Pentagon Activates Civil Reserve Air Fleet For Third Time In History To Aid In Afghanistan Evacuation

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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The Pentagon activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) early Sunday to aid in the Afghanistan evacuation efforts.

The announcement means the Pentagon is ordering six commercial airlines – American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines – to help with moving people out of Afghanistan. The commercial airlines will be flying into other areas and not the Kabul airport, according to the Pentagon.

This is just the third time in history CRAF has been activated. It provides the Department of Defense “access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the @StateDept in the evacuation of American, SIV’s, and other at-risk Afghans,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin tweeted Sunday.

The current activation is “Stage 1,” according to Austin. In total, 18 aircraft “will be used for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases,” the Pentagon said.

“The DOD’s ability to project military forces is inextricably linked to commercial industry, which provides critical transportation capacity as well as global networks to meet day-to-day and contingency requirements,” the Pentagon noted.

“Utilizing commercial partners expands USTRANSCOM’s [United States Transportation Command] global reach as well as access to valuable commercial intermodal transportation systems.”

The first ever activation of CRAF occurred between Aug. 1990 to May 1991 to help Operations Desert Shield/Storm. It was used again from Feb. 2002 to June 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Pentagon.

Afghanistan is in the midst of a crisis following a swift Taliban takeover of the country. The U.S. claims it prepared for all contingencies, but President Joe Biden admitted the speed at which the Taliban took over was surprising. The move has left the administration scrambling to evacuate American citizens, Afghan allies and others from the region. (RELATED: White House Messaging On Afghanistan Gets A Massive And Rapid Makeover)

A White House official said Sunday that approximately 25,000 personnel on both military and coalitions flights have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 13. Around 30,000 personnel on both flights have been evacuated since the end of July, the official added.