Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Ralston’
- Scott Vernelli, 1980-2009 & John Faught, 1965-2010, R.I.P. Remembering the fallen in Sault Ste. Marie. “Mandy Dickson is putting a face to the name of every Canadian killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Dickson, a former Sault Ste. Marie resident, has created her own “wall of heroes” tribute at her Mr. Sub outlet in Angus, Ont. “It’s important to me . . . It puts a face to every name,” said Dickson, in regards to the 154 three-inch-by-five-inch photos of Canada’s war dead in Afghanistan. “My husband Master Cpl. Scott Dickson and I know a lot of people on the wall . . . This is our salute to their ultimate sacrifice.” Among the miliitary dead they knew were Sgt. John Faught, 44, of the Sault, a cousin of Master Cpl. Dickson’s, and Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28, also of the Sault, who the Dicksons got to know while stationed at CFB Petawawa ….”
- “A mostly Canadian-led seven day sweep across Panjwaii district that involved thousands of Canadian, American and Afghan troops ended Sunday, having found a trove of Taliban weaponry and homemade explosives as well as large quantities of drugs often used to fund the insurgency. The weapons and improvised explosive device caches discovered during Operation Hamaghe Shay II were expected to make it much harder for insurgents to plant homemade bombs during the summer fighting season in Kandahar. Attacks by the Taliban are expected to increase when the annual poppy harvest ends in a few weeks. “The caches were mostly in the fields, not in the compounds,” said Maj. Martin Larose, operations officer for the Royal 22nd Regiment battle group. “Because we also found a lot of stuff in compounds in January and February, they may have changed their tactics.” ….”
- Is anybody out there watching anymore? “Where have all the embeds gone? At any one time in 2006, when the Canadian military formally launched its embed program in Kandahar, and throughout 2007 and 2008, between 10 and 15 journalists were always embedded in Kandahar to chronicle Canada’s first major combat mission in half a century. However, for the first time since the formal embed program was established in Kandahar just over five years ago, only two reporters are embedded with the troops today — yours truly from Postmedia News and a journalist from The Canadian Press …. You would think that this would be the ideal time for journalists to assess Canada’s military and diplomatic triumphs and failures in Kandahar and to provide insights into the Harper government’s controversial new training mission, which is soon to begin in northern Afghanistan. But Canadian editors obviously have different priorities. For them — although certainly not for the soldiers and their kin or Canadian taxpayers, Afghanistan is yesterday’s war ….”
- “Afghanistan: Should the Canadian mission continue to 2014?” CBC online survey says (so far), no.
- “Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, now a Conservative candidate, says Canadian soldiers never knowingly handed detainees over to a high risk of torture though he admitted the Afghan system was rife with abuse. Chris Alexander, a former United Nations deputy envoy in Kabul who’s running in the riding of Ajax-Pickering, says the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody is overblown. Until now, Alexander has resisted public comment about allegations by fellow Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin that Canadian government officials turned a blind eye to reports about the clear risk of torture facing prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers. But in a wide-ranging interview with the Star, Alexander flatly disagreed with Colvin’s interpretation. “I don’t think that happened at all. “I don’t think any Canadian ever handed over a detainee knowing there was a high risk (of torture) because anyone handed over by Canada — as the record shows — was going to be tracked through the system, was going to be monitored more than other detainees would. As a UN official, I was much more worried about people who were being detained by the Afghans or other countries that weren’t as careful as we were.” ….”
- Here’s the report I mentioned yesterday, saying a training mission in Afghanistan would be dangerous for Canadian troops (PDF). Here’s some of what someone who’s been there, done that in Afghanistan has to say: “…. this was a rather shoddy paper, even by CCPA standards. What was remarkable about it to me was that the writers did no real research of any kind, with all their citations pointing to news articles or other similar papers. They didn’t interview a single soldier or former soldier, or anyone with any first-hand knowledge of Afghan military training in Canada or outside. (The bibliography is also bereft of any references to Afghan sources of any kind, for that matter.) I doubt I’d have said anything if they had called, but I really don’t think we’re all that hard to find. So there’s no real reason to take anything they have to say seriously ….” More from CTV.ca here and CBC.ca here.
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Assassinations and attacks claimed in Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Taliban (responsible for 3/4 of civilian casualties) worries about civilian casualties.
