News Highlights – 5 Jul 11

  • Manitoba/flood  Here’s hoping for a speedy and full recovery for all concerned Five Shilo, Man.-based military personnel and one civilian volunteer were injured Monday afternoon while working on flood-protection measures in the Souris, Man., area. A military spokesman said the soldiers and volunteer were resting about 3:30 p.m. when a hose blew on a dump truck, spraying hydraulic fluid onto them. All were taken for assessment medical treatment in Brandon, Man., but the extent of their injuries was unknown. The five soldiers are all new recruits, the spokesman said. Those injured were working along Plum Creek, a tributary of the rising Souris River, to shore up dikes ….”  More here.
  • Afghanistan (1a)  “It’s wrapping up” theme continues.  “Canadian troops formally end five years of combat and counterinsurgency in the dust-blown badlands of southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, heading home in the midst of a guerrilla war of steadily intensifying violence. They do not leave with any illusions that they have done more than create some breathing space for the Afghan government to assert itself. Nor do they venture any predictions beyond saying that they may have weakened, perhaps only fleetingly, the resilient Taliban insurgency. That realism is perhaps their strongest legacy for the allies who will continue the fight ….”
  • Afghanistan (1b)  “Canada’s desert war came to an end Tuesday when soldiers of the Royal 22e Regiment stood down and formally handed over their battlefield to American units. The country’s legal command responsibility for the western Kandahar district of Panjwaii will continue for several days, but Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner’s headquarters will be directing U.S. combat units. Almost all Canadian troops are now out of the killing fields of Kandahar, save for a handful of soldiers who will serve for a few more weeks, but attached to American platoons. Parliament ordered an end to the Canadian combat mission in southern Afghanistan back in 2008 and set July 2011 as the deadline. The Conservative government has since announced that 950 soldiers and support staff will carry out a training mission in the Afghan capital until 2014 ….”
  • Afghainstan (1c)After nine years, 157 troop deaths and more than $11 billion spent, Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan finally comes to an end this week. With popular support for the war sapped at home, some of the nearly 3,000 Canadian troops, based mainly in the dangerous battleground of Kandahar, have already started returning from Afghanistan, and the rest will follow soon. The official end of Canada’s hard-fought mission, which began in early 2002 a few months after the US-led invasion of the country, comes Thursday, and as other countries also announce partial troop withdrawals from the Afghan theatre as Western voters tire of nearly a decade of war ….”
  • Afghanistan (1d)  More on the “yard sale” of Canadian equipment.
  • Afghanistan (2)  The Afghan people know what this combat mission has cost Canada — and especially the families of our fallen troops — assures Kandahar’s provincial governor. In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, Dr. Toryalai Wisa, a Afghan-Canadian academic who oversees the area our combat soldiers will soon be pulling out of, says the level of sacrifice is understood. Wisa recalls conversations he’s had with family members of dead Canadian soldiers: “My heart is still with them — I express my very deep, deep appreciation from the bottom of my heart. “(Canadians) did not spend only the taxpayers money here…they have sacrificed their youth here.” The governor added: “We shall never forget that. That will be part of Kandahar history.” But Wisa complains that while the Afghan people herald the toil of Canadians, the message seems lost before it reaches North America ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Some day, if this country is truly lucky, it may be teaching school children about the role Canada played here. If it does, along with the stories of blood and battle, the history lessons should include the oh-so-very Canadian projects pulled off across a battlefield — from paved roads to bridges to a new ministry building that now sits ready for Afghan officials to use. Since April of last year, the Canadian Engineer Regiment for Task Force Kandahar (TFK) has helped oversee an estimated $51.5-million in projects. For now, it’s enough that a refurbished school set close to the peaks of the Mar Khaneh Ghar mountain range is slated to open again in the fall. Until recently, it was filled with Afghan police officers using it as a secure sub-station next to a busy road. The Canadian military helped prepare a new fortified position — constructed by an Afghan contractor — for them next door and then renovated the centre for local kids. It features a playground — almost unheard of here — and a soccer field ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  One columnist’s view on helping the wounded:  “…. with the Conservatives looking for $4 billion in budget cuts, and given the track record of the military as a source of easy “savings,” it will be up to the Canadian public to make it clear that veterans’ compensation needs to go up — not down. Our soldiers’ sacrifice in Afghanistan will not be worth the price if they are not cared for with all the resources that a prosperous, grateful nation can provide.”
