MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Mar 11

  • So now, some media are reading “Kabul-centric” when it comes to talking about Canada’s upcoming training mission in Afghanistan to mean “base in Kabul, but not necessarily ALL in Kabul.” “The federal cabinet is being asked to decide quickly on the specifics of the Canadian military training mission in Afghanistan as other countries jockey for prime classroom instruction posts, say NATO and Canadian defence sources.  National Defence will present its recommendations to the Conservative government in the very near future and will ask to deploy “a small number” of troops at regional training centres in addition to stationing soldiers at classrooms in the Afghan capital.  “We’ll need to start laying down our markers by April in order to get the slots we want,” said one defence source.  The locations under consideration include the western city of Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan …. a certain obfuscation crept into the message in January. Officials and ministers started telegraphing that deployment would be “Kabul-centric” — meaning it’ll be based in the capital but not exclusively in Kabul.  In fact, each of the regional training centres under consideration is ranked safer than Kabul, according to the military’s threat assessment. The Afghan capital has been rocked by a string of attacks this winter, including a suicide bombing last month that killed two people at the entrance to a hotel ….”
  • Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were hospitalized for traumatic brain injury between 2006 and 2009 at almost three times the rate of Americans fighting there in earlier years before the war escalated, according to a National Defence study obtained by The Globe and Mail. The military attributed the “significantly higher” hospitalization rate to “the risky nature of our Kandahar operation” in a report acquired under Access to Information …. The total number of Canadian soldiers diagnosed with TBI was only 83; seventeen of those were classified with a “more serious forms of brain injury.” Still, the study found the hospitalization numbers taken from the trauma registry database at Kandahar were “significantly higher than the expected rate,” amounting to a hospitalization rate of 71 per 10,000 deployed person-years of all Canadians serving in Afghanistan for the three years ending in 2009. That compares with a rate of only 25 per 10,000 for U.S. troops in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2007 – before the increased fighting in recent years and last year’s surge of American troops in heavy combat regions ….” Again, MSM writes a story on a report, without sharing the report.
  • Some of the latest (a few weeks after the fact) from the CF’s media machine on what’s up in Afghanistan: “Operation HAMAGHE SHAY (“Same Team”) took place in Panjwa’i District from 16 February to 18 February 2011. Led and largely planned by the officers of Kandak 6, 1st Brigade 205 (Hero) Corps Afghan National Army (Kandak 6/1/205 ANA), its primary objective was to clear the village of Nakhonay and the surrounding countryside of insurgents and their stockpiles of weapons, bomb-making materials and illegal drugs ….”
  • Nearly 100 Canadians are still trapped in strife-torn Libya as fighting intensifies and rebel forces battle their way towards the capital city of Tripoli. Foreign Affairs confirmed Sunday they were in contact with about 90 Canadians and looking for ways to get them home safely. On Saturday, Canada managed to pluck nine Canadians, along with U.S., U.K. And Ukrainian citizens, from Libya using a C130 Hercules military aircraft to take them to nearby Malta. Some 330 Canadians have been evacuated from the North African nation so far ….”
  • Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff:  Setting up a no-fly zone over Libya = “major military offensive” “….”I don’t think you can understate the severity of a no fly zone scenario,” (Gen. Walter) Natynczyk told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, describing the process involved as a major military operation.  “Before you can fly and ensure the security of a region you have to dismantle the air defences on the ground. That includes the runways and the aircraft on the ground, and the command and control facilities on the ground. That is a major military operation; it is an offensive operation.” ….”
  • Academic:  Setting up a no-fly zone over Libya = “a significant escalation in the West’s involvement in a conflict” “Canada and its allies have an obligation to step in and take military action in conflict-stricken Libya, including the enforcement of a no-fly zone, if rumours of mass killings of civilians prove to be true, a Canadian international affairs expert says.  Roland Paris, an expert in international security at the University of Ottawa, acknowledged that establishing a no-fly zone in Libya — a hot-button issue on political talk shows both in the U.S. and Canada on Sunday — would be a tricky sell in the Arab world, but adds that information trickling out might make a significant military intervention necessary …. Paris said a no fly-zone, which would include disabling runways and destroying Libyan anti-aircraft installations, would be a significant escalation in the West’s involvement …. But if reports of human rights abuses and fighter jets being used to quell the rebellion — all currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court — prove to be true, intervention needs to be strongly considered, Paris said ….”
