Entertainment

Hero Air Force crew reveals they flew 823 Afghans out of Kabul on C-17, including 183 kids


The heroic US Airmen who ignored red tape restrictions to save 823 Afghans from Kabul on Sunday by cramming them into a C-17 cargo jet spoke out on Friday about the mission, revealing they saved 183 more than previously reported.   

At first it had been reported that the crew took 640 Afghans out of Kabul but the true number was 823 and includes 183 kids whose presence on board wasn’t previously accounted for.  

The flight breaks the record for the number of people to have ever been flown on a C-17 jet and disgraces the other C-17 jets that have left Kabul with only 100 people on board this week, while thousands wait at the airport gates desperate to be saved. 

They are not being allowed through to board planes because they don’t have the right paperwork and thousands of Westerners and others in the city remain unable to even get to the airport because they’re being stopped by the Taliban.   

On Friday, Lt. Colonel Eric Kut, who made the decision to leave the airport with as many Afghans on board, said he was more interested in saving lives than checking paperwork and abiding by red tape rules. 

‘First and foremost, a lot of people talk about rules and capacity. We were trained to handle that to max perform that aircraft. 

‘When you have women and children and people’s lives at stake, it’s not about capacity or rules or regulations. It’s about the training to make sure we could handle we could that many people out.

‘We were there to do what we were trained to do. We were there to deliver hope and freedom,’ he told CNN’s New Day on Friday from Joint Base Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. 

The Airmen appeared on CNN on Friday morning to talk about their flight on Sunday. At first it had been reported that they took 640 Afghans out of Kabul.’ When you have women and children and people’s lives at stake, it’s not about capacity or rules or regulations. It’s about the training to make sure we could handle we could that many people out. ‘We were there to do what we were trained to do. We were there to deliver hope and freedom,’ Lt. Colonel Eric Kut, who ultimately made the call to take off, told CNN’s New Day. 

At first it had been reported that they took 640 Afghans out of Kabul. They revealed the true number was 823 and that 183 children weren't counted in the first reports

At first it had been reported that they took 640 Afghans out of Kabul. They revealed the true number was 823 and that 183 children weren’t counted in the first reports

He said the refugees had been ‘anxious’ to get out but were ‘excited and thrilled’ once they took off. 

 When you have women and children and people’s lives at stake, it’s not about capacity or rules or regulations. It’s about the training to make sure we could handle we could that many people out.

‘They were definitely anxious to get out of the area and we were happy to accommodate them. 

‘They were definitely excited when we were airborne. 

‘Everybody was very thrilled to actually leave,’ he said.

The flight on Sunday is one of the few success stories to have come out of Kabul. 

Since then, tens of thousands have been unable to get to the airport or on planes because they are either being held back by the Taliban on the roads in the city, or stopped by paperwork backlogs at the airport. 

Now, the US is considering destroying its most sophisticated equipment to stop the Taliban from using it against the Afghan people once the last American boots leave the ground. 

Neither the White House nor the State Department knows how many Americans remain stuck in Kabul or Afghanistan, unable to get to the airport.   

It’s unclear how much the equipment cost. 

Since 2003 the United States has provided Afghan forces with at least 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices.

The troops are using gunfire to disperse the crowds, which are unrelenting for the sixth day. No one is thought to have been shot dead at the airport but there are reports of people being trampled

A sea of desperate Afghans waiting to be let through the gates at Kabul airport to be put on one of any of the evacuation flights 

The troops are using gunfire to disperse the crowds, which are unrelenting for the sixth day. No one is thought to have been shot dead at the airport but there are reports of people being trampled

Video shows troops passing a newborn baby over the barbed wire at the airport on Friday. The Marine on the video yelled 'Guys! A baby! A baby!' Afghan parents have resorted to holding their children up in the air in the hopes the US troops will lift them over and put them on planes to safety

The troops are using gunfire to disperse the crowds, which are unrelenting for the sixth day. No one is thought to have been shot dead at the airport but there are reports of people being trampled 

The chaos on the ground continues at Kabul airport, where US troops are trying to control crowds of thousands of desperate Afghans who want to get on planes

A sea of desperate Afghans waiting to be let through the gates at Kabul airport to be put on one of any of the evacuation flights

The chaos on the ground continues at Kabul airport, where US troops are trying to control crowds of thousands of desperate Afghans who want to get on planes

A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit interacts with children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021

A US soldier shoots in the air with his pistol whiel standing guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban’s military takeover of Afghanistan

US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan

US soldiers sit on a wall as Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban’s military takeover of Afghanistan

A US Black Hawk military helicopter fly over the Kabul Airport, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 August 2021. There are now concerns over what will become of the equipment left behind by the US Army

US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban’s military takeover of Afghanistan

A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit guide an evacuee during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021. Picture taken August 18, 2021. U.S

A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit interacts with children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021

US soldiers sit on a wall as Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan

A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit guide an evacuee during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021. Picture taken August 18, 2021. U.S

‘The ability to operate at night is a real game-changer,’ one congressional aide told Reuters. 

