MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 9 Oct 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 15 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  “CTV News has learned Canada will extend its military mission to Libya by up to three months to help the country get back on its feet. CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported the development, which is expected to be formally announced next week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with other NATO leaders in New York ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  More (again) from the Minister’s spokesperson on how the years of the Afghan fight aren’t going to be carved onto the National Cenotaph just yet.  “…. “These men and women in uniform are in harm’s way and it is clearly inappropriate to commemorate a mission which has yet to be completed,” wrote Joshua Zanin, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in an e-mail Wednesday. “When the last troops return home to their families at the conclusion of the mission, the full scope of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan, including all the work of all those who have sacrificed and fallen in the service of their country, will be appropriately recognized and commemorated.” ….”  In case this looks familiar, here’s what the spokesperson told The Canadian Press earlier this week: “…. “These men and women in uniform are in harm’s way and it is clearly inappropriate to commemorate a mission which has yet to be completed,” said Joshua Zanin, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay. “When the last troops return home to their families at the conclusion of the mission, the full scope of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan, including all the work of all those who have sacrificed and fallen in the service of their country, will be appropriately recognized and commemorated.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  On how long it’s taken to recognize previous wars“…. It took almost 20 years after the devastation of the Second World War for the federal government to design and erect the national war monument in Ottawa. The inclusion of that war as part of the monument didn’t take place until 37 years after it ended. The 26,971 Canadian soldiers who fought in the Korean War were ignored by both Canadian media and government until 1982 as well. “At the end of the war, Canadians returned to a peaceful nation that almost seemed to be unaware of the conflict across the ocean that had taken 516 Canadian and hundreds of thousands of others’ lives,” Senator Yonah Martin, who has championed the cause of recognizing Korean War veterans, said recently ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  One columnist’s view on why more Afghan interpreters should be allowed into Canada“…. This is not just an issue of fairness and moral obligation, but of national security. The world is an increasingly dangerous place, and there is every reason to expect that the Canadian Forces will again soon find themselves deployed abroad in hostile lands. Co-operation from the locals during these future missions will be essential. Giving the people of the world’s trouble spots reason to avoid dealings with our soldiers will make the jobs of our military personnel not only harder, but more dangerous.”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Something to look for as part of coming changes to the Canadian International Development Agency: “…. as Canada winds down its military involvement in Afghanistan, the Canadian International Development Agency will be “normalizing” aid to a level comparable to its 19 other “countries of focus.” This confirms a poorly-kept secret: aid to Afghanistan was always more about Canadians, candy and Kandahar than about sustainable long-term development. With aid levels frozen, there will be fierce competition for the freed-up funds. We should probably expect new assistance to Libya, where Canadian companies are already jockeying for important reconstruction and oil contracts ….”
  • Afghanistan (5a)  More CF story recycling – 27 Aug 11:  Army News tells us about how CF engineers are converting sea containers into lodging for ANA troops.  14 Sept 11:  CEFCOM Info-Machine uses same article to remind us CF engineers are converting sea containers into lodging for ANA troops.
  • Afghanistan (5b)  How is the ANA going to get those converted sea containers?  CF logisticians, UP!
  • Ronald Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P.:  Second trial of Reservist charged in killing Megeney continues, with reporter noting the blisteringly obvious.  “A Canadian soldier who was in Afghanistan when a member of his section was fatally shot at Kandahar Airfield in 2007 says everyone in the group had been given extensive weapons safety training …. everyone in the section of 10 soldiers had been given extensive briefings on weapons handling and safety before leaving Canada and again on arrival in theatre in December 2006 ….”
