Footage showing hundreds of Afghans clinging onto a moving U.S. Air Force plane went viral on Monday.

Described as the “defining images” of Western intervention in Afghanistan, the videos and photos shared on social media depict the intense desperation and sorrow felt by a nation that has fallen to the Taliban once again.

The US military jet was departing Kabul airport when several Afghans began climbing the plane – some even appeared to be hanging onto its front wheel.

A video clip showed at least two people falling off the plane once it had already taken off.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride described the scene in Kabul as “chaotic and desperate.”

After the Taliban assumed control of Kabul “a surge of people mov[ed] toward the airport,” according to McBride.

He added: “It seemed as though airport security, airline and airport staff simply melted away, and it really was a free-for-all.”

Critics on Twitter were scathing about the U.S. withdrawal. “This, even more than yesterday’s images of choppers over the embassy, may be the defining image of the West’s failure in Afghanistan,” wrote Emma Graham-Harrison. “People so terrified, so desperate to leave, they are chasing a plane down the runway, clinging to its undercarriage.”

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