What might have been - Macleans.ca

What might have been


Canadian Press delves into a proposed, but ultimately rejected, plan to put the Afghan army in charge of detainees.

NATO allies lobbied Afghan’s president for a separate legal framework to handle prisoners captured around Kandahar in late 2006 but those efforts “went nowhere,” say internal memos. The records outline an early strategy of the Canadian government as it faced pressure from the International Red Cross and others to take more responsibility for captured Taliban fighters…

The idea was to let the fledgling Afghan army operate a detention facility built by the U.S. rather than rely on either the National Directorate of Security or the country’s shaky correctional system. The proposal included a demand that Afghanistan create a separate legal framework for terror suspects, similar to the U.S. system of military tribunals. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was pressed to carve out “a new detainee policy that would have made the Afghan army responsible for prisoners and created a new class of detainees, but efforts have gone nowhere,” says a Dec. 4, 2006, memo.


What might have been

  1. We should have built our own stockade, and taken care of our prisoners ourselves.

    It's the only way to ensure they aren't tortured.

    • What do you do with the detainees while the jail is being built?

      • Good point, that nixes that idea.

      • Should have been a top priority the minute we knew we'd be taking prisoners.

        And it doesn't take long to build em.

        We're talking Afghanistan, not Kingston.

      • And no driving until we build the roads. And getting wounded, don't do that until we build the hospital, okay?

    • And who would be guarding them? Feeding them? Paying for them?

      Let the Afghan's sort themselves out, our soldiers are over there to defeat the Taliban, not babysit them.

      • I think someone is probably better prepared to answer your proposal, but letting the Afghans sort themselves out is what I believe led to the Taliban being a preferrable alternative to corrupt warlords. In some ways, you can see similar things taking place in Somalia. I think the risk of having another totalitarian state full of rabidly anti-Western jerks is perceived as greater than the risk of installing a democratic state, with the concommittant cost of building liberal/democratic institutions like a working justice system – policing, a judiciary, corrections, etc. Isn't cheaper to do this once, rather than have to do this all over again 20 years from now? And I don't write this because I believe a cost-benefit/risk management lens is supreme, but it's a good way of analyzing why it's better to measure twice and cut once.

      • Well then deal with being war criminals.

        You go to war, you go to war. You don't play around at it, and try to do it on the cheap.

  2. "Our soldiers are over there to defeat the Taliban not babysit them"

    So then it was all just lies when the government said our missions was about democracy and infrastructure and human rights?

  3. We only went there in the first place on a NATO article 5 call-out…to help find bin Laden.

    We had 'mission-stretch' after that…right into fantasyland.

  4. maybe the whole issue is taking prisoners at all! yeah! I think I am onto something next battle we get into make sure none of the enemy is left walking around that way – presto whole crisis taken care of!

    • Maybe the police should just have killed Rodney King and the guy with the camera.

  5. Maybe I am misreading the above, or over-reading. But the Red Cross would be happy with a process that included a separate legal framework for terror suspects, similar to the U.S. system of military tribunals...?

    Who would like to feed THAT one to the debate going on immediately to our South?

  6. Mostly absent from much of this discussion about the Afghan detainee issue is Hillier's role and influence in establishing a detainee policy.

    Hillier publicly criticized the Martin government for underfunding the military, and urged the Martin government to volunteer troops for the combat mission in Kandahar. Martin and his ministers were led to believe by Hillier, upon whose experience and expertise they relied for advice, that Canadian casualties and involvement would be limited. Hillier assured the Martin government that committing Canadian troops to Afghanistan would not preclude Canadian participation for UN peacekeeping missions elsewhere. His public characterization of the enemy in Afghanistan as "detestable murderers and scumbags" put our soldiers at even greater risk.

    But Hillier's crowning achievement was assuming the authority of the Canadian Ambassador by signing a detainee-transfer agreement with the Afghan defence Minister in 2005. That agreement was significantly less rigorous than agreements previously signed by Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands which Hillier could have used as models for the Canadian agreement.

    So, why on earth was a member of the military signing any agreement on behalf of this country?