Canadian Defence Minister meets U.S. Secretary of Defense – from Canada’s official statement: “…. During their meeting, the Minister and the Secretary addressed important issues related to the security of the Western Hemisphere, such as the situation in Mexico and Central America and how Canada and the U.S. can assist their partners in the region. They also pledged to continue to support the work of civilian law enforcement agencies in countering illicit activities such as narcotics, human trafficking and piracy. On the bilateral front, Minister MacKay and Secretary Gates discussed efforts through NORAD and the new challenges facing defence and security institutions such as maritime domain awareness and cyber threats. Minister MacKay and Secretary Gates also discussed Afghanistan, NATO and global challenges like Iran.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense meets Canadian Defence Minister – from the U.S. military media: “…. Gates and MacKay addressed threats to the Western Hemisphere, cooperation among the nations of the hemisphere and efforts to combat a range of international threats such as piracy, counterterrorism, narco-trafficking and human trafficking. Gates said he and MacKay discussed expanded cooperation in the Arctic, coordinating maritime security assistance to the Caribbean region and sharing defense practices for supporting civilian authorities. The two men also discussed the North American Aerospace Defense Command, especially the new maritime domain awareness mission assigned to the group. They also discussed the decision to allow the Joint Permanent Board on Defense to continue looking at ways to examine a cyberdefense role. Gates said the two nations will “examine together how the advanced defenses of our military networks might also be applied to critical civilian infrastructure.” Gates reaffirmed America’s strong commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Canada is an integral partner in the program and the new fighter will be the Canadian military’s aviation backbone for decades. Gates said the Pentagon has made adjustments to the program, and that the United States is expecting to have 325 aircraft built by 2016 ….”
Oh, and what about the Afghan training mission thing? Still chatting about it, apparently.“The top bosses of both the United States and Canadian militaries are in discussions “right now” to shape the upcoming Canadian training mission in Afghanistan, according to Defence Minister Peter MacKay. With the training mission set to begin in July once the Canadian Forces pull out of insurgent-rich Kandahar, MacKay said work is now underway to shape Canada’s future role in war-torn Afghanistan. Not only is Canada looking for a base-type facility in the relatively secure northern part of the country — as close as possible to the capital Kabul — from which to train the Afghan security forces, but also top military bosses from both the U.S. and Canada are sorting out what to teach them first. “We’re in negotiations right now with NATO, with our closest allies including the United States, to determine specifically some of the more urgent types of training that are required,” he said Thursday at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates following a bilateral defence meeting in Ottawa. “Our Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk is in these discussions right now with Admiral Mullen, his (U.S.) counterpart, as well as with (U.S.) Gen. Petraeus.” ….” More on Canada’s “Kabul-centric” approach from the Canadian Press here.
Easy come, easy go for the brother-in-law of Tunisia’s recently-booted leader. “The Canadian government has reportedly revoked the permanent-resident status of the billionaire brother-in-law of a Tunisian dictator. Belhassen Trabelsi, who arrived in Canada with his family last week, had his status revoked Thursday, Radio-Canada’s all-news channel reported. Mr. Trabelsi is the reputed leader of a family that ran much of Tunisia’s economy with an iron fist. His sister, Leila Trabelsi, married former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the 1990s. The clan is accused of using their connections to the dictator to siphon off billions in public funds for their personal wealth ….” More from the Canadian Press here.
The feds are apparently looking for ways to deal with foreign bad guys in Canada without needing security certificates.“…. A federal interdepartmental body known as the Alternatives to Removal Working Group began meeting in March 2009 to explore policy options for managing people deemed a threat to national security, documents disclosed under the Access to Information Act show. The group, which includes the RCMP, Citizenship and Immigration, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Justice, Public Safety and Foreign Affairs, has “produced a detailed body of work” on tools available under the law, says one internal memo. Among the alternatives to deportation identified are greater reliance on:
— the Anti-terrorism Act to prosecute suspects;
— other Criminal Code provisions relating to offences including violence, theft, forgery and conspiracy;
— preventive measures including a peace bond, an order issued under the Criminal Code that allows authorities to keep someone under surveillance. Another document shows the federal Privy Council Office was keenly eyeing the British debate over use of control orders — a means of strictly monitoring terror suspects through curfews and prohibitions on communication ….” — also viewable here if previous link doesn’t work
Looking into Canadian (and American) special forces incidents: “There are calls for public oversight of an elite military unit amid allegations that a Canadian soldier was involved in an unlawful killing of an Afghan. Federal politicians and a former member of the military are making the calls in light of a series of closed-door investigations in Ottawa that have been looking into the explosive claims involving the covert unit, Joint Task Force 2. The allegations included claims that members of JTF2 witnessed American soldiers killing an unarmed man, and, in a separate incident, that a member of JTF2 killed a man who was surrendering. Earlier this year, CBC News reported that the first probe, named Sand Trap, looked into the allegations that a Canadian was involved in the 2006 shooting death of an Afghan who had his hands up in the act of surrender. That probe ended without any charges. Sand Trap Two, which is looking at the claims against American forces, is still ongoing ….” More on earlier allegations here, from Agence France-Presse here, and discussion of the latest at Army.ca here.
