UNITED STATES: The United States has enlisted the help of six commercial airlines to help with the evacuation of people from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said on Sunday it called up 18 civilian aircraft from United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air and others to help transport people from temporary locations after they landed on flights from Afghanistan, leaning on the industry it last called on during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and prior to that, the Gulf War of 1990-1991,
The move indicates the difficulty Washington is having carrying out the evacuations following the Taliban’s swift takeover.
On Sunday, the Kabul international airport was bombarded with thousands of Afghans, desperate to flee the country after the Taliban advanced to power on 15 August. At least 20 people have died, a Nato official told Reuters news agency, with reports that some were being crushed to death.
In an address from the White House on Sunday afternoon, President Joe Biden said: “It’s a program that was designed in the wake of the Berlin airlift after World War Two to use commercial aircraft to augment our airlift capacity.”
Biden said the flights would bring people from “staging locations” like Qatar and Germany to the United States or a third country. He called it the initial stage of the program. “None will be landing in Kabul.”
According to the statement, the level one activation is for 18 planes: four from United Airlines; three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; and two from Hawaiian Airlines.
Activating the CRAF will help military aircraft to focus on operations in and out of Kabul, the statement added.
The president stated that the U.S. had evacuated nearly 28,000 people in the past week. Biden directed the State Department to contact Americans stranded in Afghanistan by phone, email and other means and that the United States was “executing a plan” to move them to the Kabul airport.
“I will say again today what I’ve said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home,” Biden said.
Minimal effect on commercial flights
American Airlines said in a statement: “American … is proud to fulfill its duty to help the U.S. military scale this humanitarian and diplomatic rescue mission. The images from Afghanistan are heartbreaking.”
Biden said the operation should have only a minimal effect on commercial flights.
Delta Air said its commercial operations were unaffected, while American said it “will work to minimize the impact to customers as the airline temporarily removes these aircraft from our operation.” United said it was still assessing the impact but expected it “to be minimal.”