OTTAWA – The Canadian military will begin completing its mission before the August 31 deadline set by the United States to end its mission at Kabul airport, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said on Wednesday.
Sajjan said this is because the United States is leading the mission and providing security and therefore its force, about 6,000 personnel, should be the last to leave the airport. This means that Canadian special forces and airmen should begin preparing for departure well in advance.
Canada is using two C-17 transport planes to airlift Afghans to safety, and is one of 13 countries participating in the airlift. It also has Special Forces personnel on the ground working outside airport limits waiting for flights from Afghans to flee.
“It takes a lot of time to prepare a mission. It is not done overnight and it comes with considerable risk,” said the gentleman, but declined to give specifics.
“We are dedicated to evacuating as many people as possible in the limited time we have left.”
Canada’s evacuation efforts have accelerated significantly over the past three days, with 506 people on board a flight on Monday, nearly half of whom were children, and a record 535 people on a flight on Tuesday.
Sajjan was one of four ministers briefing reporters on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan as the country’s recent collapse helped Canada, the United States and their NATO allies to fully evacuate all foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans. The frantic effort continues.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada’s commitment to helping Afghans would continue after the military withdrawal from abroad.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his fellow G7 leaders at their virtual summit on Tuesday were not able to persuade President Joe Biden to extend the US deadline for a return.
Foreign Minister Mark Garneau said the security situation was deteriorating.
Garneau said Canada and the G7 countries would set markers for talks in the coming days for the Taliban to impress upon the regime that it should not stop Afghans from leaving the country.
“We are working together in the coming days to develop the necessary approach to this Taliban regime and to lay before them very important markers regarding their dealings with Afghans wishing to leave the country.” Garneau explained.
“There will be discussions with the Taliban; They are the regimes that exist in the country. And all this will come to the fore in the coming days.”