Global Guardian’s on-the-ground teams have operated in Afghanistan during the NATO/U.S. occupation, provided support amid the recent Taliban takeover, and continue to be present for the foreseeable future, all to support clients, expats, and Afghans in their time of need.

INCIDENT: Global Guardian provides on-the-ground support and evacuation assistance in Afghanistan amid government collapse.

LOCATION: Afghanistan

SERVICE: Emergency Response, Emergency Evacuation

SITUATION:
On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a move that caught most observers by surprise, fled Kabul as the Taliban swiftly closed in on the capital city. The democratically elected government had collapsed. In its place came the Taliban, who for two decades had been fighting a war against U.S. and NATO forces.

Amid chaos triggered by these unexpected events, most Western embassies shut down. The United States government set up a security perimeter around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and started evacuating U.S. citizens and Afghans on special visas out of Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghans crowded the tarmac at the airport in Kabul in an attempt to flee. However, the last U.S. military aircraft left at the end of August, leaving many Afghans in desperate situations trying to escape.

RESPONSE:
GG Afghanistan Case Study_Web-01-1
After Global Guardian received critical intel and early warning from its on-the-ground security teams in Afghanistan, the team began alerting its Duty of Care clients to the need to leave the area, 10 days prior to the collapse of the Afghan government. Clients were evacuated from three cities in Afghanistan to countries in the Middle East and Europe via air transportation. Once all clients were out of harm’s way, the Global Guardian team pivoted to supporting and evacuating Afghans who had provided assistance to U.S. and NATO forces over the past two decades and, by doing so, had become targets of the Taliban.

Global Guardian used a combination of private ground transportation and Pakistan’s national air carrier to get Afghans to safety. The team helped secure the proper travel documentation, passports, and visas for the fleeing Afghans. Once these papers were in place, the drive to the Pakistani border town of Torkham, about 140 miles east of Kabul, got underway. Afghans were driven to the border by Global Guardian’s local teams who have the networks and relationships on the ground that helped facilitate the journey. As such, multiple Taliban checkpoints were approached and crossed without incident. All the while, another Global Guardian team tracked the progress of the vehicles from afar in the U.S.-based 24/7 Security Operations Center. The challenge Global Guardian’s teams often ran into was at the border with Pakistan where abrupt and unannounced closures were the norm.

Despite these intermittent closures, all Afghans were safely evacuated and met by Pakistan-based security teams who safely housed them in local accommodations. Some of the Afghans traveled onward, to Canada, for example, but most remain in Pakistan.

When the airport in Kabul reopened, Global Guardian leveraged departing airlines to continue the evacuations. In comparison to the land journey, which took roughly 13 hours from point to point, the flights out took a little over an hour and became the preferred option of evacuation.

Thanks to Global Guardian’s well-established local security teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the coordinated efforts from its 24/7 Operations Center, the team was able to assist with the safe departure of over 500 total people from Afghanistan and out of harm’s way.


Key Takeaways

Global Guardian’s experience in Afghanistan revealed some notable takeaways:

  • Global Guardian assisted with the departure of more than 500 people from Afghanistan through alerts, intel, guidance, and movement via ground and air (commercial and NATO aircraft). An ongoing challenge is facilitating new evacuations from Afghanistan. Governments are taking their time to issue visas and passports, which has resulted in longer wait times for those desperate to get out. Global Guardian’s on-the-ground team in Afghanistan remains committed to providing service to those in need.
  • The importance of on-the-ground networks. The crisis in Afghanistan underscored the advantage that Global Guardian’s service model provides its clients. Afghanistan is one of more than 125 countries in the world where Global Guardian has an on-the-ground presence—a fully vetted and well-networked local team that is assisted by our 24/7 Operations Center.
  • Technology—employee tracking and travel alerts—alone is not enough to keep your employees safe during a crisis. These services, while important, do not themselves provide duty of care. They need to be supplemented by local knowledge and resources. The importance of seeing a friendly face there to help in hard times cannot be overstated.
  • The U.S. State Department can only do so much. The “Guide to U.S. Government-Assisted Evacuations” produced by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security says: “organizations should not rely on U.S. government assistance in emergency evacuations and, when possible, should make independent and proactive evacuation plans.” It puts the onus on the individual or group to remove themselves from a dangerous situation in a foreign country. It guarantees neither a safe evacuation nor U.S. government assistance in such a crisis. This is where security providers like Global Guardian provide a critical, and oftentimes lifesaving, service.
  • A crisis, let alone one in a foreign country, is challenging to navigate. It is in such times that the value of a well-networked and well-resourced security partner becomes apparent.

 

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