Canada's largest newspaper describes a "daring operation" by Ukrainian military in Afghanistan
The largest Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, published an article about the evacuation from Afghanistan, in which it described the "daring operation" of the Ukrainian military.
During the operation, 19 Afghan translators were evacuated from Kabul airport to Kyiv, including one from its editorial office and the other working for the Canadian Ministry of Defense.
According to journalists in their article, the rescue operation was conducted early in the morning on August 27. Following the terrorist attack, which was claimed by a local ISIS group, the United States said only foreign nationals would be allowed to enter the airport.
Despite these restrictions, as well as the risks to the coalition forces ahead of the planned withdrawal of the last American soldiers on August 31, Ukrainian troops entered Kabul on foot. Their task was to accompany two minibusses to the airport with translators and their families, who were traveling to Canada: a total of 19 people.
The Ukrainian military surrounded and escorted cars the last 600 meters to the airport.
"The convoy entered [the airport] because the Ukrainians came out. We just sent them the plate numbers of our vehicles… and they came to the local bazaar to find us. They said 'Ukraine?' we said 'Yes!' and they took us inside," said Mohammad Sharif Sharaf, who had worked for 10 years as a repairman and translator, helping the Canadian publication cover their country's role in the war in Afghanistan.
Two previous attempts to evacuate the group, organized by the Canadian military and the US State Department, failed because it was assumed that Afghans and their families could get to the airport on their own. This proved impossible because of the chaos outside the airport, where thousands of Afghans gathered in hopes of evacuation.
According to the publication, the Ukrainian plan was successful, in contrast to the American and Canadian ones, thanks to the decision to use special forces, the publication emphasizes.
Upon arrival at the airport, 19 Afghans were placed on a Ukrainian military cargo plane. They flew to Islamabad with a group of soldiers and other Afghans who had been rescued by the Ukrainian party. In the capital of Pakistan, they were transferred to a chartered commercial aircraft, which delivered the group to Ukraine with a short stop in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku.
The evacuees said they were shocked that Ukrainian troops took the risk to rescue them, which was not done by Canadian and American forces.
"Everybody was surprised. I tried for the last month to have someone get us. We asked the Americans, the Canadians, the Qataris, everybody – and no solution. They were scared to come out… The Ukrainian soldiers were angels for us. They did an exceptional job. They have big hearts," said Jawed Haqmal, who had previously worked with Canadian special forces in Kandahar.
Mr. Sharaf, Mr. Haqmal, and their families arrived in Kyiv carrying laissez-passer documents that were issued to them a day before the Ukrainian operation by the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. The documents state that the bearers are to be treated as Canadian citizens and that they had visas to travel to Canada.
These documents were enough to take them out of Kabul, but at the airport in the Ukrainian capital, border guards did not know what to do with the evacuees, many of whom had expired passports or only IDs. The Afghans were eventually granted 15-day humanitarian visas to enter Ukraine, thanks in part to the Canadian embassy's assurance that they would soon be granted asylum in Canada.
The documents were enough to get them out of Kabul but border guards at the airport had no idea how to treat the evacuees, many of whom had expired passports or only identification cards. Eventually, the Afghans were granted 15-day humanitarian visas to enter Ukraine, in part because of promises from the Canadian embassy that they would swiftly be resettled.
According to an article, the evacuation, coordinated by the Ukrainian military, the Office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, could open the way to Canada for other Afghans fleeing the Taliban. Ottawa has promised to provide asylum to Afghans on the condition that they "be able to evacuate to third countries." According to The Globe and Mail, the Canadian government has asked Kyiv to evacuate other refugees.
"While the dramatic Kabul operation likely won't be repeated because of the deteriorating security situation in the country, the Islamabad-Kyiv trail that was blazed may be used to help move other Canada-bound Afghans who have made it as far as Pakistan, so they can get to Ukraine where they could be screened and processed for resettlement to Canada," Canadian journalists write.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba told the publication that Canada had already sent a request to the Ukrainian party.
According to him, the rescue of Afghan translators demonstrated the capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and why Ukraine should finally become a member of NATO.
"In these horrific circumstances, our military officers demonstrated bravery, high class, and exemplary professionalism," the minister said.
Former Canadian Ambassador to Kyiv Roman Waschuk also aided the operation. He put the Canadian publication in contact with a high-ranking official in Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Office.
According to the diplomat, Kyiv agreed to the rescue operation largely due to the support it received from Canada during the war in Donbas. Canada has provided financial assistance to Ukraine in the amount of about $700 million since the beginning of the conflict and since 2015 it has sent 200 troops on a rotating basis to train Ukrainian troops.
"This is, in part, a return on the investment of successive Canadian governments in training Ukraine's military. There's a lot of respect and appreciation for what Canada's done over the past seven years," Waschuk said.