WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – The U.S. Air Force has claimed that air crew members acted appropriately and were not at fault for some tragic deaths during the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan last year.
During the evacuation, desperate Afghans clung to a military plane as it was taking off and fell to their deaths or were caught in the wheels.
In a statement, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek claimed investigations into the deaths found that the crew “exercised sound judgment in their decision to get airborne as quickly as possible when faced with an unprecedented and rapidly deteriorating security situation.”
The Air Force was reported by The New York Times as saying on Monday that the crew of the US C-17 cargo plane, which took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul last August with body parts later found in its wheel well, was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The clearance of the aircrew, as the NYT reported, was based on a review of the inquiry findings by Air Mobility Command and U.S. Central Command, which was announced shortly after the incident on August 16 last year.
Videos of the tragic incident, recorded by Afghan news media, were widely shared on social media and showed desperate Afghans, escaping the country after the Taliban took over Kabul, trying to climb onto the exterior of the U.S. C-17 cargo plane and falling from it following takeoff.
It remains unclear how many people lost their lives in the incident.
The situation in Afghanistan aggravated in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the U.S. troops, who invaded the country more than two decades ago to topple the Taliban in response to the September 11 attacks in the United States.
The Taliban took over the capital on August 15, 2021. The militants entered the presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Following the Taliban takeover of the capital, witnesses said at least five people were killed at the passenger terminal of Hamid Karzai International Airport, where thousands of Afghans gathered in the hopes of catching a flight out of Afghanistan. American troops were said to have fired shots in the air to disperse thousands of Afghans crowding onto the tarmac.