By Michael Petrou - Monday, April 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Karzai’s new anti-U.S. stance is driven by a desire to leave office as a peacemaker, not a puppet
On a mild winter day 11 years ago, George W. Bush stood beside Hamid Karzai, then the Afghan interim leader, in the White House Rose Garden and declared America’s “enduring commitment to Afghanistan’s future.” He called Karzai a determined leader and said his government reflected the “hopes of all Afghans for a new and better future.”
Karzai, wearing a peaked cap and loose-ﬁtting green tunic, was equally effusive. Afghanistan, he said, was a good partner and would stay a good partner. “I’m sure that the future of the two countries will be good, and a wonderful relationship should be expected to come in the future.”
It is almost jarring to watch video footage of that news conference today. Weak sunlight on the green White House lawn adds to the sense of optimism and goodwill between Afghanistan and the United States that was present then but has unravelled since. Relations reached their lowest point this month, when Karzai suggested the United States and the Taliban were colluding to destabilize the country to prolong America’s presence there.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:11 AM - 0 Comments
It was supposed to be a training day on the weapons range, away from…
It was supposed to be a training day on the weapons range, away from the usual threats of a war zone.
It ended in bloodshed. One Canadian soldier dead and four others seriously injured.
Three fellow soldiers would eventually be convicted for what they did — or didn’t do — that day.
An accident on the Kan Kala firing range on Feb. 12, 2010, marked a dark chapter in Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. The saga moved a step closer to closure this week with the sentencing of the final soldier to face a court martial.
There was anticipation among the troops that day in February. Continue…
By Adnan R. Khan - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
Will the country one day be better known for tourism than terrorism?
To anyone who’s tried, it is the best skiing experience they’ve ever had: pristine powder snow and wide-open terrain, breathtaking vistas in every direction and the thrill of being the only person to carve through these slopes in decades. The azure lakes in the distance such a deep shade of blue they appear to have been painted into the landscape by some celestial brush. At the bottom of the mountain, there’s the collection of yurts of the base camp, the warm glow of a campfire flickering golden yellow.
Perhaps the skiers will have heard a strange rumbling in the distance, like thunder—only denser. Then a dull sound like popcorn popping, followed by a plume of smoke rising up from the slopes of another distant mountain. But then there are the attack helicopters, trained to fly in formation, twisting and turning in unison, the dull thuds of the chopper blades a stark reminder that this, after all, is Afghanistan, and no amount of mountaintop isolation can guarantee a complete remove from the other reality.
“From the outside, it looks like chaos everywhere,” says Gull Hussian Baizada, 29, the founder of Rah-e-Abrisham Tours, based in Bamiyan province, an island of peace in north-central Afghanistan. Baizada set up his tour company in January 2011 and has already taken 75 foreign tourists out to ski on the treeless peaks of the Hindu Kush range. The provincial capital, also named Bamiyan, boasts a ski rental shop and guest houses to accommodate the growing trickle of tourists. In the summer months, Baizada takes trekkers to the province’s remote mountains and valleys. Multi-day trips are common, including treks to the otherworldly scenes at Band-e-Amir—the system of pristine, high mountain lakes and caves have been designated Afghanistan’s first-ever national park. Colossal Buddha statues once stood in the region before they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Afghanistan, the F-35 controversy and military spending
Peter MacKay has been minister of national defence since 2007, and before that served as the first foreign minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. At 47, he’s a political veteran. As the last leader of the old Progressive Conservatives, he bargained with Stephen Harper to unite the right under the new Conservative banner. He has presided over the Canadian army’s historic mission in Afghanistan, but also been widely criticized for his handling of the government’s controversial plan to buy F-35 fighter jets. He spoke to Maclean’s in his Parliament Hill office.
Q: The war in Afghanistan profoundly changed the way many Canadians think about their military. But now that we’re out of combat, and committed to ending our troops’ role training the Afghan National Army in the spring of 2014, what are we likely to have accomplished?
A: I think we’ve given Afghan people hope. And I say that knowing everything stems from security in that country, as it does in most countries. Along with our international allies, along with the Afghans, we’ve built schools, immunized children, promoted women’s inclusivity in their society, in their parliament. So there are many tangible things you can point to. But the sense that young Afghans have that there’s a better future, fragile though it may be, is an enormous accomplishment.