  • Canada’s CDS is dropping by to visit his Russian equivalent.  “The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk, is conducting a three-day visit with his Russian counterpart, Army General Nikolay Yegorovich Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation / First Deputy Minister of Defence and General of the Army. The purpose of the visit is to gain the Russian perspective on a range of issues to improve and develop Canada’s bilateral military relationship with Russia. “During my first meeting with General Makarov last January in Brussels, I received his invitation to visit Moscow to expand on our initial discussions,” said General Natynczyk. “This visit is an important opportunity to strengthen Canadian-Russian military ties, and exchange views on some of our common defence interests. I hope that General Makarov will honour us with a visit to Canada so we can continue to build on our relationship.” This is the first time in almost a decade that a Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff has visited Russia to meet its top military leadership ….”
  • Defence Minister Peter MacKay highlights the highlights of his visit to Australia“…. While in Australia, Minister MacKay met his counterpart, Australian Minister for Defence, Mr. Stephen Smith, Minister for Defence Materiel, The Honourable Jason Clare, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, The Honourable Warren Snowdon, and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd. During the meetings, they discussed defence reform, procurement practices, general Asia-Pacific defence issues, and the transformation of the Australian Defence department …. Canada and Australia worked closely together in Afghanistan, and continue to build on their strong bilateral defence relations. Minister MacKay agreed to loan two Husky armoured vehicles and one Buffalo mine-protected vehicle to Australia until the end of 2012, which will allow their engineers in Oruzgan province to detect explosive hazards with low metal content, such as mines and improvised explosive devices.”
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Used Sub Edition (1)  Harsh, but with a kernel of truth. “When Britain held a scratch-and-dent sale in 1998 to get rid of some surplus submarines, Canada went shopping. Our 30-year-old fleet was long past its prime and Ottawa wasn’t ready to commit to the cost of new ones. That was 13 years ago. The deal seemed too good to turn down at the start: Just $750 million for an eight-year lease/purchase — about a quarter of the estimated replacement value — for four barely-used diesel-electric submarines that had been mothballed only because Britain had moved to an all-nuclear fleet …. As with a lot of cool stuff we bring home from yard sales, it didn’t take long for the deal to seem a little less of a bargain. Within a year, the National Post was reporting that hidden costs and a wish list for upgrades had pushed the real tab for the four used subs to somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 billion ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Used Sub Edition (2)  Where “independent research, advocacy and consulting group”, read “think tank that has yet to take a pro-CF position”“Canada’s naval submarine program is a bust and the time is perfect for the federal government to scrap the four-vessel fleet, says the president of the Rideau Institute, an independent research, advocacy and consulting group in Ottawa. I don’t think we’ll ever see all four submarines operating all together and at their full capacity,” Steven Staples said Tuesday. Two weeks ago, the HMCS Corner Brook was put dockside until at least 2016 as a result of damage caused by hitting the ocean floor back in June. As a result, none of Canada’s four Victoria-class submarines are in action …. “I think an argument could be made by the government that they are still committed to the navy by spending upward of $30 billion on a new surface fleet …. I think it is becoming painfully clear that the sub fleet is providing no benefits to Canada in terms of our defence and, in fact, is probably more of a hazard to submariners than any benefit to the navy.” ….”
  • Didn’t MP Bob Dechert get the memo that Communist governments have been known to use journalists as spies, or have their spies pretend they’re journalists?
  • Ooopsie….  As a spy, he was said to be sloppy. So sloppy that his masters would complain he “compromised” security and “jeopardized” their credibility – just by showing up for work. But Marc-André Bergeron, fired four years ago for alleged incompetence, has been vindicated by winning his claim of wrongful dismissal. In doing so, he has revealed a rather remarkable state of affairs at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. CSIS, whose bosses lament that they are held to impossible legal standards in court cases involving terrorism, couldn’t muster sufficient proof to fire one of their own. “The employer failed to discharge its burden to present the necessary evidence,” a federal tribunal ruled in mid-August, ordering Mr. Bergeron’s reinstatement or an alternate “appropriate remedy.” ….”  Public Service Labour Relations Board decision here, decision summary here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 10 Mar 11

