The internet has been flooded with moving visuals of desperate Afghans trying to board a US military C-17 Globemaster plane.
Thousands of panic-stricken rushed to the Kabul International Airport on August 16 to escape what they perceived to be a return of the barbaric Taliban regime. In one of the videos, hundreds of people were seen running after a C-17 Globemaster as it was taxiing on the runway to take off.
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The US Air Force is investigating an incident of human remains being found in the wheel well of a C-17 aircraft that flew from Kabul to Qatar, Chief of Media Operations Ann Stefanek said on Tuesday.
“The Department of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) is reviewing all available information regarding a C-17 aircraft that departed Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug 16 and the loss of civilian lives – to include video documentation and the source of social media posts,” Stefanek said in an Air Force statement.
“In addition to online videos and press reports of people falling from the aircraft on departure, human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.”
The C-17 landed at the airport on Sunday to deliver a load of equipment to support US evacuation efforts and was immediately surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians before the aircrew could offload the supplies, Stefanek said. The C-17 crew decided to leave as quickly as possible due to a rapidly deteriorating security situation, she explained.
For years, the Afghan people had to suffer under a brutal and barbaric Taliban regime. Things started to change for better after the US-led forces launched their “war on terror” in the South Asian country.
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Countries, including India, have contributed to the rebuilding of the war-torn nation. And it was the Afghan women who seemed to have benefitted the most as the country started taking baby steps toward democracy.
However, on August 16, even the resilient Afghans could not put up a brave front in wake of the fall of Kabul. Social media has been flooded with heart-rending pictures and videos of people trying to move to a safer and more secure location.
In one of the pictures that have gone viral, hundreds of Afghan civilians can be seen onboard a US military C-17 transport aircraft, leaving their land in a bid to escape the raging Taliban and its brutalities.
The plane was pushed far beyond its operational capacity in order to accommodate the panicked mob of refugees, drawing parallels to yet another such mass evacuation by a C-17 in the Philippines in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The US Military C-17 was operating under the callsign Reach 871 to evacuate civilians. However, its crew perhaps did not anticipate the sheer volume of evacuees.
Nine C-17 Globemaster IIIs arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan recently delivering equipment and approximately 1000 troops. Seven flights departed, transporting approximately 600 passengers, 165 of which were American citizens. pic.twitter.com/JoRFHQg3ID
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) August 17, 2021
So chaotic was the scene that the Afghan nationals who had been cleared for evacuation made frantic attempts to enter the aircraft, pulling themselves onto the aircraft’s partially open ramp, fearing that they might be sent back.
The number of Afghan civilians who have been evacuated placed at around 640, a number far beyond the C-17’s operational capacity, which was only designed to accommodate 102 Paratroopers along with their equipment.
This was just one instance; other aircraft may have been able to evacuate more refugees from the marauding Taliban.
Video emerges of Afghans clinging on to C-17 at Kabul Airport yesterday. pic.twitter.com/72vlgm51sT
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) August 17, 2021
The crew was able to carry out what is known in military aviation as a ‘floor landing’. A maneuver was similarly carried out by a C-17 in 2013 during the evacuation of 670 civilians who were stranded in the wake of a deadly typhoon in the Philippines.
The Afghans were successfully extracted from Kabul and transported to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. During this humanitarian operation, the refugees remained seated on the plane’s capacious hold. They clung to the plane’s cargo straps which ran from wall to wall, leveraged as makeshift seatbelts.
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This moment was captured on camera, where it seemed that the Afghans who were able to make out alive, began to reflect upon the life they left behind and the ambiguity which lay ahead in a new land, yet grateful to be alive.
The 2013 Rescue Mission
The United States Air Force’s 535th Airlift Squadron had successfully carried out a mass evacuation of over 670 Tacloban residents who had been hit by Typhoon Haiyan the ravaged the Philippines on November 17, 2013.
The historic airlift had also been carried out by C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. The plane had taken off from the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam located in Hawaii to the Clark Air Base in the Philippines in support of Operation Damayan, a code-name given to the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort to evacuate the stranded civilians.
The crew had not only saved hundreds of lives but had even managed to deliver more than 100,000 pounds of cargo. Pictures of the rescued passengers bore a striking resemblance to the Afghanistan evacuation which was carried out on August 16.
Some social media handles had even mistaken the Philippines evacuation to be from the Afghanistan airlift.