Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Little proof of Taliban links: Afghan agents

Officials from Afghanistan's intelligence agency complained to Canadian military and government representatives on several occasions that troops were detaining people with little evidence linking them to the Taliban, according to records obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

The Canadian government documents detail how agents from the National Directorate of Security, a key Afghan organization involved in the fight against insurgents, raised concerns in spring of 2007 that both Canadian and NATO soldiers were taking people into custody but could not provide proof of how they were involved in insurgent activities. As a result, the NDS had been releasing most of those captured.

Meanwhile, about 30 Taliban insurgents were killed in a NATO-led air strike in eastern Afghanistan after they attacked an Afghan police post, a police official and the alliance said yesterday.

Afghan border police commander Sayed Nabi Mullahkhil said a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province, which shares a border with Pakistan, was attacked by militants overnight.

The privately owned Tolo TV station said 26 insurgents were killed, including one fighter from Chechnya.

Members of a Commons committee recently heard testimony from Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin who said that many of the Afghans detained by Canadian troops were innocent farmers, peasants or people in the "wrong place at the wrong time." Mr. Colvin, who dealt with detainee and intelligence issues in Afghanis tan, warned that Canada's detainee policies had alienated Canadian troops from the local population and strengthened the insurgency.

A senior Red Cross official has also criticized Mr. Colvin.

The humanitarian group requires that any communication of that sort be kept confidential to help ensure it gets access to prisoners, said Eloi Fillion, deputy director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan, where it has a staff of 120 foreigners and 1,500 locals.

"What [Richard] Colvin has said publicly has put us in an awkward situation," Mr. Fillion said. "What he claims to know should not be put out in a public place."

Mr. Colvin was challenged last week by diplomat David Mulroney, who had been a key player in the Afghan mission. He testified there was "no doubt that the detainees captured by the Canadian Forces posed a real threat to Afghans, and ... in some cases, had Canadian blood on their hands."

Retired general Rick Hillier also disputed Mr. Colvin's allegations and said Afghans taken into custody were indeed working for the enemy.

He told the Commons committee those detained had actually been caught in the act of trying to kill Canadian troops and had explosive or gunpowder residue on their hands.

But if that was the case, then that information wasn't being passed on to the NDS.

During a May 7, 2007 meeting at the NDS prison in Kandahar, the Afghan intelligence officials complained to a Canadian Forces legal advisor, as well as Foreign Affairs and Correctional Service of Canada representatives.

"[Names of NDS agents censored from document] complained that they need more detailed charge information when detainees are transferred by Canadian Forces," the Canadian government report from Kandahar noted. "In the cases the only evidence is [details censored from document] which in the Afghan context is insufficient grounds to hold someone in detention."

The NDS officials asked that their concerns be passed on to both Canadian and NATO troops, according to the report.


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