Q: But how can we have any confidence that the Afghan National Army will be able to take over holding the Taliban at bay when Canada and other international forces, especially the U.S., finally withdraw?
A: Well, that is obviously the concern. Two questions remain. When will the Americans leave? And is the [goal of training] 352,000 combined Afghan army and police sufficient? But to me the bigger question is governance. Will the Afghan government be able to adequately fund and support that security force throughout the entire country? One scenario that has to be in the back of your mind is, if they decide to reduce that number by 100,000, do we want well-armed, well-trained young Afghans outside the military with nothing to do?
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
SHILO, Man. – A five-member military panel has begun deliberations in the Manitoba court…
SHILO, Man. – A five-member military panel has begun deliberations in the Manitoba court martial of a former soldier accused in a deadly training accident.
Retired warrant officer Paul Ravensdale faces six charges, including manslaughter, in the death of Cpl. Josh Baker in Afghanistan three years ago.
Four other soldiers were injured when an anti-personnel mine misfired and sent hundreds of steel ball bearings flying the wrong way.
The military judge presiding over the case told panel members they must only consider the evidence presented at the court martial.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:36 PM - 0 Comments
The House of Commons foreign affairs committee met today to discuss Mali, where France is currently engaged in war against al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups who had taken control of the northern half of the country. Canada has loaned France the use of a transport plane.
Robert Fowler, the former Canadian and UN diplomat who spent 130 days as a hostage of these same Islamists in northern Mali in 2008 and 2009, testified to the committee.
Fowler argued that Canada should contribute more to the French-led mission, including military assets such as intelligence officers, air power and special forces. He said millions of people in northern Africa are in “significant peril” from the Islamist threat and that no Canadians — indeed no Westerners at all — are safe in large swaths of the Sahel where these Islamists hold sway.
There can be no negotiations with them, he said, because there is no middle ground between what they want and what we might be prepared to give. He recalled his captors bragging about the millions of dollars they had obtained through kidnapping and smuggling, and yet they dressed in rags. They didn’t care about material possessions, only jihad and entering paradise as a martyr in God’s war against the infidels. Economic development, in other words, isn’t going to convince them to put down their weapons. They don’t want jobs; they want to die. And they must be killed — “diminished” is how Fowler put it. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:31 PM - 0 Comments
One of the concerns raised by Philip Cross was the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s decision in the fall of 2008 to release, during that year’s election, an analysis of the costs of the war in Afghanistan. This has also come up in the comment thread under Paul’s column.
First, the context. Parliament was dissolved on September 7, 2008. Two days later, the Ottawa Citizen reported that the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who had been planning to release an analysis of the mission that fall (at the request of NDP MP Paul Dewar), would not do so.
After six years of sending troops to Afghanistan, Canadians will go to the polls Oct. 14 not knowing how much the war has cost them. That’s because parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, Canada’s newest spending watchdog, has decided not to release a preliminary report into the first full costing of the war since Canada sent soldiers to Afghanistan six years ago in the middle of an election campaign … Mr. Page had hoped to release a preliminary estimate when Parliament returned in September, but the election shelved those plans. There’s nothing to stop Mr. Page from releasing the study, other than concerns of interfering in the election and getting drawn into politics.
A week later, Global National pursued the question. Here is how that report began.
KEVIN NEWMAN: Well, the prime minister sought to re-assure Canadians today that Canada’s economy is on more sound footing. Banks are secure and the government claims its finances are in the black. But tonight in a “Global National” exclusive, we raise an important question that is getting almost no coverage in this campaign, how much…
JAMIE ORCHARD (Reporter): In the entire Afghanistan debate, right now, and what will be spent before the mission runs out in 2011. This small team of number crunchers has the answer to that question. They work for Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer, a new office created by the Tories to help tell Canadians what things cost. Their first job – tallying up the complete and true cost of the Afghan mission, and they’re almost ready, but the question – should it be released during an election campaign?
KEVIN PAGE (Parliamentary Budget Officer): At the minimum it would take an all-party agreement and probably we’d be setting a precedent for, in a kind of Canadian context for, you know, putting this report out.
In short order, the Liberal, NDP and Bloc leaders declared that the report should be made public. A day later, the Prime Minister added his agreement.
“We’re always willing to give content for any information that’s public. We put out detailed estimates every year of, of government expenditures so, of course, we’re willing to give our consent.”
