MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Feb 11

  • VERY interesting questions from a wounded warrior…. “ …. What happened to the CDS’s promise (made to me in person) that no disabled WIA would be released before they are ready to transition?  …. those of us in uniform all know that there are personnel in various support trades who have never deployed because they are too obese to meet the basic fitness standard (Battle Fitness Test).  These folks seem to float from one T-Cat to another, with very few (if any) ever being released for failure to pass even the non-deployment basic fitness test (EXPRES test).  What is up with that?  …. Why does the CF even stock the extreme sizes of combat uniform that are as wide in the arse/gut as they are tall?  Grossly obese persons have no place in uniform, projecting a negative public image of the CF.  Orange jumpsuits would be more appropriate for the morbidly obese and would serve as an incentive to lose weight.  Rigid and timely application of the universality of service requirements and medical release procedures should also be applied to those obese members who cannot attain the deployment fitness standard.  At the end of the day, I would like to see disabled combat vets such as myself offered the opportunity to fill domestic support jobs so that those who are fit to fight are freed up for deployment.   If nothing else, I want assurance that our disabled WIA are offered the same degree of “rule-bending consideration” that the chain of command and the medical system quite evidently apply to the 1000 or so obese CF members who can’t even pass the basic XPRES test.”
  • Memorial visits to Kandahar by the families of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan will continue, but they’ll be financed by non-public funds, the Defence Department said Wednesday. A department spokesman said the visits, which had been briefly in limbo, won’t be billed to the taxpayer until new spending rules are in place. In the meantime, costs can be covered from the military families fund, which is financed by private donations and various fund-raisers, Andrew McKelvey, a department communications adviser, said in an email. “The military families fund is an agile and responsive fund with a broad mandate to assist families, especially where there is no authorized public program, benefit or service to do this,” he said. “Given the intent to seek public approval for (next-of-kin) travel, it is anticipated that the support required from the military families fund will be short term.” ….”
  • Blog Watch: Former OMLT-eer says NYT reporter needs to do more homework covering Afghanistan.
  • One set of hearings looking into Canadian treatment of Afghan detainees has wrapped upThe Military Police Complaints Commission has adjourned to sort through the sometimes explosive testimony of some 35 witnesses, as well as thousands of pages of documents reluctantly turned over by the federal government, after an oftentimes acrimonious hearing into the Afghan detainee scandal drew to a close Wednesday. The year-long hearing concluded with final arguments from civil rights lawyers who said eight military police officers were negligent in their failure to investigate potentially criminal decisions taken by Canadian Forces commanders to transfer detainees to Afghan custody, where they faced torture. Lawyers for Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which launched the complaint, argued there was an abundance of evidence to suggest Afghan secret police were abusive and, had military police been asking the right questions of task force commanders, they would have known something wasn’t right ….” More here and here.
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchAttacks alleged in Kandahar, and Taliban showing its green side.
  • Egyptian officials have promised the federal government they will do “everything” they can to help Canadians still stranded in the North African nation, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Wednesday.  A plane carrying 29 Canadians and dozens of Australians, Britons and Americans left Alexandria for Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday as violent protests continued in the streets of Egypt’s major cities. A flight leaving Cairo, which is expected to carry about 90 Canadians, was scheduled to land in Paris Wednesday evening.  Cannon told reporters that he spoke with Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit Wednesday about the ongoing mass protests aimed at forcing President Hosni Mubarak from office after three decades in power …. “
  • Canada’s MPs spent much of last night in the House of Commons in an emergency debate on what’s up in Egypt these days – transcript via Hansard here.
  • Would-be Jihadist suicide bomber or playful loving family man? Those were the two starkly different ways suspected terrorist Sayfilden Tahir Sharif was portrayed Wednesday at his bail hearing in Edmonton. A photograph snapped by Cara Rain, his common-law wife, was entered as an exhibit showing Sharif clowning around with her children in the apartment they shared before his arrest last month by RCMP at the request of the FBI.  Wearing a black hijab, Rain told court there is no way the man she loves is guilty of U.S. allegations that he supported a multinational terrorist network that took part in a suicide bombing which killed five American soldiers in Iraq …. Sharif’s lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, is seeking bail conditions akin to house arrest as his client prepares to fight extradition to the U.S.  The federal Crown wants him held in custody pending the outcome of a long hearing process that may not begin until later this year. Crown prosecutor Jim Shaw entered a letter from the U.S. Justice Department dated Feb. 1 that warns Sharif poses an extreme danger to the community and a significant flight risk ….”
