- Remember the Memorial Ribbon announcement yesterday? It appears to be gone now (except for a few media outlets that ran with it early here and here, at Army.ca for discussion, and here (PDF) for posterity). Hmmmm…..
- Remembrance Day “So far this year we’ve been spared the almost annual clash between the custodians of the red Remembrance Day poppy and anti-war activists who promote the white poppy of peace ….”
- Veterans getting a lot of mention in the House of Commons these days – more from Hansard here, here, here and here.
- The Applebees restaurant chain is offering a free meal on November 11th to veterans – I especially love Army.ca owner Mike Bobbitt’s idea of donating what the meal would have cost to the Soldier On fund.
- Poochies helping those with hidden wounds. “Dave Desjardins says he’s convinced a Rottweiler named Maggie helped save his life. The 41-year-old retired soldier was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder in 2005, a few months after he returned from Afghanistan. When he first met the dog last year, he was addicted to morphine and afraid to leave his home for anything more than a quick cigarette in the backyard ….”
- Toronto Star articles on dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and how DRDC labs are helping.
- Libya Mission Softball question in the House of Commons on when the troops are coming home from the Libyan theatre o’ operations: “Mr. Speaker, earlier this year Canada responded rapidly and strongly after the UN Security Council passed a resolution to protect civilians who were being attacked by the Gadhafi regime in Libya. In less than 24 hours CF-18s were airborne from 3 Wing Bagotville en route to their operating base in Trapani, Italy, along with strategic air-to-air refueling support from 8 Wing Trenton’s Polaris aircraft. Canada also sent a frigate to patrol the central Mediterranean. Could the associate minister of national defence please inform the House when our heroes are coming home?” I guess the Conservative member for Chatham-Kent—Essex missed the news release here, not to mention all the media advisories here, here and here.
- While troops return from Libya, veterans will be pressing for better benefits. “There will plenty of celebration Friday and Saturday as cabinet ministers travel to air-force bases around the country to welcome home Canadian Forces personnel from a mission in Libya that saw rebels overthrow long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The 630 members of Canada’s military are returning home from Operation Mobile and NATO-led Operation Unified Protector, which saw them enforce an arms embargo and a no-fly zone around the North African nation for most of this year. Julian Fantino, the Associate Minister of National Defence, has been dispatched to Bagotville, Que., to greet troops Friday afternoon. Chris Alexander, the parliamentary secretary to the Defence Minister, will be waiting for them on Friday night in Trenton, Ont. And Defence Minister MacKay will be at 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia on Saturday, an event that was delayed by weather. At exactly the same time that Mr. MacKay is shaking hands with the folks getting off the plane from Libya, veterans from Afghanistan and other conflicts will be on Parliament Hill protesting what they say are unfair benefits for people who have put their lives on the line for their country. It is the second Veterans National Day organized by Canadian Veterans Advocacy against the New Veterans Charter, which the group says discriminates against military personnel who were injured after April, 2006 – a time when Canada suffered most of the casualties in Afghanistan ….”
- Afghanistan (1) CBC columnist reminds us Canada’s still at war in Afghanistan, training mission or not. “…. the reality is that while Canada’s military pulled out of a costly, direct combat role this summer, it is now plunging even deeper into the real heart of the war ….”
- Afghanistan (2) Kandahar handover more than just handing over the keys (via the CF Info-Machine).
- Afghanistan (3) “The Government of Canada is one of the most generous donors to the World Food Programme globally and also in Afghanistan ….” (via the World Food Programme Info-Machine)
- Taliban Propaganda Watch Mullah Omar: Guys, guys, guys – you want to get at least a bit of a grip on the civilian casualties? (links to non-terrorist web page)
- Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P. “Final submissions heard at ex-reservist’s court martial” (via The Canadian Press on CTV.ca)
- Stuart Langridge, R.I.P. “Shaun Fynes bristles as he recalls the Canadian military’s treatment of his son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge. “They threw Stuart away like a piece of broken equipment,” he says in War in the Mind, Saltspring Island-based filmmaker Judy Jackson’s moving, revelatory film about combat trauma. It airs Nov. 8 (9 p.m. and midnight) on Knowledge Network. “We have to do everything we can to resurrect his reputation,” says Fynes, whose son, a young veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan, hanged himself at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton in 2008 at age 28, the victim of post-traumatic stress disorder. Langridge’s parents have taken issue with their son’s treatment at the hands of the military ….”
- Let’s not forget we have troops in the Middle East, too. “On the Golan Heights since July, Canadian army Capt. John Hooyer saw something new Thursday. It rained. He had been told by officers there before him that the rocky high ground between Israel and Syria does grow green. The area is fertile, home to vineyards and orchards. It is also the source of the headwaters of the Jordan River. But almost halfway into a year-long deployment with the United Nation’s observation force, Hooyer said he has watched the ground get drier and drier. Hooyer is one of seven Canadian soldiers assigned to Operation Jade, Canada’s contribution to the UN’s oldest peacekeeping mission. Hooyer is stationed around six observation posts on the Israeli side of the border with Syria. “It’s surprising how many people are not aware the UN is operating observation posts up here,” Hooyer said in a telephone interview ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1) Yet ANOTHER question in the House of Commons.
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Mark Collins on numbers and locations (some that may be no more?)
- Mark Collins again, this time on how long some of the Big Honkin’ Ships’ll take to build – more on that here.
- Speaking of Big Honkin’ Ships, ooopsie…. “A Canadian navy ship that had just undergone a yearlong, $44.7-million facelift struck a dock in Halifax on Friday afternoon, causing damage to both. HMCS Preserver, one of the navy’s supply ships, had just returned from several days of tests at sea and was in the process of turning around when it struck the Halifax Shipyards dock, said Royal Canadian Navy spokesman Maj. Paul Doucette. No one was injured, but Preserver’s upper starboard side was damaged, as was the dock ….” More at CBC.ca here, and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald here.
