A US Army colonel is being slammed as a murderer for turning away four bus-loads of Americans, friendly Afghans, and 300 orphans during the country’s evacuation from Kabul Airport last year – likely condemning them to their deaths.
The order from the unnamed colonel was delivered on August 25, less than a week before the last troops were withdrawn from the country as the Taliban tightened their grip on the city.
Tim Kennedy, the former MMA fighter turned soldier, was among those who witnessed the incident.
He told a new Amazon Prime Video documentary called Send Me Tim Kennedy: ‘(We) asked if people holding up blue passports and SIVs could get through.
‘He answered: “No, I don’t care who they are, those people get back on those buses and they go back into Kabul. Get em off this base?”’
Kennedy said of the incident: ‘There’s not enough capacity in my soul to be able to mourn four busloads of people that are about to die because the time spend on anguish and mourning could have been spent saving other people.’
It happened after a team of exceptionally-experienced security level personnel were dispatched into Kabul to gather people approved to fly back to the US on chartered planes after President Biden announced plans to withdraw.
That sparked an almost-immediate capitulation to the Taliban by US-trained Afghan forces, as well as a sudden and chaotic scramble to fly refugees out from Kabul’s besieged airport.
Those collected by the buses included American citizens, green card holders, Afghans who’d helped the war effort and been granted Special Interest Visas, as well as Christians who faced persecution at the hands of the Taliban, and orphaned children.
Former MMA fighter turned soldier Tim Kennedy told of his disgust at a US Army colonel who kicked four bus loads of refugees out of Kabul Airport last August – even though they’d been approved for safe passage to the United States
The buses are pictured pulling into the airport on the fateful day – shortly before the unnamed colonel turned them back
Chad Robichaux, who was also part of the rescue effort, branded the colonel who sent the refugees back a ‘murderer’
The incident in question transpired on August 25, members of the groups said in the recently released documentary, outside the Kabul Airport, where days later a suicide blast by ISIS-K agents would leave 13 servicemen and 170 Afghans dead.
Realizing the pressing nature of the situation, fellow SoA founder Nick Palmisciano – a former infantry officer in the US Army – said he, Kennedy, and their other colleagues enlisted the buses to help streamline the evacuation.
He said his team were particularly excited by this batch of refugees, who they felt were among the most deserving of being rescued.
‘We had orphans, 100 Christians, several high value individuals that were requested by govt entities. We also had the families of the crews that had been flying the charter airplanes.’
Despite being meticulously screened, the colonel refused to process them once they’d made it into the airport, and instead questioned whether the papers they’d presented guaranteeing their entry to the United States could have been faked.
Recalling the shocking moment the news was delivered, Kennedy said of the colonel’s inexplicable order: ‘He just makes the call – “Turn everybody around – put everybody back out, I don’t care who they are.’
The group – which included Kennedy, Palmisciano, Special Forces Officer Dave Johnson, and ex-recon Marine Chad Robichaux – had purchased the buses out of their own pockets, they said, and used them to pick up the various individuals across the war-torn country all through the night.
Robichaux said: ‘Whoever just made the decision to turn this bus around essentially just killed – just murdered – these people. And by the way, some of those people are children.
‘And some of these people were women. But some of these people are Americans, that we just sent back to the Taliban.’
A drawing taken from the documentary gives a rough idea as to how refugees were supposed to be processed once they’d been brought to a secure area inside Kabul Airport
A rocket-toting Taliban fighter is pictured outside the airport. Kennedy and others are convinced that the refugees turned away by the US colonel will have been easy prey for the terrorist group on being dumped back outside the safe and secure airport facility
Ferrying Christians, families of Afghan evacuation pilots, and American passport holders, the buses had been commandeered by the ex-UFC fighter – who is also a former veteran – to aid in the hectic operation.
Among them were Americans with documents proving their citizenship, as well as 100 Afghan Christians at risk of being persecuted by the Muslim Taliban in the wake of the takeover.
Also picked up were roughly 300 orphans found throughout the capital, and high value individuals (HVTs) that government entities the group had been working with ordered them to pick up.
