News Highlights – 13 Mar 11

  • Canada’s Defence Minister drops by Malta to congratulate the troops“…. “The Maltese government has been very helpful in assisting our evacuation efforts from Libya,” said Minister MacKay. “Without their support, this challenging operation would have been even more difficult. Canada’s bilateral relations with Malta have never been better.” “The short-notice deployment of Canadian Forces personnel and assets to the Mediterranean is another example of our ability and willingness to help those in need,” said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “HMCS Charlottetown’s presence in the Mediterranean Sea provides the Government of Canada with the means to react rapidly should any new crises unfold in the region. We are proud of our troops and the support of their families.” ….”
  • There’s more from the CF information machine on how the evacuation of Canadians has been going. “Over 10 days of evacuation operations, the CC-130J Hercules tactical transports and CC-177 Globemaster strategic airlifters of Joint Task Force Malta have rescued 61 Canadians and 130 citizens of other nations from the turmoil in Libya. Deployed under Operation MOBILE, JTF Malta is the Canadian Forces contribution to a whole-of-government effort led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). At time of writing, the task force had 61 personnel (aircrews, medical staff, military police, liaison officers and air movements personnel) based at the Excelsior Hotel in Valletta, and two Hercules aircraft operating from Malta International Airport ….”
  • Here’s one way NATO troops are handing security responsiblity over to Afghans. “The Canadian military is warming to the controversial idea of arming local villagers in the Kandahar district of Panjwaii, a tactic credited with stemming violence during the Iraq war but criticized over concerns of insurgent infiltration. The Afghan Local Police program, launched by President Hamid Karzai last August, is an initiative where village-level fighting forces are given guns and undergo a training course to provide security to their communities. It’s a gamble that NATO military commanders hope encourages locals to fight back against the Taliban, much like some Iraqi villagers did when they rose up against al-Qaida during the Sunni Awakening. Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan said the ALP could soon be set up in the Horn of Panjwaii, the western belt of the district traditionally used as a springboard for insurgent attacks in the provincial capital of Kandahar city. “We’re trying to invigorate it out in the Horn,” Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner said in a recent interview ….” Here’s one view about why the ALP may not be the best idea.
  • More from the CF information machine on what’s up in Afghanistan on the road to Mushan and in training Afghan troops about the beans and bullets.
  • Karzai issues his strongest statement yet to NATO: “An emotional Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday told international troops to “stop their operations in our land”, his strongest remarks yet over mistaken killings of civilians. Karzai’s comments came after a week in which a relative of his was killed in a raid by foreign forces and he rejected an apology by the US commander of troops General David Petraeus for the deaths of nine children in a NATO strike. “I would like to ask NATO and the US with honour and humbleness and not with arrogance to stop their operations in our land,” Karzai said in Pashto as he visited the dead children’s relatives in Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan. “We are very tolerant people but now our tolerance has run out.” In an apparent reference to neighbouring Pakistan, where insurgents have hideouts in lawless border regions, Western-backed Karzai said international forces “should go and fight this war where we have showed them (it is)”. “This war is not in our land,” Karzai added ….” How many minutes do you think Karzai would last if NATO just walked away?  Maybe worth considering?
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Government bashes Parliamentary Budget Officer estimate of how much the program’ll cost“…. Kevin Page’s contention that the F-35 Lightning II will cost taxpayers $22 billion over 20 years — or nearly $30 billion over 30 years — was dismissed as “speculative” and “illogical” by the country’s junior defence minister. “There are areas in that report that we just simply disagree with,” said Laurie Hawn. There are flaws in the report’s methodology, he said. “It’s accurate based on the assumptions he made. The assumptions he made were speculation.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – “The Liberals are accusing the Bloc Quebecois of “flip-flopping” on their decision to support the purchase of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a report by Canada’s budget watchdog that pegs the total cost at billions more than initially thought. “Gilles Duceppe has finally seen the light — I just hope it isn’t too late for Quebec’s aerospace industry,” Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said. “Liberal MPs have argued all along that the Conservative numbers simply do not add up, which is why they breached Parliament’s privilege and refused to show us detailed cost figures for these stealth fighter jets.” …. Shortly after Page’s report came out, Duceppe said he was shocked and echoed the position of the Liberals that the deal should be cancelled in favour of an open bid process. The Bloc had supported the deal believing it would be good for Quebec’s aerospace industry. On Friday, the Bloc’s Pierre Paquette admitted the party had supported the purchase up until the release of Thursday’s PBO report ….”
  • The Harper government hopes the bruising, emotional debate over the ill-treatment of war veterans will come to an end now that the House of Commons has passed an improved package of benefits for former soldiers. Bill C-55 was given the green light on Friday, with all-party consent, and will now make its way to the Senate. But critics remained skeptical that the “insurance company” mentality of Veterans Affairs Canada staff will simply fade away, despite the injection of $2 billion in new and improved benefits ….” Some of the debate from the House of Commons Friday here and here, and how some wounded warriors feel about what’s proposed here.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, Canadian companies exported about $1.4-billion in arms with the United Kingdom, Australia and Saudi Arabia topping the list of buyers. The sales figures are contained in the latest report from the department of foreign affairs that tracks military sales from year to year. Those figures don’t include sales to the United States, which is by far the largest buyer of arms from Canada. Because of a long-standing agreement between the two countries, Canada doesn’t track sales to the United States the way it does for other countries, so it does not appear on the department’s list ….” Here’s the DFAIT report.

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