Speed Reads

lending a hand

Civilian air fleet activated for just 3rd time in history to aid Afghanistan evacuation

For just the third time in U.S. history, the Pentagon is activating the country's Civil Reserve Air Fleet, meaning 18 civilian aircraft from airlines such as American, Delta, and United will be utilized to aid the Afghanistan evacuation in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

The planes won't fly into and out of Kabul — the CRAF does not enter war zones — but they will head to U.S. military bases in Germany, Qatar, and Bahrain to fly stranded evacuees elsewhere, alleviating some of the pressure on the armed forces trying to get tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan civilians to safety.

The civilian planes are also necessary because the military planes used to carry people out of Kabul don't have adequate restroom facilities or the ability to provide food on longer flights across the Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal notes.

The CRAF program was created in 1952, a few years after the Berlin Airlift, an early Cold War crisis that saw the Soviet Union block access from the east to other sectors of the divided city that were controlled by Western powers. Since then, it's only been activated twice — once during the Gulf War in Kuwait between 1990 and 1991, and again at the start of the Iraq War between 2002 and 2003.

The Pentagon only wants to use the aircraft for a week or two, which seemingly lines up with its plan to finish the withdrawal by Aug. 31, though the U.S. is facing calls to extend the deadline. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.