Mr. Page then agreed that the report would be released as soon as it was ready and it was publicly released on October 9.
Mr. Page’s mandate was subsequently the subject of some gnashing of teeth. I can’t find the original source of the quote, but Cross says a former parliamentary librarian said the release of the report called into question the non-partisan status of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
For the sake of exploring this particular moment in this history of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, I asked Kevin Page about it: Do you regret releasing the Afghanistan report during the 2008 election?
He wrote back with the following, which I reprint in its entirety. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 9:46 PM - 0 Comments
John Baird’s priorities for 2013 will focus on trade. Security issues, however, may force themselves to a more prominent place on this government’s agenda. Here are Baird’s most pressing international files:
The Keystone XL pipeline:
U.S. approval of the pipeline, designed to carry Canadian crude oil to U.S. refineries, has been long delayed. U.S. President Barack Obama sent the proposal to the State Department for a revised assessment to avoid dealing with the issue prior to the American election in November. American Environmentalists fiercely oppose the plan, and Obama wanted their votes.
The results of that State Department assessment are expected this spring. Obama’s nomination of John Kerry, seen as an environmental advocate, for secretary of state has raised concerns among Keystone advocates that America might reject the project. Canada is seeking alternative markets for Canadian oil, but America remains its most lucrative customer and Baird will be working hard to close this deal.
A Canada-European Union free trade deal:
The Foreign Affairs website still lists concluding an agreement with the European Union as a priority for 2012 — underlining the slower-than-expected pace of ongoing negotiations. Reports say a deal is imminent, but we’ve been hearing that for a while.
A Canada-India free trade deal:
Canada’s negotiations with India began in 2010. Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh re-affirmed their desire to close the deal by the end of this year when Harper visited India last fall. A seventh round of talks will be held next month in New Delhi.
Just because a country doesn’t plan for a war doesn’t mean it won’t be involved in one. An unexpected advance by Islamist rebels in northern Mali toward the capital, Bamako, earlier this month prompted France to deploy troops at the request of Mali’s fragile, post-coup government. France and Mali’s poorly trained soldiers are now actively fighting Islamsits from al-Qaeda’s North Africa franchise, along with affiliated groups. Canada has committed one C-17 transport plane to ferry gear from France to Mali. Harper suggests Canada’s contribution may expand, but he wants “broad consensus” in Parliament. Mali will be debated during the first week the House returns.
Afghanistan has faded from the headlines with the end of Canada’s combat mission there, but it remains this country’s largest overseas military commitment, with some 925 Canadian soldiers and 45 civilian police deployed as part of a NATO mission to train Afghan soldiers and police. Foreign Affairs’ Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force will spend about $25 million a year there until 2014, when the military mission is due to end.
Barring any Canadian casualties — especially from insider “green on blue” attacks by Afghan security forces that killed 60 foreign troops in 2012 — this file may be a quiet one in 2013. Next year, when Canadians will be forced to pay attention to the sort of country we’re leaving behind, it will heat up.
Iran: Baird calls Iran the biggest threat to international peace and security in the world. In an interview with Maclean’s, he voiced his support for President Obama’s position that military force may be necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. If Israel or the United States strikes Iran this year, world opinion will be polarized. Canada may find itself among the few nations supporting such an attack, and it will be up to Baird to explain why.
Baird calls Iran the biggest threat to international peace and security in the world. In an interview with Maclean’s, he voiced his support for President Obama’s position that military force may be necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. If Israel or the United States strikes Iran this year, world opinion will be polarized. Canada may find itself among the few nations supporting such an attack, and it will be up to Baird to explain why.
By Emily Senger - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 10:22 AM - 0 Comments
Taliban leaders are speaking out in response to Prince Harry’s return from war in…
Taliban leaders are speaking out in response to Prince Harry’s return from war in Afghanistan and his assertion, during media interviews, that he killed Taliban members.
In particular, a Taliban spokesperson takes offence to the prince’s interview about manning the weapons in an Apache attack helicopter. Prince Harry compares it to playing a video game on PlayStation or Xbox.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tells AFP: “This is a serious war, a historic war, resistance for us, for our people. But we don’t take his comments very seriously, as we have all seen and heard that many foreign soldiers, occupiers who come to Afghanistan, develop some kind of mental problems on their way out.”
