CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – American airlines said it’s ready to deploy three aircraft beginning on Monday to assist with the ongoing U.S. Military withdrawal efforts in Afghanistan.
AA said Sunday they were notified by the U.S. Department of Defense that it had activated Stage 1 of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).
The Pentagon on Sunday ordered U.S. commercial airlines to help move evacuees from temporary sites outside of Afghanistan.
“American will be ready to deploy three widebody aircraft to military bases and other secure transit points on the Arabian Peninsula and in Europe to assist with the emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens and refugees coming from Kabul, Afghanistan,” AA said in a statement released to media outlets.
At the one-week mark since the Taliban completed their takeover of country by sweeping into the capital, U.S. officials expressed growing concern about the threat to the evacuation from the Islamic State group. That worry comes in in addition to obstacles to that mission from the Taliban, as well as U.S. government bureaucratic problems.
“The threat is real, it is acute, it is persistent and something we’re focused with every tool in our arsenal,” said President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
That represents an increase from 1,600 flown out aboard U.S. military planes in the previous 24 hours, but it remains far below the 5,000 to 9,000 that the military says it has the capacity to airlift daily. Sullivan also said about 3,900 people were airlifted on non-U.S. military flights over the past 24 hours.
The Biden administration has given no firm estimate of the number of Americans who are seeking to get out of Afghanistan. Some have said the total is likely between 10,000 and 15.000. Sullivan said it is “several thousand.”
“American will work to minimize the impact to customers as the airline temporarily removes these aircraft from our operation. The airline appreciates customers’ patience and understanding as it works to accommodate flights,” AA said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the desperate situation at the airport.
“We’ve seen these wrenching scenes of people crowded at the gates. People hurt, people killed. It’s an incredibly volatile situation and we’re very focused on that,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The British military said Sunday another seven people had been killed in the unceasing crush of crowds outside the Kabul airport. The U.S. military took control of the airport for evacuations a week ago as the capital fell to the Taliban. But Taliban forces controlling the streets around the airport, and the throngs of people gathering outside in hope of escape, have made it difficult and dangerous for foreigners and their Afghan allies to get through.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told ABC’s “This Week” that as Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending the evacuation operation approaches, he will recommend whether to give it more time. Tens of thousands of Americans and others have yet to flown out of the country.
The interview aired Sunday but was taped Saturday as other U.S. officials cited increased concerns about security threats at the Kabul airport from militants affiliated with the Islamic State. The U.S. Embassy issued a security warning Saturday telling citizens not to travel to the airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government representative. Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant.
In a notice Sunday, the State Department urged people seeking to leave Afghanistan as part of an organized private evacuation effort not come to the Kabul airport “until you have received specific instructions” to do so from the U.S. Embassy’s flight organizer. The notice said that others, including American citizens, who have received specific instructions from the embassy to make their way to the airport should do so.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.