MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Nov 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Nov 11

  • Janick Gilbert, R.I.P.  Funeral of rescue technician killed in rescue attempt set for tomorrow.
  • Libya Mission (1a)  CF members returning home from Libyan mission – welcome back!
  • Libya Mission (1b)  Canada’s Defence Minister set to welcome returning CF members at CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia.
  • Libya Mission (1c)  Canada’s Associate Defence Minister set to welcome returning CF members at CFB Bagotville in Quebec.
  • Libya Mission (1d)  Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence set to welcome returning CF members at CFB Trenton in Ontario.
  • Afghanistan (1)  How Canadian military engineers are training up Afghan military engineers (via the CF Info-Machine).
  • Afghanistan (2)  Former diplomat, political communicator reminds us of Canada’s legacy (while reminding us whose job it is now to keep it going) (PDF).  “In 2009-10, former political aide Renée Filiatrault volunteered for a tour of duty as a foreign service officer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Here she provides a glimpse of the realities that Canada’s civilian and military team faced while fighting an insurgency on the ground. As Canada stood down its combat mission in Kandahar this summer, she says, despite some bitter lessons, it is a legacy of which Canada can be proud. Ultimately, she adds, “while we can set the conditions for success, winning is not up to us, but up to the government of Afghanistan, which all efforts are ultimately intended to support.”
  • Afghanistan (3)  An update on Captain Trevor Greene, who has been recovering from an axe to the head during a shura in Afghanistan in March 2006.
  • Taliban Propganada Watch:  What the Taliban Info-Machine has to say about the coward chap who killed 17 people, including one Canadian, in a homicide bombing attack in Kabul and tying the attack in to a coming Loya Jirga (both links to non-terrorist page).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  More from The Canadian Press’s obtained (but not shared with the readers) stack o’ briefing notes.  “Canadian pilots are expected to receive training for the F-35 stealth jet at a U.S. Air Force base in Florida, a plan that raises questions about the future of the country’s existing advanced fighter training school. Internal Defence Department documents show that a fee-for-service plan involving an international training centre, already constructed at Eglin Air Force Base by manufacturer Lockheed Martin, has been the main option under consideration. Several air force briefings compiled last year and obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws show that not only is there “potential for NO pilot training in Canada,” but that “pooled” training with international partners is likely the most cost-effective plan ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  CDS:  more would sure be nice“Canada’s top soldier says the 65 stealth fighters the government is planning to buy are the minimum number the military needs – but he hinted the back-up if jets are destroyed is that more will be for sale later. General Walter Natynczyk, the Chief of Defence Staff, told members of the Commons defence committee Thursday that the 65 F-35 fighters the government is planning to buy “is the minimum operational essential for the needs of Canada.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  CDS:  pilots want the F-35“Pilots with the Royal Canadian Air Force want to fly in F-35 stealth fighter jets when the current CF-18s are retired, according to the chief of defence staff. Walt Natynczyk, the military’s top boss, appeared before Parliament’s defence committee Thursday to talk about military preparedness but was peppered instead with questions about the controversial purchase of the multi-role fighter jets. “Let me tell you that when I go to Cold Lake and I go to Bagotville and I talk to those young men and women who get in the F-18 and I ask them ‘What aircraft so you want?’ they tell me that they want the F-35 because it is the only fifth-generation, capable fighter for that next phase,” Natynczyk told reporters after his committee appearance ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  Yet AGAIN with the Questions in the House of Commons.
  • A reminder from the Chief of Defence Staff:  to a certain extent, anyway, you get what you pay for.  “The country’s top soldier says that the speed with which Canada contributed to the mission in Libya and post-earthquake relief in Haiti would not have been possible without a trained and well-equipped military. But Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, whose department is struggling with pending budget cuts during the first real lull in combat operations since 2006, said such capabilities do not come cheap. “If you ask me how we’re doing in maintaining our readiness, I’d say we’re doing the best we can with all the resources we have,” Natynczyk told members of the Commons’ defence committee Thursday. “Readiness is a perishable commodity and it’s expensive.” ….”
  • This year’s Public Accounts are out, and at least one reporter noticed 42 “weapons and accessories” missing.  You can download the DND’s list o’ missing cash & property here (via Army.ca) and the entire government list o’ lost cash and stuff here (28 page small-print PDF).
