Canada on Thursday ended its airlift mission in Afghanistan after flying out more than 3,700 citizens and Afghans who worked alongside Canadian forces during the war, but Ottawa acknowledged that many people had been left behind.
"This is a very difficult day, not just for Afghans, but for people around the world, including in Canada who have long been deeply committed to the Afghan people and a better future for Afghanistan," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
"We all understand that the speed with which the Taliban took over Kabul rendered this an extraordinarily difficult situation for our allies, for Canadians and especially for Afghans.
General Wayne Eyre, acting chief of the Defence Staff of Canada, said many Afghans who fought alongside Canadian soldiers during Canada's 12 years in Afghanistan would remain.
“We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone who was so desperate to leave,” he said.
One of those who made it out, arriving in Canada on Tuesday, is Rozina, an Afghan-Canadian woman who described her harrowing journey to The National.
She said she spent more than 50 hours wading through sewage and enduring cramped and unsanitary conditions outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport as she sought to get on an evacuation flight.
“I was so frightened, I was so lonely and I missed Canada,” said Rozina, who had been visiting her husband in Kabul when the Taliban took power.
She asked to be referred to only by her first name to protect her husband and other family still in Afghanistan.
The mother of two went without food or sleep for more than two days, but it was the thought of returning to Canada to see her children that kept her going.
“I was so strong. I was keeping myself strong, even with the empty stomach, I still had energy,” she recounted. “Slowly, slowly we pushed and pushed until we went to the front of the gate.”
Her days-long journey ended when she touched down at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
“I was very, very, very excited and safe,” she said.
The Canadian government has come under scrutiny for its handling of the situation. Once the Taliban took Kabul, Canada pulled all of its diplomatic staff out of the country, sending only a small team of diplomats and soldiers back to the country on August 19.
“Canada has failed,” said Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party who is currently running for prime minister. “Justin Trudeau really dropped the ball on this.”
Rozina said she was grateful to the Canadian soldiers who helped bring her out but wishes they could have done more.
“I wish the government could help [the Afghans] a little bit more, because they are so desperate.," she said.
“I was the lucky one.”