The U.S. on Sunday ordered six commercial airlines to help transport people evacuated from Afghanistan as Washington sought to step up the pace of departures of Americans and at-risk Afghans from Kabul.
The Pentagon said it called up 18 commercial aircraft from United, American, Delta and 3 other airlines.
The airlines would not be flying into Kabul, but collecting passengers from temporary locations around the globe.
The move highlights the difficulty Washington is having in carrying out the evacuations following the Taliban's swift takeover, and marks only the third time the U.S. military has employed civilian aircraft.
Thousands of people remained outside the Kabul airport on Sunday hoping to be evacuated as Taliban gunman beat back crowds.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. has (quote), "secured the capacity to get large numbers of Americans safe passage through the Kabul airport and onto the airfield,” but gave no details.
And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the U.S. is to trying to ensure safe passage to the Kabul airport through what he called a “working relationship” with the Taliban.
“They are in control of Kabul. That is the reality. That's the reality that we have to deal with.”
Asked if the Taliban takeover also poses an increased terror threat, Blinken said the U.S.’s ability to combat terrorism has increased since the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
“If this threat reemerges in Afghanistan, we'll deal with it.”
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday will meet virtually with the G7 leaders to coordinate policy, discuss evacuation efforts and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.