  • Remembrance Day (1)  No “tanks”, no guns, no displays at Ottawa Catholic school for Remembrance Day“For the past 19 years, students at an Ottawa high school have hoisted 10-pound military rifles to feel what it may be like to lug one around in the muddy trenches. They’ve met veterans and heard their stories, learning how their families were affected and what it was like to fight so far from home. But this year — the year that was supposed to mark the 20th Remembrance Day Symposium at Notre Dame High School — they will get no such chance. The traditional school event, scheduled for Nov. 10, has been cancelled because of a school committee decision to ensure there were “no tanks or guns” at the event, its co-ordinator told participants in an email last Friday …. The event was cancelled because some students who hail from countries touched by war raised concerns about it last year, said Lauren Rocque, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. “There are many students in that school that come from war-torn countries and when they saw replica guns in the hallway, it did upset them.” Ms. Rocque was unable to say whether the students had complained to the principal directly. “The tanks on the front lawn, that upset them too, so the committee decided to take this different direction,” she added. Mr. Mac Culloch said he doesn’t remember any tanks — just a variety of other military vehicles ….”  More on this from QMI/Sun Media here, a good question from the Globe & Mail here and discussion over at Army.ca here.
  • Remembrance Day (2)  Editorial:  “In Toronto and Hamilton, human scum steal poppy boxes filled with donated money to help war vets and their families, leading up to Remembrance Day on Nov. 11. In London, a war vet coming in to man his poppy station at a local mall finds a cartoon describing Canadian soldiers as “hired killers”. In Ottawa, a high school cancels a two-decade old program in which vets share their war-time experiences with students and show them the equipment they used, because of a decision to ban “tanks and guns” from the school, even though no tanks have been displayed and the guns are inoperable. That this is happening in the year Canada ends its 10-year military mission in Afghanistan, in which 158 of our soldiers died, is a disgrace ….”
  • Remembrance Day (3)  Conservative MP reminds the House of Commons“Mr. Speaker, July 2011 marked the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan. While the combat mission has come to an end, the Canadian Forces continue to play an active role in training their Afghan counterparts. The past 10 years have brought about many changes for Afghanistan. Afghanistan has held three elections, government agencies have been improved, its economy has gained momentum, girls are going to school and the Afghan security forces have been provided with invaluable training and mentoring. One hundred and fifty-nine Canadian Forces members have made the ultimate sacrifice to help Afghans obtain a taste of the freedoms that we hold so dear, tragically, joined recently by Master Corporal Byron Greff, of Edmonton’s Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. In addition to Afghanistan, Canadian Forces are serving in 15 overseas missions, including Libya, Haiti, and Sudan. At home, they save lives during search and rescue missions, provide assistance when natural disasters strike, and protect our nation’s sovereignty on a daily basis. This Veterans’ Week, let us remember the service and sacrifice of our Canadian Forces members and their families. “To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die”.
  • Remembrance Day (4)  Politicians set to kick off Veterans Week this morning.
  • More on the soon-to-be hunger-striking vet wanting action on the depleted uranium in his body, from Question Period in the House of Commons.
  • A Canadian indicted in the U.S. on charges he supplied al-Qaida with weapons in Pakistan will not be extradited to the United States after Canada’s Supreme Court said Thursday it wouldn’t hear the case. Abdullah Khadr had been held in Canada on a U.S. warrant after his December 2005 arrest before he was released in 2010. He was released after two provincial courts in Ontario suspended his extradition, ruling his rights were violated during his detention in Pakistan. Dennis Edney, his lawyer, said the top court’s decision not to hear the Canadian government’s appeal means the case is over. The government had argued it was wrong to prevent an “admitted” terrorist from facing trial in the U.S. ….”  More from The Canadian Press, CBC.ca, Agence France-Presse, Reuters and lots of others.
