News Highlights – 4 Mar 11

  • Canadians continue to GTFO LibyaA Canadian military transport made it to Malta safely on Thursday with another 31 evacuees and more flights were planned as a botched Dutch rescue operation underscored the perils of western military actions in Libya. A spokesman for Canada’s overseas headquarters said 14 of the passengers aboard the Hercules aircraft were Canadians and the rest were foreign nationals. The plane returned from Tripoli without incident, said Maj. Andre Salloum. As of Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Department said 327 Canadians, including those on the military flight, had found their way out of the Libya crossfire. The Harper government dispatched a frigate, HMCS Charlottetown, this week to take part in a possible blockade to enforce sanctions ….”
  • Commentariat on Libya (1): “…. the (HMCS) Charlottetown could turn its attention to ill-defined humanitarian relief operations or to the enforcement of a potential international embargo against the Libyan regime. Whatever the ultimate mission, it will likely come as a surprise — just as much of one as the decision to deploy the warship …. How Canadian assets could be used to alleviate the exodus from Libya or to deliver relief supplies remains to be seen. But clearly, Ottawa is committing to stay on the job long after its primary objective of securing Canadian lives is met. This is commendable, and not just from a humanitarian point of view. It also sends a strong signal to our European allies that their interests are vital to us …. The rapid downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi is the best way to prevent a full-blown refugee crisis inside and outside Libya. Whatever Canada can do to help tip the scales — short of direct military intervention — is worth doing.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (2): “…. The West should tread carefully in Libya. While it is tempting to imagine the country’s conflict as a simple struggle between good and evil that can be brought to a speedy and decisive conclusion, the reality is more complicated than that. Aggressive intervention might easily end up doing more harm than good.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (3): Canadians who believe that their military’s primary purpose should not be to fight wars, but fervently want their troops to only be Boy Scouts, should be pleased by Ottawa’s evolving commitment to the crisis in Libya.  With China, Russia, Turkey and Germany having already strongly rejected any kind of military intervention – which could result in unpredictable and unwelcome outcomes – the West will have considerable trouble gathering a coalition of the willing to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. But western countries want to be seen to be helping in other ways.  So, just in time to give the Harper government a wee bit of an election boost, Canadian sailors and air force personnel will be drawn into international humanitarian operations in the Maghreb.  Canada’s part in potential Libyan humanitarian operations are to be much smaller than what its armed forces did in Haiti after last winter’s earthquake. But there will still be a feel-good factor ….”
  • Interesting pointIt’s curious, how the most vocal opponents of military spending go quiet whenever boats and planes and superbly trained soldiers suddenly come in handy. Where were the critics of Ottawa’s C17 purchase last January, when these massive air barns were deployed at a moment’s notice to transport aid into earthquake-struck Haiti? And where are they now, as Canadian Forces aircraft based in Malta and JTF2 special forces troops work to extract Canadians trapped by the fighting in Libya? What will critics of the government’s proposed CF-35 jet fighter purchase say if, as now appears possible, Canadian Air Force jets are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone in North Africa, to protect innocents from Gadhafi’s warplanes? Here’s what they’ll say: Not much, for the duration of the crisis. Then, when the smoke clears and the planes are back at CFB Trenton, they’ll start again with the mantra that spending money on warriors and their gear is needless and wasteful ….” Not ALL vocal opponents of military spending are staying silent – more here.
  • Canada’s post-military legacy in southern Afghanistan may well rest on the slender shoulders of Haji Hamdullah Nazak.  The 32-year-old governs the district of Dand, a relative model of stability compared to the violence and intimidation that permeates other regions of Kandahar province.  But as the Canadian military gradually shifts its focus away from patrols and towards packing boxes for a training mission said to be “Kabul-centric,” Nazak frets over the possibility of lost progress.  “I’m a little bit afraid of that,” Nazak says through a translator. “If they stopped helping us, assisting us in this major purpose, we will face some challenges, problems.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, opposition to the war in Afghanistan is higher in Britain and Canada than the United States, with at least 60 percent against it, a poll indicated Thursday …. Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, of Canadians said they oppose the war, while only 32 percent support it, a new low. Last year, 47 percent supported the war.   Albertans were most likely to back Afghan operations, but even there only 43 percent said they support it. In Quebec, 75 percent oppose the war.  Vision Critical, based in Toronto conducted the poll on line from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, surveying 1,022 Angus Reid Forum panelists in Canada, 1,006 Springboard America panelists and 2,019 members of Springboard UK. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points for Canada and the United States and 2.1 points for Britain.”
  • A parliamentary committee tasked with vetting documents related to the abuse of Afghan detainees could make the secret material public within the next two weeks, according to the Liberals. Amid mounting pressure from the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats, Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc suggested a report by the three-judge panel of legal experts advising the team of MPs should be available within a “week or two” along with “a considerable number of the documents” themselves. His comments come a day after Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe issued an ultimatum. Frustrated the uncensored documents still haven’t been released despite promises they’d be ready in January, Duceppe vowed to pull his two MPs from the committee. “The process has become bogged down and I don’t understand why,” he said ….”
  • Bye bye old subs“…. The Department of National Defence (DND), has a requirement for the removal, dismantling and disposal of the Oberon Class Submarines Olympus and Okanagan, and an option to dispose of a third, Ojibwa …. A bidders’ conference chaired by the Contracting Authority will be convened at HMC Dockyard, Jetty NL, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on March 23, 2011 @ 0900 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Steven Staples’ top 10 list on why Canada shouldn’t buy the F-35.
  • Operation: Western Front (OWF) – a very special initiative organized by mission commanders and philanthropists Warren M. Spitz and W. Brett Wilson to raise awareness and funds for military causes – has collected a stunning $1.5 million in sponsorship and donations. The funds will be donated to various military programs – including Outward Bound for Veterans and Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that builds a bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Military Forces, including providing scholarships to surviving offspring of fallen Canadian Forces personnel. The funds will support a variety of other needs – from medical support to childcare and financial aid – and will be directed through Canada’s True Patriot Love Foundation ….”
  • Conservative MP pitches softball question to Minister in House of Commons on what government is doing to help veterans in Quebec (giving Minister a chance to bash the Bloc). “I would like to thank the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse for his excellent work and his concern for veterans. Our government is listening to the regions of Quebec and to veterans. We introduced Bill C-55 in the House, and it will serve as the enhanced new veterans charter and will help our modern-day veterans, who may come back wounded from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bloc is still not co-operating as we would like, but we still hope to pass this bill before the upcoming budget ….”
  • Federal Crown prosecutors do not have to hand over a complete set of photographs used by French police to link former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab to a Paris terrorist bombing. Diab’s lawyer Donald Bayne had asked for the photographs to be entered into the record of the case, but federal Justice Department lawyers acting for the French government resisted. Only nine of 33 “mug shots” shown by Paris police to witnesses 30 years after the bombing have been used as evidence by the prosecution. All nine are of the 57-yearold Diab at various stages of adult life ….” 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. News Highlights – 26 Nov 10 News Highlights – 25 Nov 10

  • In Afghanistan, the transition of outgoing-troops-handing-over-to-incoming has begun: “…. The Petawawa, Ont.,-based (Royal Canadian Regiment) is being replaced with troops that will close out Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan, the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Regiment.  The …. Van Doos took over existing desert outposts and conducted their first patrols of the winter-scorched fields west of Kandahar this week.  They also took part in their first operation, a push with fellow Canadian and Afghan forces through a troublesome farming region where a team of Taliban bombers was on the loose.  The official handover between the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group and the incoming Van Doos has yet to take place …. ” Bonne chance to the newest troops downrange (again), and to those preparing to leave..
  • The “Scumbags on Phones” story appears to be gaining a bit of traction, being picked up by the BBC and Agence France-Presse as well as some American military blog coverage.  Meanwhile, here’s my take how an incident where someone phones somebody in the middle of the night to say their loved one is dead is NOT a “prank”
  • A warning to the Bloc as it tries to get a motion condemning Ottawa’s extension of the mission in AfghanistanA Bloc Quebecois motion denouncing the government’s decision to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan appears doomed to fail with the Liberals saying Wednesday they will side with the Conservatives and vote against it …. The Bloc and the NDP are united in blasting the government for not putting the new mission to a vote in the House of Commons, but the Liberals support the Tories, both in extending the mission without asking Parliament and in having troops stay for a training mission….”
  • In defending their position supporting the mission extension, at least the Liberals are letting one of the smart ones talk“Federal Liberals are invoking the name of peacekeeping icon Lester Pearson in a bid to justify their support for a three-year extension of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan …. In an apparent bid to mollify internal party critics, a trio of senior MPs fanned out across the country Wednesday to explain Ignatieff’s decision. They cast it as consistent with the Canadian tradition established by Pearson, a former prime minister and one-time Nobel Peace Prize winner who is revered in Liberal circles. “You can’t promote peace unless you put force behind the law and behind the collective will of the international community,” foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said in the text of a speech delivered in Toronto …”
  • From the “Opposition for the Sake of Opposition” files, we hear from Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe former Liberal leader Stephane Dion on why the Afghan army even NEEDS training: “After all we are speaking about people that have been able to win against the Soviet Union …. If they were willing to win against the Taliban they would not need so much training . . . How come those people who won against the Soviet Union need training?” ….” Uh, a little reminder:  it wasn’t the Afghan army that “won” against the Soviets, it was a whole swack of armed groups (including those that formed the nucleus of the present-day Taliban) that defeated the Soviets.  What NATO’s trying to do is build a single, NATIONAL Afghan army (the success of which can certainly be debated), so while a few oldsters may still be around with scars from the Soviets, NATO’s not just training the folks who beat the Soviets anymore. (Thanks to Ian for this correction – must have been pre-coffee!)
  • Note to Jim Maloway, NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona: although your petition to the House of Commons says Canada was supposed to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2011, the actual wording of the March 2008 motion says out of Kandahar by that time.  Thanks for playing, though.
  • QMI’s David Akin takes the PM to task over his (pick one) flip-flop/change of heart/co-opting of the Liberal opposition on the Afghanistan mission“…. Where did Harper tell us about his change of heart? He announced this expensive, ambitious change to our Afghanistan mission in the basement of a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, in front of me and a dozen or so other journalists at the tail end of a G20 meeting. He ought to have announced it in Parliament in front of MPs. And here is the second wrong. Harper leads a party that has long promised to introduce more parliamentary oversight to overseas troop deployments. Yet MPs had to read about this expensive, ambitious mission in the papers ….”
  • Elephant Polo to Help the Afghans (with a Canadian connection)“Two Kingstonians living in Kabul are taking on an elephantine job next week as they raise money to continue the work of a British surgeon brutally murdered in Afghanistan in August.  Megan Minnion and Ryan Scott, who both grew up in Kingston and still have family here, are members of the Afghaniphants elephant polo team that will raise money at the world championship in Nepal next week.  Not only is there a world elephant polo championship, but the barriers to entry are surprisingly low: even a group of enthusiastic foreigners who have never played the sport and who trained for it perched on armoured vehicles skidding around a Kabul helipad can challenge for it ….” Want to know more?  Check out this site for the story behind the game, and the person being memorialized.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan.
  • In the immortal words of Maverick in Top Gun, “I’m going to need a beer to put these flames out” for the Liberals  when it comes to this week’s House of Commons vote on the proposed F-35 fighter purchaseA majority of MPs doesn’t constitute the will of Parliament, according to the Liberals. At least not when it comes to the government buying 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets for an estimated $16 billion including maintenance costs.  Following the defeat of an earlier Liberal motion calling on the government to cancel the contract, opposition House leader David McGuinty sloughed off the idea that Parliament had spoken on the issue.  The Liberal motion lost 170 to 100, with the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois voting it down.  “It’s not exactly the will of parliament to go ahead with the F-35,” McGuinty said. “What the Bloc Quebecois did yesterday was enter into a coalition agreement with the Conservatives in order to be able to, again, act irresponsibly on an extremely important military purchase for our future.” ….” Here’s November 18 debate on the motion (wording from the Liberal party’s news release), and here’s the result of Tuesday’s vote.
  • Meanwhile, Defence Minister Peter MacKay sounds convinced that Canada will get something like $12 billion worth of work out of any future contract for the new high tech fighter not yet in production. In 2003, the Pentagon guessed it was something less than $4 billion:  “Considering RFPs currently in competition, future bidding or second sourcing opportunities, and unit production total through FRP, JSF Canada estimates a potential for $4.4 billion to 6.3 billion of revenues for Canadian industry over the life of the JSF program; our estimate is $3.9 billion.” (as of this PDF document dated June 2003).  More in French in Le Devoir.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Cleaning up radar bases in Nunavut, and running a base in Alert.
  • The investigation into the crimes of murder-rapist Russell Williams may not be over (more here), but according to the OPP, media contact with the investigating team sure is. Meanwhile, one of the victims is remembered.
  • The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno, in this column, suggests Brigadier Daniel Menard is being treated too harshly having to face a court martial over an affair with someone in his command: “…. Although the no-nookie directive is not mentioned in the Defence Act, what exists is a policy forbidding romance or sex between deployed soldiers — even married personnel — when posted overseas.  From my own nocturnal meanderings around KAF, the huge military base outside Kandahar city, I can emphatically report that this is not a policy directive being followed to the letter — at least not judging from the amorous sounds filtering out of tents and Quonset huts.  Let’s get realistic here: Far from home, living in close quarters, physically fit men and women coping with boredom punctuated by the occasional sharp up-tick of adrenalin and the very real threat of danger, it is entirely human nature to seek out comforts of the flesh.  Proscriptions against physical intimacy may be intended to safeguard morale — or so the tall forehead brass claim — but the opposite is true in practice; a good fraternizing snog can do wonders for esprit de corps ….” Hmm, can’t say I agree – more on that in a separate post shortly.
  • How do you say “oopsie” in Russian? “A former Russian special forces officer has claimed that the 1996 murders of six medical workers in Chechnya — including Canadian Red Cross nurse Nancy Malloy — was the result of a botched nighttime raid by Russian agents and not an attack by Chechen rebels as generally believed. In an interview published Wednesday in the Times of London, former Russian major Aleksi Potyomkin — described by the British newspaper as a “defecting” ex-agent of Russia’s Federal Security Service, now hiding in Germany — was part of a secret death squad that killed the medical workers in a tragic mistake on Dec. 17, 1996 ….” More from the Times of London here (PDF) – I guess we know now, eh? News Highlights – 24 Nov 10

  • Here’s what Canada’s PM has to say about the latest North Korean attacks“This is the latest in a series of aggressive and provocative actions by North Korea, which continue to represent a grave threat to international security and stability in northeast Asia.  Canada will continue to condemn all acts of aggression by North Korea in violation of international law.  On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured as a result of this unprovoked attack.  Canada reiterates its firm support to the Republic of Korea, and urges North Korea to refrain from further reckless and belligerent actions and to abide by the Korean Armistice Agreement.  Canada remains committed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula ….”
  • On Afghanistan, let’s start with the scummiest news, shall we? Quebec military police are after a prankster preying on families of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan by calling them in the middle of the night to say their loved one has died. The relatives of at least three soldiers currently serving in the war-torn country have been targeted by the prank, a spokesman at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier said Tuesday ….” WTF?  The last time something targeted this specifically against families of troops living in and around Valcartier was when letters showed up in troops’ homes from groups opposing the war as part of this campaign.  It makes me wonder how easy it is to spot soldiers’ homes in the area if one can mass mail or phone them.  Nobody’s saying anything about who did this, but IF this is some joker’s idea of expressing dissent, this is just vile.
  • Remember Daniel Ménard, the General who was fired from his job in Afghanistan because of an affair?   Next step:  A court martial“Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard will face a Court Martial in relation to charges of inappropriate conduct.  Charges were laid in July 2010 following allegations made in May 2010 while Brig.-Gen. Ménard was the Task Force Commander in Afghanistan …. The charges facing Brig.-Gen. Ménard are:  two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, laid in the alternative, contrary to section 129 of the National Defence Act (NDA), related to alleged inappropriate conduct as outlined in the Canadian Forces Personal Relationships and Fraternization directives; and  four counts of obstructing justice contrary to section 130 of the NDA, pursuant to section 139(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada ….”
  • An interesting question from the National Post‘s Full CommentWith the recent NATO summit in Lisbon, the media have been filled with stories about Afghanistan. Stories about tactics, training, troop levels and timelines. Stories about governance and corruption. Stories about the hard slog of fighting a war that has gone on longer than both world wars and almost as long as the failed Soviet effort to do what NATO is failing to do now.  But in all those words, there was almost nothing in response to the only question that matters: Why are we there? …. I’d like to support the war. I admire our soldiers. And I’m happy to see the facile myth of “peacekeeping” in the dustbin. But try as I might, all I can see is an expensive, pointless and endless conflict.  And NATO isn’t helping me see anything else.”
  • Don’t know if it’s a good thing, but Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada makes a good point: Afghan Ambassador Jawed Ludin said he felt once the training mission begins, it will become less of a front-page item for Canadians because media reporting tends to focus on negative developments. “This means it won’t be so highly reported on, which is a good thing because it means nothing bad is happening,” he said.”
  • A little bit more on those mysterious Russian helicopters Canada’s reportedly buying for use in Afghanistan, from Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, during Question Period in the House of Commons“…. The request came directly from the Canadian commanders in Kandahar as an urgent operational requirement for an increased troop movement capability to augment Griffon and Chinooks ops.  The contract process, which followed all Government of Canada contract rules and guidelines and all Treasury Board guidelines, was very competitive, although it was not posted on MERX for security reasons. Several companies submitted bids and a decision was taken on the best value bid.  This contract will end when the combat mission ends in 2011. …. This contract is temporary. Several companies bid on it. It followed all Treasury Board guidelines and all Government of Canada contracting guidelines. The contract will end in 2011, when the combat mission ends. It has nothing to do with future Chinook contracts at all ….” That last bit was in response to a question from the NDP’s defence critic, Jack Harris:  “Did the government need to make this secret arrangement because the Chinook helicopters are five years late? Should we just add the cost of these helicopters onto the Chinooks, which are already 70% over budget?”
