MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Mar 11

  • A quick Afghan media snippet on the Canadian reportedly held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Taliban militants on Monday said they had offered to free a Canadian citizen held hostage for two months in return for the release of several of their captured comrades…”
  • Canada says it would consider direct diplomatic contact with anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya, but unlike its ally Britain, it hasn’t moved in that direction yet. “This is a continuous moving target so, this is the first I hear of this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “There’s always a great deal of validity in being able to speak to these people.” Opposition MPs urged the Harper government to talk directly to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi. Liberal MP Bob Rae presented the option as one of the more “active and inventive” ways Canada could help speed Gadhafi’s overthrow. The National Libyan Council has now positioned itself as the political branch of the anti-Gadhafi forces ….” Let’s see if any OTHER “councils” or “committees” pop out of the woodwork before deciding who to talk to, shall we?  More from CBC.ca here and QMI/Sun Media here.
  • Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae says Canada (and others) have to do more about Libya. “There are many other plans of action the government should be taking against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi right now according to Liberal critic Bob Rae. Rae said he would like to see Canada prepare itself to take part in a no fly zone and place further sanctions on individuals and countries that help the regime by doing things such as buying Libyan oil. “It is no longer a matter of it’s important to try to do this. I think it’s absolutely necessary for Canada to do this. We simply have to engage on the governance issues. We have to engage on the human rights issues and we have to engage successfully in making sure Colonel Gaddafi is history,” said Rae.  ….”
  • Meanwhile, what’s NATO considering? “NATO has decided to boost surveillance flights over Libya as the alliance debates the utility of imposing a “no-fly zone” over the country. U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said allies agreed on Monday to increase AWACS flights from 10 to 24 hours a day, an expansion that is part of contingency planning for possible military intervention in Libya beyond humanitarian efforts. The decision came as the alliance’s governing board met to discuss what unique capabilities NATO could bring to Libya. Daalder said other ideas being considered are redeploying NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, along with nearby air assets, to deal with humanitarian aid as well as establishing a command and control structure to co-ordinate relief efforts ….”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • Canada’s Defence Minister, answering questions in the House of Commons, says “Kabul-centric” means “in/around Kabul” when it comes to Canada’s future training mission in Afghanistan. “What we have said is that the combat mission will come to an end this year, that we will transition into a training mission, which will be Kabul-centric, meaning in the Kabul region; and that there will be work done to continue the important efforts by the Canadian Forces to impart the skill set needed by the Afghan security forces to do what we do.” A bit more detail from another question: “The combat mission will come to an end. The Canadian Forces will then transition into a training mission in a Kabul-centric, behind the wire configuration. That is the position of the Government of Canada. “
  • A major Canadian road project in southern Afghanistan has been hampered by an element the military has no control over, one rarely associated with the arid region of Kandahar: rain. Heavy downpours over the past couple of weeks have slowed construction of a 22-kilometre road in the Panjwaii district, a volatile area where the Canadian battle group is conducting one last push to win over locals before combat operations end in July. “I would say that up until the last few weeks, it was going pretty well,” said Capt. Jean-Francois Huot of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment. “The first rain didn’t affect much, but then with the accumulation and the speed at which it evaporates we’ve seen, well, look how slow it is.” The deluge has clogged irrigation canals and left sandy plains a muddy mess. Last week, a crew from the Kandahar Air Wing had to be dispatched to rescue two Afghan men whose truck became stranded because of flash flooding. The Royal 22e Regiment had hoped to have the road finished by mid-April. Military officials say once completed, the road will link rural villages together, boost commerce and trade and improve the freedom of movement for Afghans ….”
  • Remember this paper on using biometrics to measure bad guy intent? The DRDC publications page is working much better today, so here’s a link to the report, “Biometrics of Intent:  From Psychophysiology to Behaviour.” (405 KB, 27 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? “The Department of National Defence Canada has a requirement for the provision of Large Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device Disrupter Systems for Canadian Forces’ training and operations ….” (via Milnet.ca)
