Canada plans to take in 20,000 Afghans to protect them from Taliban

Canada says it will take in more than 20,000 Afghans who have been put in danger and forced to flee as the Taliban continues its military offensive in the country.

Canada's Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced the move Friday. Officials previously said in July that many Afghans who had worked with the Canadian government would also be resettled in Canada.

"The Government of Canada continues to be deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the risks it poses for many vulnerable Afghans," the Canadian government said in a press release Friday.

"Canada’s special immigration program has already brought many Afghans to Canada—and our teams there, here and across the world are working around the clock to bring as many people as possible to safety," it said.

Canada also plans to roll out a specialized program focused on welcoming "particularly vulnerable groups" including "women leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals, and family members of previously resettled interpreters," the press release stated.

While applicants must go through an admission process to relocate to Canada, timetables will be expedited, the government said.

Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said some Canadian military forces were in Afghanistan aiding in the process of relocating participating Afghans to Canada, but gave no details, Reuters reported.

The Taliban continues to seize various areas of Afghanistan as they move through the country following the Biden administration's decision to withdraw U.S. troops.

Taliban fighters captured Kandahar and Herat, the second- and third-largest cities in Afghanistan after Kabul, on Thursday.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul urged staff to destroy classified material Friday as the insurgent group closes in on the capital city. 

The U.S. has pushed to bring some Afghans to the United States as well. As of Thursday, the administration had brought to the U.S. more than 1,200 Afghans who worked with Americans in Afghanistan.