- House of Commons debate on proposed changes to the CF’s legal system via Hansard here and here.
- Don Cherry declines honourary degree from RMC with thanks (you can still vote here on a CBC.ca poll, though). “Concerned controversy may take away from “a special day,” Don Cherry has declined an honorary degree from the Royal Military College. “I can’t accept the degree and I won’t attend the convocation,” Cherry said in an interview Friday about the Nov. 17 ceremony in Kingston. “I am sad because I was really looking forward to spending time with the 800 cadets.” Perhaps instead they can line up to get their picture taken with French Professor Catherine Lord. It is because of her bizarre and vitriolic complaints that the legendary hockey coach and commentator wont be there. “On many occasions he publicly expressed his contempt for many groups of the Canadian population, notably for the French-speaking Canadians, for the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community and for the immigrants,” Lord wrote in an open letter. “What message will RMC send, in celebrating Don Cherry, to the students coming from these groups? And what will the Canadian people remember from RMC, as a serious and prestigious institution?” The message would be: “Thanks, Don, for all you have done.” ….”
- Big spending by the U.K. to train its troops in Western Canada. “The Army spends an average of almost £45 million a year (CDN$ 74 million) training British soldiers on a Canadian prairie, the Government said today. Seven thousand troops are sent to British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), on a prairie in Alberta, each year ahead of deployment to war zones, including Afghanistan. They are able to fire live weapons more freely than in the UK because of the vast size of the prairie in Alberta. But figures revealed by the Ministry of Defence show spending on BATUS totalled £224.5 million over the past five years, peaking at £58 million in 2009/10. It works out at an average of £44.9 million annually since 2006 ….” (Article also downloadable as PDF here if link doesn’t work)
- A Canadian was arrested in Edmonton to face charges of helping kill Americans in Iraq. Here’s the U.S. government’s news release, here’s the complaint (PDF, courtesy of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy blog), as well as mainstream media coverage here and here.
- As I’ve said before, let’s hope…. “It’s a crucial question with no clear answer: will the Taliban return in strength to Kandahar when the traditional fighting season resumes after the annual opium harvest ends this spring? It’s a question of immense interest to Canada’s battle group, which will continue to patrol one of the three districts in Kandahar, where the insurgency has always been strongest, until its combat mission ends this July. With no firm evidence yet one way or the other, but armed with knowledge of the Taliban’s usual fighting calendar and their long history of resilience, Canada’s Task Force Kandahar — now led by a battle group in Panjwaii built around a Royal 22nd Regiment battalion — has had to prepare as if the enemy will be back again in April ….”
- Just as Canada’s at least thinking about packing its bags in Kandahar to leave, it needs to find another staging base to move a not-insubstantial amount of hardware through. “The Canadian military is casting about for another staging base for Afghanistan to replace makeshift arrangements in Cyprus – where the Forces relocated after Canada was kicked out of the United Arab Emirates late last year. A move is not certain, but the Canadian Forces are searching for another, possibly closer, location from which to move troops and supplies in and out of Kandahar …. Canada is using two civilian airports in southern Cyprus – Paphos and Larnaca – to shuttle soldiers and other personnel in and out of Afghanistan. In Cyprus, the Canadians are housed in hotels. The operation is a pay-as-you-go contract, and cargo is shipped separately into Afghanistan via Germany. The Forces are eyeing other locations that could offer more benefits, including lower costs, the ability to handle more volume or offer more flexibility. Defence sources wouldn’t identify possible alternatives, but it’s believed options could include another Gulf nation or one of the countries north of Afghanistan that diplomats refer to as “the Stans.” ….”
- In case you had to ask, here’s why you don’t deploy a Type 1 diabetic to Afghanistan.
- Remember this just-released chronology of Canada’s military activities in Afghanistan? It seems, um, less than robustly fact checked. Luckily, Army.ca participants are happy to provide corrections! Let’s see how long this link to the report (PDF) keeps working, shall we?
- Another military research paper (PDF): how many pilots do you need (statistically speaking) to keep CF-188 Hornet missions going at various tempos?
- Remember the Veterans Affairs Minister’s traveling road show I told you about last week, where he’s travelling across Canada to tell vets what a good job the department’s doing? Since the Minister can only be in one place at a time, the Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary – Greg Kerr – is on the road too, starting in Newfoundland. “On behalf of the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), Greg Kerr, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, today met with Veterans, Canadian Forces members and other stakeholders in Newfoundland and Labrador to explain recent improvements at Veterans Affairs Canada to better serve Veterans and their families …. Mr. Kerr’s day-long trip included a visit to the Caribou Memorial Veterans Pavillion, a meet-and-greet luncheon with Veterans at The Royal Canadian Legion Branch #56 in Pleasantville, and tours of the Integrated Personnel Support Centre and Military Family Resource Centre at Canadian Forces Station St. John’s ….” A bit more from the hometown media team here.
- The latest protest aimed at keeping American deserters in Canada from facing the music in the U.S. was in Winnipeg. “Provencher MP Vic Toews’s constituency office will serve as the backdrop for a social justice rally in Steinbach this afternoon. The demonstrators, part of a nationwide action organized by the Keep Resisters in Canada Campaign, are urging Ottawa to discontinue the practice of deporting United States war resisters. The group wants the federal government to stop punishing American soldiers who come to Canada in protest of the U.S. military’s actions. Protesters say that would help restore “Canada’s tarnished international image.” ….”