  • At this point, it appears, the only “hush-hush” element of the recent Russian chopper “mystery” is who’s doing the work, and for how much – this time. When the idea of leasing Russian-made choppers was out there in 2008 ( here, Toronto Star here, the Canadian Press here), there was even a name publicly attached to the idea.  At that point, Sky Link Aviation (priding itself on providing “hundreds of air charters to destinations across Afghanistan on behalf of governments, commercial clients, and NATO forces since 2002” on its web page) leased out six smaller Mi-8 helicopters for a year.
  • A alternative explanation for the mystery surrounding the Russian helicopters, via Thomas Rick’s “The Best Defense” blog at Foreign Policy“My guess is that because both the Afghan and Pakistani militaries use the Mi-17, this makes it more convenient to fly NATO forces across the border and into the FATA as necessary, with lots of plausible deniability, especially if they are flown at night and no one gets around to painting a lot of markings on the aircraft. That would explain why, as the Canadian report puts it, “details were kept off the MERX web-site, which formally lists government procurement competitions, and no news release was issued about the new choppers, which have been in use since the spring.” “ Even if you factor in how Canada is apparently having the private sector collect and share signals intelligence in the area, I’m going to go with Mark Collins on this onefaaaaaaaaaar too risky for an already Afghanistan-message-averse government like ours.
  • QMI’s David Akin shares the Bloc Quebecois’ motion to be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow“That this House condemns the government’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan until 2014, thus denying two promises made to the people, one made in the House May 10, 2006 and reiterated in the Speech from the Throne from 2007 to present a vote of Parliament and that any military deployment made January 6, 2010 to the mission in Afghanistan a strictly civil mission after 2011, no military presence other than the care necessary to protect the embassy.” Read on for a comprehensive summary of what the PM’s said in various venues about the mssion – good reading.
  • Here’s more on the cabinet minister who suggests Canada’s not at war.  According to Hansard, here’s what John Baird had to say in response to questions in the House of Commons this week on the mission from Jack Layton“Mr. Speaker, our government has been very clear that if we are going to put troops into combat, into a war situation, for the sake of legitimacy we are going to bring it bfore Parliament. That has been our practice as a government.  What we are talking about here is a technical and a training mission. Our recent deployment of military personnel to Haiti following the recent earthquake is a perfect example of troop deployment in a non-combat role ….” I’ll bet a loonie the bit I’ve highlighted in red will come back to haunt the Minister, given that, unlike the Taliban and their allies, Haitians weren’t intent on blowing up people coming to help out.
  • Remember way back, when Canadian politicians complained about European countries imposing caveats on their forces in Afghanistan, preventing their armies from contributing to the fight if it was at all risky?  Well, according to Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno (who has spent a fair bit of time in Afghanistan), let he who is without caveat cast the first stone: “Make no mistake. Dress it up as both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff might like: If this new stay-in plan is put to effect as advertised — and I have my doubts about that — Canadian troops, highly valued for their combat skills in everything from reconnaissance to sniper proficiency, will be little more than decorative tassels on the Afghanistan uniform, their primary value to pick up the mentoring slack left behind by other bolting allies so that Americans can carry on their terrorist-tracking pursuits.” Ouch!
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Bad guys allege blowing up a “tank” in Zabul.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Pouches, corrosion protection for subs and sword knots.

Mission Messaging Mambo: MacKay Confirms No Mo’ Troops Post-2011

Since the PM was enroute to China, Defence Minister Peter MacKay took the latest question in the House of Commons on the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan.  Here’s what was said:

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):  Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the Minister of National Defence refused to answer a very simple question. I will ask him once again.  Given that NATO announced today that Canadian soldiers will be leaving Kandahar in early 2010 and going to a neighbouring district, can the Minister of National Defence confirm that this redeployment will not change the July 2011 end date of the mission for all Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan?

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  Yes, I can confirm that, Mr. Speaker.

I suppose now, the Bloc Quebecois can complain if there’s even ONE Canadian soldier left in Afghanistan, right?  I guess he didn’t get the PM’s memo about still figuring out what happens next.The mambo continues…