After caretaker Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasised on Tuesday that Canada was “ready to stay” in Afghanistan beyond August 31 to rescue those seeking to flee, it appears that the country’s evacuation mission there will actually cease in less than 24 hours.
On Wednesday, the news outlet Globe and Mail reported that the last Canadian aircraft involved in evacuations from Kabul airport will depart on Thursday.
Canada announced an expansive plan to bring in 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan under a special immigration plan, but the actual figure may be closer to 3,000, if the mission ends this week.
The early departure from Kabul may be predicated on the United States sticking to an August 31 withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan. Outgoing Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters that as “Americans draw down to meet their deadline, partner nations, including Canada, must draw down our troops, assets and aircraft ahead of the Americans”.
He said these “moves are necessary for the US to safely maintain control of the airport until they depart”.
Sajjan did not specify a date, but his cabinet colleague, Afghan-origin women and gender equality minister Maryam Monsef faced flak for issuing an appeal to the Taliban, describing them “our brothers” and calling upon them “to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country”.
Monsef, herself a refugee, clarified using the phrase “our brothers” was a “cultural reference” but was criticised for using such terminology.
However, she asserted the Taliban was a “terrorist group” and asked the new Kabul regime “to immediately cease the violence, the femicide, the genocide, the rapes, the lootings and to return immediately to the peace negotiation table in an inclusive and meaningful way”.
The situation unfolding in Afghanistan is increasingly a factor as Federal elections on September 20 approach. A poll by the agency Leger for the outlet National Post found that 65% of those sampled following developments “closely” and 54% of the opinion the government should have acted “quicker”.