- CF Ombudsman to CF: You’ve gotta do better by familes of the fallen: “…. we found that the Canadian Forces continues to refuse to give family members standing at Boards of Inquiry convened into the death or serious injury of a military loved one. I have seen first hand how much this participation can assist families and help them understand and gain closure. We also found that the Canadian Forces has not yet put in place a national policy for support to families of deceased Canadian Forces members ….” ‘Budman’s most recent letter to the Minister, with names and specific examples of problems, here and more from the media here, here and here.
- Defence Minister’s Response to CF ‘Budman: We’re working on it: “The well being of our military members and their families continues to be of the utmost importance to myself and the government. I know it is also a personal priority for the Chief of the Defence Staff. We are always striving to do better and appreciate that some families feel they have not been well-enough informed about boards of inquiry conducted by the Canadian Forces into the deaths of their loved ones. I have responded in detail to the Ombudsman’s specific concerns. My letter reiterates our commitment to improve how the Canadian Forces communicate with families about sensitive issues related to the deaths of CF members …. It is important to include family members throughout the board of inquiry process to ensure transparency on all matters. We will continue to work to make this better. To that end, I have designated an official, Colonel Gerry Blais, to contact the six families indicated by the Ombudsman and to be a single point of contact for them. Col Blais has already contacted the six families (mentioned in the Ombudsman’s statement)….”
- Speaking of how people are being treated, while the American military struggles with how to deal with gays in its ranks, Canada’s past treatment of gays in the military could come back to haunt the government: “A Halifax lawyer and veteran of successful class-action lawsuits believes the Canadian government could be held financially responsible for military discrimination against homosexuals. John McKiggan — who helped launch the successful class action for victims of Native residential schools, as well as the $13-million sexual abuse settlement for victims in a Roman Catholic diocese of Nova Scotia — says recent cases have set a precedent for compensation for breaches of charter rights. “Sexual orientation is protected by the charter,” McKiggan said. “If there are people who had their charter rights breached by being unfairly terminated from the military, the potential exists for a claim for all of those people.” Until 1992, Canadian Forces investigators would track down homosexuals as a potential security risk and have them fired. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, so there’s a 10-year window of potential legal responsibility ….”
- Another sign of Christmas approaching – NORAD prepares to keep track of Santa on his big road trip in a few weeks: “He is preparing for his biggest night of the year and NORAD is getting ready to track his journey as he leaves the North Pole, bound for millions of homes across the globe on the ever magical Christmas Eve. The count down for Santa’s big arrival has officially begun. In the days leading up to Christmas, www.noradsanta.org features daily holiday games and activities in seven languages, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese. Starting at 12:00 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, visitors to the website will follow Santa as he gears up his sleigh, checks his list and makes his final preparations. Once he leaves the North Pole, children of all ages can track him with updated Google Maps and Google Earth reports ….”
- The good news (and it is “news” because of its rarity): an article in a university paper supporting Canada’s mission in Afghanistan: “…. Departing Afghanistan outright would constitute an abdication of responsibility. The mission is sanctioned by the United Nations and Canadian personnel are there on the invite of the Afghan government. The Canadian Forces have spent the last five years trying to build trust and establish security in communities that depend on their protection. Diplomats and NGOs are actively trying to bolster democracy, and countless volunteers and CIDA employees are trying to bring infrastructure, health and education to the citizens of one of the most dangerous and impoverished countries in the world ….” The bad news: it was going so well until that last paragraph: “…. I don’t like the idea of fighting an American war any more than the rest of you, but cleaning up after them might be the best thing we could do. Our time for fighting will soon be over, but we should continue to help Afghanistan establish its institutions and security.” If it’s sanctioned by the U.N., it’s no more America’s war than it is that of any other member of the Security Council, no?
- The latest from Canada’s war poet, Suzanne Steele: “it’s not their hoar-frost beards, it’s the black hole bargain/they’ve made with their gods and their skin ….”
- A Liberal MP is calling for more oversight over Canada’s Special Forces following the investigation of some allegations (some going back to 2006 with no charges laid after looking into them) recently shared with the CBC: “Canadian military forces should be subject to the same level of oversight as law enforcement agencies, a Liberal MP said Thursday. Dominic Leblanc, the party’s defence critic, made the comment following a joint investigation by CBC and Radio-Canada that revealed details of two military probes into the behaviour of Canada’s covert elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) unit in Afghanistan …. Leblanc said oversight could come without compromising JTF2’s ability to do its job. “Nobody’s suggesting that the operational details of a unit as important as JTF2 need to be made public,” Leblanc said. “Nobody is suggesting that security needs to be breached or compromised and the lives of Canadian Forces put in danger by having an adequate oversight.” ….” More on that from the Toronto Star here. The back-and-forth continues at Army.ca, where a reporter who’s been following the story is explaining a few things (and hearing from those reminding us Canada’s military already has civilian oversight).
- Remember this on the CF working on a new military health research network from about 2 weeks ago? Here’s Postmedia News’ take: “A network of university researchers has launched a Canada-wide program meant to improve the health of military personnel, veterans and their families. Canada was one of the only NATO countries not to have a national academic pool dedicated to military health research, the director of the new program, Alice Aiken, said yesterday. “Most of the research that was being done around the country was ad hoc, and not really co-ordinated,” she said. “And sometimes the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs wouldn’t even know what research was being done.” ….” Macleans.ca is also catching up here.
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban accuses U.S. of chemical warfare in AFG (kinda again). and what the Taliban’s been trying to say about Kandahar with recent statements (with a cross-posting to the Long War Journal’s Threat Matrix blog).
