What Were They Thinking?


The first time I heard anything about Canadian interpreters in Afghanistan, was June of this year. I quickly understood there could potentially be an issue with the safety of these Afghan men and women, who had been helping Canadian soldiers with the language barriers of the war-torn nation.


I was pleased to see the government state in July, they would be assuring the well-being of these dedicated people, by offering them asylum in Canada. I was stunned to hear there were 20,000, but apparently, with families, that number is very much in line with the Americans, French, British, Dutch and other countries who sought the services of these people.


Everyone knows the western troops mainly pulled out of Afghanistan, but as weeks rolled by, very little was done to help the interpreters and their families. Emails, tweets and all types of posts came from the affected people, begging for our help, and again, the government assured them they would not be left behind.


After 20 years of fighting in the war-scarred country, which came on the heels of 12 years of Russian attempts to liberate the people, we have learned the Taliban, a ruthless terrorist organization, will stop at nothing to secure Afghanistan’s borders. Now they have.


Here we are, three months after the government’s announcement of liberating people who have put their lives on the lines, very little has been done. Comments like ‘They [the Taliban] moved much quicker than we expected’, ‘We will get everyone out’ (said as late as 10 days ago) and ‘It will depend on the Taliban allowing people to get through to the airport’, shocked me. What happened to military intelligence?


When I wrote this article, less than 1,000 people had been airlifted to safety. We have seen images of people hanging onto planes as they took off, graphic photos of mothers handing their babies to soldiers on the wall around the airport and people in hiding, being hunted by the new regime.


So why has it taken so long, and is it possibly too late, for us to honour a commitment? Make no mistake, many people will lose their lives because of this, and of course now the emphasis is refocusing on an election.


I am very disheartened by the actions the government failed to take and am disappointed in the bureaucracy, which held this process up. We all know negotiating with terrorists will not work and while we waffle, the lives of thousands of people who were there for us when we needed them, are at risk.


Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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