Good day, Reddit! I am a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars answering an undeniable calling to do whatever I can to bring our people home. After I exhausted every tool at my disposal while working from home in the United States i left for Doha, Qatar, in order to spend time face-to-face with officials from the U.S. and Qatar (as well as diplomats from other countries, civilians, and anyone else with even a shred of usable information) in an effort to bring home our allies and their families. I hit dead-end after dead-end with unanswered emails and phone calls, so I decided it would be most effective if I just got into the thick of it. You may have heard that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was a (relative) success, but for very good reasons I did not, at all, buy that rhetoric. Ask me absolutely anything.

EDIT: Everyone, thank you so much for asking your questions. It's 1 am here and my eyes are starting to cross, so I am going to log off for now. When I get back on I will look through the comments to see if there are any unanswered questions that need answers or snarky comments that deserve a retort. Good night and stay safe

EDIT: this is the link to the fundraiser: this is the link.

Please share it if you feel so inclined!

Comments: 546 • Responses: 90  • Date: 

risky611310 karma

I have a friend from Afghanistan who has trained and worked with the British Army, he fled Afghanistan to Pakistan but has no where permanent to stay so he will have to return to Afghanistan where he is in danger very soon.

Is there anywhere I can direct him for help to reach the UK or anything else? I have a service number for him and he is contactable via Whatsapp, any assistance greatly appreciated.

jacliff485 karma

YES. does he qualify for any special residency visa for the UK? If he hasn't already done so, he should go to Islamabad and discuss his situation with the British consulate. They may be able to get him started on all of the legal proceedings he needs to knock out in order to enter the UK. He may also be interested in registering with the UNHCR as a refugee. They will support him while he handles the legal stuff for obtaining a visa.

If that does not work, DM me. I may know of some safe houses in Pakistan and surrounding countries that he could use...but he will ultimately need a visa to go anywhere legally.

TheOtherQue151 karma

I’m curious: isn’t it dangerous to hand out details of safe houses or friendly contacts to internet strangers?

jacliff251 karma

you bet. There is no way I would do that without some vetting.

xerlivex186 karma

Are we the baddies?

jacliff306 karma

We are certainly not blameless in this.

surely_stoned111 karma

I have 3 interpreters in Kabul needing to get out. How can I put them in touch with you for evacuation?

jacliff109 karma

Go to the GFM page and send me a private message there with a good contact email for you.

surely_stoned35 karma

GFM?

jacliff62 karma

It's a fundraiser page. You can also message me on here if that's easiest

chrise86110 karma

Mine is simple: are you ok?

jacliff129 karma

you betcha! Thank you for asking.

publiclandlover106 karma

Considering how long the pullout was announced why was anyone still around?

MrsBasilEFrankweiler170 karma

I am not the OP, but in case he doesn't reply, I left this in a comment above.

PS. Sorry OP if I am violating Reddit courtesy. I think what you're doing (especially informing people about how and why all this works) is so very important and I want to make sure that as many people as possible actually understand how complicated the whole mess is.

There were a ton of Afghans who worked on aid programs in Afghanistan - sometimes directly on projects, other times because what they did (e.g. working for a government agency) received funding from a donor. The aid sector is a big employer.

I think that people underestimate the difficulty of getting a visa and getting out, however. SIVs can take years to process - there has been a massive backlog at State for a long time. And the only people who qualify for SIVs are people who worked directly for the US government, on behalf of the US government, or in support of the US military.

So, for example, that would leave out:

  • Anyone who worked for an aid project that received grant money, as opposed to contract money. Grant money typically goes to nonprofit entities (e.g. Save the Children). Contract money goes to companies that are hired to implement aid activities in a country. If you get grant money, you are not technically hired to do USG work, so you are not technically working on behalf of the US government.
  • Anyone who was in the Afghan military who worked in collaboration with the USG, because they weren't directly supporting US military efforts in a direct and traceable way like an interpreter would be.
  • Journalists.
  • Anyone who does meet the criteria listed above, but who worked there for less than two years, or whose employer messed up the paperwork, or whose employer maybe got bought by someone else so they technically worked for one company for a year and a half and another company for a year and a half.

I am not as familiar with other countries' visa schemes, but my understanding is that they're usually similar or even more strict (for example, I looked into this for Japan a couple of years ago and they didn't even seem to have an SIV program).

The US did expand its visa program to include grantee organizations, journalists, etc. with something called a P-2. However, until very recently, you had to leave the country to apply for a P-2, and even then there were no guarantees. Most countries do not provide visa on arrival, especially with COVID, and even for those who do, it's not like you can just get off the plane in Uganda and go buy a house or get a job if you don't know anyone there.

Finally, Afghanistan has been very chaotic for a very long time. I think it was hard for people to definitively say, "Well, this time we're hosed." My impression is that a lot of people thought that things would be bad, and then maybe okay, and then maybe bad again, but it's hard to say exactly which instance of "bad" justifies leaving everything you've ever known and dragging your extended family of ten to a country that's completely foreign to them.

TL;DR: This is harder than you'd think.

Anyone with better info (or if I got something wrong), please feel free to correct me, but this is my experience.

jacliff81 karma

Well written.

delectomorfo99 karma

How do you plan to get people out of there?

jacliff236 karma

This right here is the million-dollar question.

I cannot give specifics until the mission is over, because even the Taliban can read. If I give too many specifics then I just played my hand and any single part of the plan could fail. But in broad strokes...I will play the game the way everyone else wants it played. Official travel, meeting official travel requirements, through official means. The part that has to remain a little mysterious here, for security's sake, is who is officiating.

CFCentral33 karma

OPSEC for sure.

jacliff30 karma

Yes, this. It would be self-defeating to inform everyone step-by-step what is happening.

ryandinho14-46 karma

even the Taliban can read

If we're making fun of their intelligence, how dumb does that make us?

jacliff139 karma

That was more meant to highlight that the people we have been labeling as backwards barbaric extremists should not be underestimated. They were once total luddites, outlawing televisions and music, but now they snap selfies and have certainly found Reddit, so I won't be posting specifics here.

Matookie65 karma

How can I help friends who worked for American NGOs to get out?

jacliff80 karma

Check with this group: Melmastya

They are providing pro bono legal assistance to Afghans who need help applying for visas. They will be able to tell you which type of visa your friend can apply for and may even assist with the entire process.

