An Overnight Evacuation

In our August 29 SITREP, we reasoned that U.S. forces would want to complete their evacuation of Kabul in advance of the August 31 deadline.

On the afternoon of August 29 East Coast time, midnight local time in Afghanistan, at least 25 C-17s using callsigns “Moose” and “RCH” flew shuttle flights into Karzai Airport and evacuated the bulk of remaining U.S. forces from the county. Overwatch was provided by at least two B-52s using the callsign “Grimm.”

As they headed for southern Afghanistan, the Globemaster III transports were refueled by KC-135 tankers that maintained station all night. The Air Force Globemaster III aircraft flew from Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia into the Gulf of Oman on an easterly course and then turned north in the vicinity of Gwadar, Pakistan, for the long flight into Afghanistan. One even came directly from Ramstein, Germany.


To avoid detection from ground observers, the planes would have flown without lights and at altitudes of between 23,000 to 29,000 feet. They followed a northeasterly course that would position them about 50 miles east of Kabul for their run into the Karzai airport. On approach, they would arrive over the airport and then make a spiraling descent to the runway, rather than a long low approach that could expose them to fire from the ground.

As U.S. forces evacuated areas of the airport the remaining forces reduced their defensive perimeter. Taliban forces then occupied the evacuated areas. Taliban forces now occupy most of the commercial area of Karzai airport.

Local Afghans reported that jet engines could be heard orbiting over the airport after 2300hrs local time, whereas, previously, air operations had ended by that time.