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A man Afghan authorities suspect of insurgency-related activities is interrogated during a joint Canadian-Afghan army patrol in the Panjwaii District of Kandahar province on July 2, 2009.COLIN PERKEL/The Canadian Press

The man who held Richard Colvin's job before and after the now well-known whistle-blower was in Kandahar challenged his former colleague's explosive testimony that Canadian officials knew they were sending Afghan captives to torture.

Gavin Buchan, who is now with the Department of National Defence, was a Foreign Affairs diplomat in Kandahar in 2006 and 2007. He told MPs Wednesday the government first learned of specific abuse allegations in April of 2007 by reading an investigative report in The Globe and Mail.

"The bottom line is we did take action. We took very swift action," Mr. Buchan said. "We acted on the ground in a responsible and swift manner."

Up until that point, he said, officials - including himself and Mr. Colvin - had only general concerns regarding detainee abuse, and Canada was not directly involved in monitoring detainees.

Once The Globe report surfaced, Canadian officials acted by bringing in a new monitoring system to reduce the likelihood that detainees would be tortured.

Mr. Buchan took over Mr. Colvin's job as a Foreign Affairs political director in Kandahar in 2006 and received Mr. Colvin's handover notes outlining issues he had been working on.

"There was no reference to the detainee issue whatsoever," Mr. Buchan said in testimony before the special House of Commons committee on Afghanistan.

The special committee is at the heart of Parliament's larger dispute over documents. It was this committee that passed a motion last year requesting documents related to Afghan detainees, which was then supported by the House of Commons and endorsed this week in a ruling by the Commons Speaker.

Mr. Buchan acknowledged that Mr. Colvin raised numerous concerns with Foreign Affairs headquarters from his post in Kabul, but said those were primarily after the April of 2007 Globe report.

That view was supported by another committee witness who was also in Kandahar during that period. Major General Timothy Grant, who is now retired, said the first credible reports of abuse came from The Globe.

"I am puzzled by Mr. Colvin's comments," Mr. Grant told MPs.

Opposition MPs on the committee noted in their questions that it took a newspaper report for the allegations to surface because no adequate monitoring was taking place in Afghanistan to ensure detainees would not be tortured.

Mr. Buchan said it's fair to say the system in place prior to April of 2007 was not "sufficiently robust." He also said Canadian officials knew all along that detainee torture was, and still is, a risk.

"In the Afghan context," he said, "it will never be possible to completely eliminate all risk of torture."