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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Jul 11

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  • Manitoba/flood  Here’s hoping for a speedy and full recovery for all concerned Five Shilo, Man.-based military personnel and one civilian volunteer were injured Monday afternoon while working on flood-protection measures in the Souris, Man., area. A military spokesman said the soldiers and volunteer were resting about 3:30 p.m. when a hose blew on a dump truck, spraying hydraulic fluid onto them. All were taken for assessment medical treatment in Brandon, Man., but the extent of their injuries was unknown. The five soldiers are all new recruits, the spokesman said. Those injured were working along Plum Creek, a tributary of the rising Souris River, to shore up dikes ….”  More here.
  • Afghanistan (1a)  “It’s wrapping up” theme continues.  “Canadian troops formally end five years of combat and counterinsurgency in the dust-blown badlands of southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, heading home in the midst of a guerrilla war of steadily intensifying violence. They do not leave with any illusions that they have done more than create some breathing space for the Afghan government to assert itself. Nor do they venture any predictions beyond saying that they may have weakened, perhaps only fleetingly, the resilient Taliban insurgency. That realism is perhaps their strongest legacy for the allies who will continue the fight ….”
  • Afghanistan (1b)  “Canada’s desert war came to an end Tuesday when soldiers of the Royal 22e Regiment stood down and formally handed over their battlefield to American units. The country’s legal command responsibility for the western Kandahar district of Panjwaii will continue for several days, but Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner’s headquarters will be directing U.S. combat units. Almost all Canadian troops are now out of the killing fields of Kandahar, save for a handful of soldiers who will serve for a few more weeks, but attached to American platoons. Parliament ordered an end to the Canadian combat mission in southern Afghanistan back in 2008 and set July 2011 as the deadline. The Conservative government has since announced that 950 soldiers and support staff will carry out a training mission in the Afghan capital until 2014 ….”
  • Afghainstan (1c)After nine years, 157 troop deaths and more than $11 billion spent, Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan finally comes to an end this week. With popular support for the war sapped at home, some of the nearly 3,000 Canadian troops, based mainly in the dangerous battleground of Kandahar, have already started returning from Afghanistan, and the rest will follow soon. The official end of Canada’s hard-fought mission, which began in early 2002 a few months after the US-led invasion of the country, comes Thursday, and as other countries also announce partial troop withdrawals from the Afghan theatre as Western voters tire of nearly a decade of war ….”
  • Afghanistan (1d)  More on the “yard sale” of Canadian equipment.
  • Afghanistan (2)  The Afghan people know what this combat mission has cost Canada — and especially the families of our fallen troops — assures Kandahar’s provincial governor. In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, Dr. Toryalai Wisa, a Afghan-Canadian academic who oversees the area our combat soldiers will soon be pulling out of, says the level of sacrifice is understood. Wisa recalls conversations he’s had with family members of dead Canadian soldiers: “My heart is still with them — I express my very deep, deep appreciation from the bottom of my heart. “(Canadians) did not spend only the taxpayers money here…they have sacrificed their youth here.” The governor added: “We shall never forget that. That will be part of Kandahar history.” But Wisa complains that while the Afghan people herald the toil of Canadians, the message seems lost before it reaches North America ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Some day, if this country is truly lucky, it may be teaching school children about the role Canada played here. If it does, along with the stories of blood and battle, the history lessons should include the oh-so-very Canadian projects pulled off across a battlefield — from paved roads to bridges to a new ministry building that now sits ready for Afghan officials to use. Since April of last year, the Canadian Engineer Regiment for Task Force Kandahar (TFK) has helped oversee an estimated $51.5-million in projects. For now, it’s enough that a refurbished school set close to the peaks of the Mar Khaneh Ghar mountain range is slated to open again in the fall. Until recently, it was filled with Afghan police officers using it as a secure sub-station next to a busy road. The Canadian military helped prepare a new fortified position — constructed by an Afghan contractor — for them next door and then renovated the centre for local kids. It features a playground — almost unheard of here — and a soccer field ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  One columnist’s view on helping the wounded:  “…. with the Conservatives looking for $4 billion in budget cuts, and given the track record of the military as a source of easy “savings,” it will be up to the Canadian public to make it clear that veterans’ compensation needs to go up — not down. Our soldiers’ sacrifice in Afghanistan will not be worth the price if they are not cared for with all the resources that a prosperous, grateful nation can provide.”
