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Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 15 Nov 10

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  • If you’re a soldier in Petawawa, it may get harder to get counselling for you or your family. This, from the Canadian Press“Hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa who sought counselling at a nearby hospital in eastern Ontario must get help elsewhere.  The Pembroke Regional Hospital says it can no longer afford the adult outpatient service that saw more than 400 soldiers a year seeking treatment outside the military health system.  Individual counselling has been dramatically scaled back with the retirement this year of four social workers who are not being replaced. Marital sessions are no longer offered.  Soldiers had received free counselling for anger, stress, depression and relationship problems ….”
  • Canada’s buying lotsa real estate – in Afghanistan. This, from Postmedia News“Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs has bought millions of dollars worth of land and property in Afghanistan over the past two years, contributing to a 410% increase in its spending on real estate and capital works since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power.  Foreign Affairs spent $24.5 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year on real estate or renovations in Afghanistan — nearly one third of the $85.3 million the department spent on diplomatic digs around the world. It spent another $1.5 million in neighbouring Pakistan …. Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic, said money would be better spent on programs than real estate at the moment.  “Everyone knows the costs in Kabul. The price of land is similar to Manhattan right now in terms of buying real estate there …. Why would you buy in a market that is incredibly inflated right now because of what some people call the UN gold rush?” ….”
  • Guess what the chatter o’ the day on Parliament Hill’s going to be today? Canada’s role in Afghanistan is expected to be high on the agenda as Parliament resumes sitting on Monday, even though NATO has yet to announce firm plans on troop levels and what exactly it wants from Canadian forces ….  While the Liberals appear to be onside with the government, the NDP and Bloc are not ….”
  • One Canadian officer in Afghanistan, speaking to Postmedia News,  has an interesting perspective on what Afghan security forces should be learning: “Col. Paul Scagnetti’s small unit at the Afghan Army Command and Staff College has already been doing for 18 months what the Harper government is about to order hundreds of soldiers to do after Canadian combat operations cease in Kandahar next summer: train Afghans to bring security to their country.  “If Canadians want bang for their dollars, this is it,” he said.  “Every soldier wants to be on a combat mission, but if they have to do something else, training is actually more important,” said Scagnetti, who was a high school teacher in Timmins, Ont., for 31 years and who has been an army reservist for almost as long.  “In the long-term, this (training) is an enabler for peace, because you end up with an Afghan teaching an Afghan, who brings security to other Afghans. And there is now a generation of Canadians with combat experience with lessons to pass on.” ….”
  • Another idea for a Canadian role in Afghanistan, according to Postmedia News, is protecting women’s rights “Championing the emancipation of Afghan women is emerging as a possible non-military, post-combat role for Canada as politicians and activists debate the future of the costly mission in Afghanistan …. Ottawa has yet to unveil its full strategy for Afghanistan once combat troops pull out of restive Kandahar in July 2011 but, on Monday, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights will begin hearing from experts on what role Canada might play in supporting the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the war-torn country ….” More on the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights here.
  • Yet another idea for an alternative future mission, courtesy of Scott Taylor at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald“….Harper could have announced the establishment of a vocational school staffed by a corps of well-remunerated recruits from the Afghan-Canadian diaspora. Without a linguistic barrier and no religious or cultural chasms to bridge, these instructors could quickly mentor thousands of students to literacy and competency within a variety of essential trades.  In other words, Afghan-Canadians would teach Afghans how to construct and maintain the basic infrastructure necessary to improve the day-to-day lives of other Afghans.  Instead, we will be sending thousands more Canadian soldiers to teach young Afghan men how to fight.”
  • According to the Canadian Press, A new report, partly funded by the Foreign Affairs Department, says western nations have misunderstood the war aims of the Taliban and it cautions any potential peace deal with them could be a threat to human rights …. The report suggests many insurgent fighters have taken up arms in retaliation for perceived military aggression by NATO — a sentiment echoed Sunday when the Afghan president asked western armies to restrain their operations ….” You can find the report, “Dangerous Liaisons with the Afghan Taliban:  The Feasibility and Risks of Negotiations,” as well as an executive summary, here.
  • Blog Watch: Mark Collins on “Since When Does the PM Alone Have the Power to Make Military Mission Decisions?”
  • Also from Mark, a reminder that training can, indeed, happen without trainers facing combat.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost two dozen U.S., AFG troops alleged killed in attacks in Kandahar
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