Special forces troops are on standby to help evacuate Canada’s embassy in Kabul, a defence source tells CBC News.

The highly-trained soldiers are expected to work alongside allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which are sending thousands of troops to the Afghan capital to aid in the partial evacuation of their embassies as security throughout the war-torn country rapidly deteriorates.

In what can only be described as a major military and psychological victory, on Thursday the Taliban captured both Kandahar and Herat — Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities.

The confidential source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that at the moment the government has no intention of deploying a large conventional force, as both the Americans and British plan to do. (The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops, the British 600.)

There has been extensive discussion between the Canadian military and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) — which is responsible for the Middle East — about providing logistical and transport assistance to Canada, should it be required, said the source — who is not being identified by CBC News because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

The decision to shut down the Canadian embassy or reduce its operations lies with the federal government.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau’s office was asked to comment, but no one was immediately available.

The ‘security situation is deteriorating’ — Sajjan

Earlier Thursday, before the news out of Afghanistan, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan acknowledged that Kandahar — the city Canadians fought and died to protect for five years — could fall.

“We’re monitoring the situation extremely closely,” Sajjan said during a media availability in South Vancouver. “In fact, I have daily briefings on this, and I had one this morning.

“All I can say is right now, yes, the security situation is deteriorating. We do have contingency plans in place to make sure that our personnel are safe.”

Sajjan would not elaborate on those plans.

Members of the Afghan National Police are seen at a shura (meeting) with soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, on April 20, 2006. (John D McHugh/AFP/Getty Images)

Addressing one portion of his remarks to members of the military and to the families of the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Sajjan said their sacrifices and contributions to Canada were “extraordinary.”

He even tried to suggest those sacrifices will endure, noting that the Taliban committed many heinous acts in Kandahar before they were driven from power in 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion and that Canada helped to transform the city in the years afterward.

“The stadium in Kandahar City that was used for atrocities, it was again used for people to play soccer. Girls were able to go to school …” he said.

“There’s a generation of Afghans who have benefited from the tremendous sacrifice that have been made by Canadians and our allies. And I want to say this — no one can erase that now.”

Taliban reportedly hunting down those who worked for western forces

Sajjan acknowledged, however, that Canada can’t “choose a destiny” for Afghanistan. He said that Canada will continue to support the Afghan people.

In areas conquered by the Taliban recently, humanitarian groups — notably Human Rights Watch — have reported militants executing prisoners and hunting down people who worked for western forces and civilian agencies. 

Quoting an anonymous Afghan official, the Associated Press reported that Kandahar had fallen after weeks of heavy street-to-street fighting.

Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. The Taliban captured the provincial capital near Kabul on Thursday, the 10th the insurgents have taken over a weeklong blitz across Afghanistan as the U.S. and NATO prepare to withdraw entirely from the country after decades of war. (Gulabuddin Amiri/Associated Press)

The news agency said the provincial governor and other officials managed to flee the city by air on Thursday.

The capture of both Kandahar and Herat brings to 12 the number of provincial capitals which have fallen to the Taliban offensive in recent days.

Earlier this week, the city of Ghazni was also overrun. It is on the main highway between Kandahar and the capital and its demise means the hardline Islamist movement is tightening its grip on Kabul.

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