Mass Exodus

Many of us watched in horror last August as evacuees stuffed themselves into US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan in the desperate hope of making it out of the country. It was a scene eerily reminiscent of people cramming themselves into Huey helicopters during the fall of Saigon. One thinks we might have learned our lesson the first time.

Desperate times, as the old saying goes, call for desperate measures, and some potential evacuees were so desperate to leave the country that they clung to the outside of the aircraft and climbed up into wheel wells prior to taking off. Those who chose to do that never made it to their destination.

More than 600 people managed to cram inside one aircraft leaving Kabul for Qatar. Image Credit: Defense One

The date was August 16, 2021. Those left behind at Hamid Karzai International Airport witnessed in person people falling to their deaths from a C-17 as it took off. Onboard, the aircraft crew tried to stow the landing gear and found they could not. The pilot declared an inflight emergency and diverted to Qatar. After landing, human remains were found to be jamming the wheel well.

One day earlier, the Taliban had swept into the nation’s capital in large numbers and declared they were now in control. Before this, the US had withdrawn almost all our military personnel from Afghanistan, leaving millions of dollars of military hardware behind. When the Taliban took control, we sent thousands of troops back to a nation where we had been conducting military operations for almost two decades.