News Highlights – 10 Dec 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  More on the package to the troops fracas.  “A Victoria mother says it’s going to be a blue Christmas for many soldiers in Afghanistan because their holiday packages from home are arriving damaged and destroyed. Terrie Marchand says military officials sent letters to families in October urging them to send Christmas cards and parcels to their loved ones serving overseas. So she and her family put together a package for her son, who is stationed at Camp Mike Spann in Afghanistan with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. But when it arrived, she was devastated to hear back from her son that most of the mail “arrived in sealed garbage bags filled with water, making the cards and letters unreadable and destroying the parcels.” “He got his Christmas parcel from this sister, a Christmas card from his sister-in-law… and he couldn’t even read them. The parcel was so soaked right through the actual wrapping of the DVD right to the disc,” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  “Despite spending billions of dollars to work with and train the Afghan security forces during the years Canada was in Kandahar, a government report shows the force had actually regressed in several key areas by the time the combat mission ended in July. Not only were Afghan units more reliant on the Canadian military to lead major operations against the Taliban than they had been three years ago, Kandaharis also had less confidence in the ANA as a professional, capable force. When Parliament agreed to extend the combat mission in Kandahar back in 2008, it did so with the understanding that a key task would be preparing the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police to take over responsibility for the province’s security by the time Canadian troops left in 2011. To measure progress, a number of specific benchmarks and objectives were established, with the government issuing reports to Parliament every three months to keep Canadians up-to-date on the work being done by Canada in Kandahar. The latest — and possibly last — report was made public recently and covers the period from April 1 to June 30, 2011 ….”  Here’s the report that came out about two weeks ago.
  • Afghanistan (3)  Combat mission ends, final detainee arrangements wrapped up.  “As Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan is complete, the Government of Canada today announced the signing of a detainee-transfer arrangement with the Government of the United States of America to facilitate the transfer of detainees captured by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan to the custody of U.S. Forces at the Detention Facility in Parwan, Afghanistan …. The Detention Facility in Parwan, which is located north of Kabul, opened in January 2010. The U.S.-run facility is gradually transitioning to Afghan control and is recognized by the Government of Afghanistan as an appropriate facility for the detention of insurgents. Moreover, the Government of Afghanistan operates a court at the facility so that detainees can be prosecuted under Afghan law. Canadian officials will continue to monitor the detainees transferred to the Detention Facility in Parwan.”  More in the agreement text here, backgrounder here, and media coverage here and here.
  • Libya Mission  “It cost Canadian taxpayers $850,000 for a Parliament Hill celebration on the return of forces who served as part of the Libya campaign. Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, confirmed the figure late Friday. The special recognition ceremony, complete with an air force fly past of fighter jets and a C-17 transport, was to honour troops from the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector. It took place on Nov. 24 and included honours for the Canadian commander of the NATO mission, Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard. Canada’s participation in the military mission, which aided in the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, officially ended on Oct. 28 after over six months of operations ….”  Let’s see how much they spend, and how public the ceremony will be, when the Afghanistan mission when that ends.
  • The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, joined IMP Aerospace today in celebrating a milestone in an upgrade project that will see Canada’s fleet of CP-140 Aurora aircraft flying into the next decade. The first of 10 CP-140 Aurora aircraft – Aircraft 112 – received its completed set of structural upgrades through the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP). The project, launched in 2008, involves major upgrades to the body of the aircraft, including the replacement of the wings and horizontal stabilizers, and will increase the structural life and operational availability of the fleet into the 2020 timeframe ….”
  • Congratulations Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett, Major General Christine Whitecross and Colonel Jennie Carignan“Three Canadian Forces senior officers have been recognized among Canada’s top 100 most powerful women for 2011 by the Women’s Executive Network. Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 is Canada’s most recognizable award for the country’s highest achieving female leaders in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors ….”
  • An Edmonton man accused of international terrorism has been charged with the murders of five American soldiers killed in a 2009 suicide-bomb attack in Iraq. Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, an Iraqi-Canadian, faces five murder charges and is charged also with conspiring to kill Americans abroad and providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans abroad. The 38-year-old was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, New York. He was arrested at his Edmonton apartment by RCMP on Jan. 19, 2011, and has been in custody since then. He has been held in segregation for months at the Edmonton Remand Centre while awaiting extradition to the United States. An extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on Jan. 30, 2012 ….”  More media here, here and here, and a bit of back story at here.

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