April 21, 2010

Today's essential Afghan reading: Forsberg on Kandahar

Carl Forsberg has an excellent "White SA" roundup of the power-political dynamics in Kandahar out today. It's a must-read for understanding the local situation. From the executive summary:

Ahmed Wali Karzai’s influence over Kandahar is the central obstacle to any of ISAF’s governance objectives, and a consistent policy for dealing with him must be a central element of any new strategy. Wali Karzai’s behavior and waning popularity among local populations promote instability and provide space for the Taliban to exist.

On the NDS, Forsberg makes an observation largely absent in current Canadian reportage:

"In contrast to the police force, the Karzai family has installed close allies into the NDS in southern Afghanistan, and the Kandahar NDS is a vibrant and strong organization loyal to Karzai family interests... The NDS in Kabul is directed by Amrullah Saleh, a Tajik and former deputy to Massoud. But Saleh has limited influence over his organization and is kept in power mostly because of American backing. His influence over the organization does not extend to Kandahar. Several close Karzai allies and even family members in NDS Headquarters in Kabul ensure Karzai influence in parts of the NDS bureaucracy. This shadow ownership enables regional branches of the NDS in areas like Kandahar to be dominated by strong Karzai allies... There are few additional details in the open source on the leadership of the Kandahar NDS or on its leaders’ political affiliations, but there is common recognition that the Kandahar NDS is strongly loyal to the Karzai family."

Also on your must-see list should be Frontline's documentary this week on bacha bazi, the latest piece by suicidally brave Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi (who also did that "Behind Taliban Lines" piece a couple months back).

Posted by BruceR at 12:14 PM

Capt Kirk is climbing to Rideau

I for one wholly endorse my colleague Pat's suggestion for our next Governor-General, if only because it gives me another opportunity to link to this.

Posted by BruceR at 11:59 AM

Occidental bureaucracy vs Oriental inscrutability

From the Globe:

“He has confirmed that [redacted] are in NDS custody along with [redacted] but will not disclose their status (ie awaiting custody, awaiting sentence etc.), will not allow us to visit them and he will not tell me where they are being detained. He will only discuss this further in person at his NDS compound but will not disclose where this is!”

The Guardian:

Britain agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2006 with the Afghan government upholding the "basic principles of international human rights law such as … the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment".

However, the court was told that British officials had admitted that the "whole legal basis" of the MoU was based on trust. ... The MoU was described as "aspirational in nature".

The NDS had consistently denied that it was bound by the MoU and had shown disregard, even contempt, for its terms, the court was told. The fact that there were no sanctions, political or legal, when the MoU was breached, was described as a "serious flaw".

Ah, now that sounds like the NDS guys I knew.

Posted by BruceR at 08:45 AM

Tom Walkom tries again

Two days ago, in this space:

The Star's Tom Walkom, meanwhile, seems to have missed the CDS' memo. Came too late for deadline, I guess. Because we can all agree that writing a column about something that the head of the nation's armed forces has categorically denied the day before without mentioning that denial at all would surely be too irresponsible for any serious journalist to even consider.

Walkom goes at it again today, stating the CDS did not deny the "transfer to interrogation" allegation in his letter. Even though he did. But I'm sure it's an honest oversight. Probably ran out of room, or an editor accidentally deleted a sentence, or something. Because you'd have to be a severely impaired box turtle with a very busy schedule to fail reading comprehension that badly, and we all know Walkom isn't one of those.

Posted by BruceR at 08:34 AM

The obvious followup

Paul Dewar, MP, is asking the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff to reconcile his statement that detainees were never transferred for the purpose of gathering information with the statements before a Commons Committee by an ex-translator.

It should be noted that Mr. Dewar probably had an opportunity to answer that question already.

In the Commons committee:

Mr. Paul Dewar: You say that in this arrangement where these, in this case there were six and I’m looking at the date is October 2007, there were six of these people who were interrogated by Canadian Forces and then passed on to NDS.

You’re saying that when it says at the end that the interview’s concluded, believe that the detainees were deceptive and have better knowledge than they suggested they did, that the idea here was to pass them on to the NDS to extract more information, because of the methods that NDS used?

Mr. Malgarai Ahmadshah: The language is very simple here if you look at it. If they wanted to extract more information from them if they were deceptive, keep them for longer and ask them questions until you’re satisfied. If you can’t get it out of them through a normal way, then you have to subcontract the torture. It’s not the first time it happens. We did it with Maher Arar. We subcontracted his torture*. So why would anybody doubt that we did not do it with Afghans?

Mr. Paul Dewar: It was understood then when the detainees were being transferred to NDS, it was done for that purpose?

Mr. Malgarai Ahmadshah: There was no one in the Canadian military with a uniform who was involved in any way, at any level, with the detainee transfers that they did not know what was going on and what NDS does to their detainees.

The second answer is, of course, non-responsive**. Mr. Dewar's obvious followup there was: "You've said you translated documents to be given to the NDS. Well, presumably their documents had to be translated, too, right? So, working as the Canadian translator, were you ever asked to translate an Afghan interrogation report for Canadians to read? No? Then how would this "subcontracting" of interrogation you suggest have worked, exactly, if the NDS never told us anything?"

*I do not believe this is an accurate statement of the Commission of Inquiry's findings in that matter, and speaks to the witness' bias.
**And a little insulting. There is still a distinction, one hopes, between "could have reasonably assumed" and "knew."

Posted by BruceR at 08:05 AM