The Biden administration activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, ordering U.S. commercial airlines to assist with the evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced on Sunday morning.
The activation is for 18 aircraft in total. Three from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, and Omni Air. Along with two from Hawaiian Airlines and four from United Airlines.
“We embrace the responsibility to quickly respond to international challenges like these and use our expertise to ensure the safe passage of our fellow countrymen and women as well as those who have risked their lives to help keep them safe,” United said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the story.
American Airlines released a statement and said it will be ready to deploy three wide-body planes for CRAF on Monday.
“American will work to minimize the impact to customers as the airline temporarily removes these aircraft from our operation,” the statement read. “The airline appreciates customers’ patience and understanding as it works to accommodate flights.”
The Pentagon said the flights would not be flying into Afghanistan but would instead be used to transport those who have already made it out of the country safely.
“CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani on Sunday to “express gratitude to Bahrain for the government’s humanitarian support in facilitating the safe transit of U.S. citizens and evacuees from Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
The news comes amid reports the U.S. was working on alternative ways to get Americans, Afghans, and others who want to leave the country to the airport safely with ISIS threatening the airport in Kabul.
This story has been updated with additional information.