Posts Tagged ‘Task Force Afghanistan’
- No Fly Zone Libya (1) – They call it Operation Odyssey Dawn. First in: 100+ Tomahawk missiles, French ground attack planes. Who’s running the show? U.S. Africa Command for now – here’s AFRICOM’s boss’ initial word on the job..
- No Fly Zone Libya (2) – Who’s who in the OP Odyssey Dawn zoo (including HMCS Charlottetown in the Med, and 6 x CF-18′s), courtesy of Reuters and the Associated Press.
- No Fly Zone Libya (3) – PM Harper’s latest statement: “…. Canadian aircraft and HMCS Charlottetown have joined an international force assembling in the region. Faced with the threat of military action, the regime proclaimed a ceasefire. But the ceasefire was a lie, an obvious lie from the beginning. The facts on the ground are changing in the opposite direction. Canada has said, and leaders have agreed, that we must act urgently. “We must help the Libyan people, help them now, or the threat to them and to the stability of the whole region will only increase. “We must also ensure humanitarian needs are met, and that the humanitarian appeal is fully subscribed. “Finally, we should all acknowledge that ultimately, only the Libyan people can or should decide their future. “But we all have a mutual interest in their peaceful transition to a better future.”
- More from the PM: “Canada needs to move quickly but tread carefully as it engages in “acts of war” against a defiant Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his brutal regime, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “We should not kid ourselves. Whenever you engage in military action, essentially acts of war, these are difficult situations,” Harper told reporters in Paris on Saturday following an emergency summit on the crisis in Libya, during which international partners, led by France, agreed to turn the screws on the dangerous despot. “We need to monitor this very closely and be very careful what we do every step of the way,” Harper said ….”
- Commentary on Canadian-built LAVs being used by Saudi Arabia to help, uh, sort things out in Bahrain: “…. It does regrettably tend to put Canada’s support for “Responsibility to Protect” policies in the Middle East these days in something of a different light. And yes, at around 2:30 in the video you see the distinctive boat hulls of LAVs, most with the 90mm main gun armament that is unique to the Saudi variant. Made in Canada? Yes, most likely …. This is not, however, an issue that any party courting the Ontario auto union vote is likely ever to bring up to the public, so this shouldn’t be an issue, at least until one of the Saudi drivers runs over a news crew or something.”
- More parents of the fallen visit Afghanistan seeking some closure. “The families of 10 Canadians killed in Afghanistan paid tribute Sunday to their loved ones in what could be the last ceremony of its kind before combat operations end in the war-torn country. A next-of-kin memorial service was held at Kandahar Airfield’s Canadian compound. The parents, spouses and siblings of those killed placed wreaths at the foot of the monument dedicated to Canadians who have died as part of the Afghan mission. The father of Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was the first Canadian woman to be killed in action while serving in a combat role, said he felt compelled to visit Kandahar. “For me, it was quite peaceful, more than I anticipated,” Tim Goddard said ….”
- What the troops are up to in Afghanistan: “A glance at a map of the Panjwai District tells you where the river is, because that’s where the people are. Villages speckle the landscape around the Arghandab River and its dozens of tributaries, which provide the irrigation water that makes agriculture possible. In winter, when the area receives almost its entire annual rainfall, streams swell with run-off from the mountains and the soil becomes saturated. Unless drainage is provided, many houses are damaged. When the District Governor received a petition from residents of Bazaar-e-Panjwa’i for help with recurring flood damage, he asked ISAF Regional Command (South) for engineering support to execute a drainage control project. Panjwai District is in the Task Force Kandahar (TFK) area of responsibility, so the project came to the TFK Engineer Regiment — specifically, the Engineer Construction Squadron (ECS), the regiment’s project management team ….”
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks, logistics convoy ambushes and assassinations claimed in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.
- “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced plans to construct a new Integrated Personnel Support Center at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax. Located at Windsor Park, the new facility will provide a 662 m2 facility that will equip the unit with the space they require to administer the full spectrum of services they can offer …. The new facility, valued at approximately $4.2 million, will accommodate the 27 members of the Integrated Personnel Support Centre at CFB Halifax. The new facility also addresses current accessibility issues and will meet the Universal Design and Barrier Free Access Guidelines, making it more conducive to providing the services required for ill or injured personnel ….” More from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald here.
