MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 9 Oct 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 Mar 11

  • No Fly Zone in Libya (1) – A Canadian General is taking the lead on NATO’s no fly mission. “A Canadian general was thrust Friday into the command role of NATO’s mission in Libya, taking responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone and arms embargo as the United States continued to hand over control of the week-old campaign against Moammar Gadhafi. Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard will lead NATO forces in a mission Defence Minister Peter MacKay acknowledged Friday was “yet to be fully defined” by leaders of the international coalition tasked with protecting Libyans from forces loyal to Gadhafi. At a press briefing on Canada’s operations in Libya Friday, MacKay said the appointment of Bouchard to this key role is a testament to the respect Canada’s military enjoys around the world ….” The General’s official bio is here.  More from Canadian Press here, Postmedia News here and the Globe & Mail here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (2) –  For once, ceasefire.ca mentions a good point. “…. The Alliance has not yet formally agreed to run the civilian-protection element of the mission, which is attempting to prevent attacks on Libyan civilians by conducting airstrikes on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. NATO spokespersons stated on Friday that “NATO is actively considering whether to take on a broader role under the UN Security Council Resolution. Without prejudging the deliberations, we would expect a decision to take over all operations in the next few days.” ….”
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (3) – More on the CP-140 Aurora’s headed downrange.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (4) – Retired General Lew-Mac raises a good point. “…. Absent well-defined political leadership for the implementation of UN Resolution 1973, we now have a number of coalition military actions that arguably go beyond the letter and the intent of the resolution and seem to be more in support of regime change than protecting civilian population centres. If that is the case, the Security Council should meet and sanction the current military actions in Libya in support of Resolution 1973 and clearly state the removal of Colonel Gadhafi as the mission’s objective. In the meantime, a ground invasion force led and dominated by Arab countries should be organized to deal with the inevitable, near-term stalemate.”
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (5) – The Globe & Mail’s Margaret Wente also raises a good point. “Why is Canada at war in Libya? You won’t get the answer from our elected leaders. They’re too busy fighting an election to explain it to us. You can’t count on the opposition parties to raise awkward questions, either. They have better things to do at a crucial time like this. Besides, it’s just a little war. It will be over soon, unless it isn’t. If all goes well, perhaps Canadians won’t notice that our political class has committed us to an open-ended military action in North Africa without a clue about what the mission is, who’s in charge, or how deep the quagmire might get ….”
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (6) – QMI’s Larry Cornies raises yet another intriguing question. “Canada’s military firepower is modest; its presence in the Mediterranean more symbolic than essential. Is there an opportunity here for Canada to lead on the diplomatic front to negotiate a post-Gadhafi solution with the same zeal it once displayed in advocating R2P?”
  • In case you haven’t heard yet, we’re going into a federal election next month.
  • Rash o’ Pre-Election Announcements (1) Meanwhile, the PM announces non-military help for Libya as well. “…. Through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Government is immediately providing nearly $3 million to support the efforts of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to address the repatriation of people displaced into neighbouring countries. This is in addition to the $5 million in humanitarian assistance that the Government announced on March 2, 2011 for the people of Libya. Today’s announcement raises Canada’s total humanitarian assistance to the crisis in Libya to almost $8 million ….”
  • Rash o’ Pre-Election Announcements (2) – This one from Defence Minister Peter MacKay: “…. A new career transition support policy for severely ill and injured Canadian Forces (CF) personnel will come into effect on May 1, 2011. Under this policy, severely ill and injured personnel with complex career transition needs, and who can no longer serve in the Regular Force or Primary Reserve, will be provided a longer transition period before returning to civilian life. For each of these individuals, the CF will develop a tailored and flexible plan that features comprehensive health care, career transition assistance, and the social support of the military community over a period of up to three years. The Minister also announced a change to the CF promotion policy whereby any qualified CF member who has been severely injured in Afghanistan with a battlefield injury will also be eligible for promotion if they continue serving with the CF ….”
  • Rash o’ Pre-Election Announcements (3) – One more from the Defence Minister: “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, in conjunction with The Ottawa Hospital and The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, today helped unveil the Rehabilitation Virtual Reality Laboratory, housing the CAREN system, at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre …. This initiative is another example of CF’s excellent partnership with The Ottawa Hospital that ensures ill and injured CF personnel receive excellent care when they need it the most …. The installation of this system was made possible through the funding efforts of the community, which raised $500,000 for the laboratory at the General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital, and the CF, which contributed $1.5 million to the CAREN system. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is proud to play a role in making this state-of-the-art tool a reality at the Hospital, said Foundation President and CEO Susan Doyle ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – More on the price/cost wrangling.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – Blogger Mark Collins asks how the Liberals are going to deal with future fighter buys if they get back at the helm.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 11 Mar 11

