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Liberals say proposal for Afghanistan committee doesn’t consider national security implications


‘It could potentially put our operations at risk, put lives at risk. So absolutely we believe this should be studied, but there’s a proper way to do it’

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OTTAWA – The Liberals are opposing a Conservative plan for a new committee to examine Canada’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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The plan would require the release of memos, emails and documents about the chaotic fall of the country but the Liberals say making those public has national security implications.

Liberal House Leader Mark Holland said he believes there is no need for a new committee.

‘We’re totally in favour of Parliament looking at this. We believe there’s an existing standing committee which is foreign affairs, which is the best place to look at this.”

The Conservative motion calls for extensive testimony from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a variety of ministers, but also calls for a wide array of documents, emails and memos about the exit to be released to the committee.

Holland said the Conservatives aren’t considering the national security implications of what is in those documents.

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“The concern we have is with the demand in the Conservative motion for documents in 30 days, and specifically that all documents be released, which might include documents protected under national security,” he said. “It could potentially put our operations at risk, put lives at risk. So absolutely we believe this should be studied, but there’s a proper way to do it.”

Holland said the Conservatives know that some of the documents must be protected in order to protect allies and people still at risk.

“The Conservatives have been in government. They understand the imperative nature of protecting our operations and our security apparatus,” he said.

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The Conservatives propose a special committee of MPs to review Canada’s withdrawal, which included the evacuation of the embassy as well as an attempt to get thousands of Canadians and Afghans who worked alongside Canadian troops out of the country.

The Conservative had an opposition day on Tuesday, a special day on the parliamentary calendar that allows opposition parties to set the agenda to debate the idea, with the proposal set to come for a vote on Wednesday.

The Taliban gained significant amounts of territory across Afghanistan throughout 2021 after U.S. forces announced their intention to withdraw from the country after nearly two decades of American and NATO forces in combat in the country.

The Taliban were able to push into Kabul in mid-August and seize complete control of the country. U.S. forces stayed in the city’s airport to run evacuation flights for several weeks to get thousands of people out of the country, but thousands more were left behind when the American left completely at the end of August.

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During Question Period Conservative leader Erin O’Toole asked why Trudeau had called an election despite the impending fall of Kabul, back in August.

“On August 15, when he was briefed on Kabul about to fall, why did this prime minister put his own political survival ahead of the real survival of people on the ground in Afghanistan.”

Trudeau defended the government’s record and said Kabul fell faster than anyone has expected. He said the government was working hard to get more people out of Afghanistan.

“We know that there continues to need to be pressure on the Taliban government to allow people to leave Afghanistan. That is what we’re continuing to do, alongside our partners, and we will bring 40,000 Afghan citizens to Canada to start their new lives.”

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Without Liberal support, the Conservatives will need the support of both the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he sees the need for parliamentary scrutiny, but his party is still evaluating the details of the Conservatives’ plan.

“We agree in principle with the accountability and asking questions around what happened because there are serious concerns,” he said. “A lot of our allies, a lot of people that put their lives on the line for Canadians were not able to be evacuated from a crisis situation, so there are legitimate questions.

Singh said even as the crisis escalated the Liberals were making it harder for people to come to Canada.

“They were requiring internet access and applications that were not feasible for people to do in the timeframe and in the limited resources that people had. It just was not at all appropriate and a lot of these concerns were raised well in advance.”

The Bloc said Tuesday they were working with the Conservatives to improve the proposed motion to make it as effective as possible.

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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