News Highlights – 13 Jan 11

  • Canadian Forces’ statistics show 2010 saw fewer deaths, injuries among Canadian troops in Afghanistan than the previous year. More from the Toronto Star here, and some interesting discussion on why those numbers have dropped at here.
  • On a related note, it’s WELL worth the 16 minutes or so you should spend listening to Postmedia News’ Matthew Fisher talk to TVO host Steve Paikin about how things are going in Afghanistan (good for NATO), why you’re not hearing exactly how it’s going in the mainstream media, and why casualty numbers are dropping.
  • Canada has handed the keys (as well as command) of Kandahar’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT) to the United States.
  • “He says” on reported collateral damage caused by a recent offensive/rebuilding effort“A major coalition military operation in a volatile southern Afghan province has caused about 100 million dollars worth of damage to property, a government delegation said Tuesday. President Hamid Karzai dispatched the delegation, led by one of his advisers, to assess damage caused by Operation Omaid, which started in April and aims to root out the Taliban in Kandahar, a traditional heartland areas. The delegation then reported to the Western-backed leader, charging that the damage caused by the military offensive was worth over 100 million dollars, in part due to damage to crops, Karzai’s office said in a statement. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Brigadier-General Josef Blotz said he could not comment as he had not yet seen the statement. “As a result of military operation ‘Omaid’, significant property damage has been caused to the people in Arghandab, Zahri and Panjwayi districts in Kandahar province,” the delegation’s statement said ….”
  • “She says” on reported collateral damage caused by a recent offensive/rebuilding effort“By building a road, Canadian troops may have burned some bridges.  The commander of all NATO forces in southern Afghanistan says a major Canadian construction project is partly to blame for a recent slew of property-damage claims.  The road Canadian troops are carving through the horn of Panjwaii is part of a much larger military effort in Kandahar province. This week, a delegation of Afghan government officials claimed the offensive has come at an astronomical cost: upwards of $100 million in damaged fruit crops, livestock and property …. The Canadian road cuts through farmers’ fields in a dusty corner of southwestern Kandahar that has long be a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency.  Property owners who have found their land bisected by the thoroughfare have sought compensation, said Maj.-Gen. James Terry, who is in charge of the NATO contingent known as Regional Command South.  “Some of the claims come from that, in terms of compensation back to the people because of putting that road in,” he said at a news conference in Kandahar city on Thursday.  Terry, of the U.S. army’s 10th Mountain Division, pointed out that local elders asked for the road at a meeting, or shura. It will eventually link rural parts of the province and enable commerce ….” More on the road work in question here and here.
  • More on the work to close Canada’s Camp Mirage in the UAE (via the CF).
  • Remember that committee of politicians looking over all those Afghan detainee documents? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for them (or is it the light of an oncoming train coming)?
  • The PM is apparently eyeing a special parliamentary committee to vet top-secret intelligence. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considering creating a multi-partisan parliamentary committee to vet the top-secret intelligence gathered by Canada’s national security agencies. Several of Canada’s close allies — including Britain and the United States — have established committees of lawmakers to keep tabs on the operations of their spy agencies. When asked Friday whether he would consider creating a parliamentary intelligence committee, Harper noted that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton have been sworn in as members of the Queen’s Privy Council, a process that allows them to receive sensitive national security intelligence under an oath of secrecy. But the prime minister said the government is looking at ways to broaden Parliament’s involvement. “I know that has been under consideration for some time. I don’t think we’ve yet landed on a particular model that we think would be ideal,” Harper told reporters at a news conference in Welland, Ont ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 20 claimed killed in alleged attacks in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.
  • Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister hits the road to let veterans know what’s coming to them – more on the road trip from QMI here.
  • More on how it’s not necessarily the bureaucrats’ fault that some things happen the way they do at Veterans’ Affairs Canada. “…. Take the Sean Bruyea affair as an example: high level VAC officials briefed Ministers on Bruyea’s personal medical and financial information. Bruyea, involved in protesting the New Veterans’ Charter, found his benefits cut and claims stalled. There were even attempts by Veterans’ Affairs to have Sean commit himself to a mental hospital. All this came to light last fall. What did the government do? Apologise, settle Bruyea’s court case, and require all Veterans’ Affairs staff to undergo privacy training. The message? VAC staff messed up and we’ll make sure they know better. Implied course of events: the frontline staff was upset by Bruyea’s lobbying and tried to take him down …. Here’s an alternative scenario: Bruyea ruffles feathers in the upper echelon of Veteran’s Affairs – the Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Orders are sent down: pull Bruyea’s files. Files are reviewed, annotated, and included in briefing notes (all of which has been confirmed). Decisions are taken to “take the gloves off” with Bruyea, after which Sean’s descent into the nightmare begins. Who can make such a decision or issue such an order? Not the people answering the phones ….”
  • QMI Ottawa bureau boss David Akin manages to see the forest in the midst of the trees. “…. Simply put: Our Canadian Forces needs billions and billions of dollars worth of new gear — not just new fighter planes — but no one has any clear plans to pay for what they need, particularly in a time of global fiscal restraint.  Alternately, one party or the other could stand up and, as Conservatives have done in Britain and Democrats did in the U.S., start announcing big-time cuts to military acquisitions and other programs.  Instead, we’ve been watching Conservatives and Liberals argue bitterly about the merits of purchasing the F-35 fighter plane, though both largely agree we will need some kind of new fighter plane to replace our fleet of excellent-but-aging CF-18s.  Whatever plane we choose is going to cost us billions. How will we pay?  And is that most urgent need? Is that the top spending priority? ….”
  • Potential base closures are always publicly contentious because of how much money such facilities pump into neighbouring economies.  As part of a strategic review of the military overall, a Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) paper ranks Canada’s military bases according to their “operational impact, infrastructure condition and efficiency, and economic impact”.  The list, the paper’s executive summary and a link to the paper itself are all here (as well as always interesting discussion) at
  • It’s still messy in Ivory Coast, where one guy says he won the election for president, and the other says he’s still president.  Here’s how one academic says Canada could help“….First, it should mobilize like-minded states to impose travel bans and freeze assets of Mr. Gbagbo’s family and close associates. Second, it should lead efforts to move Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff who is under siege in a hotel in Abidjan, to Yamoussoukro, the capital, where he seems to have the backing of the local political establishment …. Third, Canada should work with other governments to press the African Union to give Mr. Gbagbo a deadline to step down or face comprehensive economic sanctions …. And fourth, Canada should help Mr. Ouattara to form his government by encouraging financial institutions such as the West African Monetary Union, the African Development Bank and the World Bank to deal with him ….”
  • Remember the young guy masked as an old guy who flew to Canada from Hong Kong last October?  Well, he may have been one of nine Chinese smuggled here, according to Hong Kong authorities.  The good news:  some arrests have been made in Hong Kong – a bit more from Hong Kong media here, here and here. 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”“Reported security deal draws House sparks”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Bad guys claim responsibility for killing Karzai’s brother’s bodyguard in Kandahar.