AmbitiousYoungMan51 karma

Aren’t you afraid of jeopardizing your safety with this? Why or why not?

jacliff168 karma

A little. I have always been very private with my SM accounts for that reason, but the payoff for putting myself out there and drawing attention to this is potentially far greater than any other option could provide. As far as my own personal safety goes, while overseas, I am not concerned at all. I am working from a safe distance and there is no risk of anyone recognizing me and blowing the whole thing. I am not one of the brave who is sneaking around inside of Afghanistan escorting people to safety... my wife would kill me before the Taliban ever could.

MezzanineMan43 karma

Do you think we will see Tajikistan go to war with the Taliban?

jacliff61 karma

I very strongly doubt this. No one wants war, and the Taliban do not pose a direct threat to Tajikistan. If anything, as is the way with many wars, Tajikistan might choose to fight a mini proxy war by supplying and training resistance fighters. Other than that I just see no reason why TJ would go to war with the Taliban, there is no apparent gain to be made.

Legend27-Dark-38 karma

I have two questions, do you think the deal that the Trump Administration made with the taliban had any effect on how quickly the taliban took Afghanistan and also what should we have done with the weapons and other assets left in Afghanistan?

jacliff67 karma

The short answer is yes, I do, but it was not the Trump deal that directly led to the rapid fall of the Afghan National Army. It did deal a serious blow to morale, and that may have certainly contributed to the Afghans' willingness to quickly surrender once the Taliban began to reclaim ground.

The act(s) that directly led to the collapse of Afghanistan's security mechanisms came in the way that the withdrawal was executed. The steps to the withdrawal should have been carried out in the exact reverse order... the way it was actually executed blows my mind.

Crossfiyah23 karma

Shouldn't the previous administration have been jump starting these SIV visas then? Especially with their much faster projected timeline for withdrawal.

jacliff21 karma

I did not know this. Personally I feel that SIV applications should have always held some sort of priority over other immigrant visas since much of the vetting had already been done by military commanders, but I don't run things.

WeedIsWife6 karma

Okay, this is my only question. What reason would the Afghan National Army have to continue to fight people who are essentially their neighbors and cousins?

jacliff47 karma

The Taliban (largely ethnically Pashtun in origin) is known for kidnapping girls of marriage age (that means anyone over the age of 12...although now I hear they are only going after girls (women) between 15 and 45...who's to say for sure) from ethnically Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara communities and forcing them into "marriages..." what we would call sex slavery in the U.S. They are not the sort of cousins and neighbors that you have over for family reunions, and they just dialed back 20 years of gains in civil rights practically overnight.

JungleFlare36 karma

What's the situation on the ground with the warlords? I know they've been a little ambiguous in the war, have they been cooperative with your efforts or, are they hindering operations?

jacliff51 karma

I am not actively running through Afghanistan, I am on the periphery, so I do not know for sure. I will say that from what I've heard, some are hardliners who will shoot on sight, while others will look the other way for a little bit of cash. In and around Kabul it is almost exclusively Taliban, though, and since they really want to be considered a legitimate government they tend to be a little more predictable (when someone is watching).

euroclives34 karma

It seems like there's a lot of upset people in Afghanistan since the allied forces moved out and the Taliban took over, but do you not think we should leave the people of the country to fight for their own freedoms?

If 20 years of work can be undone in a few weeks then surely the people need to start to take more responsibility?

jacliff65 karma

This might be one of the more contentious points that people like to bring up, and I cannot say that you are right or that you are wrong. It does take strong and intelligent people to rebuild anything that has been destroyed like this. We (the U.S.) did, however, make certain promises in exchange for their help...and 20 years of those promises were just erased in a matter of weeks.

The undeniable reason I want to help is for their children. Being born to someone who assisted the U.S. should not be an act punishable by death, but that seems to be the case

richmichael9 karma

How does the military have the power to make these promises? Shouldn’t that be an issue for immigration? I don’t fully understand how this issue even arose.

jacliff31 karma

We don't. The military cannot promise citizenship to anyone. The State Department made the promises, we were just the ones who delivered them.

jrflyrocks33 karma

Will members of the UN continue to make frequent missions and tours around that part of the world?

jacliff65 karma

I believe that is the intent, but for that to happen several other things must happen first.

Since the Taliban is only recognized as a government by Turkey and Qatar at the moment, and is still considered a terrorist organization by many others, working directly with the Taliban can be construed as supporting a terrorist organization. Anyone who does that will be subject to sanctions....including relief organizations. It is the same complicating factor that eventually overturned Trump's designation of the Houthis as a violent extremist organization in Yemen, since as soon as he did that all of the agencies (like the ICRC) that were trying to help out Yemen's citizens were suddenly international criminals.

The UN High Council for Refugees (UNHCR) is still very active in that region, just not so much inside Afghanistan's borders. For people who can make it out of the country the UNHCR is ready to assist with shelter, food, clothing, etc.

llacer9628 karma

What can the average American civilian at home do to help ensure our people get home safe?

jacliff54 karma

Call your senators and representatives until their staffers all know you by first name. Demand some kind of action. If you don't get action, express your dissatisfaction at the polls.

You can also support efforts by finding organizations that are directly engaged in operations...I have a GFM up right now in an effort to raise the money needed to charter flights and help support them while they are still in hiding. You could donate there if you want, or share the link to your SM accounts.

215814026 karma

I’ve heard polarized views on Pakistan’s role in all this. Are they really helping get our friends out of Afghanistan ?

jacliff76 karma

I laughed out loud at this.

I have also heard polarized views on this. Pakistani ISI supported the Taliban, then assisted us in fighting the Taliban, then supported the Taliban... the only thing I will write with any degree of certainty is that Pakistan may be more likely to assist with evacuations if it is advantageous to Pakistan to do so.

LayneLowe25 karma

Who are there people in Afghanistan that need to get out? I assume they were some kind of aid workers that stayed from compassion. It should have been obvious to average people they needed to bail as soon as Trump announced his withdrawal.

jacliff37 karma

There is a whole mixed bag of people who need to get out, but the ones you hear about more than anyone else are American citizens and SIV (special immigrant visa) holders.