  • Border Worries (1): This from a U.S. government watchdog office“The challenges of securing the U.S.-Canadian border involve the coordination of multiple partners. The results of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to integrate border security among its components and across federal, state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners are unclear. GAO was asked to address the extent to which DHS has (1) improved coordination with state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners; (2) progressed in addressing past federal coordination challenges; and (3) progressed in securing the northern border and used coordination efforts to address existing vulnerabilities ….”
  • Border Worries (2) Canada and the United States are scrambling to quell fears that Canadians would soon need visas to cross the border, following a hard-hitting report to Congress that questioned security along the 49th parallel. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Wednesday he had been assured by the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, there is no plan to require visas. “Ambassador Jacobson phoned me up to let me know that that certainly is not the intention of the Obama administration,” Cannon told a news conference. Indeed, Jacobson took to Twitter shortly after the report’s release Tuesday to declare that co-operation between the U.S. and Canada on security and border management had been “exceptional for years.” ….”
  • Border Worries (3) Canada and the United States are poised to take a major step toward common border security controls that could lead to joint government facilities, sophisticated tracking of travellers, better cyber-security protection and improved oversight of overseas cargo shipped to both countries. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to give the green light Friday to a comprehensive shared review of border security aimed at tightening protection from terrorists and easing the flow of cross-border traffic ….” More on tomorrow’s coming talks here.  Let’s hope the issue of where many of those illegal guns that end up being seized here are coming from as well.
  • F-35 Tug of War (1) Firms report big risks to get onboard F-35 program: Firms say major ministerial public relations campaign as much about investor as public confidence.”
  • F-35 Tug of War (2) Canada’s defence minister accuses former CF member/Liberal MP Marc Garneau of not supporting the troops on this one“…. Mr. Speaker, I think the person who is worried is the member opposite because the more he talks against the F-35 the more he shows his true colours. He is against the aerospace industry in his own region. He is working against those men and women he used to serve with ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? More on running CFS Alert infrastructure, and pest control in/around Gagetown
  • Three Canadian Navy ships (and an Aurora patrol aircraft) are headed west to help on an exercise near Hawaii.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 Jan 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 21 Dec 10

  • Corporal Steve Martin, R22eR, R.I.P. He’s expected to arrive at CFB Trenton this afternoon.  A bit more here.
  • Suuuuuuure the Taliban tries to prevent civilian casualties…. “A respected villager, his three brothers and his young son were walking home from early-morning prayers at their mosque when the man spotted something suspicious on the dusty road outside his family’s mud-walled compound. Crouching down to investigate, there was an eruption of dirt and shrapnel — the man, 38, was blown apart, the four others seriously wounded. The dull, concussive boom of the explosion shook awake the occupants of a nearby Canadian combat outpost camp, located in the Panjwaii district southwest of Kandahar City …. Was it a message to the village, a traditional Taliban safe haven, but in an area where the Van Doos and the Afghan security forces have announced their intentions to now stay? Or was it in response to a visit the previous day by Afghan and Canadian generals to a neighbouring village where the message was one of coming operations to chase out the insurgents? “It could have been for intimidation, but it was probably targeted at us, not the local population,” said Warrant Officer Claude Belisle of 5th platoon B Company, based at COP Imam Sahib …”
  • The latest (and a warning) on the change o’ mission for Canada in Afghanistan: “2011 will be a year of massive transition for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, as troops close out the mission as combat warriors in Kandahar to open a new chapter as trainers in Kabul.  After years of gruelling, costly and deadly warfare, the military will pull combat soldiers from the field. But the mission will continue — with up to 950 soldiers based around the Afghan capital – in a training and development capacity.  Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin, chair of the Senate defence committee that urged the government to maintain a role in Afghanistan post-2011, said the impact would have been “quite profound” had Canada completely withdrawn.  “It would have been a loss for the world,” she told QMI Agency. “It would have been a loss for NATO, it would have been a loss for the Afghans and I think it would have been a loss for Canadians if we hadn’t agreed to stay to finish what we set out to do.” …. despite the move from Kandahar to the relatively safer region of Kabul, Wallin warned the entire country remains a war zone and Canada could still suffer casualties ….”
