A new photo from the evacuation of Kabul reveals how nearly 650 Afghans were crammed onto one US Air Force transport plane in the scramble to escape the Taliban.
The image from Sunday shows roughly 640 Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate crammed inside the C-17 Globemaster II cargo jet - far more than the aircraft’s designated load of passengers.
“The crew made the decision to go,” a defence official told military news site Defense One, which obtained the image. “Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination.”
Video of the packed plane, which had a course set for Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, had previously circulated on social media.
Air traffic radio captures an official discussing the flight with someone on the plane, who cannot be heard.
“OK, how many people do you think are on your jet? … 800 people on your jet? … Holy f***, holy cow…” the official says.
Chaos erupted at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Sunday and Monday, as US armed forces shut down the airport to commercial flights to continue evacuating government personnel and US allies.
At least seven people were killed in the rush to leave the country, including two armed men shot by US troops, as well as others who were run over by airplanes.
Videos suggest some held onto the outside of departing jets before falling to their deaths.
Up to 9,000 US troops have been redeployed to the country to secure the evacuation process, and foreign diplomats from multiple nations have been moved into the airport, as civilian Afghans wait for indefinitely suspended flights to return.
“The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” US President Joe Biden said on Monday in his first public comments about the crisis, as disarray continued across Afghanistan.
Still, he insisted, “American troops cannot and should not be fighting the war, and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”
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