Terry Glavin: As Afghanistan descends into civil war, Canada should rescue its friends

Urgently, we should work to save the Afghans who worked with Canada’s diplomats and soldiers before the Taliban assassins found and killed them.

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It’s not like no one saw it coming.

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It all started with Hamid Karzai, the first Afghan president after September 11, who always begged the Taliban, his “brothers”, his Pashtun compatriots, his “sons of the land”, to speak of peace. The surviving resistance leaders during the Taliban’s dark years have warned loud and clear that any effort to come to terms with Mullah Omar’s mass killers will end in disaster.

Over the years, among Afghans, the vague idea of ​​peace talks has been repeatedly dismissed as dangerous folly. The Afghan Women’s Network has said so. Legendary Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh said so. Even Burhanuddin Rabbani, who headed the Afghan High Peace Council before the Taliban assassinated him, said so.

But the wisdom received in NATO capitals claimed to know better. Former US President Barack Obama thought he knew better. Obama’s successor Donald Trump has claimed that his February 2020 surrender to the Taliban would ensure peaceful reconciliation between the tenuous democratic government of Ashraf Ghani in Kabul and the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban, comfortably domiciled in Quetta, Pakistan.

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President Joe Biden entered this fantasy world with a determination that anticipated a full American withdrawal by September 11 of this year, which quickly accelerated to the goal of having American troops before the end. summer, and all NATO forces with them.

“If the foreign forces leave the country without making a positive change in the security situation, two results can be predicted,” Herat lawmaker Ahmad Shah Behzad predicted ten years ago. “First civil war and regional instability, and second the rule of the Taliban.”

Training over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police was never going to be enough, so we arrived at Behzad stadium, although it can be said that the order seems to have been reversed. The rule of the Taliban has already spread to much of the country. The Taliban have taken control of most of the Afghan border posts. And a bloody civil war is already in sight. The Afghan national army does not appear to be fighting, and in the vast western regions of the country, warlord Herati Ismail Khan is already mobilizing hundreds of his Shiite fighters to defend the province against the supremacist Sunni talibés. On the eastern border, Pakistani Major-General Babar Iftikhar said an Afghan civil war could easily spread across the border into Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal areas. As for “regional stability”, senior Pakistani security adviser Moeed Yusuf said the unrest in Afghanistan was now “beyond Pakistan’s control.”

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  1. Then-Brigadier General David Fraser was escorted to a village during a visit to Afghanistan's Shah Wali Kot area in 2006.

    “Time is running out”: Canada rushes to save Afghan allies as Taliban regain control

  2. Minister of International Development Karina Gould.

    Canada to help Afghanistan after US troop withdrawal next month, Minister says

Two of Canada’s most astute observers of Afghanistan’s cultural terrain and Canada’s role in UN efforts to secure gains from embryonic democracy in Afghanistan say little is left for Canadians can do. We need to maintain our humanitarian aid commitments for as long as possible, certainly. But more urgently, Ottawa should move to rescue the Afghans who worked with Canada’s diplomats and soldiers before Taliban assassins found and killed them.

Retired Canadian Forces Major Quentin Innis spent years in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Kabul between 2006 and 2014. He works with a network of veterans to convince Ottawa to mount a rescue operation for approximately 100 Afghans, mainly interpreters, and their families. Sean Maloney, professor of history at the Royal Military College of Canada, was the Canadian Forces columnist for the Canadian missions in Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of 158 soldiers.

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Innis and Maloney say it’s not enough for Ottawa to say, well, we already had a program in place to allow Afghan staff to emigrate to Canada and others can claim refugee status if they wish. Canada must mount a rescue operation, and fast.

In 2011, when the last Canadian troops returned home, a special federal program had enabled approximately 800 interpreters to emigrate and settle in Canada. But there are many that have remained. Innis and his network have identified a hundred former employees who want to leave now that the Taliban is approaching.

“The devil is in the details, but it’s possible,” Innis told me. “You reinstate the program, re-authorize the program, put the capacity in the embassy and treat the people who come in. Once you have critical mass, you put them on a plane and you fly them. These are operations we have trained for. These are non-combatant evacuation operations. We train for them all the time.

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Maloney said Ottawa must act now and stop the “tap dancing” around the issue.

As Taliban fighters fought from district to district in and around Kandahar City on Tuesday, a former Canadian Forces interpreter boarded a bus bound for Kandahar Airport. The bus had to turn around. “I’m in sporadic contact with him and he’s trying to get out, and if the Taliban find out who he is, they’re going to kill him,” Maloney said. “If anyone deserves to go out, it’s him. I’ve known him since 2003. The interpreter had already paid for his plane ticket to Kabul, “but it looks like they closed the airport. The Taliban are trying to cut off the city.

The push to save Canada’s former Afghan staff has won support from both Conservatives and New Democrats.

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The only thing that was not so easy to predict was the collapse of the country at such lightning speed. In the years leading up to Trump’s surrender, jihadist forces in Afghanistan were in disarray. Al Qaeda was in fragments, the old Taliban had fractured, the Islamic State in Khorasan province was a tangle of factions, and Pakistan – which had been waging a proxy war against Afghanistan all this time. – was losing control.

But Trump’s Doha deal gave the green light to Pakistan’s dark intelligence service, ISI, and announcing Biden’s withdrawal was an open invitation. “Afghanistan is undergoing a slow-motion invasion by Pakistan,” Innis says. Said Maloney, “These new fighters, they don’t even look Afghan. They’re younger, and someone in Pakistan kind of welded all of these pieces together and made it possible for them.

Whatever the fate of the country, Maloney and Innis say, Canada’s honor is on the line and the lives of these Afghan interpreters and diplomats are on the line.

And we have to act fast.

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