News Highlights – 15 Apr 11

  • Libya Ops – Long Beach-built Boeing C-17 Globemaster jets owned by the United States, Canada and Qatar are playing an increasing role in operations across war-scarred Libya, including the recent airlift of wounded rebel fighters. According to Press-Telegram, a newspaper from Long Beach, California, at least two Canadian C-17s are operating from Malta. A Qatari Air Force C-17 was used in early April to ferry 15 seriously injured fighters from outside the eastern harbour town of Brega, where revolutionaries have been clashing with fighters loyal to longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The C-17, which can be converted to a flying Intensive Care Unit capable of carrying up to 12 critically injured or sick passengers, has also been airlifting tonnes of military, medical and food supplies to bases supporting Operation Odyssey Dawn, the United Nations mission against the Libyan government’s repression. The Qatari rescue mission was first reported by the Greek Defence Ministry, which said the C-17 first landed on the island of Crete to drop off the most severely wounded and one man who died during the short flight ….”
  • About 40 Taliban insurgents who have been fighting and killing Canadian troops in Panjwaii laid down their weapons this week and agreed to rejoin mainstream Afghan society. “Some of them undoubtedly have blood on their hands,” said Australian Lt.-Col. Liam Hale, who oversees NATO’s “Reintegration Cell” in southern Afghanistan. Canada’s Task Force Kandahar (TFK) had been a leader in establishing reintegration as a priority, the combat engineer said. “It was TFK that developed a formal process to sit down with them,” he said. “It has worked really hard with the district governor, pushing the messages that are important.” Task Force Kandahar’s commander, Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, said that such defections from the Taliban’s cause represented a potential “tipping point” in the war in Kandahar. “They are switching sides,” Milner said. “How confident do those who remain (in the Taliban) feel when some are laying down their arms and reintegrating? What does it mean for what they can muster in May and June?” he asks, about when the fighting season usually begins ….”
  • The acting commander of Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan is decidedly upbeat as the clock ticks down on Canada’s five-year military effort in the region. Col. Richard Giguere does not seem to be bothered by the approach of the summer “fighting season” in which insurgent activity usually picks up. “There is a positive momentum going on right now in our area of operations,” Giguere said Thursday. Canadian commanders have often used glowing terms to describe the situation on the ground, even as their troops took casualties and military gains were quickly undone by an obdurate and wily insurgency. But Giguere points out that the situation has changed significantly in the past nine months or so. The most important change has been the significant shrinkage in Canada’s area of operations, combined with an influx of American forces ….”
  • Two judges overseeing the release of Afghan detainee documents as demanded by Parliament have decided the documents will remain secret for the rest of the election campaign, CBC News has learned. CBC News has obtained a letter sent by the judges to the leaders of the three federal parties on a committee looking into the release of the documents to inform them that the records cannot be released while Parliament is not sitting. The memorandum of understanding signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the two opposition leaders agreed to the formation of a committee of MPs to determine how to release secret documents about Canadian prisoners in Afghanistan. The Liberals said Thursday that they are prepared to make whatever amendments are necessary to the original memorandum of understanding reached last year in order to have the documents released now ….”
  • Election 2011 – Michael Ignatieff has begun the second half of the federal election campaign with a partial retreat from some of his comments from Wednesday night’s debate. During the French-language leaders’ debate, the Liberal chief was adamant that he’d let the United Nations Security Council make the ultimate call on whether to send Canadian troops abroad. “The Canadian army must never be used outside the country without the authorization of the UN,” Ignatieff told his debate partners. While allies like France and Britain have vetoes on the Security Council, so do countries like China and Russia, which have shown much less willingness to support NATO or other interventions abroad. Asked whether he really wanted to give Beijing and Moscow that kind of power over Canadian policy, Ignatieff chuckled. “That’s a very funny construction to put on my words,” Ignatieff said. Then he dialed back his debate rhetoric and admitted there could be exceptions ….”
  • Some U.S. defence work for an East Coast company.A rare ray of hope shone on the Miramichi economy Thursday as DEW Engineering and Development ULC announced an $8.7 million contract for its New Brunswick facility. The aerospace and defence company will create 35 new short-term jobs and maintain the 160 workers it currently employs. DEW was awarded the contract by General Dynamics Lands Systems Canada to manufacture bomb-resistant armour for front-line military vehicles used in Afghanistan by the United States Marine Corps. Tim Dear, president and CEO of DEW, said the armour manufactured in Miramichi – a lightweight ceramic composite technology – offers the same ballistic protection as the traditional steel armour at half the weight. “As the Stryker vehicles get older and need to be refurbished, we replace the heavy steel with our ceramic composite armour to get those vehicles back to the mobility they had when they were first made,” he said ….”
  • New Brunswick is consulting Reservists about education. The provincial government is adding military reservists to its list of public consultations. Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Martine Coulombe announced Thursday she will review ways to further enhance employment and education leave protection for Canadian Forces reservists in New Brunswick. “We are consulting with key stakeholders, including military reservists, to ensure that we are meeting their current and future needs,” Coulombe said. “The consultation process is designed to seek ideas on how to provide further clarity to existing rules, to support the Armed Forces’ ability to plan deployments, and to incorporate best practices implemented in other Canadian jurisdictions.” ….”

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