NOW the Media Shares!

In the past, I’ve ranted about why reporters who “obtain” documents and write stories about them only RARELY share said documents.  While I’ve seen a few cases (here and here) of such sharing, it still doesn’t appear to be the norm.

Interesting, then, to see the following – from the Toronto Star:

On Thursday, the federal government released more than 500 heavily censored documents – totalling about 2,500 pages – comprised of handwritten investigators’ notes, military reports and top-secret memos from 2006 to 2008 relating to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

The release comes amid complaints by opposition parties that the government is violating the rights of MPs to see documents related to how Canadian soldiers handled Afghan detainees. It is unclear whether this release comprises all the documents sought by Parliament.

Also at issue is whether documents should be censored. The Conservatives have asked retired Justice Frank Iacobucci to review the file and decide what information, if any, should be censored on the grounds of national security.

Click on a links below to read a PDF of a document; the documents are listed as named in the government’s release. (Files are less than 4MB in size; most are about 300KB).

See something interesting? Leave a comment below.

Why would they do this now?  More of an explanation from (highlights mine):

As Colleague McGregor announced earlier today, we’ve posted the full collection of Afghan detainee-related documents that were tabled in the House yesterday morning.

Our not-so-secret agenda? Call it an experiment in distributed research. We want to make sure that the 2,688 pages of medium to heavily-redacted data get the most thorough going-over possible, so we’re going to try to harness the collective power — or, more specifically, eyeballs — of the readerverse, so head on over to the ad hoc Inside Politics reading club and share your observations!

Okay, when there’s one document, media consumers don’t need to be bothered with reading a document or two.  When there’s thousands of documents, though, why not let the media consumers do the reporters’ homework for them “crowdsource” to get the greatest number of viewpoints?

I believe in crowdsouring as a concept, but why is it we don’t see it all the time a document is “obtained”?  After all, CBC’s posting of documents led to such keen, scintillating insights as:

Hard to read black marker. I can’t tell if it’s French, English, or Arabic, or whatever. How juvenile can you be ? How condescending ? Here read this !! Two boxes full of black ink ? Not only contempt of Parliament, but contempt for every Canadian.


A redacted copy of a document provided by Harper vs. the same unredacted document provided by General Walt. In the CDS’s copy, the deleted reference specifically confirming and passing on prisoner abuse info.    This has nothing to do with national security .. but it has everything to do with job security for the Harper cabal.

Great “citizen journalism”.