‘We had a location for 300 orphans,’ Palmisciano – an infantry soldier-turned Hollywood producer – says in a segment of Send Me that recounts the disagreement with the colonel, who was not named by the filmmakers.
‘We had a location for about 100 Christians. And then we had several high value individuals that were requested by government entities for us to pick up,’ he recalled.
Also on the bus were the ‘families of the crews that had been flying the charter airplanes’ evacuating thousands of Americans and ally Afghans, Palmisciano further revealed.
Aided by 12 other friends and former servicemen who comprised the humanitarian group, retired MMA star Kennedy and other members would then fight for the innocents to be allowed through into a US military base – but were ultimately rebuffed.
The tense standoff likely saw hundreds of Afghan children, commandos and interpreters’ lives snuffed out – and is detailed in full in the upcoming Send Me, which recount’s the struggles of Kennedy’s team during the evacuation.
Days after the buses were turned away, Joe Biden ordered the last of the 13,000 or so soldiers stationed in the war-torn country to withdraw – likely leaving thousands behind to suffer at the hands of the notorious terrorist group.
Send Me, which started streaming on Amazon Prime last week, details the buildup to this event and chronicles one of the largest civilian rescue operations in history – which in this case was foiled by the unidentified colonel.
Refugees are pictured waiting at Kabul Airport during last summer’s’ chaotic withdrawal
Kennedy, 42, recalled: ‘We send out buses to multiple places throughout the city.
‘The most elite intelligence agencies in the world have their people on these buses,’ the ex-UFC middleweight went on. ‘Afghan Special Forces commandos, interpreters, Christians, orphans – all of these on these buses.’
Palmisciano added: ‘The guys worked all night and then filled those buses with those individuals.’
Once packed with the potential refugees, the convoy convened at a location outside the airport, called the Black Gate, which had been the agreed rallying point for the bus evacuation, made ahead of time with Marines who had been stationed at the airport.
Johnson, a former special forces officer and ex-Westpoint graduate, recalled of the frantic evacuation effort: ‘In one last swoop we thought we could just get one big, big lump through. We had this great little gate that we had arranged ahead of time with the Marines. We have five of them lined up at this one gate – Black Gate.’
At the time, Palmisciano had been waiting at the airport with Sean Lee, the operations officer for Save Our Allies and a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army, for the buses’ arrival.
Eventually, around 3 am, the pair received a call from their colleagues notifying them of the buses’ arrival – which they in turn could not help but celebrate.
‘I got a SAT [satellite] call: ‘Hey – We got 300 orphans, 100 Christians, the HVTs, and the families of about half the crew through the gate.’
Kabul’s airport is pictured. A secure US zone at the facility was besieged by people hoping to escape during the withdrawal. Many were turned away, despite having permission to enter the US
Palmisciano recalled: ‘We danced a jig. Like, were like, you know, “F**k yeah.”
The ex infantrymen called the occurrence one of the happiest moments that we had during the entire excursion, which lasted the better part of that month until the final day of the US evacuation on August 31.
Lee recalled how he and Nick high-fived and danced around the airport upon hearing the news, thinking their efforts had saved the lives of hundreds of Americans, children, and US allies.
But Kennedy, who retired from the UFC in 2016 following a 15-year MMA career, said the team quickly grew serious, as they knew they would have to still work with US Army officials to get the evacuees through.
‘We’re doing as much as we can as fast as we can,’ the former fighter recalled of his team’s efforts – which saw thousands of others rescued during the unrest.
‘We can’t make mistakes,’ Kennedy said. ‘We can’t let one person through that shouldn’t have gotten through. And so, we’re being thorough.’
At that point, the team members began conversing with a government rep at the airport, which triggered a series of calls up various chains of commands about the busses and its inhabitants.
That’s when the colonel, who was not named but belonged to the 82nd Airborne, arrived on the scene, Kennedy said. Immediately, the serviceman began to assert his authority – as he was the most senior officer on the scene.