  • Ottawa is bungling rescue missions by not telling families in Canada whether their loved ones are alive or dead, a Canadian diplomat once held hostage overseas says. Robert Fowler says that Ottawa’s mission to free him is tarnished by the fact that his wife, Mary, was kept in emotional limbo for much of his 130-day ordeal. She got so frustrated by official silence in Ottawa that she went to the United Nations complex in Manhattan to demand answers. “Mary stormed down to the UN headquarters in New York, where she had arranged to meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,” reads Mr. Fowler’s new memoir. The world’s top diplomat told Ms. Fowler what the Canadian government had not. “‘We have good and explicit reason to believe they [the hostages] are alive and in good health.’” ….”
  • Don Cherry is getting an honourary degree from Royal Military College (and some profs are pissed).  “…. The college’s senate approved awarding the controversial hockey commentator with the honour at a recent closed-door meeting. But now at least one protesting member of the faculty is protesting the decision publicly. French professor Catherine Lord criticized the college’s decision to honour Cherry in a letter sent to local media. “On many occasions he publicly expressed his contempt for many groups of the Canadian population, notably for the French-speaking Canadians, for the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community and for the immigrants,” Lord wrote. “RMC is increasingly representative of the diverse society in which we live. RMC is a strong and unifying place.” Lord questioned what kind of message granting the honorary doctorate would send to the rest of the country. “What message will RMC send, in celebrating Don Cherry, to the students coming from these groups? And what will the Canadian people remember from RMC, as a serious and prestigious institution?” ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Nov 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Oct 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  Troops getting ready in Gagetown to head to Afghanistan“Efforts are continuing to prepare hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown for duty early next year in Afghanistan. Approximately 450 personnel from The Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) will be joined by another 100 from the greater Land Force Atlantic Area in deploying to the war-torn region for an eight-month training mission. The first group of soldiers will depart Gagetown in mid-February with the process continuing until mid-March. It’s expected to take about a month to get everyone into the Kabul theatre of operations ….”
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Nichola Goddard, 1980-2006, R.I.P.  Father of fallen returns to Afghanistan to help get more women teachers trained.
  • Afghanistan (2b)  Speaking of such things….  Canada is being urged to use whatever influence it has to ensure gains made over the last decade for women in Afghanistan are not lost in any peace deal that might materialize. Late Sunday, international aid agency Oxfam released a report saying there is a risk that many of the improvements made for women since the Taliban were toppled 10 years ago could be given away in bargaining as different factions in the war-torn country, including the Taliban, negotiate an end to a decade of war. “The women’s movement is quite worried about the potential that a peace deal with the Taliban could imply setbacks to the progress that women (in Afghanistan) have achieved and the potential for further progress,” Mark Fried, policy co-ordinator with Oxfam Canada, said in an interview ….” 
  • Afghanistan (3)  New book says LOADS o’ central control over execution, communication about the Afghanistan mission.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office was so seized with controlling public opinion of Canada’s shooting war in southern Afghanistan that even Defence Minister Peter MacKay wasn’t always in the loop, says a new book about the conflict. “The Savage War,” by Canadian Press defence writer and Afghanistan correspondent Murray Brewster, paints a portrait of a PMO keen to preserve its tenuous grip on minority power and desperate to control the message amid dwindling public support for the war. MacKay, who took over Defence from Gordon O’Connor in August 2007, was blindsided by the Harper government’s decision later that year to set up a blue-ribbon panel to review the mission headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, Brewster writes. “It wasn’t discussed with the broader cabinet, no,” the minister says in the interview. “I didn’t know all of the specifics.” ….”‘
  • Veterans Affairs Canada’s Virtual War Memorial web site, listing detailed information about Canada’s fallen, has moved from here to hereLast month, the CF webmeisters moved the “Fallen Canadians” page from here to here.
  • Trees to honour the fallen“When Elizabeth Pratt had her first brush with Canadian Forces soldiers four years ago, she couldn’t believe how young the men and women in uniform were. In Halifax, as part of the Royal Nova Scotia Military Tattoo in 2007, the then-Grade 11 student met hundreds of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, many of them only a few years older than she was. “I was so surprised at how close in age they were to me,” she said, “not to mention the fact that they were out there fighting and maybe even sacrificing their lives. That hit home.” Now, the 20-year-old University of B.C. student and her brother, 14-year-old Michael, are launching a project they hope will ensure a lasting memorial for those Canadians who have indeed sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. The pair have created Langley Youth for the Fallen, a non-profit organization that is raising money to buy 157 trees that will be planted in a commemorative grove at the Derek Doubleday Aboretum in Langley ….”