  • Afghanistan (5)  On the plan to bring Afghan interpreters to Canada“…. The federal government should stop blaming slow bureaucracy for allowing only a trickle of Afghans who worked with our Forces to find a new life in Canada. The requirement they show proof that the Taliban could harm them and their families is difficult and objectionable: that they have been working with Canada in the midst of a civil war for at least a year should be condition enough. Kenney should have his department look at ways of immediately speeding up visas, especially as the program draws to a close. The Americans, British, Australians and Danes have eased immigration rules for their Afghan aides. Leaving Sharifi, Zobaidi and others who helped us at risk to their own safety in administrative limbo is irresponsible. We owe them our soldiers’ lives.”
  • Afghanistan (6)  What snipers do“Breathe calmly, slow the heart rate, squint the eye and slowly, with gentle pressure, squeeze the trigger. With the Tac-50 bolt-action rifle, too heavy to lift and aim — even for hard-bodies — the shooter rests the weapon on a bipod and, optimally, flattens his rib cage against the ground at a slight incline. The 50-calibre bullet — size of a Tootsie roll — will hurtle out of the internally fluted barrel, rotating fiercely, and heave infinitesimally to the right, what’s call the spin-drift. Shooter and spotter will have corrected for that, and also the wind currents, the distance, the ambient temperature. Bullets go faster in high heat. The target — the victim — will feel that bullet before he hears it. And it will kill him. Less than a second and one “bad guy’’ removed, with no collateral damage done. No mental anguish either, for killing a fellow human being. For snipers, it’s the job. Their motto: “Without warning, without remorse”….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Zabul and Taliban disses Afghanistan’s Parliament.
  • CF-Royals Link (1)  Remember the talk about the PM’s office wanting the PM’s plane (a CF CC-150 Polaris) painted a prettier colour?  The Royal Visit has one “top government official” saying the current grey paint scheme makes it look like it like something “belonging to a third-world country.”  Could that person the media isn’t naming perhaps be from the PMO wanting a nice, pretty PM’s own “Air Force One”?
  • CF-Royals Link (2)  Prince William enjoyed showing off his military helicopter training with his first-ever water landing Monday to the delight of anxious crowds in Canada, where he and his wife, Kate, have been on their first official overseas trip since their wedding. The Duke of Cambridge climbed into the cockpit of a Sea King helicopter for the military training exercise at Dalvay by-the-Sea, a scenic resort along Prince Edward Island’s north shore. Prince William, a Royal Air Force rescue helicopter pilot, requested the simulated emergency landing procedure. Dressed in an olive flight suit and helmet, the prince settled the large helicopter on the water several times over the course of an hour. From the water, William piloted several takeoffs and hovered in the air before executing dual- and single-engine landings before taxiing around as Kate watched from the ground ….”  More on the check ride here, here and here.
  • Way Up North (1)  Canada’s latest military exercise in the Far North comes as the country is under growing pressure to keep up with other countries in an Arctic arms race. “You’re seeing a buildup of capabilities that simply hasn’t been there before, period,” said Rob Huebert, University of Calgary Arctic security expert. Canada’s northern neighbours have been very busy in the Arctic amid sometimes competing jurisdictional claims. Huebert notes the U.S. and Russia have increased submarine activity in the Far North, Sweden has mused about increasing its submarine capability, and Norway is looking to counter Russian air and sea power in the area ….”
  • Way Up North (2) “…. the question must be asked, are we headed for a confrontation with the Russians military or otherwise? It’s a distinct possibility depending on how the United Nations rules on who can actually lay claim to the Arctic’s resources and how much parties like Russia, Denmark and Canada are willing to negotiate. But if history provides any examples, oil tends to bring out the worst in people.”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Canada seeking someone to fly planes to simulate bad guys of various kinds, and Canada planning to offer CAE contract for upgrade of Hercules simulator hardware and software.
  • One columnist’s view of what to keep in mind about the future of the CF:  “…. Canadians don’t know when their military will be called upon next, or what they will be asked to do — so it must be prepared for anything. Granted, this is expensive. But the same planes that were bought to deliver equipment to soldiers in Afghanistan saved civilian lives in Haiti. Being prepared is half the battle. We can’t forget that, or accept arguments suggesting that the Canadian Forces no longer need the public’s support or continuing modernization. Even in these times of budgetary pressure, the one thing that we truly cannot afford is to forget the lessons learned in Kandahar. Nickel and diming ourselves into another decade of darkness will exact too high a price: the blood of Canadian soldiers in future conflicts. Putting the military on the back burner means death on the battlefield — a cost no Canadian or Canadian government should be willing to pay.”
