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Air Force investigating Afghan civilian deaths at Kabul airport


The U.S. Air Force is investigating the civilian deaths that unfolded Monday at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where some Afghans fell from a military C-17 transport plane mid-air after leaving the airport.

Separately, human remains were discovered in the landing gear of a C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

The service has tasked its Office of Special Investigations to review all footage and social media posts pertaining to the episodes on the flight line, officials said in a statement on Tuesday. In addition to the OSI query, the Air Force is studying how the events unfolded in order to “ensure the continued safety of current and future flight operations” for additional evacuation and assistance missions in Afghanistan, the statement said.

Terrifying videos showing Afghans clinging to planes, including the massive C-17 cargo jet, as they tried to take off dominated news segments across the world. Hundreds of Afghans were seen running alongside the aircraft as it taxied down the runway.

“Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible,” the service said.

Air Mobility Command, which oversees the service’s transport fleet, is assisting in the investigation alongside “international partners since it involves the loss of life on U.S. military aircraft,” officials said.

“OSI’s review will be thorough to ensure we obtain the facts regarding this tragic incident. Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased,” the service said.

The human remains found in the aircraft’s landing gear have made it temporarily inoperable, two sources previously told POLITICO. The Air Force said it needed time to collect the remains and inspect the aircraft before it could resume operations.

The Defense Department temporarily froze military and civilian flights in an attempt to clear the tarmac of the desperate civilians rushing the airfield. Flights resumed overnight, where nine C-17 aircraft arrived at the airport to deliver equipment and roughly 1,000 troops for security assistance, Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

Roughly 4,000 troops are expected in Kabul by the end of the day.

Evacuations are expected to continue, Taylor said, with aircraft taking off as permissible.

“We predict that our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers departing per day,” he said. “But we are mindful that a number of factors influence this effort, and circumstances could change.”

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