‘Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,’ one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.  

The officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but there is concern that would antagonize the Taliban at a time the United States’ main goal is evacuating people.

The Taliban now controls 2,000 armored vehicles, including US Humvees, 40 aircraft which could include UH-60 Black Hawks,.   

‘We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. 

‘This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,’ Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters in an email.  

US is considering BLOWING UP its own equipment to stop Taliban from using it 

About a month ago, Afghanistan’s ministry of defense posted on social media photographs of seven brand new helicopters arriving in Kabul delivered by the United States.

‘They’ll continue to see a steady drumbeat of that kind of support, going forward,’ U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters a few days later at the Pentagon.

In a matter of weeks, however, the Taliban had seized most of the country, as well as any weapons and equipment left behind by fleeing Afghan forces.

Video showed the advancing insurgents inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and even military drones.

‘Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,’ one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

A US Black Hawk military helicopter fly over the Kabul Airport, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 August 2021. There are now concerns over what will become of the equipment left behind by the US Army

A US Black Hawk military helicopter fly over the Kabul Airport, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 August 2021. There are now concerns over what will become of the equipment left behind by the US Army 

Current and former U.S. officials say there is concern those weapons could be used to kill civilians, be seized by other militant groups such as Islamic State to attack U.S.-interests in the region, or even potentially be handed over to adversaries including China and Russia.

President Joe Biden’s administration is so concerned about the weapons that it is considering a number of options to pursue.

The officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but there is concern that would antagonize the Taliban at a time the United States’ main goal is evacuating people.

Another official said that while there are no definitive numbers yet, the current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.

‘We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,’ Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters in an email. 

The speed with which the Taliban swept across Afghanistan is reminiscent of Islamic State militants taking weapons from U.S.-supplied Iraqi forces who offered little resistance in 2014.

Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28 billion in weaponry, including guns, rockets, night-vision goggles and even small drones for intelligence gathering.

But aircraft like the Blackhawk helicopters have been the most visible sign of U.S. military assistance, and were supposed to be the Afghan military’ biggest advantage over the Taliban.

Between 2003 and 2016 the United States provided Afghan forces with 208 aircraft, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In the last week, many of those aircraft were most useful for Afghan pilots to escape the Taliban.

One of the U.S. officials said that between 40 and 50 aircraft had been flown to Uzbekistan by Afghan pilots seeking refuge. Even before taking power in Kabul over the weekend, the Taliban had started a campaign of assassinating pilots. 

Some planes were in the United States for maintenance and will stay. Those en route to Afghan forces will instead be used by the U.S. military to help in the evacuation from Kabul.

Current and former officials say that while they are concerned about the Taliban having access to the helicopters, the aircraft require frequent maintenance and many are complicated to fly without extensive training.

‘Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here,’ a third official said.

Retired U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversaw U.S. military operations in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command from 2016 to 2019, said most of the high-end hardware captured by the Taliban, including the aircraft, was not equipped with sensitive U.S. technology.

‘In some cases, some of these will be more like trophies,’ Votel said. 

There is a more immediate concern about some of the easier- to-use weapons and equipment, such as night-vision goggles.

Since 2003 the United States has provided Afghan forces with at least 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices.

‘The ability to operate at night is a real game-changer,’ one congressional aide told Reuters.

Votel and others said smalls arms seized by the insurgents such as machine guns, mortars, as well as artillery pieces including howitzers, could give the Taliban an advantage against any resistance that could surface in historic anti-Taliban strongholds such as the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul.

U.S. officials said the expectation was that most of the weapons would be used by the Taliban themselves, but it was far too early to tell what they planned to do – including possibly sharing the equipment with rival states such as China.

Andrew Small, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said the Taliban was likely to grant Beijing access to any U.S. weapons they may now have control over.

One of the U.S. officials said it was not likely China would gain much, because Beijing likely already has access to the weapons and equipment.

The situation, experts say, shows the United States needs a better way to monitor equipment it gives to allies. It could have done much more to ensure those supplies to Afghan forces were closely monitored and inventoried, said Justine Fleischner of UK-based Conflict Armament Research.

‘But the time has passed for these efforts to have any impact in Afghanistan,’ Fleischner said.





Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button