  • Speaking of training Afghan security forces, there still appears to be pretty big gaps to be filled. “NATO is not meeting its target for assembling specialized trainers to build up Afghanistan’s army and police forces, the key that would open the way to a withdrawal of coalition troops beginning next year. An internal progress report from the training mission headquarters here warned that it “does not have the required number of trainers, which threatens our ability to sustain momentum through the summer of 2011 to develop and professionalize the Afghan national security force.” The Dec. 12 report, obtained by The Globe and Mail, said NATO member countries have so far pledged to fill just half of the 819 “critical” trainer slots that need to be filled if Afghanistan is to begin to assume responsibility next year for its own security. Some nations that have made offers, including Canada, have yet to confirm their pledges or decide what kinds of skills and capabilities their trainers would bring. “It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle,” said a senior NATO officer in Kabul. “Some countries can confirm their pledges right away. Others say they need time to resolve political and budgetary issues.” ….”
  • More on what Canada should be doing to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan, from Senator Mobina Jaffer, the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights“…. If Canada is going to help create a more stable and secure Afghanistan then it will need to ensure that women are part of the equation. In addition they will also have to adapt their training so that it is gender sensitive. If this is not done then Afghanistan, a country that has experienced over 23 years of war, will never see peace.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to blow up 2 Canadian “tanks” – no mainstream media confirmation.
  • “If you read only one letter over the holiday season, let this Canadian trooper’s heartfelt words be it”
  • Some work for armoured fighting vehicle builders in London, Ontario. “…. GM GDLS Defense Group, LLC, JV, Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Dec. 16 a $9,614,102 firm-fixed-price/cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. This award will provide for 350 Stryker retrofit video display electronic terminal A-kits. Work will be performed in Shelby Township, Mich., and London, Canada, with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-D-M112) ….”
  • The Globe & Mail‘s Geoffrey York (AGAIN) flogging his favourite question:  why isn’t Canada helping the Congo? “It has become a grim Christmas ritual: hundreds of innocent civilians massacred in remote corners of Africa by the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the world’s cruellest and bloodiest guerrilla forces.  Now, fearing a Christmas attack for the third consecutive year, the United Nations is mobilizing 900 peacekeepers to protect villages in Congo, and the United States has promised its own action against the LRA.  But activists are calling for a much stronger response to prevent another wave of gruesome attacks by LRA fighters, who routinely kidnap, rape, torture and mutilate their victims. More than 1,000 adults and children were killed by the LRA in the days around Christmas in 2008 and 2009, while hundreds more were kidnapped and conscripted into the rebel army …. Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, a former lieutenant-general who commanded the UN force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, warned that there is an “imminent threat” of further massacres by the LRA this month. He joined a group of former high-ranking diplomats and UN officials in calling for a stronger strategy against the rebel army.  “How many lives must be lost and destroyed before the international community agrees to take the threat seriously and act?” Mr. Dallaire said.” Since Mr. York didn’t mention it, the CF already HAS a presence in Democratic Republic of Congo.  This isn’t the first time he’s asked for this – more here on his last call in August October (thanks Mark at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for the bit in red) for Canada to do more there.  Also, more on Canada’s national interests (or lack thereof?) in Congo at Army.ca here.
  • The Canadian Press has been trolling jihadi online forums for some intriguing stories, the latest being one of Coptic Christians being named on these forums (maybe as possible targets?). “More than 100 Canadian-Arab Christians are listed on an al-Qaeda affiliated website, apparently targeted because of their alleged role in attempting to convert Muslims. Some of those named say concerned Canadian intelligence officials have contacted them. The Shumukh-al-Islam website, often considered to be al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece, listed pictures, addresses and cellphone numbers of Coptic Christians, predominantly Egyptian-Canadians, who have been vocal about their opposition to Islam. Three pages of the fundamentalist, Arabic-language website titled “Complete information on Coptics” sets to “identify and name all of the Coptics throughout the world who hope to defame Islam,” The website calls the Coptic Christians living abroad “dogs in diaspora,” a derogatory reference in Arabic. In a forum on the website, one member named Son of a Sharp Sword, says “We are going to return back to Islam and all of the Mujahedeen [holy warriors] will cut off their heads.” ….”
  • A bit of a review of recent media speculation on Rick Hillier as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, from the Ottawa Citizen.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Dec 10

  • Canada is apparently continuing to use a controversial Afghan security company to help protect a big dam project in Afghanistan. “Canada is standing by a controversial Afghan security firm that’s controlled by Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family despite a U.S. military decision to sever ties with it, The Star has learned.  The Watan Group, which safeguards Canada’s signature Dahla Dam restoration project in Kandahar, was blacklisted this week as part of a U.S. effort to stop aid dollars slipping into the hands of corrupt officials and Taliban commanders.  But Watan Risk Management, the specific subsidiary facing intense American scrutiny, will remain Canada’s security partner on the ground, according to Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the lead partner in the project.  “For the moment, we have no plans to replace Watan. Until or unless we have evidence that these contractors have done something illegal we will continue to employ them,” SNC-Lavalin spokesman Leslie Quintan confirmed in an email to The Star.  “Our primary concern is, as always, the safety and security of our people and we will do nothing to put them in jeopardy.” ….” Meanwhile, the U.S. military is apparently blacklisting said security firm “to clean up a contracting process in Afghanistan that has been riddled with corruption and allowed U.S. funds to pass to insurgents.” A bit of the rocky history of the company protecting Canada’s signature dam project here at Army.ca.
  • The past (Canadian) chair of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission says some progress is being made, and Canada can still help make the voting process there better. “…. Now is the precisely the time for Canada to renew and redouble our efforts in this area by working with Afghans as they continue to build their nascent democracy. Let’s use the momentum that the IEC has created so that the next elections are less fraudulent, more inclusive, credible and transparent than has been the case to date.”
  • Meanwhile, John Manley (of the 2008 Manley team report on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan) also says Canada can still help out there. “…. Afghanistan has surely taught us that there are limits to what can be achieved through traditional military/ civilian approaches to state-building. Canadians who have grown weary of the war in Afghanistan will welcome the shift to a new, less dangerous role for Canadian troops in that country — a role that will mean fewer ramp ceremonies and solemn processions along the Highway of Heroes in southern Ontario. So Afghanistan will fade from the daily news. But the chilling era of terror that we entered unexpectedly in 2001 will still be with us. We must be intelligent about how we deal with these risks. And we must not allow our will to weaken, nor our determination to flag.”
  • A number of authors and analysts have signed this open letter to U.S. President Obama, calling for the United States to “sanction and support a direct dialogue and negotiation with the Afghan Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan”. From the letter:  “The Taliban’s leadership has indicated its willingness to negotiate”.  Who put up the letter?  Good question, considering Alexa.com shows no stats or information to track for the address, and the URL is registered with a company that hosts addresses.  While I understand that public statements only show part of the picture, the public statements I’ve read all seem to say “no talks until foreign soldiers leave” (check here, here, here and here for some of the latest variations on the “you go, we talk” theme).  I’ve asked signers of the open letter for open source information showing the willingness mentioned in the letter – I’ll share that information as soon as I get it.  Meanwhile, a tidbit from a Taliban statement just posted this morning (links to Scribd.com):  “(The Taliban) is determined that it would never show its readiness for negotiation in conditions that the foreign forces are stationing in the country.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have destroyed a new U.S. base in Kandahar.
  • More “Question the F-35 Purchase” copy from the Ottawa Citizen here, here and here.  Some supporting commentary here, and more partisan “Attack the F-35 Purchase” copy here.
  • More on Canada’s JTF-2:  they’re more likely to nab bad guys than nail them. “Canadian special forces in Afghanistan capture more insurgents than they kill.  Surprised?  Well it’s true.  Like most issues surrounding the secretive Canadian special operations community, the truth is more nuanced and complex than the myth.  Contrary to popular belief, Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is not Canada’s only special operations unit, nor does it spend most of its time shooting.  “You can’t kill your way to victory,” says Brig.-Gen. Michael Day, commander of Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM).  Day shatters the shoot-’em-up, cowboy special forces image of popular culture.  Apparently, Canada’s elite commandos don’t go around kicking down doors and shooting up insurgent compounds.  Canadian special operations forces (known as SOF) “pull the trigger less than a quarter of the time,” Day explains ….” The information seems to come from a conference in Kingston last week (information on conference here and here, both via Google’s web cache, or here at Scribd.com of those links no longer work), where the author, Mercedes Stephenson, participated in a media panel.  An interesting message at the end of the column:  “…. This column isn’t long enough to smash every special operations myth, but there’s one more worth mentioning: SOF are expensive. The entire budget for Canadian special operations this year is $205 million. A number that small is peanuts in the defence budget. Now that’s value for money.” Out of a total budget of about $22 billion (according to Treasury Board budget documents), that’s just under 1%.