- Libya Ops (1) – Canada backfills fighters to ensure Iceland has air cover now that CF-18′s are in Libya. “Three fighter jets landed at Iceland’s Keflavik airport and NATO military base yesterday evening and three more are expected later today. The air cover for Iceland had to be swiftly re-arranged because the Canadian Forces Air Command decided to send the team originally earmarked for Iceland on a mission to Libya. Canada has just taken over responsibility for Icelandic airspace under the NATO arrangement which sees allied nations take turns to patrol the air above Iceland. Air forces often also take the opportunity to use Iceland for exercises, as the NATO member country has the relevant equipment and ground crews despite not having a military of its own. Before the three F-18 fighters arrived yesterday, Canada had already sent personnel, tools and equipment to Iceland. Later today one more F-18 will arrive, along with a P-3 aircraft used for aerial re-fuelling. Some 150 personnel accompany the planes and will be staying at the Keflavik base over the coming weeks. As well as patrolling, the Canadians also plan to conduct exercises and landing practice at Keflavik, Akureyri and Egilsstadir ….”
- Libya Ops (2) – Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister: Off the campaign trail, over to discuss Libya. “After taking heat for skipping a major international conference on Libya to stay on the hustings, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will globetrot this week to two major meetings aimed at finding a way around the impasse in the country. With nations around the world looking for a way past what appears to be military stalemate and a divide over whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must depart before a ceasefire can be struck, Mr. Cannon is leaving the campaign trail this time – but first asked for a blessing from opposition parties ….”
- Election 2011 – Blogger Mark Collins on the Conservative and Liberal platforms on defence.
- Remember James Loney, the Canadian peace activist kidnapped with some others in Iraq, then rescued in 2006? He has a new book out about his experiences. “An angry soldier told a Canadian hostage in Iraq that many people risked their lives to rescue him from terrorist kidnappers, according to a new book. Captivity by Christian activist James Loney reveals how a team of Mounties, soldiers and diplomats teamed up for a joint British-Canadian operation that apparently relied heavily on the mass surveillance of cellphone signals to pinpoint the hostages and their captors ….” My own humble open source analysis of what was said in public about the rescue here (Scribd.com). Amazon.com only has the Kindle version out for now here.
- Added #100 to my list of Fave War Flicks here.
- Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. Arriving back in Canada this afternoon – more here.
- Libya Ops (1) – Canadian General says all good to go in transfer of ops to NATO command.
- Libya Ops (2) – American General on who’s in charge of what in Libya, the short version (“#NATO is now in charge of ALL military operations in #Libya: Humanitarian, Arms Embargo, No-Fly Zone, and Protection of Civilians.”) and the longer version.
- Libya Ops (3) – “Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya required four sorties by NATO aircraft in the past 24 hours, the Pentagon said Tuesday. As of 1000 GMT (6am EDT Tuesday), NATO carried out four flights to police the no-fly zone against the Libyan regime, along with four other sorties in support of the mission, according to information released by the Pentagon. The figures followed comments from US and allied commanders that the regime’s air defenses have been knocked out in earlier coalition raids, with Moamer Kadhafi’s aircraft effectively shut down under a no-fly zone now firmly in place. The four no-fly zone sorties were flown by Canada and Spain, using F-18 fighter jets, said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ….”
- Libya Ops (4) – Guess which Foreign Affairs Minister wasn’t at a big meeting on Libya this week?
- Libya Ops (5) – TorStar columnist: “The life and death issue that no major party leader wants to talk about in this election campaign is war. Canada is involved in two now. But to listen to the leaders you’d never know. Our latest war is being waged against Libya. Like the endless adventure in Afghanistan, this one, too, slipped by beneath the radar of public consciousness. Yes, there was a debate of sorts in Parliament. But it was short and perfunctory. The Conservative government and all three opposition parties agreed that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is a bad dude, that the United Nations was right to authorize attacks against his country and that Canadian fighter jets should join in with gusto. Then they got back to the real business of Canadian politics: slagging one another over which party is the most dishonest ….”
- One man’s “gag order” is another man’s “be very careful what you say during an election campaign.” “The federal government has restricted media interviews of officials in Afghanistan because of the election campaign, a move that one critic says hampers the public’s understanding of Canada’s mission in the war-torn country. The restrictions became known after The Canadian Press requested an interview this week with Tim Martin, Canada’s top diplomat in Kandahar. The request was for a story about a transfer of command ceremony that took place Tuesday at Camp Nathan Smith on the outskirts of Kandahar city. Such events happen from time to time and Tuesday’s ceremony was expected to mark a major milestone as Canada was set to hand over command of the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s training centre to Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior and NATO forces …. A spokesman for the Canadian International Development Agency rejected the interview request, saying Martin would not be granting interviews in the duration of the five-week election campaign. Adam Sweet said an order was in effect restricting federal officials from talking to the media aimed at preventing them from making public comments that could influence, or appear to influence, the outcome of the election. “We act with as much restraint as possible, confining ourselves to public business and this rule applies to our communications activities as well,” Sweet said. Nina Chiarelli, the acting director of communications for the prime minister, denied there was an order in place that prevented federal officials from speaking with reporters. But she said communications with the media are restricted during an election ….”