Remember the Canadian Chinook crash/hard landing in August in Kandahar? The initial report from the investigation is out: “Chinook CH147202 was conducting a sustainment mission that involved carrying coalition troops and supplies to military installations outside Kandahar Airfield (KAF). While flying at low altitude from the forward operating base (FOB) Masum Ghar to the Panjwaii District Centre in Kandahar Province Afghanistan, the aircraft was forced down due to an in-flight fire. The source of ignition is linked to insurgent fire directed towards the aircraft. Immediately following the sound of a detonation, flames and black smoke entered the cabin from the left side of the open rear ramp. Inside the cockpit, the smoke began to hamper the pilots’ visibility …. An examination of the wreckage did not provide any direct evidence of the type of weapon(s) used by the insurgents ….” You can read the rest of the report here.
Columnist and former CBC reporter Brian Stewart (sorta) agrees with the new Canadian training mission in Afghanistan: “…. By staying on, we extend the risk that our own communities may be hit by a retaliatory attack and this point deserves to be highlighted by a full and open debate. My own view favours extending the training mission as it has been proposed. Serious nations can’t cringe in the face of terrorism and allow the likes of al-Qaeda to dictate their foreign policy. And I am sure many people will respect both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff for taking such a bipartisan approach to help our hard-pressed allies. That said, both leaders are equally wrong in not seeking a full debate before Parliament before setting us down this path. As flawed as it is, Parliament is still the only venue that can represent the entire country and set out the pros and cons of such a change in direction, particularly when it regards a conflict that is now veering off into such dangerous waters.”
And the anti-war brigade finds an excuse to get rolling again!“…. The public debate that has opened up in Canada on the extension of the war mission in Afghanistan opens new and unprecedented opportunities to mobilize Canadians in demanding that all Canadian and foreign troops leave Afghanistan. This is the starting point of any effort to repay the people there for the terrible destruction that has befallen them at the hands of the U.S., Canada and their other warmaking allies.”
Why a sole-source buy for new F-35 fighters? Because honestly, they’re the only ones that meet all our needs – we checked!“…. Only Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 met all the criteria required to fulfil the variety of missions Canada’s armed forces demanded, said Andre Fillion, director general of major project delivery (air) for the Department of National Defence …. A briefing for journalists at St. Hubert’s airbase, several high-ranking officers said an exhaustive list of 14 mandatory requirements for the aircraft’s capabilities was drawn up during an analysis period that began as far back as 2005. “Without them, an aircraft could not be considered,” said Major William Radiff, a fighter pilot on staff at DND’s directorate of air requirements. A subset of 56 less absolute requirements was also included after extensive consultation across DND. Lt.-Col. Gordon Zans, also of DND’s next generation capability team, said his briefing was designed to “dispel the impression, after Ottawa’s surprise announcement, that Canada did not do its due diligence.” All emphatically denied the scenario that the requirements were devised to ensure that Lockheed obtained the deal ….”
Former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier for Premier of Newfoundland? Why not opines QMI/Sun Media Ottawa bureau boss David Akin:“…. The premiership would be his for the taking and Hillier is said to be seriously considering it. He still has a keen desire for public service but is also wise enough to know he risks significant harm to his current excellent public image by mixing it up in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Hillier is great on leadership but the knock on him is he was never much of a policy guy. Where is he on health care? On equalization? And while everyone knows Hillier loves the Toronto Maple Leafs, no one’s quite sure if he wears a blue or red jersey when it comes to politics. Sources who worked with him during his military career tell me Hillier once described his political views in private conversation as “to the right of Attila the Hun” but in public he has tried to maintain his political neutrality and independence. Still, he, too, is one of those outsized Newfoundland personalities that would enliven our national political life. And our national political class could certainly use his candour, wit, and good judgment.”
