Washington DC [US], August 23: Seeing the rapidly changing developments in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered major American airlines to provide 18 aircraft to speed up the process of evacuation missions from Afghanistan.
The civilian airlines will airlift Afghan evacuees arriving at bases in the Middle East (who are arriving at U.S. bases in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates).
The commercial planes would not fly into Kabul Airport.
US Military aircraft will focus on operations in and out of Kabul, and commercial planes “will be used for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.”
“Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet, or CRAF, created in 1952 in the wake of the Berlin Airlift, to provide several commercial airliners to bolster the American military operation to evacuate Afghans arriving at bases in the Middle East, Defense Department officials said on Saturday.
“The current activation is for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines,” said the statement.
Kirby said that Austin has ordered the Commander of US Transportation Command “to activate Stage I of the CRAF,” which provides the Pentagon access to commercial air mobility resources to support evacuation from Afghanistan.
Pentagon informed on Saturday that the United States has evacuated some 17,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14.
“Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 22,000 people. Since the beginning of this evacuation operation on August 14, we have evacuated approximately 17,000,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said during a briefing.