  • How many Canadians have GTFO Libya so far? This from the PM’s chief spokesperson:  “More than 650 Canadians have departed from Libya since the beginning of the crisis.”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • A popular learning centre in Kandahar City has received new financial backing from the Canadian government, temporarily ending fears that the facility might have to close. Though less than half of what facility directors requested, the $250,000 grant from the Canadian International Development Agency will allow classes to continue at the Afghan-Canadian Community Center. An announcement of the funding was made this week at a ceremony to mark International Women’s Day. The centre, though catering to both male and female students, is an especially important educational outlet for Kandahari women and girls who often risk their lives to go to school, centre director Ehsanullah Ehsan said ….”
  • Psychological Operations:  (Sorta kinda) “the marketing arm of the military”
  • U.N. stats (PDF report here) say 3 out of 4 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2010 were caused by insurgents.  The Canadian Press’ take on the report: “More Afghan civilians were killed in Kandahar than any other province last year, while counterinsurgency operations within Canada’s area of command resulted in “large-scale” property destruction, the United Nations said Wednesday.  The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called on both NATO and insurgent forces to strengthen their efforts to protect Afghans as it released a report examining the severe toll the war has exacted on civilian lives and livelihoods …. It said NATO forces were careful in avoiding civilian casualties in Kandahar, but clearance operations in districts under the command of the Canadian military were singled out for leaving behind “large-scale” property destruction.  “Elders’ fears that the Kandahar operations would involve the destruction of homes, crops, and irrigation systems were realized,” the 85-page report said ….”
  • More work from Canada’s war poet Suzanne Steele “limerick from OFMIK (our former man in KAF)”
  • Remember how keen border state Senators were last month about getting military radar to keep those little planes full of drugs out of the U.S.?  It appears they might be getting (at least some of) what they seek. “The US government will place military-grade radar along the border with Canada to thwart low-flying aircraft used to smuggle illegal drugs onto US soil, senators who sought the deployment said Wednesday …. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said Napolitano had indicated during a Senate Judiciary Committee that she was working to deploy the radar and called it “a critical step in the right direction.” …. In the hearing, Napolitano herself stopped well short of explicitly announcing such a step, though she did agree with Schumer that such a deployment would be a good idea.  She assured Schumer that her department was “working with” the Pentagon and the US military’s Northern Command “on radar and other related issues and technologies in efforts on the northern border.”  Asked whether that meant the deployment would go forward, Napolitano replied “this is moving very rapidly.” ….” More on this from American media here and here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1) New (Military) Police Academy (~$29 million), and Pockets on Sleeves
  • What’s Canada Buying (2) Remember late last year, when Canada was going to explore adapting the designs of recently built naval fleet replenishment ships that are operating with other NATO Navies”?  Well, let’s try again, shall we?  This from MERX (via Army.ca)“…. Canada has a requirement to assess two NATO Navy ship designs to determine their viability in relation to the Canadian Navy operational requirements for naval fleet replenishment SHIPS: a. the Berlin Class; and b. the Cantabria Class Canada intends to award two separate contracts, one to ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada Inc. (TKMSC) and the other to Navantia, S.A. (Navantia) to conduct Risk Reduction Design Studies (RRDS) for each design. This will enable Canada to ascertain the feasibility and affordability of adapting these designs to meet Canadian requirements. Canada is deploying a team of government representatives to shipyards in Germany and Spain to perform the RRDS and a follow-on Detailed Design Activity (DDA) ….” Link above contains some downloadable bid document details – more from MERX here, and from the Canadian Press here.
  • More on Canada’s (still being-waited-for) new helicopters for the CF (hat-tip to Mark Collins for sharing this one): Sikorsky could deliver the first of Canada’s much-delayed CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters this month, said president Jeff Pino yesterday at the Heli-Expo show in Orlando. The initial helicopters will not be fully compliant with the Canadian requirement, but will allow training to begin ….”
  • Buzzword Watch:  What do CF wordsmiths call it when Reservists come home from Afghanistan to be greeted by the PM and Defence Minister?  “Reintegration”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Mar 11

