Canada is helping to evacuate a group of Nepalese and Indian security contractors who helped protect the Canadian embassy in Kabul, with some having been already airlifted to safety, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.
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On Sunday, reports emerged that some 100 Gurkhas were not on Ottawa’s shortlist of staff and facilitators to be evacuated from Afghanistan amid the fall of Kabul to the Taliban terror group.
“[The Gurkhas] have been there to support Canadians, which is why we’ve worked with the company and with others to help them evacuate,” Trudeau said during a campaign stop in Markham, Ontario. “I know a number of them have been airlifted to safety.”
The Prime Minister noted that the private contractors are Nepalese and Indian nationals and not eligible for special immigrant visa programs issued to Afghan facilitators, but vowed that Ottawa would fulfill all of its obligations before those who have assisted Canadians in the war-torn country.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense Inspector General said in a new report that US officials had warned months in advance that bureaucratic incompetence was putting thousands of lives of American collaborators at risk by delaying their emergency exit visas from Afghanistan,
“(A)s of June 2021, more than 18,000 SIV [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants in Afghanistan were waiting for their applications to be processed,” the Defense Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG)’s quarterly report covering the months of April, May and June said.
The Department of State reported that roughly half of the outstanding 18,000 applications still required initial paperwork from the applicants themselves. However, some Afghans had been in the process for years and were still waiting to have their applications adjudicated, the report pointed out.
“A June 2020 Department of State Office of the Inspector General review of the Afghan SIV program… found that staffing levels at the various offices that process Afghan SIVs have generally remained constant since 2016 and were insufficient to reduce the SIV applicant backlog,” the Pentagon report said.
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Insufficient staffing levels at other US government agencies involved in the applicant background check process also contributed to processing delays and the State Department lacked a centralized database and relied on multiple information technology systems that were not interoperable, the report added.
The US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance warned that it expected constraints on humanitarian access to increase as the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces continued to fight for control, the Pentagon report said.