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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Sept 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  Missed him by >>THAT<< much.  “Just as we’d always suspected, if more wryly than with alarm: the rat was in the cellar. Moammar Gadhafi did indeed bivouac in the basement of the posh Rixos Hotel — compulsory Tripoli lodgings for foreign journalists through months of the stalled Libyan revolution — confident that NATO planes would not bomb that location. “Absolutely,’’ confirms Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian in command of Operation Unified Protector, formal name of the interventionist NATO mission mandated by the United Nations Security Council. “He was there,’’ Bouchard told the Star during an interview this week at Joint Force Command headquarters here. “It’s not a secret anymore. He could drive in a golf cart through the tunnels that stretched all the way from (his compound) Bab al-Aziziya, under the zoo next door and into the hotel. That’s how he would appear out of nowhere, disappear, and pop up somewhere else.’’ It might also explain why reporters were held hostage at the Rixos for five days by Gadhafi loyalists, even as the capital was falling to surging rebel forces a fortnight ago ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  “…. with the military mission apparently mostly over, any extension requires a goal for the end: calling back the fighters and the warship when the last major Gadhafi strongholds are gone.”
  • Canadian pilots taking part in Exercise Bold Quest in Indiana. Fighter pilots often have seconds to decide whether to open fire, and this month they will train at Camp Atterbury to know how to make that choice. The post, in southern Johnson county and northwestern Brown County, is hosting a major NATO training exercise involving pilots and soldiers from Germany, Finland, France and 11 other countries. The allies will train on how to avoid shooting at troops who are on their side and use high-tech sensors that allow them to distinguish friend from foe, Navy Capt. Kent Davis said. Residents who live nearby should expect to hear the roar of fighter jets and the whir of helicopters both day and night when the training exercise starts Thursday, Maj. Lisa Kopczynski said. More aircraft than normal will fly over Camp Atterbury through Sept. 25. Pilots will practice using radar that warns them not to bomb or shoot at troops from other countries who are assisting in combat or on peacekeeping missions, Davis said …. “
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  “…. The Canadian Forces (CF) are looking to replace all current types of pistols in use with a newer weapon and is gathering information on the Price and Availability of weapons and the number of potential contenders as part of its planning and budget process. Personnel from all services of the CF will use these pistols for self-DEFENCE. The GSP will replace the 9mm Browning High Power (HP) and the 9mm Sig Sauer Model 225 pistol ….”  More details available in bid package here (PDF via Army.ca) re:  what the CF is looking for, as well as a projected timeline (Requests for Proposals expected to be issued summer 2015, with pistols expected to be purchased Fall 2015).
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Honkin’ expensive long-range thermal weapon sights“…. The Department of National Defence has a requirement for a compact, lightweight, weapon-mountable thermal imager that works in conjunction with the optical day sight to provide target detection and recognition in the thermal band at long range.  This capability will be referred as a Long Range Thermal Weapon Sight (LRTWS) system. The LRTWS system will also serve to complement other optical handheld observation devices.  You are hereby notified that the Government of Canada intends to negotiate with FLIR Systems Ltd, 25 Esquire Road, North Billerica, MA, who manufacturers and possesses the intellectual property rights as the OEM for the ThermoSight™ S150 (links to PDF fact sheet), part number #26986-201, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Long Range Thermal Weapon Sight (LRTWS) system.  Deliverables:  Forty-nine (49) cryogenically cooled sensor, thermal video channeled single bodied systems, including accessories and remote control systems …. An optional twenty-five (25) units including accessories and remote control systems …. Total estimate cost of all deliverables:  $7,350,000.00 CAD HSTI ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Interesting, especially in a city with an infantry unit based there.  “I received a news release recently that really bothered me. It had nothing to do with Alberta politics or the two leadership races now underway for the Liberals and Conservatives. It had to do with a dinner this Saturday to honour the 157 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan during our combat mission there. The dinner will be attended by Alberta Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell and hear a keynote address by Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, who commanded coalition troops in Kandahar province for nine months. However, according to the news release, the event was “in jeopardy of cancellation.” Simply put, not enough people had bought tickets. The dinner had room for 500 and would financially break even with 350 – but only 60 people had bought tickets when the news release crossed my desk. “We’re surprised that we’ve sold less than 60 tickets to an event dedicated to honouring the brave men and women who have died while serving in our Canadian Forces,” wrote the event organizer, Mike McMurray. “We need to sell at least 300 more tickets to the gala dinner or we’re going to be left with little choice but to cancel the event. We simply can’t put on a poor show for our troops or the families of our fallen soldiers that we’ve invited.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Another “combat mission wrapping up” story, this time about Canada’s helicopters in theatre.
