The claim: The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a ‘false flag’ staged for political gain
On Aug.16, hundreds of Afghan civilians swarmed an Air Force C-17 cargo plane after it landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Before military officials could unload the aircraft, security concerns led the crew to take off as some Afghans clung to the side of the aircraft.
In the days since, conspiracy theorists have pointed to viral videos of the deadly events as evidence the conflict in Afghanistan is not actually happening. Proponents of this “false flag” theory are highlighting the number 1109 on the side of the cargo plane as a signal the events are somehow connected to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
One lengthy Instagram post from Aug. 18 presented the conspiracy this way: “I find it an odd 'coincidence' that the US plane that was in the Afganistan (sic) Taliban video was 1109, which seems to be hinting at 9/11 and thus another false flag event to provoke WW3 and order out of chaos and the crowning of the Antichrist false Savior and One World Leader."
However, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has been widely documented by journalists, world leaders and members of the Taliban. And despite what conspiracy theorists claim, the number on the side of the C-17 is a coincidental serial number – not a coded message.
This claim falls under the umbrella of “false flag” conspiracy theories, in which proponents say high-profile tragedies are events staged for political gain. USA TODAY has previously debunked “false flag” conspiracy theories related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, mass shootings and other high-profile events.
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram user for comment.
Media, government, Taliban confirm events in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has been heavily documented. Journalists from the U.S., Afghanistan and other countries have reported on the Taliban’s takeover in Kabul via social media, video broadcast, photography and other mediums.
Leaders of the Taliban have filmed themselves in the presidential palace and made announcements about the plans for their regime on phone calls with reporters. Several Taliban spokespeople have posted about the takeover on Twitter.
Additionally, world leaders have repeatedly acknowledged the Taliban's takeover. The Biden administration addressed the conflict in interviews and official statements in the days surrounding Kabul's fall. The United Nations Security Council and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also issued statements on how the international community should respond.
The number on the cargo plane is not a reference to 9/11
Despite what the post claims, the number on the aircraft has nothing to do with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Air Force Media Operations Officer Laurel Tingley told USA TODAY the number on the side of the aircraft was not part of a conspiracy theory.
“The number 1109 is the last four digits of the serial number of the aircraft,” she wrote in an email.
Images of other C-17 aircraft with various serial numbers are posted on the Air Force’s website.
USA TODAY found no evidence to support claims that the conflict in Afghanistan was staged for political gain.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, the claim that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a "false flag" staged for political gain is rated FALSE. The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan following the U.S.’s military withdrawal is well-documented by the media, world leaders and members of the Taliban. The number on the Air Force cargo plane swarmed at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 16 was not a coded message. The Air Force confirmed it was the last four digits of the aircraft's serial number.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Aug. 17, Human remains, other deaths investigated in C-17 swarmed at Kabul airport
PolitiFact, Aug. 8, 2019, Why do some people think mass shootings are staged every time?
USA TODAY, March 23, Fact check: Colorado mass shooting is not a 'false flag' as conspiracy theory claims
NBC News, Aug. 18, U.S. troops secure Kabul airport for Afghanistan evacuations
Shafi Karimi, Aug. 19, Tweet
Bilal Sarwary, Aug. 19, Tweet
Reuters, Aug. 17, Chaos at Kabul airport as desperate Afghans try to flee Taliban
Al Jazeera English, Aug. 15, Taliban enters presidential palace in Kabul
News.com.au, Aug. 17, Australian reporter receives surprise call from Taliban while she’s live on-air
Suhail Shaheen, Aug. 16, Tweet
Zabihullah, Aug. 16, Tweet
USA TODAY, Aug. 19, 'Not even close': Biden said no one predicted Taliban would take over so quickly
The White House, Aug. 16, Remarks by President Biden on Afghanistan
United Nations, Aug. 16, Security Council Press Statement on Afghanistan
Laurel Tingley, Aug. 20, Email correspondence with USA TODAY
U.S. Air Force, May 14, 2018, C-17 Globemaster III
PolitiFact, Aug. 19, No, the chaos in Afghanistan isn’t a ‘false flag’
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is not 'false flag'