The Taliban spokesman also said that they wanted to kill the prince while he was on duty, but he was mostly kept inside where it was safe.
By Adnan R. Khan - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 9:17 AM - 0 Comments
A Maclean’s correspondent becomes a clown in hostile territory
In the long and colourful history of wacky ideas, this one ranks somewhere near the top: buy a three-wheeled, motorized rickshaw from Afghanistan, paint it in wild colours, and drive it 8,000 km through Pakistan and Iran to Istanbul, putting on a circus for children along the way.
When my partner, Annika Schmeding, a petite, blond German and I—Pakistani by birth, but as Canadian as they come—came up with the plan, most people in Kabul looked at us as if we were from a planet populated by insane clowns. “Are you nuts?” asked a former Australian soldier turned freelance security adviser. “You’ll never make it alive.”
Others wrote us off as dreamers who, after many months in the pressure-cooker environment of the Afghan capital, had perhaps become a little unhinged. They weren’t entirely wrong. After so much time dealing with the dysfunction and greed of the international development community, where schools are built without teachers to fill them, proposals written not to address Afghan needs but simply to cater to donors, madness can be a refuge for the sane. Continue…
By Ken MacQueen - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
The former soldier survived an axe attack in Afghanistan, now he’s defying the limits of science in his recovery
It has been 25 years since Trevor Greene gave up competitive rowing for other pursuits: journalism, travel, soldiering, fatherhood, marriage. But today, at age 48, sitting in a wheelchair in his Nanaimo, B.C., home, the forcibly retired army captain is rowing as hard as he’s trained for any event in his life.
Today he rows only in his mind, where he also visualizes walking. The frustrations are enormous for a man once thought of as invincible. He used to be part of the men’s eight crew at King’s College in Halifax, and at the elite club level, pulling until his muscles screamed and the callouses were thick on his hands. Now he makes perfect strokes with his mind, the neurons firing along a familiar course as he stirs up long-remembered sensations: the feel of oar in hand and boat in water. “All that stuff: the sound and the heat and the pain,” he says. When the oar enters the water, “I imagine the tug on my shoulders, because it’s a very good feeling. Very distinctive.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 15, 2012 at 11:49 AM - 0 Comments
The National Post obtains an audit of Canadian foreign aid in Afghanistan that does not entirely flatter this country’s efforts.
One of the reviews obtained by the National Post under access-to-information legislation notes that a key goal of Canada’s development program was to bolster the capacity of Afghans to improve their own lot and carry on rebuilding long after foreign nations had left. If the aim is to have “Afghan girls and boys actually learning in functional schools,” for instance, there needs to be local school committees to monitor results, not just a drive to erect buildings, it said.
But the Kandahar action plan that guided Canada’s priority projects for the restive, crumbling province did little to ensure locals could and would take part, said the document. “The impression is of a major planning effort, meticulously documented, but divorced from reality,” said the consultants. “Artificially maintaining forward progress on a few indicators so that there is something positive to report (eg more training, more equipment, more schools built) is much like pushing a rope, and may be actually counterproductive if it ignores deeper institutional problems.”
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into an Afghan-American patrol on Monday morning…
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into an Afghan-American patrol on Monday morning in eastern Afghanistan. The attack killed 14 people including at least three American troops and their translator.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack through text messages to the media. The bombing occurred a day after the American death toll in the Afghanistan war hit 2,000 troops.
Six civilians and four police officers were also killed in the bombing.
These attacks are prompting increasing pressure on the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. On Sunday, an American solider was killed in a firefight between U.S. and Afghan troops.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
The videotapes and transcripts that Vic Toews demanded have now been delivered. It has now been nearly two years since the Harper government told the American government that it would look favourably on Omar Khadr’s transfer to Canada.
Last week, Michael Friscolanti looked at speculation that Mr. Khadr was sexually abused in Afghanistan. We’ve also posted five psychiatric reports on Mr. Khadr here, here, here and here, as well as a transcript of Michael Wellner’s testimony at Mr. Khadr’s trial.
By Scaachi Koul - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
A suicide bomber killed at least 20 and wounded dozens more on Tuesday in…
A suicide bomber killed at least 20 and wounded dozens more on Tuesday in a targeted attack against an Afghan government official at a funeral near the Pakistani boarder. It was one of the bloodiest assaults of the year.
