Thousands of fearful Afghans rushed to the Kabul International Airport after Taliban insurgents seized the capital Kabul and announced their total control over the war-torn nation.
As the panic-stricken Afghans gathered at the airport, all the security and containment measures to safeguard the US aircraft and their personnel went for a toss. People were seen occupying the runway, which resulted in the evacuation process being stopped.
Many videos show a taxiing C-17 aircraft overflowing with people while an Apache gunship flew close to the ground in order to chase away the desperate Afghans as they try to swarm the moving airlifter.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have set up checkpoints near the airport. Gunshots could be heard as the people found themselves amidst an unprecedented crisis.
It is chaos at Kabul airport. Planes are taking off and landing and people are running across the runway. pic.twitter.com/kKrg667AQB
— Sowaibah Hanifie (@SowaibahH) August 16, 2021
Reports confirmed that the Afghan airspace has been declared unsafe for civilian aircraft operations. While it is still unclear what this means for the evacuation procedure, it signifies that even if the US military airplanes are secured by combat helicopters and troops, commercial flights are left to fend for themselves.
Another question at hand is how will the US combat aircraft like Apache, Chinook and other State Department helicopters will move as they are still operating out of the airport.
In addition, HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were also seen in Kabul; these choppers have in-flight refueling capability.
Unbelievable scenes on Kabul’s runway. A pair of US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters clearing Afghan panicked, desperate crowds from the tarmac so that giant C-17 can take off. pic.twitter.com/qpQOFAqEDZ
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) August 16, 2021
Another problem that the US authorities are reportedly facing is the absence of the exact number of American citizens or other staff to be evacuated.
Force protection components also have to be evacuated which is another crucial but one of the most difficult tasks in these situations since they are the last ones to leave.
A couple of videos doing the rounds on social media show people hanging to either the engines or to the wings of the C-17. There were also video clips showing the Apache helicopters clearing the runway, overcrowded by the fear-struck Afghans who want to leave Afghanistan.
NOTAM issued for Afghanistan stating that FIR Kabul (OAKX) is now uncontrolled airspace https://t.co/ryoBQtLuIw
— Matthew Borie (@avsec_pro) August 16, 2021
There have also been videos that claim that someone fell off the C-17 as the aircraft took off and got killed.
As the runways are crowded with people, they are not safe for the movement of jets and airliners. To continue the evacuation process, the military requires runway-independent aircraft such as helicopters or V-22s. However, it is extremely difficult to find such an aircraft with the required capacity.
The Apache attack helicopter was developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) for the US armed forces. It entered service with the US Army in 1984 and has been exported to India, Egypt, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the UK.
— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) August 16, 2021
AH-64D Longbow was deployed by the US Army in Afghanistan as part of Operation Anaconda in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and, from June 2003, in South Korea.
AH-64D Longbow is fitted with Hellfire missiles. 501 AH-64A Apaches upgraded to AH-64D standard have been delivered to the US Army. Deliveries were completed in August 2006.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed military transport vehicle capable of carrying payloads up to 169,000lb (76,657kg). It has an international range and the ability to land on small airfields.
Shocking footage of a US C-17 taking off from Kabul Airport around 40 minutes ago and something falls off from the aircraft. Many eyewitnesses claim 2-3 people fell off the aircraft over roofs of buildings in Kabul. Not officially confirmed. Shall update. pic.twitter.com/XFdctueRPU
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) August 16, 2021
A fully integrated electronic cockpit and advanced cargo handling system allows a crew of three (the pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster) to operate all systems on any type of mission. A propulsive lift system allows the C-17 to achieve safe landings on short runways.
— Written by Kashish Tandon