- “(U.S.) Army officials are preparing to conduct what they say is a rare training event involving the U.S. military, the CIA, Canadian officers and other government agencies. The Joint Intermediate Staff Planning Exercise will be held March 21-25 at Fort Leavenworth’s Lewis and Clark Center, home of the Army Command and General Staff College. The weeklong event is designed to encourage participants to confront the challenges and uncertainties of joint, interagency and multinational operations ….”
This from the CF:
Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM), Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard announced today that he has relieved Brigadier-General Daniel Menard from his position as Commander Joint-Task Force Afghanistan (JTF-Afg) and has designated Colonel Simon Hetherington as Acting Commander in the interim.
LGen Lessard made this decision following allegations concerning BGen Menard’s inappropriate conduct related to the Canadian Forces Personal Relationships and Fraternization directives, which caused Commander CEFCOM to lose confidence in BGen Menard’s capacity to command.
An investigation into the circumstances related to the allegations is being launched.
In the near future, the Canadian Forces will dispatch former JTF-Afg Commander, Brigadier-General Jon Vance to Afghanistan to assume command, pending the arrival of the next JTF-Afg Commander, Brigadier-General Dean Milner.
Before we jump to conclusions re: the nature of the “inappropriate conduct related to the Canadian Forces Personal Relationships and Fraternization directives” being investigated, let’s look at what ELSE is covered by the regulation in question:
A CF member in a personal relationship with another CF member, DND employee or member of an allied force, contractor or an employee of a contractor shall not be involved, regardless of rank or authority, in the other person’s:
- performance assessment or reporting, including training evaluations and audits;
- posting, transfer or attached posting;
- individual training or education;
- duties or scheduling for duties;
- documents or records;
- grievance process; or
It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds in the media.
Now that you have an idea how unrepresentative some mainstream media stories can be of events, including media interviews, here’s what wasn’t picked up in the 20 minute interview with Canada’s Task Force Afghanistan commander Brigadier General Jonathan Vance.
More troops in south = more help getting out there
I’d say that the effective arrival of considerably larger U.S. force presence in Kandahar has allowed us to position our forces in such a way that the vast majority are now providing direct security support to the Afghan population. That has translated into a sizable percentage of the population now starting to see that we are not going to leave their immediate vicinity, where we used to have to do that. If you think about what we were like in Kandahar for close to three years; essentially, one Canadian battalion and one Afghan brigade. We are now four battalions, and there are four battalions in the other part of the Kandahar Province area, and the Afghan brigade has grown by another battalion. All of that combines to allow us to focus more on protecting the population as our main effort. Inside that protective sphere, good things start to happen. NGOs start to show up. The U.N. is able to exit Kandahar and start delivering services.
The locals are trusting Canadians more
The population here is terribly fearful of Taliban reprisals. Now, what we’ve seen in Deh‑e‑Bagh, specifically, the population is calling in all the time. Everything from minor infractions where they want to get the police involved, petty theft or something, right through to “There’s a stranger in my backyard with a gun. Please come and deal with him.” So it’s normalizing.
Sometimes, help doesn’t have to be big to help.
This area of Dahan District was badly shelled by the Soviet military. So there’s these massive craters everywhere, which have standing water in them, and that causes malaria and all sorts of other things. And kids play in that. So, with an engineer supervised work crew, we can get some of the local laborers to repair that and turn it back into arable land. Safely, because of the threat of mines and so on. Little things like that mean a lot.
The general gets out with the troops.
First and foremost, I like to see what they’re doing, encourage them, practice the basic tenants of leadership. It’s also very good for me to get a really close look at what’s going on. I can read the reports and so on, but there’s nothing quite like being there. And these patrols are often great opportunities to engage the local population directly. Nothing like stopping on a patrol and having a quick chat with a shop owner. Generally speaking, they’re quite open and responsive. We have cultural advisers with us that give us hints on their body language and so on, and we sort of gather intelligence as we go along. It’s that sort of understanding of the atmospherics in the population which is very important, particularly in the counter‑insurgency.
What we don’t hear about the fallen.
I think the country mourns, and the country mourns as it should. I think the outpouring of support that certainly I see from here and participated in when I was at home, it’s certainly heartwarming for a soldier. We appreciate it. The country, I think, is tightly bound to its military, and that’s a great way to be. That a death of a soldier is sometimes used as a launching pad to criticize the mission is really a non sequitur. Most of the time I perceive that that death is rarely put into context so that people would even understand what that soldier was doing at that particular moment. Sometimes a soldier, when he is killed, is doing the exact right thing and we win the day.
