Canadian military denies paying Taliban for peace

MacKay said. “I strongly suspect that this is more Taliban propaganda. Of course, they’re not bound by rules of engagement or simple things such as truth.”

Canadian soldiers walk through a village of Charbagh in Kandahar City, Afghanistan on Sunday Oct. 3, 2009. (CP / Bill Graveland)

Canadian soldiers walk through a village of Charbagh in Kandahar City, Afghanistan on Sunday Oct. 3, 2009. (CP / Bill Graveland)

 CTVNEWS…KANDAHAR — Both the Canadian Forces and the federal government strenuously denied any suggestion Friday that Canada ever paid off Taliban insurgents in order to prevent troops in Afghanistan from being attacked.

A report out of Kabul by news agency Agence France-Presse quoted unnamed Afghan and Western officials as saying the practice of paying insurgents not to attack was widespread among NATO coalition forces, including Canadian soldiers.

Not so, said Task Force Kandahar spokesperson Maj. Mario Couture.

“Canadians are not involved in any way, shape or form with payments to Taliban,” Couture said. “This is truly false.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, speaking in St. John’s, said it was the first he was hearing of the report and described it as likely “Taliban propaganda.”

“We have international obligations, we have conventions that we have to follow, but most importantly, we have to respect human rights,” MacKay said.

“This suggestion that we’re bribing the Taliban not to engage in military — or I would call them terrorist attacks — clearly isn’t working. We’ve had 131 casualties. So, that sad reality seems to put to a lie what the Taliban are saying.”

There are a number of different development initiatives in place in Afghanistan, and have been for years, that involve financial incentives and are designed to discourage lending support or succour to the Taliban.

Couture said Canadian soldiers do pay out sums of money to local Afghans in exchange for their weapons, while others are paid to do work on behalf of the coalition — building roads or helping with construction projects — to discourage Taliban involvement.

“We’re using work as a weapon against the Taliban,” Couture said. “It’s not money that we distribute… for no reason. This is hard-earned money.”

Friday’s report came on the heels of a British newspaper report that said Italian military and intelligence officials had handed over money to the Taliban in exchange for peace.

“I would rely on military officials on the ground to be aware if such a thing were happening,” MacKay said.

“I strongly suspect that this is more Taliban propaganda. Of course, they’re not bound by rules of engagement or simple things such as truth.”

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