  • A historian’s reminder:  “…. In peacetime, soldiers are routinely scorned. Rudyard Kipling’s Tommy captured this more than a century ago: “O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, go away'; But it’s ‘Thank you, Mister Atkins,’ when the band begins to play.” We all hope that after Afghanistan and Libya, the band won’t begin to play for a long time. But if it does, (critics of the Canadian Forces) can expect that Canada’s Tommies will be there to protect (their) freedom.”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Apr 11

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  • Election Promises (1) A Liberal government would restore full university status to the Royal Military College in St-Jean, Que., the party said Monday. If elected May 2, the Liberals would immediately invest $25 million to pay for infrastructure to boost the campus from what is now a CEGEP-level facility, to university status ….”
  • Election Promises (2)Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pledged Monday to deliver a two-year $120 million plan to help Canadian military veterans return to school and find work. Ignatieff, backed by local candidates and a couple of veterans, said the plan would be increasingly important in the near future with thousands of Canadian soldiers returning from the mission in Afghanistan. “We get a lot of veterans coming home and end up on the street,” Ignatieff said. “One of the things I want to do is make sure those brave, young Canadians get the education that allow them to get the great jobs of the future.” ….” Liberal Party statement here, a critique of the pledge here.
  • Election Promises (3)  Blogger Mark Collins quickly sums up the Liberal’s defence platform (hint:  there’s a reason he can do it quickly).
  • Libya Ops  Columnist says it’s time for Canada to GTFO Libya. “…. this has now become a matter of power and prestige for the U.S. It is no longer about enforcing a UN resolution. It has, instead, become a showdown between America and Gadhafi. Canada was quick to deploy fighter jets and to take overall command of the NATO-led, UN-sanctioned no-fly zone. However, now that this situation has quickly morphed into yet another American intervention in yet another oil-rich Middle Eastern quagmire of tribal warfare, it is time for us to cut bait.”
  • Meanwhile, in AfghanistanThe Arghandab River is barely a trickle as Claude Desilets scrambles down the bank to inspect recent repairs on the Dahla Dam water network — arguably the most important infrastructure project in southern Afghanistan. Of particular interest are recently installed gates at the diversion weir, a vital control point for the entire irrigation system Canada is spending $50 million to refurbish. While the river lapping at the gates is currently more reminiscent of a lazy creek, Desilets knows big changes are coming. “In a week, all of this will be under water,” he said. The project field manager notes the traditional agricultural season in Kandahar province is set to begin, at which point the Dahla Dam reservoir 17 kilometres to the north will begin unleashing its contents into the Arghandab ….”
  • More on how the Government of Canada wants one of the probes into how Afghan detainees were treated to exclude non-military sources here (Toronto Star).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The company says things are looking good for the new jet. “Lockheed Martin Corp said on Monday it made considerable progress on testing three variants of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the first quarter, conducting 57 more test flights than planned. Lockheed said the short takeoff version of the new radar-evading fighter, put on probation by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for ongoing technical issues, logged 61 vertical landings in the first three months of 2011, six times more than the 10 landings done in all of 2010. The F-35 test program remained ahead of plan, despite a dual generator failure on March 9 that grounded the entire U.S. fleet of 10 F-35 fighter planes for 4 to 15 days during the quarter, the company said. “The vector is moving in the right direction,” said Lockheed’s F-35 program manager Larry Lawson ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) As an American, I am extremely reluctant to presume to offer Canada advice on how to proceed with the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. However, the airplane is the culmination of such malevolent trends in my own country that I believe all allies and neighbours should be warned about going down the same path ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Anyone interested in providing professional services for designing/building new honkin’ ships for the CF gets a bit more time to submit a bid (via Army.ca).
  • Remember how the CF’s top cop would be getting more control over some parts of the military police apparatus (fourth item)?  Here’s the CF’s new fact sheet on what the new organization looks like.
  • I’m.  NOT.  Making.  This.  Up. A second military court martial is being convened against a Canadian Forces seaman accused of disgraceful conduct after a prank involving a glass of milk and a sailor’s penis. The unusual case happened aboard the HMCS Nanaimo when the coastal defence vessel was visiting Seattle in 2009. A leading seaman in the ship’s mess poured the last of the chocolate milk; mess protocol dictates he refill it. Master Seamen W.L. Boyle told him to refill it and the sailor of a slightly lesser rank said he would do it after lunch. An argument ensued and the junior sailor left, presumably to get fresh milk. While he was gone, MS Boyle took the glass of milk, unzipped his overalls and, according to one witness, inserted his penis into the drink, swirled it around and returned the glass to the table. The sailor was warned by a shipmate not to drink it. MS Boyle was charged with disgraceful conduct and conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, under the National Defence Act, which he was found not guilty of almost a year later. The military appealed, however, and won a retrial on the disgraceful conduct count ….” The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada decision is here.
