The Pentagon has ordered U.S. airliners to supply planes to assist the speed up in Afghanistan’s evacuation efforts, it said Sunday.
The planes wouldn’t fly into Kabul but instead would be there only to transport those that have already been flown out of the country to military bases or transit points in Europe and the Near East.
That might allow military aircraft to concentrate on operations in and out of the Afghan capital, the Pentagon said.
The Department of Defense activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a virtually 70-year-old program created within the wake of the lift to supply a backup by commercial schedule carriers for a “major national defense emergency.” it’s the third time the CRAF has been activated. Previously it was employed in the 1990s and early 2000s during the Iraq wars.
The activation is for 18 airlines: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and 4 from United Airlines.
President Joe Biden said during a news conference on Sunday afternoon that the U.S. will conduct “thorough security screening” of non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are flown to transit centers or bases before they fly to the u. s..
United Airlines’ first flight under CRAF flew Sunday from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Al Udeid base of operations in Qatar. it’ll likely then fly with evacuees to the U.S. after a refueling stop in Germany, but schedules could change. The airline is exploring options to stock a number of its planes with diapers, personal hygiene items and clothing.
“CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to enhance our support to the Department of State within the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said during a statement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday spoke with Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani and “expressed gratitude to Bahrain for the government’s humanitarian support in facilitating the safe transit of U.S. citizens and evacuees from Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
U.S. defense officials say that the military is trying to find other ways to induce Americans, Afghans and third-country nationals safely to the airport in Kabul following threats from the Islamic State,
United Airlines said it’ll use four of its Boeing 777-300 planes, which seat 350 passengers, for the CRAF order. The Chicago-based airline said it’s still assessing the impact to its operation but that it’ll likely be minimal.
United’s steward bidding for CRAF flights began on Saturday, in step with a note from their union.
U.S. carriers have deployed a number of their largest planes for domestic flights with international travel demand still down sharply due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We embrace the responsibility to quickly answer international challenges like these and use our expertise to make sure the safe passage of our fellow countrymen and girls still as those that have risked their lives to assist keep them safe,” United said during a statement.
Delta said it’ll have “multiple relief flights arriving back within the u. s. beginning Monday morning.” The carrier said it’s using spare aircraft which commercial flights don’t seem to be currently affected. The carrier on Sunday was positioning planes in Germany, Qatar and also the United Arab Emirates.
American Airlines said it’ll be able to deploy three wide-body planes for CRAF starting Monday.
“American will work to attenuate the impact to customers because the airline temporarily removes these aircraft from our operation,” it said during a statement. “The airline appreciates customers’ patience and understanding because it works to accommodate flights.”
Atlas Air, a cargo carrier and one among the airlines that flies for Amazon’s air arm, regularly supplies airlift to the U.S. military. The company’s passenger fleet includes Boeing 747-400s with 374 passenger seats, and 767-300s with 215 passenger seats, in step with its website.
“We do the maximum amount as possible to supply the much-needed capacity to support the evacuation efforts,” an Atlas spokeswoman said.
U.S. airlines earlier on volunteered aircraft to assist within the evacuation efforts, in step with people at home with the matter. The Pentagon didn’t immediately investigate whether it’s considering expanding the program beyond the 18 commercial aircraft.
Southwest Airlines, which flies Boeing 737s, on Sunday told crews it had been seeking to staff DoD domestic charters “to support the humanitarian airlift mission for people getting back from Afghanistan.” The operation isn’t a part of the CRAF order.
Southwest said they might use spare airplanes which it doesn’t expect operational disruptions. It said it plans to fly four flights on Monday and also the same number Tuesday and Wednesday. a minimum of two flights were scheduled for Monday to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas from Washington D.C.