District governor Hamisha Gul, who was the target of the bombing, was wounded, though his sons were reportedly killed in the attack. No one has claimed responsibility yet, but the Taliban have often targeted Afghani officials in their effort to bring down the country’s Western-backed government.
The attack comes just weeks after a group of suicide bombers killed at least 30 people in the year’s deadliest assault.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 9:38 AM - 0 Comments
Australia’s worst day yet in the Afghan conflict sees five soldiers killed in two incidents
Five Australian troops were killed in two incidents on Wednesday and Thursday, making it the bloodiest 24 hours yet for Australian forces during the Afghan conflict.
Three troops were at their base on Wednesday in the sourthern Uruzgan province when they were shot at close range by an Afghan man in a military uniform. The shooter escaped by climbing a fence. Two other Australians were wounded.
Two other troops died on Thursday when their helicopter rolled over in Helmand. There was no enemy activity at the time of the crash, but it’s being investigated.
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, August 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM - 0 Comments
A NATO soldier was killed and another one injured by an Afghan police officer…
A NATO soldier was killed and another one injured by an Afghan police officer on Sunday night in the Spin Boldak district of southern Kandahar. The death raises the toll of so-called “green on blue” shootings to nine in 11 days.
While the west is planning to pull most troops out of the country by the end of 2014, relationships between NATO and Afghan authorities are deteriorating. Provincial officials say early investigations show no signs of Taliban involvement in the latest shooting.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 3:18 PM - 0 Comments
In October 2010, the Harper government assured the Obama administration that “Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, or such portion of the remainder of his sentence as the National Parole Board determines.” In October 2011, the Harper government managed to say both that it would respect the agreement between Mr. Khadr and the U.S. government and assert that that agreement had no bearing on the Harper government’s decision.
Mr. Toews says he’s still waiting for “relevant information.”
“I’m not going to make any decisions that would in any way jeopardize public safety. I have an obligation to satisfy myself that I have all of the relevant information before I make a decision,” Toews said in Saskatchewan. ”At this point I do not have all the relevant information and I will not be pushed into making a decision that would have me consider less than the full facts.”
Omar Khadr was first captured by American forces in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in late October 2002.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 2:15 PM - 0 Comments
It’s really unfair—and that’s why I take exception to the Toronto Star article—how you can be so critical of a nation, in our own country, that is so lauded, and appreciated, and recognized elsewhere in the world…be it NGOs, Canadian government, Canadian funds, are touching the most needy people, in the most destitute situations all over the world. And yet right at home here we’re being [pilloried]. And that’s so, so childish. It’s immature. It’s total lack of appreciation for the goodness of Canadians and what we’re doing around the world.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
A Syrian general defects, dogs are good for infants and cases of black lung are on the rise
A Syrian general and commander in the elite Republican Guard, Manaf Tlass, defected last week to France. Tlass is the son of a former Syrian defence minister and family friend of President Bashar al-Assad. His departure, which coincided with an international summit on Syria’s crisis (death toll: 14,000), should send a strong message to Assad’s remaining international backers standing in the way of reform—namely Russia and China. When such a high-ranking insider like Tlass thinks something is wrong with the regime, well, something is most definitely wrong.
Almost all the foreign troops will be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the world community isn’t totally abandoning the war-torn nation. At a 70-country gathering in Tokyo last week, more than $16 billion was pledged to help aid the government of Hamid Karzai forge a lasting peace and rebuild a shattered land. It won’t be enough to complete the monumental task, but it’s a generous start, especially given the fiscal troubles stalking Europe and the U.S.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 9:36 AM - 0 Comments
Those calling for Canada and other outside forces to quit Afghanistan should at least acknowledge who’s waiting to take our place:
By Adnan R. Khan - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 5:50 AM - 0 Comments
Talk of partition is taboo for diplomats and political suicide for Afghan politicians, but it is never far from people’s minds.
In September 2010, Robert Blackwill, a former U.S. deputy national security adviser, sent the world’s Afghanistan experts into a tizzy with a call to partition the country. “The Taliban are winning,” he told London’s Daily Telegraph. “We are losing. They have high morale and want to continue the insurgency. We need a Plan B.”
He envisioned pulling back U.S. troops to the relative safety of the Dari-speaking north, conceding the turbulent and Pashtun-dominated south and east to the Taliban.