  • A bit of a reminder from a Sun Media columnist. “Canadians are not capable of terrorism. We are the mild mannered and polite people of the Great White North who apologize to furniture when we bump into it. Surely we are not a nation capable of producing people who are willing to kill innocents in the name of an ideology. Reality, however, tells another story. There is a long, disturbing list of Canadians who have been arrested on terror charges both at home and abroad. Many have been convicted, Canadians with darkness in their hearts and violence on their minds: Members of the Toronto 18, Mohammad Momin Khawaja, Mohammed Jabarah among them. Since August 2010 alone, five Canadians have been arrested on terrorism charges. Yet Canadians continue to delude themselves into believing that terrorism doesn’t exist here, that every arrest is an aberration and that Canada is somehow an island in a world of instability ….”
  • Speaking of which….The Toronto family of a young woman who has sparked an international panic over her sudden travels to Somalia says that she has called home to tell them that she is not affiliated with terrorists. “Based on direct contact with her, they are assured she is safe with family in Somalia and that she is not with al-Shabab,” a source who spoke to the woman’s close relatives on Monday told The Globe and Mail. He asked that neither he nor the family members be named ….”
  • A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant seeking the extradition from Canada of a former Guatemalan soldier suspected of involvement in a brutal 1982 massacre during Guatemala’s civil war, a court official said Monday. Judge Santiago Pedraz ordered the arrest of 53-year-old Jorge Sosa Orantes for his alleged role in the massacre in the village of Dos Erres in 1982 in which more than 100 people died, the court official said. Sosa faces charges of crimes against humanity, according to the court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with policy. The more-than-three-decade civil war in Guatemala claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996. The U.S.-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to the findings of a truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed Sosa has been in custody in Alberta since January on U.S. charges of lying about his role in Guatemala’s war when he applied for American citizenship in 2008. He lived for many years in Southern California, working as a martial arts instructor ….”
  • How some troops in the Dominican Republic seem to be supplementing their wagesA dozen soldiers in the Dominican Republic have been arrested in an alleged plot to ship cocaine to Canada in a child’s suitcase.  Prosecutor Elvis Garcia says the 12 soldiers include a lieutenant colonel. Eight work with the national anti-drug agency at the airport in Puerto Plata and four with the airport security agency. Two civilians have also been arrested.  The arrests stem from the discovery last month 33 kilograms of cocaine in the suitcase of a Canadian child at the airport. The girl was traveling with her parents to Toronto ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 28 Mar 11

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  • Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. A Canadian soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated during a dismounted partnered patrol in the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar Province at approximately 12 p.m. (noon) Kandahar time on Sunday, March 27, 2011.  More from the Canadian Press here, Postmedia News here and the Globe & Mail here.  Statements from the Governor General here, the PM here and Minister of Defence here.  An Army.ca condolences thread can be read and posted to here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (1) – NATO’s taking on the WHOLE Libyan job now. More from Al Jazeera English here, BBC here, Reuters here and AFP here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (2) – Here’s what the first wave o’ cruise missiles looked like to some on the HMCS Charlottetown. “A small crowd is gathered on the port bridge wing of HMCS Charlottetown. Slowly heading west, the ship is following a shimmering path of light laid on the water by the full moon, now low on the horizon. The clear sky is full of stars from horizon to horizon, a sight rarely seen ashore. Warships ride the waves, visible only as dim shapes punctuated by the red and green dots of their navigation lights. Abruptly, a large plume of flame rises from the sea some distance to the south. After a few seconds of climbing, the bright glow vanishes as the cruise missile jettisons its booster and begins flying its programmed course. The first Tomahawk is on its way ….”
  • No Fly Zone in LIbya (3) – So far, so good, according to the U.S. Secretary of State and Defense Secretary. “U.S. and coalition forces have accomplished the no-fly zone aspect of the United Nations mission in Libya, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a television interview …. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and discussed what coalition nations have achieved as actions in Libya enter a second week. U.S. and coalition partners have suppressed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses in Libya and have not seen his planes in the air since the no-fly zone was put in place March 19, Gates said …. “
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (4) – Some good questions from the Toronto Star: “…. Is a stalemate that lets Gadhafi hang on in a partitioned Libya a viable option? Should the world follow France and recognize the Benghazi-based rebel leadership? If not now, when? Finally, how will NATO react if Libyans who live in Tripoli or other areas under his control also rise up? At the end of the day it isn’t likely to matter much whether these essentially political questions are answered by the regular NATO club, or by the nominally wider “coalition of the willing” that includes such Arab states as Qatar and the Emirates. What’s important is that things be clarified, sooner rather than later ….”
