Canada has officially ended its evacuation operations in Kabul, Afghanistan, and will leave some Canadians and Afghan allies behind.
The country evacuated a total of 3,700 Canadians and Afghan allies from the country as the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban took over the country.
The announcement that Canada has completed its evacuation came hours before two explosions at the Kabul airport, where throngs of Afghans and Americans have gathered over the last week, attempting to catch an evacuation flight out to flee the Taliban.
The Pentagon confirmed that the explosion at Hamid Karzai International Airport’s Abbey Gate resulted in an “unknown number of casualties.” U.S. officials said at least three U.S. troops were injured.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “our engagement with Afghanistan is not done” and called the situation “heartbreaking.”
General Wayne Eyre, the country’s acting Chief of Defense Staff, called it the “largest, most complex and dangerous” evacuation operation “in modern history.”
“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 Thursday morning at a briefing.
“Throughout the operation, we received word of multiple imminent attacks, which necessitated changes to our plans on the ground, and demanded maximum adaptability and agility on the part of our people,” Eyre continued.
More than 8,000 people applied for evacuation by Canada, according to Daniel Mills, assistant deputy minister of operations at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. More than half are on track to be left behind in Afghanistan after the Canadian military makes its final exit.
“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 have rapidly deteriorated. This is an extraordinary humanitarian crisis,” he said.
Trudeau has promised to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees in Canada over the next “months and years.” The prime minister is up for reelection next month.
Canada pulled its military out of Afghanistan in 2014 but returned recently to evacuate Canadians and Canada’s Afghan allies. Since Canada depended on the presence of U.S. troops at the airport to carry out its evacuation mission, the Canadian rescue mission had to be completed before the end of the month, when the Biden administration said U.S. troops would be out of the country. The Taliban warned the U.S. of “consequences” if the U.S. stayed longer.
The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan warned U.S. citizens that there were also reports of gunfire and to avoid traveling to the airport. The embassy said that U.S. citizens who are currently at the airport should leave immediately.
Photos of the aftermath of the blast emerged on Twitter showing people helping injured individuals as they flee the area. A graphic video shared on social media showed people bloodied and lying unconscious on the ground as others attempt to help them.