These American veterans are not giving up on the Afghan fighters who saved their lives.

After the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 may seem like ancient history.

But for David Tyson — an Army veteran turned CIA paramilitary officer who was part of Alpha Team, the first Americans deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11 — it remains a priority.

Two years after the withdrawal, Tyson and other members of Team Alpha are still working to bring a significant group of US allies to the United States.

“I want to emphasize that these were the first guys who helped the United States government after 9/11,” Tyson told me.

Five weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, a group of CIA paramilitary and Special Forces officers were sent to northern Afghanistan, joining Afghan fighters.

The majority of those fighters, from the Northern Alliance, were ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks and lived under an oppressive regime.

The dangerous mission, which was captured in the book “First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11” by Toby Harnden, and in the 2018 Chris Hemsworth film “12 Strong,” would include brutal hand-to-hand attacks. body. -hand-to-hand combat and would eventually lead to the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

David Tyson (third from left) and Justin Sapp (second from right) with Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, 2001. Courtesy of Toby Harnden

“They didn’t work for us. We don’t pay them salaries. They just joined us and fought with us,” Tyson said of the Afghan fighters. “Obviously, it was of interest to him. But these guys came to us voluntarily without expecting anything. Many of them died for us. We had cavalry commanders who fought tooth and nail, and then for the next 20 years we were part of the Afghan government, army, police and intelligence services.”

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Also, he stressed, they helped take care of Americans.

“We were few and we lived with the Afghans,” Tyson recalled. “We were fed and protected by them.”

The CIA Alpha Team at K2 Air Base in Uzbekistan in October 2001. Justin Sapp is below right. Courtesy of Toby Harnden

But in September 2021, when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, our Afghan allies were largely left struggling to find their own path to safety as the Taliban regained power; Very few were granted special immigration visas for the United States.

Desperate to repay the kindness that had saved his life and keep the pact signed, Tyson joined Green Beret Justin Sapp and Shannon Spann, whose husband, Mike, a former Marine and CIA paramilitary officer, was the first American victim of the war. .

In 2022, they formed Badger Six (after a call sign used by Spann and Sapp) to financially support about 30 families sheltering in Afghan safe houses or in neighboring countries, including Pakistan, waiting for the US government to clear their paperwork.

The late Mike Spann (left) and Justin Sapp. Courtesy of David Tyson

On Thursday, more than one hundred American veterans will gather at Hoboken’s Pier A Park for the inaugural “Ruck the River” – a two-mile charity walk organized by the Hoboken American Legion and benefiting the Badger Six.

“The deal was that you take a risk for us and we take a risk for you and we take that to the grave,” Sapp told me. “The bonds you build with these locals are as strong as the bonds you build with the soldiers in your unit.”

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The crisis was recently exacerbated when Pakistan ordered undocumented Afghans to leave the country last month.

David Tyson (bottom right) with Afghan Northern Alliance fighters in the Darya Suf Valley, October 2001. Courtesy of Toby Harnden

Tyson said it’s particularly galling that this is happening while there’s practically a free-for-all for immigrants at our southern border.

“These people are coming in illegally and our people are going through the vetting process, which takes a long time,” he said. “You can imagine our frustration at that.”

He said some Afghan families have come to the United States, where they are self-sufficient and working for a chance to achieve the American dream.

“They are not lukewarm about their feelings toward the United States. “They are so patriotic…because we reach out and sacrifice for them,” Tyson said, noting that this charity has a finite goal. “Maybe I’m optimistic, but I hope that in two years Badger Six will be just a memory.”

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