  • Hello, hello, hello, what’s this about Russian news agency Pravda spotting a Canadian accent being spoken by Libyan anti-government forces as proof that NATO’s goin’ in with imperialist guns blazing? “After NATO’s acts of terrorism in recent years, after the blatant disregard for human rights and human life when depleted uranium rendered swathes of Yugoslavia uninhabitable and destroyed the futures of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, would it surprise anyone to learn that Libya is a NATO campaign?  What NATO is capable of, we have already seen in Yugoslavia, what the West is capable of, we saw in Georgia. We have seen the blatant barefaced lies, we have seen indiscriminate acts of murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity, all glossed over by the controlled media. So would it surprise anyone that NATO is indeed operating in Libya? ….  Interesting it was that the eastern and western borders were secured (Tunisia and Egypt) over which equipment and men poured, interesting it is that already two teams of NATO special forces have been captured inside Libya (Dutch Navy Force and British SAS), interesting was SKY News’ interview with a “front-line rebel” speaking in a broad Canadian accent ….”
  • About those NATO special forces captured inside Libya…. A British diplomatic team, including six soldiers believed to be SAS, have been freed two days after being detained in eastern Libya. The men are understood to have left Benghazi bound for Malta on board the Royal Navy frigate HMS Cumberland. It is thought the special forces soldiers were with a diplomat who was making contact with opposition leaders ….”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The next “You Should Be Outta There” hot spot, according to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry:  Yemen. “Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to Yemen. The level of risk to foreigners is very high. Canadians in Yemen should review their circumstances to determine if their continued presence is warranted and seriously consider departing Yemen by commercial means while these are still available ….” More from MSM on the advisory here and here, and the latest news from Yemen here (Google News), here (EMM News Explorer) and here (NewsNow).
  • The Conservative government is slamming the door shut on a British proposal that the two countries work together in building new warships.  “Canada will not be pursuing collaboration with the United Kingdom on our new surface combatant fleet,” Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said Sunday.  Paxton was reacting to comments made by London’s top diplomat in Ottawa, who told The Canadian Press that Canada and Britain could make better use of scarce public dollars by collaborating on new warships.  British High Commissioner Andrew Pocock said that with the economic crisis exerting pressure on defence spending everywhere, it makes sense for Ottawa and London to be discussing ways to co-operate on replacing aging frigates in their respective navies.  “We live in a much more financially constrained world. Every government faces a challenge in making its defence and other spending go as far as possible,” Pocock said in an interview ….”
  • Who’s allowed to bid on the Standard Military Pattern (SMP) Vehicle part of the CF’s Medium Support Vehicle System Project (MSVS)?  Check here.
  • Canadian defence researchers are investigating how brain signals might distinguish hostile intent from everyday emotions such as anger and fear. Though there is still much to learn, the goal is to push biometric science beyond identification techniques to a new frontier where covert security technology would secretly scan peoples’ minds to determine whether they harbour malicious intent. “This ability can be used by members of the military and the security forces to isolate adversaries prior to commission of actions,” according to a research paper posted on the federal government’s Defence Research and Development Canada website ….” Since I can’t find a link through which Postmedia News is sharing the paper, you can Google the title of the paper, “Biometrics of Intent: From Psychophysiology to Behaviour”.  As of this posting, though, the Defence Research and Development Canada publications page doesn’t seem to be working.  Until it gets working, here’s a summary of the paper:  “In the current defence and security environment, covert detection of adversarial intent is becoming increasingly important. However, valid and reliable detection of adversarial intent is contingent on the ability to discriminate this intentional mental state from related stress-induced negative emotional states. A preliminary theoretical framework is proposed that extends current knowledge about the psychophysiology of emotion toward achieving this aim. This framework takes as its starting point two assumptions: First, biomarkers in the autonomic and central nervous systems can be combined to predict specific emotional states. Second, the establishment of a normative psychophysiological and behavioural databank for specific emotional states can be used to measure the extent to which individuals deviate from established norms. Building on our understanding of the psychophysiological underpinnings of emotional states, this framework can be applied to isolate the physiology of intentional states.”
  • On a related note, the CF’s also done research on reading hostile intent by reading faces.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Feb 11

  • For the latest on China’s alleged cyber attack on Canadian government systems (including Defence Research and Development Canada), check news streams on the story here (Google News), here (NewsNow) or here (Yahoo News).
