N.B. military widow feels betrayed

A Fredericton widow says she feels betrayed by the Canadian military and government because she was never told the men suspected of killing her husband were handed over to Afghan authorities and then lost track of.

A Fredericton military widow says she feels betrayed by the Canadian Forces and federal government.

Susan Short was reacting to being told by CBC News that the military has no idea what happened to the men suspected of killing her husband in 2003.

Sgt. Robert Alan Short, 42, was one of the first two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

He and Cpl. Robbie Christopher Beerenfenger, 29, of Ottawa died and three others were injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in Kabul.

Two men were arrested in connection with the bombing. But sources have told CBC News that the Canadian Forces turned the men over to Afghan authorities and lost track of them.

Susan Short said she felt she should have been told by the military.

"I feel like I have a right to know," she said, fighting back tears. "I would have thought that if they had found out exactly who had killed my husband that they would have gotten them to stand accountable. It amazes me that they found out who it was and just let them be.

"I am so disappointed in my government."

Political decision

Military analyst Mercedes Stephenson said it would have been a political decision to hand the prisoners over to Afghan authorities, and Canada had few options.

"At the time, Canada had no appetite to have prisoners on their hands of their own, which would have meant that we would have had to run our own prison camps," said Stephenson, a national media commentator on defence matters.

The "optics" of handing prisoners over to the U.S. would also have been considered, since this happened in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, the Baghdad prison where inmates were abused by U.S. soldiers, she said.

Canadians didn't like seeing prisoners turned over to Americans, Stephenson said.

"And it caused a huge political kerfuffle here at home. The decision was made that the best thing to do was hand prisoners over to Afghan authorities."

Asked why the prisoners were not returned to Canada to face trial, Stephenson said there were concerns that some of the techniques used by the intelligence agencies would be revealed under cross-examination.

"So rather than risk revealing those techniques, the decision was not to try them here and to instead turn them over to the Afghan government."

Three soldiers injured in the blast that killed Short's husband were Cpl. Cameron Lee Laidlaw, 25, of Oromocto; Master Cpl. Jason Cory Hamilton, 33, of Regina; and Cpl. Thomas Stirling, 23, of Assiniboia, Sask.

All five soldiers were with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont.