A few years back, I was serving in a Middle East war zone when one of our sources, a valuable asset who had penetrated al Qaeda’s Baghdad network, came within a hair’s breadth of losing his life.
The source had produced voluminous reporting on al Qaeda terrorists, including their attack plans and tactics, and was directly responsible for saving U.S. lives.
Focused on force protection and degrading the jihadists’ strength, U.S. Special Forces had found and successfully targeted much of the network on which the source had reported so extensively. Through no fault of his own, though, the source had come under suspicion. Al Qaeda operatives were interrogating him in an abandoned Baghdad apartment.
Just in the nick of time, U.S. Special Forces swept in on helicopters, killed the terrorists, and saved our source. Refusing our entreaties to leave the battlefield and expressing his heartfelt appreciation to the team that saved his life, our source insisted on carrying on with his vital and valuable part of our counterterrorism mission.
Protecting our sources and partners while leaving no one behind — this is the ethos of the CIA and U.S. military, something I witnessed first-hand during multiple overseas deployments.
Much has been written about how the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in American citizens and Afghan special visa holders being left behind Taliban enemy lines. But thousands of Afghan government commandos, trained by Americans as an elite light infantry force, were also abandoned on the battlefield with no defense against the Taliban forces ruthlessly hunting them down.
The commandos were Afghanistan’s most capable fighting force. They were a powerful force multiplier for the U.S. military and were often deployed where the fighting against the Taliban was at its fiercest. They also endured heavy casualties, including during some of the final battles against the Taliban in Kandahar after the U.S. withdrew its logistical support.
The Taliban reportedly executed some of the fighters in commando units, including one in Dawlat Abad, near the border with Turkmenistan, whom they captured. Some of the commandos successfully made their way to Hamid Karzai International Airport, where they provided critical support to the U.S.-led final evacuation effort.
The U.S. was reportedly able successfully to evacuate roughly 1,000 Afghan commandos and their families. But the rest have been left behind, squarely in the Taliban’s crosshairs.
The Taliban set their sights on seizing U.S. military biometric data, known as HIDE (Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment), which would identify our Afghan partners. Information stored in HIDE includes iris scans as well as fingerprints and biographical information. The loss of that data puts the Afghan commandos, translators, and others who supported the U.S. mission and their family members at grave risk.
Now retired U.S. Army Special Forces have taken it upon themselves to organize nonprofit efforts to get our people and our friends out. But the Biden administration needs to do more.
The Biden administration, which insists the U.S. military mission has given way to diplomacy, has offered scant details on how its pleasant-sounding but opaque “over the horizon” capability will deal with the growing number of threats emanating from Afghanistan’s terrorist-ruled state — before they are visited on our shores. And there are also serious questions about how “diplomacy” is going to rescue our citizens and key allies, especially those brave Afghan Commandos, who risked all and too often gave all on behalf of our collective counterterrorism mission.
The recent hearings, during which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs head Gen. Mark Milley, and CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie testified, rightly focused on the Biden administration’s ill-conceived endgame strategy and the execution of the chaotic withdrawal.
But let’s not ever forget we have a moral and ethical responsibility to our Afghan allies who fought side by our side for decades. While we should be deeply thankful to our veterans for taking up their righteous cause, congressional oversight needs to hold the Biden administration accountable for delivering a rescue plan grounded in reality rather than some willfully naive, false narrative about the Taliban terrorist state we left behind.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.