MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – October 12, 2014

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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 10 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  INTERPOL wants to have a chat with Mohamar, his son and the former head of military intelligence.
  • Libya Mission (2)  Happy 18th Birthday HMCS Vancouver (even if you’re downrange).  “No cake, no singing, no champagne. Grapefruit juice was the strongest available beverage. In an atmosphere more vigilant than festive, the ship’s company marked the 18th anniversary of HMCS Vancouver’s commissioning as the frigate headed out of Agusta Bay on the east coast of Sicily for her first patrol of Operation MOBILE. Her destination: Libyan territorial waters, off the port of Misrata ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  Welcome back!  “Hugs and tears were shared on Friday at a Winnipeg air force base as 24 military men and women returned to their families from a summer assisting a NATO mission in Libya. Largely part of the Winnipeg-based 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron, the Canadian Forces contingent landed at the 17 Wing base on a Hercules CC-130 plane as their family members watched on the tarmac. Six-year-old Kayden Maher held a welcome sign for his father. Master Cpl. Ryan Maher, an air frame technician, told reporters they “have no idea” how much he had missed his children during the past four months. “It’s just so nice to see them again, and be part of their lives,” Maher said, also with two-year-old daughter MacKenzie and wife Shauna ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  7 Sept 11:  MILNEWS.ca tells you 9-11 is going to become a “National Day of Service.”  9 Sept 11:  PM says 9-11 is going to become a “National Day of Service”.  More on this here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2)  The threat level for a terror attack in Canada has not increased following information of a possible plot of a car bombing in Washington or New York on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 the RCMP says. “The RCMP has no information at this time that indicates that Canadians are more at risk than usual,” RCMP Sgt. Julie Gagnon told CBC News. Counterterrorism officials in the U.S. have been chasing a credible but unconfirmed tip that al-Qaeda has plans to set off a car bomb in New York City or Washington, with bridges or tunnels as potential targets. It was the first word of a possible “active plot” timed to coincide with commemoration of the group’s attacks in the United States a decade ago. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews backed the RCMP assessment. “In respect of Canada, I can’t point to any specific threat that might occur during this weekend but I think that all of our agencies are on full alert on a weekend like this,” Toews (said)….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3)  “Soldiers paid price for war on terror in blood, Trauma: Each day in Afghanistan a roll of the dice”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (4)  The CF Info-Machine’s “Domestic and Continental Defence and Security Accomplishments Post 9/11”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (5)  U.S. President Barack Obama thanked Canadians on Friday for their hospitality and support in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, recalling the “comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance” in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “It is often said that the United States and Canada are great neighbors, trading partners and the best of friends,” Obama wrote in a letter that was delivered to the prime minister on Friday. “In one of the darkest moments in our history, Canada stood by our side and showed itself to be a true friend.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (6)  Even the Taliban has to make itself heard for the anniversary, suggesting we don’t REALLY know what happened during the 9/11 attacks – riiiiiiiiight…. (link to non-terrorist site)
  • Andrew (Boomer) Eykelenboom, 1982-2006, R.I.P.  “Just over five years ago, Cpl. Andrew (Boomer) Eykelenboom was killed by a suicide bomber while serving as a medic in Afghanistan. Today, more than 50 cyclists will take part in a 180-kilometre bike ride to raise money for the Boomer’s Legacy foundation. The Boomer’s Legacy Ride has been taking place annually on Vancouver Island for the last four years. Today will be the first Atlantic ride, which starts at CFB Greenwood and ends at CFB Halifax ….”
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg (1)  You can now download the report and read it yourself here (PDF at CF page) or here (PDF at alternate download site)
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg (2)  What the Minister of National Defence has to say about the report:  “…. our government will be taking a close look at spending right across government to identify the savings needed to eliminate the deficit: this includes the Department of National Defence …. This report will inform our approach to the Government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan, the results of which will be presented in Budget 2012. At all times, support for our frontline troops will be our priority ….”  More on this here (Postmedia News) and here (QMI/Sun Media).
