We have no interest in Canadian troops becoming accessories to Afghan torturers, risking their lives to capture Taliban fighters only to hand them over to inhuman jailers. But there are better ways to prevent such abuse than those being suggested by Parliament's opposition parties. We neither need to bring these prisoners to Canada -- as the Liberals briefly suggested before backtracking -- nor withdraw our troops, as the NDP demands.
Every allegation of abuse or torture made by Taliban detainees has to be taken with a grain of salt. A terrorist training manual, found on a computer seized at an al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan, listed "allege torture" as one of the first tactics to be employed by any captured jihadi.
Still, the circumstantial evidence that at least some of the captives we have transferred have faced beatings and torture seems persuasive. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) -- Afghanistan's secret police--has a reputation for efficiency, but is also known for ruthlessness.
Even putting aside our legal obligations under the Geneva Convention, we have a moral obligation to guarantee those prisoners who pass through our hands are not subsequently tortured. Freedom from torture is a basic human right we must safeguard for anyone who becomes Canada's responsibility, even Taliban interrogators who employ torture themselves.
It is ridiculous, though, to suggest we bring our Taliban prisoners halfway across the world, as Liberal leader Stephane Dion briefly suggested. Canada does not need its own Guantanamo Bay. Once we had assembled them in one or two places on Canadian soil, those facilities would instantly become targets for their terrorist brothers-in-arms -- not to mention armies of human-rights lawyers. Nor can we maintain our own large-scale detention facilities in Afghanistan. Our Armed Forces haven't the manpower for that.
Last September, Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke to our Parliament and said: "a democratic nation is not built overnight, I hope you will have the patience to bear with us for ? perhaps five to 10 years." We must. But we need something in return: If Mr. Karzai and his government want our young men and women to risk their lives while his construction project is ongoing, he must agree to let Canadian observers accompany those we turn over for interrogation by Afghan authorities. Or failing a Canadian presence in the room, the Afghan government must permit an international humanitarian observer.
We should make this a condition of our troops' continued presence in Mr. Karzai's country.
It would be a tragedy for Afghan society if our troops withdrew: Canadian soldiers have helped bring about amazing changes in Afghanistan -- including a doubling of per capita income, and a school system with six million pupils, twomillion of them girls. But even such impressive progress does not morally justify a situation in which our troops are turning men over to torture.