  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Parliament’s Budget Office (PBO):  Our estimates (based on production price per pound of plane and a longer service timeline – 30 years vs. the CF’s 20 years) show the F-35 will cost more than the Canadian government is saying now. (1.1 MB PDF, 65 pg).  The executive summary is downloadable here via Army.ca.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Both the Liberals and the NDP started poking the government almost immediately during Question Period in the House of Commons on this one yesterday.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3) MSM are full of stories on this one as well this from the Canadian Press, this from the Toronto Star, this from the National Post/Postmedia News, this from CTV.ca, and this from Reuters.
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (1)Canada is defending the effectiveness of sanctions against Libya, despite their apparent failure after Moammar Gadhafi’s troops managed to drive rebel forces out of a key oil port. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Thursday that he thinks sanctions against Libya are working, but more are needed. He said all options for Libya remain on the table as he and fellow G8 foreign ministers prepare to meet in France early next week for talks on the crisis. “I think the sanctions regime is working. Obviously it has its merits and its objectives. There needs to be more, I believe. That is why we’re still examining the options.” Cannon rejected a suggestion that sanctions are failing because Gadhafi is still holding power and reclaiming rebel-held territory ….”
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (2) Retired General Lew Mackenzie with a reminder that a no-fly zone could morph into more than JUST a no-fly zone in Libya. “…. once you decide to militarily intervene in another country’s civil conflict, you have to be prepared to escalate even if it’s the wrong thing to do, because quitting your commitment when the initial plan fails is just not on …. Col. Gadhafi doesn’t need his air force to prevail, so its grounding or destruction would merely shift the fighting to the backs of his army. Libya is a big country, with 2,000 kilometres of coastline, so the major fighting would take place along the main coastal road. The opposition forces would be no match for even poorly organized army units if Col. Gadhafi decides to get serious.  Watching this unfold from 20,000 feet, the countries enforcing any no-fly zone would be unable to ignore the carnage below them. Backed into a corner, their political leaders would be forced to escalate and authorize attacks against the Libyan army – thereby becoming, in effect, the opposition’s air force. By so doing, they would assume a much larger role in Libya’s future, including reconstruction of the damage they inflicted ….”
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (3)  Speaker of the House of Commons:  Not unpleasant enough for an emergency debate right now.
  • A little more information on Canada coming through with more funding a school project in Kandahar. “…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced $250,000 in additional funding for the Afghan Canadian Community Centre (ACCC). This funding will allow the ACCC to continue providing successful literacy courses and training in Kandahar city …. The ACCC is a private training centre in Kandahar City that provides professional education in such subjects as business management, information technology, English and health care. This additional support will enable the Centre to continue delivering valuable training, establish a resource centre, and implement a self-sustainability plan. Translation of that last bit of government-speak in red:  some of the money the school is getting is to be used to come up with a plan to be able to run without any more outside funding (or at least from us).
  • A friend of Colin Rutherford, the Canadian reportedly being held hostage by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, sees world for what it is“…. We as students need to recognize that terrorism does not only happen to other people. Terrorists exist to cause fear, and through that fear they gain power. Colin was not afraid to go into a place that has been torn by war to try to help people who are different from himself, and to help them on their terms instead of his. It may not have been the brightest thing to do, but it was brave and motivated by a good heart. He may not come home alive or, if alive, not whole and sound. I pray every day for him. I hope I will get to see him again and hug him and tell him that I am proud of him for wanting to bring something positive into a bastion of terror ….”
  • Remember the “MMA Visits Afghanistan to Fight for the Troops?” story earlier this week (eighth bullet here) Here’s the U.S. military information machine’s story on the event.
  • Ooopsie…. “At a time of unprecedented tension between the west and Hamid Karzai over the killing of civilians, Nato has accidentally shot dead one of the Afghan president’s own family members during a botched night raid. Officials in the southern province of Kandahar said Haji Yar Mohammad Karzai, a second cousin of the president, was killed during an operation by US special forces in Karz, the ancestral Karzai home on the outskirts of Kandahar city. In what appears to have been a major intelligence failure, the 63-year-old tribal elder was mistaken for the father of a Taliban commander …. Mahmoud Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, said he “smelled a very deep conspiracy” over the killing of Haji Yar Mohammad and said he feared Nato had been fed false information by someone from within the Karzai family ….” Here’s ISAF’s first statement on the incident, with a follow-up update here.  More on the touchiness of the situation from the Canadian Press here.
  • Canadian shipyard workers pipe in on Canada’s plans to look at foreign designs for new big honkin’ ships for the Navy. “Canada should not adapt foreign designs to replace its 40-year-old supply ships, says the man who represents over 1,000 workers at Halifax Shipyard. The navy is looking for consultants to assess the risks and cost of altering current German and Spanish military supply-ship designs to Canadian needs. They are also being told to be ready to assist federal officials with detailed drawings. “No matter what way you slice the pie, its Canadian tax dollars leaving Canada to go to another country to help them out in an economic crisis when we’re in our own,” Jamie Vaslet of the CAW/Marine Workers Federation, said Thursday. “Made in Canada is not a bad name, so designed in Canada is not a bad name, either. We designed and built some of, if not the best, world-class frigates.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, Mark Collins wonders how sloooooooooooooooooooow one can go to build new ships needed by Canada’s Navy.
  • Remember the shipload o’ Tamils dropped on the west coast by the MV Sun Sea last summerOne of the passengers admitted to being a bad guy, and has been ordered deported (eventually). “A passenger on the MV Sun Sea ship has admitted to being a member of the Tamil Tigers and ordered out of Canada, but don’t expect the unnamed man to be booted out anytime soon.  The man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, initially denied being associated with the Tiger terrorist group but later admitted to officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency that he had been a member …. “We are pleased that these hearings are moving ahead,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the man in charge of the CBSA …. Toews has stated several times that the ship has terrorist links but this case is the first to come with a deportation order.  “That ship, that voyage was co-ordinated by the Tamil Tigers,” Toews told QMI Agency on Wednesday. “Our commitment has been to ensure that individuals who are associated with terrorist organizations do not find refuge in this country.” ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 10 Mar 11