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P  The mother of a soldier who took his own life at the Edmonton Garrison hopes a public hearing will answer the questions she has had for more than three years. After several suicide attempts, Cpl. Stuart Langridge hanged himself in March 2008. The young soldier suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with substance abuse after he returned from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2005. On Tuesday, the Military Police Complaints Commission called a public hearing into his death ….”
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg  One ex-officer’s view of what should happen, presented without comment. “…. Canadian politicians have a history of economizing on the backs of the military — the most flagrant example being Pierre Trudeau soon after he became PM and seemed eager to disband the military and withdraw from NATO. The regimental system saved the quality of our army in those days. Rather than maintain large conventional units, the Canadian army seems ideally suited to becoming something like the British SAS — highly-trained individuals able to function in small units or larger units, doing clandestine operations or open combat ….”
  • Someone’s unhappy with Canada’s “Royalizing” the CF and other highlighting of Canada’s military history“…. History belongs to everyone equally and as such is–or should be–open to unfettered enquiry and defended against deliberate distortion. To borrow a medical metaphor, history constitutes the genes that make up a citizen’s “cultural DNA.” Unfortunately, cultural DNA is vulnerable to “genetic engineering.” In the hands of an ignoble government, historical images and events can be manipulated to serve political objectives …. Behind the propaganda curtain of “restoring” Canada’s military pride and tradition is the appropriation of military history to justify the sort of aggression honourable Canadians gave their lives to defeat.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  PM (apparently) to declare 11 Sept a “National Day of Service”, while Canada’s Defence Minister prepares to speak to a memorial forum in Washington today.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2a)  “…. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the biggest security threat to Canada a decade after 9/11 is Islamic terrorism …. Harper says Canada is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda attacked the U.S., but that “the major threat is still Islamicism.”  “There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats,” Harper said. Harper cautioned that terrorist threats can “come out of the blue” from a different source, such as the recent Norway attacks, where a lone gunman who hated Muslims killed 77 people. But Harper said terrorism by Islamic radicals is still the top threat, though a “diffuse” one ….”  More on this one here, and some discussion at Army.ca here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2b)  Controversial clauses expanding the powers of police to combat terrorism are going to be reintroduced by the new Conservative majority government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview with CBC. Harper said for the first time since the Tories took control of the House of Commons the government plans to bring back measures in the Anti-Terrorism Act that expired in 2007. “We think those measures are necessary. We think they’ve been useful,” Harper said of the expired parts of the act. “They’re applied rarely, but there are times where they’re needed.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3a)  Canada’s national security spending skyrocketed in the post-9/11 decade and it may be time to start cutting back, said a report released Wednesday by an Ottawa-based think tank. “The government has created a national security establishment in Canada,” Steven Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, told a press conference. “A decade after the attacks of 9/11 it’s time to re-evaluate whether we should continue the high level of national security spending.” In total, Canada devoted an additional CAN$92 billion (US$93 billion) to keep Canadians safe, the report said ….”  More along this story line here and here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3b)  Calculating what it cost Canadian taxpayers to respond to the Sept. 11 terror attacks has proven to be a difficult task for the Rideau Institute. The left-wing think tank has released a report that concludes $92 billion in new military, public safety, foreign affairs, and other spending since 2001 is linked to creating a post-9-11 national security establishment. Still, report author and economist David Macdonald admits it’s not easy to draw a clear line between the spending and al-Qaida terrorism that shook the world. “I suppose we could argue about whether (the spending) would have happened anyway,” Macdonald said. He insisted at least part of the justification for the spending was due to “the 9-11 agenda.” Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister, agreed some increased spending was tied to dealing with Afghanistan and the U.S. Homeland Security, but not all of it. “It also has to do with trade,” said Hoeppner. “It has to do with the movements of goods and services and individuals.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3c)  Want to decide for yourself about the latest cost estimates?  Download the Rideau Institute report here (12 page PDF) – news release here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (4)  Columnist Gwynne Dyer’s view on whether Osama Bin Laden won. “…. So bin Laden dug a trap, and the United States fell into it. In that sense his strategy succeeded, and the guerilla war that ensued in Afghanistan did much to turn Arab and Muslim popular opinion against America. (The invasion of Iraq did even more damage to America’s reputation, but that really wasn’t about terrorism at all.) In the long run, however, bin Laden’s strategy failed simply because his project was unacceptable and implausible to most Muslims. And the most decisive rejection of his strategy is the fact that the oppressive old Arab regimes are now being overthrown, for the most part nonviolently, by revolutionaries who want democracy and freedom, not Islamist rule.”
