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A secret mission to save lives 

Afghan refugees being processed at Kabul airport. Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times

President Biden pledged to get Americans and their Afghan allies out of a crumbling Kabul, say Bing West and Paul Wolfowitz in The Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, his self-imposed deadline means many of those to whom he made that promise will be left to the tender mercies of the Taliban after evacuation flights end. To make amends, Biden should authorise “clandestine exfiltrations”, lending “manpower, money and congressional buy-in” to the off-the-books rescue operations already under way. Dozens of US veterans have volunteered to rescue their trapped countrymen and the Afghans who fought with them. Frustrated “that our own government didn’t do this,” one volunteer told ABC News, “we did what we should do, as Americans”.

Gripping accounts are emerging of the “Pineapple Express”, an entirely unofficial rescue operation that has saved more than 500 at-risk Afghans by spiriting them into Kabul airport. A network of volunteers around the world use GPS to plan routes in real time, often involving sewers or Taliban-held streets, guiding field operatives in Kabul via the encrypted messaging app Signal. There will be many who still need saving weeks and months from now, despite these heroic volunteer efforts. “The president needs to do more to keep his word.”