In addition to them there are people who are considered "at risk" due to any number of reasons. the LGBTQ community, women's rights activists, actresses and musicians...there are so many groups that fall outside of the ideological bounds of the Taliban, and they are all living in fear of what the Taliban will do to them.

letsjumpintheocean24 karma

Why is 'getting all American citizens out' SUCH a talking point still? Aren't most of the remaining American citizens in Afghanistan dual citizens who have chosen to stay, some of whom have never even lived in the US?

Aren't there far more Afghans with SIVs who actually want to leave?

How can we refocus on helping those who are qualified to leave who want to leave, instead of constantly rehashing and criticizing over the American citizens?

jacliff37 karma

I am actually focusing only on SIV-holders at the moment. I have not heard from anyone with U.S. citizenship at all.

It's more likely that they (the ones with citizenship) are dealing directly with the Department of State, since DoS has some obligation to assist. I imagine we hear more about them because they can cause so much more of an uproar, and tend to draw more compassion when politicians attack each other over the handling of the withdrawal.

Edit: from an information operations point of view, we will probably keep hearing about American citizens long after the last one has made it out. It's just more inflammatory than focusing on Afghan citizens, so that will likely remain the talking point that politicians and pundits cling to.

darshilj9722 karma

Have you had any conversation with the current government in Afghanistan. Is there even a proper set up for government that you can interact with ?

jacliff40 karma

there is no current government in Afghanistan, not one that is officially recognized by anyone other than Qatar and Turkey.

The proper setup comes in the form of interacting with the countries who have officially recognized the Taliban as the governing body of Afghanistan. They can then go through the motions of dealing with the Taliban while everyone else keeps their hands clean.

TurtleRockDuane22 karma

Since the withdrawal was a known activity planned for a long time, why did so many people wait so long to leave?

jacliff38 karma

Because when it came time to execute the withdrawal, it was done very rapidly and without proper coordination on the ground. U.S. citizens and SIV holders should have been evacuated before the military, but that is not what happened.

TurtleRockDuane33 karma

Thank you for your response, but that’s not exactly what I’m asking. You say they should’ve been evacuated first. I’m asking why were they still there so long that they needed to be evacuated, since they had many months notice?

jacliff27 karma

I wish I had a better answer for you, something more definitive, but I do know one thing: one of the people I am tying to assist started the SIV application process last year, but it was not completed until a little over a week ago. One reason for sticking around could very well be that they simply couldn't leave due to the extremely long processing time for SIV applications, but I can't know for sure just how many people were affected by this.

Skypatrol2012 karma

What were you doing in particular if anything to prevent this or support the evacuation 6 months to a year ago? It’s been clear for months ever since the Trump-Taliban deal that we would be leaving and this would be an issue was there any preemptive planning or early evacuation that you or your organization had participated in?

jacliff17 karma

Unfortunately, no. It is a very rare thing to see civilians organizing an evacuation from a foreign country. That is the sort of thing that is almost exclusively under the purview of government agencies, such as the Department of State and the Department of Defense. While Afghanistan still had a government it would have been an international incident to step in as a civilian and organize an airlift to freedom, and would certainly be seen as an embarrassment to all sovereign governments involved. If anything (and without the benefit of hindsight), it would be more fair to assume that civilian interference in evacuation operations would cause more harm than good. It wasn't until everything turned to shit that it became clear that civilians would need to step up and fill the void left by government agencies.

tdempsey3319 karma

Why is it so difficult?

jacliff88 karma

It shouldn't be, should it?

It is difficult mostly because of logistical hangups. The Taliban controls the airport now, so to fly a plan in and take off again it actually requires coordination with the Taliban. In order to coordinate with the Taliban you have to be able to actually contact them...which I have yet to try (and am avoiding at all costs for the time being), which therefor requires coordination with a country who has an open dialogue with the Taliban. Currently there are only two. Then, if you can manage to get a flight cleared to land....you still need to find a plane, and someone willing to fly it into Kabul. Once in Kabul, you have to get your passengers through Taliban checkpoints into the Taliban-controlled airport, and onto the aircraft....but wait. The passengers must meet all of the travel/transit requirements for every country they will pass through, which means proof of vaccination, a recent PCR test, and valid travel documents, and possibly money to reserve a "quarantine package," which is basically a long hotel stay.

What if their Afghan passport expired recently? What then? There is no longer a government of Afghanistan, so there is no agency there to renew passports, and no one, NO ONE, wants to arrive at an airport in Atlanta or D.C. with a passport issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban's Afghanistan). So they need further coordination with the U.S. state department to get permission to enter with an expired passport. Oh, and if any of these steps gets delayed or doesn't happen, then all other steps are now void and you have to start over again.

Add to this a general unwillingness on behalf of certain official personnel to assist and you have a recipe for constant frustration.

Hangry_Squirrel9 karma

John, there are hundreds (potentially thousands) of young women who have secured places and funding at foreign universities, but they can't apply for student visas or travel anywhere because they don't have passports.

Under these circumstances, which I think are well-known to everyone, a Taliban-issued passport would still be a lifeline for them and, in some cases, for their families. Even an expired passport would be something, but a lot don't have one at all and the situation feels desperate because there's currently no way for them to obtain a travel document.

I don't know what to do (I'm mentoring one of these girls) - it's hard to stay optimistic knowing our efforts may come to nothing if there's no way for her to enter another country.

jacliff8 karma

This is one of the more complex problems that has no immediate or even clear solution. You're right, a passport from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is better than none... except when it isn't. I want to say time will tell if the world will remain open to Afghanistan's civilians and choose to not hold the actions of the Taliban against them, but just how much time they have is so uncertain that it seems unfair to leave it at that.

This is a question for someone really intimately familiar with immigration laws across the entire Middle East and Europe... Like, is it possible for these women to leave as refugees with whatever IDs they've got, get established somewhere with the help of the UNHCR, and secure a student visa to their host country under exigent circumstances?

Anyone? Bueller?

HHS201917 karma

Knowing what you've learned now, if you could go back in time to January 2021 and were given a billion-dollar budget and DoS/DoD authority to make sure the evacuation was safe and complete, what would you have done differently?

jacliff63 karma

oh, to dream...

