The Biden administration activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet on Aug. 22 to help with the evacuation of people from Afghanistan, although the flights won’t directly head to the beleaguered Asian nation.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to a statement from the Pentagon, activated the fleet and is asking U.S. airlines and charter carriers to take Americans, Afghans who worked with the U.S. government, and other “at-risk individuals” to other locations.
“The current 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 statement says. “The Department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation.”
But it noted that Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) aircraft won’t fly to the airport in Kabul, where thousands of U.S. troops are still stationed in a chaotic and desperate attempt to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan a week after the Taliban extremist group took over.
Afghan refugees and workers will be taken to “temporary safe havens” via the CRAF planes, according to the Defense Department, which added that it’s the third activation of the CRAF in its nearly 70-year history. The first occurred during the 1991 Persian Gulf War in Iraq and the second took place in 2002 and 2003 during the second Iraq war.
“CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in 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 in a statement.
Since President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the operation has been beset by chaos. Thousands of people—fearful for their lives—flooded Kabul airport, with some even grabbing hold of departing military C-17 planes before falling to their deaths.