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DOD Activates Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) for Air Refugee Transport in Afghanistan

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The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) on Sunday to help air transport from Afghanistan. The order activates 18 planes from six airlines to transport U.S. citizens and personnel, special visa applicants for immigrants and other people "at risk" from the Taliban-controlled country.

The plan calls on American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air to supply three aircraft, United Airlines to send four and Hawaiian Airlines two. The planes will not fly to Kabul, but rather from base stations in neighboring third countries, allowing military planes to focus on operations in and out of the Afghan capital.

18 civilian planes are being operated from six airlines

Under CRAF, commercial carriers retain their civilian identity in accordance with FAA regulations. The order marks the third activation of the program since its establishment under an agreement between DOD and the Department of Commerce in 1951.

The first activation took place in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the First Iraq War, from August 1990 to May 1991. The second activation took place during Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2002 to June 2003.   

The DOD announcement comes three days after the Russian government offered to send civilian planes directly to and from Kabul to support evacuation operations.

The Taliban have denied a series of requests for landing at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport to various applicants, including Ukraine, which sent an Ilyushin Il-76MD military plane to evacuate Ukrainian military and civilians. 

The Taliban positioned a series of rapid-fire anti-aircraft guns and missiles around the airport fence to support the flight ban. Taliban authorities make exceptions on a case-by-case basis and exempted the US air force until August 30.

Airlines from other countries have already begun operating charter services to and from locations outside Afghanistan, including Lufthansa, which transported about 130 people from Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, on August 18th.

The US and NATO allies have effectively maintained control of the air side of the airport as they strive to coordinate evacuation efforts at a seemingly unpredictable pace by US-led military withdrawal plans. 

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