I would definitely not have pulled air support from the ANA until after we were 100% out of the country. That much I know for sure. I would have started by evacuating all U.S. citizens, and those who had family in Afghanistan I would have urged to get hot on getting visas for their family members. I would have seriously stressed the importance of the SIV application process and added additional staff to the U.S. embassy in Kabul for the sole purpose of clearing the backlog of SIV applications and conducting interviews. I would have evacuated all of the SIV holders next, one plane-load at a time, as each manifest filled up. Only then would I begin to withdraw troops, and only after all troops were out and the ANA could clearly stand on their own would I pull air support.

Basically everything we did, just in the opposite order.

RJPeaches17 karma

Do you think we could have avoided leaving 83 Billion dollars worth of weapons and equipment behind for the Taliban with better laid withdrawal plans?

jacliff73 karma

absolutely. The thing we need to keep in mind regarding all of the equipment "left behind" though, is that the vast majority of it wasn't technically ours, it belonged to the Afghan National Army, and it fell into the hands of the Taliban after the Afghans surrendered. A more orderly withdrawal that provided the Afghans with the air and technical support they needed may have prevented such huge losses.

Akimotoh2 karma

First of all, thank you for doing what you are doing. However I want to point out that I do not believe you understand the country of Afghanistan if you ever thought the ANA would stand and fight. It wouldn't matter when we left, the ANA would crumble as soon as we left. The country is divided into too many states that have no union. The best analogy that was given for this was if Mexico, the U.S., and Canada all formed a united military from citizens (mostly illiterate) willing to fight in-exchange for temporary money. Would unpaid U.S. citizens stuck in Mexico want to fight the Mexican cartel to help free Mexican citizens when the U.S. citizens were only there fighting because of the temporary money (that money stopped as soon as NATO and U.S. forces pulled out)? No, they won't because they aren't going to fight the cartel for free. They would rather live and escape back to their home.

It is unfortunate that the people that didn't want to evacuate because they believed the ANA would stand and fight are now stuck there. However as soon as the U.S. provided any intelligence that the ANA were crumbling all of Afganistan would of immediately fell as soon as that news broke.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/afghan-security-forces-capabilities/2021/08/15/052a45e2-fdc7-11eb-a664-4f6de3e17ff0_story.html

jacliff31 karma

Actually I do understand Afghanistan...Afghanistan has survived this long by siding with the winner.

If it appeared as if the ANA could stand and fight and win, they would have stood and fought. Once it seemed that they had little chance of winning, the vast majority chose survival over fighting to the death and surrendered without a fight. A lot of them were killed, anyway. I think what caught everyone off guard was just how quickly they surrendered.

bigpoppa303016 karma

Hey John thank you so much for your service and sacrifice. What ran through your mind when you first discovered Afghanistan was being overtaken? I know they had wins these last few years (ie Marjah) but curious what your strongest thought was when you heard about this incident specifically?

jacliff40 karma

My first thought was something like "I hope the people resist even if the army falls," then it slowly morphed into something like "well what the [email protected] was it all for?"

It was disheartening, but I do also remember being completely unsurprised by it, like I could have written it onto my calendar months ago.

HHS201911 karma

I admire what you're doing. What plans do you have in place to make sure anyone you evacuate has food, shelter, health care, education or any sort of network to help them survive and hopefully thrive in their new (forever) home?

jacliff18 karma

This is a great question. The short answer is...none. I don't have plans on the backend except to make sure that once they get to the States there is not some legal trip hazard that sends them back to Afghanistan.

There are agencies in the States that are handling resettlement efforts and providing assistance to Afghan immigrants, most of them are providing this assistance at no cost. The few SIV holders that I started out trying to help also already have family on the east coast, so they have a place to land and stay while they get settled.

CivilizedGuy12311 karma

Can you estimate how many Americans and SIV holders chose to stay back in August when the USG was evacuating AmCits and now have changed their mind and want to depart?

jacliff20 karma

I have no clue. They may have thought they had more time, they may not have been contacted by the State Department and notified of the evacuation...there are too many possible reasons and not enough information to make an accurate estimate.

CivilizedGuy1235 karma

As a follow up to my previous question, is there an estimate of how many AmCits and SIV holders want to depart as of today? I’m trying to scope the problem.

jacliff11 karma

I wish I knew, I think the official estimate is somewhere in the hundreds, although depending on the news outlet they sometimes lump in refugees as well for dramatic effect. I am fairly certain that the number is in the mid- to high hundreds.

pileofdirtylaundry10 karma

Hi John, thank you for what you’re doing. My husband and I have been trying to get his friend, the Afghan interpreter he worked with, out of Afghanistan since July. Like you, we have met dead ends and moving goal-posts everywhere. His SIV isn’t complete, although all the necessary documents have been submitted. Is there anything that can be done at this point? I feel awful for this guy and his young family, they are stuck and terrified.

jacliff15 karma

YES. So for someone in his position, his best bet depends on where he is in the application process. Has he had his interview? If so, it may just be a matter of time before the application gets processed and approved. If not, he can get his application transferred to a consulate in a neighboring country and he can go there to finish it. If he can safely travel into Pakistan or Tajikistan, he may want to try to get his case transferred to one of their consulates. I believe there are three in Pakistan?

In the meantime, contact the agency that processes SIV packets with his, and your, information ready. Enter the application receipt number here. You can also email the USCIS with some pertinent info...if you're not sure what info just send them any old email and then follow the instructions in the autoreply. I am not taking credit for anything here, but when I emailed to check the status of a seemingly-dormant SIV application it was suddenly approved within a week.

pileofdirtylaundry9 karma

Hey, thanks so much for your reply.

He hasn’t had his interview, or been contacted for one. Do you know if anyone is able to safely travel and cross the borders into Pakistan or Tajikistan right now? I’ve been under the impression that it’s extremely dangerous and that those countries aren’t accepting any more refugees, and are in fact deporting people back to Afghanistan. It’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on over there when all I have to go off of is what I can find on the internet.

My husband and I, as well as the congressional staffers we’ve been working with, and the SIV applicant himself, have all emailed the USCIS, and have not gotten a response.

Thanks for the link, that’s one I hadn’t seen before. We actually don’t have an application receipt number yet, just an NVC case number, which the link says is invalid.