- Former OMLT’eer Bruce Ralston sounds off on his blog about the recent Rolling Stones article on American soldiers accused of assassinating innocent Afghans: “…. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the “Them” in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – “Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff promised Monday to re-examine a deal to buy the next-generation F-35 stealth fighter plane, but military experts say it would be pointless for a Liberal government to hold a “fly-off” competition to replace Canada’s deteriorating CF-18 fighter-bombers given that there is no alternative that would suit the Canadian Forces’ needs. “We are going to replace the CF-18 -we care about the sovereignty of Canada. But we’ve got time to get this right. [The Conservatives] tried to hustle the country into a purchase without a competitive process” ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2) - “New fighter jets Canada plans to buy will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates — according to a top U.S. budget watchdog. Conservative government officials have said 65 new joint strike fighters being built to replace Canada’s F-18 jets will cost about $75 million each, about $9 billion with training and an additional $200-$300 million a year in maintenance. But Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, said he doesn’t know where that estimate comes from. “That’s not a number that I am familiar with at all,” he said in an interview Tuesday with CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, cautioning he hasn’t seen the methodology behind the numbers. Sullivan said the estimated cost of the F-35A model that Canada is buying is “in the low 100 millions.” “Probably somewhere between $110-115 million,” he said. A prominent Conservative admitted to CBC that the cost of the F-35 fight jets might not be as the government has promised. Earlier on Power & Politics, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn said Canada is buying the planes at the peak of their production, making them cheaper than the $133 million the U.S. estimates their jets will cost. Hawn also said the $133 million estimate is an average of three models being built, of which the Canadian jet is the cheapest ….”
- Poochies helping Canada’s wounded warriors.
- What’s Canada Buying? Lockheed Martin Canada gets big (+$22M) gig building battle simulators for Gagetown, Valcartier, Petawawa and Wainwright.
- A bit of plaid military history being made. “An elite unit of Second World War commandos with a reputation for daring and stealth that earned it the nickname The Black Devils are being honoured with the creation of an original Scottish tartan. A new tartan design will be officially filed with the Scottish national tartan registry for the First Special Service Force, a Canadian-American unit created in 1942 and disbanded after barely a year of intense warfare. The creation of the tartan is being spearheaded by the Helena, Montana-based Shining Thistle Pipe Band and the First Special Service Force Association, which represents the remaining members of the unit and their descendants. The force trained at Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena before heading into combat. “We want to not only recognize and honour them, but to hear their stories before they are lost,” said Bill Woon, the executive director of the association and the son of a Canadian member of the commando unit ….” FYI, today’s Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) perpetuates the Canadian element of the First Special Service Force.
- More class acts from a classy guy (and an… interesting interpretation of the military environment from an unidentified source). “Police found child porn on serial sex criminal Russell Williams’ computer but laid no charges in exchange for him pleading guilty to murder and sexual assault, a new book says. The former commander of Canada’s largest military airfield wouldn’t admit to downloading pictures of teenaged girls in sexual positions, Globe and Mail reporter Timothy Appleby writes in “A New Kind of Monster.” A source quoted in the book said Williams couldn’t face the stigma attached to child pornography, though he was willing to plead guilty to murder, rape and a series of bizarre sexually motivated break-ins. “This is a guy who structured his life around how he saw others act, and that’s how his morality base came about,” said the source, who was involved in the case. “In the military, you can kill people, it’s accepted … it’s within the realm of human behaviour. And in war, rape is within that realm as well. The one thing that isn’t, and stands outside that, is (sexual abuse of) children.” ….” Note to book author Tim Appleby and whoever his source is: if the source is quoted correctly, and if the source really thinks this, s/he’s wrong. Rape is NEVER acceptable in any context in the CF, and killing is ONLY to be carried out when following accepted rules of engagement (usually as a measure of last resort). If this reflects what the source thinks, that source is sadly mistaken.
- Huge storm in SW Ontario. CF Hercules and Griffon helicopters help rescue stranded drivers. Well done all who helped out. More from Reuters, the New York Times, the Detroit News,
- A reminder from an MP speaking in the House of Commons: Canada Post is letting you mail parcels to a named, individual soldier overseas free of charge until 7 Jan 11 (letters you can send for free until 31 Dec 10). More details from Canada Post here.
