#DigitalDunkirk: Veterans unite on social media to help evacuate Afghans

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Veterans and others related to the military use the hashtag #DigitalDunkirk to unite on social media and help thousands flee the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The operation takes its name from the famous civilian-assisted retreat of the British and Allied forces of France during World War II.

It offers expert assistance and advice on evacuating from Afghanistan predominantly Western allies and their families, such as interpreters or military personnel.

Jen Wilson, 35, is the Army Week Association’s operations chief in New York City, and her team alone has already coordinated the escape of 30 people from Kabul as part of the mission.

“Dunkirk, it was all the Tom, Dick and Harry with a boat… they all flooded the waters to get these guys out,” she told the PA News Agency.

“That’s exactly where it is here… we have former Navy Seals walking in with their own money… down to me as a civilian sitting in my apartment in New York City.”

“It’s all on the bridge, everyone is sending us contacts – I literally just had a contact this morning working with a guy whose brother is an Apache (helicopter) pilot on the ground.”

Ms Wilson said a “motley group of Royal Marines” stationed across the UK are always available to help with the international effort, using their sources and contacts to provide intelligence.

“One of the biggest problems is that we need constant new information on the ground because it keeps changing,” Wilson said.

“This group of Royal Marines, whatever time of day … they’re always sending me answers.”

Mike Jason, a retired U.S. military colonel and defense consultant, said he believed thousands of people had been helped by the campaign, which began in the United States.

“We have individually helped hundreds of people we know personally, but we believe these efforts are impacting thousands of people,” Jason told PA.

“I even worked with my classmates at Italian War University and now we interact with our Canadian counterparts, all in real time, through social media.”

Mr Jason’s work began on the project when he received a text from a friend – a senior Afghan army official who was in hiding in Kabul with his family.

After helping evacuate the official and his family, Mr Jason tweeted “how happy he was” in a thread which then went viral.

“The thread went viral and I was immediately connected with dozens of other veterans trying to do the same,” said Jason, who retired as a colonel in 2019.

“We have (since) organized ourselves into a working group using our military training – a CNN reporter called it Digital Dunkirk and we have embraced that spirit.”

When asked how those with no military experience can help the #DigitalDunkirk cause, Mr Jason said: ‘Speak out loud, tell everyone unequivocally that this is our moral obligation to bring out our friends and allies and welcome them into our communities with open arms.

“It’s not over with the last flight. Their new life begins when they arrive, we can all play a part.



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