  • The Toronto Star uses the story of one Canadian military officer to seque into lamenting the loss of Canada’s “peacekeepers” “Unlike most other Canadian soldiers, Lt.-Col. Dalton Cote doesn’t carry a gun. He is a peacekeeper, one of 27 left in a military that used to be defined by that role.  For the past six months, while his comrades in arms were patrolling through Kandahar and sidestepping IEDs, Cote left his guns at home, donned a blue beret, climbed into a UN truck and negotiated his way through checkpoints in an effort to observe troop movements, monitor weapon stashes and investigate violent attacks on both sides of the makeshift border that could next month become the official partition between north and south Sudan.  As the leader of 20 Canadian peacekeepers sprinkled across the Sudanese countryside, Cote, a 45-year-old father of two, was, until five weeks ago, leading the largest Canadian peacekeeping contingent currently deployed ….” More on Canada’s mission in Sudan here, and how the CF’s helping out in Darfur here.
  • Oopsie at Veterans Affairs Canada or the Canadian Forces. ” The Department of Defence has launched an investigation after a former member of the Canadian Forces found sensitive health and personal information about other military personnel in his medical file. Wayne Finn said he was stunned to discover everything from other service members’ social insurance numbers, blood test results, X-ray reports to dates of birth mixed in with his military medical file. The 49-year-old Nova Scotia man said he still has information referring to about 20 people in his file, even after returning the files of eight others to the base in Halifax where he was serving ….”
  • Canada willing to help Haiti (but nobody’s asked for more troops at this point)“Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is ready to do whatever it is asked to help maintain order in Haiti, but doubts that will mean sending more troops to the troubled Caribbean nation. Cannon told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that Canadian soldiers and police officers are already part of a UN-led security force in Haiti, and Canada has not been asked to send more …” More on Canada’s military presence still in Haiti working under a U.N. mandate, and more on the current unpleasantness there here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? A review of a big plane contract review, and starches in pouches

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 10 Dec 10

  • Last batch of Vandoos enroute to Afghanistan for latest ROTO – bonne chance et bonne chasse!
  • Care packages:  they’re not JUST for the troops anymore “…. Soldiers in Afghanistan regularly receive care packages from home, but the Bomb Disposal Dogs that work alongside our troops are often forgotten. That is until now ….” CF video here, full transcript here.
  • Alternative explanation:  the Taliban could just be waiting for a better chance. NATO’s offensive through restive western Kandahar this fall seems to have caught the Taliban off guard. American and Canadian troops uncovered several large stockpiles of semi-prepared homemade bombs during their push into the area known as the horn of Panjwaii. Many of the explosives were either very old or missing their power sources. Maj. Pierre Leroux, the commander of Alpha Company from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, says it appears insurgents in the notorious Zangabad area simply up and left their compounds — perhaps in a hurry — when the initial U.S. assault wave hit. “This push was a surprise for them,” Leroux said in an interview Thursday with The Canadian Press. “They were probably expecting something last summer.” ….”
  • He says:  NDP cranky over lack of Canadian detainee documents. “NDP Leader Jack Layton is calling on the Liberals and Bloc Québécois to pull out of a special panel with the Conservative government that examines documents related to the Afghan detainee transfers. At a news conference Thursday on the one-year anniversary of Parliament’s demand for access to the thousands of pages of uncensored documents, Layton also called on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe to join his party’s call for a full public inquiry ….” She says:  they’re coming, they’re coming! “Canadians will soon get their first official glimpse of sensitive Afghan detainee documents — more than a year after the House of Commons demanded disclosure of some 40,000 pages of confidential information. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said a special multi-party committee that’s been vetting the documents since July will finally start disclosing “an important number” of documents next month. Liberals were somewhat less specific, saying only that the first round of document disclosures will come “very soon.” ….”