  • A showcase moment in the history of Canadian diplomacy – the topsecret spiriting of six Americans out of Tehran during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis – appears destined for blockbuster treatment in Hollywood. At least three years in development, the spy thriller Argo will focus on how CIA agent Tony Mendez – played by Ben Affleck, who also directs – plotted with Canada’s ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, to rescue the trapped Americans by having them pose as Canadian location scouts for a fake movie supposedly being shot in Iran. Another Hollywood A-lister, George Clooney, is producing and acting in the film. Like the Affleck-helmed film that started shooting last week in Los Angeles – and which will also be shot in Washington and Istanbul – the title of the bogus movie in the CIA-hatched scheme 32 years ago was Argo ….”  The Internet Movie Database listing for Argo is already up here.  For more details from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. interviewed Mendez on the rescue (as well as a couple of the hostages), and shares the interview on podcasts here and here.
  • Saskatchewan airfield named after D-Day Spitfire pilot – Flight Lieutenant (Ret’d) Barry Needham was a young man when he flew four sorties over the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day during the Second World War. As a member of 412 Transport Squadron, he flew with some of the most celebrated wartime aviators in history, including Charley Fox (known for strafing the staff car of Field Marshall (Erwin) Rommel from his Spitfire) and American John Gillespie Magee, author of the celebrated poem “High Flight”. Although F/L Needham has attended several squadron functions over the past few years, it was the most recent event in his hometown of Wynyard, Sask. that has the 90-year-old veteran more than a little choked up. Wynyard recently named its unmanned airfield the W. B. Needham Field in a ceremony that included tributes from the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, the commanding officer of 412 (T) Sqn, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Philippouci, and Major Chris Strawson, chief multi-engine instructor at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, Portage-La-Prairie, Man. who has become quite close with F/L Needham in recent years ….”
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Sept 11

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  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P  In late April 2011, the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) said it was doing an initial probe into the 2008 suicide of Corporal Langridge of CFB Edmonton.  Now, the MPCC says it’s going to hold public hearings into the suicide – no dates set yet.  More from the media here (Google News search).
  • Libya Mission  One columnist’s view:  “…. If the foreigners’ motives really were humanitarian — they wanted to stop Gadhafi’s atrocious regime from killing his own subjects, and thought that Libyans would be better off without him — then they actually were using force as an instrument of love. Not “love” as in the love songs, but love meaning a genuine concern for the welfare of others. Most resorts to force do not meet this criterion (although those using the force generally claim that they do). The United States did not invade Iraq out of concern for the welfare of Iraqis, for example. But once in a while there is a shining exception, and this is one of those times. The British, French, Canadians, Swedes, Qataris and so on would not have done it if it involved large casualties in their own forces. (In fact, they had no casualties.) Most Western soldiers didn’t think the operation would succeed in removing Gadhafi, and the outcome has been greeted with surprise and relief in most of the capitals that sent aircraft. But they did it, and that counts for a lot.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  Canadians are more concerned about a terrorist attack on Canada now than before 9/11, says a new (Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global TV). Enhanced airport security, no-fly lists and Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan war are just some of the considerable measures taken after 9/11, but Canadians are still worried about potential terrorist attacks within our borders. Half of the respondents said they felt “no change” in safety levels with military intervention and just under half feel ‘more safe’ as a result of domestic security measures ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2)  The CSIS Info-Machine is sharing some stories from officers about their feelings about 9/11 here and here – a bit of a “Canadian milestones in counter-terrorism since 9-11” selected chronology here.
