Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Defence committee highlights the detainee issue

The House Defence Committee has released a report on the Afghan mission, timely considering the likely impending termination of the current parliamentary session. Puts a meaningful stamp on the actions of the government to date on this file.

Of note is the focus on the handling of the detainee issue and how it's tarnished the mission. Despite the improved agreement recently entered into on the issue, there's still a neverland of questionable accountability that can't really assure whether detainees are being properly treated or not. That's the situation we're in. The investigating authorities of torture allegations remain the Afghan government. We can monitor, but we're really just sitting around awaiting the Afghan verdict on whether their own people are torturing. Given the track record thus far, it's reasonable to question whether we should be condoning this system in the long run.

Because, as the report points out, all the witnesses that appeared before the committee are of the view that the mission will be far from complete by 2009. The words picked up on by the committee are "decades" and "generations" to describe the duration of the time commitment that's required to make a real difference in Afghanistan.

I find it remarkable after this spring session that a committee of this House could produce a statement in the form of such a report that actually speaks to the issues (I haven't mentioned them all, by the way) and requests a debate a year from now to prepare for the 2009 looming deadline. How low has the bar been set when what should be routine - a House committee rigorously assessing a problem on its substantive merits - becomes the remarkable...