News Highlights – 26 Feb 11

  • Operation GTFO Libya (1)  Here’s one way of putting it. The Canadian government has “facilitated” the safe evacuation of about 200 Canadians from Libya on a number of flights and vessels, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a televised statement Friday evening. Saying the situation at the airport in Tripoli was “becoming ever more difficult,” the prime minister said evacuation efforts will continue Saturday. “A Canadian armed forces C-17 is standing by in Malta, ready to be deployed to Libya at a moment’s notice,” he said. So far, however, Canada hasn’t directly airlifted any of its citizens out of Libya. Many have found their own way out of the strife-torn country by hitching rides on allied countries’ flights and ships ….”
  • Operation GTFO Libya (2)  Here’s, um, another way of putting it (albeit via unnamed “sources”)“A flight chartered by Canada to evacuate its citizens from Libya left Tripoli empty after panicked Canadians fled the country by other means before it arrived, a government source said Friday. Almost 200 Canadians, including 105 who were left waiting at the Tripoli airport for an earlier plane that was nixed by an insurer on Thursday, found passage aboard other flights and boats. They safely arrived in Britain, Malta, Madrid and Turkey overnight, the source said. When a second charter flight arrived in Tripoli from Amman, Jordan Thursday evening, there were no Canadians or citizens from countries cooperating with Canada on the evacuation at the airport, the source explained. The jetliner was granted only two hours to land, pick up passengers and depart, and so it had to leave with no passengers ….” If this is true as reported, someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.  More on this here, here and here.
  • Meanwhile, Canada’s Defence Minister manages expectations on what can be done for Libya right nowJust how far will the world go to stop the bloodshed in Libya? Probably not as far as anti-government demonstrators in the country are calling for, said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. While the United Nations Security Council debates a long list of measures designed to punish and disarm Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the security forces that remain under his command, a number of nations say they are unlikely to order their military forces into the country to keep the peace. The decade-long military slog in Afghanistan and the lukewarm global response to civilians being killed in Sudan’s Darfur region have shown that the UN’s famous Responsibility to Protect doctrine, a policy conceived in Ottawa in response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has “lost it’s lustre,” MacKay said. The lesson, he told a defence conference in Ottawa, was that countries should not “overextend” themselves or “raise expectations that can’t be met.” “I perhaps tend to lean toward practical conservatism when it comes to assessing what Canada can provide to these international missions.” ….”
  • Speaking of managing expectations, here’s what the PM had to say on the Libyan fracas: “…. I have instructed our officials to prepare a full range of sanctions against the Libyan regime, both in collaboration with our international partners, or unilaterally, if necessary. No options have been ruled out. Canada fully supports the United Nations Security Council on a resolution that could include a weapons embargo, individual sanctions against key Libyan officials and an asset freeze. The Libyan regime must and will be held accountable for its violation of human rights atrocities committed against the Libyan people. Canada also calls for Libya’s immediate suspension from the United Nations Human Rights Council. We are working with our allies and international partners to ensure that this suspension occurs, and will be acted on by the General Assembly. As well, Canada fully supports the Human Rights Council’s decision to dispatch a mission to investigate human rights violations in Libya. Finally, we call on the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court ….”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • Someone else runs with the “fewer casualties in Afghanistan” story“Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have reached an important milestone, one that speaks to their recent success in securing territory previously under insurgent control. Yet, it’s also an accomplishment few troops are eager to discuss publicly, as if the very act of acknowledging it might prompt their run of good fortune to end. As of this week, just one Canadian has been killed while on duty in the last six months. That soldier was Cpl. Steve Martin, 24, of St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., who was killed by an improvised explosive device during a foot patrol on Dec. 18 ….” I’m looking forward to sharing this information – please e-mail me a link to any story they may have done along these lines since official stats were released here.
  • A young Taliban field commander who waged numerous battles against Canadian troops has surrendered to Afghan authorities, along with 30 of his men. Haji Toorjan, 28, hinted at growing fractures in the Taliban’s hierarchy, saying other mid-level insurgents are looking to lay down their arms and rejoin Afghan society. “I know many Taliban in the south, they want to renounce violence but they have no outreach program,” he said Tuesday after a ceremony in Kandahar City in which he turned over his weapons ….”
  • The head of Canada’s battle group in Afghanistan says his troops are having one of their best months to date in finding stashes of weapons hidden by insurgents. “February has been particularly positive in our ability to find weapons caches, IED component caches and all the materials the insurgents need to do us harm,” Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St. Louis told reporters Friday from battle group headquarters at Kandahar Airfield. St. Louis said Canadian and Afghan forces have been using a “stepped-up tempo” in recent weeks to patrol villages and fields in the Panjwaii district, culminating in a major search operation last week that involved close to 3,000 troops ….”
  • Some highlights from a recent town-hall meeting on Afghanistan near Edmonton“…. One town hall attendee listed off the number of times Afghanistan has been conquered in its history, then asked Hawn why the “NATO Canadian invasion” would see a different outcome. Hawn said Canada was invited to come into Afghanistan to help, and that’s what he hopes to see happen. “I can’t look at an Afghan child … and say, ‘You don’t deserve a chance,’” he said. “We’re not there to conquer Afghanistan. We’re there to give the Afghan people a chance to build themselves up.” Another person asked why the Afghan government recently awarded a contract to develop mineral resources to Chinese companies when they could “show some gratitude” and award such contracts to Canada or other allied nations instead. Hawn said that he has “no love” for Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the corruption in the current government there, but it is something NATO is working on. “We’ve got to get a grip on Karzai and corruption. … Will we succeed in the end? I don’t know,” he said. “But I know we’re trying very hard to do this.” ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Taliban statement disses U.S. – again.
  • A Canadian who served with U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan is to receive an American bravery medal. Grant Derrick, a duel Canadian-American citizen, will receive the Silver Star on Friday for his part in a 14-hour battle in Hendon village, an isolated community east of Kabul. The former Ottawa man, a member of the U.S. army special forces, was part of a raid in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan last spring. The action saw two commandos killed and three badly wounded. Derrick, a 31-year-old retired staff-sergeant, was a member of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, based in North Carolina. A medic who spent most of his life in Canada until joining the U.S. army in 2003, Derrick is credited with saving the life of an Afghan commando shot in the face as the force swept into a Taliban weapons depot May 4 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War A battle of numbers has broken out over the Harper government’s deal to buy the F-35 joint strike fighter jet. Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the country stands to lose up to $1 billion if the purchase of the stealth jets is scrapped, largely because of lost economic benefits in research and development. The loss estimate includes up to $100 million in royalties earmarked for the federal treasury because of Canadian research on the aircraft. Ottawa invested in the development phase and is in line for a cut of export sales to other countries. MacKay underlined that the $9 billion price tag for the initial purchase of 65 F-35s is firm — a number critics say will only increase ….”

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