  • Canada’s Defence Minister’s set to announce “support (for) the ill and injured Canadian Forces (CF) personnel, former CF personnel, their families and the families of the deceased” at CFB Trenton today. QMI/Sun Media’s estimation of what’s coming“The Conservative government is set to announce millions in new funding to ensure returning soldiers who need medical or employment help have a less frustrating experience, QMI Agency has learned. Defence Minister Peter MacKay will announce Friday in Trenton, Ont., $6.9 million in infrastructure costs over three years and $4 million a year to operate five new one-stop shops for soldiers, veterans and their families. “When you are ill or injured, you just have to go to one roof and everything is there for you,” a senior government source said. “It’s to improve the quality of care for those people who serve our country and defend our interests.” The new centres will be in Canadian Forces Bases in Comox, B.C., Cold Lake, Alta., Borden, Ont., Trenton, Ont., and Bagotville, Que ….”
  • Snagging drugs all part of a day’s work for Canadians working next to Afghan security forces. “A frail Afghan man is brought before Capt. Patrick Chartrand, begging for the return of five bags full of drugs that weigh about twice as much as him.  “All the people are growing opium,” the man, who appears to be in his 60s, says in Pashto.  “I am a poor man. What can I do?”  A group of Afghan National Army officers mentored by Canadians seized 108 kilograms of what’s believed to be opium earlier this week. Military officials will test it later for verification.  It is the largest drug haul in an eastern swath of Panjwaii district since the Royal 22e Regiment’s Bravo Company arrived in the area in early December.  “I was pretty surprised about this,” said Chartrand, 32. “I was not expecting that in my day when I woke up.” ….”
  • Next chopper pilots & crews headed downrange prepare in the U.S. “Exercise Desert Gander launched off station Feb. 1, 2011, marking the final step of predeployment training for approximately 220 members of Canadian military forces. During the exercise, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron based with the Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, Alberta, practiced air-to-ground firing exercises, dust ball training and convoy operations at the ranges surrounding Yuma. “Dust ball training helps door gunners and pilots learn to deal with dust clouds that form when landing,” said Cpl. Ted McGirr, 408 Squadron flight engineer and right door gunner. “Another aspect to consider is the heat. When it is very hot the air is thin and it makes it difficult to lift off. By conducting these exercises we gain much needed experience.” The squadron has held their winter training here for the last three years, due to its ideal training environment and optimum facilities. “The terrain here is very similar to Afghanistan,” said Capt. Bob Hackett, executive officer and adjutant. “The heat and dust, something you don’t find in Canada, help our guys prepare for what we are going to see in our deployment.” ….”
  • Ronald Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P. A date has been set for a new court martial for a Nova Scotia reservist who successfully appealed his conviction in the fatal shooting of a fellow soldier in Afghanistan in 2007. The Defence Department says the new trial of Matthew Wilcox will begin on April 26 in Halifax before a military judge alone. Wilcox, who was a corporal, will face the same charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and negligent performance of a military duty. Wilcox, from Glace Bay, N.S., won an appeal of his earlier conviction at the Court Martial Appeal Court after his lawyers complained that the makeup of the military jury was unfair at his trial in Sydney, N.S ….” A bit more in the Canadian Forces news release here.
  • Column:  What else COULD Canada really do or say about Egypt? “…. So what should the Canadian position in all this be? The Harper government had it exactly right during the demonstrations: stability was important and an orderly transition was critical. That still remains the correct position, despite what the Jeffrey Simpsons and Jim Traverses might write in their columns. The reality is that Canada has never had much influence in the Middle East, and such as it has today should be directed toward promoting stability ….”
  • A bit of American gauge-fixing work for SOME Canadian company“$573,950 Federal Contract Awarded to Canadian Commercial WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 — Canadian Commercial Corp., Ottawa, Canada, won a $573,950.40 federal contract from the U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command, Philadelphia, for repair of digital indicators.”
