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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

US to deploy commercial airlines to evacuate Afghans from Qatar


Qatar has been coordinating with several organisations to evacuate Afghans who worked with foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Six commercial airlines will be used to help transport Afghan evacuees from Qatar, Bahrain, and other bases in the Middle East and Europe, the Pentagon confirmed on Sunday.

“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 plan read.

Stage 1 of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, established in 1952 after the Berlin airlift, is set to provide 18 airliners to help transport Afghans evacuees at bases in the Middle East, John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

The US official said aircrafts will not evacuate Afghans from Kabul but rather transport evacuees in and out of countries in the Arabian Gulf, where thousands are awaiting to move on to their final destinations.

How Qatar’s ambassador helped safely evacuate Afghans on the ground

The US’ mission is expected to end by 31 August, though Biden said the deadline could be extended if necessary. Thousands of troops have continued to fly Afghans from Kabul’s airport as part of one of the Pentagon’s largest evacuation in history. 

Some 18 planes have been requested for an operation that will last around one to two weeks, with three aircrafts from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air, in addition to two from Hawaiian Airlines and four from United Airlines Holdings Inc.

This comes as the Biden administration continues efforts to transfer tens of thousands of Afghans and other civilians stuck in Afghanistan out of Kabul following the Taliban takeover. 

The Department of Defence said it does not expect a “major impact” to commercial flights.

Activating the aircrafts “increases passenger movement beyond organic capability and allows military aircraft to focus on operations in and out of Kabul.”

The planes are set to increase military flights carrying evacuees to Germany, Spain, Italy and other stops in Europe from bases in the Middle East, before many then move on to the United States.

This is the third time in the history that the reserve air fleets have been activated, according to the department, following flights from commercial airlines during the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War.

On Friday, the military’s Transportation Command issued a warning order to major airlines that some of their planes might be needed for the evacuation plan, according to Capt. John Perkins, a command spokesman.

On Saturday, the Pentagon said the US has rescued around 17,000 people from Afghanistan in the past week and about 22,000 since the end of last month. Nearly 2,500 Americans have been evacuated from the country.

US authorities are seeking to evacuate between 5,000 and 9,000 people a day.

So far, Qatar has evacuated at least 7,000 Afghans from Afghanistan to the Gulf state where they are being temporarily housed before moving on to their final destinations.

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