An interesting quote & caveat to keep in mind on the Wikileaks fracas, via the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Blog: “It is difficult, though by no means impossible, for a journalist to obtain access to original documents. But these are often a snare and a delusion. Just because a document is a document, it has a glamour which tempts the reader to give it more weight than it deserves. This document from the United States Embassy in Amman, for example. Is it a first draft, a second draft or the finished memorandum? Was it written by an official of standing, or by some dogsbody with a bright idea? Was it written with serious intent or just to enhance the writer’s reputation? Even if it is unmistakably a direct instruction to the United States Ambassador from the Secretary of State dated last Tuesday, is it still valid today? In short, documentary intelligence, to be really valuable, must come as a steady stream, embellished with an awful lot of explanatory annotation. An hour’s serious discussion with a trustworthy informant is often more valuable than any number of original documents.” Click here to find out who shared these gems of intelligence.
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 ….”
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.” ….”
Here’s what Canada’s PM has to say about the latest North Korean attacks: “This is the latest in a series of aggressive and provocative actions by North Korea, which continue to represent a grave threat to international security and stability in northeast Asia. Canada will continue to condemn all acts of aggression by North Korea in violation of international law. On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured as a result of this unprovoked attack. Canada reiterates its firm support to the Republic of Korea, and urges North Korea to refrain from further reckless and belligerent actions and to abide by the Korean Armistice Agreement. Canada remains committed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula ….”
On Afghanistan, let’s start with the scummiest news, shall we?“Quebec military police are after a prankster preying on families of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan by calling them in the middle of the night to say their loved one has died. The relatives of at least three soldiers currently serving in the war-torn country have been targeted by the prank, a spokesman at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier said Tuesday ….” WTF? The last time something targeted this specifically against families of troops living in and around Valcartier was when letters showed up in troops’ homes from groups opposing the war as part of this campaign. It makes me wonder how easy it is to spot soldiers’ homes in the area if one can mass mail or phone them. Nobody’s saying anything about who did this, but IF this is some joker’s idea of expressing dissent, this is just vile.
Remember Daniel Ménard, the General who was fired from his job in Afghanistan because of an affair? Next step: A court martial: “Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard will face a Court Martial in relation to charges of inappropriate conduct. Charges were laid in July 2010 following allegations made in May 2010 while Brig.-Gen. Ménard was the Task Force Commander in Afghanistan …. The charges facing Brig.-Gen. Ménard are: two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, laid in the alternative, contrary to section 129 of the National Defence Act (NDA), related to alleged inappropriate conduct as outlined in the Canadian Forces Personal Relationships and Fraternization directives; and four counts of obstructing justice contrary to section 130 of the NDA, pursuant to section 139(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada ….”
An interesting question from the National Post‘s Full Comment: “With the recent NATO summit in Lisbon, the media have been filled with stories about Afghanistan. Stories about tactics, training, troop levels and timelines. Stories about governance and corruption. Stories about the hard slog of fighting a war that has gone on longer than both world wars and almost as long as the failed Soviet effort to do what NATO is failing to do now. But in all those words, there was almost nothing in response to the only question that matters: Why are we there? …. I’d like to support the war. I admire our soldiers. And I’m happy to see the facile myth of “peacekeeping” in the dustbin. But try as I might, all I can see is an expensive, pointless and endless conflict. And NATO isn’t helping me see anything else.”
Don’t know if it’s a good thing, but Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada makes a good point:“Afghan Ambassador Jawed Ludin said he felt once the training mission begins, it will become less of a front-page item for Canadians because media reporting tends to focus on negative developments. “This means it won’t be so highly reported on, which is a good thing because it means nothing bad is happening,” he said.”
A little bit more on those mysterious Russian helicopters Canada’s reportedly buying for use in Afghanistan, from Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, during Question Period in the House of Commons: “…. The request came directly from the Canadian commanders in Kandahar as an urgent operational requirement for an increased troop movement capability to augment Griffon and Chinooks ops. The contract process, which followed all Government of Canada contract rules and guidelines and all Treasury Board guidelines, was very competitive, although it was not posted on MERX for security reasons. Several companies submitted bids and a decision was taken on the best value bid. This contract will end when the combat mission ends in 2011. …. This contract is temporary. Several companies bid on it. It followed all Treasury Board guidelines and all Government of Canada contracting guidelines. The contract will end in 2011, when the combat mission ends. It has nothing to do with future Chinook contracts at all ….” That last bit was in response to a question from the NDP’s defence critic, Jack Harris: “Did the government need to make this secret arrangement because the Chinook helicopters are five years late? Should we just add the cost of these helicopters onto the Chinooks, which are already 70% over budget?”
