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Washington DC [US], August 23 (ANI): US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered US airlines to provide 18 aircraft to support evacuation missions from Afghanistan, the Pentagon informed on Sunday.
"Civil Reserve Air Fleet (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.
Kirby said that Austin has ordered the Commander of US Transportation Command "to activate Stage I of the CRAF," which provides the Pentagon access to commercial air mobility resources to support evacuation from Afghanistan.
"The current activation is for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines," said the statement.
It further added that the commercial planes would not fly into Kabul Airport. US Military aircraft will focus on operations in and out of Kabul, and commercial planes "will be used for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases."
The United States has been speeding up the process of evacuation of Americans and its Afghan partners from the country since Taliban forces entered the capital Kabul on August 15.
Pentagon informed on Saturday that the United States has evacuated some 17,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14.
"Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 22,000 people. Since the beginning of this evacuation operation on August 14, we have evacuated approximately 17,000," Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said during a briefing.
Since the Taliban's takeover of the war-ravaged country, several countries have started evacuating their citizens and diplomatic personnel from the war-torn nation. (ANI)