News Highlights – January 19, 2016

  • I’m on the road with my day job some of this week, so check the blogroll to stay updated until I’m back – enjoy!

Attacks on Canadians




  • “Canadians provide another NATO training course for Ukrainian sappers — The next training course for Ukrainian sappers on disposal improvised explosive devices under the NATO standards has started in the Mine Clearing Center of the Main Directorate of Operations Support of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in Kamyanets-Podilsky involving Canadian instructors …”

Internal Security

Veterans & Helping Veterans

What’s Canada Buying?





Wanna keep abreast of whazzup in Syria?

I thought I’d share a few links I’m using to keep track of what’s going on in Syria

If you have any other decent sources to share, feel free to mention them in the comments – always welcome. 2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 51,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 12 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for reading, thanks for your suggestions, thanks for your contents – I’m looking forward to continuing to provide you with intriguing tidbits of Canadian defence information into 2013!

Making Easier to Digest

In case you hadn’t already noticed, instead of piling on a whole swack of news in the first update of the day, I’m breaking it down a bit.

The first post of the day (Eastern Time) will be news dealing with the CF, military and security issues in general, and things of concern to veterans/wounded warriors.

The second post of the day will be news dealing with Canadian defence buying and selling.

Taliban propaganda tidbits will continue to appear from time to time as items of interest pop up on the interwebs.

Same information, in smaller, more manageable chunks.

One other minor change – you won’t be seeing a Sunday edition unless there’s critical breaking news to share.  You will be seeing the material, though, in the Monday edition.

I hope you keep enjoying – feedback (good, bad or ugly) always welcome.

My nominations for the Defence IQ Blogging Awards

Here’s who I’m nominating for this year’s “Defence IQ Blogging Awards” (all in the “Regional Military” category):

  • CDFAI’s 3D’s blog:  Great, up-to-the-minute coverage of Canadian and international military news
  • Thin Pinstriped Line:  Intelligent and detailed (but accessible) analysis of a wide range U.K. military issues
  •  Detailed and in-depth coverage of a range of breaking news and issues from south and central Asia

Don’t be shy – cast your vote by e-mailing – deadline’s 2pm GMT/10am Eastern 6 Jun 12! News Highlights – 17 Feb 12