The hard part: communicating the mission in context (here’s where the follow-up story money shots came from).
The troops here, my officers and my staff, we understand the mission, and we can explain it to ourselves. One of the more challenging aspects of the mission is communications in general ‑ communications with Afghans, communications with Canadians such that people can… It’s not to sugar‑coat anything. It’s certainly not to make the mission seem better than it is. It’s a serious, desperate situation. It’s a major emergency. But to try to put all of that into some sort of context such that people, whether they believe we should be here or not, at least they understand.
Last week, Canada’s Task Force Afghanistan commander Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance spoke to CBC Radio about what’s happening in Afghanistan. It was a 20 minute interview (.mp3 here or here), and it led to some follow-up coverage by Agence France-Presse:
The military situation in Afghanistan is “serious” and “desperate,” the top Canadian commander in the country, General Jonathan Vance, warned in an interview with CBC television station.
“It’s a serious, desperate situation. It’s a major emergency,” he said.
He said it was important to explain the situation to the Afghan and Canadian publics, but not to “sugar coat anything, and it’s certainly not to make the mission seem better than it is.”
“But (I)… try and put all of that into some sort of context such that people — whether they believe we should be here or not — at least they understand,” he said in the 20 minute interview broadcast Wednesday.
Afghanistan is in a “serious, desperate situation” which constitutes a major emergency, Canada’s top commander on the ground said in a frank interview broadcast Wednesday.
Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance made his remarks at the end of a 25-minute interview with the CBC which looked at the tasks confronting Canada’s 2,700 strong mission in southern Afghanistan.
“It’s not to sugar coat anything, and it’s certainly not to make the mission seem better than it is. It’s a serious, desperate situation. It’s a major emergency,” he said.
“But (I) … try and put all of that into some sort of context such that people — whether they believe we should be here or not — at least they understand.”
and Al Jazeera:
Meanwhile, General Jonathan Vance, the chief Canadian commander in Afghanistan, described the military situation as “serious” and “desperate”.
“It’s a major emergency,” he said said in an interview on Canadian televison on Wednesday.
Note the herd effect?
I’ve highlighted quotes from the interview in red to make an interesting point.
Here’s a transcript of the CBC interview (PDF). About 20 minutes of chat works out to about 2,900 words.
The longest quote used in the follow-up stories?
56 words – from a response to the last question of the interview.
Translation: these wire service stories are explaining, at best, TWO PER CENT of an interview in their stories.
What did they miss? More on that in the next post….
Dave Markland, the blogmeister at Stopwar.ca has shared this about how Task Force Afghanistan Commander Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance spoke firmly to the community near where some attacks on Canadian troops happened, and said development could cease if there was no co-operation (i.e., information about or prevention of such attacks).
Markland’s closing remarks in his post:
“Vance’s patronizing words and negotiation-by-threat seem ill-suited to improve what are evidently already strained relations with the elders.”
Some might say there’s a case to be made for the Taliban to need some anger management themselves based on how they treat women.
The good news: I found a good piece from Canadian Forces Expeditionary Command (CEFCOM) highlighting what Canadians were doing to help the Afghan election effort. From that piece:
“The Canadian task force in Kandahar Province, and all of ISAF, have maintained a supportive role over recent months, but also provided direct support to election preparations when requested. As well as framework patrols and operations, the manoeuvre units of Task Force Kandahar — the 2nd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group and the 1st Battalion 12th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army — conducted a summer campaign to locate and destroy insurgent IED factories and weapons caches, and disrupt insurgent command-and-control networks to hinder their ability to attack civilians on Election Day. The Canadian military and civilian police of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team ran training courses for 250 officers of the Afghan National Police (ANP), most of whom provided security at polling stations in Kandahar City. The Operational Mentor and Liaison Team continued its work with the increasingly professional and capable 1st Brigade, 205 Corps, the component of the Afghan National Army deployed in Kandahar Province.”
The bad news: it was posted four days AFTER the election. One of the traditional elements of newsworthiness is timeliness
“If it happened today, it’s news. If the same thing happened last week, it’s no longer interesting.”
That said, I wouldn’t want to be too harsh on people closer to the front end of the information chain when, for all I know, it may not necessarily be them holding up approvals and release of this material.