News Highlights – 16 Sept 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  Canada’s spy agency has been cleared of wrongdoing in connection with the abuse of Afghan detainees. But the Security Intelligence Review Committee raised two issues for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to consider in future overseas operations — even though CSIS operations on foreign soil are limited by law. The spy watchdog chided CSIS for not keeping adequate records and cautioned it to “assess and qualify with care and consistency” the intelligence it receives from agencies that may be party to human rights abuses. It also recommended that if CSIS continues to operate abroad, its standards of accountability and professionalism should live up to those on Canadian soil ….”  Since The Canadian Press isn’t sharing the report, here it is at the Security Intelligence Review Committee’s web page (21 pages of redacted PDF) – here, also, is the news release announcing the findings.  Also, more from Postmedia News and the Globe & Mail here and here.
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Finally, a bit of news (albeit sounding a bit like a briefing note) from the CF Info-Machine on the training mission under way in Afghanistan!  “Captain (Navy) Haydn Edmundson arrived here on 18 July 2011 as part of the initial rotation of the Canadian Contribution Training Mission–Afghanistan (CCTM-A), the task force deployed on Operation ATTENTION to serve with the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). As Chief of Staff to the Deputy Commanding General–Police (DCOM-Police) at NTMA Headquarters, Capt(N) Edmundson has a prominent role in the training and development of the Afghan National Police (ANP) ….”
  • Afghanistan (2b)  More from the CF Info-Machine on the training mission: “On 23 August 2011, Colonel Peter Dawe, the deputy commander of the Canadian Contribution Training Mission – Afghanistan (CCTM-A) paid a visit to Camp Souter to meet the small but vital team that lives and works there, and tour their facility. Camp Souter is a British support base conveniently situated near Kabul International Airport. The Canadians assigned there work diligently behind the scenes to meet the support requirements of CCTM-A, the large and growing mission deployed with the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A) under Operation ATTENTION. NTM-A is the international effort to help the Afghan national security forces prepare for the transition to full responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan in 2014 ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  The Royal Canadian Legion says it will have to debate whether it supports adding Afghanistan to the National War Memorial. Spokesman Bob Butt says it is a matter for the various Legion commands to decide and the subject has yet to be discussed among the organization’s 340,000 active members. A proposal circulated around National Defence last year called for the word Afghanistan and the dates 2001-2011 to be added to the memorial that sits in the shadow of Parliament Hill. The $2.1 million dollar plan included the addition of an eternal flame and a national commemoration ceremony. But a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay says it would be inappropriate to commemorate Afghanistan right now because soldiers are still there on a training mission. Butt initially indicated the Legion favoured revamping the memorial, however he says the matter is best debated among the members when the federal government has a specific proposal ….”
  • Way Up North  During CDS visit to Russia, Canada and Russia agree to exchange port visits with naval ships.  “…. Both sides also discussed situation in the North Africa and Middle East, as well as European security. They also agreed to exchange visits of their warships between Canada’s Vancouver and the Murmansk port of Russia.  The visiting Canadian delegation visited several military facilities in Moscow Wednesday ….
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Defence Minister Peter MacKay was warned the manufacturer of the air force’s new maritime helicopters might be tempted to cut corners in the rush to get the long-delayed program back on track, say internal documents. “The remaining elements for the interim (maritime helicopter) delivery are all safety related and it is crucial that DND remain diligent to ensure Sikorsky does not take inappropriate risks to keep schedule,” said a Nov. 23 briefing note. The advice came soon after a scathing report by the auditor general, who’d singled out the CH-148 Cyclone program for delays and cost overruns. Less than three weeks after Sheila Fraser’s assessment, U.S. helicopter giant Sikorsky advised the federal government it wouldn’t meet a Nov. 30, 2010, deadline to land the first helicopter for “limited training and operational testing.” Officials vented their frustration in the note, portions of which were underlined for emphasis. It urged both politicians and defence officials to take a deep breath and not get involved in any further debate — or request changes. “It is also paramount that DND not interfere or influence the conduct of activities, as this would provide Sikorsky rationale for excusable delay.” Ottawa’s $5.7-billion plan to buy 28 new helicopters to replace the geriatric Sea Kings, which fly off the decks of warships, have been hit with repeated delays ….”  The Canadian Press doesn’t appear to be sharing this briefing note with the public, who may want to see more of the bigger picture of the document.
