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FAA Approves Civil Flights By U.S. Aircraft Into Afghanistan

The move appears to be purely strategic at this point, though it hints at future plans.

US airlines approved for evacuations, but Afghans die trying to reach Kabul airport. (Photo courtesy of France 24 – Twitter).
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The FAA on Wednesday approved civilian flights to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan for civil United States aircraft, though only when they have approval from the United States Department of Defense (DoD).

The approval is most unusual, and observers believe that the FAA must be in discussions with both the Department of Defense and United States civil airlines regarding the use of airliners for the evacuation of Afghani allies who fear retribution under the rule of the Taliban, who swept into Kabul far faster than the Administration had expected them to, greatly complicating evacuation efforts by the Air Force.

It’s not clear wether U.S .airliners would be approved for carrying larger numbers of passengers than they are normally approved to carry, where those flights from Kabul would terminate and how those passengers would be processed once they land.

And while the FAA gave blanket approval to civilian flights into Kabul with DoD authorization, it’s unlikely that private aircraft will be used in any evacuation effort. Afghanistan is so isolated both graphically and politically that flying small planes to the country is a practical impossibility.

Evacuations from the international airport have been tragic and chaotic. Afghanis fleeing the Taliban breached the airport perimeter fences and stormed the ramp on the United States’ side trying desperately to climb aboard taxiing aircraft, even hanging on while those aircraft took off, with predictably horrific results.

One flight, of a C-17 transport, took off with more than 600 afghani refugees aboard. Overall, the United States has been able to evacuate just under 2,000 Afghani allies over the past three days. So it’s possible that an airlift utilizing civilian airline aircraft is in the planning stages.

The Biden administration has come under strong criticism from both sides of the aisle for its handling of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Biden has defended his Administration’s actions, arguing that the lightning-fast sweep of the Taliban through Afghanistan was clear evidence that the war was unwinnable and that withdrawal at any point would be chaotic and highly problematic, as it has proven to be.

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