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

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Mar 11

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

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Feb 11

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

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Dec 10

  • First, a correction:  Remember the Canadian contract listing where the CF is looking for help to improve storytelling in yesterday’s update?  It seems I put the wrong link in – this is the correct one.  Many thanks to Richard, who drew my attention to this.
  • Vandoos into Zangabad: “Taliban fighters in the notorious village of Zangabad aren’t about to just melt away, the commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan warned Monday as Canadian troops officially took control of the long-standing insurgent stronghold.  “Yeah, they’re going to fight. This is their home turf,” Maj.-Gen. James Terry told The Canadian Press at a patrol base in southwestern Panjwaii, the troubled district where a combined force of coalition and Afghan soldiers is pushing forward.  So far, though, “it’s going real well,” Terry said ….”
  • Canada sending medicine, medical equipment to Afghanistan “…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation (CIDA), highlighted the first phase of Health Partners International Canada’s (HPIC) Capacity Building and Access to Medicines (CBAM) project, a five-year project that will provide Afghans with reliable access to medicine and medical supplies ….  For more information on the Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project visit www.hpicanada.ca and www.Afghanistan.gc.ca ….”
  • The Globe & Mail manages an e-mail interview with the commander of Canada’s Special Operations Forces, Brigadier-General Mike Day – this on the alleged lack of accountability we hear suggested from some out there“Q:  There’s nothing you’re doing that the Prime Minister wouldn’t know about, right?  A:  All the senior leaders hear what we’re doing. This idea that nobody knows – it’s [expletive]. ” More from the Globe here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Taliban’s sites are down for now, but not before you get to see lies about Canadian deaths.
  • Remember this little bank firebombing incident around the G8/G20, aimed at sending a message to “resist the trampling of native rights, of the rights of us all, and resist the ongoing destruction of our planet”? Someone’s pleaded guilty, and now he’s about to be sentenced.
  • The government is expected to announce today a plan/strategy to prevent another Air India bombing from happening: “The Honourable Vic Toews, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism will release the Air India Inquiry Action Plan ….” More from the Globe & Mail here and Postmedia News here.
  • So, what’s the former head of the Military Police Complaints Commission, Peter Tinsley, up to these days? Running for office, it seems: “…. Peter Tinsley, the former chief of the Military Police Complaints Commission — one of several public servants who have parted ways with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government — announced on Monday that he’ll be the Liberal candidate for the Ontario riding of Prince Edward-Hastings in the next election.  And Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is hinting that Tinsley may not be the only person the Liberals will be recruiting from among the swelling ranks of public servants and whistleblowers who have publicly sparred with Harper’s government.  “Will he be the only one? Watch this space,” Ignatieff said ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 23 Nov 10