  • Is the CF at war, while Canada is at the mall?
  • A judge says there are grounds to believe Algerian-born Mohamed Harkat is a security threat who maintained ties to Osama bin Laden’s terror network after coming to Canada. The Federal Court decision Thursday could pave the way for Harkat’s deportation to his native country.  In a separate ruling, Judge Simon Noel upheld the constitutionality of the national security certificate system the government is using to remove Harkat, which denies the person named full access to the evidence.  Harkat, a 42-year-old former gas bar attendant and pizza delivery man, was arrested eight years ago on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent. He is free on bail under strict conditions, and must wear an ankle bracelet that allows authorities to track him.” More in the Federal Court of Canada decision summary here (PDF), as well as in individual judgement documents here, here and here (all PDF).
  • The Canadian Army’s training system has a new boss as of todayMajor-General David Fraser will assume command on December 10 of Land Force Doctrine and Training System (LFDTS) from Major-General Guy Laroche in an official ceremony at the Normandy Hall, CFB Kingston ….”
  • An interesting contrast of headlines to behold among different media regarding word that Canada and the U.S. are discussing some common “perimeter security” measures. Postmedia News/Global TV“Canada, U.S. on verge of North American trade, security ’perimeter.’ “ Globe & Mail“Canada negotiating perimeter security deal with U.S.” Toronto Star“Border security talks with U.S. fan sovereignty concerns” CBC.ca“Reported security deal draws House sparks”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Bad guys claim responsibility for killing Karzai’s brother’s bodyguard in Kandahar.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Dec 10

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 Nov 10

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.”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 22 Nov 10

  • So, what’s with the mysterious Russian helicopters Canada is reportedly buying, according to the Ottawa Citizen, for “combat missions in Afghanistan”? Could it be another version of offering support to the military fight in a civilianized way, like we’re apparently doing with civilian spy planes?
  • Counterinsurgency as oncology – one Canadian general’s assessment of the fight in Afghanistan“A Canadian two-star general brought in to provide an independent assessment of the state of the war in southern Afghanistan for NATO’s new commander here says the Taliban is being dealt with as if it is a malignancy.  “It is a cancer and the cancer is being treated,” said Maj.-Gen. Dave Fraser, who commanded Canadian and coalition forces in Regional Command South during 2006. “Even if this cancer goes into remission — and that is a ways down the road here — you have to make sure it is not hiding somewhere and comes back.  “Once you are in that permanent watch category, as someone who has had cancer, people look out for you to make sure it doesn’t come back. We must never assume that this cancer is gone.” “
  • Meanwhile, “the tumour” lies speaks to southern tribal elders, who speak to the Canadian Press: “The district governor in Panjwaii says he’s been warned the Taliban intend to continue fighting throughout the winter months and not give NATO forces any rest.  Haji Baran, the Noorzai tribal elder who has been the face of the Afghan government in the restive district for three years, says he received the news from contacts in Pakistan.  His tribe has a deep, long-standing ties to the insurgency that normally chooses to fight between May and late October.  Baran urged Canadian military commanders to be vigilant in the coming weeks.  “The fall of Panjwaii is the fall of Kandahar,” he said Sunday, repeating a well-worn line of many in the rural part of the province.  “So we have to be careful with that.” …”
  • Remember all the video games the CF is buying?  It appears they’re headed downrange to the troops in Afghanistan“…. Defence officials confirm that 500 copies of games such as “Gears of War,” “Call of Duty,” “Mortal Kombat,” and “Assassins Creed” are destined for Canada’s forward operating bases in the war-ravaged country.  An estimated 500 to 600 soldiers are stationed at Ma’sum Ghar and Sperwan Ghar, Canada’s main bases outside Kandahar, which works out to a video game for almost every gamer-in-uniform.  “It helps in keeping good morale … to bring some relief to people working long hours,” Cmdr. Hubert Genest said in an interview ….”