  • CF to Libya (1a):  Canada’s Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) now has a page with information on Operation MOBILE, Canada’s mission to LibyaThe Canadian Forces launched Operation MOBILE on 25 February 2011 to assist the departure of Canadians and other foreign nationals from Libya. Op MOBILE is part of a whole-of-government effort led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) ….” The CF’s Combat Camera folks have pages with photos and video from OP Mobile, too.
  • CF to Libya (1b):  CEFCOM’s first feature story about the evacuation mission so far.
  • CF to Libya (2a):  So, what’s the job of the HMCS Charlottetown, exactly? “…. Cmdr. Craig Skjerpen, addressing his crew before departure, said they were heading into an “emerging humanitarian crisis” in North Africa, along with the navies of the United States, Britain and other Western nations. The country is in revolt over the 41-year reign of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Skjerpen told reporters little is yet known about the Charlottetown’s actual role once it arrives off Libya, which will come following a week-long Atlantic crossing. He doesn’t know yet whether the ship will join an existing NATO fleet or a U.S. naval task force, both now in the Mediterranean. Skjerpen also said he has no orders to begin enforcing United Nations trade sanctions against Libya. Nor does the frigate have stocks of humanitarian aid on board. “It’s a very dynamic situation over there right now, so we’ll have to adapt to whatever happens.” ….” More from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald here.
  • CF to Libya (2b):  Well, here’s what SOME in Canada’s Libyan community want. “Edmonton’s Libyan community is calling for the removal of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and has asked the Canadian government to take an active role in supporting the Libyan people. Zachariah Mansour, a second-year science student at the University if Alberta, was among 60 protesters calling for these measures at a recent rally at Churchill Square. “Basically we want to see a similar response to what happened in Haiti during the earthquake and in Sri Lanka during the tsunami; we want humanitarian aid not military intervention,” he says ….” (Note to Edmonton Libyan community:  a lot of the help sent to Haiti got there BECAUSE of the military.)
  • CF to Libya (3):  Toronto think-tanker John Thompson’s take“….Warships off the Libyan coast can be used to potentially interdict shipments to that country, provided that some sort of agreement between various nations decides to exclude — for example — shipping from Iran or North Korea, and can manage to do so under international law.  If the war continues, warships might be used to escort shipments of humanitarian supplies.  More interventionist roles, such as declaring that Libyan aircraft all remain grounded, or sending special forces to secure stocks of chemical weapons (which Libya has, and used in Chad in the 1980s) or to destroy Libya’s inventory of Scud Missiles to keep the conflict contained to Libya alone.  However, such interventions might cause lasting resentment that will outlive the current situation and could easily be used as for propaganda purposes by any faction.”
  • CF to Libya (4):  More “learning” of JTF-2 headed downrange. “…. the dispatch of Canada’s frigate HMCS Charlottetown, which sails Wednesday from Halifax with 240 Canadian Forces personnel aboard, represents a commitment of weeks or months of military presence. Its first job is to set up command-and-control for evacuation efforts if they’re still needed. Then it is likely to assist in aid operations to Libyans, and could finally end up as part of tougher international military “sanctions” against the regime, such as enforcing a blockade, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said. Canadian special forces troops are now based in Malta, The Globe and Mail has learned, and are believed to be playing an active role in assisting evacuation missions to rescue Canadians and citizens from other countries ….”
  • CF to Libya (5a):  Retired General Lew MacKenzie, in his own words, on Canada sending fighters to help in any no-fly zone that’ll be imposed on Libya “…. The immediate need for imposing a no-fly zone over Libya will only be achieved outside of the Security Council’s decision-making by a coalition of the willing. Some nation will have to assume a leadership role and as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first to recommend the idea, France would be an obvious choice. Canada should participate.”
  • CF to Libya (5b):  Retired General Lew MacKenzie, quoted & paraphrased, on Canada sending fighters to help in any no-fly zone that’ll be imposed on Libya: “…. Retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie said deploying CF-18s would be “logistically possible,” but “extremely difficult and somewhat time-consuming.” He foresees a more humanitarian role for Canada’s troops, although even that could be difficult since Canada doesn’t have a lot of assets already in the area ….”
