USA Department of State (DoS) Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations-Explainer

Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations -AKA NEO 

Authored by-Mario Caraballo

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Author & Background

Mario Caraballo is a retired U.S. Army Warrant Officer and Senior Executive Service with operational experience in crisis management, counterintelligence and Human Intelligence. He is a managing partner at Se7ven Arrows Crisis Management Group.  As a subject matter expert, Mario wrote this article in response to recent events in Afghanistan to explain Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations.  You can get in touch with Mr. Caraballo via


Image Courtesy of Daily Mail 


Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, An Explainer

Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) is a military operation conducted to assist the USA Department of State (DoS) in evacuating noncombatants, nonessential military personnel, and other eligible foreign nationals from threats in a specific foreign nation and evacuating them to an appropriate safe haven.

The Chief of Mission, often the U.S. ambassador serves as the lead for the protection and evacuation of U.S. noncombatant evacuees. When requested by the State Department or Chief of Mission, DoD is responsible for conducting noncombatant evacuation operations, sometimes referred to as NEOs, in threatened areas overseas.

Under a memorandum of agreement between the State Department and DoD; the Secretary of State can request the Secretary of Defense to provide military personnel and equipment to assist in an evacuation during a crisis situation. In an emergency, such as when hostilities arise suddenly or appear imminent, the Chief of Mission may invoke an emergency evacuation plan and request assistance from the appropriate military commander while simultaneously informing the State Department. Once the decision to use military personnel and equipment to evacuate noncombatants has been made, DoD is responsible for executing the evacuation in consultation with the Chief of Mission.

At the onset of a crisis situation in an overseas country, Department of State (DoS) will request support from DoD under a memorandum agreement to make available military resources. The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) will authorize and direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) to issue an appropriate warning order to the supported Combatant Commander. The Secretary of State’s formal request, when approved by the President, will generate the Execute Order directing NEO.

A NEO is designed to deploy U.S. military forces in short or no notice scenario as a result of an emergency or, rapidly deteriorating situation that threatens the safety of U.S. Citizens abroad. Although the local government in the affected region is normally supportive of evacuation efforts, in an uncertain environment this support may be limited or non-existent. Local government forces such as the police or military may assist the NEO when the government of the affected nation has the capability to do so.

Large scale evacuations can be extremely complex, requiring tremendous coordination and logistical support. Noncombatant Evacuation Operations present additional challenges of civil unrest and violence that congests the transportation network and can require military assistance to execute the evacuation. NEOs contain many moving parts and simultaneous processes including the administration and direction of thousands of evacuees, vehicles, aircraft, using tracking technology.

The recent fall of the Afghanistan government and speedy gains by the Taliban have led the United States to conduct a NEO to bring home American citizens and Afghanistan nationals who worked with US Forces during the last 20 years in Afghanistan.


Image Courtesy of 24 Middle East