  • One CF wife’s story. “You don’t know what it’s like until you get in. It’s such a tight-knit community. Usually military families are friends with other military families. It was different at first to realize that you no longer control where you live, but it’s a lifestyle I would never give up. I love the closeness. I love that there is always someone there for you. Everyone watches everyone’s back.”
  • A swack of senior Canadian officers are in line for big international jobs. “Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, who was chosen on Friday to navigate NATO’s immensely complex air war against Moammar Gadhafi’s Libyan regime, is not the only Canadian flag officer getting an immensely challenging international command. It is expected that a Canadian army general will soon be named to a big UN peacekeeping posting in the Middle East. These two developments follow by a few weeks the announcement that Maj.-Gen. Mike Day is to take over responsibility for training the Afghan army for NATO. Day joins Maj.-Gen. Stu Beare, who is to continue running Afghan police training for the alliance until he takes up a senior appointment in Ottawa this fall that will draw heavily on his overseas experience ….”
  • Good point.  “In any other country, a spy chief revealing concerns that members of government are believed to be under “at least the general influence” of foreign powers would have been a wakeup call. In Canada, it resulted in calls for the senior spy’s head …. Richard Fadden wasn’t trying to fearmonger, he was raising a legitimate red flag about a threat to our national security. Hey, politicians, wake up! You may be doing another country’s bidding. He was also sending a very public message to the offending countries in question. Yes, there is more than one. Add Russia, Iran and several African, Latin American and western European countries to that list. Instead of waking up, opposition politicians decided to try to shut him up for doing his job — identifying a threat and challenging it head on …. For all the calls the opposition makes demanding more transparency in Canada’s security apparatuses, when they finally got it, they didn’t like it very much. But that’s the thing about the truth, sometimes it hurts.”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Ceasefire.ca wants the Joint Strike Fighter to be an election issue.
  • Remember the Canadian in the U.S. Special Forces named last month to receive a Silver Star for bravery in Afghanistan (second last item)?  He’s received it.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Mar 11

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  • Canada’s Defence Minister drops by Malta to congratulate the troops“…. “The Maltese government has been very helpful in assisting our evacuation efforts from Libya,” said Minister MacKay. “Without their support, this challenging operation would have been even more difficult. Canada’s bilateral relations with Malta have never been better.” “The short-notice deployment of Canadian Forces personnel and assets to the Mediterranean is another example of our ability and willingness to help those in need,” said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “HMCS Charlottetown’s presence in the Mediterranean Sea provides the Government of Canada with the means to react rapidly should any new crises unfold in the region. We are proud of our troops and the support of their families.” ….”
  • There’s more from the CF information machine on how the evacuation of Canadians has been going. “Over 10 days of evacuation operations, the CC-130J Hercules tactical transports and CC-177 Globemaster strategic airlifters of Joint Task Force Malta have rescued 61 Canadians and 130 citizens of other nations from the turmoil in Libya. Deployed under Operation MOBILE, JTF Malta is the Canadian Forces contribution to a whole-of-government effort led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). At time of writing, the task force had 61 personnel (aircrews, medical staff, military police, liaison officers and air movements personnel) based at the Excelsior Hotel in Valletta, and two Hercules aircraft operating from Malta International Airport ….”
  • Here’s one way NATO troops are handing security responsiblity over to Afghans. “The Canadian military is warming to the controversial idea of arming local villagers in the Kandahar district of Panjwaii, a tactic credited with stemming violence during the Iraq war but criticized over concerns of insurgent infiltration. The Afghan Local Police program, launched by President Hamid Karzai last August, is an initiative where village-level fighting forces are given guns and undergo a training course to provide security to their communities. It’s a gamble that NATO military commanders hope encourages locals to fight back against the Taliban, much like some Iraqi villagers did when they rose up against al-Qaida during the Sunni Awakening. Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan said the ALP could soon be set up in the Horn of Panjwaii, the western belt of the district traditionally used as a springboard for insurgent attacks in the provincial capital of Kandahar city. “We’re trying to invigorate it out in the Horn,” Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner said in a recent interview ….” Here’s one view about why the ALP may not be the best idea.
  • More from the CF information machine on what’s up in Afghanistan on the road to Mushan and in training Afghan troops about the beans and bullets.
