Winnipeg's Afghan community dismayed as U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan, leaving chaos behind
Sister of Canadian soldier killed in action says Canada must speed up resettlement of Afghans
As U.S. troops begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, members of the Afghan community in Winnipeg worry what it could mean for the their home country.
A Taliban assault has gathered momentum in recent days as the insurgents unleashed their forces across Afghanistan after the United States announced it would end its military mission in the country by the end of August.
In recent days, the Taliban have escalated attacks on northern provinces, which lie outside their traditional strongholds in the south, overrunning two cities on Sunday alone.
Ariana Yaftali, the co-founder of the Afghan-Canadian Women's Association, says she and others in Manitoba's Afghan diaspora are very worried.
"We are concerned, and at the same time we're very dismayed at what the international community did for us, kind of a total withdrawal leaving Afghanistan in chaos," she said.
"Afghanistan was not ready, in my opinion, at this particular point to leave them with all the mess that has been created."
U.S. President Joe Biden called the conflict the "forever war" in his public address on July 8, and said he wanted to spare another generation of Americans from participating in something that "does not have a military solution."
Biden said he didn't trust the Taliban, but trusted the capacity of the Afghan military to defend the government.
Yaftali says she feels as though the international community has turned its back on her home country.
"I think a gradual withdrawal would have been a good idea to start with, and also build the capacity of the Afghan's army to protect their country and be able to fight the Taliban back," she said.
She wants to see Canada take a humanitarian and peacekeeping role, but also to pressure other countries to take the situation more seriously — especially given that Afghan interpreters, and other civilians who assisted the Canadian Armed Forces and their allies, are in peril.
'We have a responsibility'
The sister of the first female Canadian soldier to die in action in Afghanistan is calling on the federal government to help civilians who are in danger.
Shilo, Man.-based Capt. Nichola Goddard was killed on May 17, 2006, in a firefight west of Kandahar. More than a decade later, her sister Kate Rusk says she knows Goddard would stand up for those in need.
"I think my sister, as well as for everyone else I know in the armed forces ... cares so much about their team and prioritizes the people that they work with and the people that they're responsible for," Rusk said.
"I think that we have a responsibility to make sure that that's not let down."
WATCH | Advocates say Canada needs to step up and help Afghan interpreters:
Rusk now advocates for locally-employed Afghan workers who were involved in Canada's mission in Afghanistan through an organization called Not Left Behind.
She says there are thousands of people who need to be resettled in Canada as soon as possible for their own safety.
"I think it's incredibly important for us as a country to stand up for the people who took risks for us. I don't see how you can put people at risk because of the values that matter to us as a country, and then not protect them when they're in danger because of that," Rusk said.
On Wednesday, a plane brought dozens of these Afghan workers into Toronto. The federal government says more are coming soon, but Rusk says the timeline needs to speed up.
"They are getting death threats. Several interpreters who worked for various NATO and other development organizations, those ones have been killed. Family members have been killed. They're at extreme risk of their lives right now," Rusk said.
"The government is just moving incredibly slowly and we are running out of time."
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Wednesday that "thousands" of Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
"These are extraordinarily challenging circumstances," he said. "We recognize the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, that we are operating under tighter timelines and under more dangerous conditions."
'Back to zero'
Yaftali is concerned that the presence of the Taliban will destroy the progress Afghanistan has made in the last two decades, with women gaining more rights, including the right to education.
"The progress will all go back to zero because with the arrival of the Taliban in certain places, people are very much worried," she said, adding that some boys are pulled to fight with the Taliban and girls are barred from classes.
Talking about it with her daughter is difficult.
"She's very sad to see the situation because she says, 'Mommy, here I can go play and go to school. I could do whatever I want. But there the girls are going to be limited.'"
With files from the CBC's Stephanie Cram, Reuters and the Associated Press