This Sunday, the Pentagon confirmed that it activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to support the transport of Afghan refugees from the American bases where they are being sheltered after being evacuated from Kabul.
The announcement means that six commercial airlines —American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines— will lend their aircraft to transport the refugees. The commercial planes would not fly to Kabul, but to the American bases where the thousands of Afghan expatriates are housed in Germany, Qatar and Bahrain.
This is the third time in 70 years of its existence that the Pentagon has made use of the CRAF program. According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, “CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the State Department in the evacuation of Americans, SIV’s [special immigrant visa holders] and other at-risk Afghans.”
The operation involves 18 aircraft, with American Airlines, Atlas, Delta and Omni airlines each supplying 3 aircraft. Hawaiian Airlines 2 aircraft and United Airlines 4 aircraft.
The U.S. has deployed more than a dozen C-17 aircraft to evacuate American and Afghan citizens. Some flights have taken off with as many as 400 passengers sitting on the floor of the giant military aircraft. These large cargo planes lack the sanitary facilities to make a flight across the Atlantic, so Afghan refugees have had to be placed at American bases across Eurasia.
The activation of CRAF, is the latest action by the Biden administration to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who continue to pile up at the Kabul airport, a week after the collapse of the U.S.-backed Ashraf Ghani government.
The CRAF program was established after the West Berlin crisis when the Soviet Union blocked land access to the city, so the U.S. had to create an air bridge to get supplies into the city. The other two times the CRAF program has been used were during the Gulf crisis in 1990/91 and at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq.
Chaos continues at Kabul airport
In the last 24 hours the U.S. has evacuated 8,000 people from Afghanistan on more than 60 flights to date. Since the Taliban began entering Kabul on August 14, more than 25,000 people have been evacuated in a joint effort by NATO countries.
Unfortunately chaos seems to be taking over and 7 people were suffocated and trampled to death in a stampede that occurred at the entrance gates of Kabul airport.
The State Department warned American citizens still in Afghanistan to avoid Kabul International Airport in fear of a potential Islamic State terrorist attack.
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said the U.S. military and intelligence departments are cooperating to prevent terrorist attacks at the Kabul airport.
Afghanistan has about 2.5 million registered refugees, 90% of whom are located in India and Pakistan. Currently, a dozen countries have agreed to host Afghan refugees temporarily, the rest of the world is preparing for a possible migration crisis.