- Pentagon to Canada: We need your help with Mexican drug cartels: a future mission for Canada? “The Pentagon’s point man on continental security is asking Canada to step up its efforts to fight Mexico’s drug cartels. “So much of what we do in the U.S. military must be done from a distance. I think Canada has a future in working with the two American neighbours to fight a common corrosive and growing threat to all of our societies,” Admiral James Winnefeld said during a Toronto speech on Thursday ….” Nobody appears to be talking out loud about troops at this point, and according to the article, we have Mounties in Mexico helping out. That said, when a senior military official says “we should work together on this”, one is drawn to the thought of others also in uniform from here helping out.
- New study out of Simon Fraser University’s Human Security Report Project: “(The report) examines the forces that have driven down the number of international conflicts and war deaths since the 1950s, and the number of civil wars since the early 1990s (and) the paradox of mortality rates that decline during the overwhelming majority of today’s wars, as well as the challenges and controversies involved in measuring indirect war deaths—those caused by war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition ….”
- Someone to teach high altitude, high opening parachute operations (more in Statement of Requirements available here)
- This Minnesota-based company to build live-fire “kill houses” for Brit training in Suffield
- Someone to build a new office building on Oxford Street in London
- Someone to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) online courseware for “up to 450 concurrent users for autonomous Canadian Forces Francophone members”.
- First off, a correction: I screwed up when I named the wrong guy needing a history lesson on Afghanistan in yesterday’s summary. It was former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, not Gilles Duceppe as mentioned. Thanks to Ian for the nudge – must have been before coffee.
- Wounded warriors may end up getting first dibs for Ontario government jobs? “The Ontario government says it will consider putting injured military veterans at the front of the provincial public service job queue. The move …. could give priority consideration to some of the thousands of soldiers coming home with physical and psychological injuries from the decade-long war in Afghanistan …. Ontario’s government services minister, Harinder Takhar, has tasked officials with examining the possibility of the province adopting similar measures to the federal government, said spokesman Ciaran Ganley. “The Ontario government will review the situation,” he said ….”
- “Cpl. James McKenzie got the surprise of his life and his best birthday present this week. James’ father, Warrant Officer Alistair McKenzie, flew out to a forward operating base to congratulate him on the safe conclusion of his seven-month combat tour in the Taliban heartland ….”
- Latest on the Daniel Ménard file (1): Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye! Still facing his court martial, though.
- Latest on the Daniel Ménard file (2): Why I (and some others) disagree with Rosie DiManno‘s latest column on how “a good fraternizing snog can do wonders for esprit de corps”.
- “It took a motion from the Bloc Quebecois, but MPs have finally debated the merits and perils of staying in Afghanistan until 2014 to train that country’s fledging army. The Liberals and Conservatives joined forces Thursday during the day-long debate to rebuke the Bloc motion, which calls for the House of Commons to “condemn” the government’s decision. Bloc Defence critic Claude Bachand told the House of Commons, “Canadian troops have done enough … it is time for other people to step in.” But Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told MPs Canada’s work in Afghanistan, “is not finished,” and Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the new training mission would continue Canada’s legacy in the war-torn country ….” More from Postmedia News here and here.
- Here’s the motion in play: “That this House condemn the government’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan to 2014, whereby it is breaking two promises it made to Canadians, one made on May 10, 2006, in this House and repeated in the 2007 Throne Speech, that any military deployment would be subject to a vote in Parliament, and another made on January 6, 2010, that the mission in Afghanistan would become a strictly civilian commitment after 2011, without any military presence beyond what would be needed to protect the embassy.” You can read yesterday’s debate here and here from Hansard, or download a 52 page PDF of the discussion here.
- Also, in Question Period in the House of Commons, NDP leader Jack Layton on Afghan aid and training: “The Prime Minister himself said that he does not want to give a dime to the Afghan government because it is corrupt. Well, if it is as corrupt as he says it is, why does he want the Afghan government to have an even bigger army and why is he going to use our soldiers to help it get one?” The PM on Afghan aid and training: “What I said was that we would not give a dime to the Afghan government unless we were assured that money would be used properly. In the case of the training of the Afghan army, it just astounds me that the NDP does not understand that a secure Afghanistan taking care of its own security is vital to the global security interest, not just of the world but of this country as well.”
- Blog Watch: Former CF trainer of Afghan troops, BruceR at Flit, is sharing this tidbit, a comment from a reader on how Canada says it will train Afghan troops behind the wire: “You are right on the mark on pointing out the mismatch between Canada’s desire to have all of its future training positions “behind the wire” and the actual available slots in NTM-A.” Politically speaking, given Canada’s sacrifices to date in Afghanistan (blood and treasure), I return you to a good point made by one of the regulars at the Army.ca forums: “…. My guess is that this week, in Portugal, Minister MacKay will tell NATO/ISAF what to tell us to do. If we decide that we are going to train computer engineering officers and kosher cooks then, Presto!, computer engineering and kosher cooking will, suddenly, be top of ISAF’s list of priorities for training. We have earned, and had bloody well better use, our right to a caveat or two. We will teach the Afghans whatever in hell we want to teach and NATO/ISAF will be suitably grateful for our efforts ….” Methinks he’s not alone in feeling this way these days.
- A little bit more detail on the Russian helicopter saga, courtesy of unnamed sources speaking to the CBC: “…. Military sources told CBC News that the idea of leasing Russian choppers was approved by cabinet early last year. It took some time to train Canadian crews, but the helicopters went into service quickly, used by Canadian special forces troops on secret missions. Over time, their use expanded to include regular soldiers on regular missions, sources said. The military said the Russian choppers are “very robust” and “very capable.” ….”
- Afghanistan’s Election: Results are (virtually) all in, some say it was a success, others not so much, Karzai says “losers, be cool,” and Canada endorses the results.
