Afghan evacuation nonprofit preps for potential rescue operation in Ukraine

A U.S. no-profit aiding in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and refugees from Afghanistan is preparing to assist with potential rescue operations in Ukraine as tensions with Russia continue to rise.

Volunteers from Florida-based Project Dynamo conducted a “pre-deployment site survey” in mid-January to begin coordinating resources and establishing contacts in Ukraine in preparation for a wide-scale evacuation of U.S. citizens, should the conflict take a turn for the worse.

“We’re working to get ahead of the situation so that way if things go south, we’ll be ready to act immediately to get every U.S. citizen and resident back stateside and out of harm’s way,” said Bryan Stern, Project Dynamo co-founder and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tensions with Russia have continued to soar in recent weeks following the Kremlin’s buildup of troops along the Russian border with Ukraine.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday that new Russian forces are arriving at the Ukraine border and that an invasion could happen at any moment.

“We are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should [Russian President] Vladimir Putin decide to order one,” Mr. Sullivan said at the daily White House press briefing.

President Biden said in an interview with NBC News this week that U.S. citizens should leave Ukraine immediately.

Mr. Sullivan echoed Mr. Biden’s remarks Friday.

“If you stay, you are assuming the risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave … in the event of a Russian invasion,” he said.

The State Department ordered the departures of family members of U.S. Embassy officials in Kyiv last month. U.S. government employees are also permitted to leave the country voluntarily.

Mr. Biden said the U.S. is not planning for a military evacuation of U.S. citizens from Ukraine should Russia invade, and that those seeking to leave the country should do so on their own.

On Thursday, the State Department issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for Ukraine.

“U.S. citizens in Ukraine should be aware that the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate U.S. citizens in the event of Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine,” the advisory reads. “Military action may commence at any time and without warning and would also severely impact the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including assistance to U.S. citizens in departing Ukraine.”

A spokesperson from Project Dynamo said the group is taking proactive measures to ensure no U.S. citizens are left stranded, while focusing on its primary mission of helping those still stranded in Afghanistan.

The group has evacuated more than 200 U.S. citizens and 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan since forming in August.

The group said that unlike unforeseen chaos stemming from the collapse of Afghanistan, it has benefited from the ability to plan for a potential evacuation effort in Ukraine.

“Everyone is on edge right now dealing with this crisis, but none more so than our government employees and their families currently in Ukraine,” Mr. Stern said.

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