MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 25 Mar 11

  • No Fly Zone in Libya (1) – Two Canadian surveillance aircraft have been sent to the Libyan coast to help coalition forces keep ships from bringing weapons and mercenaries into the North African country. The Auroras departed 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia and are in the midst of travelling to a military base in Trapani, Italy. Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the deployment plans on Thursday afternoon, saying that two CP-140 Aurora planes will soon be engaged in the “evolving” mission against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi ….” More from the Canadian Press here, Postmedia News here and here, and QMI Media here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (2) – NATO’s agreed to run the no-fly zone show. “NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced today the alliance will assume command and control of coalition operations enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. “We are taking action as part of the broad international effort to protect civilians against the attacks by the [Moammar] Gadhafi regime,” Rasmussen said in a statement released today. “We will cooperate with our partners in the region and welcome their contributions.” All NATO allies are committed to fulfill their obligations under the U.N. resolution, Rasmussen said. “That is why we have decided to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone,” He added ….” NATO’s short & sweet statement on this here, some background from the U.S. State Department here, and some commentary from Wired.com’s Danger Room here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Again with a question in the House of Commons! Defence Minister MacKay’s response:  “…. the reality is that the professional, non-partisan bureaucrats who work in the Department of National Defence disagree with the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In fact, they said that the methodology was wrong. They said that the cost of an aircraft should not be calculated based on its weight, that one does not go on historical analysis that is 50 years old and that one does not push it out 30 years. DND officials would be pleased to meet with the Parliamentary Budget Officer to discuss his methodologies and correct some of his flawed findings ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – Former CBC journalist wades in: “…. this UN-sponsored mission raises new questions about the wisdom of buying 65 of these Lockheed-Martin “Joint Strike Fighters,” which are still in the test phase. Particularly when the price tag ranges from a low of $14.7 billion (government estimate) to a stunning $29 billion (Parliamentary Budget Office prediction). And when the Libya campaign drives home an awkward historical point – that Canada has never used more than a handful of jet fighters in foreign conflicts and there’s no reason to suspect this will change in the coming decades ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3) – More from ceasefire.ca: “According to the latest CTV/Globe/Nanos Poll, when asked about the Harper government’s plan to purchase F-35 jet fighters, 68% of Canadians believe that now is not the right time to purchase the aircraft. Canadians identified healthcare as their number one unprompted issue of concern. 29% of respondents named it their top priority, next to 18% who consider jobs/economy their main concern. Military and foreign policy issues do not appear among the top five issues named by respondents ….”
  • Teens in military families are often burdened by additional emotional stress when a parent is deployed to Afghanistan, according to a new Canadian study. Researchers from the University of New Brunswick, the University of Alberta, Ryerson University, and York University released the findings of their groundbreaking research on Thursday that examined students at Oromocto High School near Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, who recently had a parent serving in the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. The researchers reported the teens worried their parents would not return home or would come back “different.” The study found that stress caused concerns at home. The young people felt a sense of responsibility for the emotional stability of their other parent and for any younger siblings at home. The teen felt additional stress if the parent remaining in Canada was having difficulty with the other parent being away on the military mission ….” More on the study from the Fredericton Telegraph-Journal here, Postmedia News here, and from the University of New Brunswick here.
  • The first batch of papers related to the handling of Afghan detainees is expected to be released within two weeks – a mid-election document dump that could damage both Liberals and Conservatives, or absolve them of wrongdoing in a matter that once dominated parliamentary debate. Bloc Québecois Leader Gilles Duceppe insists the documents must be made public by April 15 and says his MPs will withdraw from the closed-door Commons committee that has been vetting them if his demands are not met. When asked this week if he would expect that release to occur even if it coincided with an election campaign, Mr. Duceppe replied: “Yes, yes, yes.” Bryon Wilfert, a Liberal MP who sits on the committee, said Thursday he does not know when the release will occur but it will be “soon.” There is “obviously a fervent attempt” to meet Mr. Duceppe’s deadline, Mr. Wilfert said. And election, he said, “will not preclude or hamper the release.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? – “…. The Department of National Defence (DND) currently have over 70,000 C79 Optical Sights in use and plans to sustain the fleet by purchasing replacement sights matching existing equipment. CF personnel have been trained using the C79 optical sights. Weapon and sight units cannot be replaced with “cloned/substitute” items due to possible life endangerment. These sight units represent a soldier’s security and the security around him, which makes consideration of multiple versions of similar sight units unacceptable. In addition, it is essential for commonality purposes and to minimize in-service support costs that the same sight be purchased. Given the large inventory it would not be operationally feasible or affordable to replace every sight or to carry a mixed inventory ….” Who’s doing the replacing?  Armament Technology Incorporated of Halifax, N.S.
  • Almost a decade after 9/11, the many arms of Canada’s national security network still do not share all their intelligence about terrorist threats with sister agencies, says a parliamentary report. The fix, says the new interim report by the special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, is to clarify and expand the mandate of the national security adviser (NSA) to the prime minister, giving the office statutory powers to co-ordinate national security activities and share counter-terrorism intelligence across government ….” More in a news release from the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism here, and from the report, “Security, Freedom and the Complex Terrorist Threat: Positive Steps Ahead”, here (PDF).
  • What a surprise!  Chinese spies are keeping an eye on what they consider opposition groups here in Canada! “There are spies from China operating in Canada, members of the Chinese-Canadian community told QMI Agency Thursday. “We came here for freedom and find ourselves still under the oppression of the Chinese regime,” said Lucy Zhou, spokesman for a Falun Gong group in Ottawa. “What has happened in the past 10 years is that we have been victimized by the Chinese regime, including by the Chinese Embassy and missions here in Canada.” Zhou, who came to Canada as a student in 1989, says China regularly spies on Chinese citizens in Canada. “Going back to China, people are stopped right away and interrogated and they (Chinese officials) know everything that happens here in Canada,” Zhou said ….”
  • Looky who’s poking around in the Arctic. “The United States is staging high-profile submarine exercises in the Arctic Ocean this month as evidence mounts that global warming will lead to more mining, oil production, shipping and fishing in the world’s last frontier. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and a Who’s Who of other VIPs braved below-zero temperatures this month to visit a temporary camp on the ice about 150 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where two nuclear-powered U.S. submarines are conducting military training exercises. It is important for us to continue to train and operate in the Arctic,” said U.S. Navy Captain Rhett Jaehn, the No. 2 official overseeing U.S. submarine forces ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 20 Nov 10