- “A Canadian Forces rescue helicopter braved hazardous conditions Wednesday to lift an injured sailor from a bulk carrier off Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Falling darkness, freezing temperatures and cloud cover threatened the operation to pick up the 38-year-old Filipino, who had broken both wrists and suffered internal injuries during a nine-metre fall ….” Well done!
- Want to learn a bit about Canada’s special operations forces? Symposium coming up in Kingston first week in December – agenda here. More from the Ottawa Citizen here.
- What’s Canada Buying ?: High-altitude, high opening parachute training, a new office building in London and English as a Second Language courseware (via Army.ca).
- No Canadian reaction yet, but this is scary enough to include: North Korea has shelled a South Korean island, killing and wounding people living there. More here – something to keep one’s eye on.
- Postmedia News is starting to share some details about what Canadian trainers could end up doing in the newly-announced-but-not-publicly-fleshed-out training mission in Afghanistan: “Canada’s war-hardened soldiers are going back to the basics for a three-year Afghan training mission. Up to 950 soldiers who would normally have been facing combat in Kandahar will now be dispatched to walled-off bases around Kabul to lead Afghan soldiers in basic training exercises between 2011 and 2014. Jogging, marching, push-ups and firing weapons will replace Taliban hunting in the Canadian playbook, under a plan rolled out Tuesday by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and international development ….” So, what type of troops does Canada send to train the Afghans? How do you prepare those troops being sent to train? Where previous rotations prepared by training to fight and work with Afghan forces in battle, should future trainers be taught how to set up schools and training systems before being unleashed on the Afghans? Who trains the Afghan troops? Their junior leaders? Their officers? Outstanding discussion under way on this, including commentary from them that’s been there, at Army.ca – well worth the read.
- One tool Canada appears to be unleashing to help train Afghan cops, who are notorious for their less-than-stellar reliability and integrity: a TV show. More from the Toronto Star: “Canada is underwriting a propaganda campaign to transform the image of the notorious Afghan national police in the hearts and minds of the country’s television viewers. The half-million dollar initiative casts Lt. Humayun as a dedicated, incorruptible Afghan National Police officer trolling the streets of Kabul to settle tribal disputes and put drug traffickers and warlords out of business. The popular Saturday evening television series, Separ, is sort of an Afghan version of Paul Gross’s Mountie in the popular Due South series. The two dozen planned episodes of the show are intended to educate the country on the roles and duties of the Afghan National Police (ANP), a force that is hardly better trusted than thugs and terrorists it is meant to be targetting ….”
Canada’s development agency CIDACanada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is pumping more than $400,000 into this one. (Correction based on Toronto Star correction of original version of story)
- United Press International says we will be hearing more details (eventually) about Canada’s mystery purchase of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan: “…. A Canadian Forces officer says the Department of Defense might release more information about the helicopters at a later date. The Defense Department acquired the MI-17 helicopters for combat use in Afghanistan but has refused to provide details about how much the deal cost taxpayers or how many aircraft are operating, Postmedia News reported ….” Kinda harkens back to summer 2006, when Russia tried selling some helicopters to Canada, which was then in a bit of a rush to buy helicopters for the troops.
- One senior Canadian officer says the victory he’s seeing in southern Afghanistan is not the fleeting kind: “Some people say it is only because the Taliban have gone back to Pakistan because it is the winter,” said Col. Ian Creighton, in charge of the operational mentor liaison team (OMLT) that has gone to war alongside the Afghan army as advisers. “And, you know, it is the truth. Some have. But others have died or given up” ….”
- Back here in Canada, the Bloc Quebecois is pushing for a vote in Parliament on the new Canadian mission in Afghanistan (more from Postmedia News here). And the Liberals? Well, shortly after the 16 Nov 10 announcement, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was OK with the plans for a training mission: “We could conceive of a training mission …. What are we there for, anyway? …. We’re not there to run the country. We’re not there to take it over. We’re there to enable them to defend themselves.”. His foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, even went as far as saying, “We obviously want to see what the detailed mandate for the mission is, but a non-combat mission would not normally require a parliamentary vote.” And now? This, from the Globe & Mail: “…. “We’ve never ducked a democratic debate on Afghanistan,” (Ignatieff) told reporters in Montreal on Monday after addressing college students. The Liberal Leader said he would not propose a vote himself but that, if there is one, “we have no problem with that.”….” I’ll say he’s being squeezed from all sides, including from within his own caucus – more on Ignatieff as wishbone from the Canadian Press here.
- The Ottawa Citizen points out how a Conservative cabinet minister speaking in the House of Commons this week doesn’t seem to consider Afghanistan to be at war. Reminds me of a bit of debate in the House in October 2009, where then-parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Deepak Obhrai expressed a similar sentiment (Hansard here, more here): “This is not a war. We are providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security. Let us get it very clear so the NDP can understand what a secure environment is and what a war is. A war is between two nations; a war is between two parties. There are not two parties there. This is a different kind of war. We are facing a terrorist organization that does not respect any rules of engagement.”
- One American soldier’s memories of his colleagues seeing Canadian tanks in Afghanistan, via a New York Times blog: “One of the most memorable moments during our 12 month tour was arriving on FOB Wilson in Zhari, Kandahar, for the weekly district security shura and watching the tanker half of my platoon swoon over the troop of Canadian Leopard 2A6Ms parked in the motor-pool. Memories of past I.E.D.s and firefights flowed through our heads. And of course, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What if…” ….” They won’t have to wonder for much longer.
- Blog Watch: Gotta love the “Compare and Contrast” dare Terry Glavin puts out, asking folks to compare the Taliban’s latest statements and those from people and groups opposed to Canada’s continued presence in Afghanistan.
