Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday July 15, 2021
‘They want to annihilate us’: Afghan interpreter who helped Canada says life in danger from Taliban
Local interpreters who worked with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are pleading for Canada’s help in immigrating after the U.S. military’s withdrawal has led to a resurgence of the Taliban.
Nearly all U.S. combat forces have left Afghanistan ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s confirmation that the American military operation in the country will officially end August 31, nearly 20 years since the Taliban was removed from power in Kabul.
News of the U.S troops’ departure, and their subsequent overnight abandonment of the Bagram Air Base, has spurred the Taliban to resurge and take back control of significant amounts of territory, capturing Spin Boldak – a strategic border with Pakistan – and one that Canadians fought and died to protect.
“We were there to do the fighting in the initial stages to help stabilize the situation [and] we did that,” Ret. Maj-Gen. David Fraser told CTV News. “We couldn’t stay there forever, as much as people wanted.”
Now as the Taliban nears Kabul, and has overtaken Kandahar’s Panjwai District, Ottawa has confirmed that it will continue sending humanitarian and developmental aid to Afghanistan – but for the interpreters left behind by Canadian, NATO and U.S. forces, time is running out to get them and their families to safety.
Many NATO allies like France and Germany have already begun or completed evacuations of the Afghans who have helped in various missions — Biden announced that the U.S. “Operation Allies Refuge” flights out of Afghanistan during the last week of July will be available for special immigrant visa applicants already in the process of applying to U.S. residency.
Canada, however, has not announced a similar endeavour.
At a press conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of Canada’s duty to the interpreters overseas that Ottawa will “continue to work to ensure that we’re providing the right path.”
“I can assure you that our ministers are working on it,” he continued.
But critics say there is not enough federal action on the crisis.
Former Canadian major-generals submitted an open letter to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino last week, warning that 115 former interpreters, cultural advisors and other locals and their families will face reprisals from the Taliban for helping Canadian troops and diplomats.
They called for the government to expedite the immigration process to bring them and their families to Canada, a sentiment echoed by a letter-writing campaign from Canadian veterans who also want to see the government “do right” by those who helped the troops overseas. (CTV)