Canada vows to resettle Afghan interpreters, citing threat from Taliban

FILE PHOTO: Former Afghan interpreters, who worked with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, hold signs during a demonstration about their safety, in front of the U.S. embassy in Kabul June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada announced on Friday it would resettle Afghan interpreters, embassy staff and their families amid a "dynamic and deteriorating" situation in Afghanistan, saying they had become targets for the Taliban.

"Canada is here to support those who supported us," said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, adding that "several thousand" people would be eligible and the first arrivals would be landing in Canada very shortly.

Reuters reported this month that Canada planned to relocate Afghan interpreters and others as soon as possible in light of an imminent United States military drawdown.

"We appreciate that there is a need to act quickly and decisively but that we must also do so safely given the very dynamic and deteriorating situation," Mendicino told a televised news conference in Ottawa.

He did not give a specific number of people who would be admitted or say when exactly they would arrive.

"Many Afghan citizens put themselves at risk to assist Canada ... now they face even greater threats from the Taliban," he said.

Taliban insurgents are gaining control of more and more territory, pushing back overstretched Afghan troops.

Canadian officials are identifying eligible Afghans, focusing on those who worked for Canada as interpreters or who provided "critical support," embassy staff and their families, Mendicino said.

Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan ended a decade ago, after which the country resettled about 800 Afghans who had worked for the country as interpreters or in other roles.

Many Afghans who worked with Canada and other NATO countries fear reprisals from the Taliban as U.S. forces depart.

"The pace of the Taliban's advances over the course of the past month is troubling," Foreign Minister Marc Garneau told the news conference.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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