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 30 claimed killed, wounded in alleged attacks across Kandahar.
- In case you haven’t heard, there’s a significant outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Canada should go check things out and see how we can help: “…. “We just think the Canadian government cannot stand by while cholera ravages Haiti,” the Liberal leader told reporters in Montreal on Monday. “This is a country that has been in the inner circle of the damned for the past year.” …. Ignatieff says Ottawa should send “a strategic evaluation mission right away” to take a closer look at the situation in the Caribbean country. “Once we’ve done an evaluation around what’s needed, it may be necessary to send the DART team or maybe even some element of a military mission to basically help these cholera hospitals get this thing under control,” he said ….”
- Finally, this, buried in an American tender award announcement: “The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $7,625,501 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract (N00019-09-D-0010) to exercise an option for in-service support for F/A-18 aircraft of the governments of Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Malaysia and Spain. Services to be provided include program management, logistics, engineering support, and incidental materials and technical data. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the governments of Switzerland ($2,461,884; 32 percent); Finland ($1,702,014; 22 percent); Canada ($872,514; 12 percent); Kuwait ($874,264; 12 percent); Malaysia ($864,264; 11 percent); Australia ($464,714; 6 percent); and Spain ($385,847; 5 percent), under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.”
- Short and sweet on the plane that crashed near Cold Lake, from the CF news release: “At approximately 11:45 p.m. MST on November 17, a CF-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed in a field approximately 13 kilometers northwest of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta. The pilot, Captain Darren Blakie of 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron, successfully ejected from the aircraft and was taken to hospital upon being recovered. He is in good condition and is being released from hospital. The exact cause of the crash is unknown at this time. The Directorate of Flight Safety has begun an investigation into the crash.” A bit more from the Canadian Press here, CBC.ca here, as well as a “how many of these things have crashed lately?” round-up here.
- Guess what NATO leaders are going to be talking about in Lisbon this weekend? Got it in one. Now that the PM has said out loud that we’re keeping troops in Afghanistan until 2014, one of the regulars at the Army.ca forums raises a good point for NATO to remember when Canada offers its help (again): “…. My guess is that this week, in Portugal, Minister MacKay will tell NATO/ISAF what to tell us to do. If we decide that we are going to train computer engineering officers and kosher cooks then, Presto!, computer engineering and kosher cooking will, suddenly, be top of ISAF’s list of priorities for training. We have earned, and had bloody well better use, our right to a caveat or two. We will teach the Afghans whatever in hell we want to teach and NATO/ISAF will be suitably grateful for our efforts ….”
- Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae sums it up best when it comes to the debate (or lack thereof) on Canada’s Afghanistan mission: “…. We went into Afghanistan with our NATO partners, with the full approval of the United Nations. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, ravaged by 30 years of civil war. Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have found a haven in the south of the country and the north of Pakistan. Of course all issues are about politics. But some issues can transcend partisanship. In every other country in the NATO alliance there is multipartisan support for efforts in Afghanistan, a willingness to discuss options, in a climate of public candour. Why should Canada be any different ? Our political culture is now all about trench warfare. Everything is supposed to seen through a partisan lens, and everything played to short term advantage. Anyone who asks “what’s best for Afghanistan ?”, or “what’s best for Canada, our role as a reliable member of NATO and the UN ?” is portrayed as some kind of poor sap who doesn’t “get” politics. It’s called doing what you think is right, talking to the public about it, and worrying less about who gets credit. There’s something almost pathological about the state of our politics, to say nothing of political commentary, if we can’t have that kind of conversation ….” Check out his detailed and nuanced discussion of the issue during debate in the House of Commons more than a year ago here.
- Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, said something interesting in the House of Commons yesterday during Question Period: “If we were sending troops into a war situation again, we would put the matter before Parliament. However, the assignment post-2011 for Canadian Forces troops will be to train behind the wire.” Really? We’ll see, then, 1) next time and 2) if a Conservative government is still in power. More on the “why?” of such a vote here and here, and the “why not?” here and here.
- Blog Watch: QMI/Sun Media’s Ottawa bureau boss David Akin reminds us that the latest decision on the mission in Afghanistan fits into the guidelines of the March 2008 motion of the House of Commons. In the comments section, Mark Collins of Unambiguously Ambidextrous fame reminds us who’s been saying something different. Hmmm, where else have I read this? Meanwhile, former OMLT-eer Bruce Ralston points out where ELSE in Afghanistan Canadian trainers could be deployed (as well as what’s needed vs. what Canada is offering).
- Remember the Leopard tanks we borrowed from the Germans for Afghanistan while we bought some from the Dutch? They’re on their way home now: “…. the Canadian army is taking the opportunity to return some of the tanks it hastily borrowed from Germany more than three years ago as the war was exploding in the withered farmland west of Kandahar city. The heavily armoured Leopard 2 A6Ms were rushed into Kandahar in the summer of 2007 to help defend troops against bigger and more powerful roadside bombs. Fewer than half a dozen of the 20 borrowed machines are being replaced with upgraded Leopard 2 A4M tanks, which the Defence Department purchased from the Dutch and modified for use in Afghanistan’s arid desert, said Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, the head of the army. All of the borrowed vehicles will be returned after the combat mission ends next spring, and will have to be refurbished before they are returned, Devlin said in a recent interview. “The ones going now are part of the normal replacement, based on hours and mileage.” ….”
- The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman Annual Report 2009-2010 is now available here.
