As the situation worsens in Afghanistan, many countries who had a presence in the nation are working round-the-clock to safely evacuate their citizens as well as Afghans who worked for them and helped them in the past two decades. To speed up the process, the U.S. has activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) which allows the use of civil aircraft. This will speed up the evacuation process as Afghanistan continues to plunge into further chaos.
Although the CRAF has been activated a few times in the past it has been close to two decades since it has been activated, during the Iraq War in 2003. The civil flights will not operate in Afghanistan. The Defense Department noted that 18 aircrafts from six commercial airlines will help lift evacuees from interim stations in Europe and the Middle East including Germany, Qatar and Bahrain.
The following airlines will provide aircraft:
- United Airlines — 4 aircrafts
- American Airlines — 3 aircrafts
- Atlas Air — 3 aircrafts
- Delta Air Lines — 3 aircrafts
- Omni Air — 3 aircrafts
- Hawaiian Airlines — 2 aircrafts.
Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement that eighteen planes would be used to bring home those American and Afghan evacuees who were already in “safe havens and interim staging bases.” He also noted that the department did not anticipate that the deployment of these commercial aircraft would have a major impact on commercial flights.
According to people who are familiar with the matter, all the U.S. airlines had volunteered aircrafts to help in the evacuation efforts, earlier this week. As of now there are 18 aircrafts that will help in the evacuation, which began on Saturday. The numbers may increase or decrease in future.
Amid the chaos in both Afghanistan and end route to Kabul airport, NBC reported on Saturday that defense officials had said that the U.S. military was exploring several ways to get evacuees from American, Afghanistan and third-country nationals, safely to Kabul airport.