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg (3)  What the Chief of Defence Staff has to say about the report (via Army.ca – PDF downloadable here if link doesn’t work):  “…. The fiscal and operational environment in which the recommendations must be assessed and implemented has become even more complex. As well, while the report was being prepared, new budgetary reduction targets were announced as part of the government s deficit reduction action plan. Taken together, this creates a difficult backdrop for interpreting the potential advantages and drawbacks of recommendations made in the transformation report …. A concerted analysis has been underway since the transformation report was submitted, involving both CF and DND personnel. The goal of this effort has been to determine which elements of transformation are already being implemented through the Strategic Review, which options merit implementation in concert with the deficit reduction action plan, and which options have second and third-order consequences that require additional study. This level of analysis takes time, but only when it is complete will it be possible to decide and communicate which parts of the transformation report should be implemented right away, which must be phased in over the medium term, and which will be deferred ….” 
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Could Mark Collins be a touch skeptical re:  the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard getting new ships anytime soon?
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Remember the new JPSU building for CFB Petawawa (bullet 9) (map and floorplan downloadable here via Army.ca) ?  Here’s the Ottawa Citizen’s update“A new building to house military staff who work in a unit that provides help for ill and injured military personnel and their families is to be built at CFB Petawawa. The building is to replace a trailer currently used for staff members of the regional element of the Joint Personnel Support Unit for Eastern Ontario, according to a military spokesman. It’s expected that six staff members will work in the new building, although there will be space for a few others. Defence Construction Canada, a Crown corporation responsible for Department of National Defence construction, has issued a $1.3-million tender for the one-storey building to be built. The start and end dates of the construction are unknown, but the contract is to be awarded within the next three months ….”
  • The Canadian Forces have confirmed a body was found on the grounds at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Thursday morning. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is investigating, but details regarding the cause of death, gender or identity have not been released. “They are investigating the discovery of a body on the grounds,” Canadian Forces Capt. Karina Holder said. “We never speculate on timing or when an investigation may or may not be completed.” “
  • The Canada Army Run is proving to be a big hit with runners. The Sept. 18 event in Ottawa has already attracted more than 16,000 participants and is sold out. The event is the fastest-growing run in Canada and the second-largest running event in Ottawa after Ottawa Race Weekend. It started four years ago with 7,000 participants. The Canada Army Run has five-kilometre and half-marathon events and raises money for Soldier On and the Military Families Fund ….”  More info on the run at the Army Run website here.
  • A bit of mechanical Canadian military history being honoured this weekend.  “During the final months of the Second World War, as Allied armies waged a brutal campaign to liberate Europe, a rough-hewn band of Canadian soldiers revolutionized ground warfare with an unusual new technology.  They were called the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment, assembled to drive Kangaroos, tanks modified to carry troops. The unit laid the groundwork for the tactics of today’s light armoured vehicles, protecting soldiers from gunfire while they travelled to enemy lines, but was swiftly dissolved at war’s end and its history was largely forgotten …. In a ceremony this weekend, the regiment will get some overdue credit. After decades of obscurity, veterans alerted the Department of National Defence that they wanted formal recognition of the unit, and found a serving regiment to take up the Kangaroos’ battle honours, ensuring its story will be perpetuated …. At a ceremony in St. Thomas, Ont., on Saturday, the (31 Combat Engineer Regiment, also known as the) Elgins will accept a standard listing the Kangaroos’ honours to hang in their armoury. A Kangaroo bought by the Canadian War Museum – one of only a handful that still exist – will be paraded in the streets ….”

