A photo of more than 600 Afghans packed into a cargo plane offered a ray of hope Monday amid a day of otherwise dark developments, as the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan spread to the capital of Kabul.
The stunning Defense Department photo, seen in full below, shows a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III bound Sunday night from Kabul to Qatar with about 640 Afghans aboard, according to the publication Defense One.
This journey is believed to be among the most people the plane has ever carried and, in fact, it isn’t intended to carry. But when panicked Afghan refugees cleared to evacuate the country quickly boarded, “the crew made the decision to go” and not force them off.
The photo joined a video of Afghans chasing and running aside a U.S. Air Force cargo plane at the Kabul international airport as instantly iconic images from the aftermath of the U.S. military’s complete withdrawal and the Taliban’s unexpected seizure of the country in a matter of days.
According to Defense One’s report, the military cargo plane is stationed in Dover Air Force Base in Delaware with the 436th Air Wing and has been operated by the U.S. and its allies for almost three decades.
President Biden addressed the situation in Washington on Monday, standing by the decision to completely draw down the American military forces while saying the speed of the Taliban’s takeover was a surprise even to the White House. He also said he had authorized the additional deployment of 6,000 more troops to secure the safe evacuation of Americans and its allies, which included members of the media.
The POTUS added that it has been made clear to the Taliban that if they attack U.S. personnel or disrupt the operations, the U.S. will respond with force.
“This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” Biden said. “U.S. military will provide assistance to … U.S. non-governmental organizations, Afghans that are otherwise at great risk and U.S. news agencies.”
About withdrawing the troops after the departure mission is complete, Biden said, “I am the President of the United States and the buck stops with me.”