The Pentagon has activated its Civil Reserve Air Fleet for the third time ever, seeking to boost evacuation from Afghanistan, as the Taliban is blaming the US for chaos at Kabul airport, resulting in several deadly stampedes.
The Taliban, which seized control of Afghanistan’s capital and most of the country a week ago, squarely blamed the chaotic evacuation of foreign nationals and locals, who worked for the US-led coalition forces, on Washington. Despite all the resources the US possessed, it failed to bring order to the airport, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Mutaqi said on Sunday, as cited by AFP, claiming also that areas under the group’s control enjoy “peace and calm.”
America, with all its power and facilities… has failed to bring order to the airport. There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul airport.
The Taliban’s accusation comes after a major stampede occurred outside the airfield. At least seven civilians who sought to get into the airport got crushed to death on Saturday, according to the British Ministry of Defence.
In a bid to speed up the evacuation and alleviate the massive queuing, the Pentagon announced Stage I activation of its rarely-used Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) on Sunday.
The reserve force consists of civilian airliners, temporarily mobilized into the military’s service at times when large-scale redeployment of personnel is needed. Stage I of the fleet can be activated in situations described as minor regional crises.
“The current activation is for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines. The Department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The CRAF aircraft, however, will not fly to Kabul’s airport directly but rather pick up the evacuated people from “temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.” The evacuation from Kabul will apparently continue with help of heavy military transport planes.
The Pentagon noted that the activation of the CRAF became the third time it was ever called into service. Created back in 1950s, the fleet was only used twice prior to the Kabul evacuation, during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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