Again, I appreciate any info or insight. Thanks so much.

jacliff9 karma

Wait, hang on. You have a case number that starts with NVC?

That is the SIV. Can you message me the case number and his name so I can double check?!

jacliff8 karma

The are not officially accepting refugees, that may be true...but I have spoken directly with the embassy in Dushanbe and they told me in no uncertain terms than if an SIV applicant can get there, they will 100% assist.

So...that leaves a new option. Is your friend able to apply for a tourist visa to Tajikistan? he doesn't have to go in as a refugee. He can go as a visitor and just spend some time at the consulate there. I priced some of the hostels in Dushanbe and found that I could rent a private room in one for a month, for less than $300 USD.... and it would be far less than that if he doesn't mind staying in a shared room.

Caveat: he should first contact that consulate and get his application transferred over to them for the interview, that way he can line up his visit with the interview and complete his part of the process during one visit. ALSO - have him contact this organization, too. They are helping SIV applicants through the whole process pro bono, and may be able to get his case transferred even faster.

Stock_Wave_232310 karma

Hi, what are other nations doing to assist in the effort besides providing shelters/good and such? Are other nations assisting Afghanistan's security/military (for as little as it is)?

Thank you for providing this support. I will be praying fervently. I shared your gfm link. You need WAY more than the $5,000ish in the gfm. Best wishes and stay safe.

jacliff16 karma

I know.... I won't know for sure how much I need until I hear back from some airlines. I think I will need somewhere in the ballpark of $120k to charter a plane from Kabul to Doha, and then commercial tickets from Doha to the states, but I am looking into every funding/subsidy option I can find to help defray that cost. The goal in GFM was just an arbitrary number. I can use as much, or as little, as I can raise there and still help.

As for what other nations are doing...that is a little murky. There is no longer an Afghan government, and no Afghan military, and the resistance to the Taliban appears to have mostly crumbled. Now that ISIS-K is also a looming threat, it is unclear if other countries are going to share intelligence with the Taliban in order to secure Afghanistan from an ISIS-K takeover, or if it will be left entirely to the Taliban.

goldhess9 karma

How can we help?!

jacliff11 karma

If you're in the US, get in your Congresspersons' ears and emails until you're on a first name basis. Spread the word, bring people together, help raise funds...

There is also a need for resettlement assistance in the States. If you can assist with space in your home or in community support, helping immigrants figure out how to get their kids enrolled in schools, turn on utilities, search for jobs, all of that stuff... I am sure that someone somewhere can use it.

If you have a background in law there are pro bono networks dedicated to ironing out processes for obtaining the legal clearance to enter the U.S....

If you can imagine it, there is likely a need for it.

Metalhart009 karma

How accurate would you say the media portrayal of this whole event has been?

jacliff28 karma

It has actually been pretty accurate. I don't get to say that very often, either.

Just do yourself a favor and ignore any tangent they go off on regarding politics... that's when it goes off the rails. If you just focus on the facts, the coverage has been pretty good.

Typically, if I am trying to get some unbiased info from the news regarding anything in America, I tune into the BBC and forget all about U.S.-based outlets.

pervykaiser6 karma

Hi @jacliff I’m in the army as a 13F and I am looking into joining civil affairs could you give me some insight as to what you do?

jacliff6 karma

Oh man. Civil Affairs can take on so many different forms... we do displaced personnel operations (like assist with refugees and refugee camps), support to civil authorities... the nutshell version is that we specialize in the civilian sphere of influence in any contingency area. Our efforts build that barrier between civilians and military operations, keeping the two as separate and distinct as possible while minimizing the impact that each has on the other. It can get a little more complicated at times, but that is pretty much the crux of the job.

Pandonia425 karma

What is the most common reason people were left behind? Did they not believe things would get that bad? Or maybe a lack of flights out? Or are the people that are still there voluntarily there?

It just baffles me. If people are stuck there involuntary, it seems like that was a 100% avoidable situation with more planning in place before the withdrawal.

jacliff14 karma

with more planning in place before the withdrawal.

Exactly this. That is the biggest reason people got left behind. There could be people left behind voluntarily, sure, but those are definitely not the people who have been reaching out to me for help.

A ton of people waited for days outside of the airport in Kabul, and not all of them made it into the airport, let alone onto a flight. Even more saw the situation at the airport as futile and fled Kabul while the Taliban's attention was focused on the areas immediately outside of the airport gates. They are in hiding all over the country.

And yes...it is baffling. And saddening.

HHS20195 karma

What steps are you taking to verify that the people seeking help or evacuation were in fact "our" people? The quotes may be perceived as snarky -- they're not intended to be, just referring to the way you described your task.

jacliff4 karma

I am not equipped to vet anyone. I do not have access to the systems I would need, and even if I did, I cannot grant anyone permission to enter the U.S.

Those who I am calling "our people" have approved SIV cases, and I have been able to confirm their identities. Having an approved SIV means that they have already been vetted by our Department of State and have been given clearance to enter the U.S.

Others who have reached out without already-approved SIV cases I have directed toward a group that is doing pro bono work handling all of the legal stuff for Afghans who are trying to get an official status and leave Afghanistan. Once they have it, then I add them to my list of passengers who will (inshah allah) be on the next flight out of Afghanistan.

jacliff3 karma

Not sure why you are getting downvoted... security is a serious concern when it comes to evacuation operations. The vetting process is actually very, very important. In order to qualify for an SIV they have to show that they worked for the U.S. government, which is what I meant by "our" people, as opposed to those who may qualify for a visa or asylum status in the UK. The only thing I can do to this end is point them in the direction of legal assistance.

artjimz5 karma

Are you working with any other groups of veterans or civilians in your efforts?

jacliff19 karma

Yes. In fact, the more I dig and the more phone calls I make, the more attention I attract to my efforts, and the bigger my network of collaborators grows. That is one of the reasons I chose to do an AMA, too... I'm hoping that by doing this even more people with information and resources find me. It's only by combining efforts that we will maximize the impact of each dollar and minute spent on this...otherwise we may all very well be trying the same things, getting the same disappointing results, while someone else out there might have the answers we need.

