FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers assigned to patrol the 82nd Airborne Division at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021. Image taken on August 17, 2021.

US Air Force | Reuters

The Biden administration has told US commercial airlines that it could order them to help evacuate Afghanistan, according to someone familiar with the matter.

The Department of Defense informed several of the country’s major commercial airlines late Friday that it could activate the civil reserve air fleet to bolster the airlift, the person said, adding that the flights will be from other locations rather than from Afghanistan itself would. This could include airmen stranded on U.S. bases in Germany, Qatar and Bahrain, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first covered the news.

The almost 70-year-old Civil Reserve Air Fleet program was launched after the Berlin Airlift to support a “major national defense emergency”. Reasons are humanitarian or natural disasters and war.

The White House and the Department of Defense did not respond immediately.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan announced by Biden earlier this year has been ravaged by chaos. Thousands of people poured into Kabul airport after the Taliban took over the city and secured control of the country last week.

US Defense officials say the military is looking for alternative ways to get Americans, Afghans and third-country nationals safely to the airport in Kabul following threats from the Islamic State. NBC News reports Saturday.

The US embassy in Afghanistan on Saturday warned US citizens should not travel to the airport “because of possible security threats at the gates of Kabul airport”.

A White House official told the press pool on Saturday that six U.S. military C-17s and 32 charter planes had left Kabul in the past 24 hours. The total number of passengers for these 38 flights is approximately 3,800. The White House official says the US has evacuated approximately 17,000 people since Aug. 14.

Several U.S. airlines volunteered earlier this week to help airlift evacuees, the person told CNBC.

The tender for the so-called CRAF flights was opened on Saturday and would be closed on Monday United Airlines Flight attendants, their union, the Association of Flight Attendants, wrote in a memo.

“In order for United to be prepared in the event that the US Department of Defense announces that United Airlines CRAF has been activated, offers for CRAF operations must be made immediately and over a very short period of time,” the statement said.