Qatar’s military and state-owned airline are helping the U.S. military and American air carriers fly Afghanistan evacuees between the Middle East and Europe, according to U.S. officials.
While the flights are not part of the U.S. airline mobilization ordered earlier this week, they are being coordinated by the U.S. Air Force, officials said.
As of Wednesday morning, U.S. allies had flown 16,700 evacuees out of Kabul over the past two days, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. military had flown 23,900 evacuees over the same two-day period.
“In all, more than two dozen countries on four continents are contributing to the effort to transit or temporarily house or resettle those who are evacuating,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Wednesday. “That didn’t just happen. It’s the product of an intense diplomatic effort to secure, detail and implement transit agreements and resettlement commitments. We are deeply grateful to those countries for their generous assistance.”
Qatar is home to Al Udeid Air Base, a sprawling military complex outside of Doha that houses thousands of American troops and is home to U.S. Central Command’s air operations center, which oversees military aircraft throughout the Middle East. Over the years, the U.S. has based cargo planes, fighters, bombers, and intelligence aircraft at the base.
U.S. and coalition military planes have largely been flying evacuees between Kabul and Al Udeid. The evacuees are given an additional screening there and then are put on flights to points west, including Ramstein Air Base in Germany, before eventually getting to the United States.
The Qatar Airways and Qatari military aircraft “are helping move qualified evacuees from Qatar to Ramstein,” Maj. Hope Cronin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Mobility Command, said Wednesday.
While U.S. officials did not disclose the types of aircraft being used, Qatar Airways Boeing 777 aircraft have appeared on flight tracking websites flying between Ramstein and Doha. Meanwhile, a Qatar air force C-17 flew from Doha to Rome late Wednesday.
The U.S. Transportation Command, which is overseeing evacuation flights, referred all questions about the Qatar Airways flights to the State Department, which did not respond to a request for comment. Qatar Airways and the Qatar Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Transportation Command activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet on Sunday, giving the military access to 18 aircraft flown by U.S. airlines and charter carriers. Those aircraft have been flying daily between Qatar and Europe and Europe and the United States.
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