  • Afghanistan (5)  On the plan to bring Afghan interpreters to Canada“…. The federal government should stop blaming slow bureaucracy for allowing only a trickle of Afghans who worked with our Forces to find a new life in Canada. The requirement they show proof that the Taliban could harm them and their families is difficult and objectionable: that they have been working with Canada in the midst of a civil war for at least a year should be condition enough. Kenney should have his department look at ways of immediately speeding up visas, especially as the program draws to a close. The Americans, British, Australians and Danes have eased immigration rules for their Afghan aides. Leaving Sharifi, Zobaidi and others who helped us at risk to their own safety in administrative limbo is irresponsible. We owe them our soldiers’ lives.”
  • Afghanistan (6)  What snipers do“Breathe calmly, slow the heart rate, squint the eye and slowly, with gentle pressure, squeeze the trigger. With the Tac-50 bolt-action rifle, too heavy to lift and aim — even for hard-bodies — the shooter rests the weapon on a bipod and, optimally, flattens his rib cage against the ground at a slight incline. The 50-calibre bullet — size of a Tootsie roll — will hurtle out of the internally fluted barrel, rotating fiercely, and heave infinitesimally to the right, what’s call the spin-drift. Shooter and spotter will have corrected for that, and also the wind currents, the distance, the ambient temperature. Bullets go faster in high heat. The target — the victim — will feel that bullet before he hears it. And it will kill him. Less than a second and one “bad guy’’ removed, with no collateral damage done. No mental anguish either, for killing a fellow human being. For snipers, it’s the job. Their motto: “Without warning, without remorse”….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Zabul and Taliban disses Afghanistan’s Parliament.
  • CF-Royals Link (1)  Remember the talk about the PM’s office wanting the PM’s plane (a CF CC-150 Polaris) painted a prettier colour?  The Royal Visit has one “top government official” saying the current grey paint scheme makes it look like it like something “belonging to a third-world country.”  Could that person the media isn’t naming perhaps be from the PMO wanting a nice, pretty PM’s own “Air Force One”?
  • CF-Royals Link (2)  Prince William enjoyed showing off his military helicopter training with his first-ever water landing Monday to the delight of anxious crowds in Canada, where he and his wife, Kate, have been on their first official overseas trip since their wedding. The Duke of Cambridge climbed into the cockpit of a Sea King helicopter for the military training exercise at Dalvay by-the-Sea, a scenic resort along Prince Edward Island’s north shore. Prince William, a Royal Air Force rescue helicopter pilot, requested the simulated emergency landing procedure. Dressed in an olive flight suit and helmet, the prince settled the large helicopter on the water several times over the course of an hour. From the water, William piloted several takeoffs and hovered in the air before executing dual- and single-engine landings before taxiing around as Kate watched from the ground ….”  More on the check ride here, here and here.
  • Way Up North (1)  Canada’s latest military exercise in the Far North comes as the country is under growing pressure to keep up with other countries in an Arctic arms race. “You’re seeing a buildup of capabilities that simply hasn’t been there before, period,” said Rob Huebert, University of Calgary Arctic security expert. Canada’s northern neighbours have been very busy in the Arctic amid sometimes competing jurisdictional claims. Huebert notes the U.S. and Russia have increased submarine activity in the Far North, Sweden has mused about increasing its submarine capability, and Norway is looking to counter Russian air and sea power in the area ….”
  • Way Up North (2) “…. the question must be asked, are we headed for a confrontation with the Russians military or otherwise? It’s a distinct possibility depending on how the United Nations rules on who can actually lay claim to the Arctic’s resources and how much parties like Russia, Denmark and Canada are willing to negotiate. But if history provides any examples, oil tends to bring out the worst in people.”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Canada seeking someone to fly planes to simulate bad guys of various kinds, and Canada planning to offer CAE contract for upgrade of Hercules simulator hardware and software.
  • One columnist’s view of what to keep in mind about the future of the CF:  “…. Canadians don’t know when their military will be called upon next, or what they will be asked to do — so it must be prepared for anything. Granted, this is expensive. But the same planes that were bought to deliver equipment to soldiers in Afghanistan saved civilian lives in Haiti. Being prepared is half the battle. We can’t forget that, or accept arguments suggesting that the Canadian Forces no longer need the public’s support or continuing modernization. Even in these times of budgetary pressure, the one thing that we truly cannot afford is to forget the lessons learned in Kandahar. Nickel and diming ourselves into another decade of darkness will exact too high a price: the blood of Canadian soldiers in future conflicts. Putting the military on the back burner means death on the battlefield — a cost no Canadian or Canadian government should be willing to pay.”
  • A historian’s reminder:  “…. In peacetime, soldiers are routinely scorned. Rudyard Kipling’s Tommy captured this more than a century ago: “O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, go away’; But it’s ‘Thank you, Mister Atkins,’ when the band begins to play.” We all hope that after Afghanistan and Libya, the band won’t begin to play for a long time. But if it does, (critics of the Canadian Forces) can expect that Canada’s Tommies will be there to protect (their) freedom.”

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