US orders civilian planes to join Afghanistan evacuation



Commercial planes will be used to help evacuate people from Afghanistan, according to the United States.

US President Joe Biden.
Photo: AFP

Eighteen planes will transfer people to third countries from safe sites outside of Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

Several thousand Afghans are crowded in front of Kabul airport, desperate to flee the country after the Taliban came to power on August 15.

President Joe Biden said today that the United States evacuated nearly 28,000 people in the past week.

“There is no way to evacuate so many people without pain and without the heartbreaking images that you see,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

“We have a long way to go and a lot can still go wrong.”

At least 20 people have died as thousands line up outside Kabul airport, a NATO official told Reuters news agency, with reports some were crushed to death.

Today’s scene would have been quieter than the previous days.

British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the Taliban are now leading people in queues at Hamid Karzai International Airport, speeding up the process for those hoping to leave.

The UK has evacuated 5,725 people since August 13, the Department of Defense (MoD) said.

The UK has over 1,000 members of the armed forces deployed in Kabul.

On Sunday, the US Department of Defense announced the activation of the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to assist with the evacuation.

This allows the United States to mobilize civilian airlines to help in an emergency. It was last used before and during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Gulf War of 1990-1991.

According to the statement, the level one activation concerns 18 aircraft: four from United Airlines; three from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; and two from Hawaiian Airlines.

Activating the CRAF will help military planes focus on operations inside and outside Kabul, the statement added.

“These civilian reserve flights will help facilitate safe transport [of evacuees] to third countries, “Biden said on Sunday.” None will land in Kabul. “

Photo: AFP / US Air Force

The president said a series of “treatment stations” had been established in more than two dozen countries, where evacuees would be checked and authorized.

“We will welcome these Afghans who have helped America to their new homes – because that is who we are,” Biden added.

American citizens in Afghanistan

The news comes as White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that several thousand U.S. citizens are believed to be still in Afghanistan.

Talk to CNN State of the Union Sullivan’s program said he couldn’t give an exact number, but noted that work was continuing to evacuate them.

Sullivan also called the threat of ISIS attacks on the airport “real” and “acute”.

Taliban accuse US of airport chaos

Taliban official Amir Khan Mutaqi blamed the United States for the “evacuation drama” at the airport.

Mutaqi also addressed the potential discontent within the ranks of the Taliban, arguing that “some decisions are made in the long-term interest” of the movement and its role in Afghanistan.

He said the Taliban were in talks with “all factions” to reach an agreement on a future government.

The United States is under pressure to extend evacuations beyond their scheduled August 31 end. Mr Biden said discussions were underway on extending the deadline, but that “we hope we don’t have to.”

UK calls for G7 talks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday called an urgent meeting of leaders of the G7 – the world’s seven largest so-called advanced economies.

“It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to achieve the gains of the past 20 years,” he tweeted.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, sharply criticized the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“You look around the world and the only people who really applaud this decision are people hostile to Western interests,” he said.

The United States is planning a complete withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan on August 31.

Several allied countries, including the United Kingdom, are asking for this deadline to be extended as part of the ongoing evacuation, as American soldiers are currently controlling the airport.




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