Posts Tagged ‘Flit’
- 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.
- 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.
- Belatedly on my part, here’s the Veterans Affairs Minister’s response to all the protests calling for better treatment of wounded veterans here: “…. I have listened closely to the concerns of the Veterans who gathered today. They can rest assured that we are working hard each and every day to make sure we are meeting their needs. Other improvements are in the works, notably concerning wait times and bureaucratic red tape ….”
- According to the National Post, Denmark seems to be the latest to ask Canada “Please Don’t Go” from Afghanistan (not to mention a “stealth diplomatic charm offensive” allegedly being waged by the U.S., U.K. and NATO, according to the Canadian Press). Terry Glavin at his Transmontanus blog, opines on, among other things, the PM’s position on the post-2011 mission and the potential for a flip flop: “Prime Minister Harper has committed no flip from which to flop. He has kept shtum, like some sort of pensive emir, and he’s been allowed to get away with it. For more than a year.” Well, not COMPLETELY shtum – more from the PM here from January of this year: “…. the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011. There will be a phased withdrawal, beginning in the middle of the year. We hope to have that concluded by the end of that year. As you know the Obama administration, not coincidentally, is talking about beginning its withdrawal in 2011, at the same time we are. We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy ….” The latest, according to CTV.ca, from PMO spokesperson Dmitri Soudas: “After 2011, the government is considering the three following options: aid, development, and training in a non-combat role” Quite the change from the PM’s words in January, eh? Meanwhile, more unnamed sources are telling CBC News that up to 1,000 Canadian troops could be left in Kabul to help train Afghan soldiers and cops – if the sources are to be believed, quite the embassy guard, indeed. It’ll be interesting to hear how it’s sold if the training option gets picked.
- Speaking of “Do we stay or do we go?”, CBC has an online poll to gauge public opinion here. So far, as of this post, loads more saying “go” than “stay”. As for other opinions, at least one engineer sergeant who spoke to the National Post says the troops would be up for another go in Afghanistan, especially behind the wire.
- According to the Toronto Star: “The outgoing veterans ombudsman is prepared to launch a class-action lawsuit against the government over a claims process he says is wrongly denying disability benefits. Pat Stogran, who steps down from the position Wednesday, told the Star he has been approached by a private law firm about pursuing legal action over decisions made by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board regarding disability benefits ….”
- Blog Watch (1): “Ex-journalist, ex-PR guy, and ex-Afghan military advisor”, Bruce Ralston, shares some insights about a recent article on the fight in Kandahar, and how all the money available to hire Afghans to help fight the fight may, in the long run, be making things worse.
- Blog Watch (2): Should Omar Khadr be charged with high treason?
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: More Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.
Canada’s Post-2011 Mission in AFG: The Official Message Still Stands, and On Training “Inside the Wire”
Item: The latest expression of the “official” position of the government on what we’re doing in Afghanistan post-2011, notwithstanding some message teasing from the PM, from Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) during Question Period Friday:
There is absolutely no confusion on this side of the House about our position in Afghanistan. We have made it eminently clear that this government will respect the parliamentary resolution of 2008 and cease our military mission to Afghanistan in 2011. It will become a civilian and a development mission …. For the past several months, despite foot dragging by members of the Afghan committee, we have been putting forward motions to consider the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan. We urge opposition members of the committee to participate and to forward their suggestions to Parliament.
On that bit in red: have I missed something? What “motions” have the government put forward to consider re: the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan? Have I been in a cave? Or did things come up that were drowned out/swamped by that other thing the Committee was doing instead of considering the future mission? If you’re reading this, and can share a link or any proof of any such offer via the comments, go for it.
Item: The CF’s mission at this point remains clear: keep packing – this from the Chief of Defence Staff via CBC.ca:
“We have got very clear instructions from the government of Canada to move out on the withdrawal and that is what we’re going to continue to plan on.”