  • No Canadian reaction yet, but this is scary enough to include:  North Korea has shelled a South Korean island, killing and wounding people living there.  More here – something to keep one’s eye on.
  • Postmedia News is starting to share some details about what Canadian trainers could end up doing in the newly-announced-but-not-publicly-fleshed-out training mission in Afghanistan“Canada’s war-hardened soldiers are going back to the basics for a three-year Afghan training mission. Up to 950 soldiers who would normally have been facing combat in Kandahar will now be dispatched to walled-off bases around Kabul to lead Afghan soldiers in basic training exercises between 2011 and 2014. Jogging, marching, push-ups and firing weapons will replace Taliban hunting in the Canadian playbook, under a plan rolled out Tuesday by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and international development ….” So, what type of troops does Canada send to train the Afghans? How do you prepare those troops being sent to train? Where previous rotations prepared by training to fight and work with Afghan forces in battle, should future trainers be taught how to set up schools and training systems before being unleashed on the Afghans? Who trains the Afghan troops?  Their junior leaders?  Their officers? Outstanding discussion under way on this, including commentary from them that’s been there, at Army.ca – well worth the read.
  • One tool Canada appears to be unleashing to help train Afghan cops, who are notorious for their less-than-stellar reliability and integrity:  a TV show. More from the Toronto Star“Canada is underwriting a propaganda campaign to transform the image of the notorious Afghan national police in the hearts and minds of the country’s television viewers. The half-million dollar initiative casts Lt. Humayun as a dedicated, incorruptible Afghan National Police officer trolling the streets of Kabul to settle tribal disputes and put drug traffickers and warlords out of business. The popular Saturday evening television series, Separ, is sort of an Afghan version of Paul Gross’s Mountie in the popular Due South series. The two dozen planned episodes of the show are intended to educate the country on the roles and duties of the Afghan National Police (ANP), a force that is hardly better trusted than thugs and terrorists it is meant to be targetting ….” Canada’s development agency CIDA Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is pumping more than $400,000 into this one. (Correction based on Toronto Star correction of original version of story)
  • United Press International says we will be hearing more details (eventually) about Canada’s mystery purchase of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan“…. A Canadian Forces officer says the Department of Defense might release more information about the helicopters at a later date. The Defense Department acquired the MI-17 helicopters for combat use in Afghanistan but has refused to provide details about how much the deal cost taxpayers or how many aircraft are operating, Postmedia News reported ….” Kinda harkens back to summer 2006, when Russia tried selling some helicopters to Canada, which was then in a bit of a rush to buy helicopters for the troops.
  • One senior Canadian officer says the victory he’s seeing in southern Afghanistan is not the fleeting kind“Some people say it is only because the Taliban have gone back to Pakistan because it is the winter,” said Col. Ian Creighton, in charge of the operational mentor liaison team (OMLT) that has gone to war alongside the Afghan army as advisers. “And, you know, it is the truth. Some have. But others have died or given up” ….”
  • Back here in Canada, the Bloc Quebecois is pushing for a vote in Parliament on the new Canadian mission in Afghanistan (more from Postmedia News here).  And the Liberals? Well, shortly after the 16 Nov 10 announcement, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was OK with the plans for a training mission “We could conceive of a training mission …. What are we there for, anyway? …. We’re not there to run the country. We’re not there to take it over. We’re there to enable them to defend themselves.”.  His foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, even went as far as saying, “We obviously want to see what the detailed mandate for the mission is, but a non-combat mission would not normally require a parliamentary vote.” And now?  This, from the Globe & Mail“…. “We’ve never ducked a democratic debate on Afghanistan,” (Ignatieff) told reporters in Montreal on Monday after addressing college students. The Liberal Leader said he would not propose a vote himself but that, if there is one, “we have no problem with that.”….”  I’ll say he’s being squeezed from all sides, including from within his own caucus – more on Ignatieff as wishbone from the Canadian Press here.