- The process has begun to consider a new law, the Independent and Effective Office of the Veterans’ Ombudsman Act, to make the Veterans Ombudsman more arms length from the Department of National Defence. A caveat: As a private member’s bill, the chances of going all the way are slim, but let’s see how it goes.
- Interesting prediction for Afghanistan at the Flit blog by former OMLT’eer Bruce Ralston: “…. We should be assuming we will leave a civil war in our wake, or one will crop up shortly thereafter, and that we will have to manage that, and configure our forces now and in future to do so ….” (Hat tip to Mark at the Unambiguously Ambidextrous blog for that one).
- Another idea from Bruce: think Rhodesia for answers to Afghanistan. “…. The sheer untapped potential of ANSF platoon houses with embedded enablers (not Western companies with a few doorkickers) in the cleared areas, combined with modern ISR- and CAS-enabled Rhodesian style pseudo-operators and fireforces replacing large-scale sweep ops in the uncleared Pashtun areas, with the highways patrolled by mine-resistant vehicles in the IED zones and Q-Cars (a land derivative of the Q-Ship) in the ambush zones simply boggles the mind ….”
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban suggests U.S. lack of success in Afghanistan killed envoy Robert Holbrooke.
- By the way, it’s not just Canada wrestling with the best way to deal with detainees in Afghanistan. “DIGGER morale has taken a hit in Afghanistan, the Australia Defence Association says. The cause, says the association, is a rule allowing only 96 hours to determine the status of suspected Taliban after which they must be released, says the Australia Defence Association. The problem would particularly affect special forces soldiers who risked their lives to capture insurgents, including some who had been previously caught and released, said ADA executive director Neil James. Mr James, a former officer who wrote the army’s interrogation manual, said the situation was untenable. “There is a growing morale problem in the force, both among the troops who capture the people, only to see them released four days later (and) among the interrogators who aren’t allowed to interrogate,” he said ….” More on the new approach from the Australian Defence Minister’s news release here.
- Nice to see communities thinking about Canadian troops deployed overseas that AREN’T just in Afghanistan. “The words “Thank you” can go a long way, especially this time of year. Just ask Lt. Dean Pask, a member of a small Canadian Forces contingent stationed in Africa, who says a batch of Christmas cards sent from Sarnia were a pleasant surprise. “I would say there were over 100 cards,” said Pask, joined by eight other Canadians in Sierra Leone as part of the International Military Advisory Training Team (IMATT). Each soldier received a stack of cards in their latest mail batch, and Pask contacted The Observer to deliver a thank you message to the Sarnia community. “We started opening them and sharing them with each other,” he said. “Then I noticed that all of mine were from Sarnia. I went around asking the others, and they all had cards from Sarnia too ….” More on IMATT here, and on what other Canadian troops are doing with the UN Mission in Sierra Leone right here.
- Where to put search and rescue Hercs on the East Coast? “CBC News has obtained a report that suggests the Canadian Forces may be making a mistake by basing its search and rescue Hercules aircraft in Nova Scotia and not central Newfoundland. The National Research Council report says rescue response times would be faster if the fixed-wing aircraft was based at 9 Wing Gander. The report notes that the military’s own study confirms that a Gander-based Hercules would result in significant improvements in response times to distress calls ….” CBC has not posted a copy of the report they say they have, so take it as you will.
I have to say the line in red in this post by Adam Rawnsley over at Wired.com’s Danger Room blog caught my eye, regarding a video showing Taliban wandering around an abandoned U.S. military base in Nuristan province:
“Glad Tidings of Victory,” a video released by the Taliban’s Al-Emirat video production unit, shows the Afghan guerrillas strutting around an abandoned U.S. military base in Nuristan province. Taking a filmed “victory” lap around an American facility might make some sense as a propaganda tool. But taking a giggly victory lap on an elliptical in said base – as two Taliban enthusiastically do in the video – is a big infowar fail …. While some items can make for effective propaganda symbols, the display of lower body exercise machines, generally speaking, tends to dilute their impact. So beware, all. The Taliban are on the march – with sculpted thighs and firm buttocks.
On a more serious note, former-OMLT’eer Bruce Ralston blogging over at Flit gives an alternative read:
This guy doesn’t get it at all, I’m afraid. I can say fairly authoritatively the average Afghan response to this video will be, “here I am without electrical power 5 days out of 7, in winter nights no less, and those American twits had a machine running to simulate walking uphill. These insurgents are looking better and better.”
Update (1): Care to see what the U.S. government’s Open Source Centre (a part of the U.S. intelligence community that collects and analyzes open source intelligence of all kinds) has to say about the video? Check here at the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News blog.