  • Libya Mission (1)  A columnist shares his perspective of “security”.  “How are we doing in the war on terror? Against the terrorists, tolerably well. Against our governments — that’s a different story. As travelers, we’re coping. We can put up with being treated like inmates at Alcatraz. We display our anatomies to the extent requested; take off our shoes like lambs, purge our carry-on bags of liquids and stuff them with photo IDs. We’re a little dismayed, though, that we may have Grandma strip for nothing. Our governments that protect us so brilliantly from our underwear, seem less effective when it comes to protecting us from portable ground-to-air missiles. That’s right. NATO lost sight of about 20,000 of the suckers, each one capable of shooting down a civilian airliner, while helping rebel forces overrun Colonel Muammar Gaddafy’s Libya. This week the White House’s Jay Carney confirmed an initial ABC news report that thousands of the shoulder-fired weapons, ideal for terrorist operations, are missing from the Colonel’s unguarded military warehouses ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  Another columnist on when we know it’s done“Last week, the Canadian Parliament briefly debated and then voted to extend our military commitment to the NATO mission in Libya. In announcing the extension, Defence Minister Peter MacKay explained that “Canada was in at the very beginning [and] we should be there until the job is done.” Of course, no one in the Harper government has yet to explain exactly what our “job” is in Libya. Therefore, it remains impossible to determine when or if that task will ever be completed ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers!  OK, in this case, piling on the Parliamentary Secretary (not the “Defence Secretary” as the headline writer claims) “Commenting on an investigation that found the minister of national defence racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights aboard federal jets, the minister’s parliamentary secretary reiterated on Sunday that Peter MacKay did not break travel rules. When asked on CTV’s Question Period whether MacKay “at no point” contravened the government’s guidelines for ministerial travel, Chris Alexander said “the short answer is yes,” before adding that members of the Conservative government have “used challenger aircraft three-quarters less” than their predecessors. “This government has been extremely exacting of its ministers and everyone in government by putting in place the toughest measures for accountability, transparency, making sure we know what assets ministers have and making sure we watch like hawks what their means of travel are,” Alexander said. Every ounce of evidence shows MacKay and others members of government have followed the rules.” ….”
  • A senior federal cabinet minister breathed a sigh of relief upon word of the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a nod to the late radical cleric’s ability to inspire young westerners — including Canadians — to embrace Islamic extremism. “This is good news not only for the United States and North America, this is making the world a safer place,” said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. The death of the U.S.-born al-Awlaki in Yemen — possibly in an American missile strike — appeared to be the latest in a series of targeted killings of al-Qaida kingpins. The charismatic lecturer spent his early childhood in the United States, moving with his family to Yemen before returning to Colorado to pursue university studies. He become an imam whose pronouncements and dealings drew the attention of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Members of a Toronto-area group implicated five years ago in terrorist plotting had watched one of al-Awlaki’s videos at their makeshift training camp ….”
  • On soldiers, tattoos and blood types.
  • Cape Breton Highlanders get their new Camp Flag – shame there’s no link to a photo, no?
  • Editorial:  history =/=. conspiracy. “…. There is no doubt that Mr. Harper is highly political, maybe too political at times, but the promotion of Canadian history and the symbols of national identity are not evidence of a dastardly plot. The prime minister is reportedly equally interested in the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk settlers in Manitoba and is considering a visit to Winnipeg next year to help mark the occasion. The fact is that Canadians have demonstrated a greater interest in their history over the years, an evolution that seemed to begin in the 1980s with celebrations of significant military dates from the first and second world wars. In 1994, the city of Winnipeg staged a downtown parade, complete with military vehicles and even a Sherman tank, to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the first such parade since the war ended. Sometimes they are controversial, such as the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and the upcoming celebration of the War of 1812 (Canada won, didn’t it?), but they have never been seen as part of a political agenda. Unfortunately, significant political events from the past have received less attention, but if Mr. Harper (and the CBC) want to ignite a passion in the broader Canadian story, let’s at least not call it a conspiracy.”
