US aircrew cleared in review of deadly incident during flight from Kabul

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Hundreds of Afghans ran alongside the US Air Force C-17 plane as it moved down the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

The US Air Force crew that took off from an Afghan airport last year while civilians swarmed their plane “acted appropriately”, an inquiry has found.

People were seen running alongside the air force plane in August 2021 as it left the airport, some clinging to its side, during the chaotic US withdrawal.

Human remains were found in the plane’s wheel well after it landed in Qatar.

But an incident review by the military said the crew “was in compliance” with regulations.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations said on Monday that the flight crew had been cleared after a nearly 10-month investigation.

The crew “was in compliance with applicable rules of engagement specific to the event and the overall law of armed conflict” amid “an unprecedented evacuation where resources were constrained”, Linda Card said.

The air force had said shortly after the incident that the crew had to depart the airport quickly due to a “rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft”.

As the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan amid the US withdrawal, thousands of people scrambled to the Kabul airport as Western nations rushed to evacuate their citizens and Afghan colleagues from the country.

Images showed hundreds running alongside the C-17 Globemaster III as it moved down a runway. Local media reports later said that at least two people fell to their deaths after it took off, in addition to the human remains found in the aircraft’s landing gear.

Among the dead was footballer Zaki Anwari, 19, who had played for Afghanistan’s national youth team.

Anwari “saw the arrival of the Taliban as the end of his dreams and sports opportunities”, the country’s General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports said in a statement on Facebook at the time.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek acknowledged on Monday the incident was “a tragic event and our hearts go out to the families of the deceased”.

But she confirmed the crew had returned to flight status, crediting their “airmanship and quick thinking” for ensuring the safety of the crew and their aircraft during the incident.

Chaotic scenes at Kabul airport

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  • 18 August 2021
  • 19 August 2021

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