Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s evacuation phase in Afghanistan will end “in coming days,” as Afghans continue to crowd the Kabul airport in a bid to flee the Taliban.
In the days ahead, Canada will do “absolutely everything we can” to get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, said the Liberal leader, who is seeking re-election.
“But once this evacuation phase is done, we’re not stopping our work. We’re going to continue with the international community to put pressure on the Taliban to ensure that people can leave the country. We will continue to work with neighbours and partners in the region to get more and more people to safety,” he said.
“Yes, in the coming days this phase will end, but there’s a lot more work to do that we will continue to do to keep helping the Afghan people.”
The United States has to be the last to leave Afghanistan, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed Wednesday, which means Canada will have to “drawdown” its own troops by that time, too.
And with the Americans’ Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline drawing near, Canada is rushing to get people to safety, according to Mr. Sajjan.
“We would have liked to have stayed beyond the 31st deadline, but as you know, this decision has been made by the Americans,” Mr. Sajjan said. “We will try to evacuate as many people until that time comes”
But the situation on the ground “is deteriorating rapidly,” warned Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau.
“The security risks associated with our efforts are rising as the final departure date approaches,” he said.
Mr. Garneau said Canada and the G7 will be laying down markers for the Taliban in talks that will take place over the coming days to impress upon the regime that it must not block Afghans from leaving the country.
“We are working together to develop the necessary approach that we will take towards this Taliban regime in the coming days and put down in front of them very important markers with respect to how they have to treat Afghans who want to leave the country,” Mr. Garneau explained.
“There will be discussions with the Taliban; they are the regime that is in place in the country. And all of this will unfold in the coming days.”
During the same press conference, Canada also confirmed its largest evacuation from Afghanistan to date, with 535 people crowding onboard a plane that left the Kabul airport on Tuesday.
“Canada has significantly accelerated the speed with which we have been able to get people out of Afghanistan,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, who is seeking re-election.
Still, the evacuation effort is “racing against the clock,” Mr. Garneau said.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he will stick to his Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, despite urging from allied leaders to extend the evacuation effort. The decision came as the Taliban warned they viewed the deadline as a “red line.”
Because the Americans are leading the 13-nation air bridge that allows Afghans to fly out of the Kabul airport, their withdrawal will mean everyone else will have to end their missions, according to Mr. Sajjan.
“Drawing down a mission takes a considerable amount of time. It’s not done overnight and it comes with significant risk. As the Americans finalize their drawdown to meet their deadline, partner nations including Canada must draw down our troops, assets and aircraft ahead of the Americans,” he explained.
“Though the situation is challenging, we remain dedicated to evacuating as many people as we can. In the limited time we have left, this means more Canadians and vulnerable Afghans will be evacuated.”
Canada has pledged to bring over 20,000 people from Afghanistan into the country.
This content is also available in: Tiếng Việt