  • Canada isn’t sending JUST military help to Libya. “…. “Canada is acting swiftly to help meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Libya which are a result of recent violence in that country,” said Prime Minister Harper.  “We are taking action to provide immediate humanitarian support to areas that need it most.” …. Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will help to address urgent medical requirements, basic humanitarian needs, and the repatriation of people displaced into Tunisia and Egypt.  Canada’s help will include improving access to food, water, sanitation, shelter and emergency medical care.  The initial contribution being announced today will support humanitarian efforts through the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration ….” More on that from the Canadian Press, CBC.ca, Postmedia News, and QMI Media.
  • It didn’t take long for the usual suspects to come out against ANY kind of help for Libya involving people whose titles include ranks. “The Canadian Peace Alliance is opposed to any military intervention in Libya or in the region as a whole …. Western military deployment to Libya is a bit like asking the arsonist to put out their own fire. Far from being a shining light in a humanitarian crisis, western intervention is designed to maintain the status quo and will, in fact make matters worse for the people there ….  The best way to help the people of Libya is to show our solidarity with their struggle. There are demonstrations planned this weekend. The people united will never be defeated!” I’m sorry, but WTF does “showing our solidarity with their struggle” mean, exactly?  Ship over some freeze-dried, vacuum-sealed solidarity to drop on the masses?  If you’re going to whine, how about some concrete solutions?  Even the Libyan community in Edmonton was clear about what they want.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • Ottawa’s patience has run its course as the federal government is set to impose penalties of up to $8-million against Sikorsky for the latest delays in the delivery of a new fleet of maritime helicopters. The aircraft manufacturer is facing a financial hit after failing to meet a schedule that already has been pushed back from the original 2008 deadline. The amount of the penalty is largely symbolic, representing up to 0.15 per cent of the $5.7-billion contract, but the move highlights Ottawa’s decision to take a tougher stand against the U.S.-based company ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Ceasefire.ca has posted a web page allowing you to send a letter to prominent politicians to oppose purchase of the F-35 here. One wonders how many people “personalize” the letter to make it say something COMPLETELY different than what’s already there before sending it?  Just sayin’….
  • Wanna buy an old Snowbird? “A rare chance to acquire an iconic piece of Canadian aviation history is up for grabs when a Snowbirds Tutor Jet is auctioned in Toronto next month.  The Canadian Forces’ Snowbirds team, which claims Moose Jaw as its home, has entertained millions of air show spectators as international ambassadors for Canada for more than 40 years …. Now one of these rare aircraft will be offered at public auction for the first time at the annual Classic Car Auction of Toronto from April 8 to 10 held at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., next to Pearson International Airport.  It is one of only four known CT-114s under private ownership …. Originally powered by the J85 jet engine, which has since been removed after being retired from service, the aircraft is expected to become a candidate for restoration or historical museum display.”
  • Know those pirates stealing boats and killing people around Somalia?  Now, ship owners here in Canada are starting to get more  worried, too. “The hijackings and kidnappings orchestrated by Somali pirates in waters halfway around the globe are rippling back to shores of this country, Canadian shipping companies say, and they’ve joined an international campaign urging world governments to do more to combat the problem.  Several international shipping associations and sailors’ unions have launched the Save Our Seafarers campaign, warning the “growing Somali piracy crisis” is threatening global trade and endangering those working on ships plying the waters off Africa’s east coast.  The campaign’s supporters include the Chamber of Shipping of B.C. and Fairmont Shipping (Canada) Ltd., which say Canadian companies have had to turn down business and make costly changes to shipping routes to avoid the precarious waters patrolled by pirates.  “This problem has been recurring and has been escalating to a degree that we don’t feel this is something the industry can resolve,” Samuel Tang, a Fairmont Shipping vice-president, said in an interview ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Feb 11