  • More union worries about the (alleged) Canada-U.K. joint ship talks. “Shipyard workers say they don’t trust federal government assurances that new naval warships and coast guard cutters will be built in Canada. Jamie Vaslet, of the CAW Marine Workers Federation, told a news conference on Parliament Hill that the Harper government has broken its word before, namely over the elimination of a 25 per cent tariff on ships built outside the country. “They hung us out to dry once (and) I don’t believe they’ll answer any questions because there is a hidden agenda,” Vaslet said Thursday. “If they don’t then they shouldn’t have a problem answering the questions that are asked.” He said the idea that Canada is talking to Britain about participation in the Global Combat Ship Program — the Royal Navy’s plan to replace its frigate fleet — “scares the hell” out of him and his members …”
  • Military “Hesco” barriers to the rescue against flooding in Manitoba. “A portable barrier that’s been used to foil terrorist attacks has been recruited for use in Manitoba’s spring flood fight. The province and the city bought nine kilometres of the Hesco bastion from the United States to top up the province’s primary diking system. The large wire cages can be unfolded and quickly filled with dirt or mud.  Randy Hull, the City of Winnipeg’s emergency preparedness co-ordinator, says the mesh cages won’t replace sandbag dikes but there should be fewer clay dikes needed along places like North and South Drive in the Fort Garry neighbourhood. “It’s about rapid deployment, and it’s about logistics,” said Hull ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchIt’s not the Taliban killing most of the kids, and it’s not the Taliban’s web page telling all the lies, honest!

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 17 Feb 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Feb 11

  • Oopsie…. “The Canadian Forces have handed out tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars in benefits over the past five years without the government’s approval. But it was bureaucratic bungling, not malfeasance, that caused the costly oversight.  While Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the vice-chief of defence staff, said Tuesday the payments were made in good faith, “we didn’t do our homework … we didn’t make sure that we actually had the authority to do some of these things.”  At issue for CF brass is that the Treasury Board oversees the military’s benefits and compensation regime, and has a specific list of what is allowed.  But as the Canadian Forces expanded and changed in recent years, bureaucrats at National Defence didn’t keep up with the rules.  Many of the unauthorized benefits, paid out to between 3,000 and 7,000 members and their families, were reimbursements for certain domestic expenses and others related to non-Afghanistan deployments.  For example, reimbursing a member who had paid to store their car while he or she was sent out of the country, or paying to cut the grass while they were away on the job.  But they also include the costs for repatriation ceremonies of fallen soldiers and, even though Donaldson said the unauthorized payments would stop Wednesday, the ramp ceremonies will continue with private funds, “to continue supporting the families of the fallen to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by our people.”  He added the Forces will also keep paying for family members to visit wounded or sick CF members, some of which were also unauthorized ….” More here.  To be fair, some of this appears to be doing the right thing (helping family see wounded members, or achieve closure by visiting where their loved ones died), but not following ALL the steps.
  • Wanna buy a slightly used Canadian Chinook helicopter? “The National Defence department has put “For Sale” signs on the air force’s Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan — two years after taxpayers shelled out $282 million to buy them. The department recently sounded out allies in the war-torn country to see whether any are interested in the heavy battlefield transports, bought second-hand from the U.S. Army …. So far there have been no takers for the five CH-147D choppers, which were rushed into Afghanistan after the Manley commission made it a condition of Ottawa continuing the war until 2011 ….”
  • Longer way home from Afghanistan = bigger bill to come home“It will probably cost Canada an extra $90 million to sustain and then wind up its mission in Kandahar by the end of the year because its military aircraft are still banned from the United Arab Emirates, according to calculations by Postmedia News.  Several senior officers have confirmed that the previously cited $300 million — which was widely reported in the media and attacked by the opposition in November — was far too high as the cost of leaving the U.A.E. base.  But the military and the Harper government have not provided a breakdown of the additional costs that will be incurred because the military has had to shift its air hub for Kandahar from Camp Mirage in Dubai to a U.S. airbase at Spangdahlem, Germany ….”
  • The NDP’s still trying to get Canada to pull ALL troops out of Afghanistan“I have a petition signed by dozens of Canadians calling upon the Government of Canada to end Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan.  In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with the agreement of the Liberal Party, broke his oft-repeated promise to honour the parliamentary motion and therefore refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House …. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.” Note to NDP:  the motion was passed in MARCH 2008, and only says Canada’ll be out of KANDAHAR, not Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Zabul and claims of a UAV being shot down over Nimroz.
