The dramatic evacuation of people fleeing Afghanistan will be accompanied by a US military-civilian alliance that dates back to 1951, but has been activated only twice before: in 1990-1991 during the Gulf War and in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq.
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) is a “cooperative, voluntary program” between the government and private airlines that allows the United States military to use commercial aircraft in emergency situations when it needs additional capacity.
The partnership has its roots in the Cold War Berlin airlift, and will enable the Ministry of Defense (DOD) to “increase aircraft capacity during a national defense-related crisis,” according to the Ministry of Transport.
In exchange for signing contracts with the government, “Participating carriers will be given preference when transporting commercial freight and passenger transport in peacetime for DOD.”
Desert Storm, Iraq War
Established on December 15, 1951, less than three years after civilian aircraft were called in to relieve the Soviet blockade of Berlin, the CRAF was not activated until Operation Desert Storm, from August 1990 to May 1991.
The Pentagon initially demanded 38 planes from 16 companies to transport troops and equipment to the Persian Gulf.
But in January 1991, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney called for additional planes.
A total of 181 aircraft from 20 airlines were put into service.
The second activation was in February 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked 22 airlines to provide 47 aircraft and 31 cargo planes to carry passengers and military equipment.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the latest CRAF activation on Sunday to assist in the “evacuation of US citizens and personnel, special immigrant visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan.”
The civilian plane will not fly to the Taliban-controlled Afghan capital, but will be used to take passengers from temporary safe havens to their destinations, allowing “military aircraft to focus on operations in and out” of Kabul, the Pentagon said in a statement. declaration .
The effort involves 18 aircraft, including from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
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