Thursday, October 08, 2009

Afghanistan mission creeping in all directions

A few points on the Afghan file's rearing its head from many different directions.

Haven't done this in a while, but here's a little search by the Privy Council Office today:

Apropos of the Afghan cover-up aka the shutdown effort the Harper people have underway with the Military Police Complaints Commission, no doubt. Colvin, a sought after witness at the commission, filed his evidence yesterday but it has been sealed amidst the legal wrangling over the scope of the hearings. As for the search on Mendes, he criticized the refusal to extend the MPCC Chair's term, and has been highly and rightfully critical of that action. These points, raised by Mendes a few days ago, are bang on as to what the government is doing:
Mendes accused the department of using delaying tactics in order to deliberately run out the clock on Tinsley's term, aiming to undermine the investigation or appoint a chair less familiar with the case.

"This raises a huge, huge systemic issue," Mendes said.

"Is it legal or constitutional to stymie legal and administrative tribunals in this way? Because if it can be done to this commission, it could be done in any administrative tribunal in this country and that calls into question the fundamentals of administrative justice."

Pretty amazing stuff we're dealing with. More here on the government's abuse of the Canada Evidence Act to intimidate witnesses.

In other developments on the Afghanistan file, the government may be facing hearings at the defence committee on detainee handling in Afghanistan despite their efforts to shut it down at the MPCC. A motion has been filed in support of that option today.

And it may be getting further public scrutiny on the future of the Afghanistan combat mission. Conservatives are now framing the post-2011 decision as an open debate:
The federal cabinet has the authority to define the mission on its own, but MacKay says the Tory government is committed to the motion passed by Parliament in March 2008 to withdraw the country's battle group from Kandahar, starting in July 2011.

"Until such time as there is a new motion before Parliament or a new decision taken, we will respect the guidelines and the direction from the existing motion," the minister said following his committee appearance.

His remarks echoed Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs minister, who told the Commons in an impromptu debate on Afghanistan earlier in the week that the future mission will be brought before MPs.

"I can tell the honourable member that when the mission is debated after 2011 by Parliament, he, as the Liberal foreign affairs critic, will have an opportunity to full participate in that debate," Obhrai said in response to a question from Liberal MP Bob Rae.

"The (Commons Afghanistan) committee will participate. Canadians will participate to indicate how the mission will go after 2011 should go, while taking into account the strong values and past contributions. I can tell the honourable member we are looking forward to that debate."
MacKay side-stepped the question of how Canada will carry out a development mission while a Taliban insurgency rages in many parts of southern Afghanistan.

It is generally accepted that diplomats, development and aid workers will need protection, but the minister refused to say whether a small contingent of Canadian troops will provide that security - or if the dangerous role will be left to the Americans and other NATO allies.

There are many "moving parts" in making the decision about what the mission will look like, not the least of which is what direction the U.S. administration intends to take, MacKay said.
"Moving parts," a new "debate" on the future of the mission, with Obhrai's emphasis on "strong values and past contributions" all suggests a coming plan from the government to change the mission's future post-2011 that is at variance with the present plan to cease the Canadian combat role at that stage. Expect public denials but keep an eye out for the private machinations.