Private US Relief Plane Lands in Kabul
By Martin Arostegui
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
For the first time in almost thirty years, a commercial 747 aircraft has landed at Kabul International Airport. It was neither hijacked, bombed, nor crashed. The aircraft, flown by Evergreen Airlines, carried desperately needed humanitarian supplies for Afghanistan Relief Organization which is helping to feed millions of displaced people and refugees.
“It’s very emotional to be back here after twenty years,” said the plane’s pilot Golum Husaim, an Afghan American who volunteered to fly the relief mission, which was considered highly dangerous. “I hope that this is the first of many more humanitarian flights I will be taking to Afghanistan and that other airlines will also volunteer to fly relief supplies”.
Evergreen, an Oregon based commercial airline specializing in cargo flights, has extensive experience in war-torn areas, such as South East Asia. They teamed up with Afghanistan Relief, a Los Angeles relief organization, to bring thousands of pounds of relief supplies to Afghanistan. The cost of the flight is estimated at $600,000.
Most international airlines have been refusing to fly into Afghanistan where factional warfare and U.S. airstrikes against Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist holdouts continue.
Soldiers from the British RAF, New Zealand, Norway, and Spain, who work together at Kabul Airport as part of the U.N. mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, unloaded the plane together with employees of Evergreen, Afghan Relief, and Northern Alliance soldiers.
Waseel Azizi, Director of Humanitarian Aid Operations for Evergreen, told UPI, “the 747 flight was donated by Evergreen to showcase America’s support for the Afghan people in the hope that other U.S. airlines will follow suit”.
Azizi points out that this is the first time a US aircraft has flown a relief mission into Kabul Airport since the war on terrorism began. Kabul airport has been closed to most commercial traffic since the U.S. bombing began after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The airport reopened only a month ago.
Afghanistan Relief says that it has teamed with Evergreen to deliver food, medical supplies, school supplies, and clothing that will reach out to the remote regions of Afghanistan that many NGOs cannot access due to security concerns.
Abul Khalili, a resident of Los Angeles and founder of AfghanRelief.com, points out that, “everything on the plane is donated by Americans to help those who suffered from 23 years of war. We never brought aid to the enemies of the United States, like the Taliban.”
Khalili works as a volunteer, giving one hundred percent of the donations he receives to the Afghan people. He takes no salary, does not drive a fancy SUV, nor does he have a paid staff. He says his streamlined operation gets relief to the needy, “without bureaucratic waste or fat.”
AfghanRelief.com delivered more food and supplies directly to Afghan refugees during the first two months of bombing, than any other NGO, often entering areas so sieged by war that other relief organizations were prohibited from going in.
Khalili and Azizi worked for three months to obtain clearances and landing permission for the flight. It took Afghans, Americans, and ISAF more than six hours to off-load the aircraft and reload it onto trucks destined for regions throughout Afghanistan.