  • The Ottawa Citizen points out how a Conservative cabinet minister speaking in the House of Commons this week doesn’t seem to consider Afghanistan to be at war.  Reminds me of a bit of debate in the House in October 2009, where then-parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Deepak Obhrai expressed a similar sentiment (Hansard here, more here):  “This is not a war. We are providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security. Let us get it very clear so the NDP can understand what a secure environment is and what a war is. A war is between two nations; a war is between two parties. There are not two parties there. This is a different kind of war. We are facing a terrorist organization that does not respect any rules of engagement.”
  • One American soldier’s memories of his colleagues seeing Canadian tanks in Afghanistan, via a New York Times blog“One of the most memorable moments during our 12 month tour was arriving on FOB Wilson in Zhari, Kandahar, for the weekly district security shura and watching the tanker half of my platoon swoon over the troop of Canadian Leopard 2A6Ms parked in the motor-pool. Memories of past I.E.D.s and firefights flowed through our heads. And of course, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What if…” ….” They won’t have to wonder for much longer.
  • Blog Watch: Gotta love the “Compare and Contrast” dare Terry Glavin puts out, asking folks to compare the Taliban’s latest statements and those from people and groups opposed to Canada’s continued presence in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 30 claimed killed, wounded in alleged attacks across Kandahar.
  • In case you haven’t heard, there’s a significant outbreak of cholera in Haiti.  Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Canada should go check things out and see how we can help: “…. “We just think the Canadian government cannot stand by while cholera ravages Haiti,” the Liberal leader told reporters in Montreal on Monday.  “This is a country that has been in the inner circle of the damned for the past year.” …. Ignatieff says Ottawa should send “a strategic evaluation mission right away” to take a closer look at the situation in the Caribbean country.  “Once we’ve done an evaluation around what’s needed, it may be necessary to send the DART team or maybe even some element of a military mission to basically help these cholera hospitals get this thing under control,” he said ….”
  • Finally, this, buried in an American tender award announcement“The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $7,625,501 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract (N00019-09-D-0010) to exercise an option for in-service support for F/A-18 aircraft of the governments of Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Malaysia and Spain. Services to be provided include program management, logistics, engineering support, and incidental materials and technical data. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the governments of Switzerland ($2,461,884; 32 percent); Finland ($1,702,014; 22 percent); Canada ($872,514; 12 percent); Kuwait ($874,264; 12 percent); Malaysia ($864,264; 11 percent); Australia ($464,714; 6 percent); and Spain ($385,847; 5 percent), under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from MERX here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(….)

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

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

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

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

Congrats to Kandahar Grads!

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

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

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

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

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

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