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Trudeau defends Canada's efforts in Afghanistan as Kabul eclipses election campaign

Last Updated Sep 8, 2021 at 11:05 am PDT

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau holds an election campaign event in Longueuil, Que., on Aug. 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Justin Trudeau says his government has done all it can to help the thousands of people looking to flee Afghanistan

NDP, Conservative leaders criticize government's actions in Afghanistan

'It's with a heavy heart that I say, yes, it was a failure,' Jagmeet Singh says of Canada's mission

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The prime minister is defending his government’s actions in Afghanistan as Canada’s mission to the war-torn country came to a close and as deadly explosions rocked the airport.

“This is a very difficult day,” Justin Trudeau said Thursday while on a campaign stop for the upcoming federal election.

The Liberal leader says his government has done all it can to help the thousands of people looking to flee Afghanistan, but that the recent Taliban surge across Afghanistan surprised many.

“I understand the heartbreak to those who were not able to get out as the temporary air bridge is closing,” Trudeau said.

He defends the military mission and says Canada is continuing to work with regional and international allies.

“To do everything we can, to bring tens of thousands of Afghans with their families to Canada,” he said. “We will ensure that in the coming months and years we bring over 20,000 Afghans to their new homes in Canada.”

However, criticisms are being levelled by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who says evacuations should have begun sooner, adding there was too much bureaucratic red tape for those trying to leave.

He is calling Canada’s efforts a failure.

“People that put their lives at risk to support our troops are now being left behind,” Singh said. “It’s with a heavy heart that I say, yes, it was a failure.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole echoed the disappointment, saying “Mr. Trudeau has wasted months with inaction.”

When asked what he would have done differently if he were prime minister, the Tory leader said he would have acted sooner and would have had a plan with Canada’s allies. However, despite being pressed for specifics, he did not provide any further details.

On Thursday, the Canadian Armed Forces announced that the military’s final flight left the Kabul airport the night before, carrying hundreds on board. The CAF did not say exactly how many people the aircraft was carrying, and also did not specify how many were left behind.

“We wish we could have saved everyone,” acting Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, Canada’s acting Chief of the Defence Staff, said.

More than 3,700 Canadians, permanent residents, and Afghans were airlifted out of Afghanistan in recent weeks amid the Taliban takeover.

While many have criticized Canada’s efforts, Eyre spoke out against the public scrutiny of the evacuation missing, saying they were misinformed and that operational details had to be kept quiet.

“Into that silence, some people interjected their own narratives without any real knowledge of the facts,” he said.

Just hours after Canada announced it had ended its mission in Kabul, two suicide bombers struck just outside the capital’s airport. More than a dozen deaths and many more injuries have been reported so far.