  • Karzai issues his strongest statement yet to NATO: “An emotional Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday told international troops to “stop their operations in our land”, his strongest remarks yet over mistaken killings of civilians. Karzai’s comments came after a week in which a relative of his was killed in a raid by foreign forces and he rejected an apology by the US commander of troops General David Petraeus for the deaths of nine children in a NATO strike. “I would like to ask NATO and the US with honour and humbleness and not with arrogance to stop their operations in our land,” Karzai said in Pashto as he visited the dead children’s relatives in Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan. “We are very tolerant people but now our tolerance has run out.” In an apparent reference to neighbouring Pakistan, where insurgents have hideouts in lawless border regions, Western-backed Karzai said international forces “should go and fight this war where we have showed them (it is)”. “This war is not in our land,” Karzai added ….” How many minutes do you think Karzai would last if NATO just walked away?  Maybe worth considering?
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Government bashes Parliamentary Budget Officer estimate of how much the program’ll cost“…. Kevin Page’s contention that the F-35 Lightning II will cost taxpayers $22 billion over 20 years — or nearly $30 billion over 30 years — was dismissed as “speculative” and “illogical” by the country’s junior defence minister. “There are areas in that report that we just simply disagree with,” said Laurie Hawn. There are flaws in the report’s methodology, he said. “It’s accurate based on the assumptions he made. The assumptions he made were speculation.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – “The Liberals are accusing the Bloc Quebecois of “flip-flopping” on their decision to support the purchase of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a report by Canada’s budget watchdog that pegs the total cost at billions more than initially thought. “Gilles Duceppe has finally seen the light — I just hope it isn’t too late for Quebec’s aerospace industry,” Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said. “Liberal MPs have argued all along that the Conservative numbers simply do not add up, which is why they breached Parliament’s privilege and refused to show us detailed cost figures for these stealth fighter jets.” …. Shortly after Page’s report came out, Duceppe said he was shocked and echoed the position of the Liberals that the deal should be cancelled in favour of an open bid process. The Bloc had supported the deal believing it would be good for Quebec’s aerospace industry. On Friday, the Bloc’s Pierre Paquette admitted the party had supported the purchase up until the release of Thursday’s PBO report ….”
  • The Harper government hopes the bruising, emotional debate over the ill-treatment of war veterans will come to an end now that the House of Commons has passed an improved package of benefits for former soldiers. Bill C-55 was given the green light on Friday, with all-party consent, and will now make its way to the Senate. But critics remained skeptical that the “insurance company” mentality of Veterans Affairs Canada staff will simply fade away, despite the injection of $2 billion in new and improved benefits ….” Some of the debate from the House of Commons Friday here and here, and how some wounded warriors feel about what’s proposed here.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, Canadian companies exported about $1.4-billion in arms with the United Kingdom, Australia and Saudi Arabia topping the list of buyers. The sales figures are contained in the latest report from the department of foreign affairs that tracks military sales from year to year. Those figures don’t include sales to the United States, which is by far the largest buyer of arms from Canada. Because of a long-standing agreement between the two countries, Canada doesn’t track sales to the United States the way it does for other countries, so it does not appear on the department’s list ….” Here’s the DFAIT report.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 27 Feb 11

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  • Operation GTFO Libya The good news:  Canadians are being flown out of Libya in a Canadian military plane.  The not-so-good news:  it’s Canada’s embassy staff, including the Ambassador. More on that here, here, here and here.
  • More on managing expectations of a military incursion (involving Canadians, anyway) into Libya“…. Defence Minister Peter MacKay told a group of defence experts Friday not to expect Canadian troops — or even United Nations peacekeepers — to intervene in Libya anytime soon. When asked about the UN’s Responsibility to Protect resolution, which allows for quick action by the Security Council to intervene militarily in cases where innocent civilians are being brutalized, MacKay said the resolution is a “very important concept,” but it isn’t applied evenly. “As we’ve seen in places like Darfur, it (the resolution) has lost its lost lustre,” MacKay said. “I think the corollary to the Responsibility to Protect is not to overextend, and not to raise expectations that can’t be met.” ….”
  • Here’s what Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Attorney General, says Canada should be doing about Libya.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The Taliban is claiming to have “captured” a “Canadian national” in Ghazni, Afghanistan – no mainstream media confirmation as of this posting.
