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The Board of Inquiry report (II)


 

As Rear Admiral P.A. Maddison explained yesterday, there was apparently belief among Canadian Forces that violence was a “cultural norm” among Afghan authorities, but there was no “observation” or “expectation” that detainees were being abused.

Perhaps further to this point, Major General David Fraser testified last November at the Afghanistan committee that, while commander of Task Force Afghanistan in 2006, he received no report of abuse or torture. Speaking to the Board of Inquiry though, Major General Fraser (cited as Comd TFA) did, along with other sources, acknowledge some rather critical assessments of the Afghan National Security Forces. Those observations, found within Part III of the BOI report, are reprinted below.

Statement of Finding

10.  The Board also found that in the opinion of those CF members who had the opportunity to work with them, the level of reliability and professionalism of the ANSF in general, and that of the ANP in particular, was low.  For some specific groups of ANP, the levels were even worse. The practice of corporal punishments being meted out on apparent whim in the street and elsewhere was common and was observed and commented upon by most CF members.[REDACTED] Specific abuse of prisoners in general was not observed by CF members (other than the 14 June 2006 incident), though the casual violence of the cultural practices of the country in general applied to the ANSF and its prisoners generally.  All CF members felt there was a professional obligation to help mentor the ANSF with whom they worked to help in the process of professionalizing them.

SUPPORTING FACTS

Fact 1

11. The Board received testimony from CF members across the BG and TF on the relative reliability of the ANP. Very little of it was positive. Comd TFA told the Board that some of the ANP were little different than criminals, while others were more effective. The TF ORION RSM testified that he was never made aware of any incidents of abuse by the ANSF. 294 Other CF members expressed stronger views about the ANP being thugs 295 or about their corruption. 296

Fact 2

12.[REDACTED] was the Officer Commanding ANP No 5.  The Board received a great deal of mostly contradictory testimony from those witnesses who had had the opportunity to work with him. The general impression of the reliability or trustworthiness 297 of the policemen who worked in ANP No 5 was very low. 298 The Comd TF ORION who worked closely with [REDACTED] and generally trusted him noted in his testimony that ANP No 5 had lost some of its members to the enemy and that may have been a factor in their actions of 14 June 2006. 299 OC JCC, who worked with [REDACTED] at the JCC had this to say about him:

“[REDACTED] 300

Fact 3

13.    CF Members who worked with the ANP often observed them use various forms of corporal punishments on the local populace. 301 Many witnesses believed it was a common cultural practice, or as one witness stated, “it was the Afghan way”. 302 Comd TFA testified to the Board: “There are ample cases where Canadian soldiers had come across an Afghan policeman doing something wrong to an Afghan, and he intervened. He said “Whoa, you can’t do this. That’s against the law, and that’s just not the way you treat people.”  Canadian soldiers would do the right thing.” 303

Fact 5

14.   CF members who had come into direct contact with ANSF who were holding detainees at various times throughout the tour took steps to insert themselves into the process in an effort to help professionalize the ANSF by mentoring them. 304 Specific examples of such assistance were cited to the Board by two witnesses, 305 and general examples were widely mentioned.  The A/CSM in his testimony to the Board stated: “We were on an operation in the [REDACTED]. . .We had ANA with us at the time. They had detained three to five individuals and they had them in the School overnight.  So that would have been the first time that I had dealt with detainees. . . I did have a look at the prisoners.  The ANA had the flex cuffs on the detainees too tight, so we went in and cut them off the detainees.  They had sandbags over their heads. We went in and ensured that the sandbags were taken off.  Mentored the ANA on the proper handling of detainees or prisoners and then, you know, periodically went in throughout the night to ensure that they weren’t back in the state they were when we went in earlier. 306


 

The Board of Inquiry report (II)

  1. One of the rare occasions I would agree with the stonewalling CPC – the most recent occurence being Pierre Polly Parrot – who in avoiding questions on who knew what from Tom Clark on CTV's Power Play – asked him three times whether this report asked him whether the report suggested other matters should have be followed up – Polly Parrot repeated 3 times – the Canadian Forces did an admirable job – Tom Clark gave up! Polly Parrot was of course correct – when talking about the lower ranks – but that was neither the point nor the question posed – nor has it ever been questioned by any Opposition member. Senior ranks – both on the ground in Afghanistan – and more importantly – in DND HQ back in Canada – should have seen these reports that are analyzed here – and certainly DID see the reports sent by Richard Colvin – and decided to ignore those reports – even though there was mounting evidence of the risk, by turning over detainees, of being in technical breach of the Geneva Conventions – initally to US Forces – after the revelations of Abu Ghraib – and as an alternative – to the Afghan grous named here.

  2. I think we want our wars to be about the good guys vs. the bad guys, good vs. evil, black vs. white – the reality is far more nuanced that that – and the current gov't does not really do <nuance> very well. They try to make it black and white again, – but the ugly and messy truth keeps on leaking out.
    I am sure our forces did their best – but this current obsession with whitewashing every error that was made by senior ranks and the government is not helpful. We need to understand what happened and learn how to do better the next time we find ourselves in a situation where there is plenty of wrong on both sides of a conflict (as is the case with most or all such conflicts, I suspect).
    I am not saying that we should not pick sides in these cases – but let's realize that when we do, we are sometimes picking the lesser of two evils, and not the guys on the white horses vs. the guys on the black ones.

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