  • Speaking of “geriatric” Sea Kings:  The venerable Sea King will be 50 years old in 2013 and plans are already underway to celebrate the milestone. Tim Dunne, a retired army major, says a committee was formed about a year ago to work on a reunion, a book, a memorial service and other events. Plans are also underway to place a Sea King in the Shearwater Aviation Museum ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships Edition  Blogger Mark Collins underwhelmed with the prospect of unarmed poor compromise design Navy ships in the Arctic.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War One writer’s feelings:  “…. despite assurances from Department of National Defence officials that the F-35 is the right aircraft for Canada, the only way to really know which aircraft can best meet Canadian requirements — and at what cost — would be to put out an open, fair and transparent statement of requirements and request for proposals, and conduct a rigorous evaluation of the bidders’ responses. Denmark, which is a Level 3 partner in the F-35 program, like Canada is, has decided on an open competition to select its next-generation fighter aircraft. People are questioning why Canada is not doing the same thing. Only then will Canadians know the right fighter has been selected, at the right price.”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Paraclete tactical pouches for delivery to Richmond, Ontario and Kingston, Ontario, and up to +7K vials of injectable tetracycline-style antibiotic for CFB Petawawa.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (3)  CF starting to ask manufacturers for information on what rifle should replace the Lee Enfield for use by Canadian Rangers (via
  • Canadian Rangers got a chance to share their stories at the CNE in Toronto. “Six Canadian Rangers from northern Ontario told thousands of visitors to a military display at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto what Canadian Rangers do across Canada’s North. “I’ve never talked to so many people in my life,” said Master Cpl. Bill Morris from Kingfisher Lake, which has a population of 420. “People asked us who the Rangers are and what we do. They were pretty amazed when we told them.” The Ranger exhibit, centred around a traditional tipi, helped attract visitors to a large display of military equipment showcasing the army, navy and air force. The display attracted about one million people to it during the 17 days of the CNE, the biggest fair of its kind in Canada ….”
  • The Calgary Homeless Foundation wants to turn a small apartment building into housing units for homeless military veterans. The Royal Canadian Legion says there are at least 25 people living on Calgary streets that have been identified as Canadian Forces veterans. Cindy Green-Muse of the Legion’s Back In Step program said she knows of 25 to 30 veterans who don’t have a roof over their heads. They range in age from a few in their 20’s to one man who is over 80 years old ….”
  • The CF’s Commander-in-Chief is taking part in the Army Run this weekend.  Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston will lace up their running shoes this weekend for this year’s Canada Army Run, being held on Sunday, September 18, 2011, in Ottawa. At 7:30 a.m., His Excellency will address all athletes competing in the five-kilometre run, and will also cheer on his wife at the starting line. At 8:40 a.m., the Governor General will wish all athletes competing in the half marathon ‘good luck’, and join them in this 21-kilometre challenge ….”
  • Meanwhile,On Sunday, for the second year in a row, the annual Terry Fox Run is sharing its date with the Army Run, and there’s no sign the two charity events will be run on separate dates any time soon. The Terry Fox Run, in its 31st year, is a volunteer-run, non-competitive event to raise money for cancer research. Over the course of its history, the Ottawa, Orléans, Kanata and Gatineau runs have together raised more than $5.75 million. Runs are held across Canada on the same day and they all share a marketing budget geared to that date. The Army Run is a hugely popular newcomer to the charity run scene. Organized by Run Ottawa in collaboration with the Department of National Defence, the competitive run offers five-kilometre and half-marathon events to raise money for two military charities, Soldier On and the Military Families Fund. From its inception in 2008, the Army Run has grown to have up to 14,000 entrants in subsequent years ….”
  • Canada’s most decorated military hero, the First World War flying ace William Barker, will be honoured next week in Toronto with a gravesite monument aimed at reviving knowledge of his unmatched exploits above Europe’s battlefields nearly a century ago. Barker, a Manitoba farmboy who went on to be awarded the Victoria Cross, three Military Crosses and a host of other medals for his wartime feats, was credited with destroying 50 enemy aircraft in just the last two years of the 1914-18 war. He later became the founding director of the Royal Canadian Air Force – a designation recently restored to the aviation branch of Canada’s military – before dying tragically, at age 35, in a 1930 crash on the frozen Ottawa River while demonstrating a new aircraft in Canada’s capital ….” News Highlights – 1 Feb 11

