Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear on Tuesday that Canada has “no plans” to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government leadership following a week-long blitz by the terrorist organization that has left many in Afghan cities fearing for their lives.
“Canada has no plans to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. When they were in government 20 years ago, Canada did not recognize them,” said the Liberal leader, who is currently campaigning for re-election.
“(The Taliban) have taken over and replaced a duly elected democratic government by force… They are a recognized terrorist organization under Canadian law.”
Trudeau has said Canada “firmly condemns” the violence unfolding and is working with allies, including the U.K. and U.S., on planning for what comes next.
He added that he has not ruled out using military resources to evacuate Afghans as turmoil surges throughout the country.
Thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport Monday, so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that some plunged to their deaths attempting to hold onto an American military jet as it took off, killing seven people.
Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday after Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing an end to a two-decade war in which the U.S. and its allies had sought to free the country from al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed Trudeau’s comments at a separate press conference shortly after.
“It’s really clear that the Taliban is a terrorist organization and it’s an organization we should not recognize,” Singh said.
“It’s clearly a terrorist organization and puts people’s lives at risk.”
The European Union said Tuesday it has no immediate plans to recognize the Taliban either, but the bloc’s top diplomat suggested it may talk with the militants to ensure European citizens and Afghans who have worked with the EU can leave safely.
“We have to get in touch with the authorities in Kabul, whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk with them,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters. “This dialogue will also have to focus on the means to prevent the return of foreign terrorists.”
“It’s not a matter of official recognition,” he added, “it’s a matter of dealing with” the Taliban.
The U.S. military has said it is coordinating with the Taliban while working quickly to airlift American and Afghan allies from Kabul. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Associated Press that U.S. commanders are speaking with Taliban commanders to ensure they will not interfere with the evacuation, but would not discuss the details of the Taliban agreement.
“There are interactions multiple times a day” between U.S. and Taliban commanders, he said.
The Biden administration is reportedly still weighing whether to officially recognize Taliban rule.
In the past, women and girls living under Taliban rule have faced drastic restrictions. A 2001 report by the U.S. State Department found women living under Taliban rule were not allowed to attend school or work, and were required to wear a burqa in public or face severe punishments such as death and stoning. It also said they were subject to rape and forced marriages, and were prohibited from leaving their homes without a male escort.
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The Taliban have been promising it is a changed group, though many Afghans doubt that. On Tuesday, the group offered an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government.
Many women feel the two-decade Western experiment to expand their rights and remake Afghanistan would not survive the resurgent Taliban.
Sarah Keeler, community engagement and advocacy coordinator for the not-for-profit Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, previously told Global News she was “deeply worried about what lies ahead” for women and girls living in Afghanistan.
In an emailed statement to Global News, she said her organization had already received reports of rape and forced marriages of girls as young as 15 by Taliban soldiers, extrajudicial killings, and Taliban-issued edicts for women not to leave their homes for school, work or medical needs.
Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, noted both the Taliban’s vows and the fear of those now under their rule.
“Such promises will need to be honoured, and for the time being — again understandably, given past history — these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,” he said in a statement. “There have been many hard-won advances in human rights over the past two decades. The rights of all Afghans must be defended.”
Throughout the recent crisis, Canada has been expanding its humanitarian efforts to resettle 20,000 Afghans fleeing from the Taliban.
Two aircraft carrying diplomats, troops and Afghans fleeing the Taliban touched down late Monday night on Canadian soil.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada on Tuesday morning confirmed one flight landed in Toronto carrying Afghans who qualified to come to Canada under the government’s recently announced special immigration measures for former interpreters and embassy staff who helped Canadians on the ground.
The second flight landed in Ottawa and included returning staff from the Canadian embassy in Kabul, which has been evacuated as the Taliban insurgents seize control of the country.
It is not clear at this time how many Afghans were on the flight that landed in Toronto.
The Department of National Defence confirmed that some of the Canadian troops in Afghanistan have now returned, “including elite operatives.”
“The flight was chartered,” the department said in a statement.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly, Aaron D’Andrea, Rachael D’Amore and the Associated Press