persecuting those who had aided U.S. military operations during the 20-year war in the country, as well as Christians.

Attempts by the U.S. government to evacuate those who wanted to leave Afghanistan were chaotic, and the Biden administration has frustrated lawmakers by refusing to be transparent about the exact number of Americans and allies stranded in the country. Complicating matters is the fact that the Taliban is the new government of Afghanistan, and it has made it difficult for people to leave the country.

In response to the government's ineptness, private groups like Project Dynamo stepped forward to assist the evacuation efforts.

"The humanitarian crisis is real and the economic crisis is real, and you can't get money," Stern explained to WTVT.

It's a volunteer effort. None of the people working with Project Dynamo are tied to the U.S. government, though many are veterans of U.S. armed forces. In the five months since Biden pulled out of Afghanistan, these patriots have used their contacts in Afghanistan to organize the rescue of thousands of people from the grip of the Taliban, the outlet reported.

"The vast majority of the American citizens went to Afghanistan for a wedding or for a death in the family or their mother was sick or some personal thing," Stern said.

The State Department is critical of efforts by private citizens to move evacuees out of Afghanistan. Officials told Defense One earlier this month that any independent actors who run evacuation operations outside established agreements between the U.S. and the Taliban risk causing a diplomatic incident that could harm long-term efforts to save people.

But the Biden administration's hesitancy to support private rescue efforts hasn't stopped Project Dynamo.

Last Thursday, the team met in Kabul and boarded a plane Friday morning, reaching New York Saturday night. They brought the 23 evacuees, nearly half of whom were children, with them.

"I've been with the most elite units in the U.S. arsenal, and this by far is the most amazing, impactful team that has left their mark on America more than anything I’ve ever done," Stern said.

"As long as people need help, and as long as we have funding, we will continue to operate," he added.

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