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An American Music Teacher's Struggle to Save His Afghan Students

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Like anyone with loved ones still in Afghanistan, it has been a harrowing week for Lanny Cordola. He's a guitarist from LA He's played with Guns N' Roses and The Beach Boys. We first met him in 2017 when he told us about the most unlikely school he was running - the Miraculous Love Kids music school in Kabul. The nonprofit teaches young children, particularly young women, in war-torn areas how to play the guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) I was standing in a muddy field, watching the people there.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Fast-forward to August 2021 and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Cordola left the country on the last commercial flight and headed to Islamabad, Pakistan, and immediately began working the phones. He's been trying to get his former students out of Afghanistan.

KELLY: There are a lot of them, but a dozen or so have become the face of the school, playing Western music that's been shared on YouTube. And that makes them vulnerable. So Cordola has been trying to get them out first.

LANNY CORDOLA: So I filled out every P-2, SIV - you know, this, that or the other.

KELLY: Cordola says he's been getting offers from all kinds of organizations to help. So far, nothing has come through. He says two different rescue missions failed just last night.

CORDOLA: When you have a Western security company saying, we'll be there in 10 minutes, get your kids, we're ready to go, and they don't show up at all, and then they stay the night there because they called back and said, oh, we'll do it tomorrow morning - you know, this is the stuff that so many Afghans are up to.

CORNISH: The mission did not show up in the morning, so the girls wait as August 31 nears. To underscore the danger the girls face, an explosion rocked the building that used to be the school's home just yesterday. But despite the chaos, Cordola is optimistic that at least those dozen most vulnerable girls will get out before the deadline.

CORDOLA: I mean, these are the lucky ones. You know what I mean? They have me. They have a freaking maniac that is their advocate. And there have been so many - and most of them have been Americans - that have donated and put out such goodwill. And I'm just humbled to the core. So these girls, they're going to be OK. But, you know, I'm greedy, man; I want to get out as many as we can.

CORNISH: As many as he can - and Lanny Cordola is still working the phones, trying to make that a reality.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MIRACULOUS LOVE KIDS SONG, "FLY LIKE AN EAGLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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