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Reporter's Notebook: 'Providing hope' at the brutal end of the Afghan war

Evacuation of Afghan refugees continues following US exit

Fox News’ Greg Palkot reports the latest.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan basically ended this past week. After 20 years, America’s longest war came  to a close with the last U.S. troops exiting Kabul.

But U.S. service members around the world were still very busy, evacuating Americans, Afghans and others out of the clutches of the new Taliban rulers. Including those stationed at the massive American Ramstein Airbase in Germany, a key transit hub for those leaving Afghanistan and going on to the U.S. 

“It’s been pretty much nonstop,” Captain James Dimmick, who’s managing air operations at the base, told Fox News. “We’ve been 24 hours every day of the week so far. … Just getting as many people in and out as we possibly can.”

Huge C-17 transport planes flew the Afghans directly in from Kabul or via other bases in places like Qatar.  Then after the refugees are checked out and vetted they board specially-chartered commercial planes to fly on to the States. 

The commander of Ramstein, Brig. General Joshua Olson, told us it’s all about “… humanity and providing hope.” 

Sometimes those flying in are not in great shape. Like the 20 injured Marines and other service members medevaced there following the deadly ISIS terror attack at Kabul’s airport. They were treated at the nearby American military hospital, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Some, too, were near death. All were treated until well enough to be flown back to Walter Reed Medical Center in the States. 

“They can go out and do what they need to do … what their country is asking them to do” Col. Jodelle Schroeder, head of nursing at the hospital, told Fox News, “because we’ve got their back.”

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    U.S. service members staff the massive Ramstein base welcome the Afghan refugees (Greg Palkot)

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    Commercial planes (United, for example) are chartered by the U.S. government to transport the evacuees to the U.S. (Greg Palkot)

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    Refugees wait to be transported to the States. While the U.S. tries for a turnaround of three days, some refugees told us they’d been there for a week or more. (Greg Palkot)

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    Refugees live in tan tents while awaiting final approval and transport. (Greg Palkot)

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    The military C-17 transport planes bring in refugees to Ramstein direct from Kabul and via other bases like Doha Qatar. (Greg Palkot)

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    Housing facilities set up to house Afghans who were evacuated during the U.S. military’s withdrawal. (Greg Palkot)

As for the Afghans themselves, they had mixed feelings when we spoke with them but were grateful to be out of the chaos of the country.   

“I think the country is going the wrong way,” one told Fox News. “It will not be the same as it was.” 

“I don’t think the future will be very good,” another said. 

They have no illusions about the new Taliban rulers after having seen what the extreme Islamists did 20 years ago when they last ran the country. 

“We have history with the Taliban,” an Afghan asserted. “We saw them once before … enemies never change.” 

And many were worried about the thousands left behind, including family members, all potentially in harm’s way following the rapid U.S. withdrawal and evacuation.

“We have history with the Taliban,” an Afghan asserted. “We saw them once before … enemies never change.” 

“My brother, my family, all the people who worked for the U.S. military, they are still there,” yet another Afghan explained. “They’re stranded.” 

We asked commanding General Olson if he had wanted more time. “We always want more time,” he told us, “more time … and more sleep!”

“That’s what we do,” she stated emphatically. 

They do that … and a lot more. Political debate aside, on vivid and emotional display to us at the crucial U.S. military hub in Germany in the past week, among Americans and Afghans: dedication, relief, concern … and, yes, humanity.   

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