  • Divers will search for unexploded munitions this month on the wreck of HMCS Thiepval, a former warship that hit an uncharted rock and sank in Barkley Sound more than 80 years ago. The Department of National Defence organized the search after recreational divers reported spotting artillery and shells on the anemone-covered 1917 Battle-class naval trawler. The vessel boasts a colourful history, including a secret spying assignment and a gin-drinking Japanese bear adopted by the crew. The wreck is resting in about 12 metres of water ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 29 May 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 27 May 11

  • Richard Curnow, R.I.P.:  Authorities have confirmed that a body found Sunday is that of Master Cpl. Richard Curnow, a soldier who went missing on May 5 during a training run. Master Cpl.
    The identity was confirmed through dental records, Edmonton police said. “Based on autopsy results and the investigation, the death has been deemed non-criminal, therefore the [Edmonton Police Service] will not be releasing the cause of death,” police said in a statement. Curnow’s body was found in the North Saskatchewn River near Redwater, Alta., about 65 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. Curnow, 25, was last seen starting a 10-kilometre morning run with eight fellow soldiers through Emily Murphy Park in Edmonton’s river valley. He did not show up at the finish area and his vehicle was still in the parking lot ….” 
    More here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (1):  More from the CF Info Machine on ISAF Commander General David Petraeus’ visit to Canadians in southern Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (2):  When Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan entered its final phase, Karen Wilson got on board. The Ontario grandmother doubled her electric bill and burned out a convection oven while producing more than 35,000 cookies as a show of support to the Canadian soldiers who were putting their lives on the line in the war-ravaged country. Labouring in her kitchen in Petrolia, Ont., Wilson churned out shortbread confections by the hundreds, devoting no less than eight hours a week to the task. On weekends, she sold baked goods and homemade “Support the Troops” buttons at community events to finance her project. As Canada prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan for good, Wilson is looking forward to the first lull in her schedule since 2008 ….”
  • Taliban Propaganada Watch:  Still with the attacks claimed across Kandahar and Zabul.
  • Libya Mission (1):  “…. It is entirely proper that the Armed Forces exercise caution in what they reveal. But the need for discretion when publishing potentially compromising information of use to the enemy should not be used as carte blanche to withhold virtually all information …. The Royal Air Force has released dramatic gun-camera footage of British bombs destroying Libyan warships. And yet our military refuses even to disclose how much the operations in Libya are costing the Canadian taxpayer — information of dubious value of the Libyan military, but of potential concern to us. Canadians value their military, and understand that sometimes, force is necessary to safeguard lives. The Forces, and the federal government, have nothing to fear from disclosure.”
  • Libya Mission (2):  The CF’s Info Machine is cranking out material from the Mediterranean, including features on how flexible the HMCS Charlottetown is, how the Charlottetown helped gun down a boat looking like it was attacking a Libyan port, and the Charlottetown as “babysitter.
  • More on the CF in Sierra Leone on OP Sculpture.  “While deployed in Sierra Leone, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Steve Smith and I recently had the rare privilege of accompanying our Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) counterparts on staff visits to two forward operating bases (FOBs) on the country’s wild Atlantic coast, far from our base in the capital, Freetown, Just getting there was half the adventure. We travelled in two Land Rover Defenders on some of the roughest roads either of us had ever seen, through jungles and villages, and crossing waterways by ferry or on old, narrow bridges that held up without benefit of maintenance. The spectacular sunrises and sunsets rivalled Hawaii, and in places the scenery was like something out of The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ….”
  • Cuts coming?  “Defence Minister Peter MacKay says his department is conducting a “strategic review” of its staff in response to unconfirmed media reports that his department will cut 2,100 of its public service positions over the next three years. MacKay, who was in Halifax to announce the impending arrival of Canada’s first Cyclone maritime helicopter, would not comment on the details of the report in the Ottawa Citizen. He said Canadians are going through a “belt-tightening exercise” across the country and all government departments are expected to do the same. “We’re looking at ways to achieve efficiencies and achieve maximum results from the Department of Defence,” MacKay told reporters on Thursday. “This refers specifically to civilian employees so we’re looking at ways to maximize the efficiency of the department and I think Canadians would respect and expect that.” ….”  More on the allegedly coming “efficiencies” here.