One of the SoA members, a serviceman who goes by the pseudonym of Seaspray, recalled of the encounter: ‘There was colonel who came out and wanted to show that, essentially, he was the one that can decide whether or not somebody could get on a plane or not.’
‘And he just makes the call,’ Kennedy then added, recalling the colonel’s words.
‘”Turn everybody around; put everybody back out – I don’t care who they are,”‘ Kennedy recounted.
At that point, Kennedy and his team frantically began making calls and arguing with brass at the de facto base – noting to officials that the lists of occupants on the bus had been verified, their bags searched, and their travel documents perused.
Seaspray said: ‘We had the appeal of, “These lists have been verified; they had been searched by US Marines; they weren’t carrying anything; their bags had already been gone through; they’ve been patted down; documents have been verified – we had all of that proof.’
US troops are pictured within a secure area of Kabul Airport last summer, while hopeful refugees await charter planes to leave
However, the colonel reportedly remained unconvinced – telling the team that he didn’t know if the documents and other criteria were ‘fake or not.’
Still, the group continued to attempt to talk sense into the serviceman, asking if they could at least go through the passengers and to pull out the American citizens and the green card holders.
‘And he’s like,’ Kennedy said: ‘”Nope – it’s my decision. It’s a command.”’
The fighter, who served in the Army’s Green Berets as a sniper during the early years of his storied MMA career, said that he at that point was growing increasing impatient with the colonel, and even accused him of making an unlawful order.
‘Like, well, I’m not in the military,’ Kennedy, who started Save Our Allies along with Palmisciano and Colonel Sarah Verardo, said. ‘I’m not here for the military – and that’s not really a lawful order.’
The colonel, according to Kennedy, continued to push the theory that the documentation – which had been checked by Kennedy and his team as well as other US officials – have been fabricated.
But Kennedy’s response this time was, ‘”Is it worth the risk of saying that it isn’t? If there’s a chance that these documents are real, are you willing to push Americans back off base?”’
‘And they were,’ Kennedy says in an excerpt of Send Me.’
Tim’s colleagues theorized that the colonel’s behavior stemmed from the fact that Kennedy is a pseudo celebrity – and no longer is part of the military. Palmiscianor said that because of this, he did not seem to take the group and their efforts seriously, looking at it as a publicity stunt by the ex-athlete.
‘From his perspective,’ Palmiscianor recalled, ‘Tim was the only guy that he knew.’
‘He thought, “This is some f***in guy that’s just showing up in Afghanistan, running seven buses in, you know – f**k this guy, I want to kick him out.”’
Seaspray added that at one point during the face-off, he heard the colonel sarcastically remark, ‘This isn’t the Tim Kennedy show.’
Kennedy, meanwhile, was irate over the treatment, chiefly due to the fact that their were people’s – and children’s – lives at stake. With that said, if the colonel’s theory was wrong, the mistake would be a costly one.
‘These were people that fought and had their relatives die for us,’ Kennedy recalled of the bus passengers, who would eventually be turned away and never heard from again – despite several generals later overruling the colonel’s inexplicable order.
‘They lost their limbs for us,’ Kennedy continued, referring to the Afghans onboard who had aided the US in the fight against the Taliban. ‘They lost their adult lives and youth and their innocence for us.
He added: ‘Yes, they’re fighting for Afghanistan. Yes, they’re fighting for their people – but they are fighting with us. That’s who – that’s who we’re trying to save here.’
Palmisciano added: ‘From our perspective, this was possibly the most valuable load of people we had brought in thus far.’
The group would then begin to desperately plea with the officer, who refused to make any concessions to the group, including just accepting those with American passports or those related to American citizens – all while the passengers waited desperately outside the gate, off the bus.
But the colonel still would not budge.
‘Everybody goes back on these buses and I want them escorted back off the base,’ he told Kennedy and the rest of the group. ‘Kick them out.’
Seaspray said: : ‘And at gunpoint, they pushed Americans, orphans, visa holders, back into buses, and forced them ack off base knowing that we were already rebaring and cementing the main gates closed, knowing that we’re going to leave soon, knowing that if you push those people back of the base, it was a high probability that they would not ever get on a plane.