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US Air Force crams 800 onto C-17 jet out of Kabul as Taliban takes over


The US Air Force crammed 800 people onto a C-17 jet that flew out of Kabul on Sunday, eight times its usual capacity, as part of the ongoing effort to extract thousands of stranded Americans and Afghans from the city which has fallen to the Taliban.

The CR-17, numbered RCH 871, took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on Sunday for the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. It is one of at least two that have flown out of Afghanistan since the Taliban claimed Kabul on Sunday. 

Another CR-17 – numbered RCH 885 – took off on Monday as hundreds of desperate Afghan nationals flooded the airfield in the hopes of being taken with it. Two people clung to the engines and fell to their deaths as the aircraft ascended. 

New audio from RCH 871 reveals the US Air Force pilot communicating with a controller who asked how many people were on board. 

‘Ok, how many people do you think are on your jet? 800 people on your jet?! Holy… Holy cow… Ok..’ the controller said. 

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Disturbing video from Kabul on Monday shows one of two CR-17S that have left the city since the Taliban claimed control on Sunday. Thousands of Afghan nationals have flooded the airfield in the hopes of being rescued 

The jet can carry 171,000 pounds of cargo but its interior is designed to carry fewer than 150 soldiers. It’s unclear who exactly was on board and how many Americans remain on the ground in Afghanistan.  

Flight MC871 - a US CR-17 - took off from Kabul on Sunday. Audio from the cockpit reveals there were 800 souls on board - eight times the number of people the plane is outfitted for

Flight MC871 – a US CR-17 – took off from Kabul on Sunday. Audio from the cockpit reveals there were 800 souls on board – eight times the number of people the plane is outfitted for 

In 2013, a CR-17 rescued 687 from a typhoon in the Philippines, but Sunday’s flight is a new record. 

The US Air Force could not say on Monday morning how many flights had left Kabul and how many more were scheduled for the rest of the day. Flights were halted for around 90 minutes while Air Force officials worked to bring the facility back under control, with the Taliban now said to be stationed at the airport’s gates in vehicles previously used by the Afghan security forces. 

President Biden will speak at 3:45pm EST, and there will be a Department of Defense briefing at 2.30pm EST. 

The rescue mission is reminiscent of the Fall of Saigon in 1975, a disastrous few days where US Air Force helicopters flew thousands of Americans and Vietnamese civilians out of the city as the war there ended in a humiliating defeat for America. 

Joe Biden is being universally admonished for his stand-off response to the chaos,  

In a series of interviews on Monday morning, his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US would keep removing its citizens from Afghanistan along with refugees that include interpreters and translators who have worked with America. 

US soldiers rest as Afghan people (not pictured) wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

US soldiers rest as Afghan people (not pictured) wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

A US soldier (C) point his gun towards an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

A US soldier (C) point his gun towards an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

US soldiers stand guard as Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

US soldiers stand guard as Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

Taliban members are seen near Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021

Taliban members are seen near Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021

He blamed the chaos on Afghanistan, saying ‘when push come to shove they decided not to fight’, and not on the US’s sudden withdrawal from the region after 20 years, a move that was set in motion by President Donald Trump and followed through on by Joe Biden. 

The embassy – where 3,000 American civilians were employed – has been ‘successfully drawn down’ but it’s unclear if that means everyone who worked there has been removed from the country or just if they are at the airport, waiting to be flown home or to a safe region.

The Biden administration continues to give vague responses on the exact number of Americans and Afghans who need to be rescued. 

There are reports that 30,000 SIV applicants – Afghans who worked with the US – will be accepted as refugees in the coming days and weeks. They are expected to be housed at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas.

There is no confirmation of when the next US Air Force flight will take off from Kabul, or who will be on board.  

This is how the interior of a CR-17 is designed. It sits 150 troops and is equipped to carry 170,000lbs of cargo

This is how the interior of a CR-17 is designed. It sits 150 troops and is equipped to carry 170,000lbs of cargo 

In 2013, the US Air Force put 670 people on a CR-17 to rescue them from a typhoon in the Philippines. 800 - the number reported to have been flown out of Kabul on Sunday - sets a new record

In 2013, the US Air Force put 670 people on a CR-17 to rescue them from a typhoon in the Philippines. 800 – the number reported to have been flown out of Kabul on Sunday – sets a new record 

‘We have now successfully drawn down the US embassy in Kabul. We have moved all of those personnel either to the airport or out of the country.

‘We believe we can effectuate an ongoing evacuation of American citizens, Afghans who worked for us including interpreters and translators, and other vulnerable Afghans at risk.

‘We are working to do that first by securing the airport today, and then in the days ahead by taking people out one flight at a time, flight after flight.

‘We fully intend to continue an evacuation process to bring out people who worked alongside us in Afghanistan,’ Sullivan said on Good Morning America on Monday. 

There are 6,000 American troops at the airport securing it. 

Thousands of desperate Afghans have rushed to the airport in the hope of getting on a flight out of the country before the Taliban gets to them. 

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that some were being accepted onto planes without passports or tickets. It’s unclear who was operating those flights or whether any are now taking off. 

The US military evacuation is happening on one side of the airport and commercial flights were taking off from another. 

One interpreter who showed up on Sunday afternoon with his wife and six kids said he was first told they’d get on a flight to Finland but it was then canceled. 

‘They are telling us we will go somewhere, but where and when, nobody knows,’ he said.   



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