  • Canada’s newest upgraded tanks arrive in Afghanistan to help in (what’s left of) the fight (via Army.ca).
  • Another way Canada’s helping in Afghanistan:  building secure quarters to protect Afghan public servants “Two weeks ago, Kandahar deputy governor Abdul Latif Ashna inspected a Canadian project to provide secure homes for 15 Afghan government officials and their families. Exactly one week later the Afghan lead on the Committee to Secure Civil Servants was dead when the car he was riding in was blown up by a suspected suicide bomber on a motorcycle. “Ashna’s death was very poignant,” said Philip Lupul, a Canadian diplomat who worked closely with Mr. Ashna on the housing project, which is to be completed by the end of next month. “He had pointed out some changes that he thought should be made to the houses and we had accepted them. “One of the tragedies of this is that he would certainly have been a candidate for one of these homes. We lost a good friend who was part of this project.” …. “
  • Canada spent more than $41 million on hired guns in Afghanistan over four years, much of it going to security companies slammed by the U.S. Senate for having warlords on the payroll. Both the Defence and Foreign Affairs departments have employed 11 security contractors in Kabul and Kandahar since 2006, but have kept quiet about the details. Now documents tabled in Parliament at the request of the New Democrats provide the first comprehensive picture of the use of private contractors, which have been accused of adding to the chaos in Afghanistan. The records show Foreign Affairs paid nearly $8 million to ArmorGroup Securities Ltd., recently cited in a U.S. Senate investigation (link to news release – 105 page, 23 MB PDF report downloadable here) as relying on Afghan warlords who in 2007 were engaged in “murder, kidnapping, bribery and anti-Coalition activities.” The company, which has since been taken over by G4S Risk Management, provided security around the Canadian embassy in Kabul and guarded diplomats. Tundra SCA stands on guard for the Defence Department outside Canadian military forward operating bases and has collected more than $5.3 million ….” A bit more on one of the bad boys turned good boys here.
  • A school that’s a hallmark of Canada’s struggle against Afghan insurgents is on the brink of getting rid of some teachers and classes as Ottawa ponders whether to toss a lifeline. The Afghan-Canadian Community Centre, where thousands of girls and women have braved Taliban threats to get an education, needs more than $500,000 by month’s end to avoid severe cutbacks, said Ryan Aldred, who heads a charity that supports the school.  Thousands of women, girls and men have learned skills such as how to use computers, start a business or speak English at the centre …. The Canadian International Development Agency has contributed $313,773 to keep the school open, but when Aldred applied for more money in late 2009, CIDA eventually turned him down.  “Although approved in principle, the grant was declined in May 2010 due to a ‘lack of resources to support new initiatives’ and ‘the priority currently placed on initiatives that directly support the attainment of (CIDA’s) benchmarks,’ ” Aldred said ….”
  • Meanwhile, a wounded warrior says in the reality that is Afghanistan, sometimes a good warlord can help keep a grip on things“The Canadian Forces have always been pragmatic in who it uses to help the CF in places like Kandahar. White western forces are at a disadvantage in a place where it is incredibly difficult to know who is on first. That’s why warlords and those on the ground are the way to ensure peace. Their troubled past will not make these people go away and in fact Col Toorjan is well known as the protector of the Provincial Reconstruction Team ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Claims of civilian casualties in Kandahar.
  • F-35 Watch With all the buzz around Ottawa about a potential spring election, there remains a drought of hot-button political issues over which the coming campaign will be contested. One exception to this, of course, is the Conservative government’s controversial commitment to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Although no contract has been signed, the Harper Tories remain adamant that they will proceed with the purchase of 65 of the sophisticated aircraft, which, at an initial procurement cost of $9 billion and an estimated $7 billion in future maintenance expenses, makes this the largest military project expenditure in Canada’s history ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? Translation cards (~$47,000 worth) that soldiers can point at when they don’t know the language of the locals (via Army.ca).
  • Canada’s lead weapons treaty negotiator has been removed from his post after American negotiators complained he was “too tough and aggressive” on behalf of Canada in disarmament talks. The Ottawa Citizen has learned that veteran Foreign Affairs arms treaty expert Earl Turcotte has also run afoul of his bosses after apparently objecting to key elements in long-awaited legislation that will see Canada ratify the international Convention on Cluster Munitions. Turcotte, widely respected and often publicly praised at international negotiations for his negotiating skills, has emailed colleagues across the world telling them he will soon resign from Foreign Affairs to independently advocate for the cluster treaty he helped to craft in Dublin in May 2008 ….”
  • Members of Canada’s civilian intelligence service are apparently being asked to be more discrete with the swag they can buy in their kit shop“Canadian spies are being warned not to wear their loyalty on their sleeve — or their wrist or lapel.  The hush-hush reminder to employees of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service advises keeping polo shirts, watches and pins emblazoned with the distinctive CSIS crest away from curious eyes.  The items are sold in a secret shop tucked away on the lower level of CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, and made available to employees posted elsewhere through the agency’s online memorabilia catalogue.  The souvenirs — which also include hoodies, key chains, mugs, pens and plaques — offer members of the intelligence service “a tangible sense of belonging to the organization,” says an internal CSIS article obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.  But in keeping with CSIS policy, it seems the stylish spy must be careful to keep the merchandise undercover.  “Although the clothing does not display the Service’s acronym, it does feature the emblem,” says the October 2010 publication, parts of which remain classified …. “The policy essentially states that employees should exercise discretion in disclosing employment outside the work environment. Furthermore, employees working in (deleted from document) must be particularly vigilant in concealing their employer or any association with CSIS.” ….”
  • Egypt Watch:  My guess is that someone with a rank in his title will be boss in Egypt before end of week. “…. Since it would be the army that finally tells Mubarak to leave, the military would dominate the interim regime. They would not want to put yet another general out front, so they might decide that ElBaradei is the right candidate for interim leader, precisely because he has no independent power base ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 20 Jan 11

