A Silicon Valley CEO who organized the escape of one of his employees from Afghanistan said that despite the fact that evacuations have resumed in Kabul, the point is moot for some, as people still cannot make it into the airport.
The outlet chose to keep the company and its chief executive anonymous.
But the person who spoke anonymously conveyed his dismay with how dire the situation on the ground is as the U.S. military is just hours away from leaving Afghanistan after two decades of occupying it.
The CEO of the company valued at $3 billion told Axios that the private sector approach to airlifting people to safety seems doomed. The executive noted some people in California’s business community want to help others stuck in Kabul escape — not just a single employee. The CEO was discouraged by the conditions on the ground.
“It’s just a mess. We got the money and the planes, but the manifested people can’t get into the airport,” the person said. “The flights may never fly.”
Axios reported a group of private investors raised money for flights to Kabul for an employee of the California company who was stranded.
“The employee, an Afghan with a green card who once served as a translator for the U.S. military, did get out with his wife (who had been waiting more than two years for a visa),” Axios reported. “But other members of his family remain, including a brother who he tried to get through the airport gates, so we are keeping the name of the company and its employee anonymous.”
The CEO, who is an immigrant from an undisclosed country, said a funding campaign to get up to 200 people out of Afghanistan was quickly put together.
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Fears that the pop-up campaign to raise scores of money might have been disingenuous were shelved by those with opened wallets due to the dire situation in Kabul and a lack of time for those seeking to help. The money was quickly raised for airplanes to be dispatched.
“We raised over $100,000 in just 12 hours from a lot of people who probably know, and who have been working on other evacuations. As a CEO it’s a very interesting trust-building exercise, to wire $100,000 to someone you just met, but this is an immediate, life and death sort of situation,” the unnamed CEO said.
Despite good intentions and the logistics to extricate people from a war zone, the privately funded operation hit a snag.
People desperate to get on an airplane flying into the country can’t enter the perimeter of the Kabul airport.
“But that plane hasn’t yet arrived in Kabul. Nor have several of the other planes funded by the same donors, because their intended passengers remain stranded outside the airport gates,” Axios reported.
“There are planes just sitting a few hours away [from Afghanistan] that could take out thousands of people, a lot of whom have been trying for years to get visas, but the whole process was slowed down by COVID and other factors,” the CEO who spoke with Axios said.
“I just got off the phone with someone trying to get a busload of 100 people into the airport, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Even 48 hours ago there were some people getting through,” he added. “Now we’re basically having no success.”
The person who investors intended to help escape got out on a military plane, but it doesn’t seem likely others who are hoping to find safety from the Taliban and other radical elements in the country will find the same success — particularly after the security situation deteriorated Thursday when a suicide bomber killed 13 Americans and dozens of civilians.
The situation for potential evacuees might get worse after the weekend. The U.S. military intends to leave the country for good on Tuesday.