  • Enjoy some of the latest speculation about the naming of Julian Fantino as Associate Minister of National Defence (and the naming of former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, Chris Alexander, as Parliamentary Secretary).  The anticipated slash and burn of the public service by the newly-minted Conservative majority government could be starting at the Department of National Defence. Reports Thursday morning say 2,100 jobs will be cut over the next three years. This as Defence Minister Peter MacKay attempts to defend what many see as his diminished role. In the cabinet swearing-in last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Julian Fantino, the former top cop in Ontario, as Mr. MacKay’s Associate Minister in charge of procurement, which comes with a huge budget that is between 14 and 16 per cent of the department’s $22-billion total. And then Wednesday, the Prime Minister named up-and-coming rookie MP Chris Alexander, the former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence. This one-two combo of Mr. Fantino and Mr. Alexander will give Mr. MacKay fierce competition ….”
  • Canada and the United States will have a plan in place by this summer on how to achieve the long-awaited perimeter security deal, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday. Harper met U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the plan on the sidelines of broader G8 discussions this week in the seaside resort of Deauville, France. “The president and I are committed to pursuing a perimeter approach to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services between our two countries,” Harper said in a statement following the meeting. “We are pleased that discussions are on track, and we expect to have an ambitious joint action plan ready this summer following public consultations.” The plan is expected to lay out priorities for the border deal and what both countries will do together and separately to make it happen ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (x):  “A stern warning from a top Pentagon official about the soaring cost of building the F-35 fighter jet has given Canada’s defence minister cause for concern, but Peter MacKay insists his plan to buy 65 aircraft is a sound proposition. MacKay, in Halifax to show off the latest test version of the military’s new Cyclone helicopter, was responding to reports that the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, undersecretary Ashton Carter, had revealed that the per-aircraft cost of the 2,443 jets the U.S. wants has almost doubled in real terms.  Pentagon officials say the cost of the project has jumped to $385 billion U.S., about $113 million U.S. per plane in 2011 dollars. The original price was $69 million per airplane.  “That’s what it’s going to cost if we keep doing what we’re doing,” Carter said last week. “And that’s unacceptable. It’s unaffordable at that rate.” …. MacKay confirmed he was aware of the U.S. undersecretary’s dim view of the project. “Of course it gives me cause for concern,” he said. “But … there are three configurations for the F-35. We are purchasing the conventional takeoff model. Much of the criticism has been directed at the vertical-takeoff model. … We’re not buying that plane.” ….”
  • More on the replacement for Canada’s Sea Kings that’s only here for training and certification purposes.  “Canada recently received its first look at the potential future of the country’s maritime helicopter fleet, but Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the “interim” helicopter does not represent the formal delivery of the new fleet, which has been marred by lengthy delays.  MacKay announced in Nova Scotia Thursday that a Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone was delivered to Canadian Forces Base Shearwater on May 13. Its primary use at this point is to train Canadian Forces aircrew members for the Maritime Helicopter Project. Later this summer, flight training is expected to take place …. MacKay said “formal delivery” of the helicopter is expected this summer once it gets a Canadian military airworthiness certificate ….”  The text of the Minister’s statement is available here, and more on the Minister’s estimates for “formal delivery” here.
  • The “glass is half emtpy” version of the CH-148 Cyclone story, from the industry pressCanada’s top defence official said on 26 May that Sikorsky has delayed formal delivery of the first of six interim CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters to the third quarter. The new timetable marks the latest in a long series of delays since Sikorsky was awarded the contract in 2004 to deliver 28 military derivatives of the S-92 under the maritime helicopter programme (MHP). The original contract called for first delivery in 2009, but Canada last year agreed to accept the first six aircraft with an “interim” capability in November 2010. That schedule was further delayed to the first half of 2011 ….”
  • Revision, leading developer of ballistic protective eyewear for militaries worldwide, has secured a $2.7 million contract with the Canadian DND to supply Air Force members with Ballistic Eyewear (BEW), also known as the Sawfly Spectacle System. The initial contract is to supply 33,000 kits and 40,000 additional lenses in 2011 with a 5 year option period ….”
