|Amrullah Saleh: a Man with Answers|
Almost lost in the barrage of tragic news from
While it is true that three suicide bombers did penetrate the city and attempted to disrupt the gathering of Afghan tribal leaders, the fact is these assaults were unsuccessful. There were no victims, two attackers were killed and the third was captured. In fact, most western observers praised the prompt and restrained response displayed by the Afghan security forces.
By comparison one needs only to recall the embarrassing
That the Afghan president would now accept their resignations indicates a major shift in Karzai's quest for political survival. In particular, Saleh has been at the forefront of the fight against the Taliban since he was appointed the head of NDS in 2004. Prior to that, the youthful Saleh had been a key advisor to the popular Tajik warlord, Ahmed Shah Masood. Following Masood’s assassination in 2001, Saleh played a major role in the intelligence service of the
Having fought the Taliban for the majority of his adult life, Saleh is obviously not a big supporter of Karzai's initiative to welcome the Taliban back into the political fold. After he left his official position, the 42-year-old Saleh wrote to me last week saying that he “will pursue the cause through a different path and avenue, this time from within society.”
I first met Saleh in May 2007 at his office in
During that two-hour climb, Saleh’s bodyguards fanned out beyond earshot to allow us a private discussion, whenever we paused to catch our breath. It was a gruelling test of my endurance which only became more bizarre when we reached the summit. Waiting for our arrival was a group of servants who had driven up the back side of the mountain to provide a selection of tea and sweets.
At this moment the threatening thunderclouds erupted and the rain pelted down. Despite the fact that Saleh and his entourage were all clad in European-style suits and dress shoes – ironically I was the only one clad in the traditional Afghan attire of payraan tumbaan – no one demonstrated the slightest concern over the lightning, thunder and downpour. Everyone simply ate their soggy sweets and acted as if this was a part of their daily routine.
At that juncture, the Canadian media had just begun breaking the stories of potential detainee abuse at the hands of the NDS in
The living conditions were horrific, but to provide some context, we also recorded the fact that the guards lived in equally filthy, cramped quarters and ate the same food as the prisoners. On a subsequent visit in July 2008, we returned to the NDS detention centre and noted that, with Canadian funding and supervision, the conditions had improved dramatically. Nevertheless, up until his resignation Saleh had bemoaned the fact that, while Canadian officials were quick to malign his NDS operatives in the media, their promises to build him entirely new prison facilities had yet to be fulfilled.
Now that Saleh has been relieved of the day-to-day stress of heading an intelligence service combating a ruthless insurgency, perhaps he can be persuaded to appear before a Canadian parliamentary committee. Never mind the public release of contentious documents; Saleh could tell us exactly who knew what and when regarding detainee transfer and handling. That is what the Conservative government wants to learn, isn’t it?