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US orders six commercial airlines to provide planes to transport Afghans and Americans in Middle East

The planes won’t fly into Kabul, but to nearby US bases

An American Airlines plane prepares for takeoff
American Airlines is one of six commercial airlines ordered to assist with evacuations from Afghanistan
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III on Sunday activated stage 1 of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), ordering six commercial airlines to provide passenger planes to help evacuate people from US military bases in the Middle East, the Department of Defense said in a news release.

The planes won’t fly in or out of the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, but will help transport Afghans and US citizens who have arrived at bases in Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The plan calls for 18 planes total; four from United Airlines, three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, and Omni Air, and two from Hawaiian Airlines. The DoD said in the release it doesn’t expect the CRAF activation to have a major impact on commercial flights.

The Washington Post reports officials said Sunday that the planes would help move Afghans from the bases in the Middle East to places in Europe, and some to the US. The bases have seen the arrivals of thousands of Afghans trying to flee as the Taliban take over Afghanistan.

According to the DoD, Sunday is the third time CRAF has been activated; it was first activated during the war in the Persian Gulf in (from August 1990 to May 1991), and during the Iraq war (from February 2002 to June 2003).