  • F-35 Tug of War (1)Defence Minister Peter MacKay says F-35 aerial refueling problem not a problem“…. the F-35 will have refuelling capability and capacity. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the plane, has confirmed that the F-35 can handle different types of refuelling systems, including the one currently used by our forces ….”
  • F-35 Tug of War (2): “…. Maj.-Gen. Tom Lawson, assistant chief of the air staff, told CBC News in Mississauga, Ont., that he wants to “de-lie” many myths floating around about the F-35s. “It’s important to us that Canadians have the facts,” Lawson said. “Landing on airports up in the North is absolutely no problem at all.” The Ottawa Citizen report also said DND officials were looking at having the F-35 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, install a “drag” parachute on the aircraft to slow them down when they land on short runways ….”
  • CF Media Update from Afghanistan (1): Troops handing out shoes, warm clothes to Afghan kids. “Could you imagine living in a house with no electricity, no sewage an no heating systems? For some of us, this isn’t so difficult as some people in Quebec experienced these conditions only a few decades ago. Now imagine that the walls of your house are of dried mud and the floor is nothing but sand. In winter, you’re lucky because the days are comfortable, with temperatures hovering between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius above freezing. when the sun goes down, the country’s desert climate makes itself felt. In fact, temperatures can dip to as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius at night. While this might not compare to a Canadian winter, it’s challenging for the Afghan people, who have few resources at their disposal ….”
  • CF Media Update from Afghanistan (2)What the troops are up to in Zangabad“The guys of A Company — TAZ — were well aware that it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake. They first set foot in their future platoon house in early December, making it a night move for greater security. Under normal conditions, a soldier on foot patrol carries 40 to 75 pounds on his back — water, ammunition, personal protective equipment. On this particular night, the guys loaded up with all the ammo, food, equipment and personal possessions they could carry. When they arrived, the ground was completely covered with 20 cm of dust as fine as flour, nasty stuff that goes by the over-poetic name of “moon dust.” The place also offered plenty of evidence of past use as a stable. Heaps of damp straw mixed with animal droppings lay all over the place. For the first few nights, the guys had to sleep on the ground, making do despite the unpleasantness of the situation ….”
  • CF Media Update from Afghanistan (3)More Afghan cops ready to hit the streets. “After six weeks of police and tactics training, 198 freshly minted Afghan policemen face the challenge of their new career. On 6 January 2011, the Regional Training Center Kandahar (RTC‑K) hosted the graduation ceremony for new members of the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP), the primary civil law enforcement agency in Afghanistan and a component of the Afghan National Police (ANP). During the six-week AUP Basic Patrol Course, candidates learned fundamental skills ranging from handcuffing and defensive tactics to identifying improvised explosive devices and reacting to an ambush ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Australian casualties alleged in Uruzgan, and +20 allegedly killed in Taliban attacks across Kandahar.
  • Search-and-rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador will go under the microscope beginning Monday at public hearings by a federal committee. A parliamentary standing committee on national defence is holding the hearings in Gander, in central Newfoundland, part of a study into the Canadian military’s search-and-rescue services. Officials from the airport in Gander, where military search-and-rescue crews are based, and the town are scheduled to go before the committee on the first day of the hearings ….”

Bit of Tension in Canada’s Civilianization of AFG Mission

Another announcement showing Canada’s drift away from the mainly military nature of its mission in Afghanistan – the naming of a top cop:

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, William Elliott, today announced the appointment of Assistant Commissioner Graham Muir as the first Canadian Police Commander (CPC) in Afghanistan …. The appointment of the senior Canadian civilian police officer in Afghanistan will provide expertise at the national level to strengthen ANP capabilities. He will be stationed at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul and, as a member of the Embassy’s senior management team, will provide technical expertise and advice to Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan on the reform of the ANP ….

Translation:  another civilian head office presence.

Meanwhile, more of the ongoing saga that is the reported tug-of-war between DFAIT and National Defence on their respective roles in Afghanistan, from Matt Fisher of CanWest News Service.