QMI’s David Akin shares the Bloc Quebecois’ motion to be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow: “That this House condemns the government’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan until 2014, thus denying two promises made to the people, one made in the House May 10, 2006 and reiterated in the Speech from the Throne from 2007 to present a vote of Parliament and that any military deployment made January 6, 2010 to the mission in Afghanistan a strictly civil mission after 2011, no military presence other than the care necessary to protect the embassy.” Read on for a comprehensive summary of what the PM’s said in various venues about the mssion – good reading.
Remember way back, when Canadian politicians complained about European countries imposing caveats on their forces in Afghanistan, preventing their armies from contributing to the fight if it was at all risky? Well, according to Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno (who has spent a fair bit of time in Afghanistan), let he who is without caveat cast the first stone:“Make no mistake. Dress it up as both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff might like: If this new stay-in plan is put to effect as advertised — and I have my doubts about that — Canadian troops, highly valued for their combat skills in everything from reconnaissance to sniper proficiency, will be little more than decorative tassels on the Afghanistan uniform, their primary value to pick up the mentoring slack left behind by other bolting allies so that Americans can carry on their terrorist-tracking pursuits.” Ouch!
Counterinsurgency as oncology – one Canadian general’s assessment of the fight in Afghanistan: “A Canadian two-star general brought in to provide an independent assessment of the state of the war in southern Afghanistan for NATO’s new commander here says the Taliban is being dealt with as if it is a malignancy. “It is a cancer and the cancer is being treated,” said Maj.-Gen. Dave Fraser, who commanded Canadian and coalition forces in Regional Command South during 2006. “Even if this cancer goes into remission — and that is a ways down the road here — you have to make sure it is not hiding somewhere and comes back. “Once you are in that permanent watch category, as someone who has had cancer, people look out for you to make sure it doesn’t come back. We must never assume that this cancer is gone.” “
Meanwhile, “the tumour” lies speaks to southern tribal elders, who speak to the Canadian Press: “The district governor in Panjwaii says he’s been warned the Taliban intend to continue fighting throughout the winter months and not give NATO forces any rest. Haji Baran, the Noorzai tribal elder who has been the face of the Afghan government in the restive district for three years, says he received the news from contacts in Pakistan. His tribe has a deep, long-standing ties to the insurgency that normally chooses to fight between May and late October. Baran urged Canadian military commanders to be vigilant in the coming weeks. “The fall of Panjwaii is the fall of Kandahar,” he said Sunday, repeating a well-worn line of many in the rural part of the province. “So we have to be careful with that.” …”
Remember all the video games the CF is buying? It appears they’re headed downrange to the troops in Afghanistan: “…. Defence officials confirm that 500 copies of games such as “Gears of War,” “Call of Duty,” “Mortal Kombat,” and “Assassins Creed” are destined for Canada’s forward operating bases in the war-ravaged country. An estimated 500 to 600 soldiers are stationed at Ma’sum Ghar and Sperwan Ghar, Canada’s main bases outside Kandahar, which works out to a video game for almost every gamer-in-uniform. “It helps in keeping good morale … to bring some relief to people working long hours,” Cmdr. Hubert Genest said in an interview ….”
On the political front, NDP leader Jack Layton accuses the PM (and the Liberal leader a little bit) of “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”: “The Conservative can’t be trusted to end the Afghan training mission in 2014, NDP Leader Jack Layton charged Sunday. “I remember when he said 2011 was the absolute limit, the end of the military mission, we are out of there,” Layton told CTV’s Question Period. “And now they are saying 2014. I don’t think anybody believes them.” In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Parliament to extend the military mission in Afghanistan until 2008. In 2008, he asked MPs to approve extending the mission until 2011. Layton warned at that time the government couldn’t be trusted to end the mission in 2011. Now, the NDP leader says 2014 is an arbitrary deadline that is unlikely to be met because of unpredictable conditions on the ground ….”
CBC’s Brian Stewart reminds us that Canadian troops training Afghan security forces “inside the wire” doesn’t mean zero risk: “…. To almost every question so far, the prime minister and his team have repeated the mantra that this will be “a non-combat mission” only, suggesting maximum safety. But keep in mind that the Taliban will also have an important say in this …. Rockets and mortars regularly rain down on training camps and Taliban units have grown increasingly bold in striking at highly protected NATO camps and headquarters …. nowhere in Afghanistan can now be assumed to be beyond attack. Even the heavily guarded diplomatic corps of Kabul has been hit this year and is always braced for a possible suicide offensive ….” Also, let’s not forget instances where NATO trainers have been killed by their Afghan security force trainees (examples here, here and here).
Blog Watch: Terry Glavin over at Chronicles & Dissent offers an interesting theory regarding why more Canadians are not supporting a Canadian mission in Afghanistan: “…. The best explanation I know about is revealed in an ambitious 20-country opinion poll conducted under the auspices of the University of Maryland’s World Public Opinion initiative, which shows global opinion similarly split, with the following insight: “Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to leave, 76 percent say that NATO forces should leave. Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to stay, 83 percent say NATO forces should stay.” I don’t have any polling data to prove it, but I would bet a dollar to a dime that most Canadians believe the lie that most Afghans want NATO forces to leave their country. The primary function of Canada’s so-called “anti-war” activists is to make you to believe that lie, and Canada’s punditocracy has encouraged you to believe it. I would also bet a dollar to a dime that if most Canadians knew the truth, which is that the overwhelming majority of Afghans have consistently supported and continue to support NATO’s efforts in their country, Canadian support for a robust Afghan mission would be overwhelmingly favorable …. And then we could move the Canadian debates out of the weeds, to questions that really matter ….”
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, former chair of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, continues to be underwhelmed about how wounded warriors and their families are treated: “…. The New Veterans Charter was a mistake. All parliamentarians are complicit because the charter was passed unanimously. But that doesn’t relieve the government of its obligation to fix the mistake. The Charter does deal more fairly with some people than did the old Pension Plan, such as war widows (or widowers) and their families and soldiers in the highest ranks. But when you look closely at who comes out ahead, that’s about it. Who’s worse off? Just about everybody else. The biggest losers are privates and corporals (those most often wounded on any battlefield), members of the reserves, wounded vets who manage to live to 65, wounded vets with families and wounded vets who don’t live near case workers ….” Meanwhile, here’s one man’s story after losing his legs on operations in Bosnia, via the Kingston Whig-Standard.
Ceasefire.ca, always against anything military Canada is doing or wants to do (except for “peacekeeping”), has a new online petition against the new mission in Afghanistan: “Tell Stephen Harper, other party leaders, and your own MP that you do not support the proposed training mission for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. Send your letter, right away.” The web site allows you to personalize the letter to the government. I wonder how many people would dare personalize it to the point where it says they support the mission? As Yoda might say, quite funny that would be ….
The PM’s issued a statement following the NATO weekend conference in Lisbon, and (no surprise) Afghanistan came up: “…. Next year will mark the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan’s history. Over a transition period, between 2011 and 2014, Afghan forces will assume primary responsibility for the security of their country. As this transition proceeds, Canada will assist the Afghan people build a stronger future. After the combat mission ends next year, this assistance will be in the form of aid, development and military training, centred in Kabul. Leaders also re-iterated their deep respect for the contribution and enormous sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, our development workers and our diplomats. These brave individuals continue to make Canada proud.”
He also had something to say to Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday that he must reduce corruption or Canada will “not dispense a dime” directly to his government. Harper said Karzai expressed an expectation at the NATO summit in Lisbon that 50 per cent of the multibillion-dollar aid coming from donor countries go directly to his government instead of through the United Nations and other multilateral programs or non-government aid agencies. “In that case, our answer is very clear,” Harper said at a news conference. “We will not dispense a dime to the government of Afghanistan unless we are convinced that that money will be spent in the way that it’s intended to be spent.” ….” More on that from the Canadian Press here and from QMI/Sun Media here.
Karzai, meanwhile, is glad to see Canada stay & train: “Canada has been at the forefront of assistance to Afghanistan from the very beginning …. The Afghan people are extremely grateful for the Canadian contribution to the well-being of the Afghan people. Canada’s decision to continue to assist Afghanistan after they have ended their military mission is welcome and . . . we are very grateful for that.”
