TORONTO — With the U.S. deadline for evacuation from Afghanistan fast approaching, the situation is becoming more urgent at Kabul airport for those hoping to come to Canada.
“It’s not what the Canadians decided, it is what the U.S. has decided and what will be the impact on the rest of us, and all indications are this air-bridge is not going to stay open much longer,” retired Major-General David Fraser, a former NATO commander, told CTV News.
U.S. President Joe Biden was pressured in a G7 meeting Tuesday to seek an extension to the Aug. 31 deadline for exiting Afghanistan. But Taliban spokespeople stated on the same day that they would not allow an extension.
If evacuation flights to Canada end within days, thousands could be left behind.
Among them will be five children of a former interpreter with the Canadian forces, if they can’t get to the gate on time.
“We don’t want to lose our children, we don’t want to lose our lives,” an Afghan at risk told CTV News. “If the Canadian government does not focus on that, if they don’t provide us a safe path, we are going to die, I am sure of that.”
And Canadian troops on the ground may not have much leeway to help beyond their orders.
In a video that appears to have been shot by Afghans waiting for aid, soldiers were seen sitting on a wall with their backs turned, just outside the Kabul airport gates.
The man filming alleged that the soldiers were Canadian soldiers, and were not helping Afghans enter the airport.
“Nobody is talking to us, we have documents, we have VISAs,” said the man filming.
The crisis in Afghanistan has become a central question of the federal election campaign. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been accused of focusing on his campaign rather than this pressing refugee crisis.
”Business of government continues, I get updates every single day on the situation in Afghanistan,” Trudeau said Tuesday. “Our officials are extraordinary heroic Canadian Forces service women, men … women and men are on the ground working incredibly hard to do everything we can to get people out alongside our allies.”
Since Aug. 4, Canada has flown approximately 1,355 people out of Afghanistan.
A plane touched down in Toronto tonight.
“I have very happy news— they finally made it out,” Maryam Sahar told CTV News on Tuesday, ahead of seeing her family.
Sahar’s mother and two brothers are among the lucky ones who have made it to Canada, though the former interpreter says a bureaucratic hurdle at the Kabul airport nearly derailed their escape.
“I got a call they were not [letting] my 12-year-old brother on the flight because he did not have a VISA,” Sahar told CTV News.
She says other families were also told they would be separated, and that minors without VISAs would have to be left behind.
In the end, Sahar’s family was able to board together, headed for a reunion on Canadian soil that was a decade in the making.
“Ten years,” Sahar said. “Long time. I don’t know how I am going to react at the airport, it is going to be very emotional.”
But now, it’s unsure how many more happy reunions will be able to occur.
And even more up in the air is what Canada will do to try and help the thousands left behind once evacuation flights are grounded.