After the Americans’ August 31 deadline for troop withdrawal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is prepared to keep its military personnel in Afghanistan.
Trudeau made the declaration after participating in a virtual session with other G7 leaders today to discuss the issue and the Taliban’s re-emergence as the country’s rulers.
“If at all possible, Canada is willing to extend the deadline beyond August 31. Following the discussion, he stated, “We want to save as many individuals as possible.”
Going into the meeting, Trudeau had played his cards close to his chest on whether he wanted the G7 to push for an extension of the American military commitment to Afghanistan.
U.S. President Joe Biden had been expected to face calls from some fellow leaders in the special virtual G7 meeting to extend the U.S. military commitment to the country beyond his Aug. 31 deadline.
All Trudeau would say before the meeting was that he was looking forward to a discussion on how to protect as many people as possible.
“Obviously, the conversation will continue with our allies,” the Liberal party leader said when asked about the issue at an early morning federal campaign stop in Hamilton.
“I’m looking forward to talking about what more we can do and whether and how we can make sure we’re protecting as many people as possible.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the summit, and France’s Emmanuel Macron were among those calling for an extension in order to more fully evacuate all foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans who helped the Americans and the NATO allies before the country’s recent fall to the Taliban.
Canada is one of a dozen allied countries taking part in the evacuation of people facing Taliban reprisals from Kabul’s chaotic airport, which American-led forces have secured for the time being.
Johnson has called the “urgent” summit of G7 leaders to discuss the evacuation crisis and plot longer-term engagement with Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders, as well as dealing with humanitarian crisis for refugees.
“We also have to talk about how, as an international community we’re holding the Taliban to account, we’re ensuring that we’re protecting people who won’t be able to escape the Taliban in the coming week or weeks,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau also said the return of the Taliban would have to prompt a broader rethinking of Canada’s aid spending in Afghanistan.
“That is absolutely something we’re looking at right now, obviously, with the Taliban in control of the country. Our regular aid, investments and agencies need to be looked at carefully to make sure we are not supporting indirectly, the Taliban,” Trudeau said.
“Obviously, we must remain in Afghanistan to support the Afghan people, which we will do. As we relocate and bring Afghan refugees to Canada, we need to invest considerably more,” he continued.
“We will be there for increased financial commitments because Canadians expect us to continue fighting for a better Afghanistan and to be there for Afghans fleeing for a better life.”
In January, the efficiency of the nearly $1 billion in development assistance that Canada funneled into Afghanistan in the six years following the total withdrawal of the country’s military forces in 2014 received a mixed grade in a federal study.