  • Wanted:  some damned good number crunchers and technogeeks for breaking codes.  “It boasts some of the top math minds in the country, it’s looking to recruit more, and you still won’t find its name listed among any universities. The Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing is like a school for spies – a government-backed “classified research institute” that exists to entice academics who can help the government create and crack codes in the service of national security. The federal government has actually employed a small stable of arms-length academic cryptographers for several years now, but this summer it opted to redouble and rebrand the effort. In doing so, Ottawa has stepped up its quiet drive to lure some of the smartest PhD-calibre mathematicians away from ivory towers and into applied government work ….”  And where’d the name of the new institute, part of Communications Security Establishment Canada, come from? “…. In the 1940s, William Tutte, a math genius, figured out ways to spy on encrypted, high-level Nazi communications, a contribution so profound that some observers now credit him and his British colleagues for helping hasten the end of the Second World War. After the war, Mr. Tutte moved to Canada and had a distinguished academic career at the University of Waterloo ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Canadian Major General Michael Day talks to Army News about the Afghan training mission (video of phone interview here), saying he sees some progress:  “…. Two years ago, the army was shrinking, literally we were losing more people than we were gaining. Today, not only are we growing by four to five thousand every single month, but we now have selection process that vets those individuals that are not suited. So we are in great shape on that ….”
  • Afghanistan (2a)  7 Jul 11:  CF Info-Machine tells us Canadian takes over command of Consolidated Fielding Centre in Afghanistan.  ~6 Sept 11:  Foreign Affairs Info-Machine sends RSS feed notice that it’s decided to share this “news” on Canada’s main web page about Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (2b)  What the dental surgeon used to do in Afghanistan (via CF Info-Machine) – he’s been back for a couple of weeks now.
  • Afghanistan (3a)  A Macleans columnist reminds us to be wary about negotiating with the Taliban, even if that’s how things look to be unfolding. “…. In the event the Taliban do re-establish themselves in Kabul, those Afghans who go to the mountains will likely include those Afghans who most share our values and most desire our friendship. Then what will we do?”\
  • Afghanistan (3b)  Terry Glavin reminds us to be wary, too“…. The Taliban have made it quite plain, by word and deed, that they have no intention of negotiating anything except the general outlines of the civilized world’s capitulation to them and the forward-planning terms of NATO’s surrender of the Afghan people to their custody ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  English-language propaganda sites back online – for now.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted:  four-wheel light utility vehicles for 1 Canadian Division (more details in part of bid document here), and checking if CF is using the best test to see if patients receiving transfusions need more or not.
  • New Brunswick is looking for feedback on its ideas for job protection for Reservists.  “Finding the right balance can sometimes be a tricky and nerve-testing procedure. But efforts to do just that are exactly what’s happening these days within the part-time military community as officials juggle ideas in an effort to find ways to make the lives of reservist soldiers in this province a little more secure. In April, residents were asked to participate in a provincial government consultation process and provide their views on how to offer better leave protection to reservists working in civilian jobs or pursuing post-secondary studie …. Ideas were collected by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and placed in a preliminary report called What We Heard: Responses to the Review of Canadian Forces Reservist Employment and Education Leave Protection in New Brunswick. (PDF) …. If you have ideas on how you would like to see reservists protected in this province, now is the time to step forward. Contact the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.”  Contact info:  labour-travail@gnb.ca, fax (506) 453-3618 or snail mail at Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Review of Reservists Employment and Education Leave Protections, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1.
  • Canada has has new deal for annual defence think tank get together.  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced …. that Canada is hosting the third annual Halifax International Security Forum from November 18th to 20th in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With Foreign Affairs as the media partner, this year’s Halifax International Security Forum features over three hundred politicians, academics, policy makers, and journalists from forty countries around the world. Following the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and Canada’s recent transition to a non-combat training role in Afghanistan, this year’s forum is especially poignant, focusing on key sensitive and emerging global issues …. As the only event of its kind in North America, the Halifax International Security Forum fosters discussions covering a wide range of topics, including the future of the transatlantic alliance, security initiatives in the Middle East, revolutions, responsibility to protect and making better use of resources to deliver on key security and defence commitments. The Halifax International Security Forum is even stronger with Foreign Affairs, the conference’s media partner. Minister MacKay took the opportunity to announce a three year funding partnership for the Halifax International Security Forum from both the Department of National Defence and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ….”
  • Remember the list o’ war criminals Canada was looking for your help in hunting downGuess where one of the guys on the original list is?  “An accused Serbian war criminal says his life has been ruined by an Ottawa-led manhunt, even though he left Canada for his homeland six years ago. Dimitrije Karic, also known as Dimitrije Mita, 51, of the Serbian municipality of Kovin, said he came to Canada in 2003 and filed a failed refugee claim. He complied with an order to leave Canada in 2005. “Is anyone, who was wearing a uniform in war in former Yugoslavia, a war criminal for you?” he said in an Aug. 30 e-mail to QMI Agency. “If it is so, there are several hundred thousand war criminals throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.” He lived and worked at two companies in Medicine Hat, Alta., during his time in Canada, documents show ….”