TrueFakeAdult5 karma

With everything going on out there (and I'm guessing given your a medic you see a lot of crazy stuff) how do you keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed?

jacliff4 karma

Carefully structured downtime. I make sure to walk away from everything for a few hours a day and watch Netflix, read, wander around (although not so much in Doha. It's still over 100 degrees Fahrenheit here and I was undeniably built for more arctic climes). At home I take my dogs for walks, play with my kids... and to my wife's chagrin I like to play video games...

It's all about a work-family balance.

CoolHandEthan5 karma

Do you how do?

jacliff14 karma

Yes. Yes I how do.

No-Athlete21134 karma

What is happening in Afghanistan rn? After the evacuation of the US troops we haven't heard anything.(at least in my country)

jacliff27 karma

That is because it is suddenly very difficult for journalists to get into Afghanistan, and once there, get their stories out. We hear so little about what is happening in Yemen for the same reason.

ILLstatic234 karma

I keep hearing the US government is blocking/making very difficult for Americans who are doing what you’re doing .. true or false?

jacliff7 karma

Some people have reported difficulty with certain people within the DoS, that much is true.

I have not had that experience, at all. On the contrary, the worst thing that has happened to me so far is I got told by someone at an unspecified U.S. embassy that they also did not know anything new, and that they are also waiting for updates...however, they also made it very clear that they would under no circumstances turn someone away if they managed to get out of Afghanistan and make it to the consulate in need of help. I got the impression (READ: I got the impression, this was not explicitly stated to me) that the employees at some embassies are also frustrated and wishing they could do more. I will not specify which embassy this was in order to protect the identity of someone who did not agree to go on record.

I do occasionally get the customer service runaround, getting transferred between offices as each new individual tells me, "please hold, our office does not handle that..." until I lose patience and hang up, but I have not had anyone from State get in my way and actively try and shut me down.

natesovenator3 karma

Is there anything anyone can do to help you in your endeavors?

jacliff7 karma

This answer gets downvoted ferociously, but funds are always needed. Planes can't fly with money. I have a fundraiser set up for that purpose if you're interested in donating or sharing the link.

Aside from that, information is just as valuable. Info on who else is working in this arena and a way to get in touch is a phenomenal asset, as there is no central repository for "lessons learned" right now, and some of us are almost without a doubt making mistakes and wasting effort on things that others have already tried.

If you wanna go beyond just what I am doing and feel comfortable doing the research, I've been meaning to do a needs assessment for SIV holders and there families once they reach the States. I know there are agencies that are assisting with resettlement, but I do not know who they are, what services they provide, and what they don't provide (in other words, what needs are still being unmet).

...and if you happen to be a resident of Georgia, call our Senators and ask them why they refuse to respond to my emails and calls. Jerks.

SW45063 karma

So are these just people you personally feel need to be “brought home”? What criteria are you using other than your feelings?

jacliff3 karma

No, not at all relying on feelings. I got involved in all of this because someone I work with has family there. She is half Afghan, half Latina (halfghan, if you will), and several of her family members worked as interpreters for us...and they are stuck in Kabul. Once I started looking into helping them out, I learned of even more interpreters who got left behind, and then that list grew even more. I started with 5, then that grew to 21, and now I know of about 81 interpreters and their family members who need help getting out.

SW45062 karma

So what criteria do you use?

jacliff6 karma

Anyone who was promised a visa to come to the U.S. That is the criteria.

There is no emotional aspect to this at all, only legal considerations.

H-AeolusZX3 karma

How was military medicine training different from medical school/college? I am currently a medical student and i am interested in the experience of medicine in the military, but I have no idea how things are over there.

jacliff3 karma

Military medicine is intensive at my level, but even for our mid-level providers the difference is in just how quickly the education is delivered. It's like drinking water from a fire hose.

At my level, the level if the field medic, A&P is pretty basic and most training revolves entirely around trauma, the treatment of trauma, and life-preserving measures that need to be taken to make sure people survive long enough to get to definitive care (like a hospital with a surgical department). We learn basic surgical skills and emergency interventions, basic pharmacology (if you're lucky you may get some OJT in veterinary medicine for the working dogs), etc...

It's like a short course in medicine with a very focused curriculum, rather than getting a more comprehensive and extensive education that covers it all.

moose163 karma

Do you think we should go back in one day and take Afghanistan back from the Taliban and return it to the Afghan government? Or should everybody cut their losses and leave it as it is for the chips to fall where they may? Which do you think is better for everybody in the long run?

jacliff7 karma

I am woefully under-qualified to say with any surety what we should do about Afghanistan in the second Taliban era. For the time being, any break from warfare is probably welcome to some degree.

GilneanWarrior3 karma

CA Medic? Good on you. I got pysch dropped for PYSOP, lol. One of my boys is attempting going CA again after being a PT failure, he's after the medic stuff too, do you enjoy it?

jacliff3 karma

Yes. Yes, I do.

PerkyLurkey3 karma

Should the generals in charge resign?

Was it the removal of air support that caused the Afghans to lay down their weapons?

Should people be in prison for closing the USA base in Afghanistan?

jacliff19 karma

I can't answer the first question because I am unaware of just how much say they had in how this was all carried out. If they were completely in charge, I would say yes, they should resign. If they were excluded from the planning...of course not.

The removal of air support and the withdrawal of all of the contractors who were there providing maintenance to their own aircraft, together, definitely contributed. You just don't hold a country without air superiority, and they had none.

should people be in prison for closing down bases in Afghanistan? Not really. If they had any indication that the Taliban would inherit it all then they could certainly have spent more time burning it all down or something, but they were just following orders like everyone else. Not telling the Afghans we were leaving, though? That was very poor form.

Verbais3 karma

Serious question not meant to be rude: Why are you doing this right now? Isn't there something more important you could be using your time for than a Reddit AMA?

Again, I want to emphasize that this is a serious question and if it sounds rude or aggressive, it's only because I don't know how to word it otherwise.

jacliff9 karma

Right now is actually late in the evening in Qatar (it's 9:41 pm here as I write this). Government offices are closed, so all that's left for me now is research in my lonely hotel room. And let me tell you, these walls are closing in. This is just another form of research, not only for me, but for anyone with questions about what's happening here.

