United States orders the use of commercial airlines to assist in the evacuation of Afghanistan

US officials said Sunday that US commercial airlines, including American Airlines, Delta and United, will be organized to assist the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners from Kabul after their fall to the extremist Taliban.

The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, which was rarely used, to aid the movement of people arriving at US bases in the Middle East.

“DOD’s ability to project military forces is inextricably linked to the commercial industry, which provides critical transportation capacity, as well as global networks to meet daily and contingency requirements,” said a statement announcing the move.

Eighteen civilian vessels from American Airlines, Atlas, Delta, Omni, Hawaiian and United will assist dozens of military cargo transports involved in the evacuation, according to the statement.

Rather than going in and out of the capital, commercial jets will transport people from American bases in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to European countries and, for many, to the United States.

The Civil Reserve Air Fleet has only been activated twice: once to transport troops for the 1990-1991 Gulf War and again in 2002-2003 for the invasion of Iraq.

With thousands of troops trying to secure the Kabul airport, Washington set a deadline to complete one of the largest evacuation missions the Pentagon has ever carried out before August 31.

But US President Joe Biden has said the deadline could be extended if necessary, promising to remove all American and Afghan allies.

There are up to 15,000 Americans and between 50,000 and 60,000 Afghan allies who need to be evacuated, according to the Biden administration.

On Saturday, the Pentagon said 17,000 people had been removed since the operation began on Aug. 14, including 2,500 Americans, with an average of just over 2,000 evacuations per day. Thousands more have left on other foreign military flights.

US authorities have said they expect to increase evacuations to between 5,000 and 9,000 a day.

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( Jowharwith AFP)

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