  • F-35 Tug o’ War “As part of the Harper government’s efforts to promote the F-35 stealth fighter, a top Conservative MP is criticizing a respected retired public servant who has advised government on defence purchases. Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn, who’s the parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, has been sending out e-mails promoting the F-35 purchase and attacking critics of the deal, including former Defence Department assistant deputy minister Alan Williams. The e-mail, which has circulated among retired and serving Canadian Forces members as well as journalists, also attacks a retired Australian air force officer who has raised questions about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and an Australian aviation analyst who has done the same ….” Here’s some of what Williams had to say about the deal he signed in February 2002 (more in a recent letter to the editor here).
  • Sikorsky on the CH-148 Cyclone choppers: They’re coming, honest, really soon! “Sikorsky is ‘weeks rather than months’ away from finally delivering the first interim aircraft for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter programme for the Canadian Forces (CF), according to CEO Jeff Pino. A long-running dispute regarding the purchase of the maritime helicopters was seemingly settled when 28 Cyclones were ordered under a $1.8 billion contract to replace the primary Canadian shipboard helicopter, the CH-124 Sea King. Following delays due to issues surrounding the mission system integration aboard the aircraft, in June 2010 Sikorsky announced that as a provisional measure the CF would receive six interim CH-148 Cyclones in November. However, delivery of these aircraft was also delayed due to undisclosed issues Sikorsky claimed was beyond its control. Speaking to reporters at a ‘state of Sikorsky’ presentation at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Pino said delivery of interim aircraft was now ‘imminent’ and highlighted progress on the programme that included 750 flight hours completed, ongoing sea trials in Canada and the finalising of the aircraft’s certification ….”
  • The rehab of Omar Khadr continues apace in Guantanamo. “Providing Omar Khadr with a formal education should help allay fears expressed by many Canadians that he will return to Canada an angry and perhaps dangerous young man with a grudge against society, says his Canadian lawyer. To prepare the 24-year-old for his return to Canada, Khadr’s defence team enlisted a Canadian university professor to design a home schooling program, says lawyer Dennis Edney. Pentagon lawyers travel to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, every other week to do the teaching. “We provide them with the material and then they go to Guantanamo and sit with Omar and they take him through the subject matter,” Edney explains. The curriculum includes math, history, astronomy and is heavy on English grammar. If Khadr passes a high school equivalency exam, he intends to apply for admission to a college or university as a mature student …..”
  • It was a thundering display of Canada’s Northern resolve with jet fighters, a frigate and even a submarine, but a recently released poll suggests such exercises in military prowess play to the public’s mistaken belief the Arctic is under threat. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay posed for a photo-op on the deck of HMCS Toronto 18 months ago in Frobisher Bay, internal polling told them a majority of Canadians believed the North was in peril — a view not shared by defence officials. “Three in five Canadians (60 per cent) living north of 60 degrees, and one-half of Canadians (52 per cent) in the south, believe there is a threat to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty or to the security of its northern border,” says a 2009 Environics survey. The poll was commissioned by the Defence Department and released under the Access to Information Act after long delays. But a Defence Department briefing note that same year assured the minister there was no real threat. “There is no longer a conventional military threat in the Arctic,” says the Aug. 11, 2009, briefing note, also obtained by The Canadian Press under the access law. “The resumption of Russian military exercises in the region is more symbolic of Moscow wanting to be taken seriously as a world power than a return to the armed standoff of the Cold War.” ….”
  • A Utah artist who paints oil portraits of fallen soldiers to pay respect to their lives and sacrifice says her gift is open to families from Victoria, B.C. to Jamestown, New York. “Their lives (Canadians) and their willingness is every bit as precious as an American soldier as they are fighting for the same thing — trying to suppress tyranny and oppression,” said Kaziah Hancock, 62, in a phone interview from, Manti Utah ….” More on the painting program here.
  • G20 protest participant admits to throwing a burning paper into a police car, then says he’s a scapegoat when he pleads guilty to destroying the car?  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight….

