Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will push other G7 countries to consider new sanctions against the Taliban when the group of advanced economies meets virtually Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who currently leads the G7 – which also includes the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – called the meeting Sunday to respond to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Mr. Johnson plans to push for further economic sanctions and to stop humanitarian aid if the hard-line Islamist rulers commit human-rights abuses and allow the country to be used as a haven for terrorists.
Mr. Trudeau told reporters Monday that he will participate in the meeting and supports Mr. Johnson’s plan to clamp down on the Taliban.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if he also favoured economic sanctions. “First of all, the Taliban are already recognized under Canadian law as a terrorist entity. When we have our G7 meeting shortly, we will certainly be discussing what more we can do and must do.”
On Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden also backed Britain’s push for sanctions, particularly if the Taliban violate human rights. “The answer is yes,” Mr. Biden said. “It depends on the conduct.”
At an election campaign stop in Halifax, Mr. Trudeau sidestepped questions about whether the U.S. President was to blame for the chaos that has followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S., Canada and other Western countries were not prepared for the Taliban’s takeover of the country, which has seen tens of thousands flee to the crowded Kabul airport for evacuation flights.
Instead, Mr. Trudeau said the “entire focus of the Canadian government right now is getting people out to safety as quickly as possible.” He also declined to say if he would ask Mr. Biden to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the airport.
On Sunday, Mr. Biden said the U.S. military was considering extending the deadline – but he hoped that would not be necessary.
The U.S. has carried out helicopter rescue operations to bring people to the airport, while British and French special forces have conducted rescue missions in Kabul.
Canadian special forces soldiers “have been and continue to work outside the confines” of the airport to help eligible evacuees make it through the security gates, military officials disclosed to reporters Monday morning.
However, Not Left Behind, a group of Canadian veterans and volunteers trying to evacuate Afghan interpreters and other workers who supported Canada’s military and diplomatic efforts, argue that Canadian soldiers should mount missions to help people in Kabul get to the airport.
“While other countries have taken steps to help their citizens safely travel to the Kabul airport, Canadian applicants have been told to fend for themselves,” the group said in a statement Sunday. “France sent buses and the United States sent helicopters to help their applicants. Canada sent e-mails.“
In Halifax, Mr. Trudeau insisted the Immigration Department is working around the clock to give people “accurate information so they can get out to safety” and “our forces on the ground have all the necessary authorizations to do what they feel is necessary to save as many people as quickly as possible.”
On Sunday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canadian special forces have the “flexibility” to rescue Canadians, Afghan interpreters and support staff, bring them to the airport and put them on evacuation flights.
The government announced Sunday that more than 1,100 people had been airlifted out of Kabul since Aug. 4, when Canada began evacuations; 121 were flown out Saturday aboard a Canadian Forces Globemaster transport aircraft.
There have been complaints that people have not been able to find any Canadian Forces personnel at the airport, but Mr. Sajjan insisted soldiers are present at all the entry points.
There has also been frustration with bureaucratic red tape, including requirements for documents such as passports, which most Afghans do not have.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Sunday that Taliban checkpoints on the road to the airport “make getting this done perilous.”
He urged people in safe houses to wait until they receive either a phone call or text to proceed to the airport.
After the fall of Kabul, Canada did not renew evacuation flights until late Thursday. Many of the people airlifted out since then are Afghans destined for other Western countries as part of a reciprocal agreement to share space on flights.
Canada is trying to rescue 6,000 support staff and their families before the Aug. 31 deadline and the end of evacuation flights. Mr. Trudeau has said many of those people will have to leave Afghanistan for a third-party country to apply for resettlement in Canada.
Another 15,000 Afghans living in refugee camps elsewhere are also eligible for resettlement in Canada.
With files from Reuters
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