A GoFundMe campaign has raised millions of dollars to help people leave Afghanistan in the wake of a Taliban takeover — but executing the campaign’s goal will be a huge logistical challenge.
The situation: The Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan from the late 1990s until 2001, when the U.S. invasion forced it out of power. After 20 years, the last U.S. troops are expected to leave Afghanistan at the end of August, and already the Taliban has regained control of nearly the entire country.
Now, thousands of people are trying to leave Afghanistan. Some are Afghans who helped the U.S. during the occupation and fear retaliation from the Taliban. Others are women and girls who are afraid the group will oppress them or even force them into sex slavery.
Each $550,000 raised will charter two round-trip flights into Kabul.
Getting out of the land-locked nation isn’t easy, though.
The U.S. and European allies are evacuating some people, but the only option for many others is to secure a commercial flight — and right now, ticket prices are high and planes are overbooked.
Crowdfunding for good: Alarmed by the situation in Afghanistan, 26-year-old Tommy Marcus launched a GoFundMe campaign on August 18 to raise money for evacuation flights. He then shared it with the nearly 800,000 followers of his Instagram meme account, “@quentin.quarantino.”
The campaign went viral, meeting its initial goal of $550,000 in just over an hour. Another hour later, it surpassed $1 million, and as of this writing, the campaign has raised $6.3 million from more than 100,000 donors.
The money from the campaign is being paid to logistics and consulting firm Raven Advisory, with each $550,000 chartering two round-trip flights into Kabul to help 300 people considered “high-risk” targets of the Taliban leave Afghanistan.
Marcus hasn’t said where the flights will be taking the evacuated Afghans, but the campaign page claims a landing location outside the nation has been secured.
“The organization is in direct contact with the U.S. military and has received the necessary permissions to conduct this mission,” Raven Advisory told the New York Times.
“The funds raised are being used to engage trusted aircraft, crews, and security operations teams,” it continued. “The focus will remain on extracting as many people as possible as quickly and as safely as possible.”
The road ahead: Just getting people onto the planes will be a challenge — the scene outside Kabul’s airport is chaotic and dangerous — and then there’s the matter of figuring out where the evacuees will live once they leave Afghanistan.
“I can only imagine [this] is the largest crowdfunded humanitarian rescue effort in history.”Tommy Marcus
Still, Marcus has a team of more than 100 people — including military veterans, the International Women’s Media Foundation, and people on the ground in Afghanistan — helping him execute the campaign, and he is optimistic that it’ll deliver on its promise to backers and to Afghans fleeing the authoritarian regime.
“Our plane crew and other helpers are standing by as we prepare for what I can only imagine is the largest crowdfunded humanitarian rescue effort in history,” he wrote on the campaign page.
“You all have contributed to leading the charge for good,” he added. “For human decency. For changing the world for the better.”
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