The US Department of Defense announced Friday that they have tapped new allies to help ferry Afghan evacuees. The DOD will activate aircraft from major US airlines to help ferry all stranded Americans and Afghan evacuees evacuated by the military from Afghanistan to their final arrival area.
Ferrying Afghan Evacuees
The Pentagon clarified that the airlines will not enter Afghanistan’s airspace. Instead, they will receive Afghan evacuees that already left their country and are now in temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.
Already, 18 aircraft from United, American, Delta and Hawaiian airlines will help with the operation. This ensures that US military planes can focus on operations in and out of Afghanistan. Presumably, it includes flying out Afghan evacuees and transferring them to civilian aircraft.
The operation is part of the military’s Civil Reserve Air Fleet. In particular, this is only the third time in which the Pentagon activated CRAF to help with operations. The first time this happened was during Operations Desert Shield/Storm from 1990 to 1991. The second time happened almost 20 years ago during the invasion of Iraq.
CRAF is a Voluntary Program
The US Department of Transportation said that the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet started in 1951. It remains a voluntary system for participating airlines. However, airlines that do join the program will get certain privileges. This includes getting priority when the Defense Department needs to transport passengers and commercial cargo during peacetime.
Secretary Anthony Blinken appeared on Fox News Sunday to announce the program. “We’ve now asked, through the authority that the president has, airlines to help participate in moving people not out of Kabul but from these third-country sites where we are taking them as we finish processing them, going through security checks,” he said.
“We’ve reached an agreement with about two dozen countries over four continents who are now helping or soon going to help with the transit of people out of Kabul, and this is one way to make sure we have enough flight capacity to move people from those places to their ultimate destinations,” he added.
Airlines Happy To Help
Meanwhile, US airline companies are more than happy to help. In a statement Delta executive vice president, John Laughter said that the company is ready to help. “For decades, Delta has actively played a role in supporting the U.S. Military and our troops. And we are again proud to pledge Delta people and our aircraft in support our country’s relief efforts,” he said.
United CEO Scott Kirby also issued a statement. He said that the company welcomes “the responsibility to quickly respond to international challenges like this one — it’s a duty we take with the utmost care and coordination as we call upon the expertise of several different teams within our airline to work in close partnership with the U.S. military to safely execute this operation.”
Thousands Still Wanting To Leave Afghanistan
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin activated the CRAF’s initial amid bedlam in Kabul. The US has already evacuated 25,100 Afghan evacuees since last Sunday. This is when the Taliban formally took control of the capital.
However, thousands are still hoping to get the chance to escape Taliban rule. Thousands remain encamped in the airport hoping for a flight out. Outside the airport, the situation is reportedly getting worse.
The United Kingdom reported that on Sunday, seven people died in a stampede of people trying to get to the airport. Austin added that the US will “try our very best to get everybody, every American citizen, who wants to get out.”
Watch the Fox News video reporting that commercial airlines will assist the US military with Afghanistan evacuations:
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