- The Kingston-Whig Standard tells us more work may be forthcoming to look into the health of serving and former CF members: “A national centre to study the health of veterans and serving military members is on its way to being established and Senator Pamela Wallin said Thursday morning that an institute to co-ordinate research is all but certain to be placed in Kingston. “This is going to happen,” said Wallin, who was interviewed in the wake of a two-day international conference in Kingston this week that brought together scientists, military brass and veterans advocates. “We have the right people in the right places and I am behind this, 1,000%.” The conference was organized by Queen’s University and Royal Military College to bring together researchers from different universities and countries to share their data and experiences in the field, which range from combat injuries to long-term problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of chemical exposure ….” More on that conference from the CF here.
- Speaking of research – Available: Software developed by Canadian military researchers that can scan loads o’ documents, pick out target words, and analyze patterns with those words. Wanted: some help to make some money selling that software.
- Who’s causing civilian casualties in Afghanistan? If all you read this story by Postmedia News, the aid groups spoken to talk only about NATO forces. The news release, announcing a new report calling for more protection of civilians during the fight, isn’t much better, although it does admit, “Anti-government groups cause most Afghan civilian casualties.” The report (22 page PDF here) spends most time talking about what NATO/ISAF should do, but a closer reading shows it doesn’t let the bad guys completely off the hook: “…. (Armed Opposition Groups, or) AOG continue to be responsible for the great majority of casualties, and are increasingly utilizing tactics that violate the principles of distinction and proportionality. While a recently issued Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) Code of Conduct states that “the utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties” and “the Taliban must treat civilians according to Islamic norms and morality,” this appears to have had little impact on the ground …. Another major tactic of concern is assassinations and executions of civilians by AOG, which account for 14% of all civilian deaths. Assassinations reached a record average high of 18 per week in May and June 2010, representing a “systematic and sustained campaign of targeting tribal elders, community leaders and others working for, or perceived to be supportive of the Government and IMF,” according to the UN ….” Pretty consistent reporting from the UN and other sources (check here, here and here) indicate more than 2 out of 3 civilian casualties are caused by the bad guys. Should we be less careful? No way. Should the bad guys be maybe nagged a bit? Oh yeah.
- Here’s one way to keep a multiple murder-rapist’s paraphenalia off ebay: “The Canadian Forces have searched convicted serial killer Russell Williams’ Tweed cottage to retrieve his military kit — and burnt his military clothing. Four military officials, including two police officers, entered the Tweed cottage on Tuesday with the former air force colonel’s permission. They emerged after 90 minutes with enough military equipment, including books and manuals, to almost fill a van. “All his military clothes — boots, headdress, shirts and everything — as soon it was taken it was also disposed of, it was actually burned the same day,” Cmdr. Hubert Genest, a Canadian Forces spokesperson, said in an interview. He added that while the retrieving of military equipment is standard procedure for anyone who leaves the army, the burning of uniforms is not. Normally, the military tries to recycle and reuse clothing. “In this case,” Genest said, “all of his clothing had his name on it, and we felt it was actually more appropriate to actually dispose of it by burning the equipment.” Asked why it was burned, he said: “I could speculate about what could happen to the clothing, but by disposing of it like this, we’re sure it’s not going to be used again.” ….”
- Do not forget to remember.
- One mom remembers – this from QMI/Sun Media: “It’ll be with feelings of both pride and senseless loss that Calgarians Diane and Gaetan Dallaire will lay a wreath at a city Remembrance Day service on Thursday. The couple’s world became a darker place Aug. 3, 2006 when their 22-year-old son, Pte. Kevin Dallaire was killed in Afghanistan along with Sgt. Vaughn Ingram and Cpl. Bryce Keller by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). His mother, Diane, said she’s ready to emerge from the crowd at the ceremony at The Military Museums to pay tribute to her son. “We’ve stayed quiet but this year I want to lay a wreath for my son,” said Dallaire. “I get good days and bad days…this time of year, it’s worse.” ….”
- Good question from the Toronto Star: “What happens to a soldier who can’t be a soldier?”
- Remembrance Day: time to remember the fallen, or time to “save, save, save!”? Interesting Army.ca discussion on the evolution of an Eddie Bauer “Remembrance Day” sales promotion (based on the success of Veterans’ Day sales in the U.S.). This, from the company’s CEO on FaceBook on realizing the difference in how these days are observed: “We appreciate the feedback we’ve been getting from our Canadian customers about Remembrance Day. We are sensitive to this matter and have adjusted our marketing and communication accordingly. We regret any offense that may have been taken to our sale. By way of background, every year in the U.S. we join other American retailers in holding a Veterans Day Sale. This year we wanted to extend similar sale offers to our Canadian customers. However, please be assured we will no longer market this promotion as a Remembrance Day sale.”
- The “Training Mission Post-2011 Door” is open just a crack. Prime Minister Harper told CTV News from Korea: “….Speaking from Seoul, South Korea, ahead of the G20 meeting, Harper told CTV News that he’s “looking at the 2011 to 2014 period” for the new mission. If the government chooses to act on the proposal, Canadian forces would take up a training role in the war-torn country once its combat troops return home. “As you know we’ve been in Afghanistan for a very long time,” Harper said in a phone interview Wednesday evening. “We do want to make sure that as we leave, what we leave behind is a situation that will ensure that the sacrifices that Canadians have made… are appropriately honoured,” he said. “I think that will require some additional training,” he added. “It cannot involve any more combat.” ….’
- We have an answer, now, to a good question from the Globe & Mail’s Bill Curry: “Will PM break his Afghan silence on Remembrance Day?” He did indeed, but only with a “we’re thinking about it.” Next phase, now that the flag’s been run up the flagpole: let’s see what the opposition and the public have to say.
