This morning, the U.S. Air Force confirmed a stunning logistical feat, saying that more than 800 Afghan citizens were aboard a C-17 Globemaster III as it left Hamid Karzai International Airport on Sunday. While previously reported to be 640 people aboard, the updated total of 823 is a record, according to Air Mobility Command.
The difference, AMC said in a tweet this morning, is that they did not count 183 children, many who were traveling on the laps of adults.
Initially, the Air Force reported that 640 people were aboard the flight when it left HKIA.
The Drive website initially reported the number of passengers to be more than 800 based on radio intercepts provided by Evergreen Intel. The conversation, released earlier this week, and since taken down, is believed to be between the aircrew and ground control.
According to The Drive, a person asks the aircrew, “Ok, how many people do you think are on your jet?” After getting a reply from the C-17, he responds, “800 people on your jet?! Holy... Holy cow... Ok...”
At least 6,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the U.S. military since Saturday. While Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated Thursday that the Defense Department does not know how many Americans remain in Afghanistan, estimates place the initial number as high as 10,000. Additionally, estimates show tens of thousands of Afghans who aided the U.S. are also seeking flights out.
According to DoD, a capability of lifting between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of Afghanistan per day is in place.
Although the U.S. deadline for withdrawal of Aug. 31 is quickly approaching, President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Americans would not be left behind in Afghanistan.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.