Biden administration activates US airlines for evacuations in Afghanistan

The DoD said it “does not foresee any major impact on commercial flights from this activation.”

Airlines were urged on Friday to prepare in case they are needed to transport thousands of people who have been rescued from Kabul since the Taliban took control on August 15. Evacuations continued on military planes, moving approximately 7,000 U.S. citizens and personnel, special immigrant visa seekers and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan to places such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

The latest mobilization means that the CRAF is now activated for the third time since its inception after WWII. The CRAF was established in 1951 as an emergency authorization to use commercial and charter aircraft to augment airlift and refueling missions. It was previously used in Operations Desert Shield / Desert Storm in 1990, and again in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The US Department of Defense and Transportation Command is the activating authority for the CRAF. Airlines are volunteering for the program, which also involves the Department of Transportation. Commercial carriers retain their civilian status under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, while USTRANSCOM “exercises mission control through its air component, Air Mobility Command,” the Pentagon said.

Airlines for America, the trading group of major U.S. airlines, told POLITICO on Saturday it was in communication with administration officials about the matter.

“US carriers have offered assistance as needed over the past week, and they remain in frequent communication with government agencies and US officials to determine the need for in-flight assistance,” A4A said.

In a statement, United said the potential impacts to its flights were “still under evaluation” but are expected to be minimal. “As a global airline and flag carrier for our country, we take responsibility for responding quickly to international challenges like this,” United CEO Scott Kirby said on Instagram.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines did not make any additional comments or could not be contacted before press time.

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