  • On the political front, NDP leader Jack Layton accuses the PM (and the Liberal leader a little bit) of “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”“The Conservative can’t be trusted to end the Afghan training mission in 2014, NDP Leader Jack Layton charged Sunday.  “I remember when he said 2011 was the absolute limit, the end of the military mission, we are out of there,” Layton told CTV’s Question Period.  “And now they are saying 2014. I don’t think anybody believes them.” In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Parliament to extend the military mission in Afghanistan until 2008. In 2008, he asked MPs to approve extending the mission until 2011. Layton warned at that time the government couldn’t be trusted to end the mission in 2011.  Now, the NDP leader says 2014 is an arbitrary deadline that is unlikely to be met because of unpredictable conditions on the ground ….”
  • CBC’s Brian Stewart reminds us that Canadian troops training Afghan security forces “inside the wire” doesn’t mean zero risk“…. To almost every question so far, the prime minister and his team have repeated the mantra that this will be “a non-combat mission” only, suggesting maximum safety.  But keep in mind that the Taliban will also have an important say in this …. Rockets and mortars regularly rain down on training camps and Taliban units have grown increasingly bold in striking at highly protected NATO camps and headquarters …. nowhere in Afghanistan can now be assumed to be beyond attack. Even the heavily guarded diplomatic corps of Kabul has been hit this year and is always braced for a possible suicide offensive ….” Also, let’s not forget instances where NATO trainers have been killed by their Afghan security force trainees (examples here, here and here).
  • A senior Afghan officer, speaking to QMI/Sun Media’s Mercedes Stephenson, sums it up pretty succinctly when it comes to what will happen when we leave Afghanistan completely: ” “Please,” he implored, “go home and explain to your people what will happen if they leave us alone here with these terrorists. Everything we have worked for will be gone. They will kill us all.  “We need Canada to stay.” “
  • Blog Watch: Terry Glavin over at Chronicles & Dissent offers an interesting theory regarding why more Canadians are not supporting a Canadian mission in Afghanistan“…. The best explanation I know about is revealed in an ambitious 20-country opinion poll conducted under the auspices of the University of Maryland’s World Public Opinion initiative, which shows global opinion similarly split, with the following insight: “Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to leave, 76 percent say that NATO forces should leave. Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to stay, 83 percent say NATO forces should stay.”  I don’t have any polling data to prove it, but I would bet a dollar to a dime that most Canadians believe the lie that most Afghans want NATO forces to leave their country. The primary function of Canada’s so-called “anti-war” activists is to make you to believe that lie, and Canada’s punditocracy has encouraged you to believe it.  I would also bet a dollar to a dime that if most Canadians knew the truth, which is that the overwhelming majority of Afghans have consistently supported and continue to support NATO’s efforts in their country, Canadian support for a robust Afghan mission would be overwhelmingly favorable …. And then we could move the Canadian debates out of the weeds, to questions that really matter ….”
  • While Canada and others are saying aid shouldn’t be flowed through the hands of Afghanistan’s, um,  “fiscally leaky” government, an Afghan human rights group says doing anything different will cut into the government’s legitimacy. “The chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says that if the Hamid Karzai government doesn’t receive foreign aid from Canada and other countries, it will never achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people.  Dr. Sima Samar (said) “After all, (Karzai) is elected president …. We want him to complete his term, so we have to find ways to help him and to put him in the right direction.”….” Same same from an international development professor, via the Ottawa Citizen:  “…. Because the donors plan, implement and control the budgets of the bulk of the programs, without delegating these responsibilities to Afghans, the latter lose the opportunity to learn the trade ….”
  • Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, former chair of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, continues to be underwhelmed about how wounded warriors and their families are treated“…. The New Veterans Charter was a mistake. All parliamentarians are complicit because the charter was passed unanimously. But that doesn’t relieve the government of its obligation to fix the mistake. The Charter does deal more fairly with some people than did the old Pension Plan, such as war widows (or widowers) and their families and soldiers in the highest ranks. But when you look closely at who comes out ahead, that’s about it.  Who’s worse off? Just about everybody else.  The biggest losers are privates and corporals (those most often wounded on any battlefield), members of the reserves, wounded vets who manage to live to 65, wounded vets with families and wounded vets who don’t live near case workers ….” Meanwhile, here’s one man’s story after losing his legs on operations in Bosnia, via the Kingston Whig-Standard.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch A quick response to what the NATO bosses decided in Lisbon (links to non-terrorist web site).

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Nov 10