Blackwill is no voice in the wilderness. The distinguished scholar and George W. Bush-era policy adviser engineered a major shift in Washington’s alliance with India and remains a powerful voice inside the Republican party. Outside Republican circles, however, few warmed to his Plan B. “If you want civil war in Afghanistan again,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen retorted, “this would be a good way to get it.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
The Military Police Complaints Commission has released its final report on the inquiry brought after Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association “alleged a failure on the part of certain Military Police (MP) to investigate the Canadian Task Force Commanders in Afghanistan for directing the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities in the face of a known risk of torture.”
The Commission’s mandate in this public interest hearing is limited to the question: Did these subjects fail to meet a positive duty to investigate the transfer orders of the Task Force Commanders in Afghanistan during the timeframe of this complaint? This mandate does not extend to making findings and recommendations concerning the Government of Canada and Canadian Forces’ (CF) policy on detainee transfers. The Commission is limited to determining whether it was reasonable for the CFPM and the other military police subjects of this complaint not to have investigated the legality of detainee transfer orders made by the Task Force Commanders. It is for others to examine the overall appropriateness of Canada’s detainee transfer policies, and the results achieved.
The Commission finds the allegations made by AIC and BCCLA against the eight subject officers in the June 12, 2008 complaint to be unsubstantiated. Viewing the evidence as a whole, the Commission finds no grounds to conclude any of these officers should have investigated the Task Force Commanders while in theatre, or should have caused such an investigation to occur. The Commission finds their actions under the circumstances prevailing at the time met the standards of a reasonable police officer.
The commission devotes an entire chapter to detailing the problems it encountered in trying to access documents and witnesses.
With the Commission’s decision to conduct public interest hearings in March 2008, and through to November 2009, the doors were basically slammed shut on document disclosure. The Commission did not receive a single, new document from the Government throughout that time period despite many requests … In addition to document issues, the Government’s uncooperative stance was also demonstrated in the difficulties experienced by the Commission in accessing witnesses for pre-hearing interviews and even into the hearings themselves…
This Commission is not the first tribunal to be confronted with difficulties in obtaining access to Government documents and evidence. As former Chairperson Peter Tinsley stated at an early stage of this Commission’s proceedings, it seemed that some of the key lessons from the Somalia experience had not been learned. This Commission was indeed struck by a number of similarities between the process issues which it faced, and the experiences reported by the Somalia Inquiry.
The Somalia Inquiry mainly had to do with the actions of the Canadian military in Somalia. The Somalia Inquiry felt compelled in its Report to tell the story of DND’s apparent reluctance to cooperate with the Inquiry when it came to transparency and disclosure of documents. The comments made by the Somalia Commission in Chapter 39 of its Report on this issue could, in many respects, be adopted almost word for word to describe the issues this Commission faced in obtaining disclosure of relevant information from the Government during these proceedings.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 10:25 AM - 0 Comments
The body of Ustad Khalilullah Khalili, one of Afghanistan’s greatest modern poets, was brought home to Afghanistan from Pakistan last month, and reburied following a ceremony at Kabul University.
Khalili, a hero to to the Afghan Mujahedeen fighting the Soviets during the 1980s, lived his final years in exile in Pakistan, and died there in 1987, too early to see the Soviets driven from his country. Relatives feared his grave in Pakistan might be desecrated, following Taliban attacks on Sufi shrines in the country in recent years. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged $330 million to Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal…
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged $330 million to Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from the war-torn country in March 2014. The money, which will be delivered over three years, is meant to help fund the Afghan National Army when it takes over security responsibilities from NATO-led troops, the CBC reports.
Harper made the statement on Monday during the NATO summit in Chicago, where leaders of member countries affirmed their support for a 2014 withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan, where they have been fighting since the invasion of the country in 2001. In a collective statement, NATO leaders said transition of authority to the Afghan army is “irreversible” and that the 130,000 NATO troops in the country will be completely withdrawn by the end of 2014.
“The time has come,” Harper said, quoted by the Canadian Press. “All the benchmarks, all the milestones are being met to make this possible.”
Canada’s pledge is part of a NATO-wide effort to fund the Afghan National Army, which will be tasked with creating stability and fending off a potential Taliban resurgence. “We are on the right track to reaching the goal of around $4bn a year for financing of Afghan security forces – it’s a positive story,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, quoted by the BBC.