  • No early release for Khadr Boy.  “The U.S. military tribunal that oversaw Omar Khadr’s war crimes case has refused the Canadian’s bid for clemency with a statement Thursday that simply confirms the eight-year sentence he received in a plea deal. The Toronto native had, through his military lawyer, sought to have the sentence reduced, arguing in part that the prosecution had been guilty of “misconduct” in its calling of a key prosecution witness. The confirmation of the eight-year sentence — in exchange for which Khadr admitted to five war crimes, including the murder of a U.S. serviceman — was issued by retired Vice-Admiral Bruce MacDonald, who serves as the tribunal “convening authority,” or overseer ….”  More on this here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 12 Apr 11

  • Scott Vernelli, 1980-2009 & John Faught, 1965-2010, R.I.P.  Remembering the fallen in Sault Ste. Marie. Mandy Dickson is putting a face to the name of every Canadian killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Dickson, a former Sault Ste. Marie resident, has created her own “wall of heroes” tribute at her Mr. Sub outlet in Angus, Ont. “It’s important to me . . . It puts a face to every name,” said Dickson, in regards to the 154 three-inch-by-five-inch photos of Canada’s war dead in Afghanistan. “My husband Master Cpl. Scott Dickson and I know a lot of people on the wall . . . This is our salute to their ultimate sacrifice.” Among the miliitary dead they knew were Sgt. John Faught, 44, of the Sault, a cousin of Master Cpl. Dickson’s, and Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28, also of the Sault, who the Dicksons got to know while stationed at CFB Petawawa ….”
  • A mostly Canadian-led seven day sweep across Panjwaii district that involved thousands of Canadian, American and Afghan troops ended Sunday, having found a trove of Taliban weaponry and homemade explosives as well as large quantities of drugs often used to fund the insurgency. The weapons and improvised explosive device caches discovered during Operation Hamaghe Shay II were expected to make it much harder for insurgents to plant homemade bombs during the summer fighting season in Kandahar. Attacks by the Taliban are expected to increase when the annual poppy harvest ends in a few weeks. “The caches were mostly in the fields, not in the compounds,” said Maj. Martin Larose, operations officer for the Royal 22nd Regiment battle group. “Because we also found a lot of stuff in compounds in January and February, they may have changed their tactics.” ….”
  • Is anybody out there watching anymore? Where have all the embeds gone? At any one time in 2006, when the Canadian military formally launched its embed program in Kandahar, and throughout 2007 and 2008, between 10 and 15 journalists were always embedded in Kandahar to chronicle Canada’s first major combat mission in half a century. However, for the first time since the formal embed program was established in Kandahar just over five years ago, only two reporters are embedded with the troops today — yours truly from Postmedia News and a journalist from The Canadian Press …. You would think that this would be the ideal time for journalists to assess Canada’s military and diplomatic triumphs and failures in Kandahar and to provide insights into the Harper government’s controversial new training mission, which is soon to begin in northern Afghanistan. But Canadian editors obviously have different priorities. For them — although certainly not for the soldiers and their kin or Canadian taxpayers, Afghanistan is yesterday’s war ….”
  • “Afghanistan: Should the Canadian mission continue to 2014?” CBC online survey says (so far), no.
  • Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, now a Conservative candidate, says Canadian soldiers never knowingly handed detainees over to a high risk of torture though he admitted the Afghan system was rife with abuse. Chris Alexander, a former United Nations deputy envoy in Kabul who’s running in the riding of Ajax-Pickering, says the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody is overblown. Until now, Alexander has resisted public comment about allegations by fellow Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin that Canadian government officials turned a blind eye to reports about the clear risk of torture facing prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers. But in a wide-ranging interview with the Star, Alexander flatly disagreed with Colvin’s interpretation. “I don’t think that happened at all. “I don’t think any Canadian ever handed over a detainee knowing there was a high risk (of torture) because anyone handed over by Canada — as the record shows — was going to be tracked through the system, was going to be monitored more than other detainees would. As a UN official, I was much more worried about people who were being detained by the Afghans or other countries that weren’t as careful as we were.” ….”
