Did Canadian troops bulldoze an Afghan village? - Macleans.ca

Did Canadian troops bulldoze an Afghan village?

If only we had a period during which the opposition could question the government about such things

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Soldiers of Alpha Company(A Coy) watch as an engineer bulldozer clears away rubble in the Panjwaii District of Kandahar Province as part of Operation MEDUSA.

Given how keen the press gallery and the loyal opposition were, last year, to establish that Canada had committed war crimes in Afghanistan, I’m surprised that Carlotta Gall’s piece from the NYTimes this weekend has been ignored up here. The article is about how much suspicion American troops are encountering as they move to secure the Panjwaii district in Kandahar. The locals are pissed because they’ve been trapped for five years between insurgents and “coalition” forces, namely, Canadians:

Three years ago, Canadian troops built a temporary post near Lora. When they immediately came under fire from insurgents, they bulldozed much of the hamlet, flattening houses, water pumps and surrounding orchards, the villagers and local elders say.

“There were 10 families who had houses there that were totally destroyed, and mulberry trees were taken out by their roots,” Mr. Hamid said in a recent interview in Kandahar city. “They destroyed all these things, and we are unable to replace them.”

Is it true? Canadian officials won’t say:

Press officers for Canadian forces, who have led operations in Kandahar Province for the past four years, and the Afghan district administration said they could not confirm the destruction. But a provincial councilor, landowners and farmers from the area said at least half the hamlet was demolished. A year later the Canadians dismantled the post and left, but the village remains deserted, the villagers said.

And of course, both Afghans fighting for compensation, and NYT reporters looking for information, have to parkour their way through the now-customary Canadian government communications obstacle course:

Yet fighting through the bureaucracy seems just as hard for the Afghans. Lt. Kelly Rozenberg-Payne, a public affairs officer with the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command in Ottawa, wrote by e-mail that she had no information to support the allegations that Lora was bulldozed.

But she acknowledged the existence of an “austere platoon house” in the area, which Canadian forces upgraded to a substation for the Afghan police in the spring of 2008. It was dismantled in the fall of 2008 “because of changing operational priorities,” she wrote.

If only we had a period during which the opposition could question the government about such things.