More Than 600 Afghans Flee Kabul in Packed U.S. Plane, 'Crew Made the Decision to Go'

More than 600 Afghan civilians packed into a U.S. military aircraft in a desperate bid to flee the country on Sunday as the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital.

The evacuation came amid chaotic and violent scenes at Kabul airport as hundreds of Afghans piled onto planes in an attempt to catch a flight out of the country.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft carried 640 Afghans inside the plane's hold, the Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed to Newsweek. An image of the packed plane, since released by the DOD, was first published by Defense One.

The C-17, a military plane usually used to transport masses of cargo, was not intending to take on such a large load of people and had rarely carried that many passengers in its 30-year history.

U.S. Air Force C-17 Afghanistan
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely transported approximately 640 Afghan citizens from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport August 15, 2021. U.S. Air Force

However, panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the aircraft's half-open ramp, one defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Defense One.

Videos posted to social media captured the chaos and showed people scrambling over the top of one another in an attempt to climb the plane's air bridge.

Others showed hundreds of Afghans running alongside the body of the plane as it taxied along the runway and prepared to take flight. A handful of men even appeared to crouch under the wing while holding onto the side of the aircraft.

Instead of trying to force the fleeing Afghans off the aircraft, "the crew made the decision to go," a defense official told the publication.

"Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination," the official added. The aircraft safely landed at an airbase in Qatar.

Crew members initially believed they were carrying 800 passengers and audio reportedly from inside the aircraft was published online late Sunday.

> Ok how many people do you think are on your jet
>…
> 800 people on your jet?
>…
> Holy f-, holy cow… ok. https://t.co/nAwjaEWgr9

— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) August 15, 2021
C-17A Globemaster III military transport aircraft
File photo: Packages of humanitarian aid are loaded into a C-17A Globemaster III military transport aircraft. Anne LEVASSEUR/Getty Images

In the recording, likely taken via satellite radio, a man's voice can be heard talking to a crew member on board.

"Ok, how many people do you think are on your jet?" he asked. After receiving a reply from inside RCH 871, the man responds: "800 people on your jet?! Holy... Holy cow... Ok."

A U.S. Air Force photo released by the Department of Defense shows hundreds of Afghans crowded standing and sitting side-by-side inside the plane's hold.

In just over one week, the Taliban managed to swiftly seize control of the nation—facing little resistance—following the withdrawal of the U.S. and its allies.

Militants entered the outskirts of Kabul early on Sunday, August 15, as Afghans rushed to leave the nation, fearing the Taliban could reinstate brutal rule and eliminate women's rights.

Aid workers and activists now hold concerns for the quality of life of Afghan citizens, particularly the rights of women and girls, as the Taliban takes control.

The deterioration of the nation has been measured over the past decade against selected terrorism and violence indices obtained from data from the Institute for Economics and Peace and graphed by Statista.

Quality of life Afghanistan
Quality of life measured on selected terrorism and violence indices in Afghanistan, as obtained from the Institute for Economics and Peace and graphed by Statista. Institute for Economics and Peace
C-17A Globemaster III aircraft
File photo: Air Force personnel push out supplies from inside a C-17A Globemaster III aircraft. Bernardo Fuller/Getty Images