Canada halts Afghanistan evacuations as deadline looms

Canada has ended its evacuations from Afghanistan as the clock ticks down on dramatic Western efforts to help people flee the Taliban takeover ahead of a full American withdrawal

General Wayne Eyre, the country's acting Chief of Defense Staff, said the last evacuation plane has left and the vast majority of Canadian personnel are gone. Eyre said allied countries have to leave before the Americans can wrap up their mission. Canadian military flights evacuated about 3,700 people.

“The reality on the ground is the perimeter of the airport is closed. The Taliban have tightened the noose. It’s very, very difficult for anybody to get through at this point,” Eyre said.

“At this point all of our allies have ceased personnel recovery operations, from my understanding.”

“We stayed in Afghanistan for as long as we could. We were amongst the last to cease evacuation operations," Eyre said. “We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone who was so desperate to leave. That we could not is truly heartbreaking, but the circumstances on the ground rapidly deteriorated.”

Canada and European allies pressed for more time but lost the argument, and as a practical matter were forced to end their evacuations a couple of days before the last American troops leave.

Eyre said the feeling of helplessness and guilt that arises from having to leave people behind can be overwhelming.

“I have received emails from people that I worked with during my tours in Afghanistan who are desperate to get out or get their families out. Their pleas and the photos of the families in terrible situations that accompany many of them are heart wrenching. They tear at our souls,” he said.

The Taliban wrested back control of Afghanistan nearly 20 years after they were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks. Their return to power has pushed many Afghans to flee, fearing reprisals from the fighters or a return to the brutal rule they imposed when they last ran the country.

“The final Canadian evacuation flight left Kabul,” Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino tweeted. “The majority are Afghan refugees in search of a new life in Canada. Over a thousand have arrived, and we’ll welcome more in the days and weeks to come.”