A B.C. veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan is slamming the federal government’s beleaguered efforts to evacuate Afghans who helped Canada, as the Taliban solidifies control in the country.
“Ineptitude. They’ve been warned about this for months. Years, actually,” said Cpl. Trevor Street (Ret.), who was in Afghanistan in 2006 and again in 2009-2010 with the Seaforth Highlanders.
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“The veterans community have been screaming at them about this, to get our people out, that they will face reprisals. And nothing was done until the very last minute.”
Canada has vowed to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday the country’s evacuation efforts will end “in the coming days.”
The U.S. has announced it will stick to its Aug. 31 deadline to leave the country, ending the 13-nation air bridge evacuating people.
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Trudeau, who is seeking re-election, said Canada would continue to work with the international community after that date to pressure the Taliban and get as many people to safety as possible.
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Street said he believes those efforts leave much to be desired, and are an affront to Afghans who put their lives on the line to support Canada and coalition forces during the war.
“We have a duty of care to these people,” he said.
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“My greatest fear in this situation would be of course mass, systemic killing of these people. It may not happen right away, but revenge is something that is very high on the Taliban’s priority list, even when there is no strategic value,” he added.
“I think these people that are left behind, one by one they’ll be identified, drawn into some kangaroo court on trumped up charges, and they’ll be executed.”
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It’s not only the people who worked directly with coalition forces who are at risk, he said, but their entire families who could face reprisal as well.
On Tuesday, Canada flew its largest cohort of evacuees yet out of the country, airlifting 535 people on a single crowded flight.
The effort, however, was slow to get off the ground. Trudeau has blamed the Taliban for preventing people from getting to the airfield, but some who are working on the ground in Afghanistan say a lack of information is also causing problems.
With the clock ticking down, Street said Canada has a moral duty to save as many Afghans collaborators as it can.
“We should have extracted these people long ago, along with their families,” he said.
“We’re the second largest country in the world, no one can tell me we don’t have room for them.”
– With files from Rumina Daya
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