  • Parliamentarians were told Tuesday that Canada’s ability to search the Atlantic is severely inadequate for emergency calls that happen to come at night. While military search and rescue crews can usually respond to an emergency within an hour, that depends on a call coming during daylight. At night, two hours is considered permissible. Paul Clay, president of Seacom International, a St. John’s company that specializes in emergency response plans in the offshore oil industry, told the parliamentary defence committee that Canada is falling short. “The intention of search and rescue times is to save life and the attention of those resources is to save life,” Clay said. “Canada’s two-hour response is the longest in the world, as far as I know. It is grossly in my opinion, where it shouldn’t be. We should lower those times.” ….” More on this here.
  • No Arctic mapping camp THIS year. “The Canadian government is abandoning plans for a remote scientific camp on the Arctic Ocean ice this year, citing dangerously thin ice conditions. Over the past five years, scientists have set up ice camps in remote areas of the Arctic Ocean as they gather extensive mapping data that could help Canada claim a greater area of the seabed under the Law of the Sea convention … This year, 25 Canadian scientists were to conduct their mapping work from an ice camp about 400 kilometres offshore. Last year, a similar camp housed 12 researchers on an ice floe on the Arctic Ocean, about 250 kilometres offshore from Borden Island in the High Arctic. But that ice floe started breaking up, said Jacob Verhoef, director of Canada’s mapping program with the Natural Resources Department ….”
  • Canada and the U.K. may be talking about building a big navy ship together. “Britain is in talks with Canada about a possible joint program to develop a frigate for their respective navies, according to U.K. Defence Minister Gerald Howarth.  Responding to questions from parliamentarians Jan. 31, Howarth said the British government is in “close discussion with the Canadians” on a possible collaborative program to develop the Global Combat Ship, destined to replace Type 23 frigates in Royal Navy service by the start of the next decade.  The minister said Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Turkey have expressed interest in the warship program, to be called the Type 26 in Royal Navy service, when Defence Secretary Liam Fox recently visited the various countries ….”
  • More testing for Canada’s Sea King replacement. “The new CH-148 Cyclone, which arrived at Shearwater January 6, will be undergoing further testing on board HMCS Montréal. The tests will last several weeks, under the direction of Sikorsky International Operations Inc., prime contractor on the Maritime Helicopter Project. The CH-148 Cyclone will provide anti-submarine surveillance, and will have enhanced search and rescue and tactical transport capabilities. Tests of the operational limits of a ship-borne helicopter will make a notable contribution to the Project, which seeks to replace the existing Sea King fleet that has been in service since the 1960s …. “
  • What’s Canada Buying? New Trenton hangar build, Electric UAVs and Air Force Outerwear (via Army.ca)
  • Canada’s PM on Egypt:  “Following President Mubarak’s announcement …. that he will not seek re-election, Canada reiterates its support for the Egyptian people as they transition to new leadership and a promising future.  Canada supports universal values – including freedom, democracy and justice – and the right to the freedom of assembly, speech and information. As Egypt moves towards new leadership, we encourage all parties to work together to ensure an orderly transition toward a free and vibrant society in which all Egyptians are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms – not a transition that leads to violence, instability and extremism …. We urge all parties in Egypt to renounce violence and allow peaceful and meaningful dialogue between the people and government to address political, economic and social concerns. This dialogue should lead to free and fair elections and a government that supports universal values.”
  • Meanwhile, Canada’s cranking up the diplomatic machine to get more help quicker to Canadians needing a hand in Egypt. “The frustrating wait has ended for many Canadians who were trying to get the federal government to tell them how to escape the turmoil that has enveloped Egypt.  The Foreign Affairs Department’s decision to ramp up service at its operations centre in Ottawa, to deploy more staff to Europe and Cairo and to add several new telephone lines eased the backlog of people who could not get through to consular officials to ask for help.  “There are bumps in the road that obviously you wish you hadn’t encountered but I think there’s been an outstanding level of service and responsiveness to the situation,” Diane Ablonczy, the Minister of State for Consular Affairs, said Tuesday.  In the end, a large number of Canadians passed on the opportunity to leave the country, opting instead to wait out the unrest that shows some signs of abating ….”
  • NDP MP wants 5 May to be designated as “Maple Leaf and Tulip Day” to honour Canada’s links to the Netherlands during World War 2 (via milnet.ca).  Note:  private members bills like these rarely pass.
  • Jamaica’s trainee military pilots have a nicer place to live, thanks to help from Canada.