A Reddit AMA seemed to be another great opportunity to run into others who are also doing what I am doing. In order to make sure that there aren't several people all doing the same thing to no great effect, it is important to find out what everyone else has already tried, the assets they have, what they need...by combining all of that info it becomes easier to make sure that all efforts are going toward something novel. So even if this reaches just one other person or group working on getting people out of Afghanistan then it has expanded my network even further. And if it reaches just one person who is inspired to call his or her Congressperson, then awesome. It was time well invested.

MrsBasilEFrankweiler3 karma

Also not OP, but I think this is a question that comes up a lot in humanitarian and similar situations.

I can't speak for the OP (who is doing amazing work, it appears), but I did work on this recently on behalf of a friend who needed assistance, and I've worked in the development sector for a while. The short answer is that the human brain can only take so much. Most people can't process this kind of information 24/7 without burning out, going crazy, or experiencing serious and lasting trauma. You have to take breaks or you won't make it through. I'm not even talking self-care; I'm talking "letting your brain turn off."

I know that I felt incredibly guilty for every minute I spent watching TV and not frantically emailing another evacuation group or politician. I also know that my emails stopped making sense after seven hours.

Thank you u/jacliff for taking the time to demystify this process and raise awareness of the needs that still exist.

jacliff2 karma

u/MrsBasilEFrankweiler I am interested in learning anything you may have picked up while you were assisting your friend.

jesusboat3 karma

What is your view of US imperialism and the endless wars we wage and needless bloodshed we cause not to help the less fortunate, but to profit the military industrial complex and oligarchs that actually run this country?

jacliff26 karma

I think it is disgusting. If politics and lobbyists could be excised from military operations entirely I think we could actually do a lot of good, but that just isn't the case.

DamoclesBDA3 karma

How likely are you to survive this?

jacliff21 karma

barring a freak accident, 100%. I am not one of the people who is actually running operations in Afghanistan, I am working the incredibly cumbersome bureaucratic angle

GoneInSixtyFrames2 karma

How's your internet connection and can you do video interviews, would you?

jacliff6 karma

The internet connection is stable enough. As far as an interview is concerned I would need to know for which outlet/channel...No offense, but I wouldn't want any answers to be reduced to soundbites that could be portrayed as politically-aligned at all. These efforts are agnostic.

TigLyon2 karma

So personally, I believe that the fall of Afghanistan was a foregone conclusion. It was just a matter of when we pulled out our support. I do not agree with the manner in which it was done, but that is another discussion.

My question is, after the initial years, do you feel there was a better time to pull out/evacuate...using the assumption that we did so in a better way than we just did?

So if the evacuation were done in a way that you agreed with...do you think there was a better or earlier time it could have been done? Say instead of at 20 years, perhaps 15, or 10, or during a particular political/social shift, etc?

jacliff9 karma

I don't think there was a better time, but mostly because I don't think the war itself was handled well. There were too many changes of command. With every new administration there came new department officials, new generals, and new "visions" of how the war should be waged and how the Afghan government should be structured. No nascent government would stand a chance under those circumstances, especially one that had become dependent on cash handouts and direct support by U.S. officials.

JAGRadio2 karma

But most of the Americans still there are there by choice!?

That's what the guy on the TV said.

jacliff12 karma

Was that the guy who was also selling Sham wows?

50caliberfingerguns2 karma

When was the last time you played faceball?

jacliff5 karma

DUDE. It's been too long, that's for sure.

jedisk8er9452 karma

Is all the finger pointing in both directions warranted?

jacliff4 karma

It is a distraction from the real problem. You can assign blame all day long on Capital Hill, but the day that anyone accepts blame is the day that I will say it was warranted. Until then, it is little more than a distraction.

KeimOne2 karma

So many movies depict scenes with field medics and/or wounded soldiers. It’s hard that those are the only points of reference a civilian has about what happens in the field, and they should not claim to be the sole representatives of such situations. Urgent or tragic situations in the field are very Intimate and I do not want to intrude anyone‘s misery, but allow me a few questions in order to gain a better understanding of what individuals go through.

A) can you explain what happens when you are in a situation where someone is hurt and you or they know they may not make it? Are such scenarios even realistic or are people typically unconscious or dead on the spot? B) why did you become a field medic - and why did you stay a field medic? C) have you ever treated a hostile individual, an enemy, in the battlefield?

jacliff11 karma

A) you keep doing everything you can, even if you know it won't work, until you get them to a higher level of care/evac. You never know... someone might actually pull through if you give them hope. The exception to this is if there is more than one casualty...in that situation you have to focus on the patient who has a chance of survival. It is not easy to do, but is necessary.

B) I wanted to help, but still wanted to be on the front lines. I stayed a medic because I gained institutional knowledge that would have been lost if I had left it behind. The more I learned, the more I could teach the junior medics who followed me. I did not stay just a medic, though; I went into Civil Affairs later in my career and maintained my medical MOS as secondary.

C) I can't know for sure, because the hostiles we faced did not wear uniforms. I treated everyone who needed it.

hot_like_wasabi2 karma

What is your opinion of the crowdfunded project Operation Flyaway?

jacliff9 karma

I'm surprised this took so long to come up.

TL/DR: I don't know what to think about them, but they appear to be still engaged in helping out Afghans despite early difficulties, getting conned, and then dealing with some controversy.

Operation Flyaway got active in trying to rescue afghans early on, before anyone had made any considerable mistakes and before any paths had been blazed. They partnered with a successful influencer who was able to raise an unbelievable sum early on, and things looked awesome.

But then they got swindled by a guy who was already under investigation for fraud, they ran into issues with getting clearance, their flights were grounded, turned around, they lost a lot of credibility. They made a lot of the mistakes that paved the way for others to make progress on smaller budgets, and they're still slogging through murky waters doing what they can to help.

I am in touch with them, and they seem to still be actively grinding on this problem day and night. They will be the first people I call, after the people I'm already tracking, as soon as I am able to arrange a flight since I'm fairly certain they've got the names to fill all available seats. .

hot_like_wasabi7 karma

Thank you for the response. I was a donor and I still support what they're doing, to a degree.

Thanks to my background and experience I'm also highly aware of how complex and sensitive these types of operations are and don't necessarily expect them to be transparent or swift in explanation. I think many people with far too little experience are playing armchair diplomat/ambassador/mercenary without any real understanding of what a massive undertaking this is.

