Afghanistan: Human remains found in landing gear of US military plane after leaving Kabul

Hundreds of terrified Afghans descended on Kabul’s airport and clung onto moving planes in an attempt to flee the Taliban-controlled country. Credit: PA

Human remains have been found in the plane wheel well of a US military plane when it landed in Qatar, the US Air Force has said.

Its Office of Special Investigations is investigating an incident on Monday in which a C-17 transport plane taking off from Kabul airport was swarmed by desperate Afghan civilians, some of whom died.

On Monday harrowing footage and images showed hundreds of desperate Afghans running across the tarmac at Kabul’s airport and clinging onto moving planes in an attempt to flee the Taliban-controlled country.

A photo from the US defence department and obtained by news site Defense One showing roughly 640 citizens tightly packed on board the US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Kabul to Qatar went viral on Sunday as evacuation efforts escalated.

A defence official told Defense One the plane was not intending to take on so many passengers but the panicked Afghans clambered on board the plane via its half-open ramp.

In a statement, the Department of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) said it is reviewing all the information available regarding a C-17 aircraft, as well as the loss of civilian lives.

"In addition to online videos and press reports of people falling from the aircraft on departure, human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar," it added.

OSI said its review will be "thorough to ensure we obtain the facts regarding this tragic incident", adding "our hearts go out to the families of the deceased".

Following the desperate scenes, the US airlift and evacuation efforts had been temporarily suspended, but were resumed on Tuesday after the US army cleared the tarmac.

Afghans run alongside and cling onto the side of a US military plane as it begins to take off from Kabul

This video contains distressing images

Pentagon officials said that after interruptions on Monday, the airlift was back on track and being accelerated despite weather problems, amid regular communication with Taliban leaders who have allowed "safe passage" from Kabul.

Additional US troops arrived and more were on the way, with a total of more than 6,000 expected to be involved in securing the airport in coming days - more than twice as many as in all of Afghanistan, when Joe Biden announced in April he would be ending the US war and pulling out all troops.

The White House said 13 flights on Tuesday airlifted 1,100 U.S. citizens, permanent residents and their families from the Kabul airport, adding that the pace was expected to pick up Wednesday and through the week.

US soldiers at Kabul's airport are assisting with evacuation efforts from the country. Credit: AP

The State Department said it was sending John Bass, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, to manage the evacuation operation in Kabul, and the Pentagon said it will send Army Major General Christopher Donohue, a special operations officer and current commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, to take command of airport security operations.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby disclosed that US officers were speaking with Taliban commanders "multiple times a day" about avoiding conflict at the airport.

This suggested that the new rulers of Afghanistan, who swept to power after 20 years of war against the US-supported Kabul government, plan not to disrupt the evacuation. Kirby would not discuss details of the Taliban arrangement, and Sullivan said the question of how much time the Taliban will give the evacuation was still being negotiated.

Biden has said he wants the evacuation completed by August 31, Sullivan declined to say whether that deadline would hold.

Overnight on Tuesday at the airport, nine Air Force C-17 transport planes arrived with equipment and about 1,000 troops, and seven C-17s took off with 700-800 civilian evacuees, including 165 Americans, Army Major General William Taylor told a Pentagon news conference.

The total included Afghans who have applied for Special Immigrant Visas and third-country nationals, he said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor led a press conference on the US's evacuation plans from Afghanistan. Credit: AP

The goal is to ramp up to one evacuation flight per hour by Wednesday, with 5,000 to 9,000 evacuees leaving per day, Taylor and Kirby said. Taylor said that more than 4,000 U.S. troops are now at the airport.

Kirby said U.S. commanders at the airport are in direct communication with Taliban commanders outside to avoid security incidents.

He said there have been no hostile actions by the Taliban, and that several hundred members of the now-defeated Afghan army were at the airport assisting in the evacuation.

Kirby said during television interviews that plans were being made to house up to 22,000 evacuated Afghans and their families at three US Army installations in the continental United States. Those locations are Camp McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Lee, Virginia.