Digital Dunkirk: Veterans are using satellite maps to spot Taliban checkpoints and guide Afghan interpreters they used to work with through safe routes to Kabul airport

  • A group led by veterans is working to help Afghan interpreters who served as U.S. allies during the war evacuate the nation safely amid the Taliban’s takeover 
  • The campaign, known as ‘digital Dunkirk,’ is comprised of a network of hundreds of thousands of people
  • The group utilizes satellite imagery and other intel to locate Taliban checkpoints and informs interpreters of routes around them
  • The Taliban, seeking revenge and retribution, is targeting the interpreters and has ordered them to be shot
  • Veterans say they are disappointed in President Joe Biden for not prioritizing the evacuation of interpreters who were America’s ‘eyes and ears on the battlefield’

A veterans group is helping Afghan interpreters evacuate the amid the Taliban’s insurgence, via an online network of allies.

The campaign, known as ‘digital Dunkirk,’ is comprised of a network of ‘hundreds of thousands of people’ and utilizes satellite imagery and other intel to locate Taliban checkpoints. 

The militant group, who now rules the country, is targeting the interpreters and has ordered them to be shot.

Matt Zeller, an Afghanistan war veteran and former CIA analyst, told Fox News the interpreters were essential allies to U.S. troops, serving as America’s ‘eyes and ears on the battlefield’. 

President Joe Biden, who recently withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan, has been under fire for not making the evacuation of interpreters a priority.

A veterans group is working to help Afghan interpreters who served as U.S. allies during the war evacuate the nation safely amid the Taliban’s takeover (Pictured: Hundreds run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway at Kabul airport on Aug. 16)

Afghanistan war veteran and former CIA analyst Matt Zeller (pictured) is a member of the ‘digital Dunkirk’ network and actively communicating with interpreters seeking evacuation

According to Zeller, the ‘digital Dunkirk’ campaign started out as an army of veterans but has not grown to include hundreds of thousands of individuals from all backgrounds who want to help the translators evacuate safely. 

‘It’s incredible,’ he said. ‘It’s not just veterans. Literally it’s pastors, it’s my mom, it’s my relatives, people who have never served in Afghanistan … widows, widowers, children of people who served.’

‘We’ve had intel analysts who have come and started doing satellite imagery analysis and actually putting together products for people where they’re mapping out Taliban checkpoints in real time using social media data to provide safe routes to the airport,’ Zeller explained. 

He said he spends the majority of his nighttime communicating with interpreters sharing the latest checkpoint locations.

‘I’m spending most of my nighttime texting with Afghans, telling them ‘no, this is the gate you now got to try and get to. Oh, well here’s where this Taliban checkpoint is, you gotta take this street to literally get around them,” Zeller said. 

The Taliban has reportedly said they would ‘forgive’ any Afghans who aided the U.S. during the war, however, according to Zeller, the group has been stopping people at checkpoints and either ‘recording or killing’ anyone that has ‘allied against them’.

‘If you have an English document on you in that checkpoint, they take that document,’ Zeller stated. 

‘And they make note that you’re now on their list.’

Zeller (pictured with an Afghan interpreter) says the campaign utilizes satellite imagery and other intel to locate Taliban checkpoints and provide allies with safe routes to the Kabul airport

The Taliban (soldiers pictured) has reportedly said they would ‘forgive’ any Afghans who aided the U.S. during the war, however, according to Zeller, the group has been stopping people at checkpoints and either ‘recording or killing’ anyone that has ‘allied against them’

The former CIA analyst explained that the Taliban is actively seeking vengeance.

‘From the Taliban’s perspective, they won. [The Afghan interpreters] are the people who have been helping us to kill them over the last 20 years,’ Zeller said.

‘They want revenge, they want retribution. There’s no place for these people in Afghanistan.’ 

The U.S. military took control of the Kabul airport for evacuations a week ago as the capital fell to the Taliban.

However, Zeller notes that getting past the checkpoints and to the Kabul airport is only the first part of the challenge as Taliban forces controlling the streets around the airport, and the throngs of people gathering outside in hope of escape, have made it difficult and dangerous to get through. 

He also shared that once individuals make it to the airport they are forced to endure unbearable conditions for hours on end.

‘If you get people who get there, they need to be prepared to wait up to nine, ten hours, in horrifically hot, humid conditions, with no water, no food no bathroom. Just the worst possible conditions you can think of,’ he shared. 

‘On top of that, the Taliban are shooting indiscriminately into the crowd and over everybody’s head. It’s just complete and total chaos.’

Thousands have crowded outside the airport entry points and fight for seats on flights out of the capital city (Pictured: Evacuee children wait for the next flight after being manifested at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 19, 2021)

Afghans continue to wait around the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 21, 2021.

The veteran also expressed his disappointment in the Biden Administration, arguing that the U.S. has an obligation to evacuate the interpreters.  

‘If they aren’t evacuated now, then they’re gonna be dead, and we’ll regret for the rest of our lives having failed them,’ Zeller told Fox News. 

He called out Biden saying: ‘the campaign to evacuate the interpreters is a whole of America effort … minus the one guy, the only guy, who can give the order to actually truly save these people.’

He also singled out the secretary of defense, arguing: ‘I was appalled that the secretary of defense said he didn’t have the ability to guarantee the safe movement of Americans to the airport in Kabul. He absolutely does.’

‘He has the United States military. What he doesn’t have is the orders to move those people.’ 

Meantime, a week after the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, thousands crowd outside the airport entry points and fight for seats on flights out of the capital city.

Zeller (pictured) has called out President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for their lack of action regarding the evacuation of interpreters

Pictured: A full flight of 265 people supported by members of the UK Armed Forces on board an evacuation flight out of Kabul airport, Afghanistan on Aug. 21, 2021

The U.S. military is considering ‘creative ways’ to get Americans and others into Kabul’s international airport for evacuation from Afghanistan amid ‘acute’ security threats, Biden administration officials have said.

The Pentagon, on Sunday, ordered six U.S. commercial airlines to help move evacuees from temporary sites outside of Afghanistan.

3,900 people had been airlifted out of Kabul on U.S. military flights over the past 24 hours.

A U.S. defense official said those people were flown on a total of 23 flights – 14 by C-17 transports and nine aboard C-130 cargo planes.

This represented an increase from 1,600 flown out onboard U.S. military planes in the previous 24 hours, but remained far below the 5,000 to 9,000 the military said it had the capacity to airlift daily.

The Biden administration has given no firm estimate of the number of Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan. Some have put the total at between 10,000 and 15,000. 

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