- Who’s fault is it Canada is (allegedly) keeping troops in Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces? According to the Canadian Peace Alliance’s co-chair, NOT the Prime Minister: “…. According to (Canadian Peace Alliance cochair Derrick) O’Keefe, under Michael Ignatieff’s leadership, the federal Liberals have made it easy for the Harper government to make this decision. “If you had to blame one person or party for this move right now,” he said, “you can actually fault Ignatieff and the Liberals more so because they have been publicly advocating for this war for some time.” O’Keefe argues that both the Conservative and Liberal parties are ideologically in favour of the war in Afghanistan, as well as being receptive to pressure from NATO and the U.S. government to extend the mission. Canadians should question the timing of the announcement, he said, charging that the Harper government is using Remembrance Day to “drum up patriotism for this war”. ” Calm down, buddy – let’s at least wait for a final decision being said out loud by someone on the record before rounding up the usual suspects.
- When it comes to covering Afghanistan, National Post blogger Adrian MacNair says it’s all in what the reporter chooses to pick and share: “When it comes to the 232-page document released by the Asia Foundation about their Afghan survey, the same problem poses itself. What some of the press decided was critical in the survey is that 43 per cent of Afghans strongly support Karzai’s negotiations with the Taliban. And that’s all they decided to report. It’s almost as if the reporter had already decided the negotiations were the key point, and leafed through in search of some figures regardless of all other information released by the Asia Foundation. Well, that’s one way to write the story. Here’s mine: “Nearly half of all Afghans are confident their country is moving in the right direction — up seven per cent from last year — according to a nation-wide survey released on Tuesday.” ….” He’s also underwhelmed with a recent Toronto Star column on the idea of Canada staying to train Afghan security forces.
- If there’s no death to be written about, how about writing how there hasn’t been any deaths for x days? This, from the Ottawa Citizen.
- It’s one thing for consumers of services for veterans being worried about the privacy of their records. Now, a Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) editorial (PDF) calls on Veterans Affairs to get a grip on protecting health records: “…. Health professionals, both civilian and military, would do well to advocate for service men and women. Our military personnel protect our rights; it’s time we worked to protect theirs.” More on there in the CMAJ’s news release here.
- What’re the troops going to be eating out of their plasticized foil pouches down the road? Check out the menus here.
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims responsibility for a swack of attacks through Kandahar City.
- Remember yesterday’s Taliban claim that 6 Canadians had been shot dead by an Afghan elder? There’s no other media confirmation of the story. Also, a point caught by someone more observant than me at Army.ca – regarding this bit in the Taliban statement: “…. It is worth mentioning that 5 years back a 15 year old Abdul Kareem also killed a Canadian invader by striking him with an axe in this districts Kundalan area.” If they’re talking about Trevor Greene, the Canadian reservist who sustained serious brain injuries in 2006 when a youth attacked him with an axe, Taliban Info-Machine’s gotten it wrong: Greene is alive, and got married this past summer.
- Veterans hit the streets in various spots across Canada to highlight their (continued) fight to get what they consider a fair shake from Veterans Affairs Canada. This, from the Canadian Press: “Canadian veterans across the country took their battle over benefit changes to Parliament Hill and in some cases to the constituency offices of their local MPs on Saturday. The turnouts varied. A reported 150 people held a quiet, peaceful protest in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa ….” More from QMI, CBC.ca, Postmedia News and United Press International.
- The latest to call for Canada to stick around in Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces, according to Fox News: “Two leading U.S. senators on defense issues urged Canada on Saturday to remain in Afghanistan past 2011 and switch from a combat to a training role. Sens. John McCain said Lindsey Graham, who both sit on the Armed Services Committee, said on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday they are asking NATO allies like Canada to train Afghan soldiers and police. McCain said he doesn’t think Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made up his mind. McCain said Canada’s response to the U.S. request has been measured. He said the Canadian government thinks they need to gage the public’s sentiment ….” Really, Senator McCain? Unless the PM is saying something different to the Americans, it seems pretty clear to we Canadians.
Wanted: 22,000 pairs of “flyers’ gloves”:
…. REQUIREMENT: The Department of National Defence has a requirement for flyers’ gloves (leather palm/polymide jersey back) to be manufactured in accordance with the Department of National Defence specifications Annex B, DSSPM 2-3-87-0972 dated March 23, 2009, Annex C DSSPM 2-3-80-155, dated December 08, 2009 and Annex D dated March 23, 2009 and sealed pattern DCGEM 359-90.
FIRM QUANTITY: 14,700 pairs to be delivered to Montreal, Quebec and 7,300 pairs to be delivered to Edmonton, Alberta.
OPTION QUANTITY: For a minimum of 11,000 pairs up to a maximum of 22,000 pairs distributed amongst the destinations as required by DND, and exercisable within a period of twenty four (24) months from contract award date.
DELIVERY REQUESTED: To be completed by June 30, 2011 or sooner….
…. Defence R&D Canada – Atlantic (DRDC Atlantic) requires a contractor to complete an assessment of the environmental impacts of commonly used acoustic sources levels.
Bid evaluation will be based on Technical and Management point rated evaluation criteria. The responsive bid with the highest total overall points, within the funding limitation of $ 50,000.00, applicable taxes extra, will be recommended for award of a contract.
Work to start: upon award of Contract
Completion date: to be completed on or before 15 March, 2011 ….
…. Defence Research and Development Canada, Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DRDC DGMPRA) has a mandate to provide expert, timely and objective scientific advice in support of evidence-based Human Resource and Personnel policy development for the Canadian Forces (CF) and Department of National Defence (DND). DGMPRA research and analysis projects are mainly concerned with the core issues of personnel generation, personnel and family support, and organizational and operational dynamics ….
A bit more in the excerpts from the bid documents here (via Army.ca).