The U.S. has enlisted six commercial airlines to help transport passengers once they have been evacuated from Afghanistan, as the U.S. strives to speed up the departures of Americans and at-risk Afghans from Kabul.
The Pentagon said on Sunday, Aug. 22, that it had called up 18 civilian planes from United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air, and other airlines to transport people from temporary locations after they arrived on flights from Afghanistan, relying on an industry it last used during the 2003 Iraq War, Reuters reported.
The move demonstrates how tough it is for Washington to carry out the evacuations following the Taliban’s quick takeover.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of Afghans waited outside Kabul’s international airport, expecting to be evacuated while Taliban shooters fought back crowds.
“It’s a program that was designed in the wake of the Berlin airlift after World War Two to use commercial aircraft to augment our airlift capacity,” President Joe Biden stated in a Sunday afternoon address from the White House, adding that airlines willingly joined up for the program.
CRAF has now been activated for the third time since its inception following World War II. The CRAF was founded in 1951 as an emergency authorization to supplement airlift and resupply missions with commercial and charter planes. It was previously utilized in support of Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Politico reported.
The aircraft, according to Biden, will transport people from “staging locations” such as Qatar and Germany to the U.S. or a third country. He referred to it as the program’s earliest stage.
“None of them will be landing in Kabul,” he said.
Three aircraft will each be provided by American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and privately held Omni Air. There are also two Hawaiian Airlines flights and four United Airlines flights.
American and Delta announced that rescue flights would begin on Monday, Aug. 23. They, along with other airlines, welcomed the call to assist the U.S. troops in the face of the humanitarian disaster.
‘Civil reserve air fleet’
According to the White House, around 3,400 individuals were evacuated from Kabul in the 12 hours leading up to 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Sunday, on 39 coalition aircraft, including commercial airlines, and 1,700 others on eight U.S. military flights. Since Aug. 14, roughly 30,300 people have been evacuated, according to the report.
According to Bahrain’s communications office, NCC, as part of the evacuation attempts, Bahrain’s official carrier, Gulf Air, flew from Isa Air Base to Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
The scarcity of planes is just one of the challenges facing the Afghan evacuees, who are being flown to a dozen different nations.
Officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department’s delayed processing, and there is growing concern about security in Kabul.
The U.S. and its allies have deployed thousands of troops to supervise the evacuations of foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans, but they have stayed away from regions outside of Kabul’s airport.
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that the U.S. had “secured the capacity to get large numbers of Americans safe passage through the airport and onto the airfield” in Afghanistan, but he didn’t elaborate.
Last Monday, Aug. 16, the U.S. military utilized three military helicopters to transport 169 Americans from a facility approximately 650 feet away to the Kabul airport. This type of action is expected to continue, according to officials.
Biden said he authorized the State Department to contact trapped Americans in Afghanistan via phone, email, and other methods and that the U.S. was “executing a plan” to transport them to Kabul Airport.
“I will say again today what I’ve said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home,” Biden said.