Afghanistan: Freighters Have Become Noah's Ark

Last Sunday (15AUG21), shocking photos depicted the dramatic scenes that unfolded at Kabul Airport. They displayed thousands of people desperately trying to board one of the few aircraft
that had managed to land in the Afghan capital, after the Taliban had taken control. For many locals, including some diplomats and expats that missed leaving the country before the Islamists
seized power, freighter aircraft have become a kind of Noah’s Ark. A last-minute hope of escaping the theocracy of the fanatical Islamists.

Impression of a U.S. Air Force C-17 flight from Kabul to Qatar on 15 August – agencies.
Impression of a U.S. Air Force C-17 flight from Kabul to Qatar on 15 August – agencies.

The desperation of the situation after the Taliban seized power is best demonstrated by a C-17 Globemaster III flight operated by the U.S. Air Force on Sunday. The aircraft, bound for Qatar, took
off with 640 refugees on board, sitting crosswise from end to end on the floor of the freighter’s spacious main deck. Originally, only 134 passengers were supposed to be taken out of the country,
which corresponds to the capacity of the aircraft. But panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the C-17’s half-open ramp and pushed their way through in order to
reach the freight compartment of the aircraft.

Chaotic Conditions
Similar scenes occurred on some other C-17 flights, where even more people managed to get on board and were flown out safely right after military personnel had cleared the runway of the airport
enabling departures, a U.S. military commander confirmed to the media.

An Airbus A400M belonging to the German military and ordered by the Berlin government to fly out compatriots and their Afghan aid workforce was less successful. Along with a second A400M, they
were initially forced to deviate to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, due to the chaotic conditions at Kabul Airport preventing a safe landing. Only later, in a second attempt, last Monday, were they finally
able to make it to Kabul. In the meantime, the Taliban had completely sealed off the airport, especially its military section, so that no refugees could get through the numerous checkpoints on
the access roads. Given this situation, the first of the A400Ms had to take off with only 7 passengers on board – among them were 6 German nationals and an Afghan supporter of the German armed


Airbus transporter A400M of the German Armed Forces now flying refugees out of Kabul – courtesy Airbus
Airbus transporter A400M of the German Armed Forces now flying refugees out of Kabul – courtesy Airbus


Vietnam Deja-Vu
For the time being, the hasty and uncoordinated withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan, together with its NATO partners, has become subject to hefty international criticism. Critics in Europe
and North America compare the West’s Afghanistan debacle to the chaotic Vietnam pullout of the USA back in 1975. At that time, helicopter squadrons were used to fly out Vietnamese allies at the
last minute and thus prevent them from falling victim to communist Viet Cong.
Similarly, the Afghanistan drama is coming to an end after 20 years, which resulted in many casualties and the spending of billions of dollars and euros in attempts to stabilize the country. The
only difference is that the airports are now completely controlled by the Taliban and opponents of the Mujahideen have hardly a chance of being flown out, neither by copters nor by
Please stay tuned.

Heiner Siegmund

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Source: Cargoforwarder

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