Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Afghanistan update: torture and foreign fighters

We're still handing over prisoners to be tortured. As rightly highlighted by other bloggers, La Presse has reported on torture allegations by prisoners that are bolstered by the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission and a prison official. To our Conservative government, this is all waved off as Taliban propaganda. They still don't get how they are damaging our international reputation and disrespecting the Geneva Conventions. Here are some who do:
"Canada has a responsibility for the people it hands over to the Afghan authorities," said deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. "If it cannot guarantee that those prisoners are protected, it's got to stop transferring. I don't like that any more than anyone else here, but that's what a responsible government would do here."

Michael Byers, an expert in international law and politics, said the agreement signed in May by the Canadian government "is a good thing ... but it doesn't solve the problem. ... It's part of the solution and what's needed is an ongoing commitment to implementation and verification, and also a willingness to pull the plug on transfers if we have reason to believe the system is failing."
And to add to the chaos, today's NY Times brings news of hardened foreign fighters bolstering the Taliban. To military officials and Bev Oda-types, this is a sign of "desperation." To others, not so much:
At the same time, Western officials said the reliance on foreigners showed that the Taliban are running out of midlevel Afghan commanders. “That’s a sure-fire sign of desperation,” General Champoux said.

Seth Jones, an analyst with the Rand Corporation, was less sanguine, however, calling the arrival of more foreigners a dangerous development. The tactics the foreigners have introduced, he said, are increasing Afghan and Western casualty rates.

“They play an incredibly important part in the insurgency,” Mr. Jones said. “They act as a force multiplier in improving their ability to kill Afghan and NATO forces.”

Western officials said the foreigners are also increasingly financing younger Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas who have closer ties to Al Qaeda, like Sirajuddin Haqqani and Anwar ul-Haq Mujahed. The influence of older, more traditional Taliban leaders based in Quetta, Pakistan, is diminishing.

“We see more and more resources going to their fellow travelers,” said Christopher Alexander, the deputy special representative for the United Nations in Afghanistan. “The new Taliban commanders are younger and younger.”
Needless to say, the facts on the ground continue to develop and overwhelm the Harper government.