  • An editorial voice saying Canada should stay to finish the job in Afghanistan“This summer, as Kandahar bakes in the relentless heat, Canada will formally end its combat role in Afghanistan. After nearly a decade of fighting, Canadians will transition to a training role — behind the wire — teaching the Afghan National Security Forces.  Canada must maintain a presence in Afghanistan, but it is difficult for Canadians to walk away from combat operations in Kandahar before the job is done, given the heroic efforts and sacrifices of our soldiers …. Soldiers go where they are told to and do as the government orders because that’s their job. They are loyal to the core.  Quietly though, many wonder what it was all for. There is a feeling of unfinished business, of being taken off the field in the last moments of the championship game when the critical moves are being made, when the score is so close.  …. Now, as the surge is in full swing, Canadian troops have to walk away without being allowed to finish what they started.  This is all the more grating because combat has not affected Canada’s ability to fight — it has affected our will to fight.  Ultimately the decision to leave combat had nothing to do with tactical success or failure on the ground and everything to do with political debates at home …. Much of the reputation the Canadian Forces have earned us in Afghanistan will be left in the dust of Kandahar.  Asked what could be done for his troops, one veteran officer answered, “Let them win, if you really want their efforts to have not been in vain.” “
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchMore on the Taliban’s view of those nasty, nasty people who say they’re talking with NATO, Afghanistan, the Americans, whoever.
  • A top Canadian general wants to cut the fat at national defence headquarters in Ottawa, a move he says will help create a leaner, meaner fighting machine. Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie was heavily critical of a system that favours headquarters staff members over soldiers in the field. “Before you want to talk, and none of you should be, about cutting one ship, one reserve or regular unit, or one capability that can contribute to operational outputs, let’s talk about HQ staffs,” Leslie told a conference of defence analysts and military officers. His heaviest opposition is coming from the bureaucrats he is facing off against. “Nothing will defend itself so vigorously, much akin to a wounded badger, as a HQ that is threatened with being shut down.” ….” Some interesting discussion and suggestions on this topic here at Milnet.ca.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War This from the Parliamentary Budget Officer in his latest report (PDF): “…. the federal government still hasn’t given him, or the committee, the information they say they need to hold the Conservatives fiscally accountable on crime bill costs, the F-35 fighter jet purchase and costs to the federal treasury of corporate tax cuts ….” This, specifically on the F-35, from the report itself:  “The GC’s (Government of Canada’s) response to FINA (House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance) on October 28 2010 confirms some of the relevant cost drivers associated with the GC’s planned purchase of 65 F-35s. These include the importance of specifications such as weight and materials, deflator rates to account for changes in prices, and a specific delivery schedule in order to determine the average unit cost of the aircraft. That said, there are two insufficiencies in the data. First, the data provided does not cover all the cost drivers. Second, the response does not provide the necessary degree of detail with respect to both the underlying assumptions upon which the GC’s figures are based and cost drivers themselves …. The PBO (Parliamentary Budget Office) will be providing parliamentarians with an independent estimate of the costs of the F-35 aircraft in the upcoming weeks ….”
  • A Quebec museum has bought itself a submarine for the princely sum of $4, plus tax.  The submarine is the former HMCS Onondaga, one of Canada’s Oberon-class submarines that was decommissioned in 2000 when the navy picked up its new Victoria-class subs from the British navy.  Annemarie Bourassa, assistant director of the Musee de la Mer de Pointe-au-Pere, told the Canadian Press that the sub will be a big draw for her museum.   “Rimouski is not a big city and there’s not a lot of big tourist attractions, so there’s a lot of people who are convinced that this will be good for everyone,” Bourassa said.  The submarine was headed to the Canada War Museum as an exhibit for children to climb through, but that museum bailed out when it worked out the cost of transporting the submarine to its new building in Ottawa ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Feb 11

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  • Canadians are starting to GTFO Libya. “The first group of Canadian evacuees left Libya Wednesday by boat and more are expected to fly out Thursday, the federal government says. Foreign Affairs confirmed at least 26 Canadians, along with several American and British citizens, left the Libyan capital of Tripoli on a U.S. charter ferry heading to Malta. The Canadian charter flight is scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon from Tripoli to Rome, Italy. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is expected to greet the flight, as well as meet with his Italian counterpart to discuss the situation in Libya. Evacuees are asked to bring food and water and will have to reimburse the federal government $500 for the cost of the flight. So far, 178 Canadians currently trapped in the North African nation have said they want to leave the country. Some 350 Canadians are registered with the embassy in Libya ….” More on the exodus from CTV.ca and Postmedia News.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • I would f**king well HOPE so! “Troops who will be sent to Afghanistan for training missions later this year will include corporals, not just senior officers, Canada’s chief of land staff for the Canadian Forces has revealed. Canadian corporals have a “level of maturity and capability and pride that we think is important to share with the Afghans,” Lieutenant General Peter Devlin told QMI Agency in an exclusive interview. Devlin said the corporals will join officers and senior NCOs (non-commissioned officers such as sergeants and warrant officers), which will help spread out the work for Canadian troops. Corporals are ““gifted instructors, I would put them up against senior NCOs from other nations, and that is our approach,” he said. While corporals are among the more junior ranks of Canada’s Army, they posses valuable combat experience in Afghanistan, Devlin added ….”