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Mar 11

  • So now, some media are reading “Kabul-centric” when it comes to talking about Canada’s upcoming training mission in Afghanistan to mean “base in Kabul, but not necessarily ALL in Kabul.” “The federal cabinet is being asked to decide quickly on the specifics of the Canadian military training mission in Afghanistan as other countries jockey for prime classroom instruction posts, say NATO and Canadian defence sources.  National Defence will present its recommendations to the Conservative government in the very near future and will ask to deploy “a small number” of troops at regional training centres in addition to stationing soldiers at classrooms in the Afghan capital.  “We’ll need to start laying down our markers by April in order to get the slots we want,” said one defence source.  The locations under consideration include the western city of Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan …. a certain obfuscation crept into the message in January. Officials and ministers started telegraphing that deployment would be “Kabul-centric” — meaning it’ll be based in the capital but not exclusively in Kabul.  In fact, each of the regional training centres under consideration is ranked safer than Kabul, according to the military’s threat assessment. The Afghan capital has been rocked by a string of attacks this winter, including a suicide bombing last month that killed two people at the entrance to a hotel ….”
  • Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were hospitalized for traumatic brain injury between 2006 and 2009 at almost three times the rate of Americans fighting there in earlier years before the war escalated, according to a National Defence study obtained by The Globe and Mail. The military attributed the “significantly higher” hospitalization rate to “the risky nature of our Kandahar operation” in a report acquired under Access to Information …. The total number of Canadian soldiers diagnosed with TBI was only 83; seventeen of those were classified with a “more serious forms of brain injury.” Still, the study found the hospitalization numbers taken from the trauma registry database at Kandahar were “significantly higher than the expected rate,” amounting to a hospitalization rate of 71 per 10,000 deployed person-years of all Canadians serving in Afghanistan for the three years ending in 2009. That compares with a rate of only 25 per 10,000 for U.S. troops in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2007 – before the increased fighting in recent years and last year’s surge of American troops in heavy combat regions ….” Again, MSM writes a story on a report, without sharing the report.
  • Some of the latest (a few weeks after the fact) from the CF’s media machine on what’s up in Afghanistan: “Operation HAMAGHE SHAY (“Same Team”) took place in Panjwa’i District from 16 February to 18 February 2011. Led and largely planned by the officers of Kandak 6, 1st Brigade 205 (Hero) Corps Afghan National Army (Kandak 6/1/205 ANA), its primary objective was to clear the village of Nakhonay and the surrounding countryside of insurgents and their stockpiles of weapons, bomb-making materials and illegal drugs ….”
  • Nearly 100 Canadians are still trapped in strife-torn Libya as fighting intensifies and rebel forces battle their way towards the capital city of Tripoli. Foreign Affairs confirmed Sunday they were in contact with about 90 Canadians and looking for ways to get them home safely. On Saturday, Canada managed to pluck nine Canadians, along with U.S., U.K. And Ukrainian citizens, from Libya using a C130 Hercules military aircraft to take them to nearby Malta. Some 330 Canadians have been evacuated from the North African nation so far ….”
  • Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff:  Setting up a no-fly zone over Libya = “major military offensive” “….”I don’t think you can understate the severity of a no fly zone scenario,” (Gen. Walter) Natynczyk told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, describing the process involved as a major military operation.  “Before you can fly and ensure the security of a region you have to dismantle the air defences on the ground. That includes the runways and the aircraft on the ground, and the command and control facilities on the ground. That is a major military operation; it is an offensive operation.” ….”
  • Academic:  Setting up a no-fly zone over Libya = “a significant escalation in the West’s involvement in a conflict” “Canada and its allies have an obligation to step in and take military action in conflict-stricken Libya, including the enforcement of a no-fly zone, if rumours of mass killings of civilians prove to be true, a Canadian international affairs expert says.  Roland Paris, an expert in international security at the University of Ottawa, acknowledged that establishing a no-fly zone in Libya — a hot-button issue on political talk shows both in the U.S. and Canada on Sunday — would be a tricky sell in the Arab world, but adds that information trickling out might make a significant military intervention necessary …. Paris said a no fly-zone, which would include disabling runways and destroying Libyan anti-aircraft installations, would be a significant escalation in the West’s involvement …. But if reports of human rights abuses and fighter jets being used to quell the rebellion — all currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court — prove to be true, intervention needs to be strongly considered, Paris said ….”
