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Hillier visits troops in Afghanistan

Canada's top soldier paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan Monday, a day after the defence minister arrived in the country.

Canada's top soldier paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan Monday, a day after the defence minister arrived in the country.

Rick Hiller arrives in Kandahar. ((CBC))

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier told reporters he doesn't regret signing a 2005 agreement with an Afghan commission to monitor what happens to Taliban suspects captured by Canadians.

Human rights groups have criticized the policy, which doesn't let Canada have any say in the prisoners' treatment once they're in Afghan custody.

"No regrets whatsoever. We're in certain circumstances here and we think we have a very good agreement with the Afghanistan government," said Hillier.

"Opportunities to improve the mechanics of that are always potentially there and formalizing the discussions we started with the human rights commission is one of the ways of doing that."

Meeting cancelled

Hillier's visit comes hours after the arrival late Sunday of Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor in Kandahar.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier told reporters he doesn't regret signing a 2005 agreement. ((Sgt. Craig Fiander/DND))

O'Connorwas to meetwith the head of the Afghan human rights commission to discuss the treatment of Taliban detainees handed over by Canadian troops to the Afghan government, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute.

Commission head Abdul Noorzai wasn't able to get to Kandahar on time, said officials.

O'Connor had said he wanted to get assurances from Noorzai that his group was capable of doing the job.

"I want to look the man in the eyes and I want to be confirmed that they are going to do what they say they are going to do," O'Connor told reporters when he stepped off the plane.

"I want assurances from him that he will monitor and he will inform us of any abuses."

Under fire

O'Connor has been under fire over Canada's policy regarding the handover of suspected Taliban detainees.

He initially said that the International Committee of the Red Cross monitored the treatment of such detainees. But the ICRC told the Globe and Mail last week that that wasn't the case.

Responding to that story Thursday, O'Connor clarified that the ICRC has carried out several visits to detainees in temporary Canadian custody in Kandahar.

Under a new agreement, Canada must notify both the ICRC and the office of the human rights commission in Kandahar about the handling of detainees.

Tory MP in country

Conservative MP Wajid Khan is also in the region, visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan until Wednesday.

Khan, who crossed the floor from the Liberals in January, is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's special adviser on the Middle East and Central Asia.

His last report, written after a 19-day tour of Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, has never been made public.

With files from the Canadian Press