Canada’s spy agency fears Afghanistan is a ‘safe haven’ for extremists: docs – National Pipa News

Canada’s domestic intelligence agency warned the government in October that the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan could increase the risk of religiously motivated extremism in Canada, documents reviewed by Global News suggest.

Other recently released documents also suggest that Canadian government officials were caught off guard by the speed of the Taliban takeover last summer, although the resurgence of the terrorist organization was considered a foregone conclusion by Canadian intelligence officials as early as May 2021.

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“If Western troops withdraw (from Afghanistan), the Taliban would likely defeat the (Afghan security forces) decisively and seize most major urban areas, restoring Taliban control over most of the country. ‘Afghanistan,” reads a briefing note for then-Defense Secretary Harjit Sajjan, prepared by Canadian military intelligence.

Three months later, on August 15, 2021, the Taliban would take Kabul, the Afghan capital. The speed of the Afghan government’s collapse surprised Western intelligence and defense officials, including in Canada.

In October, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned Public Safety Secretary Marco Mendicino that Afghanistan could become a hotbed for extremist organizations, and that so-called “extremist travellers” returning to Canada could risk religiously motivated extremism in the country. enlarge.

“Developments in Afghanistan and (the) takeover by the Taliban, a designated terrorist entity, may have created a safe haven and base for other extremist organizations, as well as a destination for Canadian extremist travellers,” the backgrounder states. .

In a letter to Mendicino, CSIS Director David Vigneault warned that “religiously motivated violent extremism” remains a concern for Canadian officials “particularly as the Taliban regains control of Afghanistan and the prospect persistence of the return of extremist travellers”.

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The return of the Taliban will “destabilize” the region

The briefing, which was partially redacted, said the Taliban’s return to power will “destabilize security in the region” and “likely attract other insurgent groups”.

Less than ten months after Vigneault’s warning, US President Joe Biden announced that America had killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone strike in Kabul. Biden touted the murder as justice for the September 11, 2001 attack on New York, in which al-Zawahiri, along with Osama bin Laden, played a central planning role.

A total of 158 Canadian soldiers have died in the war in Afghanistan, in which thousands of Canadian Forces members have been injured since the first deployment of troops in 2002. Canada officially ended its military mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

The May 2021 military intelligence documents, obtained by Global News under freedom of information laws, came at a time of uncertainty about the continued presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

At the time, the United States and its NATO allies had until May 1, 2021 to withdraw their troops from the country – a condition of a peace agreement signed in February 2020 between the Trump administration and officials. Taliban.

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In its assessment, the Canadian military warned that a full troop withdrawal on May 1 would have “serious security implications” for Afghanistan, suggesting that “the Taliban would likely achieve a complete military victory over the Afghan government.” .

US President Joe Biden then postponed the exit of his country’s remaining 2,500 troops until September 11, 2021, after which NATO countries followed suit.

Canadian military officials have warned that the Taliban and other non-state actors, including the Haqqani Network and al-Qaida, are likely to target foreign troops in a bid to pressure them to withdraw. Over the next few months, the Taliban offensive would force Canada to accelerate the departure of personnel from Afghanistan.

‘Enduring’ threat of religiously motivated extremism

Religiously motivated extremism, inspired by groups like Daesh or al-Qaeda, has taken a back seat to Canadian national security discourse due to the rise of what CSIS calls “ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE). This includes far-right and white supremacist groups that have spread and grown in prominence in Canada, the United States and Europe over the past decade.

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But the October 2021 CSIS briefing makes clear that the agency still views religiously motivated extremism as an “ongoing” threat to Canada’s national security, including the threat that extremists will receive training and resources during they fight overseas and afterwards. return to Canada. So-called “lone wolf” attacks, in which a person is motivated largely by isolation to violence, are also a concern for the agency.


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“As with (ideologically motivated) actors, there is an increasingly robust (religious extremist) online presence that can inspire attacks, which can be planned and executed with little warning,” the document states.

“While the threat posed by (extremist travellers) is not exclusive to the (religiously motivated extremist) milieu, some Canadians have foreign training and experience, making them a particularly dangerous security threat. national, especially if they return to the country. Canada.”

This was not the first time that CSIS had warned the government about the situation in Afghanistan. In May 2019, CSIS released a report suggesting that if the United States pulled out before a final agreement on the transitional government was reached, “the Afghan government could quickly collapse.”

The report describes the government in Kabul as “weak”, riven by “endemic corruption, factionalism and economic failure”.

Despite previous warnings, Canadian officials seemed surprised by the speed of the Taliban offensive. In July 2021, David Morrison, then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign and defense policy adviser, told Trudeau that the situation on the ground had “deteriorated significantly” following the accelerated US withdrawal.

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“The Afghan government is in a much more precarious state than it was a month ago and there is now speculation that it could fall within a few months,” the memo told Trudeau.

The Taliban took control of Kabul’s presidential palace just three weeks later when then-president Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Trudeau was candid last summer about the challenges Canada faced in its evacuation efforts, describing the situation as “extremely fluid.”

“The Taliban have taken control of access to the airport, making it extremely difficult for people to get to and from the airport,” Trudeau told reporters during an August 17 campaign stop. in Markham, Ontario.

Days later, he defended his government’s response to the crisis, including evacuation efforts in Kabul.

“The situation in Afghanistan on the ground has worsened, much faster than expected,” he said. “And that’s why we’re redoubling our efforts to be there to do this work.”

Canada’s evacuation mission in Kabul finally ended on August 26, 2021.

In a year-end 2021 interview with Mercedes Stephenson, Global News’ Ottawa bureau chief, Trudeau admitted that his administration’s efforts were not enough to avert the “humanitarian tragedy” of the Taliban takeover. .


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“We knew this was coming,” he says. “We didn’t know it would go so fast. No one knew it would go so fast.

The Liberal government has been under pressure to accelerate its commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, many of whom have worked with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. According to the latest figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a total of 17,590 people have arrived in Canada since the Taliban took power.

This number includes 7,310 Afghans who have previously assisted the Canadian government, less than half of the 15,265 who applied.

In a statement, CSIS said the agency was working closely with the RCMP to inform possible criminal investigations of Canadian “extremist travellers” returning to Canada suspected of posing a threat to national security.

“The mobilization of Canadians abroad to engage in armed conflict is nothing new, neither an anomaly nor a threat posed only by religiously motivated violent extremists. Canadians with diverse training and experience acquired abroad pose a threat to national security,” CSIS spokesperson Brandon Champagne wrote in a statement to Global News.

Champagne added that investigating religiously motivated extremism remains a “high priority” for the agency.

“With Associated Press files.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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