  • Hello, hello, hello, what’s this about Russian news agency Pravda spotting a Canadian accent being spoken by Libyan anti-government forces as proof that NATO’s goin’ in with imperialist guns blazing? “After NATO’s acts of terrorism in recent years, after the blatant disregard for human rights and human life when depleted uranium rendered swathes of Yugoslavia uninhabitable and destroyed the futures of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, would it surprise anyone to learn that Libya is a NATO campaign?  What NATO is capable of, we have already seen in Yugoslavia, what the West is capable of, we saw in Georgia. We have seen the blatant barefaced lies, we have seen indiscriminate acts of murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity, all glossed over by the controlled media. So would it surprise anyone that NATO is indeed operating in Libya? ….  Interesting it was that the eastern and western borders were secured (Tunisia and Egypt) over which equipment and men poured, interesting it is that already two teams of NATO special forces have been captured inside Libya (Dutch Navy Force and British SAS), interesting was SKY News’ interview with a “front-line rebel” speaking in a broad Canadian accent ….”
  • About those NATO special forces captured inside Libya…. A British diplomatic team, including six soldiers believed to be SAS, have been freed two days after being detained in eastern Libya. The men are understood to have left Benghazi bound for Malta on board the Royal Navy frigate HMS Cumberland. It is thought the special forces soldiers were with a diplomat who was making contact with opposition leaders ….”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The next “You Should Be Outta There” hot spot, according to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry:  Yemen. “Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to Yemen. The level of risk to foreigners is very high. Canadians in Yemen should review their circumstances to determine if their continued presence is warranted and seriously consider departing Yemen by commercial means while these are still available ….” More from MSM on the advisory here and here, and the latest news from Yemen here (Google News), here (EMM News Explorer) and here (NewsNow).
  • The Conservative government is slamming the door shut on a British proposal that the two countries work together in building new warships.  “Canada will not be pursuing collaboration with the United Kingdom on our new surface combatant fleet,” Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said Sunday.  Paxton was reacting to comments made by London’s top diplomat in Ottawa, who told The Canadian Press that Canada and Britain could make better use of scarce public dollars by collaborating on new warships.  British High Commissioner Andrew Pocock said that with the economic crisis exerting pressure on defence spending everywhere, it makes sense for Ottawa and London to be discussing ways to co-operate on replacing aging frigates in their respective navies.  “We live in a much more financially constrained world. Every government faces a challenge in making its defence and other spending go as far as possible,” Pocock said in an interview ….”
  • Who’s allowed to bid on the Standard Military Pattern (SMP) Vehicle part of the CF’s Medium Support Vehicle System Project (MSVS)?  Check here.
  • Canadian defence researchers are investigating how brain signals might distinguish hostile intent from everyday emotions such as anger and fear. Though there is still much to learn, the goal is to push biometric science beyond identification techniques to a new frontier where covert security technology would secretly scan peoples’ minds to determine whether they harbour malicious intent. “This ability can be used by members of the military and the security forces to isolate adversaries prior to commission of actions,” according to a research paper posted on the federal government’s Defence Research and Development Canada website ….” Since I can’t find a link through which Postmedia News is sharing the paper, you can Google the title of the paper, “Biometrics of Intent: From Psychophysiology to Behaviour”.  As of this posting, though, the Defence Research and Development Canada publications page doesn’t seem to be working.  Until it gets working, here’s a summary of the paper:  “In the current defence and security environment, covert detection of adversarial intent is becoming increasingly important. However, valid and reliable detection of adversarial intent is contingent on the ability to discriminate this intentional mental state from related stress-induced negative emotional states. A preliminary theoretical framework is proposed that extends current knowledge about the psychophysiology of emotion toward achieving this aim. This framework takes as its starting point two assumptions: First, biomarkers in the autonomic and central nervous systems can be combined to predict specific emotional states. Second, the establishment of a normative psychophysiological and behavioural databank for specific emotional states can be used to measure the extent to which individuals deviate from established norms. Building on our understanding of the psychophysiological underpinnings of emotional states, this framework can be applied to isolate the physiology of intentional states.”
  • On a related note, the CF’s also done research on reading hostile intent by reading faces.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Mar 11