  • Afghanistan (1)  It appears Postmedia News’ Matt Fisher is back downrange – with less-than-glass-is-half-full news from those he’s talked to (in spite of the headline)  “Like a balloon with a slow leak, the U.S.-led war against the Taliban is gradually running out of air. The Obama administration’s somewhat mixed message about accelerating the drawdown of U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan while keeping Special Forces here has had an effect on some of the American troops who, from my talks with them, have figuratively packed their bags and in their minds are already halfway home. As a fearless Canadian woman who has worked closely with Afghans for many years grimly put it to me during a chance meeting Thursday near the Canadian Embassy: “It’s over, isn’t it?” That’s certainly the way many of my friends in Kabul feel about the war. The first and only question these Average Joes were asking was: “Is Obama really serious about ending combat operations next year?” When I in turn asked them what would happen if this were to come to pass, the universal answer was: “We’re doomed.” Maj.-Gen. Mike Day, the charismatic head of Canada’s training contingent and the NATO officer responsible for building up Afghan security forces, said that there is no chance that the alliance will leave Afghanistan any time soon. “We are going to continue post-2014, there are no ifs, ands, ors or buts about that,” Day said. “I read in the press, and it’s frustrating, idiotic really, to say we are out of here by the end of 2014. That has never been the case and never will be the case. We will continue. What is true is that the mission will change and we have to prepare for that.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  A blog to (belatedly on my part) recommend:  Afghanistan-A-Go-Go, written by someone preparing to head downrange – good reading.
  • Way Up North (1a)  Photos and videos of the troops doing their thing in the Arctic on Exercise Arctic Ram here (video) and here (pix), courtesy of the Land Force Western Area Info-machine – more via the “Army of the West’s” Twitter feed here.
  • Way Up North (1b)  The Edmonton Journal‘s dedicated page to the exercise here.
  • Way Up North (2)  An Edmonton Journal reporter’s take on embedding way up north“So live tweeting sure didn’t work out well once we set out for the forward operating base! Sorry about that. The plans for how and where we would embed kept changing as the hour approached, and I was hopeful we would at least have a single-bar signal, but no such luck. Today is the first time I’ve had access to any news from outside since Monday afternoon. I already had 111 unread emails. But I shouldn’t really complain. Many of the 1,500 troops involved with the northern training exercise Arctic Ram are cut off from their families for about a month. At our camp, Forward Operating Base Maiden 1, each soldier got 10 minutes on a satellite phone for Valentine’s Day. It’s sweet and cute to watch because their face and voice goes all soft as they stand off to the side of the road and seek out a quite spot – so different from the joking or just sharp, military business that’s normally going on. Photographer Ryan Jackson and I embedded with the military for two days this week as they attempt to relearn basic skills forgotten during a decade of focus on Afghanistan ….”
  • Way Up North (3)  If Canada wants to keep an eye on the northwest passage as it opens for shipping, it should buy 20-foot boats for the Canadian Rangers – the Inuit and other northerners who are already living in and watching out for the northern land, argues Pierre Lablanc, former commander of the Canadian Forces Northern Area. “Apart from the five icebreakers that will be operating in Canadian waters during the summertime, the Canadian government has very little presence in the maritime domain,” said Leblanc, who oversaw northern military operations from 1995 to 2000. Leblanc lent a critical eye for my background preparations as I prepare to cover Arctic Ram, the northern winter training exercise involving the Edmonton-based 3 PPCLI. I wrote up the interview but then lost cell phone contact so I’m posting now ….”
  • Way Up North (4)  More talk about a(n eventual) full-time shipping route through the Arctic: “…. Recently while talking to a large gathering of master mariners, marine officers and engineers at the Maritime Spectrum 2012 organized by the Company of Master Mariners of India, Capt Binod Dubey, Claims Executive of SKULD, Hong Kong and author of ‘Ice Navigation Managing Cold Climate Risks’ gave a detailed account on “Arctic route – Commercial visibility and challenges” which he described as the New Trade Link between Europe and Asia. “Taking the Northern Sea Route (NSR) can reduce the voyage time for ships from the estimated 40 days to just 22.5 days fetching a time saving of 17.5 days @ 28.2 MT of fuel,” explained Capt Binod Dubey. “Going by today’s fuel cost this amounts to a saving of $ 300,000. If the tonnage is larger the cost works out much less. Environmentally this NSR turns out to be more beneficial as there is less NOx emitted which is around 50 tons, CO2 is down by 1557 tons and Sox by 35 tons.” ….”
  • U.S. and Canadian service members conducted Joint Operations Access Exercise 12-01 (at Fort Bragg in North Carolina) Feb. 10-13. Airmen with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing joined forces with airborne units from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and Canada’s Company M, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment for the exercise. The Joint Operations Access Exercise gave the airborne forces the opportunity to test their Global Response Force readiness and ability to conduct operations with coalition partners. “The objective of JOAX is to ensure airborne units are current and able to perform a full spectrum of operation skills during a parachute assault,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Edwards, an 820th Combat Operations Squadron squad leader. “Each group has their own objective they are assigned to, and ours was to jump in with our coalition partners and provide security along with helping with the evacuation of civilian noncombatants out of the hostile environment.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  More anonymous sources sharing their insights, this time with The Canadian Press  “Senior defence officials concede there is currently no Plan B — or back-up proposal — to deal with delays in the F-35 jetfighter program, and insist one is not necessary because of recent upgrades to the CF-18 fleet. But there were suggestions Wednesday the Harper government might be casting around for an alternative as Julian Fantino, the associate minister of defence, told opposition parties to “stay tuned” for a response to the Pentagon’s statement that the cost of the radar-evading plane would rise. The Conservatives have been hammered for months in the House of Commons over delays and cost overruns in the multinational project. Other allies, such as Australia, have placed orders for Super Hornets — the newer, beefed up version of the CF-18 — to hedge against F-35 delays. It’s not necessary for Canada to go down that road, said a high-level defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We have no back-up plan. We have a reserve and flexibility in the life extensions we’ve done structurally to our F-18s and in weapons systems,” said the source, referring to the $1.8-billion modernization that’s took place over the last decade ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  More discussion during Question Period in the House of Commons – transcripts of exchanges here and here.