Canada’s Post-2011 Mission in AFG: The Official Message Still Stands, and On Training “Inside the Wire”

Item: The latest expression of the “official” position of the government on what we’re doing in Afghanistan post-2011, notwithstanding some message teasing from the PM, from Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) during Question Period Friday:

There is absolutely no confusion on this side of the House about our position in Afghanistan. We have made it eminently clear that this government will respect the parliamentary resolution of 2008 and cease our military mission to Afghanistan in 2011. It will become a civilian and a development mission …. For the past several months, despite foot dragging by members of the Afghan committee, we have been putting forward motions to consider the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan. We urge opposition members of the committee to participate and to forward their suggestions to Parliament.

On that bit in red:  have I missed something?  What “motions” have the government put forward to consider re:  the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan?  Have I been in a cave?  Or did things come up that were drowned out/swamped by that other thing the Committee was doing instead of considering the future mission?  If you’re reading this, and can share a link or any proof of any such offer via the comments, go for it.

Item: The CF’s mission at this point remains clear:  keep packing – this from the Chief of Defence Staff via CBC.ca:

“We have got very clear instructions from the government of Canada to move out on the withdrawal and that is what we’re going to continue to plan on.”

What this story doesn’t include is an interesting point in the CDS’s description of his task.  CTV.ca’s story on the same issue quotes General Natynczyk talking about the March 2008 Parliamentary motion:

“From the Government of Canada through to the minister to me, it’s clearly a focus on enabling the motion as it stands today and that is the withdrawal from Kandahar in 2011 and the end of the military mission,” Natynczyk told reporters in Ottawa.

Compare and contrast this to Peter Kent’s statement in the House of Commons:

This government will respect the parliamentary resolution of 2008 and cease our military mission to Afghanistan in 2011.

General Natynczyk also mentioned who’s going to be staying (via CanWest/National Post):

He noted the institutions that will continue a non-military mission for Canada in Afghanistan include Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, the RCMP and the correctional services.

Item: I’m all for keeping a Canadian military element behind to keep helping out, even with training.  That said, former OMLT-eer Bruce R at the Flit blog reminds us that training “inside the wire” may not be easy, and has its hazards:

Afghan police and soldiers are trained on their own bases, obviously, but those are not “inside” coalition military facilities in any real sense. Afghans of any kind aren’t normally allowed free run of ISAF military facilities, so the two have to remain physically distinct. So really what you’re talking about is “inside the Afghan wire,” at least part of the time: in other words, either cohabiting with Afghans, or failing that, “commuting” from a nearby ISAF base.

Which can be fine, of course, given some sensible precautions: I always felt quite safe in those sorts of situations. But in this context it might be worth noting today’s news from Afghanistan.

…an American contractor died in a suicide attack against the police training center in Kandahar city, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said… The American contractor, who was not identified, and another person were killed when a team of three suicide bombers attacked the gates of the police training center….

I guess this still means we’re going, yes?

Earlier rants:

Is Canada Leaving “Kandahar” or “Afghanistan” in 2011?

Exactly WHAT is a “Non-Combat” Mission?

Mission Messaging Mambo: What the Defence Minister Said (Lately)

You’ve heard or read all the iterations of the predicted mission in Afghanistan post-2011 (check, chronologically, here, here, here and here if you feel like confusing yourself).  We’ve now heard from Canada’s Defence Minister, and it doesn’t seem to help a whole lot.

CBC had a chance to chat with him briefly (less than 2 minutes) on the issue (video of exchange here), and here’s what the Minister said when asked about the gap between previous political statements of Canadian troops staying behind post-2011, and the CDS’s read that none (apart from a few at the embassy) will be there:

The military mission as enunciated in the parliamentary motion calls for an end to military operations, so that is clear.

I think I said many, many times we are living within the spirit of the parliamentary motion.  We are respecting the democratic decision that was made by a majority of parliamentarians here.

I’m saying we’ll live within the spirit of the parliamentary motion.

Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Well, the TEXT of the motion reads, in part (highlights mine):

…. the government of Canada notify NATO that Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011, and, as of that date, the redeployment of Canadian Forces troops out of Kandahar and their replacement by Afghan forces start as soon as possible, so that it will have been completed by December 2011 ….

Now, what do you think the “spirit” of the motion might be?

More tea leaves to be read, I suppose.

A bit more on the (lack of) evolution of the mission messaging here.

Meanwhile, a Canadian Senator opines we may be waiting:

(Colin) Kenny acknowledged that Canada may be delaying any post-2011 pronouncement until after the American strategy becomes clearer.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to decide imminently whether to send a troop surge to Afghanistan.

The reality is, Canada has no natural allies in Congress and must always rely on the administration to be positively disposed to it.

Thus, any request for help in Afghanistan from the Obama team would have to be carefully considered.

“Canadians don’t like to hear that too often, but it’s a reality.”

Finally, someone being clear.

Mission Messaging Mambo: CDS Says It Again

Well, some more clarification from the Chief of Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk on what the troops have been told to do:

“The parliamentary motion directs that it will be the end of the military mission in July of 2011. I mean those are the words that are there,”

(….)

But Natynczyk said he couldn’t see a role for any soldiers in Kandahar that would respect parliament’s declaration.

“We provide protection, we provide security, we enable governance, we enable development, we enable training. But our function is security and protection. That’s the military mission.”

Asked if there’s any role for Canadian soldiers in a non-military deployment, Natynczyk said there will be some representatives in Kabul as part of the embassy staff.

“But right now, everything else we do is a security mission, is providing protection and security.”

Cool.  Now all we need is an elected official to explain what happens next – or more than one saying approximately the same thing.

