Ottawa abandoned 1,250 Canadians and Afghan allies during the fall of Kabul to ‘conserve fuel’

The department flew with empty seats partly to conserve fuel, according to a newly disclosed defence memo. 'When determining how many passengers to load onto an aircraft, our aircrew took into consideration several factors to ensure planes could safely reach their destination,' as stated in the memo.

Ottawa abandoned 1,250 Canadians and Afghan allies during the fall of Kabul to ‘conserve fuel’
(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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According to Canadian flight logs, the Department of National Defence abandoned thousands of Canadians and Afghan allies in Kabul before it fell to the Taliban.

In a newly disclosed memo, the department said it flew with empty seats partly because it wanted to conserve fuel, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

"When determining how many passengers to load onto an aircraft, our aircrew took into consideration several factors to ensure planes could safely reach their destination," said the memo. 

"For example, weather, fuel, cargo and weight considerations [differed] for each aircraft type and trip."

On May 25, 2022, the Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan told MPs that disclosing the flight logs publicly "would impact national security and public safety."

Blacklock's Reporter said Cabinet sealed the flight logs preceding the fall of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021. 

It has been revealed that the federal government abandoned 1,250 Canadians and thousands of Afghan nationals in the city while closing its embassy without warning.

Canada started evacuating personnel on August 4 — two weeks before the fall of Kabul — in military planes, said the national defence memo Regarding The Government's Response To The Final Report Of The Special Committee On Afghanistan. 

Royal Canadian Air Force planes flew between 40 and 167 passengers daily from Kabul. Flight logs document that a CC-130J Hercules took 128 passengers, a CC-150 Polaris had 194 passengers, and a CC-177 Globemaster rescued 102 passengers. 

Flight logs show the Defence Ministry used large military planes to shuttle 371 diplomats, staff, and Afghan nationals in a rush to leave Kabul. 

On August 8 and 11, they chartered commercial flights to take 330 people from the capital.

Ambassador Reid Sirrs confirmed in the memo that he flew "with 69 Afghan nationals and diplomatic staff" on August 15. According to Blacklock's Reporter, he did not explain why they failed to fill the plane.

"We could hear explosions. We could see fires all over the city," Ambassador Sirrs testified at a March 21, 2022, committee hearing. 

"When we came into the military side of the airport itself, it was very obvious the city was coming under siege, and it became evident to us that a whole bunch of chaotic activity was taking place and was going to escalate."

Ambassador Sirrs also testified that the rapid collapse of Afghanistan came as a shock to him. "The complete collapse of the Afghan forces and the Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan surprised everyone."

However, Chief Of Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre testified as early as April 1, 2021, that the Canadian military knew "the Afghan government was facing a likely defeat" well in advance.

The new defence memo confirmed those suspicions as the department started planning a rapid evacuation procedure on April 24, 2021 — almost four months before Kabul's fall.

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