Meanwhile on Monday, the Canadian government remained tight-lipped over the claims made in secret material released over the weekend by the website WikiLeaks, which has triggered a fierce debate over how truthful Western governments are being in their public accounts of the conflict.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon spoke out against the leaking of potentially sensitive operational information, saying the government is concerned that such acts “could endanger the lives of our men and women in Afghanistan.”
According to the 2007 cable, American diplomats spoke with two senior Canadian Foreign Affairs officials, including senior director Yves Beaulieu and policy adviser Georges Flanagan Whalen, in their appeal for the Harper government to join the Bush administration in issuing a joint diplomatic “demarche” — or rebuke — to Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
The memo also shows Canada was asked to rebuke the United Arab Emirates independently over alleged militant fundraising on its soil.
Various organizations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have long been suspected of financing the Afghan insurgency.
But the document suggests both Canadian and U.S. officials have harboured suspicions for several years of alleged militant fundraising activities in South Africa — a Commonwealth country and recent host of the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
According to the cable, Beaulieu “reacted positively to the suggestion that the United States and Canada jointly demarche Pretoria and Riyadh.”
“Beaulieu said although he was not surprised to hear about Taliban fundraising in South Africa and Saudi Arabia, the government of Canada would need more information about specific (U.S. government) concerns before they could agree to jointly demarche other governments or independently demarche the UAE.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday after he announced fresh sanctions against Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, Cannon would not comment directly on the leaked documents, saying they had “nothing to do with Canada.”
“These are documents that are about leaked U.S. documents,” he said. “You’re not going to get an opinion from me on those documents.”
Cannon denied the government was misleading Canadians on the Afghanistan mission, saying it reports on a quarterly basis to a permanent parliamentary committee on all actions taken in the mission.
Heat-seeking missile may have downed chopper
The nearly 77,000 documents, released Sunday, reveal new details about the war in Afghanistan, including the close relationship of the Pakistani military with Afghan insurgents. WikiLeaks plans to publish another 15,000 documents soon, bringing the total released to 92,000.
When questioned by reporters, Cannon would not comment on the documents’ depictions of alleged ties between the ISI, Pakistan’s secret service, and the Taliban — a relationship long condemned by the Afghan government and vociferously denied by Pakistani authorities.
“You’re asking me whether or not I’m concerned with such and such a state,” Cannon said. “I can tell you we’re working in close co-operation on a number of initiatives with both the Pakistan and the Afghanistan governments.”
The leaked documents also describe numerous accounts of brutality, corruption, extortion and kidnapping committed by members of the Afghan police force.
Another revelation is that the Taliban used heat-seeking missiles to down a twin-rotor U.S. Chinook transport helicopter in 2007, possibly killing a Canadian soldier.
Cannon also would not confirm or deny whether a heat-seeking missile was used in the 2007 attack, saying only that any incidents involving Canadian soldiers are investigated by the military.
After the crash, the Canadian military said initial reports suggested rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the Chinook carrying Master Cpl. Darrell Priede and six other NATO personnel.
A spokesman for the Canadian Forces would not provide more detail on what may have brought down the helicopter, saying it was a “matter of operational security.”
“We don’t detail the means by which the enemy can take down a helicopter, just as we don’t discuss how much explosive goes into an (improvised explosive device),” Lt.-Col Chris Lemay told The Canadian Press.