Canadian special forces will deploy to Afghanistan where staff in Canada’s embassy in Kabul will be evacuated before it closes, a source familiar with the plan told The Associated Press.
The official, who was not authorized to talk publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, did not say how many special forces would be sent.
Just weeks before the U.S. is scheduled to end its war in Afghanistan, the Biden administration is also rushing 3,000 fresh troops to the Kabul airport to help with a partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy.
The moves highlight the stunning 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 said Thursday that it will send around 600 troops to Afghanistan to help U.K. nationals leave the country amid growing concerns about the security situation. Danish lawmakers have agreed to evacuate 45 Afghan citizens who worked for Denmark’s government in Afghanistan and to offer them residency in the European country for two years.
Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed in Afghanistan over 13 years as part of the NATO mission before pulling out in 2014.
The first planeload of Afghan refugees who supported the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan arrived in Canada earlier this month. The Canadian government last month announced a special program to urgently resettle Afghans deemed to have been “integral” to the Canadian Armed Forces’ mission, including interpreters, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers, security guards, and the embassy staff, as well as members of their families.
The government says more than 800 Afghans who supported the mission have been resettled in Canada over the past decade but acknowledges that many more remain in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, who ruled the country from 1996 until U.S. forces invaded after the 9/11 attacks, has taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a weeklong sweep that has given them effective control of about two-thirds of the country.
The seizure of Kandahar and Herat marks the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban. Canada’s former military mission was based in Kandahar. More than 150 Canadian soldiers died during the Afghanistan mission.′
A spokeswoman for Canada’s Global Affairs department declined to comment on specifics about the embassy.
“The security of the Canadian Embassy and the safety of our personnel in Kabul is our top priority. For security reasons we do not comment on specific operational matters of our missions abroad,” spokeswoman Ciara Trudeau said in an email.