Joly calls Afghanistan evacuation ‘messy’ as MPs hear of challenges on the ground – National
Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said the Conservative Party had questioned her department’s decision to put up a plaque commemorating the August 2021 airlift, so trying to help Afghans flee the Taliban was “a It was an awkward situation,” he said.
“You can’t turn back the clock,” Jolie said before the House Immigration Committee when questioned about the government’s confused attempt to bring thousands of people from Kabul back to safety.
But Weldon Epp, a senior Global Affairs Canada official, told the committee that Ottawa had fewer resources on the ground given that Canada decided to close its embassies earlier than other countries. He said that his efforts became more difficult because he had
“Canada was in a different position than some of its allies,” Epp said.
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Their comments follow earlier testimony from senior soldiers who said efforts were hampered by lack of preparation and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to dissolve the election.
Last Canadian commander in Kandahar during the Afghan War, retired major general. Dean Milner previously testified that a Canadian embassy official was “embarrassingly too early.”
He said that was part of the reason.
Defense Chief of Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre previously testified that rules restricting government work during elections limit the Pentagon’s ability to communicate publicly.
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Still, Jolie argued Wednesday that all NATO members are struggling to evacuate Afghan nationals as the Taliban advance rapidly.
“No one is perfect around this table, and I think we can always do a better job,” Jolie told lawmakers at a meeting on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Press reported that Ottawa planned to install a plaque commemorating the evacuation, based on documents obtained through an access-to-information request.
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The nameplate carries a $10,000 price tag and was approved in a July 2022 memorandum, which critics claim sends the wrong message.
Conservative MP Michel Lempel Garner asked who proposed the plaque. Officials said it came from within Global Affairs Canada.
Bloc Quebec MP Alexis Brunel Duceppe said his party had no problem with the plaque.
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Opposition parties also argued Wednesday that the government had failed to learn from the evacuation.
Conservative diplomatic commentator Michael Chong said he feared Canada would be unable to evacuate its citizens from Hong Kong in a fictitious event, such as if China imposed martial law.
He said the testimony of multiple witnesses contradicted a government report last October that claimed there was “effective and efficient cooperation” between the department and the military.
Julie Sunday, deputy secretary for emergency management at Global Affairs Canada, responded that her team had managed well under the circumstances of the Taliban takeover.
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She said the evacuation of Afghanistan sparked more inquiries than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or the repatriation of Canadians when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.
Regarding the Taliban takeover in August 2021, he said: “Of course, we have been planning for a long time for contingencies.
On Sunday, he said demand was overwhelming, with 200 people working in the department’s emergency response center, which handles up to 70,000 emails a day.
“One of the big challenges with this was the speed at which the crisis struck,” said Sunday, adding that he couldn’t speak to how fast immigration officials were working.
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