Pentagon orders commercial airliners to aid in Afghanistan evacuation

WASHINGTON (AP) – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the U.S. military is considering “creative ways” to get Americans and others into the Kabul airport for evacuation from Afghanistan amid a range of security threats.

At the one-week mark since the Taliban completed its takeover of the country, the U.S.-directed airlift from Kabul continued Sunday even as U.S. officials expressed growing concern about the threat from the Islamic State group. That worry comes on top of obstacles to that mission from the Taliban, as well as U.S. government bureaucratic problems.

In an attempt to free up military aircraft for missions from Kabul, the Pentagon on Sunday activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. The Defense Department said 18 aircraft from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines will be directed to ferry evacuees from interim waystations. The airlines will not fly into Afghanistan. The six participating airlines have agreed to assist for a little less than two weeks, which roughly coincides with the currently planned duration of the airlift, which is to end Aug. 31.

Austin tells ABC’s “This Week” that as President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending the evacuation operation approaches, he will make a recommendation on whether to give the operation more time, in light of the uneven pace of evacuations of Americans and at-risk Afghans. Tens of thousands of Americans and others have yet to be flown out of the country.