Canada Ends Evacuations From Afghanistan, Leaving People Behind

Government officials say some Canadians and their families are still trapped in Afghanistan’s capital as the Taliban solidifies control.
August 26, 2021, 4:28pm
People wanting to leave Afghanistan continue to wait around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Thursday.
People wanting to leave Afghanistan continue to wait around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Thursday. Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Canada’s military ended its evacuation of Canadians and Afghan civilians looking to flee the Taliban hours before two explosions rocked Kabul’s main airport, killing at least 11 people.

With six days to go before the U.S.’s planned withdrawal date from Afghanistan, Canada’s Immigration Department said in a notice obtained by CBC News that evacuation operations are done and, at the moment, no more flights are being planned.

The last flight left Afghanistan Thursday morning carrying most of Canada’s military personnel—and officials acknowledged they left Canadians and Afghans behind.

“The government of Canada recognizes that there are a number of people in Afghanistan including Canadian citizens, permanent residents, their families, and applicants under programs for Afghans,” the notice says. “Until such a time that the security situation stabilizes, be mindful of the security environment and, where possible, take the necessary steps to ensure your security and that of your family.”

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General Wayne Eyre, acting chief of Canada’s defence staff, told reporters on Thursday morning Canada evacuated roughly 3,700 people from Afghanistan—but officials said they’d received applications for 8,000 people. Two-thirds of them had already been processed, but the officials said there isn’t a tally for how many applicants didn’t make it out of Afghanistan.

The Taliban took Kabul less than two weeks ago after a weeks-long surge across the country. Afghan military and police personnel have told media outlets they are out of ammunition and undersupplied, although U.S. President Joe Biden has chided them for not fighting back.

Many Afghans are trying to flee the country because of the Taliban’s authoritarian and brutal rule. Between 1996 and 2001, the militant group severely limited the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, performed public executions and beatings, and engaged in massacres of religious communities across the country.

Evacuation efforts at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul over the past few weeks have been hectic and dangerous. In a now infamous video, hundreds of Afghans ran alongside a taxiing U.S. C-17 military plane. Several of them hung on to the outside of the plane and were later caught on video falling to their deaths. Two other Afghans were shot by U.S. forces. Over the span of a week, at least 20 people died in or around the airport, according to Reuters, as tens of thousands of civilians tried to escape Afghanistan’s new rulers.

Canada isn’t the only Western country ending its evacuation efforts. The Guardian reported Germany’s last military flights have left Kabul as of Thursday morning, as have airlifts from Belgium, Poland, and the Czech Republic. U.S. officials issued warnings about the likelihood of an imminent terror attack by ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s offshoot in Afghanistan, on the airport.

An emergency hospital in Kabul tweeted they were treating roughly 60 wounded people from the explosions, while a Taliban source told Al Jazeera that at least 11 people had been killed. The explosions took place at the airport’s Abbey gate, the main entrance to the airport, and the Barron Hotel—used by the U.K. as a base to remove civilians.  

Eyre said many of the Canadian military personnel who withdrew from Kabul will feel guilty about leaving people behind.

“Their pleas and the photos of the families in terrible situations that accompany many of them are heart wrenching,” he told reporters.

“They tear at our souls.”

Follow Brennan Doherty on Twitter.