AFP reports Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin activated the little-used Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to move people arriving at U.S. bases in the Middle East.
“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,” a statement announcing the move said.
Eighteen civilian craft from American Airlines, Atlas, Delta, Omni, Hawaiian and United will aid dozens of military cargo transports involved in the evacuation, the statement said.
The civilian planes would not be allowed to fly to and from the beseiged Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul; instead, they would transport the thousands of Americans and Afghan allies in airbases in Qatar, Bahrain, and Germany onwards in their journeys.
This force multiplier would relieve the strain on bases in the region, which are quickly being filled with Americans and Afghans who have been lucky enough to make it to the aiport in Kabul.
This is insane! https://t.co/hjnV3DFq8G
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) August 18, 2021
With thousands of troops trying to secure Kabul's airport, Washington has set a deadline to complete one of the largest evacuation missions the Pentagon has ever conducted by August 31.
Despite the repeated promises of help, simply getting those who want to escape Afghanistan through airport security and onto planes remains a huge problem on the ground.
The Pentagon said Saturday some 17,000 people had so far been taken out since the operation began on August 14, with many flown first to Qatar or Kuwait. The total included 2,500 Americans.
The CRAF has only been activated twice – to fly troops for the 1990-91 Gulf War and again in 2002-2003 for the Iraq invasion.
The push to include commercial operators in moving refugees was first flagged on Saturday, as Breitbart News reported.
AFP contributed to this story