MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 23 Nov 10

  • No Canadian reaction yet, but this is scary enough to include:  North Korea has shelled a South Korean island, killing and wounding people living there.  More here – something to keep one’s eye on.
  • Postmedia News is starting to share some details about what Canadian trainers could end up doing in the newly-announced-but-not-publicly-fleshed-out training mission in Afghanistan“Canada’s war-hardened soldiers are going back to the basics for a three-year Afghan training mission. Up to 950 soldiers who would normally have been facing combat in Kandahar will now be dispatched to walled-off bases around Kabul to lead Afghan soldiers in basic training exercises between 2011 and 2014. Jogging, marching, push-ups and firing weapons will replace Taliban hunting in the Canadian playbook, under a plan rolled out Tuesday by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and international development ….” So, what type of troops does Canada send to train the Afghans? How do you prepare those troops being sent to train? Where previous rotations prepared by training to fight and work with Afghan forces in battle, should future trainers be taught how to set up schools and training systems before being unleashed on the Afghans? Who trains the Afghan troops?  Their junior leaders?  Their officers? Outstanding discussion under way on this, including commentary from them that’s been there, at Army.ca – well worth the read.
  • One tool Canada appears to be unleashing to help train Afghan cops, who are notorious for their less-than-stellar reliability and integrity:  a TV show. More from the Toronto Star“Canada is underwriting a propaganda campaign to transform the image of the notorious Afghan national police in the hearts and minds of the country’s television viewers. The half-million dollar initiative casts Lt. Humayun as a dedicated, incorruptible Afghan National Police officer trolling the streets of Kabul to settle tribal disputes and put drug traffickers and warlords out of business. The popular Saturday evening television series, Separ, is sort of an Afghan version of Paul Gross’s Mountie in the popular Due South series. The two dozen planned episodes of the show are intended to educate the country on the roles and duties of the Afghan National Police (ANP), a force that is hardly better trusted than thugs and terrorists it is meant to be targetting ….” Canada’s development agency CIDA Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is pumping more than $400,000 into this one. (Correction based on Toronto Star correction of original version of story)
  • United Press International says we will be hearing more details (eventually) about Canada’s mystery purchase of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan“…. A Canadian Forces officer says the Department of Defense might release more information about the helicopters at a later date. The Defense Department acquired the MI-17 helicopters for combat use in Afghanistan but has refused to provide details about how much the deal cost taxpayers or how many aircraft are operating, Postmedia News reported ….” Kinda harkens back to summer 2006, when Russia tried selling some helicopters to Canada, which was then in a bit of a rush to buy helicopters for the troops.
  • One senior Canadian officer says the victory he’s seeing in southern Afghanistan is not the fleeting kind“Some people say it is only because the Taliban have gone back to Pakistan because it is the winter,” said Col. Ian Creighton, in charge of the operational mentor liaison team (OMLT) that has gone to war alongside the Afghan army as advisers. “And, you know, it is the truth. Some have. But others have died or given up” ….”
  • Back here in Canada, the Bloc Quebecois is pushing for a vote in Parliament on the new Canadian mission in Afghanistan (more from Postmedia News here).  And the Liberals? Well, shortly after the 16 Nov 10 announcement, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was OK with the plans for a training mission “We could conceive of a training mission …. What are we there for, anyway? …. We’re not there to run the country. We’re not there to take it over. We’re there to enable them to defend themselves.”.  His foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, even went as far as saying, “We obviously want to see what the detailed mandate for the mission is, but a non-combat mission would not normally require a parliamentary vote.” And now?  This, from the Globe & Mail“…. “We’ve never ducked a democratic debate on Afghanistan,” (Ignatieff) told reporters in Montreal on Monday after addressing college students. The Liberal Leader said he would not propose a vote himself but that, if there is one, “we have no problem with that.”….”  I’ll say he’s being squeezed from all sides, including from within his own caucus – more on Ignatieff as wishbone from the Canadian Press here.
  • The Ottawa Citizen points out how a Conservative cabinet minister speaking in the House of Commons this week doesn’t seem to consider Afghanistan to be at war.  Reminds me of a bit of debate in the House in October 2009, where then-parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Deepak Obhrai expressed a similar sentiment (Hansard here, more here):  “This is not a war. We are providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security. Let us get it very clear so the NDP can understand what a secure environment is and what a war is. A war is between two nations; a war is between two parties. There are not two parties there. This is a different kind of war. We are facing a terrorist organization that does not respect any rules of engagement.”
  • One American soldier’s memories of his colleagues seeing Canadian tanks in Afghanistan, via a New York Times blog“One of the most memorable moments during our 12 month tour was arriving on FOB Wilson in Zhari, Kandahar, for the weekly district security shura and watching the tanker half of my platoon swoon over the troop of Canadian Leopard 2A6Ms parked in the motor-pool. Memories of past I.E.D.s and firefights flowed through our heads. And of course, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What if…” ….” They won’t have to wonder for much longer.
  • Blog Watch: Gotta love the “Compare and Contrast” dare Terry Glavin puts out, asking folks to compare the Taliban’s latest statements and those from people and groups opposed to Canada’s continued presence in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 30 claimed killed, wounded in alleged attacks across Kandahar.
  • In case you haven’t heard, there’s a significant outbreak of cholera in Haiti.  Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Canada should go check things out and see how we can help: “…. “We just think the Canadian government cannot stand by while cholera ravages Haiti,” the Liberal leader told reporters in Montreal on Monday.  “This is a country that has been in the inner circle of the damned for the past year.” …. Ignatieff says Ottawa should send “a strategic evaluation mission right away” to take a closer look at the situation in the Caribbean country.  “Once we’ve done an evaluation around what’s needed, it may be necessary to send the DART team or maybe even some element of a military mission to basically help these cholera hospitals get this thing under control,” he said ….”
  • Finally, this, buried in an American tender award announcement“The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $7,625,501 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract (N00019-09-D-0010) to exercise an option for in-service support for F/A-18 aircraft of the governments of Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Malaysia and Spain. Services to be provided include program management, logistics, engineering support, and incidental materials and technical data. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the governments of Switzerland ($2,461,884; 32 percent); Finland ($1,702,014; 22 percent); Canada ($872,514; 12 percent); Kuwait ($874,264; 12 percent); Malaysia ($864,264; 11 percent); Australia ($464,714; 6 percent); and Spain ($385,847; 5 percent), under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.”

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