Keep fighting the good fight. If we continue our history of abandoning indigenous allies it won't bode well for us in future operations.

jacliff8 karma

No, it certainly won't. Our credibility continues to erode.

artjimz2 karma

What do you need the most from those of us at home?

jacliff5 karma

Honestly, money is the key component of any operation. Nothing happens without money except hopes and dreams.

But I also totally understand that we have been throwing money at Afghanistan for two decades and all we are left with is this crisis and some serious debt (that should be a t-shirt), so people are very hesitant to throw more at it.

Aside from money, information is just as valuable. Information on what has worked for others, information on where the Taliban has set up checkpoints, information on absolutely any aspect of what is happening on the ground...all of that is priceless.

nstav132 karma

I appreciate the work you're doing man, but how does it make you feel that you felt the need to do this in the first place?

jacliff7 karma

Feeling the need to do it was normal. I almost always feel very strongly when it comes to things that just seem completely unjust.

That the need even existed, that people were left behind, that was infuriating.

Lolkenshin2 karma

How do I get a job doing what you're doing, as a veteran?

jacliff5 karma

You kinda don't. I am doing this on my own dime (my own travel and hotel, meals) and working to raise cash for the charter planes and material support while in hiding. As far as I know, everyone else is also doing this on a voluntary basis.

_HEDONISM_BOT2 karma

How are the schools?

How’s the taliban handling the schools? Are they letting children go to schools?

Are they enforcing masks? Are they getting people vaccinated?

jacliff3 karma

As far as I know, boys are allowed to attend school but girls of all ages are not.

I have no idea what kind of mask mandates they have in place, or f they even have access to vaccines right now. Anyone wishing to import vaccines now has to choose between delivering vaccines to the Taliban and risk being sanctioned, or not delivering them at all.

YourRecoveryYourPath2 karma

John, it’s Nicole. I was contacted by a family (man, wife, baby) (information intentionally sparse) who asked for help getting out. They gave me all their information and I am wondering what advice should I give them. Are you currently seeking people to help get out? These people do the same work they do and randomly found me on fb due to our similar work.

jacliff2 karma

The first thing is identifying what kind of visa they would qualify for and then getting that process started. If they do not already know this, have them (or you can do it on their behalf) check with TF Melmastya, these are the legal experts who will let you know (and may even assist through the whole process) which visa to apply for, and how.

If they already have a visa, then I can help with getting them physically out of the country and to someplace safe. Send me an email with some info on where they're at in the visa process, where they are physically at in Afghanistan without being too specific (just a city name or region is good for now), and we can go from there.

HHS20191 karma

Do you have reason to believe that there are US government employees still in Afghanistan who are trying to help out with the same mission?

jacliff4 karma

almost definitely not. We have no embassy left in Kabul, no diplomatic presence, and any U.S. government employee in Afghanistan would be in immediate danger if they were discovered by the Taliban. If there are any, they are not there on officially sanctioned business.

SupernaturalPhoenix1 karma

How do you stay somewhat sane in the thick of it all? What is your favorite thing/hobby to do civvie and/or non-civvie?

jacliff6 karma

Compartmentalization is clutch. What happens to your mind when you're immersed in a combat zone for a year or more at a time deserves its own discussion. It's a gradual change, and returning from it is not always easy.

As a civvie I am into photography. It gives me the excuse I need to just wander around and explore.

88toddler1 karma

How come the US left their weapons in the bases???

jacliff3 karma

The US didn't leave weapons behind. The weapons you hear about in the news actually belonged to the Afghan National Army, and the Taliban acquired them when the ANA surrendered. We did originally provide those weapons to the Afghans, which might be why so many people initially reported that we left behind enough firepower to, well, arm an army.

Light011 karma

Hello, it might not be related to the AMA, but I wanted to ask, since you're there and see the shocking reality, if you think the USA should have done more prior leaving the country in a rush, and help more the community that needed protection from the Taliban ?

I'm not asking this in a political way, I'm just wondering how harsh it really is for them.

jacliff3 karma

In an ideal world I think yes, we should have done everything possible to provide security for at-risk populations. I just honestly don't know if anything else we could have done would have made a difference if the ANA couldn't secure Afghanistan, anyway.

Nanteen6661 karma

How much of an active hindrance is the US government or its departments being to your mission?

jacliff4 karma

This is the other million-dollar question.

I wouldn't say it's been a hindrance at this point. No one has actively gotten in my way.

Amazing_Government_40 karma

Nice to meet you sir and thank you for your service! What made you join the army?

jacliff6 karma

It was so long ago I can barely remember. I do remember thinking to myself "I don't want to hit 37 years-old (I think that's the age cutoff) and then regret not ever serving...I'll just do a few years and I'll be good."

saleemkarim0 karma

Do you think the deaths, physical and psychological trauma, destruction, and cost of the war in Afghanistan was not worth the good that may have come from it? If so, should we have known from the start that this war would do more harm than good?

jacliff9 karma

It is so difficult to come up with an objective view on this...if Afghanistan had come out on top as an independent country free from oppressive rule? Maybe it would have been worth it... but when I put myself in their shoes and picture my own family caught in the crossfire I suddenly wonder if anyone could ever fairly say it was worth it. We should only be asking those who experienced real loss if the possibility of a free Afghanistan was worth all of the pain and destruction.

If I had lost a child there...I would be completely unmoored and would find it very difficult to say it was worth it.

spoontraveler-8 karma

First - thank you for your continued service, I respect tf outta you.

Second - why were you not sent to Afghanistan 2 months ago???

jacliff5 karma

I know, right? Honestly, I believe that even the troops on the ground were caught off guard by the way the withdrawal was executed. A LOT of people were stunned over and over again by the manner in which this was carried out. I work as an analyst who focuses entirely on the middle east, and I did not see this coming.

To tell you the truth, I am not sure I would have been able to do anything more than what was already accomplished by people like the Pineapple Express...chaos reigned during July and August. I would have just been one less seat on an aircraft for someone who desperately needs it

Helpwithapcplease-33 karma

do you think it is better to blame Biden or Obama for Trump's failure as a president? How can us patriots shift the blame to Hillary as well?

jacliff18 karma

If we are going to be completely fair, we need to drag every hawk on Capital Hill and every administration through the mud on this... too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, and not enough focus on Afghanistan.