FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A number of Afghans are trying to evacuate Afghanistan amid the resurgence of the Taliban, who paraded in celebration of their takeover in the streets using cars and trucks left behind by U.S. military members. A South Florida woman with ties to the country is now on a mission to lend a helping hand.
Anna Rita Talerico is a retired military officer. She has spent the last two weeks working out of her home office evacuating friends and co-workers from Afghanistan.
Talerico was first deployed to Kabul in 2009. She was also a physician assistant, and when her deployment ended, she decided to stay and help open the American Medical Clinic.
“I worked in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2018,” she said. “As a civilian, I lived there for five years.”
Her team built the clinic and hired trained nurses and doctors, assembling a large staff.
The clinic was not owned by the U.S. government but worked directly with the embassy.
Many of those workers were ineligible for special visas, and many of them were still left behind.
“Now, they can either choose death, torture or going back to a life of the burqa,” Talerico said.
Talerico knew she had to act.
She teamed up with Emily King, who also lived and worked in Afghanistan.
“We have a large network of friends, the Afghan friends. They’re risking their lives, too, to help people,” Talerico said.
The first evacuation happened when the U.S. military was still in Afghanistan, but the Taliban had already closed in.
“Give them the map, give them the pass,” Talerico said. “We gave them telephone passes basically with colors for identifiers, which bus they would go to. We had three buses ready. We called them and said, ‘You have to go now,’ and it was late at night.”
One staff member was captured, beaten and tortured, but they were able to get to the airport and get out.
Cell phone video captured some of the evacuees when they arrived in Germany.
“Some are in Italy, some are in Germany,” Talerico said. “They are overjoyed.”
Talerico, King and their team are currently working to get out about 130 people, including dozens of children. The next 24 to 48 hours will be crucial.
“They’re waiting now in a safe house. We’re waiting for permissions. Of course, you have to have permissions to cross borders,” Talerico said.
Talerico said she hopes to get hundreds more out. Now she’s hoping that the federal government can also pitch in.
“With their help, we could get many, many more out. Thousands,” she said.
The effort is called Operation We Care: Global Afghan Evacuation.
Logistically, they’re dealing with so much. They have hundreds of people that still need to evacuate and get out. They have buses and planes ready to go, but they still need donations.
To donate to Operation We Care’s GoFundMe page, click here.
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