National Security

Afghans Swarming a Evacuation Plane on the Runway at Kabul Airport are Pushed Back by Apache Helicopters

Things on the ground continue to worsen as the evacuation of US Embassy and civilians continue.

Image Credit: Screenshot via Twitter/Sowaibah Hanifie

Any security perimeter or confinement procedures in place at Kabul International to keep US planes and employees safe appear to have failed. Thousands of Afghans who had raced to the airport in a desperate bid to flee the Taliban have now taken to the runway, effectively shutting down the evacuation effort.

Huge throngs of Afghans approach a C-17 that is taxiing, while an Apache gunship flying just feet over the ground tries to force them away from the moving airlifter, according to video released by Sowaibah Henifie from Kabul. Clearly, these are desperate measures.

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All of this is taking place as the Taliban infiltrate Kabul and set up checkpoints around the airport. Around the airport’s grounds, gunfire is claimed to be near-constant. It’s possible that we’re facing an unprecedented crisis, one that was far from unexpected.

Kabul appears to be out of control presently. We don’t know what this implies for the evacuation, but it appears that all commercial airplanes are on their own, even if combat controllers are still in charge of US military planes. We have no way of knowing if this is the case.

A bigger question is how will Apaches, Chinooks, State Department helicopters, and other rotary-wing assets be flown out with Apaches, Chinooks, and other rotary-wing assets still operating out of the airport? Given the increasingly deteriorating security situation, this may be impossible. We’ve also seen HH-60 Pave Hawks in Kabul, but they’re equipped with in-flight refueling. If there isn’t enough time or infrastructure for an airlift, and Pakistan refuses to host them and provide security for their crews, they are likely to be destroyed on the spot. It’s a terrible situation.

We also have no idea how many Americans or other people on the US evacuation list are still in Afghanistan. Force protection components will also need to be removed, which is the most dangerous evolution of all in these scenarios because they are the last to be removed.

We can’t verify this footage, but it looks to show two items dropping from a C-17’s wheel well. People who are likely to have died after clinging to a C-17 during takeoff:

A different perspective on the Apache runway clearance operations:

This, as expected, explains what we’re seeing coming down from the leaving C-17:

The runways have also been FOD’d, making jet aircraft, particularly airliners, dangerous to fly on. The question of how the ultimate US forces will function is becoming increasingly important. The ideal approach would be to remove them using runway-independent aircraft like as helicopters and V-22s, but there is unlikely to be enough capacity.

You can read my opinions on the rising difficulty of withdrawing the final security forces by expanding and reading this twitter thread:

Another footage of passengers hanging on a C-17 has appeared. This is extremely risky for those in the vicinity of the plane as well as those on board. It’s incredible to witness these videos in such a terrible way.

Another video shows passengers falling from the C-17 as it takes off. It’s horrible to watch this:

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