  • News flash:  the U.S. Marines are sending tanks to southwestern Afghanistan Guess where the idea (may) have come from? “…. U.S. commanders have called on the tanks of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) to assist them during key combat operations against the Taliban including during a recent offensive. The German-built Leopards have also provided frequent fire support for American troops from within a base in Panjwaii District that overlooks Zhari District. Even before the decision by the Marines, the U.S. army was taking “a hard look at bringing them (tanks) over,” to Kandahar when Canada’s combat forces are withdrawn next summer, because of the successes that the Strathconas have had with them here, said Brig.-Gen. Frederick Hodges, who ran the war in Regional Command South until this month and now heads the Afghanistan Pakistan Co-ordination Centre for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington ….”
  • Survey Says “Let’s Stay to Train (But Parliament Should Vote on the Mission)” (news release also here if link above doesn’t work): “As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay meet with their NATO counterparts to discuss the future of Allied efforts in Afghanistan, a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global Television shows that a majority (53%) of Canadians back the decision to have some Canadian Forces remain in Afghanistan strictly to train soldiers until 2014 but it comes with a caveat: a bigger majority (61%) believe that “there should be a vote in Parliament to determine whether Canadian Forces should stay in Afghanistan past 2011, even if it is for a training mission” thus echoing the demand of NDP Leader Jack Layton to do so …. These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Postmedia News and Global Television from November 16-18, 2010. For the survey, a representative randomly-selected sample of 1,002 adult Canadians was interviewed by telephone. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population of Canada been polled. ….” More from Global News here.
  • So, how much is this new Canadian mission in Afghanistan going to cost?  Good question, says the NDP“The NDP wants Parliament’s budget watchdog to calculate the true cost of extending Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.  NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says he’s asked Kevin Page to clarify the price tag of the three-year extension because he doesn’t trust the conflicting estimates offered by the Harper government so far.  Defence Minister Peter MacKay initially said it would cost up to $500 million per year to keep 950 military personnel in Afghanistan on a training mission until 2014, three years beyond the previously scheduled July 2011 end date for the combat mission.  International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda then added another $300 million over three years in development assistance, bringing the total annual tab to $600 million.  However, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon subsequently emailed reporters to clarify that the extension will cost an estimated $700 million annually over three years and that “final costs will not be known until after 2014.” ….”
  • But at least NATO’s grateful, right? “Canada was praised for its “absolutely essential” commitment of military trainers in Afghanistan as a NATO summit opened Friday to chart the military alliance’s post-combat partnership with the war-worn country.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen personally thanked Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the leaders of 28 member countries gathered at Lisbon’s giant bayside EXPO centre, arriving in pouring rain under gloomy skies ….”
  • Some good news from a recent survey out of Afghanistan? “New field research shows some improvement in negative perceptions of the international presence in southern Afghanistan” The bad news? “92% of respondents in the south were unaware of 9/11 events”
  • Now that Canada’s hemmed,. hawed and decided to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2014, guess what? “International troops will be needed past 2014 in a non-combat training role in Afghanistan, the NATO chief said Friday, creating a potential new political headache for the Harper government.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed that view on the opening day of the NATO summit in Lisbon …. Rasmussen said it was “realistic” for NATO-led forces to successfully hand over security duties to the Afghans by the end of 2014 as hoped for by the alliance and its partner in Kabul.  “But let me stress that I foresee presence of international troops also after 2014 but not in a combat role, in a more supportive, including training and education of Afghan security forces,” Rasmussen said….”
  • Here’s hoping for a quick recovery: A military clearance diver was taken to hospital in Halifax on Thursday after he became unconscious while diving off HMCS St. John’s, said a military public affairs spokesman. The member of Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic was conducting regular dives off the ship into Halifax Harbour, when his supervisor noted that he was unresponsive in the water, Mike Bonin said. His supervisor recovered him and called an ambulance, Bonin said. The diver regained consciousness shortly after he was taken from the water and was in hospital for observation, said the spokesman.”
  • Remember murder-rapist Russell Williams’ uniforms and kit being burned Apparently, his days left in the military are numbered as well.
  • WHAT’S CANADA BUYING? Improving Blood Testing for Diver Problems
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar and Uruzgan and they claim to have shot down a helicopter in Helmand, too.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 17 Nov 10

