‘Greater Stability’ After Chaos At Kabul Airport as U.S. and Coalition Forces Continue Evacuation From Afghanistan

Kabul Airport
One of the U.S. C-17A Globemaster III aircraft taxiing at Kabul. In the box the RC-135W operating around the airport.

U.S. spyplane operating around Kabul as the Afghanistan air bridge continues.

Media images from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan showing scenes of chaos as people try to crowd onboard departing aircraft in an attempt to escape approaching forces as Afghanistan comes under Taliban control have been in the news for more than 48 hours now.

You have probably already seen videos show what may be two people who hung onto the outside or tried to climb into the wheel well of a C-17A Globemaster III as it takes off while U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters tried to clear people from the tarmac.

The persons reportedly fell off of the outside of the aircraft near the wheel well after takeoff. At least seven people have died in the airport, the Associated Press reported citing senior U.S. military officials. American troops killed two people who were carrying weapons, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Video released across international media showed a large crowd running alongside a taxiing C-17A with some riding on the aircraft at the main landing gear area. Some of the group was apparently celebrating the U.S. departure, others appear to be attempting to board the aircraft even as it taxis.

Additional images posted across social media show a U.S. C-17A Globemaster III interior packed with Afghans on a flight out of Kabul.

Satellite photos of Hamid Karzai International Airport also show large groups of people gathered on the tarmac between aircraft.

Reports have surfaced from the Russian embassy in Afghanistan that the officially recognized Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, “Fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in.” The reports, that surfaced on Russian news media and were shared by Reuters, went on to quote Russian embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko as telling media that, “Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac”.

The remarkable events took place as Taliban forces advanced throughout Afghanistan ahead of any U.S. intelligence forecasts for the a Deobandi Islamist movement and military organization to retake control of the country after the U.S. announced its complete military withdrawal.

After total chaos, the situation would be more stable.

US, UK and other western forces have helped to secure Kabul’s international airport, allowing the RAF to begin mass airlifts out of the Afghan capital, the commander of Britain’s evacuation effort has said, according to Guardian.

“V-Adm Ben Key, the commander of joint operations, said there was now “considerably greater stability” on the ground, ending the “distressing scenes” of Monday when some desperate Afghans clung to military aircraft as they took off. […] But the British commander acknowledged that the Taliban could close the airport at any time, and said: “We may well find that the security situation on the ground may make it untenable to continue to evacuate other people.”

Indeed, the aircraft involved in the massive evacuation are in constant danger: along with people in the vicinity of the aircraft as they taxied there’s the danger posed by RPG or small arms fire from the vicinity of the airport. This is probably the reason why many ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform are still operating around Kabul, collecting signals on Taliban movements in the vicinity of the airport.

Flight tracking websites showed (and continue to show – although many have been operating with their Mode-S transponder turned off) a number of U.S. Air Force C-17A Globemaster III and KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft flying out of the region. The KC-135R tankers might be providing fuel once airborne to overloaded C-17As that may have been forced to take off with lighter than normal fuel loads to carry more people on board. The C-17A Globemaster III can be specially configured with sidewall and center seating with 9 seat pallets that will make room for, “up to 188 passengers”.

But what really made the news is the report about RCH871 (reg. 01-0186), a Boeing C-17A Globemaster from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, that took off from Kabul with what the crew thought to be around 800 people.

The number was later officially confirmed to be lower, 640 souls, among the most people ever flown in the airlifter.

The Kabul Airlift is still in progress, with several air arms from all around the world rushing to Kabul to evacuate embassy personnel, nationals and Afghans eligible for resettlement.

To that respect, Twitter and the various flight tracking/OSINT accounts you can find there is probably the best place to find interesting details about the movements.

Among all the aircraft involved in the operations in or around Kabul airport there was also a helicopter that went viral as being the famous Stealth Black Hawk. Actually, it was a standard UH-60M filmed from an odd angle.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.
About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.