Canada kept feared Afghan governor in power despite rep as ‘human-rights abuser’
OTTAWA — A former governor of Kandahar who is accused of personally torturing Afghans might have been removed from office as far back as 2006 if Canadian officials hadn’t defended him, according to diplomatic memos that have never been made public by the Canadian government.
The revelation about Asadullah Khalid, who stayed on as governor two years after concerns about his notorious reputation were raised, opens up another embarrassing avenue of inquiry over Afghan prisoner abuse.
The new allegation is contained in a two-year-old end-of-mission report by Richard Colvin, the whistleblower foreign service officer.
Colvin’s disgust that Canada would support a “known human-rights abuser” was palpable and formed the most incendiary paragraphs of the report. References to Khalid were entirely blacked out in the version of the report publicly released to the Military Police Complaints Commission.
But an uncensored version of the report was shown for the first time to The Canadian Press on a confidential basis.
“As far as I know, Canada has never suggested to (President Hamid) Karzai that Asadullah be replaced,” says the memo, dated Oct. 24, 2007.
“In the one meeting where the subject was discussed, in July 2006, it was the president who raised the issue; Canada defended the governor, thereby ensuring his continued tenure.”
The uncensored report sheds further light on Colvin’s Nov. 18, 2009 testimony before a special House of Commons committee, where he stated the governor was considered a “bad actor” on human rights.
It also makes clear the division between the Canadian military, which supported Khalid, and skeptical diplomats, who became increasingly vocal about allegations of corruption, drug-running and prisoner abuse.
Canada ended up withdrawing its support for Khalid in 2008 when former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier, in what was widely viewed as a massive diplomatic blunder, publicly declared the governor had to go and that he’d urged Karzai to replace him. Provincial governors in Afghanistan are appointed by the president.
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