  • CF to Libya (1)  HMCS Charlottetown on its way (Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons, CF statement (1), CF statement (2), CTV.ca, Postmedia News, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Press, CBC.ca (1), CBC.ca (2), Agence France-Presse)
  • CF to Libya (2)  JTF 2 headed downrange? (Twitter from Le Devoir-iste Alec Castonguay, Agence France-Presse)
  • CF to Libya (3)  CF military plane turned back from Tripoli because there was nowhere to land, park (CP via Globe & Mail, Times of Malta)
  • Canada Grabs Libya by the Assets  Canada freezing Libyan assets (~$2 billion)“The Canadian government has frozen more than $2 billion in Libyan assets so far, and continues to target holdings of embattled ruler Moammar Gadhafi and his family, CBC News has learned.  The move to freeze the assets came after Canada learned the Libyan regime was planning to withdraw the funds from as-yet-unidentified Canadian banks ….” More from FINTRAC, Canada’s agency for tracking suspicious money movements, here, and from Reuters.
  • The Commentariat on Libya (1)  Bad news for Libya could be good news for Canada? “…. Canada is likely to be one of the few western beneficiaries of the uncertainty that is sweeping the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.  The reason is, of course, oil. For decades to come the tarsands are going to be Canada’s trump card every time there is volatility in international energy markets …. The events of the past two months, and dramas still unfolding in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and oil-rich countries such as Libya, Oman and a few of the Gulf sheikdoms, make it more and more obvious that there is going to be a keen demand for Canada’s so-called “dirty oil” for years to come.  Viewed through this prism, if the U.S. does not want the kind of oil that Canada has to offer, China and India, with huge economic ambitions to fuel, almost certainly will ….”
  • The Commentariat on Libya (2)  Help out, by all means, but be careful about too much military “help”. “…. For Western powers to involve themselves more deeply in Libya would be   counterproductive. It would suggest to pro-democracy elements in the Middle East that, if their opposition becomes violent, they will get help from the West. It would put non-Libyan lives at risk in a situation that is extremely difficult to assess from outside – without any clear benefit to Libyans themselves. Indeed, military intervention might eventually provoke an anti-Western reaction that could end up discrediting the democrats that the West rightly wishes to encourage and help.  By seizing assets abroad and imposing diplomatic sanctions, the West should indeed tighten the vise on Col. Gadhafi. But it should not use its military forces to depose him, in what is ultimately a matter that must be decided by Libyans.”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • More on Canada’s upcoming mission in Afghanistan (highlights mine): “The government’s plan to keep 1,000 Canadian troops near Kabul after their mission in Kandahar ends this year is looking increasingly unlikely after comments from the military’s second-in-command last week. “There will be no Canadian Forces units located in Kandahar province after 2011,” Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the vice-chief of the defence staff, told the Conference of Defence Associations in Ottawa on Feb. 25. “Rather, our training mission will be Kabul-centric, meaning that the main effort will be centered in and about the city of Kabul. “That said, a small number of CF personnel may be assigned to other areas of Afghanistan where the risks to our personnel is assessed to be no greater than that found in Kabul.” ….” Hmm, wonder where that might be?  And how safe, really, is Kabul these days?
  • One Canadian Corrections staffer’s story from working in Kandahar.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have RPG’ed a transport plane in Helmand.
  • Ooopsie“A Tutor jet, the plane assigned to the military’s aerobatic flying team known as the Snowbirds, was damaged during a landing at 15 Wing Moose Jaw Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m. CT. Its two crew walked away from the plane and were to be evaluated by medical staff ….”
  • Accused terrorist Hassan Diab failed Tuesday in a last and crucial attempt to get handwriting evidence being used against him disallowed. The handwriting analysis by French forensic expert Anne Bisotti has been called the “smoking gun” by prosecutors, meaning that it is key to the French case. Paris authorities say Diab was a key player in a terrorist bombing outside a synagogue in October 1980 and that handwriting comparisons prove his involvement. A former University of Ottawa professor, Diab says he is innocent and the victim of mistaken identity ….”

