News Highlights – 1 Dec 10

  • The Bloc’s motion to condemn the coming training mission in Afghanistan?  Crash & burn, thanks to the Liberals voting with the Tories against it – more on the vote here and here.  It didn’t take long for Jack Layton to come out swinging, via e-mail“…. Before Michael Ignatieff became leader, the Liberal Party voted to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan in 2011. Michael Ignatieff has turned his back on that commitment.  Before Michael Ignatieff became leader, Liberals from Lester Pearson to Jean Chrétien were known for taking brave stands to ensure Canada remained a voice for peace in the world.  But Michael Ignatieff is taking the Liberal Party in a different direction.  It’s time for leadership you can count on to do the right thing. Leadership that understands the Canadian way. Leadership that will actually stand up to Stephen Harper and get results for you ….” Funny he didn’t mention the Liberal PM who was at the wheel when the troops moved to Kandahar.  Anyway, here’s who voted which way (209-81, via Hansard).
  • More questions in the House of Commons on how kids were handled as detainees in Afghanistan, this one from Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae, this one from NDP leader Jack Layton and this one from the Bloc’s Jean Dorion.
  • Message to the troops:  “Afghan mission ending, but work must go on”: “Canada’s top general for overseas deployments took pains during his latest visit to the Afghan mission to assure soldiers at the start of the last combat tour in dangerous Kandahar province that their work will go on. “It’s a question I asked myself,” said Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, who leads the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command. “We’re not just leaving . . . we’re handing over,” he told reporters at Kandahar Airfield on Tuesday. He said an American replacement brigade has been identified, but cannot yet be named, to fill the void when the Canadian battle group leaves Kandahar next summer after four years. Canada’s Afghan involvement after next July will be “Kabul-centric,” Lessard added ….”
  • More from General Lessard, from the Canadian Press: “…. Canada’s overseas commander, Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, said the military’s focus between now and May will be to help deliver long-promised development projects and governance to unstable districts of the province, in particular areas where Canadian troops are operating.  It is a window of calm through which a lot of bricks, mortar and good intentions will have to be stuffed.  A period of relative calm has settled across southern Afghanistan after the bloodiest year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. Since the beginning of the year, 669 coalition troops have been killed, including 15 Canadians.  Lessard set down the May deadline because it marks the end of the poppy harvest and the start of an annual spike in violence known as “the Fighting Season.”  Between now and then it’s “important to deliver,” said Lessard ….”
  • And who’ll do what where in the upcoming training mission?  Stay tuned“The contours, staffing and timing of the Canadian training mission in Afghanistan have not been settled and probably won’t be until early next year, the commander of Canadian forces overseas said.  Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard, head of the central military command, or CEFCOM, said a fact-finding team was in the country last week and is expected to propose various options before Christmas.  The seven-member team is to analyze what training skills are required, what rank of officers will be needed and the timetable for the deployment of trainers …. “The emphasis is to be on Kabul but not solely Kabul,” Gen. Lessard said, meeting with reporters after the latest of his frequent visits to Afghanistan ….”
  • Meanwhile, the message back at home:  “Canada’s contribution will continue when combat ends” (from a column submitted by an MP in a local paper):  “Canada’s remarkable service in Afghanistan has made true gains for women, children and for all citizens of that troubled land, although the strides forward have sometimes come at a painful cost. The 152 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to Canada and in defence of human rights have improved Afghans’ prospects for a brighter future, while serving to protect the national security of Canada. Our soldiers’ leadership as part of this UN-mandated, NATO-led mission has made Canadians proud. It is important to build on our troops’ hard-won achievements to ensure they result in a lasting legacy for the people they fought to defend. Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011, as planned. But our responsibility to preserve the progress we’ve made after a decade of service still remains …. When our current combat mission ends, Canada will deploy up to 950 military trainers and support staff at facilities centered in Kabul, and in a strictly non-combat role. This new training role will continue until March 2014. Canadian skill and expertise will be tapped to properly train Afghan security forces – in classrooms and inside bases – to enable them to provide security for their own people …. Our ongoing involvement in a non-combat role to equip Afghanistan for the challenges still ahead will continue to build on the foundation laid at great cost by our soldiers.”
  • Remember the video game order for the troops downrange?  Potential vendors get more time to submit their bids.
  • Now that his kit has been incinerated, there is at least one call to have all of murderer-rapist Russell Williams’ photos burned, too: “If I were in charge of QMI Agency, and therefore newsroom boss of its 36 major dailies and 200-plus community newspapers, I would send out an edict that no picture of convicted killer-rapist Russell Williams will ever again be published in our pages with him wearing a military uniform.  But I have no such clout. Perhaps the power of suggestion will win the day.   It would be the right thing for the largest newspaper chain in Canada to do, and for it to then publicly state why this corporate decision was made ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Three Afghan “puppets” alleged assassinated in Kandahar City.

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