• December 3, 2021

Department of Defense Orders Six U.S. Commercial Airlines to Assist in the Evacuation of Afghan Refugees

Evacuees stage before boarding a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021. (Lance Corporal Nicholas Guevara / USMC)

The Department of Defense has ordered six commercial airlines to dispatch airliners to assist with the evacuation of Afghan collaborators and refugees from war-torn Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, invoking the Civil Reserve Air Fleet established in 1952 after the Berlin Airlift during the Cold War, requested civilian aircraft to provide 18 aircraft to help relocate evacuees who had already left the country. to places in Europe and the Middle East, the Pentagon. announced Sunday. Under the stipulation of the program, the fleet can be activated at a time of “major national defense emergency.”

The activation is for 18 aircraft: four from United Airlines; three from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; and two from Hawaiian Airlines.

“Activation of CRAF provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to increase our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of US citizens and personnel, applicants for special immigrant visas and others at risk of Afghanistan, “said the Pentagon press secretary. John Kirby said in a statement. He added that the Pentagon does not expect interruptions in commercial flight operations as a result of airlines fulfilling orders.

Capt.John Perkins, a spokesman for the Army Transportation Command, told the New York Times on Sunday that commercial airplanes began carrying passengers on Monday or Tuesday. The planes will not arrive or depart from Kabul, given the growing chaos on the ground, but will instead carry thousands of Afghans arriving at US bases in Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Once the refugees reached the bases in the Middle East, the passenger planes would support the military fleet of C-17, C-5 and KC-10 that carried Afghans to their final destinations in European countries such as Germany, Italy. and Spain, as well as the United States. The United States, officials told the Times.

Perkins said some airlines had volunteered planes last week to speed up the move. Given the massive size of the evacuation mission, Austin asked more airlines to participate in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet convocation and provide large, high-capacity aircraft. Times confirmed.

Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, wrote on social media: “As a global airline and our nation’s flag carrier, we take responsibility for responding quickly to international challenges like this.”

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