Canada’s Post-2011 Mission in AFG: A Senator Speaks

After Liberal Bob Rae says, out loud, it might be worth keeping more than just a CF military attache in Afghanistan post-2011, we hear from one of his senatorial colleagues, Hugh Segal – this via Hansard, following the visit of the Special Committee to Afghanistan:

Members of Parliament Kevin Sorenson, Byron Wilfert, Jim Abbott, Claude Bachand, Bob Dechert, Jack Harris, Laurie Hawn, Deepak Obhrai, Bob Rae and Pascal-Pierre Paillé, who made the trip, deserve our appreciation and gratitude, as do those who facilitated their movements on both the military and civilian sides.

When I rose in this place on March 30 to express hope that there would be a full parliamentary debate on next steps in Afghanistan after 2011 and my strong view that, whatever the configuration of the post-2011 Canadian contingent, Canadian Armed Forces be part of that presence, I was hopeful that our colleagues in the other place would have a chance to see the context for themselves.

There is now an opportunity for a full parliamentary debate in both chambers — not a narrow partisan debate, but a broad, multi-partisan, national interest debate — where proposals for the mix of forces and civilians deployed to Afghanistan can be openly and frankly discussed ….

Well, it could be openly and frankly discussed if it wasn’t for one thingthis via CanWest/National Post:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may represent the biggest stumbling block to such a deal. He has repeatedly stated that all Canadian soldiers would leave Afghanistan next year.

Still we wait for an end to the hints, innuendo and rumours.

Canada’s Mission in AFG: The Epiphany, the Tease and the Lie

What a difference seeing what’s happening at the business end of a war can make.  This from Liberal members of the committee that’s supposed to be looking into Canada’s future mission in Afghanistan, following a visit to Afghanistan:

“We have an obligation to see this thing through,” opposition Liberal MP Bob Rae said at the end of a five-day fact-finding mission to Kandahar and Kabul by the Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.  “The door is open to serious discussion in Canada and between Canada and NATO about what the future looks like,” he said.

And what does the PM have to say about this?  This from the Canadian Press:

“I note those words with some interest,” Harper told a news conference, in English. He later added, in French: “I took note of the statement. It’s interesting.”

Still, he said, Canada’s position hasn’t changed.

”I think we’ve been very clear,” Harper said.

“We’re working according to the parliamentary resolution that was adopted in 2008, by which Canada’s military mission will end and will transition to a civilian and development mission at the end of 2011.”

Mark over at The Torch hits the nail on the head about the last bit:

He’s not telling the truth

Remember the 2008 Parliamentary motion?  It says we’re leaving KANDAHAR, not AFGHANISTAN.

If we’re going to go, why throw in tidbits like?

“I note those words with some interest,” Harper told a news conference, in English. He later added, in French: “I took note of the statement. It’s interesting.”

If we’re staying, someone please say out loud that we’re staying.

If we’re going, someone please say out loud that we’re going.

If we’re still sorting out exactly what to do, someone please say that we’re sorting out exactly what to do.

CANADA’S POST-2011 MISSION: Won’t be Easy Leaving

At least what’s what the Toronto Star is saying (based on documents they, like other outlets, won’t share unless they need help doing some homework):

The Canadian military’s plans to get every last soldier and tank out of Kandahar by the end of next year are detailed and well-advanced, even as it plans for contingencies ranging from exit routes to snap elections at home.

Internal documents obtained by the Star show the highly-secretive Mission Termination Task Force is grappling with the cost of an exit strategy that could be thrown into chaos if a new government in Ottawa decides to recommit to Afghanistan.

Between July and December 2011, when the withdrawal is to be completed, the Taliban insurgency is still expected to be active – despite a series of major offensives planned this year – and a substitute force to take Canada’s place has yet to be found.

Then there’s the physical path out of war-torn Afghanistan. It’s a dusty, dangerous unpaved route laden not only with roadside bombs and bandits, but despotic regimes, rough terrain and enemies.

The military is also aware of the possibility that governments could use the country’s need for a 2011 withdrawal as a bargaining chip for their own commercial gain.

And if that weren’t enough of a headache, throw in the turbulent political situation back home, where a snap federal election could lead to a head-spinning decision to recommit to the decade-old war….

Ya think?

Canada’s Post-2011 Mission: So, Which’ll It Be?

Let’s see, if I had to guess, what will the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan be focusing on (and drawing the public eye to) now?

A:

The U.S. government will ask Canada to keep as many as 500 to 600 troops in Afghanistan after this country’s military deployment in Kandahar ends in 2011.

Sources inside and outside the government say the formal request is expected toward the end of this year through NATO. The troops would act as military trainers and would most likely be located in Kabul. The deployment would not involve putting Canadian troops in harm’s way, but could nonetheless set off a rancorous national debate among Canadians and especially within the Liberal Party.

No specific request has been raised in meetings between Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Defence Minister Peter MacKay. But officials in the departments of State and Defence have advised their Canadian counterparts that an “ask” is coming …. (Globe & Mail, 25 Mar 10)

or B:

Facing the risk of a ruling saying it’s broken fundamental parliamentary rules, the Harper government has relented and released 2,500 pages of documents on the Afghan detainee controversy.

The catch, however, is the reports, briefings and memos are heavily censored. Opposition parties and journalists have yet to discern if there is anything to be gleaned from them because the government failed to make copies before tabling the papers in Parliament …. Tom Lukiwksi, parliamentary secretary to Government House Leader Jay Hill, couldn’t resist taking a swipe at opposition parties as he tabled the documents in the Commons today.

