Pentagon Asks Commercial Airlines to Assist in Afghan Evacuation Effort

(AP) -
People evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal to board a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Aug. 21. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The Pentagon has formally announced it will seek assistance from commercial airliners to provide airplanes as evacuation efforts in Afghanistan continues.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin has activated the Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) for the use of 18 commercial airplanes from several airlines to use for American military efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan.

The commercial planes will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, but will be used to shuttle evacuees who have already left Afghanistan and are sheltering in other countries, many on American military bases.

The CRAF formally requested 4 aircrafts from United Airlines, 3 each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; and 2 from Hawaiian Airlines.

This is the third time the CRAF has been activated in the history of the program, and comes as the Pentagon and President Joe Biden are facing blistering criticism for the failure to anticipate the need for an evacuation program.