  • Remember Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006?  His folks are telling reporters Canada should get Hamas to let him go.  What’s Canada saying so far?  “…. Chris Day, director of communications for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, told the Tribune in an email, “Hamas is a listed terrorist organization. The government of Canada has no contact with Hamas.” Canadian aid is supplied to the people of Gaza through “established aid channels and with established organizations” and not via Hamas. Should Hamas and Fatah form a unity government, Day said, “Canada cannot support a government that includes Hamas.” In May, Canada was a signatory to the G8 Declaration of Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy, which stated in part, “We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit [sic] without delay.” When asked what concrete action Canada can or will take in regard to Gilad Schalit, Day said, “Minister Baird has been very clear in calling – as G8 leaders did at Deauville – for Gilad Shalit’s [sic] release…. We will continue to press this case at every opportunity.” ….”  But not directly to the folks holding him, given the bits in green.
  • The re-incarnated NHL’s Winnipeg Jets (have) unveiled their new uniforms …. The Jets, who returned to Winnipeg with the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Manitoba’s True North Sports and Entertainment in May, held a news conference to unveil the team’s new uniforms at Royal Canadian Air Force base 17 Wing. The jerseys consist mostly of two shades of blue: Polar Night Blue, found on many of today’s RCAF aircraft, and Aviator Blue, which is similar to historical colours used by the RCAF ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 Aug 11

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  • Libya Mission  “NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity” says Canada punching above its weight in Libya“Canadian fighter jets were in the air again this week, striking at the Gaddafi regime’s tanks and artillery, part of this country’s surprisingly substantial contribution to the five-month-long NATO bombing campaign in Libya. As one of three nations carrying out the bulk of the sometimes-controversial air war, Canada with its aging CF-18 fighters has made a contribution clearly disproportionate to the compact size of its air force, say alliance and academic sources. While Britain and France have about three times as many fighter-bombers in the operation as this country and are usually credited with most of the fighting, Canada has been close behind in its role, said a NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity ….”
  • “New” Libyan diplomat recognized by Canada.  “Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (Thursday) issued the following statement: I am pleased to welcome Abubaker Karmos, appointee of the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya, as chargé d’affaires ad interim at the Embassy of Libya in Canada. Mr. Karmos’ accreditation by Canada was completed this morning and he has already assumed his functions ….”  In case the name sounds familiar, here’s why:  “Former Libyan diplomat Abubaker Karmos, who defected from the Libyan Embassy in Ottawa in February, has been confirmed as the Libyan National Transitional Council’s representative in Ottawa, Foreign Minister John Baird announced Thursday ….”
  • A Canadian national has reportedly been killed fighting with the anti-regime rebels in Libya“A Canadian man died on the frontlines of the Libyan conflict this week while fighting with the rebels trying to oust Moammar Gadhafi from power. A friend has revealed that Nader Benrewin was shot dead by a sniper as he took part in a raid on Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, which Libyan rebels stormed on Tuesday. Benrewin, 24, was born in Edmonton, but worked in Ottawa for the past three years, Haitham Alabadleh told The Canadian Press. The Ottawa man made the decision to go back to Libya where his family was living and he pledged to fight with the rebels ….”  More from CBC.ca and Postmedia News.
  • A Canadian “independent journalist” is now free again.  “Dozens of journalists, including a Canadian, who were stranded in a hotel in downtown Tripoli by the fighting were released Wednesday. Journalists had been holed up inside the Rixos hotel under the watch of armed men loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Among those released from the hotel was Mahdi Nazemroaya, a 29-year-old freelance journalist from the Ottawa area. His friend, Briton Amos, said Wednesday that Nazemroaya left the hotel with the other journalists and was “out of danger.” The Centre for Research on Globalization, for which Nazemroaya works as a correspondent, said in a statement Wednesday that he was safe aboard a chartered boat from the International Organization for Migration. It said Nazemroaya was set to return to Canada ….”  Funny, the statement issued by the Centre doesn’t mention the bit I highlighted above in red.  I guess that kinda wrecks the “NATO as bad guy” story line, right?
  • Interesting prediction.  “…. events in Libya suggest we may be moving (toward) something very different, perhaps a war that is above and beyond the people. That’s as close as we want to get to raging conflicts. Among the officers I talk with, the strategic thinkers are straining to better understand these scenarios, and what they will mean for Canadian and other forces. No one knows the future, but critical spending decisions have to be made. The current mood strongly suggests that should we again become involved in foreign actions, we will want to rely more on airpower and naval supremacy, while the armies stay home. (Diplomats may also discover their talents are again in high demand.) ….”
