Biden to ask commercial airlines to assist in Afghanistan evacuations

Biden to ask commercial airlines to assist in Afghanistan evacuations
2 min read
22 August, 2021
The commercial planes will not be required to fly into Kabul's airport but to evacuate those who are waiting transfer from US bases in the region.
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet could be requested to supply around 20 planes from commercial airlines [Getty]

President Joe Biden is considering requesting assistance from commercial United States airlines to evacuate Afghan refugees, amid an ongoing Taliban takeover of the war-torn country.

The Civil Reserve Air Fleet could be requested to supply around 20 planes from commercial airlines to pick up evacuees who are waiting at US bases in Bahrain, Germany and Qatar, The Wall Street Journal and other US news outlets reported.

The commercial planes will not be required to fly into Kabul's airport, where the security situation is rapidly deteriorating amid the Taliban's tightening grip.

The Pentagon has yet to approve any activation of commercial airlines, as allowed during a crisis related to national defence, the US Transportation Command said in a statement on Saturday.

However, the Pentagon has "issued a warning order" to US commercial airlines that it may compel them to assist in evacuations from Afghanistan, the Defence Department confirmed.

"A warning order informs industry partners of a potential activation but can be rescinded if the Defence Department deems additional aircraft are not required to meet mission requirements," Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Chris Mitchell told Axios.

President Biden has vowed to use "every means" to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.

The Civil Reserve Air Fleet was created in 1952 after WWII and can be activated during a national defence crisis to add to the US military's aircraft capacity.

Commercial airlines volunteer to participate in the program and in return are given preference for transporting cargo and personnel for the Department of Defence.

US officials are also considering expanding the number of bases hosting evacuees in order to address overcrowding.

Additional military bases in the US are being designated to provide housing for arriving Afghan refugees.

Thousands of Afghans are at risk of retaliation as militants from the Taliban group, which adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam, take over the capital Kabul and most Afghan provinces.

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is currently being hosted in the United Arab Emirates "on humanitarian grounds", after he fled the Taliban takeover.

Ghani said the "Taliban have won" and that he fled to avoid a "flood of bloodshed".