  • 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.” ….”

More Trickles of Info on Canada’s Post-2011 Mission

Well done Steve Rennie at Canadian Press for spotting this one:

Canada’s role will shift from the war room to the classroom after troops leave Afghanistan next year.

A decade-long involvement in Afghanistan will last up to another 10 years as Canada oversees the training of Afghan teachers.

The Canadian International Development Agency is seeking firms to help Afghanistan certify its teachers and the schools that prepare them.

Contained in the recent call for proposals are hints at how Canada’s function in Afghanistan will change after its soldiers come home in 2011.

Chalkboards and classrooms and curricula will replace the bombs and bullets and bloodshed of Kandahar province, where the bulk of Canada’s 2,800 troops are based ….

More from MERX here:

…. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is seeking to retain the services of a Consultant to do the Design and implementation of the Teacher Certification and Accreditation of Teacher Training Institution in Afghanistan.

The project goal and objectives are to establish a system for the certification of teachers and the accreditation of teacher training institutions in Afghanistan

The purpose of this notice is to invite formal costed proposals from eligible Consultants. On the basis of the formal proposals, one Consultant will be invited to negotiate a contract for the provision of services. CIDA reserves the right to refuse any or all proposals received. The amount allocated to this contract will not exceed ten million Canadian dollars (CAN$10,000,000) excluding GST. The initial contract will be for up to five (5) years with the intention to extend up to ten (10) years in order to support the maintenance of the long-term partnership ….

Even more detail in the Terms of Reference and Background here (PDF):

…. Three decades of war, socio-economic and political conflict, and intermittent repression have further devastated Afghanistan’s educational system, which was already functioning at a low level. An estimated 80% of trained teachers and university professors either fled the country or took other jobs. Access to education for girls and women remains limited by cultural and security concerns and the quality of  basic education in Afghanistan is low.

The Afghanistan National Development Strategy2 emphasizes that rote memorization and poor or nonexistent teaching methods are the norm. Only 24% of teachers meet the minimum qualifications of grade 14 and merely 28% are female, and 80% of these female teachers are found in urban areas. Four million children remain out of school and 11 million people are considered illiterate. Merely 25% of schools have usable buildings. A massive skills deficit cuts across all institutions in  Afghanistan, including nearly all entities, offices and schools comprising the Ministry of Education (MOE) …. The proposed project complements existing Canadian programming in the education sector inAfghanistan, particularly CIDA’s support to the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) (the national teacher training component and teacher training initiatives in Kandahar).

(….)

The primary objective of the project is to establish a system for the certification of teachers and the accreditation of teacher training institutions in Afghanistan. This system will be established in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Provincial Education Departments in Afghanistan. In parallel, it is expected that project will build the capacity of the MOE and other partners to effectively manage/maintain/improve the established system/structure for teacher certification and the accreditation of the teacher training institutions. The project intends to provide Canadian valueadded that will foster a long-term institutional partnership with the MOE teacher training institutions and other appropriate partners in Afghanistan.