  • Guess what?  Canada’s keeping 950 military trainers and support staff (as well as about four dozen cops) in Afghanistan until 2014“…. The Canadian Forces (CF) will support ANSF training by providing up to 950 trainers to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). This training mission will build upon the CF’s established expertise in training the ANSF, thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security …. Through the deployment of up to 45 civilian police officers, Canada will continue its involvement in police reform by leading training programs, promoting the establishment of accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms, and advancing institutional reform and capacity building ….” Surprising, eh?  More on that from QMI/Sun Media, the New York Times, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and BBC.
  • What does this mean for the Canadian-led and run Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PDF copy of page here if link doesn’t work?  This from the Globe & MailCanada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian aid officials next year. Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan: dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts. There will be a deep cut to aid for Afghanistan. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada will provide $100-million a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the $205-million the government reported spending last year ….”
  • According to Postmedia News, late decision on new mission = rush to get ready for it.
  • Notice who’s name is listed first on the news release?  Not Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay but Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Also, while Cannon got to answer questions in the House of Commons on the mission this week (Hansard transcripts here, here and here), Peter MacKay took a question on the F-35 fighter plane buy.  Yesterday, the PM fielded two questions (here and here) on Afghanistan, while McKay fiielded one question from a fellow Conservative party member (here).  Some see this as further proof that Peter MacKay may be on his way out (he says not so), but the government has been trying to civilianize the feel of the mission for at least the past couple of years – more on that theme here, here and here.
  • The Foreign Affairs Minister reminds us of the obvious, via CTV.ca“…. Cannon said the “non-combat” troops will be based in the Kabul area. However, Cannon admitted that soldiers would still be in danger, despite the relative security in Kabul compared to the current operation in Kandahar. “I am not going to hide the fact that there is a risk factor,” Cannon told CTV’s Power Play. “(But) our people will not be mentoring in the field, they will be in classrooms.” ….”
  • Who’s happy?  The White House and the NATO military alliance applauded Canada’s plan for a military training mission in Afghanistan Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper assured opposition parties that the armed forces will work safely “in classrooms behind the wire on bases.” ….” Here’s what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to say: “I warmly welcome Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that Canada will deploy a substantial number of trainers to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Canada has contributed substantially, over many years, to the operation in Afghanistan. Canadian forces have made a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people, often at a high cost ….” More from the Canadian Press on that.
  • Who’s unhappy?  The usual suspects: “…. The NDP again accused the Conservatives of lying, saying it was “inevitable” that the 950-strong training contingent that will be in Afghanistan until 2014 would be drawn into combat because the whole of Afghanistan is a “war zone.” ….” The rabble.ca brigade has already come up with the rhyming chant:  “Activism Communiqué: The war in Af’stan, demand – Don’t Extend It. End It!” Ceasefire.ca pipes in, too, comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam: Unaddressed by the ministers is whether the government really believes in the training mission it has committed Canadian troops to fulfill. No one seriously expects Afghanistan’s army and police forces to be ready to hold off the Taliban on their own in four years’ time. But it is still unclear whether NATO’s efforts to Vietnamize Afghanize the war are intended merely to provide a face-saving way for foreign forces to withdraw from a dead-end war or remain based on the illusory prospect of creating an ARVN ANA that can hold the field against the Taliban even in the south of Afghanistan ….”
  • It didn’t take long for the “Survey Says” crowd to get its numbers out there – this from Harris-DecimaCanadians Wary of Extension to Afghanistan Mission: The latest Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey asked about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “At this point in time, Canadians are split over whether to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the combat mission. While few feel that the combat mission should be extended, there is clearly some support for Canadian troops continuing to play some role.” ….”  More on that from the Canadian Press.
  • Blog Watch: Congrats from Mark Collins at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for those rating it here, while Terry Glavin at Transmontanus shares his words of wisdom this way:  “…. The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country’s post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today’s announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic ….”
  • Meanwhile, the transition continues on the ground in AfghanistanA scouting party from the NATO unit that could replace Canadian troops in Kandahar will be touring the area over the next few days. Planning for the departure of Task Force Kandahar is underway and a proposal on how the transition will take place is still being finalized, a senior U.S. officer with the alliance’s southern headquarters said Tuesday. The Canadians “are in a critical location,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to discuss the situation on background only. “We’ve got to make sure that area is still covered, and covered well.” ….”
  • The CF is working towards setting up a research institute devoted to studying military medicine. More from the Kingston-Whig Standard on a conference under way this week:  “…. That the military is taking the initiative seriously can be seen by the list of people attending, including Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, senators Romeo Dallaire and Pamela Wallin, veterans affairs ombudsman Guy Parent, and (Commodore Hans) Jung, the military’s top medical officer.  “We are the only nation amongst our major allies that does not have such a national institute,” (former CFB Kingston base commander and Kingston General Hospital chairman Bill) Richard said, a fact lamented by many of the high-profile attendees.   The military would love universities to dig through its wealth of data — it has comprehensive medical records on everyone who ever served from the day they enlisted to the day they discharged and keeps the records 99 years, but Jung said only 5% of that data has been analyzed because it doesn’t have enough people to do it ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: The Taliaban’s main English-language site appears to be down, so there’s the Taliban’s Lies o’ the Day via theunjustmedia.com.