  • What Canadian trainer/mentors are up to in Afghanistan.
  • More on Canadian troops serving in Sudan, especially following the referendum creating the world’s newest country. “The Canadian Forces members of Task Force Sudan took part in efforts by United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to support the recent referendum in South Sudan: maintaining a constant patrol presence in all sectors of the country, both north and south, and facilitating the delivery of ballots to polling stations. UNMIS kept a low profile, focussing on security and support for the U.N. agencies that monitored and assisted the voting process directly.  The vote was largely free of violence or fraud, and the participation rate was much higher than we ever see in Canada. The international community has praised the people of South Sudan for their patient participation in a watershed decision.  Task Force Sudan is deployed under Operation SAFARI to provide UNMIS with staff officers and United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs). At any given time, Task Force Sudan comprises about 26 military personnel, including a small but mighty national support element in Khartoum supporting both the CF members of the task force and the Canadian police officers serving in Sudan with the U.N. Police (UNPOL) ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Who’s interested, qualified to refit HMCS PROTECTEUR? “The Department of National Defence has a requirement for a refit of HMCS PROTECTEUR; a West Coast Canadian based PROTECTEUR Class Auxiliary Oil Replenishment (AOR) ship based in Victoria, British Columbia. It is anticipated that the refit work will commence February 2012 with a completion date of December 2012 ….” (via Milnet.ca)
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2) Someone to set up a “temporary” camp at Resolute Bay for $6.5 million, and three organizations get contract to conduct Taser research. (via Milnet.ca)
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1a) From the Toronto Star:  “Federal Liberals plan to open a second front in their document war with the Harper government. The party’s defence critic, Dominic Leblanc, is demanding the release of a key air force report that lays out the justification for the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets. The statement of operational requirements was stamped classified by National Defence last year and the Conservative government has resisted calls by the opposition parties to make the document public. LeBlanc served notice to the House of Commons defence committee that he’ll table a motion demanding the release of the statement — a measure he hopes the NDP and Bloc Québécois will support. That sets the stage for another tug-of-war over document secrecy ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1b) From the Toronto Sun:  “Another day, another Liberal MP attacking the Conservatives for allegedly being too secretive and wasteful with public money. Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc lashed out at the government Wednesday for hiding the true costs of their tough-on-crime agenda, and for going ahead with the F35 stealth fighter jet purchase amid fears the $16 billion figure for the 65 aircraft (including maintenance) is going to grow. “Despite repeated reasonable requests by Liberal MPs for precise cost estimates on the Conservative stealth fighter purchase and the prison expansion plans, the Harper government continues to hide these numbers,” LeBlanc said at a press conference Wednesday. “The bottom line for us is Canadians have a right to know before Parliament is asked to vote on important pieces of legislation or approve massive expenditures like those involved in the stealth fighter purchase.” ….”
  • Canada’s Air Force is pumping a bit of $ into the Kansas economy. “The sky of Salina may be a little louder than usual as our neighbors to the north with six CF-18 Hornets and two CH-146 Griffon helicopters from Canadian Air CF-18s on the flightline in Salina. Canada’s Tactical Fighter Squadrons have an economic impact of close to $2 million each deployment. Force 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron take advantage of the training and basing opportunities at the Salina Airport Authority and the Smoky Hill Weapons Range, through March 23 ….”
  • Loooongish service from an aviation workhorse. “Nine CC-138 Twin Otters have served with the Canadian Forces (CF) since 1971. In 1994, 440 Transport and Rescue Squadron was renamed 440 Transport Squadron (440 (T) Sqn), its fleet was reduced to four aircraft and the squadron relocated to Yellowknife, where it remains today. “[The Twin Otter] has supported a wide number of roles while supporting Canada, the Canadian Forces and Canadians,” explains Lieutenant-Colonel Dwayne Lovegrove, Commanding Officer, 440 (T) Sqn, “so it’s worthy of a little bit of celebration.” ….”
  • Uh, no they DON’T (corrections in terminology mine).  War resisters Deserters in Canada need our support …. Thank you for the eloquent article on Rodney Watson, the U.S. Army resister alleged deserter who is living in Vancouver under constant threat of deportation. Watson’s Canadian wife and their young son also suffer from this unconscionable situation. All of us who care about justice for military resister alleged deserters should besiege Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney’s office with requests for a humane resolution.” Anyone who volunteers for the military and runs away because they don’t like the mission is like a cop who won’t police in a certain area of town because s/he disagrees with protecting people living in that area.  Want to make a solid political statement that’ll impress people?  Don’t go, and face the music.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Jan 11

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