  • Here’s the report I mentioned yesterday, saying a training mission in Afghanistan would be dangerous for Canadian troops (PDF).  Here’s some of what someone who’s been there, done that in Afghanistan has to say: “…. this was a rather shoddy paper, even by CCPA standards. What was remarkable about it to me was that the writers did no real research of any kind, with all their citations pointing to news articles or other similar papers. They didn’t interview a single soldier or former soldier, or anyone with any first-hand knowledge of Afghan military training in Canada or outside. (The bibliography is also bereft of any references to Afghan sources of any kind, for that matter.) I doubt I’d have said anything if they had called, but I really don’t think we’re all that hard to find. So there’s no real reason to take anything they have to say seriously ….” More from CTV.ca here and CBC.ca here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Assassinations and attacks claimed in Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Taliban (responsible for 3/4 of civilian casualties) worries about civilian casualties.
  • Libya Ops (1) – Canada backfills fighters to ensure Iceland has air cover now that CF-18’s are in Libya. “Three fighter jets landed at Iceland’s Keflavik airport and NATO military base yesterday evening and three more are expected later today. The air cover for Iceland had to be swiftly re-arranged because the Canadian Forces Air Command decided to send the team originally earmarked for Iceland on a mission to Libya. Canada has just taken over responsibility for Icelandic airspace under the NATO arrangement which sees allied nations take turns to patrol the air above Iceland. Air forces often also take the opportunity to use Iceland for exercises, as the NATO member country has the relevant equipment and ground crews despite not having a military of its own. Before the three F-18 fighters arrived yesterday, Canada had already sent personnel, tools and equipment to Iceland. Later today one more F-18 will arrive, along with a P-3 aircraft used for aerial re-fuelling. Some 150 personnel accompany the planes and will be staying at the Keflavik base over the coming weeks. As well as patrolling, the Canadians also plan to conduct exercises and landing practice at Keflavik, Akureyri and Egilsstadir ….”
  • Libya Ops (2) – Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister: Off the campaign trail, over to discuss Libya. “After taking heat for skipping a major international conference on Libya to stay on the hustings, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will globetrot this week to two major meetings aimed at finding a way around the impasse in the country. With nations around the world looking for a way past what appears to be military stalemate and a divide over whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must depart before a ceasefire can be struck, Mr. Cannon is leaving the campaign trail this time – but first asked for a blessing from opposition parties ….”
  • Election 2011 – Blogger Mark Collins on the Conservative and Liberal platforms on defence.
  • Remember James Loney, the Canadian peace activist kidnapped with some others in Iraq, then rescued in 2006?   He has a new book out about his experiences. “An angry soldier told a Canadian hostage in Iraq that many people risked their lives to rescue him from terrorist kidnappers, according to a new book. Captivity by Christian activist James Loney reveals how a team of Mounties, soldiers and diplomats teamed up for a joint British-Canadian operation that apparently relied heavily on the mass surveillance of cellphone signals to pinpoint the hostages and their captors ….” My own humble open source analysis of what was said in public about the rescue here (Scribd.com).  Amazon.com only has the Kindle version out for now here.
  • Added #100 to my list of Fave War Flicks here.

NOW They Say the Mission is Worth Saving!

This, from CBC.ca:

“A former head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls it “regrettable” that Canada plans to withdraw from the conflict in Afghanistan.

“The consequences of failure in this part of the world will not be limited to the United States,” said Michael Chertoff, who served from 2005 to 2009 in the administration of former president George W. Bush.

“They will be felt by everybody,” Chertoff said in an interview broadcast Wednesday on The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti….”

This, from the Globbe & Mail:

“One of Canada’s leading observers on Afghanistan is pushing back against growing doubts over the merits of its mission there, calling for more international troops on the ground and a renewed focus on attacking militant targets in Pakistan.

Chris Alexander, who served as Canada’s first ambassador to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, said Canada and its allies should hold an international conference on Afghanistan later this year to set new goals to reflect the changing reality.

“Yes, this mission is taking longer than everyone had hoped, or than we expected because the conflict is getting worse. So we need to have a serious discussion about how we can succeed with the investments that we are prepared to make,” Mr. Alexander said in a wide-ranging interview with The Globe and Mail Wednesday….”

Where was this kind of media coverage calling for the mission to CONTINUE, say, a year ago?