“Given that the opposition seemingly believes that the treatment of Taliban prisoners is a top priority for Canadians, and given the high volume of documents, we are asking for unanimous consent to table related documents,” Mr. Lukiwski said.

The Conservatives say today’s surprise document dump documents does not represent its formal response to a House of Commons order to produce all relevant material on the detainee controversy. They say Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is expected to formally respond to the Commons order next week ….” (Globe & Mail, 25 Mar 10)

My guess?

Update (1): I guessed right.

Canada’s Post-2011 Mission: “Survey Says” and “We’re REALLY Outta Here”

Two tidbits jump out at me today.

1)  Canadians appear to be split down the middle with respect to support for Canada’s mission in Afghanistan (with about 1/2 saying they want to know more).

Ya think?

2)  This, from CanWest News Service:

The general responsible for all Canadian troops overseas was emphatic this week that his forces will not provide security for Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar City beyond next summer.

“It is cease operations across the board in July, 2011,” Lt.-Gen Marc Lessard said in an interview. “The (operational mentor and liaison team), the battle group, the PRT, helicopters. Operations cease.”

However, the parliamentary order that Canada’s soldiers come home next year has put diplomats and aid workers at the PRT in a quandary because Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently said that Afghanistan is to become “a strictly civilian mission” after 2011 and would continue to be a huge recipient of Canadian aid.

The difficulty with the prime minister’s stance is that public servants and police that Ottawa has sent to Kandahar City to oversee aid projects and to counsel local authorities on such issues as education, medical care, water management, policing and governance are entirely dependent upon several hundred Canadian infantrymen and combat engineers for their safety and transport.

“There is a political decision that we are awaiting guidance on and when we get it, the civilians will know what they are doing,” said Ben Rowswell, Canada’s representative in Kandahar (RoCK), when asked about the apparent contradiction in the Harper government’s positions on the withdrawal and a continuing civilian mission ….

I guess the Government didn’t see this coming, right? >>insert eyeroll here<<

MISSION MESSAGING MAMBO: The Final Word?

A hat tip to to Mark at The Torch for beating me to it, but here’s what the Prime Minister told CanWest News this week about the future mission in Afghanistan:

We have been working on those answers but the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011. There will be a phased withdrawal, beginning in the middle of the year. We hope to have that concluded by the end of that year. As you know the Obama administration, not coincidentally, is talking about beginning its withdrawal in 2011, at the same time we are. We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission. It will be a significantly smaller mission than it is today.

About nine weeks ago, the PM had this to say:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking at the conclusion of a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Trinidad, said he doesn’t see any enthusiasm among Canada’s 308 MPs for prolonging or expanding this deployment.  “I don’t sense any desire on the part of Parliamentarians to do that,” he said …. “We will want to have some Parliamentary input but I don’t sense a desire on the part of any party to extend the military mission.”

Well, it appears the PM’s gotten whatever “Parliamentary input” he feels he needs and, if you believe the “competing camps” read of the Mambo, the PM has “won”.  No surprise, really, since he is where the buck stops.

Where will the “humanitarian and development missions” be carried out?  I can’t think of too many places in Afghanistan where such work doesn’t require “any kind of military presence”?

As a follow-up, who’ll be protecting those carrying out the “humanitarian and development missions”?  Other military forces?  Private security forces?  The goodwill of the Taliban?  Barring any change of heart on the part of the Taliban, I’d be pretty uncomfortable with doing this kind of work given Mullah Omar’s team’s track record on this (more here and here).

More, as we hear it piecemeal.

Mission Messaging Mambo: MacKay Confirms No Mo’ Troops Post-2011

Since the PM was enroute to China, Defence Minister Peter MacKay took the latest question in the House of Commons on the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan.  Here’s what was said:

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):  Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the Minister of National Defence refused to answer a very simple question. I will ask him once again.  Given that NATO announced today that Canadian soldiers will be leaving Kandahar in early 2010 and going to a neighbouring district, can the Minister of National Defence confirm that this redeployment will not change the July 2011 end date of the mission for all Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan?

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  Yes, I can confirm that, Mr. Speaker.

I suppose now, the Bloc Quebecois can complain if there’s even ONE Canadian soldier left in Afghanistan, right?  I guess he didn’t get the PM’s memo about still figuring out what happens next.The mambo continues…