COLORADO SPRINGS — The commander of Colorado Springs based NORTHCOM says plans are in action to offer refuge and a safe transition for people escaping Afghanistan. "They're coming here [United States] starting out with what they bring with them,” said General Glen VanHerck.
NORTHCOM leaders create the plan, gather the resources, and coordinate implementation of the humanitarian effort. It is a mission called Operation Allies Rescue.
More than a half dozen military installations across the country are creating facilities to temporarily house and support refugees. The order is to be ready for up to 50 thousand evacuees from Afghanistan.
General VanHerck has toured facilities and visited with some of the first people to escape Afghanistan. "The father thanked me saying they had what they needed and it was the first time in a long time that he has slept without being afraid for his family’s safety.”
VanHerck said, all branches of the military are “proudly” on board. In just days he is also seeing average citizens from nearby communities stepping up to help.
Aid centers ready, yet at the same time, some are afraid people they know will not be able to evacuate. "It's the worst humanitarian crisis on the face of the earth today.” said Colorado Springs resident, Richard Sullivan.
Sullivan spent years in Kabul working for a contractor. It required the help of translators who became important to him and his wife. ”Six years of being with them, they're very much family and I don't think they're gong to survive,” said Sullivan.
He is getting messages from some of the translators who are trying to get out, but keep getting stopped. One said he was instructed by U.S leaders to go to the airport, but ended up confronted by Taliban members who beat him. Sullivan is not giving their names to prevent them from becoming targets.
Sullivan said he is contacting senators and congress members. He has spoken with multiple congressional staff members and gets the sense they do not know what to do.
Sullivan said many in the United States have the wrong perception of the average person in Afghanistan. He said, “They are very different than the Taliban.” The people he interacted with are poor, illiterate, also respectful and supportive of the U.S.
Sullivan is passionate about doing everything possible to make sure these people are safe. "Until we finish that job we've turned our back on our allies and we're not the country we think we are.” He said, for two decades the people who helped him were told the United States would protect them.