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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 1, 2021

‘Pineapple Express’ mission worked with US military to do rescues in Afghanistan

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  • The volunteers said they coordinated their rescues with the U.S. military.

CORRECTED, Sept. 7, 10:45 a.m.: This fact-check was corrected to delete a reference to tweets by a rescuer in Afghanistan. According to the reporter on the ABC News story, the author of those tweets did not participate in Pineapple Express. The rating is not changed.

A headline on the conservative website Gateway Pundit claimed that American veterans rescued people in Afghanistan without the knowledge of President Joe Biden, stating:

"Operation ‘Pineapple Express’ – Rogue Team of Retired US Vets Rescue Afghan Allies During Secret Missions Conducted BEHIND BIDEN’S BACK."

The headline was widely shared in a Facebook post that was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post refers to Pineapple Express, an operation run by a volunteer group of U.S. veterans of the Afghan war who helped arrange evacuations from Kabul after the Taliban takeover. The mission is named Pineapple Express because Afghans would display images of a pineapple as a rescue signal, the Military Times reported.

The post’s references to a "rogue team" working "behind Biden’s back," suggest that the group did something in defiance of the U.S. military or without the knowledge of the federal government.

But members of the mission said they worked with the U.S. military.

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Members of the veterans group told ABC News that they launched their mission on Aug. 25 and worked unofficially with the U.S. military and the U.S. Embassy to protect hundreds of Afghan special operators, assets and enablers and their families by bringing them inside the U.S. military-controlled side of Hamid Karzai International Airport. The report said ABC News observed the operation.

The ABC report quoted one member of the mission as expressing deep frustration "that our own government didn't do this. We did what we should do, as Americans." 

But it also noted that Biden sent 6,000 military personnel to the airport after Kabul fell to the Taliban to help evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.

The Gateway Pundit article also cited the quote from the frustrated veteran, but didn’t provide evidence to back the claim in the headline that the mission was done "behind Biden’s back."

Other reports also said the mission worked with the U.S. military. 

One member of the mission told Fox News: "The U.S. government is sending us people as well that need help getting out, so we are in coordination, and we are working with the U.S. government."

We found no evidence to support the headline’s claim that the Pineapple Express mission was carried out "behind Biden’s back." 

We rate the statement False.

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‘Pineapple Express’ mission worked with US military to do rescues in Afghanistan

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