US Air Force: Airmen Not at Fault for Deaths of Afghans Who Fell Off C-17 During Kabul Evacuation
04:10 GMT 14.06.2022 (Updated: 20:36 GMT 19.10.2022)
© AP Photo / Shekib Rahmani In this Aug. 16, 2021, file photo, hundreds of people gather near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane at the perimeter of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ordinary Americans and the nation's airlines are combining to donate miles and cash to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States. Organizers said Tuesday, Oct. 26, they have raised enough donations pay for 40,000 flights, but they're hoping to nearly double that amount.
© AP Photo / Shekib Rahmani
US military officials evacuating civilians from *Taliban-seized Kabul on August 16, 2021, were seen taking off from Hamid Karzai International Airport as a number of Afghans on the tarmac pleaded for a seat and even hopped on the exterior of the C-17 Globemaster III. Hours later, human remains were discovered in a wheel well of the cargo plane.
US airmen tasked with the rushed evacuation from Afghanistan last August were acting “in compliance with applicable rules of engagement” and are not responsible for the tragic deaths associated with the operation, the US Air Force concluded in a Monday release, citing two monthslong probes on the matter.
US Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said the twin investigations into the tarmac deaths found that crew members “exercised sound judgment in their decision to get airborne as quickly as possible when faced with an unprecedented and rapidly deteriorating security situation.”
Qatar authorities declined to investigate further after the incident was reviewed by the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.
US Central Command, responsible for American military operations in the Middle East, and the service’s Air Mobility Command conducted their own inquiries and “rendered concurring opinions that the aircrew was in compliance with applicable rules of engagement specific to the event and the overall law of armed conflict,” Stefanek said.
The US airmen aboard the C-17 on August 16 have returned to duty after “seeking appropriate care and services to help cope with any trauma from this unprecedented experience,” noted the USAF spokesperson.
8 February 2022, 19:53 GMT
Despite multiple probes into the deaths, it remains unclear how many individuals died in association with the evacuation of some 125,000 individuals.
Afghan media identified two of the fatal fall victims as 24-year-old dentist Fida Mohammad and Safiullah Hotak, a young man. The proximity of their bodies led many to believe they clung to each other in their last moments.
Zaki Anwari, a 17-year-old on Afghanistan’s national football team, was crushed under the wheel of a C-17 after getting knocked off balance on the tarmac.
The Air Force announced its review into the deaths not long after the C-17 crew discovered human body parts within the wheel well after landing at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. According to the service, the aircraft was impounded and inspected amid the probes and has since been processed and documented.
* The Taliban is an organization sanctioned by the United Nations for terrorist activities.