Amrullah Saleh and the Afghan detainee controversy

Amrullah Saleh was head of Afghanistan’s secret police, the NDS, during the time that Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin alleges detainees transferred to the NDS by Canadian Forces were tortured.

As near as I can tell, Saleh has not spoken to media about these allegations (though he has addressed them in letters and reports — including to the former Afghan ambassador to Canada — that have been made public).

I met with Saleh in Kabul. The bulk of our interview concerned his involvement in the political movement opposed to a peace deal with the Taliban. We did, however, briefly touch on the detainee issue. Here, for the record, is what he said: 

Saleh: “Whatever he [Colvin] says, they could have confronted me while I was in office…. Every time there was a problem, we worked very closely, very transparently to fix the problem.”

Maclean’s: “What was your relationship like with Canadian soldiers in the south?

Saleh: “Excellent.”

Maclean’s: “Were Taliban prisoners abused within NDS under your leadership?”

Saleh: “Not that I remember. But in a war situation, it’s not like a tea party. Or it’s not a dinner party. Detainees, when they are detained, they are detained under very tough circumstances. And I don’t know what is the definition of abuse. What do they mean? Canadians had access throughout the process when an individual would be detained.

Maclean’s: “How would you define abuse, or how would you define torture?”

Saleh: “Torture, meaning hurting physically somebody, or psychologically, for sake of extracting information, that was never the case. We would confront the detainees with evidence that was against them, showing their involvement, but never resorting to psychological or physical pressure.”