Twitter Feed to Watch

In today’s tidal wave of information, including little bits of it at a time via Twitter, I love the Twitter feed of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen here.

I love it because it feels like he’s typing the stuff (typos and all), not having messages crafted and scutinized syllable by syllable before posting.

A few examples:

Posted a new video on my blog from the UN General Assembly. It’s about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/avyLS

I welcome that the US today have discussed with us how we can develop a missile defence which can include all Allies and protect us all.

I intend to make this the most open, the most inclusive process in NATOhistory – and in the history of any int org http://natostratcon.info/

Looking foreward to my trip to Greece and Turkey on Wednesday to Friday. We have many important issues to discuss. Anders

Enjoy!

HERE’s Communicating About the Afghan Mission

Broken record time – where were our politicians communicating the reasons and merits of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan?

Saying it even better than me is Terry Glavin over at his Chronicles & Dissent blog:

“We have no cause to doubt the resolve of the Afghan people. It’s our own resolve that’s the problem, and while peace in Afghanistan may require more soldiers and firepower, not less, all the troops in the world will do no greater service to the Afghan people and their cause than plain words, spoken in plain language: We will not betray you. We will not abandon you. We will not surrender. We will not retreat.

Any Canadian politician who is not capable of speaking these words clearly and plainly should do the country and the world a favour and just shut the hell up.”

While I hold little hope of ANY Canadian politician of any stripe uttering those words (especially since so far, it appears we can’t exactly say we’re not retreating), approaching this level of clarity is NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (although I’m not sure he can pull it off, given all the political pressures on member nations regarding the Afghanistan mission), quoted by Reuters:

“We must stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary, and we will stay as long as necessary. Let no one think that a run for the exits is an option. It is not.”

Too easy, you’d think.

New NATO Boss Promises to Finish Job in AFG

Good things coming from the new Secretary-General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

This, via Bloomberg news wire:

“I’m not in favor of setting timelines …. Let no Taliban propagandist try to sell my message as a run for the exits. It is not. We will support the Afghan people for as long as it takes.”

Even better, this, via Associated Press, during a visit to Afghanistan:

“I can assure you and the Afghan people that we will stay and support you for as long as it takes to finish our job.”

Now, let’s see how long the political stamina of individual member countries allows this to continue.