Canada to send special forces to Afghanistan to evacuate Kabul embassy amid advancing Taliban, joining US and UK deployments – .

Canada to send special forces to Afghanistan to evacuate Kabul embassy amid advancing Taliban, joining US and UK deployments – .

Canadian special forces monitor a Peshmerga observation post on February 20, 2017 in northern Iraq.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

Canadian special forces will deploy to Afghanistan where staff at the Canadian embassy in Kabul will be evacuated before the shutdown, a source familiar with the plan told The Associated Press.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify how many special forces would be sent.

Just weeks before the United States ended its war in Afghanistan, the Biden administration also sent 3,000 fresh troops to Kabul airport to help with a partial evacuation of the American embassy.

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The moves highlight the astonishing speed of a Taliban takeover of much of the country, including their capture on Thursday of Kandahar, the second largest city and the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Britain also announced Thursday that it will send around 600 troops to Afghanistan to help British nationals leave the country amid growing concerns over the security situation. And Danish lawmakers agreed to evacuate 45 Afghan citizens who worked for the Danish government in Afghanistan and offer them residency in the European country for two years.

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Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan for 13 years as part of the NATO mission before withdrawing in 2014.

The first plane of Afghan refugees who supported the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan arrived in Canada earlier this month. The Canadian government announced last month a special program to urgently resettle Afghans considered integral to the mission of the Canadian Armed Forces, including interpreters, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers, security guards and embassy staff, as well as members of their families.

Retired Corporal Tim Laidler, who was one of many Canadian veterans working to help former interpreters and their families come to Canada, expressed concern on Thursday over the announcement of the closure of the embassy.

Laidler, who now heads the Institute for Veterans Education and Transition at the University of British Columbia, said he was aware of hundreds of Afghans trapped in Kabul who worked with Canada and asked for help and desperate to escape the Taliban.

Laidler expressed concern that Canada would “cut off and flee” from Afghanistan, leaving the interpreters and their families behind.

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“IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) must reassure that it will continue to process the documents,” Laidler told The Canadian Press.

A Canadian Special Forces soldier, left, chats with Peshmerga Captain Omar Mohammed Dhyab, second from left, and other fighters at an observation post February 20, 2017 in northern Iraq .

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

The office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino did not immediately respond to questions Thursday evening.

Ciara Trudeau, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said Canada is continuously monitoring developments in Afghanistan, but for security reasons it cannot comment on specific operational issues of its missions to abroad.

“Minister (Marc) Garneau is in close coordination with our allies and with our ambassador in Afghanistan,” she said Thursday evening in an email.

“Canada continues to work with its international partners on contingency planning, including for the ongoing work on the implementation of the Special Immigration Measures program.

“The security of the Canadian Embassy and the safety of our staff in Kabul is our top priority.

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The US State Department said in a statement that US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met separately Thursday with Garneau, German Foreign Minister and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg to discuss the plans of the United States aimed at reducing its civilian footprint in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation.

The State Department said in an account of the discussions that Blinken stressed that the United States remains committed to maintaining a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Afghan government and to working with its allies.

“During each call, Secretary Blinken and his counterpart exchanged views on the security environment in Afghanistan, the immediate urgency to stem the violence and the ongoing diplomatic efforts,” the text said. “Secretary Blinken affirmed that the United States remains committed to supporting a political solution to the conflict. “

The Canadian government has said more than 800 Afghans who supported the mission have been resettled in Canada over the past decade, but recognizes that many more remain in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, who ruled the country from 1996 until the invasion of US forces after the 9/11 attacks, captured 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a week-long sweep that took them gave effective control of about two-thirds of the country. .

The capture of Kandahar and Herat is the biggest reward to date for the Taliban. Canada’s former military mission was based in Kandahar.

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– With files from The Canadian Press

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