The Biden administration’s Department of Defense ordered several commercial airline companies on Sunday morning to help with the Afghanistan pull-out, an effort that has thus far been hampered by the Taliban’s swift takeover of the capital city of Kabul.
Civilian commercial airliners will not be ordered to go into Afghanistan. Rather, the airplanes will be used to transport people who have already been evacuated out of the country — and are currently in “temporary safe havens” or “interim staging bases” — and take them to other places. According to The Washington Post, the interim locations to which the civilian airplanes will travel are likely nations near Afghanistan, such as Qatar and the UAE.
“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered the Commander of U.S. Transportation Command to activate Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF),” said the department, which last activated the reserve fleet early during in the war. “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.”
The department’s order calls for 18 aircraft from six different airlines. United Airlines will provide four planes, the most from any single carrier in the group; American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, and Omni Air will each send three. Hawaiian Airlines will provide two planes.
“The images from Afghanistan are heartbreaking,” said American Airlines in a statement. “The airline is proud and grateful of our pilots and flight attendants, who will be operating these trips to be a part of this life-saving effort.”
We’re proud of the #AATeam who are helping us do our part to help with the emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens and refugees coming from Kabul, Afghanistan. Visit our newsroom to learn more. https://t.co/oTEChpqmqb
— americanair (@AmericanAir) August 22, 2021
Captain John Perkins, a public affairs officer at U.S. Transportation Command, told The New York Times on Sunday that the civilian airliners would begin taking people to Europe from evacuation sites beginning early this week. From Europe, some Afghans will continue on to the United States. Each airplane will be capable of carrying several hundred passengers.
Over the last week, U.S. troops have been evacuating Americans and Afghan allies from the Hamid Karzai International Airport, the sole area of U.S. control in the Taliban-controlled capital. While President Joe Biden denied Friday that any Americans were having trouble getting to the airport, Austin offered an apparent contradiction to this statement in a Friday call with lawmakers, reports Politico. Austin told them that some Americans had been beaten by members of the Taliban.
On Saturday, the U.S. embassy issued a security alert “advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”
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