The U.S. Air Force this week issued a statement supporting the crew of a military transport plane that took off from Kabul, Afghanistan, during the chaotic withdrawal last year.
The plane took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport as civilians continued to rush the tarmac and some even grabbed onto planes as they taxied on the runway. When this particular plane landed in Qatar, human remains were found in the aircraft's wheel well.
Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said on Monday that the service has determined that the "aircrew had acted appropriately and exercised sound judgment in their decision to get airborne as quickly as possible when faced with an unprecedented and rapidly deteriorating security situation."
She added, "The aircrew's airmanship and quick thinking ensured the safety of the crew and their aircraft."
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations was tapped to probe the withdrawal after footage of the incident spread on social media. In addition, offices of staff judge advocates inside Air Mobility Command, which is in charge of the Air Force's transport fleet, and U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military actions in the Middle East, conducted their own investigations.
Stefanek said on Monday that these two commands "rendered concurring opinions that the aircrew was in compliance with applicable rules of engagement specific to the event and the overall law of armed conflict."
She also said that crewmembers were given services to "help cope with any trauma from this unprecedented experience" before returning to duty.
"Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased," Stefanek said.
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