What this story doesn’t include is an interesting point in the CDS’s description of his task. CTV.ca’s story on the same issue quotes General Natynczyk talking about the March 2008 Parliamentary motion:
“From the Government of Canada through to the minister to me, it’s clearly a focus on enabling the motion as it stands today and that is the withdrawal from Kandahar in 2011 and the end of the military mission,” Natynczyk told reporters in Ottawa.
Compare and contrast this to Peter Kent’s statement in the House of Commons:
This government will respect the parliamentary resolution of 2008 and cease our military mission to Afghanistan in 2011.
General Natynczyk also mentioned who’s going to be staying (via CanWest/National Post):
He noted the institutions that will continue a non-military mission for Canada in Afghanistan include Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, the RCMP and the correctional services.
Item: I’m all for keeping a Canadian military element behind to keep helping out, even with training. That said, former OMLT-eer Bruce R at the Flit blog reminds us that training “inside the wire” may not be easy, and has its hazards:
Afghan police and soldiers are trained on their own bases, obviously, but those are not “inside” coalition military facilities in any real sense. Afghans of any kind aren’t normally allowed free run of ISAF military facilities, so the two have to remain physically distinct. So really what you’re talking about is “inside the Afghan wire,” at least part of the time: in other words, either cohabiting with Afghans, or failing that, “commuting” from a nearby ISAF base.
Which can be fine, of course, given some sensible precautions: I always felt quite safe in those sorts of situations. But in this context it might be worth noting today’s news from Afghanistan.
…an American contractor died in a suicide attack against the police training center in Kandahar city, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said… The American contractor, who was not identified, and another person were killed when a team of three suicide bombers attacked the gates of the police training center….
I guess this still means we’re going, yes?
The Taliban’s info-machine has chosen to highlight some Coalition politics in its latest statement (Voice of Jihad here, PDF at Scribd.com here). The Taliban say it’s good to see the Canadians, Aussies, and Dutch do what the Afghan people ‘really want’:
After the dissolution of Dutch government following its parliament’s hot discussion over the American war in Afghanistan, now Canada and Australia have decided to respect views of their people for unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan …. After the dissolution of the Dutch government over the mission in Afghanistan. , where the parliament was not ready to extend the military mission in the country , now the Australian and Canadian public have mounted pressure on their rulers to pay respect to the people’s demand for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and notify America and NATO of their decision ….
In addition to highlighting the departure of various Coalition members from Afghanistan as a general way to slip a wedge between allies, the Taliban make an even more specific reference to the strategy of divide-and-conquer:
… There are many examples which indicate America overtly and covertly works against the stance of other countries because of its arrogance. They hurl hurdles in their ways. He further says whenever, French, Canada and German succeed in winning the hearts and minds of Afghans in a given area of Afghanistan through reconstruction work and other humantarisian (sic.) activities, the Americans heavily bombard that area; they torture the residents and launch night raids on their houses . Thus they intentionally create resentments and wrath among the people …. The Coalition members want to pull out of the country one after another because they know, the current war in Afghanistan is only aimed at securing interests of Americans and Britains while other countries are being used as fodder of the cannon ….
I don’t think this will make said countries reconsider their decisions to leave. Still, the inter-Coalition animus is not exactly zero – note this from a Facebook posting by embed writer/blogger Michael Yon, who is currently in Afghanistan:
Task Force Kandahar, responsible for security of the bridge that was blown up on Monday, happens to be under Canadian command. This is causing friction. The Canadian government has clearly signaled that it will quit Afghanistan, yet a Canadian General is commanding US combat forces and resources — all while allowing… a strategically important bridge to be blown up …. Our combat soldiers should not be commanded from a country that is quitting the fight …. With our next big offensive set for Kandahar, command should be with British and U.S. forces. Canada needs to step out of the way.
As for Yon, while he may be channeling what the troops say on the ground, this and other foreign bashing (like his work on the Spanish in Afghanistan) don’t help Coalition relations. His efforts have been ably rebutted by various other observers: an embed with CanWest News Service here, as well as a former Canadian OMLT trainer at the Flit blog here, here, and here.
As for the Taliban, we’ll have to see whether they continue to attempt to drive wedges between ISAF.