News Highlights – 28 Feb 11

  • Canada’s Foreign Affairs department confirms it’s working on the “safe release” of a Canadian, Colin MacKenzie, in AfghanistanThe Taliban has issued a statement claiming a captured “Canadian national” is a spy, saying they’ll be releasing a video shortly.  A bit more from the Canadian Press here, here, here, Agence France-Presse here and the BBC here.
  • A couple of more versions of the Taliban’s “we have a Canadian spy” statement, in Arabic and Pashto (with a Google translation of the Arabic version) here.
  • It appears, according to media accounts here and here, that the missing man, 1)  has been missing for 3 months (with RCMP involvement since November), and 2)  wanted to learn Pashto. In case one needs reminding, here’s DFAIT’s recommendations about touristing in Afghanistan” …. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to Afghanistan. Canadians undertaking travel despite this warning take serious risks. Canadians already in Afghanistan should leave. The security situation remains extremely volatile and unpredictable ….”
  • A U.S. squadron will head to Kandahar’s Dand district next month in a move that will enable the Canadian military to start “saturating” the western neck of Panjwaii before the conclusion of combat operations, Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan says. The 1st squadron of the 2nd Stryker Regiment will leave the Uruzgan province and take command of the Dand battle space in mid-March from the 1-71 Cavalry of 10th Mountain Division. The 500-member cavalry has been under the command of Task Force Kandahar, stationed alongside Canadian and Afghan forces in the relatively calm district since May. The 700-member Stryker squadron will fall under Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner’s command until the Canadian military mission ends in July. Two companies of soldiers will go to Dand and a third will be deployed to Panjwaii ….”
  • A snapshot of Canadian mentoring work with Afghan troops: “A hint of irritation is evident in Capt. Eric Bouchard’s voice as he tries to figure out where his counterpart in the Afghan National Army is going.  Canadian and Afghan forces have barely begun a two-day mission to search villages and fields in the central Panjwaii district, and already there’s confusion between the two groups. It seems the Afghan platoon commander paired with Bouchard has neglected to bring a proper map, and he’s leading his troops off the planned route.  Bouchard’s first instinct is to tell him to get back on track, but he restrains himself. After all, this operation has been organized by the Afghans and Bouchard’s job is to mentor their soldiers, not lecture them. Showing respect is paramount.  “Tell him the first objective is over that way,” Bouchard instructs his interpreter. “But … but, ask him where he wants to go.”  Such interactions are common for Canadians serving in the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, also known as the OMLT or “omelette,” which provides on-the-job training for Afghan soldiers in the field ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchMore attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan.
  • Wounded warrior preparing for run on artificial leg“When army Sergeant Jamie MacIntyre joined Toronto’s annual run in support of St. John’s Rehab Hospital two years ago, he had a special reason for taking part: Among those getting a new lease on life from the widely acclaimed facility was his friend Master Corporal Jody Mitic, who’d lost both legs in 2007 in Afghanistan after stepping on a land mine.  This year, Sgt. MacIntyre has a still better incentive for participating: Last June, two months into his second tour of Afghanistan, he too trod on a roadside bomb and his left foot was blown off. So when he does the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run/Walk on March 13, together with his wife and some military colleagues, this time he’ll be running with an artificial leg …”
  • Operation GTFO Libya More details are coming to light about why Canadian planes had to leave empty from Libya last week. “…. MacKay said Sunday the two aircraft had arrived in the middle of the night and officials were having difficulty both identifying Canadians who were waiting at the airport and determining if they were allowed to leave the country. The planes had been given a limited amount of time to remain at the airport, so aircraft from other countries could land. “There was very little co-operation being extended to Canadians by officials at the airport,” MacKay told CTV’s Question Period in an interview from Halifax. “And so they were then told they had to leave because there were specific time slots that were being given to countries at that time.” ….”
  • Two more Canadian military planes are being dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean to help with the evacuation of Canadians in Libya. Defence Minister Peter MacKay tells CTV News’ Question Period the pair of Hercules transport aircraft were deployed and could be used to land in austere areas of Libya outside of the capital Tripoli. An estimated 100 Canadians are still trapped in the country, many of them believed to be oil workers. The British military, including members of its special forces, used a Hercules to fly under the Libyan radar and rescue 150 Britons and foreign nationals in a desert area. A spokesman for the prime minister said Stephen Harper was spending the day in briefings on the evolving situation in Libya ….” More on that from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister here.
  • Here’s what the PM had to say about what happens next with Libya: “…. Canada earlier today implemented the following binding sanctions contained in the Resolution:
    • An arms embargo requiring all states to prevent the sale or supply of arms into Libya, or the export of arms from Libya;
    • The inspection of cargo going into Libya;
    • A travel ban on Muammar Qadhafi and 15 individuals closely associated with him; and
    • An asset freeze against Muammar Qadhafi and members of his family….” More from the Canadian Press here.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War The fighter plane at the centre of one of Ottawa’s hottest political debates has taken its first test flight over the skies of Texas.  The hour-long flight of the first production model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 II Lightning stealth fighter went off without a hitch, said test pilot Bill Gigliotti.  “The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight,” Gigliotti said.  The flight was an important developmental milestone for the aircraft that Canada plans to begin using in 2016 to replace its aging CF-18 fleet ….”

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