Mission Messaging Mambo: The Latest Guess

We’re hearing that Canadian military bosses have ordered the start of packing of bags in Afghanistan.

And what are we hearing about what’ll be left?  Still not so much.

Today’s Globe & Mail has a few guesses in a piece on how the packing will be done, though:

Although the Conservatives have yet to make it clear, it’s expected hundreds of soldiers may need to remain behind to protect reconstruction and development. Retired major-general Lewis Mackenzie guesses up to 500 or 600 soldiers would stay in Afghanistan to keep watch over Canadian development projects or even to train local army and police.

The Harper government has so far been reluctant to spell out how many soldiers are staying behind after the 2011 pullout. During the 2008 election campaign, the Prime Minister acknowledged that not every single soldier will return with the combat pullout, and it’s expected lingering pressure from the Obama administration to help out may lead to a contingent remaining.

Military analysts speculated that Gen. Natynczyk’s decision to draw attention to withdrawal planning this week – his orders to make plans were actually given last summer – may have been an effort to force Ottawa to make clear its post-2011 intentions in Afghanistan.

CanWest News Service quotes the Chief of Defence Staff saying, though, that even though no plan is in place for post-2011, he can deal with that when the time comes:

“It’s still a year-and-a-half away; we’ve launched operations on less than that, but I can’t assume that”

Reinforcing this is messaging coming from the head of Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar, via the Canadian Press:

A high – ranking Canadian soldier who is assuming a key role in Afghanistan says Canadians need to temper their expectations ahead of a planned pullout for 2011.  Brig.-Gen. Steve Bowes has begun a one-year deployment as the International Security Assistance Force’s deputy chief of plans and projects. He says Canadians shouldn’t have delusions about quick success in Afghanistan.

A little reminder from the the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada:

Ministers are the principal spokespersons of the Government of Canada …. Ministers present and explain government policies, priorities and decisions to the public.

Mission Messaging Mambo: CF Preparing to Move Home

29 Oct 09:  Canada’s Defence Minister quoted saying post-2011 mission depends on what U.S. does down the road.

6 Nov 09:  The Globe and Mail and CBC.ca say Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk has issued some kind of orders to start some sort of preparation for pulling Canada’s troops out of Afghanistan.  The Toronto Star actually quotes the CDS saying:

“I’ve put out instructions back in August on our planning and preparation with regard to 2011,” he said. “Our allies are well aware, NATO is well aware of our intentions because … it takes a year or so to prepare all the troops … to replace us …. I don’t have additional knowledge of where the laydown is, but I would say the chances are that the U.S. will continue to replace what we’re doing in Kandahar province …. That would be at this point my assumption.”

6 Nov 09:  The Associated Press says:

(U.S. President Barak) Obama brushed off criticism that he is taking too long to decide whether to meet his war commander’s request to provide about 40,000 more troops at the end of this year

So, what more do we know about what Canada’s presence will look like in Afghanistan post-2011?

Not so much.

The mambo continues.

More on a Delicate, but Important Subject

The latest on how the Canadian Forces should deal with the issue of alleged rape of young boys by Afghan security forces.

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff has signed a letter to the editor regarding recent coverage of the issue – here it is, for the record:

“The Canadian Forces are made up of some of the most professional and courageous troops in the world, and Canadians have every reason to be proud of their hard work and efforts in protecting Afghans.

I wish to make it clear that, as the Chief of the Defence Staff, I hold myself and all members of the armed forces to the highest standard of professional conduct. Indeed, the legitimacy of the Canadian military derives from its embodiment of the values, beliefs and laws of the nation we defend. We conduct our operations in compliance with our international legal obligations.

Equally, we expect members of Afghanistan’s security forces to meet their legal obligations, both national and international. Canada’s military and police personnel in Afghanistan are mentoring their Afghan counterparts about the importance of professional conduct, including compliance with the rule of law.

Only by demonstrating the highest standards of conduct will the Afghan security forces earn the trust of the Afghan people. While the responsibility for complying with their national and international legal obligations rests with the Afghans, I expect members of the Canadian Forces to bring breaches of the law by Afghan security forces to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

Once the Board of Inquiry referred to by Mr. Pugliese is completed, its findings and recommendations will be thoroughly reviewed and appropriate action taken.
I have every confidence that the members of the Canadian Forces, in the face of a very challenging security environment, are performing their very best to uphold our values.

General W.J. Natynczyk
Chief of the Defence Staff”