Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Top Canadian commander in Kandahar blows off Taliban jailbreak : "It's not my job."

G&M : Inside the Taliban jailbreak
"Kandahar's provincial council strongly criticized the foreign troops for arriving at Sarpoza roughly two hours after the jailbreak started. They demanded to know why Canadian soldiers watched the [800] prisoners run away and failed to chase them. Witnesses say that hundreds of inmates spent their first night of freedom camping in the fields only a few kilometres south of the prison, within easy reach of the Canadian soldiers sent to investigate.

Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the top Canadian commander in Kandahar, confirmed that NATO surveillance tracked the fugitives as they fled. But he said it's not Canada's job as part of the International Security Assistance Force to hunt down escaped prisoners.

"You can ask yourself the rhetorical question, what if we find 100 fugitives in the fields?" Gen. Thompson said. "What is ISAF's duty in that circumstance? Is it to go arrest people?"

The commander continued: "We're not policing this country, right? It's not our role to police this country. Our role is to stand behind our Afghan partners and assist them."

The Canadian commander said he was also unaware, until informed by The Globe and Mail, that most of the prison staff had been poisoned in the week before the attack.
Many were hospitalized and the rest staggered home, leaving only a few guards on duty that evening.
[The superintendent of the women’s section recovered and] had a puzzling conversation with the prison director on the day of the attack. She passed him outside his office, she said, and he smiled at her. “He told me, ‘Something might happen tonight.’ ”

Seven Taliban prisoners, who gathered every day inside one of the nicest cells of the national-security wing, a sunny room on the north side with a view of a garden.
They posted a sign on their door, saying: “No interruptions from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.”
[There was] an Arabic phrase recently painted on the wall : “ Jihad is mandatory.”

In the year before the prison break, the Canadians paid for new septic systems, solar-powered lighting, new doors and windows, an infirmary, landscaping, guard towers and washroom facilities, among other improvements. "

It's on the front page of the G&M today. The whole story is ... extraordinary.

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