The crew of the cargo plane that was seen in video footage taking off as people clung to its wings in Kabul, Afghanistan, has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Air Force.
The incident was captured on video amid the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 16, 2021. In it, a U.S. military C-17 cargo plane was seen taking off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport as desperate Afghans chased it down, clung to its wings and – as crew members would soon discover – crawled inside the wheel well of the plane amid takeoff. Soon after, video showed some individuals falling to their deaths from the sky.
Human remains were found inside the plane’s wheel well, the Air Force noted shortly after the plane landed. It’s unclear how many people died from trying to stow themselves away in the wheel well, and the number of deaths from the overall incident also remains unknown.
Scenes of absolute desperation in #Kabul airport today: Afghan civilians chase & cling to US C-17 plane in last attempt to flee Afghanistan.
At least one body fell from aircraft wing, after a stampede by runway. Very dark moment for country: pic.twitter.com/PrNqsHo0Wc
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 16, 2021
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Monday that the crew aboard the C-17 cargo plane were “in compliance with applicable rules of engagement,” The New York Times reported. She also noted that they “acted appropriately and exercised sound judgment in their decision to get airborne as quickly as possible when faced with an unprecedented and rapidly deteriorating security situation.”
“This was a tragic event and our hearts go out to the families of the deceased,” Stefanek said according to The Times.
President Joe Biden has been widely criticized for the withdrawal in Afghanistan, which also saw 13 U.S. service members killed during a bombing at the airport. The attack was carried out by ISIS. (RELATED: Former Obama Officials Line Up To Criticize Joe Biden Over Afghanistan Withdrawal)