NATO’s newest position: “NATO has agreed to hand control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.” The Taliban’s response? You should leave sooner, not later (links to statement at Scribd.com): “The real solution of the Afghan issue lies in withdrawal of the foreign forces. Hence the NATO decision to start withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan in 2014 is an irrational decision because until then, various untoward and tragic events and battles will take place as a result of this meaningless, imposed and unwinning war. The bottom line for them is to immediately implement what they would ultimately have to implement though after colossal casualties. They should not postpone withdrawal of their forces even be it for one day.”
Coming up soon (or, according to one military expert, it should be): a Canadian space defence policy: “…. the man in charge of space development for the defence department predicts the initial steps of the next major conflict are more than likely to start in orbit and Canada should be prepared. There will “absolutely” be more of a military role for Canada in space than in the past, Col. Andre Dupuis said on Saturday as he discussed the defence department’s plans to overhaul its space defence policy. “The first line in the sand for the next major conflict may very well be in space or cyberspace, but probably not on the ground or in the air or in the seas,” Dupuis said in an interview while attending the annual conference of the Canadian Space Society ….”
Just a reminder that you don’t need to wear a uniform to make a difference in Afghanistan: “…. This hero read a newspaper article about an injustice at the age of 14 and instead of just fuming silently, she has now spent fully half of her 28 years on this planet battling to improve the peace and security of the world by building literacy and hope in a land where both were almost extinguished by the murderous, medieval Taliban government that came to power in Afghanistan in 1996. Her name is Lauryn Oates and she is one of the founders of the Calgary and Montreal chapters of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan). The PhD student in language and literacy education, who has been published numerous times on these pages in the Herald, has just returned from her 19th trip to Afghanistan. She tries hard to hide it, but anger flashes in her blue eyes when she talks about the cultural relativism she hears from too many westerners every time she speaks of the grassroots work she is doing in Afghanistan to help train teachers and help women in that troubled land build the civil infrastructure needed to enhance literacy, health care and democracy ….”
What does this mean for the Canadian-led and run Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PDF copy of page here if link doesn’t work? This from the Globe & Mail: “Canada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian aid officials next year. Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan: dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts. There will be a deep cut to aid for Afghanistan. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada will provide $100-million a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the $205-million the government reported spending last year ….”
Notice who’s name is listed first on the news release? Not Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay but Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Also, while Cannon got to answer questions in the House of Commons on the mission this week (Hansard transcripts here, here and here), Peter MacKay took a question on the F-35 fighter plane buy. Yesterday, the PM fielded two questions (here and here) on Afghanistan, while McKay fiielded one question from a fellow Conservative party member (here). Some see this as further proof that Peter MacKay may be on his way out (he says not so), but the government has been trying to civilianize the feel of the mission for at least the past couple of years – more on that theme here, here and here.
The Foreign Affairs Minister reminds us of the obvious, via CTV.ca: “…. Cannon said the “non-combat” troops will be based in the Kabul area. However, Cannon admitted that soldiers would still be in danger, despite the relative security in Kabul compared to the current operation in Kandahar. “I am not going to hide the fact that there is a risk factor,” Cannon told CTV’s Power Play. “(But) our people will not be mentoring in the field, they will be in classrooms.” ….”
It didn’t take long for the “Survey Says” crowd to get its numbers out there – this from Harris-Decima: “Canadians Wary of Extension to Afghanistan Mission: The latest Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey asked about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “At this point in time, Canadians are split over whether to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the combat mission. While few feel that the combat mission should be extended, there is clearly some support for Canadian troops continuing to play some role.” ….” More on that from the Canadian Press.
Blog Watch: Congrats from Mark Collins at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for those rating it here, while Terry Glavin at Transmontanus shares his words of wisdom this way: “…. The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country’s post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today’s announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic ….”
Meanwhile, the transition continues on the ground in Afghanistan: “A scouting party from the NATO unit that could replace Canadian troops in Kandahar will be touring the area over the next few days. Planning for the departure of Task Force Kandahar is underway and a proposal on how the transition will take place is still being finalized, a senior U.S. officer with the alliance’s southern headquarters said Tuesday. The Canadians “are in a critical location,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to discuss the situation on background only. “We’ve got to make sure that area is still covered, and covered well.” ….”
