Canada temporarily suspends diplomatic operations in Kabul amid Taliban push

WATCH: Trudeau says Canada 'heartbroken' over situation in Afghanistan; pledges further support for interpreters

Canada has temporarily suspended its diplomatic operations in Kabul amid safety concerns as Taliban fighters entered the Afghan capital in a push for transfer of power from the government.

Staff at the Canadian embassy are on their way back home, a statement from Global Affairs Canada said on Sunday.

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“The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving and poses serious challenges to our ability to ensure the safety and security of our mission,” the statement said.

“After consulting with Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, the decision was made to temporarily suspend our diplomatic operations in Kabul,” it added.

“The Canadian embassy will resume its operations as soon as the security situation in Afghanistan allows us to guarantee appropriate service and adequate security for our staff.”

Canada joins the United States and several other Western missions that are in the process of pulling their personnel out from Kabul.

Sources told Global News earlier this week that the embassy was in the process of “ripping out,” an evacuation process that includes disposing classified items and evacuating staff.

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Taliban fighters entered Kabul early on Sunday, with the group spokesman Suhail Shaheen saying that they expected a peaceful transition of power in a matter of days.

Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani left the country – although his exact destination remained uncertain.

In a stunning rout, the Taliban has seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces.

Resettling refugees

The week-long blitz by the Taliban comes after months of escalating concerns about their rapid advance.

Roughly 65 per cent of the country is now estimated to be under Taliban control and the race to evacuate Afghan interpreters and their families has reached a fever pitch, though the fate of many remains unclear.

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On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the escalating violence, vowing to evacuate Canadians safely out of Afghanistan.

“We are extremely concerned about the situation in Afghanistan,” he told reporters outside of Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

“We will continue to work to get as many Afghan interpreters and their families out as quickly as possible, as long as the security situation holds.

“And we will continue to work over the coming months to resettle refugees who will flee Afghanistan, who will look to come to start new lives in Canada.”

On Friday, Canada announced it will be expanding its humanitarian efforts to help resettle more than 20,000 Afghan refugees, including journalists, human rights activists and public servants — many of which have worked alongside Canadian officials in Afghanistan.

— with files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson, Reuters, the Associated Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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