December 09, 2009

Detention vs custody

Re the 2006 Zangabad detention referred to by the CDS today:

A good piece here hints at some of the other issues just starting to surface:

British and Dutch forces, who followed the Canadians into southern Afghanistan, were "deeply frustrated" even though their agreements with Kabul allowed them more access to prisoners.

"UK/Dutch pol/mil colleagues lament that they are unable to track their detainees," said a Dec. 4, 2006, memo viewed by The Canadian Press.

"It is unclear whether they are tortured, held beyond legal limits, or (all too frequently) released back to battlefield."

The Allies were worried "the detainee issue could explode at any moment into a political firestorm."

Detainee release "back to the battlefield" by Afghan authorities is the flip side of this debate. Afghans tend to keep very little in the way of records of significance of the disposition of those they've detained, enabling the taking of bribes for release of even well-known insurgents.

At the time, officials were putting a lot of stock into the idea that the Afghan government would take the handling of detainees away from the National Directorate of Security and hand prisoners over to a special camp run by the army.

But Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak eventually sank the proposal.

In my experience, the Afghan Army at all ranks tried to have as little as possible to do with anything that looked like a detainee. Not their line of country, so sorry. Can't really blame them, either.

Posted by BruceR at 10:04 PM

People-who-don't-know-what-they're-talking-about Watch

Defence analyst Allen Sens says the contract for the surveillance aircraft indicates that Canada’s Afghan military mission is not yet over.

“This seems to support the idea that we will be staying on with a military mission,” said Sens, an analyst with the University of British Columbia. “I was always under the impression we would continue with some kind of military presence such as JTF2 ( the military’s elite force), PRT assets and a headquarters battlegroup.”

Ottawa Citizen. Some analyst: "Headquarters battlegroup" is a nonsense phrase. If he'd said "...and an oatmeal lobster" it would have made about as much sense in that context. So, either UBC's defence analyst knows nothing about defence, or the Ottawa Citizen's defence reporting team of O'Neill and Pugliese doesn't, or both. Your pick. (You should probably judge the rest of Sens' "analysis" accordingly.)

Posted by BruceR at 04:02 PM

...had to stop in my tracks for fear, of walking on the mines I laid...

The CDS "dropped a bombshell" today, says the Star. (It's always jarring to see military-themed figures of speech used by the papers when discussing actual, you know, military people doing their jobs, isn't it?... next they're going to say he "drove a tank" through the committee room and I won't know what to believe...)

As alluded to at the end of this post here and previously, this is a very deep rabbit-hole, one I fear that we're not even partway down yet. In retrospect, one imagines the "no confirmed case of Canadian detainee torture" line might end up as the most ill-advised military talking point put into a minister's mouth since the Somalia days.

UPDATE: This just keeps getting better. On poor tactics, see also Paul Wells. The smarter approach on this was always the one we've started to hear from the PM and others again today... our own soldiers did nothing wrong. Which, in truth, they certainly appear to have done... every new detainee anecdote is only making them look better and better. It's the relying on a PR attack point that could have been potentially impeached by any credible evidence of Afghan misbehaviour, past, present, or future, that now must just seem... unwise. (EDITING NOTE: Some other ruminations hived off into a later post of their own.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:55 PM