Pentagon Orders U.S. Commercial Airlines to Assist in Afghan Evacuation

The Pentagon has ordered United States commercial airlines to assist in evacuating tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover.

According to a statement released on Aug. 22, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin activated Stage 1 of the rarely used Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), which allows the U.S. to mobilize commercial airlines to assist in an emergency.

The 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.

The activated aircraft will not fly into the international airport in Afghan capital Kabul where thousands are crowded, hoping to flee the country after Taliban militants seized control last week. Instead, the aircraft will transport people from U.S. military bases to European countries and to the U.S.

“Activating CRAF increases passenger movement beyond organic capability and allows military aircraft to focus on operations in and out of in Kabul,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Pentagon said that they do not expect the activation to have a major impact to commercial flights.

Delta Air Lines said in a statement that they will use available spare aircraft for CRAF, which meant that its commercial operations “are not currently impacted.”

Meanwhile, American Air Lines said in a statement that they will work to minimize the impact of CRAF to customers as they temporarily remove three aircraft from their commercial operations.

The CRAF activation on Aug. 22 comes as the third in history. The first time was for the 1990 – 1991 Gulf War and the second time was for the 2002 – 2003 Iraqi invasion.

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