The CF is working towards setting up a research institute devoted to studying military medicine.More from the Kingston-Whig Standardon a conference under way this week: “…. That the military is taking the initiative seriously can be seen by the list of people attending, including Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, senators Romeo Dallaire and Pamela Wallin, veterans affairs ombudsman Guy Parent, and (Commodore Hans) Jung, the military’s top medical officer. “We are the only nation amongst our major allies that does not have such a national institute,” (former CFB Kingston base commander and Kingston General Hospital chairman Bill) Richard said, a fact lamented by many of the high-profile attendees. The military would love universities to dig through its wealth of data — it has comprehensive medical records on everyone who ever served from the day they enlisted to the day they discharged and keeps the records 99 years, but Jung said only 5% of that data has been analyzed because it doesn’t have enough people to do it ….”
Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, Liberal Senator Colin Kenny says if you want to train right, you have to do it from the sharp end: “…. I have argued long and hard that we should get out in 2011. But if we are going to stay, we have to stay for real. And that is going to cost lives.”
Remember how Petawawa soldiers were reportedly losing some options for getting individual and family counselling? Some (reasonably) good news on two fronts. 1) An area health planner is quoted saying the changes at Pembroke Hospital are only half the story: “…. CEO of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, Dr. Robert Cushman (says) as Pembroke Regional Hospital powered down its mental health services for soldiers, Dr. Cushman says CFB-Petawawa powered up. He says Petawawa now has three psychiatrists on the base, compared to two at the Pembroke Hospital, and there are substantial services available on the base to handle the mental health needs of soldiers ….” 2) BIG expansion for on-base services are coming, according to Canada’s Surgeon General: “One of Canada’s biggest military bases is getting a new centre to help treat soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health issues. The new “operational trauma and stress support centre” is due to open in the coming months at CFB Petawawa, said Commodore Hans Jung, commander of the Canadian Forces health services group and the military surgeon general. In fact, many of the services are already being provided to assist soldiers on the busy base, which has seen repeated deployments to Afghanistan. “We’re really ramping up,” Jung said of the 32-member clinic, which will offer services as varied as counselling in psychiatry, psychology and social work ….” Let’s hope this meets the need.
If you’re a soldier in Petawawa, it may get harder to get counselling for you or your family. This, from the Canadian Press: “Hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa who sought counselling at a nearby hospital in eastern Ontario must get help elsewhere. The Pembroke Regional Hospital says it can no longer afford the adult outpatient service that saw more than 400 soldiers a year seeking treatment outside the military health system. Individual counselling has been dramatically scaled back with the retirement this year of four social workers who are not being replaced. Marital sessions are no longer offered. Soldiers had received free counselling for anger, stress, depression and relationship problems ….”
Canada’s buying lotsa real estate – in Afghanistan. This, from Postmedia News: “Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs has bought millions of dollars worth of land and property in Afghanistan over the past two years, contributing to a 410% increase in its spending on real estate and capital works since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power. Foreign Affairs spent $24.5 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year on real estate or renovations in Afghanistan — nearly one third of the $85.3 million the department spent on diplomatic digs around the world. It spent another $1.5 million in neighbouring Pakistan …. Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic, said money would be better spent on programs than real estate at the moment. “Everyone knows the costs in Kabul. The price of land is similar to Manhattan right now in terms of buying real estate there …. Why would you buy in a market that is incredibly inflated right now because of what some people call the UN gold rush?” ….”
One Canadian officer in Afghanistan, speaking to Postmedia News, has an interesting perspective on what Afghan security forces should be learning:“Col. Paul Scagnetti’s small unit at the Afghan Army Command and Staff College has already been doing for 18 months what the Harper government is about to order hundreds of soldiers to do after Canadian combat operations cease in Kandahar next summer: train Afghans to bring security to their country. “If Canadians want bang for their dollars, this is it,” he said. “Every soldier wants to be on a combat mission, but if they have to do something else, training is actually more important,” said Scagnetti, who was a high school teacher in Timmins, Ont., for 31 years and who has been an army reservist for almost as long. “In the long-term, this (training) is an enabler for peace, because you end up with an Afghan teaching an Afghan, who brings security to other Afghans. And there is now a generation of Canadians with combat experience with lessons to pass on.” ….”
Another idea for a Canadian role in Afghanistan, according to Postmedia News, is protecting women’s rights: “Championing the emancipation of Afghan women is emerging as a possible non-military, post-combat role for Canada as politicians and activists debate the future of the costly mission in Afghanistan …. Ottawa has yet to unveil its full strategy for Afghanistan once combat troops pull out of restive Kandahar in July 2011 but, on Monday, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights will begin hearing from experts on what role Canada might play in supporting the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the war-torn country ….” More on the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights here.
