Three U.S. green card holders rescued from Afghanistan by a Tampa, Florida-based nonprofit landed at JFK International Airport in New York earlier this week.
The organization, Project Dynamo, said that the three Afghans have been hiding in Kabul for a year before being rescued “during a dangerous operation codenamed: SLINGSHOT 8,” the organization said via press release on Tuesday.
In a Skype interview with VOA, Project Dynamo co-founder Bryan Stern called the rescue of Rahima Sadaat, Noor Mohammad Ataie and Ataie’s wife Anisa, a huge success.
“We learned about these three American LPRs [lawful permanent residents] about six or seven weeks ago, and then we started planning the operation very soon thereafter,” he said, explaining that they first had to wait for some things to fall into place.
“We wanted to see if there was going to be any problems on the ground for four Western-affiliated people; either green card holders or American citizens or whomever,” he added. “So, we wanted to really understand the situation on the ground. And then once we felt comfortable that we can put them to our mechanism safely, we executed.”
According to Stern’s organization, 83-year-old Sadaat had traveled to Afghanistan in March of 2021 to visit family and stayed in Kabul. The Ataies were visiting family in Kabul when the Taliban took over the country.
The Ataies say they spent the past year hiding in Kabul, fearful that members of the Taliban might detain, torture, or even kill them if their status as U.S. green card holders were discovered.
In addition to their own U.S. ties, both of their sons worked with the U.S. military — one as an interpreter for NATO forces in Afghanistan and the other as a contractor. Both are U.S. Special Immigrant Visa applicants awaiting approval.
“The situation with the Taliban as you know is dangerous,” said Stern, warning that Afghans discovered in possession of, say, a personal photo of themselves with an American soldier can get one arrested, tortured or even killed.
Masouda Noorzad was rescued from Afghanistan by Project Dynamo in August of last year and now works for the nonprofit as a case manager.
“One year ago, I went to visit my family in Afghanistan, and I had a good time with my family,” she told VOA via Skype. “But suddenly Kabul fell, and I had to get out. I was so scared. Not only me, everyone, the people were so scared. They just wanted to leave. So, I tried to get to into the airport and tried so many times but was not successful.”
Founded in 2021, Project Dynamo — self-described as veteran-led, donor-funded, and comprised of volunteers — has conducted over 100 independent rescue operations from Afghanistan, evacuating American citizens, green card holders, Special Immigrant Visa holders and vetted allies who could then travel safely to the United States and neighboring countries.
While Project Dynamo has been conducting rescue operations in Afghanistan since August of 2021, it has also conducted operations in Ukraine since January of 2022.
This story originated in VOA’s Urdu Service.