Canada and its allies say they will hold the Taliban to a pledge to allow all foreign nationals, as well as Afghan citizens with travel authorization from other countries, to leave Afghanistan.
The pledge was described in a joint statement issued Sunday by the United States, Canada and other countries. It highlighted private and public assurances from Taliban officials and underlined that the 90 countries who signed expect the Taliban to live up to the commitment.
“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” said the statement, circulated by Global Affairs Canada.
Despite the statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that Canada is not relying on the Taliban’s promise of safe passage.
“We remain committed, and resolute, to continuing to get as many people to safety in Canada as possible,” Mr. Trudeau said.
“We don’t take them for their word, but we will continue to put pressure on them to make sure that through the coming weeks and months we are continuing to be able to get Afghans to safety in Canada.”
The Taliban were known for brutal repression when they last ruled Afghanistan two decades ago. But they have in recent weeks pledged moderation, in an apparent bid to reassure foreign powers and win legitimacy with them.
The hard-line group has said it will respect women’s rights within the parameters of Islamic law and offer amnesty to those who worked for the country’s Western-backed government. But many Afghans continue to fear Taliban retribution, and there have been reports of violence in Taliban-controlled areas.
Canada’s last evacuation flight from Kabul took place on Thursday. The U.S. military, which had secured the city’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable those flights, is scheduled to leave on Tuesday.
It is unclear how many people eligible to come to Canada have been left behind. About 8,000 Afghans applied for resettlement here, and Ottawa has said it was able to evacuate 3,200 people. But it is unknown how many were bound for Canada, because several allied countries have been pooling flight efforts.
In a statement Sunday, Global Affairs said it is working to determine how many Canadian citizens and permanent residents remain in Afghanistan, as Canada co-operates with its allies to support them.
The government has e-mailed and texted people who did not get out of Afghanistan before the end of Canada’s rescue flights, telling them to shelter in place while it examines other means of extracting them, including ways to get them to third countries.
Canadian pressure, it appears, is being voiced mainly via the United States. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said last week that Canada is not communicating directly with the Taliban, but the U.S. is.
During an interview Sunday on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live, Mr. Garneau said leverage against the Taliban is largely economic, because Afghanistan has relied on foreign assistance, including from Canada.
“There’s all sorts of leverage with respect to the Taliban, who are now confronting the fact they are in charge, and they are going to make the country,” he said.
The minister acknowledged criticism that Canada could have moved faster and had more people on the ground to facilitate the evacuation. But he noted that Canada is among several countries that did not anticipate the speed of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
“We accept the criticism that has come,” he said. “We’re focused on the future now.”
The U.S. has confirmed to reporters that it has begun to withdraw troops from Kabul’s airport. The Taliban has said it stands ready to take control of the airport once the U.S. drawdown is complete.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche, a newspaper, that France and Britain will make a proposal to an emergency United Nations meeting on Monday for the creation of a safe zone in Kabul, for use in continuing humanitarian operations.
Last week, Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole said Canada should rededicate itself to working with Afghanistan’s neighbours, as well as allies such as India, to establish humanitarian and refugee corridors.
Mr. O’Toole also said a Conservative government would provide political and material support to Afghans resisting the Taliban occupation. He described material support as intelligence, logistics and satellite imaging.
Mr. O’Toole has yet to comment on whether Canada should hold talks with the Taliban.
In an interview with CTV on Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh ruled out negotiations with the Taliban, and said he would encourage Canada to continue with our allies “to find ways to ensure that everyone gets evacuated” from Afghanistan.
Andrew Rusk, the co-founder of Not Left Behind, an organization recently formed to advocate for the evacuation of Afghans who worked for Canada’s military or diplomats, said he supports negotiations with the Taliban.
In a statement, he said Canada has a moral responsibility to protect former Afghan interpreters and support workers, who are in immediate danger because of their previous work with Canada.
“We have a duty to explore all options for their safe rescue, including indirect and direct diplomatic communication with Afghanistan’s new government,” said Mr. Rusk, whose sister-in-law was Captain Nichola Goddard, the first woman to die in a combat role with the Canadian military.
With a report from Reuters.
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