UPDATE: The Biden Administration this morning activated U.S. commercial airlines to assist with evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said according to CNN.
Six airlines will be involved flying 18 flights – four from United Airlines; three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; and two from Hawaiian Airlines.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the commander of U.S. Transportation Command to initiate the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. The commercial airlines will help evacuate U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other vulnerable individuals out of Afghanistan.
They will not, however, have to fly into Hamid Karzai International airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Instead, the commercial airlines will fly evacuees from a designated save point to U.S. military bases and other staging points, the Pentagon said.
The Biden administration is considering drafting U.S.-based commercial airlines to help with the transport of thousands of evacuees in Afghanistan, according to multiple reports.
Biden is expected to speak about the situation in Afghanistan today, Sunday, August 22, at 4 p.m.
The U.S. last week pulled out the rest of its troops in the country, leading to an immediate takeover by the radical Taliban sect.
Afghanistan’s main airport in the capital of Kabul has been overrun with both U.S. citizens looking to leave as well as thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Afghan people who fear falling under the rule of the militant Taliban.
As President, Biden can compel commercial airlines to assist the military during times of emergencies as per the 1952 Civil Reserve Air Fleet clause. The program could facilitate almost 20 commercial jets from five airlines to help transport evacuees from bases in the region, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But a senior administration official told CNN that the commercial jets would not be flying into Afghanistan but instead would be helping to transport evacuees from locations where they were taken after being evacuated from the country, including U.S military bases in Qatar, Bahrain and Germany.
The official told CNN the government would first try to get airlines to volunteer aircraft to help transport Afghan evacuees before forcing them.
“We need each major airline to offer up three planes, and get a few from FedEx. If they don’t, we may use the law,” the official said.
About 26,500 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the Taliban began its advance on Kabul, according to data analyzed by CNN Saturday.
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