It is expected that the Consultant(s) will foster partnership and networking between Afghan & Canadian institutions. To this end, CIDA is looking for a Consultant with knowledge, experience and demonstrated capabilities in teacher certification, the accreditation of teacher  training institutions, teacher education curriculum development, distance education for teacher training, and capacity development of governmental departments and other partners. The Consultant must have experience in project design, management, and implementation. Furthermore, the Consultant will have demonstrated ability to identify and facilitate partnerships, particularly between Canadian and developing country institutions …. The Project is expected to result in a long-term partnership. It is envisioned that the actual project activities will be about three to five years; however, the relationships established by the project should continue beyond this as a long-term partnership supported by the project for up to 10 years ….

Good for Canada to want to take on this sort of long-term investment in the future of Afghanistan.

Shame on those who are SUPPOSED to be communicating Canada’s future mission for a situation where people have to learn about the mission by subscribing to MERX and reading tea leaf readings in the papers and on blogs.

Congrats to Kandahar Grads!

This (PDF), from the Afghan School Project (funded in part by Canada’s International Development Agency):

Despite recent insecurity, more than two hundred students at the Afghan-Canadian Community Center (ACCC) in Kandahar, Afghanistan graduated on November 2, 2009 from a professional education program funded largely by the Canadian International Development Agency.

“Through the education and support provided by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Government of Canada and the Canadian people, the Center has given us hope for a better future,” said Class Valedictorian Bibi Zhilla, “Now it is our responsibility to share this precious gift with others in  need.”

The ACCC provides professional education to approximately 1,000 students in Kandahar, more than half of them women. A group of 30 students have had the opportunity to study Business Management with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) via the Internet.

ACCC Director Ehsanullah Ehsan travelled to Calgary to receive an honourary degree from SAIT in June 2009. ACCC students had planned to accompany Ehsan during the trip, but were unable to do so for security reasons. This group of students received graduation certificates from SAIT during this ceremony.

Congratulations to all who worked hard and faced real risks learning and wanting to help rebuild your homeland.

Better Ways to “Talk” about Canada’s Work in Afghanistan

Instead of just chucking rocks at Canada’s military for not taking maximum advantage of some of the great stories available in Afghanistan, I thought I’d share some “best practices” already being done out there in the hope that maybe, some of the good news can be shared more quickly and more broadly.

I’ll start off with who I’m not going to use for best practices, but NOT because the practices aren’t any good.

While the American military information-sharing machine has no shortage of slick outlets for information, including Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of other sites (like this, this and this, to show only a few), I get the feeling it takes a LOT of folks to keep all those goats fed.  While individual tools may be useful to copy or learn from, I’m not under the illusion Canada’s military can (or even should) create some massive Strategic Information Infrastructure just to keep info flowing to Canadians.

1)  The Government of the U.K. has the Frontline Bloggers site, sharing stories from people right at the sharp end (and not just soldiers).

2)  Michel Rentenaar, the Dutch government’s Civil Leader of Task Force Uruzgan and Director of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Uruzgan, has been posting via Radio Netherlands’ web site since he was deployed – his latest here.  I’ve seen Canadian soldiers doing the same with CBC.ca, but I’m not seeing as much of that anymore.

3)  The Australian Ministry of Defence appears to be much more liberal in its sharing of information from its mission in Afghanistan.  The latest examples include a statement on an IED strike on an Aussie vehicle, possible rule changes linked to recent shooting incidents, and the permanent “cease and desist” order issued to a Taliban boss in Oruzgan.  Even their Special Forces get a bit of public credit from time to time.

I close with some (belated) kudos to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for their communications work in Kandahar – election was 20 Aug 09, and photos were up on Flickr 21 Aug 09.  This is the least I could do in light of my slag earlier this year – good show!

Please feel free to share any other interesting ways to share information.  I have a bit of experience in both sending and receiving messaging, but I’d love to see other best practices that I haven’t discovered yet.