The Latest: Pentagon asks airlines for help moving evacuees; 7 Afghans killed


In this image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, a Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) plays with children waiting to process during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)

(AP) — The Pentagon said Sunday that it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have gotten out of their country.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has activated the initial stage of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, asking for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation.

According to Kirby, those aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. They will be used to move passengers from way stations once they leave Kabul, allowing the U.S. military to focus on the Afghanistan portion of the evacuation.

The U.S. military says an Afghan woman gave birth aboard an Air Force C-17 that flew from the Middle East to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The base is being used as a transit post for people being evacuated from Afghanistan.

The military’s Air Mobility Command tweeted that the mother began having complications during the flight Saturday. It says: “The aircraft commander decided to descend in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilize and save the mother’s life.”

On arrival at Ramstein, U.S. medical personnel came aboard and delivered the child in the aircraft’s cargo bay. “The baby girl and mother were transported to a nearby medical facility and are in good condition,” the military said.

Spain’s government says that Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez have agreed that the Rota and Morón military bases in Spain used by U.S. forces will temporarily take in Afghans who worked for the Americans and fear Taliban reprisals.

One Spanish plane carrying 64 people who worked for the U.S. landed late Saturday at Spain’s Torrejón air base near Madrid.

Additionally, Spain has received another 230 evacuees this week from Kabul, mostly Afghans who worked for Spain and for the European Union. Fifty-five of these evacuees have already flown on to other EU countries.

Tony Blair, the British prime minister who deployed troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago after the 9/11 attacks, says the U.S. decision to leave has “every Jihadist group round the world cheering.”

In a lengthy essay posted on his website late Saturday, Blair said the decision to withdraw troops was “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary.” He added that Britain has a “moral obligation” to stay until “all those who need to be are evacuated.”

He said the exit was not in the West or Afghanistan’s interest, with the Taliban reasserting itself across most of the country.

He also warned that the decision by the U.S. to keep Britain largely in the dark about the withdrawal risks relegating the country to “the second division of global powers.”

Blair accused U.S. President Joe Biden of making the decision on the back of “an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’.”

The British military says seven Afghan civilians have been killed in the crowds near Kabul’s international airport amid the chaos of those fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday that “conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”

The airport has been the focal point for thousands trying to flee the Taliban, who swept into Kabul a week ago after their lightning advance seized the country.

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