EXCLUSIVE: How Evacuating Afghanistan Is Different From Ukraine, According To A Veteran That Did Both

Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images Daily Caller CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

Diana Glebova White House Correspondent
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KRAKOW, POLAND – When U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan in August, a team of American veterans came together to evacuate 17,000 people using planes from the United Arab Emirates. Now, the team is back together again to get those in danger from the Russian-Ukraine war out of Ukraine.

In Afghanistan, “we were running 24 hours a day” and getting “one hour of sleep a night,” due to the closing window before the Taliban take over Aug. 31, Sean Lee, the operations officer for Save Our Allies, told the Daily Caller. Lee served 22 years in the U.S. military.

“We thought we had about 10 days to get as many people as we could. Obviously, that ended a little bit early when the bombing of Abbey gate happened,” he said while driving through Krakow, Poland, where the organization’s current base of operation stands. The bombing of the Abbey gate killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and nearly 200 Afghans.

Save Our Allies was able to evacuate 12,000 people in six days and another 5,000 in the following months after the Taliban takeover, Lee said.

The Ukraine mission is “far more deliberate,” he continued, saying that it may continue for months or even years. “We are very methodical in our planning process and very redundant in the execution of those plans,” he said.

Lee and his team are evacuating those that can’t get out of Ukraine by themselves, like children, elderly and disabled people. Save Our Allies was also behind evacuating Fox News Journalist Benjamin Hall when he was severely injured by Russian shelling.

In both cases, “people are trying to escape what they believe to be awful living conditions,” but the Ukraine refugee crisis hasn’t reached “the level of desperation” seen in Afghanistan, Lee continued. (RELATED: Video Appears To Show Baby Being Handed Over Kabul Airport Wall To Escape, Woman Reportedly Follows)

Women and children are fleeing Ukraine by themselves, as men between the ages of 18-60 have to stay behind in Ukraine to potentially fight in the war. In Afghanistan, entire extended families were trying to flee together.

Nearly 4.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country in the past six weeks, accounting for the largest recent refugee crisis in modern times.