Perry Blackburn, one of the first American soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, helps evacuate Americans and their allies with his organization, AFGfree.
For Blackburn, it’s an uphill battle to spread the word about the hardships Americans and their allies, who remain in a crippled Afghanistan, face. Yet he continues his work on getting everyone out of the country. He set up AFGfree, a non-profit organization dedicated to relocating and resettling Americans and their allies. The organization also invests in aircraft to aid in evacuation efforts. These efforts extend even further, attempting to establish and maintain communications and to aid those in need. AFGfree focuses on everything from sending money and feeding families to assisting people with evacuation overland to neighboring countries.
What AFG free can do though, is limited because they are a Non-Profit Organization (NPO). As Blackburn states “The private funding is starting to run out. Things are slower.” Blackburn claims he is certain that the problems they’re facing could be solved if the US government cooperates with his organization and others like it. He believes those in power are more concerned with diverting attention away from the problems in Afghanistan, rather than solving them.
Blackburn’s NPO is critical for the US government and their action in response to the current situation. “I think most of us feel like we were betrayed, you know.” Blackburn addresses several issues with the evacuation process for American citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), such as slow and inefficient bureaucracy. He talks about how he’s trying to do what needs to be done to save the lives of people in need through AFGfree. “All these networks of veterans have galvanized to do what our government failed to do. Let’s get American citizens out.”
As the Taliban’s control over Afghanistan strengthens, the country falls deeper into a humanitarian crisis. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are nearly 700,000 displaced people up to this point. Hunger and poverty also spread under the Taliban’s strict rule. Additionally, people’s basic rights such as freedom of speech and right to education are being violated. Even the Taliban’s strict application of Sharia law threatens Afghan lives, despite the promise they made in the beginning to allow free press and not threaten journalists.
Blackburn points out the silence of officials and generals alike who abstain from making comments on the matter and brush off the severity of the events taking place. He describes the Secretary of State Antony Blinkin and US president Joe Biden’s responses: “They made an announcement. They didn’t take any questions. They turned their back and they walked off the podium.” Blackburn also refers to the lack of public statements from other government officials.
According to the Blackburn, the media is also at fault. He states that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is not receiving the attention it should as people focus elsewhere, while inaccurate statistics downplay the issue. “They’re inaccurate … I know they’re inaccurate because I know how many people we have manifested. I know how many people other networks have manifested.” Blackburn believes journalists are not challenging the government’s outdated statistics regarding potential Americans remaining in Afghanistan. “Nobody challenges … not one person asked them. Ask [Whitehouse Press Secretary] Psaki where, where did you get the number ‘one hundred’? … You’ve said it now for three weeks, but you’ve also told us that you flew out 64,000 people.”
The 2-decade-long war in Afghanistan, which started after the tragic September 11th attacks, ended suddenly this year when American troops were pulled from the country. The fall of Kabul soon followed the US Embassy evacuation as the Taliban gained increasing control over Afghanistan. A dark time begins for the people of Afghanistan, especially women and those with connections to the West.