  • What’s Canada Buying (Big Honkin’ Ship edition)? (1)  West coast goodies“It’s official. Seaspan Marine Corp. and the federal government have signed an umbrella agreement that outlines construction of $8 billion worth of non-combat vessels. The agreement describes the responsibilities and expectations of Seaspan, owner of Vancouver Shipyards, Vancouver Drydock and Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt, and the federal government during their partnership. It represents the first major agreement between the two under the national shipbuilding procurement strategy. Next on the agenda is completing contract agreements for individual vessels. Offshore fisheries science and offshore oceanographic science vessels will be among the first to be built, said Public Works ….”  More here.
  • What’s Canada Buying (Big Honkin’ Ship edition)? (2)  East Coast goodies“Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and the federal government have reached an agreement on an umbrella contract that will govern the construction of $25-billion worth of combat vessels. A similar agreement was also announced Wednesday with the west coast’s Seaspan Marine Corp., for $8-billion worth of contracts to build seven non-combat ships. The announcement comes a month after Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Halifax and Vancouver to announce that an agreement in principle on the umbrella contract had been reached. The agreement is not a contract to build ships but rather serves as a blueprint that defines “the working relationships and administrative arrangements under which the government will negotiate fair and reasonable individual contracts,” a government news release said. Irving Shipbuilding expects to build 21 vessels for the navy. With the umbrella agreement out of the way, Irving can focus on the next stage of the process, said company spokeswoman Mary Keith. “Irving Shipbuilding is pleased to have concluded this first important milestone that sets the course for Canada’s combat fleet renewal for the next 30 years,” she said in an email. “Our focus now is on finalizing the contract, design and engineering for the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels. Concluding the umbrella agreement also allows us to undertake the next steps in infrastructure improvements at the shipyard.” ….”
  • Academic to MPs: time for Canada to think hard about what it wants the CF to be able to do  “Canada needs to start having a conversation about what is realistically possible for its military in the upcoming years, as the current course is likely unsustainable given budgetary restraints. That’s according to a military expert who spoke to MPs Thursday morning. In its ongoing discussion about the future capabilities and readiness of the Canadian Forces, MPs on the National Defence committee listened Thursday morning as Phillipe Lagassé, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, said Canada ought to consider adopting a policy of smart defence. That is to say, deciding what areas where Canada could be most helpful internationally to a combined allied expeditionary force, rather than attempting to procure equipment that would be able to do all things in all places. More specifically, Lagassé said, the Canada First Defence Strategy that was introduced was ambitious, but was perhaps unrealistic in its assessment of how to increase the size of the Canadian Forces as well as making improvements to infrastructure. Basically, it costs a lot and as it currently stands, said Lagassé, it is an unsustainable structure. So, he argued, it is probably time that Canada reassess what it wants its military capabilities to be, and whether it can balance its role in certain areas strategically with its allies in order to serve more specialized functions with what might in the end, be cheaper equipment ….”
  • Former East Coast General named as Nova Scotia’s new Lieutenant Governor
  • Watch for protesters at a conference slated for Ottawa next week  “War profiteers, the Harper government, and military commanders from Canada, the UK, and the US are converging in Ottawa at the “Conference of Defence Associations” annual general meeting. Once again, they’ll be pushing for war for the 1%, at the expense of the 99%. But this time the stakes are higher than ever. PROTEST the war machine 5pm, Feb 23, 2012 Help spread the word. Download and distribute the poster or flyers. Gather at the Ottawa Human Rights Monument, followed by a march to the pro-war conference at the Chateau Laurier, for a mass die-in at the doorstep of the war profiteers ….”  I hope none of the protesters are driving their cars to the protest, given one of the topics on the conference agenda is “Energy security concerns”
  • A…. wide-ranging piece via Sun Media/QMI generally supportive of transexuals in the CF“…. Canada’s military is drafting such things as dress and behaviour guidelines. One of these epistles was the focus of the Coren show …. The order is signed by Rear Admiral Andrew Smith …. “Canadian Forces transsexual members are a valued and integral part of the CF and they have the same right as any other person to work in a harassment free workplace.” He advises senior staff to “process the special requirements of CF transsexual members, especially during their transition period.” Transition can include sex-change ops, which the military pays for. As a libertarian, I have trouble with that part. I say live and let live — on your own dime. Sure, join the navy, have the surgery, be whatever gender floats your boat. But pay for it yourself. Especially when hundreds of medical procedures, including dentistry, aren’t covered. Besides, if the operation sets you straight, as it were, surely it’s worth $20 grand to you ….”

