Top diplomat voiced concerns about 'mission killers'

ALTHIA RAJ, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 8:45 PM ET

OTTAWA — Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by the military’s tight relationship with that country’s notorious security force, a top diplomat told MPs on Wednesday.

The “secretive” National Directorate of Security (NDS) is not a viable partner, despite benefiting from human rights training and considerable infrastructure cash from Canada, said Cory Anderson, former political director of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar.

“I don’t think it helps our cause to be so closely associated with the NDS in a very overt fashion because of the specific reputation that it has among the population,” he said.

Afghans most often reach out to Canadian diplomats not for development funds but to enquire about missing siblings, he said.

“What they were concerned about was, what happened to their cousin a year-and-a-half ago who has gone missing or why has someone been in NDS custody for months at a time without having any charges laid against them, and were they (transferred by Canadian Forces)?” Anderson said.

Given the NDS’ track record and the “slim” prospect it can be reformed, Canada should look for another partner, he told MPs on the special committee on Afghanistan.

The NDS provides good generic intelligence, but there are concerns that intelligence is obtained through ways that breach “obligations under international standards,” he said.

Anderson said he is aware of specific NDS torture allegations but his team never uncovered evidence of abuse.

“We spent about 15 minutes with these people ... but without visible markings or them coming forward to us and stating that they have been abused, we don’t have any broader or more specific knowledge of actual cases,” he said.

Anderson said he repeatedly voiced concerns about “mission killers” — such as Canada’s partnership with the NDS — with members of the Canadian Forces and politicians, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

The diplomat also slammed the military for absolving itself from any monitoring responsibility leaving a handful of diplomats ill-equipped to penetrate the NDS and judge whether torture was taking place.

Brig.-Gen. Denis William Thompson, the former commander in Kandahar, told MPs the NDS provides valuable human intelligence.

During his stint in Afghanistan, Thompson said he never received any negative reports from Canadian diplomats about the NDS facility and, if he had, he would have stopped the transfer of detainees.

“If there is a war criminal here, there is only one and it is me,” Thompson said. It is the commander of Task Force Kandahar who is “personally responsible” for the conditions of detainees, he said.

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson argued MPs are abusing their powers by claiming “privilege” because the government refuses to hand over uncensored documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees.

althia.raj@sunmedia.ca


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