No One Left Behind: B-School Students Help To Evacuate Afghanis To Safety

Philip Caruso, at left, poses with a friend in Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

Philip Caruso, MBA/JD ’19, Harvard University, NOLB board chairman
and acting executive director

Caruso spent seven years active duty in the U.S. Air Force and seven years in the reserve, deploying twice to Afghanistan. He previously served as a legislative fellow at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and is a Next Generation National Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Veteran Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Professionally, he is a Principal at Onex Partners, a large-cap private equity fund in New York.

Why is the mission of No One Left Behind important to you?

Philip Caruso with his Afghani interpreter whose face has been blurred. (Courtesy photo).

In my second deployment in 2014, I tried to use the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to resettle an Afghan who was working for us in an intelligence capacity. Ultimately I failed to get him out of the country, and I took it as a personal mission to make sure that we were helping those who had sacrificed and risked their lives for U.S. forces and U.S. foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan.

I went to work on the Hill for six months as a legislative fellow because I was hoping to find ways to change the program legislatively and to address, specifically on the intelligence side, the gaps we had with helping some of our intelligence assets. I wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in 2019, and was introduced to No One Left Behind through General Petraeus – one of our key advisors and who I’d worked for in grad school. I joined the board of NOLB in 2019.

I was involved primarily in advocacy until last summer when we really had to build out a whole new version of the organization and scale it to address the demand and the need, and then ultimately stepped into the role as chairman and executive director.

Do you know what happened to that person that you weren’t able to help?

No, but I have a sense.

What is NOLB working on now, a year after the evacuation from Afghanistan?

There are three pillars of focus in our organization. The first is advocating for changes in how the U.S. government is helping this population, whether it’s by evacuations or program execution as originally intended by Congress. We also advocate for changes in the legislation itself.

Philip Caruso, at right, on duty in Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

The second is resettlement assistance for things like emergency housing, cars, emergency medical expenses, food, etc, to families when they get here. Essentially, we serve as a safety net for them. We do that through a network of what we call ambassadors –16 part-time former SIV recipients, both Afghan and Iraqi, who are located in different geographic areas around the country. They are our case managers on the ground. They’ve been through the process itself, they’ve resettled, and they know how to access different government programs and sources of assistance. They provide a lot of coaching and advice to the families when they arrive.

The third thing is evacuations, something we didn’t start doing until last June. We help people get out of places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has been our newest and largest focus since August, and it’s also the most expensive. It ranges from identifying people to the State Department that they didn’t know needed to be evacuated to flying people out on commercial flights ourselves. Also, on a larger scale, we run charter flights where we’re negotiating with third-country governments to host hundreds of people while their visas are being processed so that they can get out of the danger or economic squalor that they’re in. Ultimately, when they do make it to the U.S., we’ll be here to help them through our resettlement initiatives.

NEXT PAGE: JD Dolan, Columbia Business School, EMBA ‘15, NOLB board member

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.