My Only Fort Hood Thoughts for Now

Sincerest condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of those killed in the tragedy.

Hopes for a speedy and full recovery to all the wounded (both physically and emotionally).

Posts like this or this do NOT help sort out what really happened.

Right now, I have to agree with this, from a terrorism analyst/blogger:

I find it  disturbing that there are those in my field out there rushing to publish, throwing their judgment around in what is, to be perfectly frank, a self aggrandizing race to be the first to comment.

Their choice. But in complex situations like this, and before clear information has emerged making what can only then be characterised as ill-informed comment can cause great harm  to already marginalised and vulnerable communities,  and I think it would be extremely poor form for me to offer comment, before the facts are in, let alone go announcing this is some new jihad as I note some are already doing.

I await more on this once everyone has regained their breath a bit.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: More on the Taliban’s (Alleged) Stats

The War on Terror News (WOTN) blog was kind enough to mention in a piece on how mainstream media (MSM) isn’t reporting the effort in Afghanistan objectively.  One bit stands out for me:

If they wished to be objective, the MSM would report daily how many civilians were killed by the enemy, purposely, clearly attributing the deeds of the enemy to the enemy, instead of portraying it as they did in Iraq as a failure of American Troops.  They would report daily the number of Taliban killed by friendlies.  They would report daily the number of Taliban captured by friendlies.  They would report daily the schools built by US Forces or Germans or NATO.  They would report daily how many schools were burnt or exploded by the enemy.

Case in point:  the bad guys say they’re killing about 13 Canadians for every one that is actually fallen (at least since October of last year).

Thanks for the kind mention WOTN – if you want to follow their stuff, WOTN also has a Twitter feed worth keeping track of.

Odds and Ends

A few tidbits fro here and there that have caught my eye.

1)  Kudos to Hallmark Canada for giving away “Canadian Heroes” greeting cards at its stores November 9 through 11 as a way  to promote the product line and encourage folks to write to our troops overseas.

2)  It appears bigger IEDs, combined with more troops being tossed around the inside of armoured vehicles during IED strikes, are leading to more spinal injuries among American troops being evacuated out of Afghanistan – one out of five over the past summer, to be precise.

3)  Aussie counter-terrorist consultant and blogger Leah Farrall is picking up bad vibes in her ongoing research and exploration of the world of the jihadi:

There are some people asking for advice about how to bomb buses carrying staff in an unknown western country as well as attacks on public transport systems and shopping centres.

Not so unusual but they happen to be asking the guru for these types of attacks who I thought was dead or incarcerated, but who it turns out *may* not be.And I do mean *the guru* who I’ve watched for years.

I haven’t seen him directly surface for a while and he last used intermediaries. But this concerns me. I’m not posting who what or where up here for obvious reasons, it’s just an FYI.

Also some questions about how to hit petrol stations, trains, shopping centres, and integrating toxins into devices.

I’ve seen *a lot* of things like this in my day and this looks reminiscent of some I saw several years when a cell was starting to activate and this is precisely how this stuff goes down. Of course it could be a hoax and said guru could be dead/incarcerated and this be a ploy, but given the person they are asking I’d be taking it seriously enough to keep in the back of my head at the *very* least.

Leah’s blog – All Things Counter-terrorism – is worth a read, especially when she comments back and forth with jihadi ideologues.

4)  Wounded warriors in both Canada and the United States are receiving Segways as a way to make it easier for them to get around – well done to and Disability Rights Advocates for Technology and all the others who made that happen.

More on The Taliban, The UN and al-Qaida

Regarding how the Taliban have been bashing the U.N. lately (more here and here), after posting a comment to a post, AQ expert Anne Stenersen (links to bio; a research fellow with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, and author of a book on AQ’s quest for weapons of mass destruction) was kind enough to respond to my questions re: why the recent bashing.

Main points:

1)  U.N. bashing is far from new for the Taliban (I obviously pointing to how much more reading I need to do).

The Taliban’s leaders have criticized the UN on a number of occasions, in addition to the one you mention. In 2006 Mullah Omar accused the UN of being nothing but a “tool for America” and Mullah Baradir echoed this in 2008, saying that “we regard all the decisions of the United Nations towards Afghanistan, as American orders.” I do not think their 12 Oct 09 statement was issued as a direct response to forum criticism, since it is pretty consistent with the Taliban’s past propaganda statements on the UN.

2)  And how about hating the U.N. vs. wanting to get along well with the neighbours?  Stenersen says you can have both:

In the 1990s there was a huge debate within the Taliban regime on whether to join the UN or not – the main argument against it was that joining the UN would mean that the Islamic Emirate would have to subordinate itself to “infidel” laws (the UN Charter, etc). Having strategic alliances with other countries is another matter, which may also be easier to defend from a religious point of view …. But clearly, there are many within the wider jihadi community who do not agree to this distinction.

3)  The ideological differences suggested in the recent statements, according to Stenersen, won’t affect the current fight (as long as the Taliban see themselves as winning).

AQ central are probably not too happy about the Taliban-IEA’s recent propaganda statements, although I do not think it will have any practical implications for the insurgency – there is simply not enough incentive for neither the Quetta Shura or AQ central to “turn on” the other as long as there is a common enemy to fight and the Quetta Shura see themselves in a position of strength (i.e. there is no need for them to enter into negotiations with the Afghan regime, in which they would probably have to renounce their relationship with al-Qaida)

Special thanks to Anne Stenersen for the information.