US military mobilizes commercial airlines to support Afghanistan evacuation efforts

(FILE) Hawaiian Airlines is one of six US commercial carriers taking part in supporting the evacuation of US citizens and other specified individuals out of Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy Hawaiian Airlines)

(Eagle News) — By order of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) has activated up to 18 passenger aircraft from six airlines to support the State Department’s ongoing efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals out of Afghanistan.

Four aircraft from United Airlines, three from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air, and two from Hawaiian Airlines will take part in Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), which was activated on Sunday, August 22.

According to the Department of Defense (DOD), CRAF-activated aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Instead, they will be used for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases outside Afghanistan.

The DOD believes that activating the CRAF increases passenger movement beyond the military’s organic capability and allows military aircraft to focus primarily on operations in and out of Kabul; and that this activation will not pose a major impact to the overall commercial airline market.

CRAF is a National Emergency Preparedness Program designed to augment the DOD’s airlift capability and is a core component of USTRANSCOM’s ability to meet national security interests and contingency requirements. Under CRAF, the commercial carriers retain their Civil Status under FAA regulations while USTRANSCOM exercises mission control via its air component, the Air Mobility Command.

This is the third CRAF activation in the history of the program. The first occurred in support of Operations Desert Shield / Desert Storm (August 1990 to May 1991), and the second was for Operation Iraqi Freedom (February 2002 to June 2003).

USTRANSCOM is a joint combatant command, which provides support to the ten other U.S. combatant commands, the military services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force), defense agencies, and other government organizations. Its mission is to project and sustain military power anywhere in the globe to assure allies and partner nations, deter potential adversaries, and if necessary respond to win decisively.

(Eagle News Service)