  • Gwynne Dyer on what (may) happen next in Libya“…. Britain and France, in particular, have committed a great deal of political capital to the success of the Libyan revolution. They carried out more than half of the air strikes in support of the rebels, while other European democracies and Canada, all NATO members, did the rest. (The United States only contributed surveillance capabilities and occasional Predator drone strikes after the first few weeks.) These European allies need to justify their intervention to their own people, so they will do everything in their power to make sure that there are no massacres, that Gadhafi and his close allies, when caught, are handed over to the International Criminal Court for trial (much better for the stability of the country than trying him in Libya), and that the process of building a democratic government in Libya goes as smoothly as possible. They have a great deal of leverage over the rebel forces at the moment, and they will use it to keep the revolution on the tracks. Despite all the obstacles to a smooth transition that Libya faces, the outcome here could be surprisingly positive.”  One hopes.
  • Way Up North  How it’s not all competition and conflict in the Arctic “…. Together, the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent and USCGC Healy will map the Alpha Ridge, a 2,000 kilometre-long range of underwater mountains running from the northwest flank of Canada’s Ellesmere Island toward Russia’s (Wrangel) Island. The Alpha Ridge parallels the more famous Lomonosov Ridge, which lies between it and the geographic North Pole. The Healy is equipped with an advanced multi-beam sonar system that provides detailed information about the shape of the ocean floor. The Louis S. St. Laurent carries a sophisticated seismic array that measures the character and thickness of seabed sediments. However, vibrations from icebreaking can affect the accuracy of these instruments. And so the two ships take turns clearing a path for each other, with the resulting sonar and seismic data being shared between the U.S. and Canada. It’s a partnership born of necessity. Neither country has two icebreakers capable of the task, and both require a complete scientific picture of the seabed in order to determine their rights over offshore oil and gas ….”
  • Senator:  Now’s the time to grasp the nettle and close bases to save money“…. Stephen Harper should take advantage of a moment in Canada’s political history that isn’t likely to come along again for some time: a majority government, with at least four more years in power guaranteed. If the Prime Minister moved quickly, he could put a plan in place that would rationalize Canada’s military infrastructure without paying an enormous price at the ballot box. Harper doesn’t even have to finger the infrastructure that should go – in fact, he shouldn’t. He should instruct his military leaders to do an assessment of what infrastructure is still needed, and what can be eliminated in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. Once that report was in – and it would be a controversial one no matter what bases and installations were selected for closure – the government should enact it, on the military’s advice. The Prime Minister should make it clear to all Canadians that this is an arm’s-length operation – no interference from the Cabinet or other members of Parliament ….”
  • Report leaked to Postmedia News  Editorial“…. past attempts to bring needed change had failed because of internal resistance. People in the forces feared the loss of status, power and resources, or increased accountability. That’s not surprising. Any large organization likely faces the same challenge in making changes to increase effectiveness. Many people have a strong vested interest in the status quo and the ability to find no end of ways to delay and impede change …. The expertise of managers in the Canadian Forces, or anywhere else, should be respected. But Leslie, who is leaving the military for a private sector job next month, comes from those ranks. What’s needed is leadership at the very top. In this case, it must come from MacKay and Harper. Our troops – and taxpayers – deserve no less.”
  • Afghanistan  What one Canadian says we could be doing.  “…. if we in Canada can find some of the enthusiasm Afghans have for the possibilities education can breathe into the country, we can push for education to be at the fore of rebuilding there. Canada has invested precious human lives and billions of dollars in Afghanistan. What greater legacy could we leave than to advocate for, and invest generously in, a robust public education system that could finally put Afghanistan on the path to peace?”
  • Ronald Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P.:  A Canadian soldier says he handled two weapons immediately after a fellow soldier was fatally shot at a military base in Afghanistan in 2007 and noticed that one of the pistols was loaded. Master Cpl. Andrew Noseworthy told the court martial Thursday of former reservist Matthew Wilcox that he was on the opposite side of a partition in a tent watching a movie on a laptop with another soldier when he heard a shot at the Kandahar Airfield. He said he ran around to the other side of the tent where he saw Cpl. Kevin Megeney lying next to his bed and Wilcox kneeling beside him. “I can’t recall what he (Wilcox) was doing,” Noseworthy said ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  Finally, all of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighters can fly again.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Feb 11

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