Yet another idea for an alternative future mission, courtesy of Scott Taylor at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: “….Harper could have announced the establishment of a vocational school staffed by a corps of well-remunerated recruits from the Afghan-Canadian diaspora. Without a linguistic barrier and no religious or cultural chasms to bridge, these instructors could quickly mentor thousands of students to literacy and competency within a variety of essential trades. In other words, Afghan-Canadians would teach Afghans how to construct and maintain the basic infrastructure necessary to improve the day-to-day lives of other Afghans. Instead, we will be sending thousands more Canadian soldiers to teach young Afghan men how to fight.”
According to the Canadian Press, “A new report, partly funded by the Foreign Affairs Department, says western nations have misunderstood the war aims of the Taliban and it cautions any potential peace deal with them could be a threat to human rights …. The report suggests many insurgent fighters have taken up arms in retaliation for perceived military aggression by NATO — a sentiment echoed Sunday when the Afghan president asked western armies to restrain their operations ….” You can find the report, “Dangerous Liaisons with the Afghan Taliban: The Feasibility and Risks of Negotiations,” as well as an executive summary, here.
More troops headed downrange for next rotation in Afghanistan – this from David Pugliese’s Defence Watch: “Another group of 120 Valcartier-based soldiers will deploy this Monday to take part in the 10th Rotation of OPERATION ATHENA, in Afghanistan. This flight is the 7th since the beginning of the deployment on November 3, according to the Canadian Forces.”
Reporter Ian Elliot raises a good question in this from the Kingston-Whig Standard: “As the Canadian Forces abandon the desert base that was their staging area into Afghanistan, they are bringing back one of the most important items there. The centrepiece of Camp Mirage was a subdued but elegant cairn in the centre of the camp, outside the mess. On it were plaques commemorating each of the 152 Canadian soldiers who have died in the war, including three who grew up in this area. The granite monument at Al Minhad Air Base, surrounded by carefully tended green grass that was an anomaly in the desert, is on its way home. “It will be reinstalled in Canada, but we haven’t selected a location for that yet,” Capt. Jennifer Kellerman of the Canadian Expeditionary Force command confirmed Friday …. She vowed that it won’t just be put into storage somewhere. “The decision on where it will go here in Canada will probably be made at the level of the chief of defence staff,” she said ….” A bit of debate/discussion on possible options here at an Army.ca forum.
According to the Canadian Press, former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, “says until he knows more about the (extended Afghan) training mission, he doesn’t want to comment on the decision. But he told reporters in Calgary that it is clear that the Afghan security forces are not ready, and that another three or four years of training would help prepare them for the job ahead ….”
Former U.K. PM Tony Blair’s take on Canada extending its stay in Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces, via the Canadian Press: “(Canadians are) hugely respected there …. It’s a decision for Canada to take. It’s absolutely got the right to do what it wishes to do in respect to this …. My view about the broader question of extremism, though, is that this extremist security threat is still absolutely a threat we face.”
Political columnist Chantal Hebert on how the news of Canada’s new mission oozed out of Ottawa, via the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: “…. The sight of an unelected partisan staffer apprising Canadians of their government’s thinking on a top-of-mind defence and foreign policy issue that involves committing hundreds of Canadian men and women to a war theatre for an extra three years was unprecedented. The power of the PMO has been in ascendancy at the expense of the federal cabinet for a number of decades, but that evolution has rarely been as blatantly obvious as over the past two weeks ….”
Canadian military analyst Mercedes Stephenson calls the decision to stay and train “the right one” via QMI/Sun Media: “…. Canada has spilled too much blood and invested too many resources in trying to create a stable and secure Afghanistan to walk away because of a rubber-stamped date set in a far off capital ….”
So, where exactly will Canadian troops end up training Afghan soldiers and cops? The government says they’re still sorting that stuff out, but some media coverage (like QMI/Sun Media) hints it could be done out of Kabul, while others (like Postmedia News) say the opposite – this, from Canada’s senior officer in the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan headquarters: “The need for training is national …. It doesn’t matter where they go. It’s the same mission with the same force protection. The training centres are all over the country because that is where the trainees are.” Everywhere but Kandahar, if the government wants to stick to the letter of the March 2008 resolution.
Two messages from the Taliban, according to one analyst speaking to Reuters, as NATO leaders prepare to meet at a summit in Lisbon this week: “From one side, the Taliban would like to show that the United States could not defeat them militarily in the past nine years and from other side want to introduce themselves as an acceptable political force, too”.