MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 16 Nov 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  Toronto Star columnist becomes legal rep for teenager wanting student visa to attend school in Canada.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Someone (I’m guessing) in Ottawa is pissed at how ‘terps trying to come to Canada are being handled“Frustration is growing in government ranks that Ottawa is falling down on its vow to help Afghan interpreters and their families find a new life in Canada. “I would say longstanding and growing frustration,” a senior official said this week after the Star highlighted the plight. The target of that frustration is the Citizenship and Immigration department, which critics say is dragging its feet on a Conservative vow to help Afghans who helped the Canadian mission in Kandahar resettle in Canada. “There is a moral obligation to do the right thing here and it’s unfortunate that CIC doesn’t feel this way,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous ….”
  • Afghanistan (3a)  Canadian Info-Machine officer Commodore Bill Truelove Taliban losing a grip on its troops“The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said that “the Taliban leadership has lost control of their organization.” During an operational update by representatives from the ISAF headquarters and NATO on Monday, Canadian Commodore Bill Truelove, Deputy Director of the ISAF Communication Directorate, said the Taliban carried out several attacks recently in spite of the Afghan Eid holiday. “Over the past week, the Taliban showed their blatant disregard for this holy celebration through a series of attacks resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians,” he told reporters in Kabul. Truelove said the attacks occurred after senior Taliban leaders issued specific orders to their troops, directing them to stop killing innocent Afghan civilians. “Still, enemy forces are realizing they are sacrificing their lives for a cause that is not just and under leaders who have no concern for this country or its people,” he added ….”
  • Afghanistan (3b)  Does one Taliban post including alleged security plans for a major meeting (link to copy of post at non-terrorist site) constitute a “propaganda war”?  “Afghanistan’s propaganda wars are becoming almost as intense as the actual fighting, as all sides jockey for position ahead of an anticipated NATO withdrawal in 2014. On Sunday, the Taliban took their psychological operations to a new level when they attempted to derail a loya jirga, or national council, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, has called for Wednesday. This will discuss future U.S. troop withdrawals and possible peace talks with 2,000 community and tribal leaders. In addition to the usual threats to assassinate anyone who attends the meeting, the Taliban have published what they claim are highly classified documents detailing security arrangements for the council, scheduled to be held at the Polytechnical University in western Kabul ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Senator Pamela Wallin on the training mission“…. Canada has engaged in what is an incredible act of faith, inspired by the knowledge that if we educate and train the next generation of citizens and soldiers we will truly be giving peace – and Afghanistan – a chance.”
  • Afghanistan (5)  “International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says his office will be releasing a report in the coming weeks that will decide whether to launch a formal investigation into Canada’s treatment of Afghan detainees, among other things. “There are serious allegations of crimes committed by different parties,” he said in an exclusive interview with Postmedia News during a stop at the University of Ottawa on Tuesday. “We are trying to find who is really allegedly responsible for crimes to check if there’s a need for us to investigate or not.” Moreno-Ocampo said his report will not specifically focus on Canada’s treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, but all crimes allegedly committed in that country and seven others. Most allegations, he added, are against the Taliban, but all claims are being looked at ….”
  • Canadian Forces reservists can face extra hardships after returning from deployments, researchers say. Difficulty finding employment and poor post-mission communications between reservists and military units are major barriers to soldiers reintegrating into civilian life. The findings of a study by Defence Research and Development Canada in Toronto were presented at the second annual Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Forum in Kingston. The study involved 125 Canadian reserve soldiers who returned from an overseas deployment. The troops were contacted six to eight months after returning and about one-quarter of them took part in the 20-minute electronic survey. The results showed many reservists struggle to find work following their deployments. The lack of work added greatly to their struggle to reintegrate themselves into civilian life, said researcher Donna Pickering Tuesday afternoon ….”  A bit more on the Forum here, and the latest, updated (as of yesterday) CF Info-Machine backgrounder on PTSD here.
  • Another research tidbit from the same conference:  Almost one-quarter of a group of frontline soldiers sent to fight in Afghanistan in 2007 have been diagnosed with mental health problems, according to a new study by the Canadian Forces. The figure shines a light on the psychological risks facing Canada’s battle-hardened veterans not only in CFB Gagetown, where the study was conducted, but at CFB Petawawa in Ontario, CFB Edmonton in Alberta, CFB Valcartier in Quebec and at other major military bases where soldiers have deployed in great numbers over the last few years. The study of 792 members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, found 23.1 per cent of soldiers who served in Kandahar four years ago were now being treated for their mental health problems. One in five of those soldiers have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, one of the chief health risks to Canadian soldiers after a decade of combat in Afghanistan. The study was presented Tuesday at a military health-care conference (in Kingston) that is bringing together some of the country’s best minds to share the latest research on how to help soldiers with broken minds and bodies ….”
  • After almost five years of legal wrangling, Dennis Manuge says he’s relieved that Canada’s disabled veterans are finally getting their day in court. “How I feel about it is a little bit of relief and absolute faith in the justice system that we are going to begin to have our case (heard),” he said Tuesday. Manuge, of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., is the representative plaintiff in a lawsuit against the federal government that alleges it is illegally clawing back the long-term disability insurance benefits of injured veterans. The Federal Court in Halifax will begin hearing arguments Wednesday in the class action, which could potentially affect the benefits of as many as 6,000 injured veterans ….”
  • A reminder:  For the sixth year in a row, friends and families of Canadian troops deployed overseas will be able to send their holiday letters and parcels for free via Canada Post. The program, which started in 2006, has delivered close to 90,000 parcels to members of the Canadian Forces serving overseas in war zones. With capacity limitations on military aircraft carrying supplies to deployed forces, this program is restricted to family and friends of the deployed service men and women serving overseas in war zones. Troops serving on any of the deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships are also included in the program. Canada Post will accept regular parcels free of charge to designated Canadian Forces Bases overseas from October 17, 2011 until January 13, 2012. Lettermail weighing up to 500 grams to deployed troops can be sent free of charge until December 31, 2012.”  More from Canada Post here.
  • Canada’s mission to help Jamaica is wrapping up – safe travels home, folks!  More on OP Jaguar here.
  • Haiti’s efforts to restore its disbanded army could deplete resources from more pressing matters in the Caribbean nation, which is still recovering from the massive earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people almost two years ago, a Canadian diplomat said Tuesday. John Babcock, a spokesman for Canadian Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy, said in an email to The Associated Press that Haiti’s decision to create a second security force is a sovereign right but that its formation “seems premature” because of the difficult living conditions that many Haitians still face following the January 2010 earthquake. “Canada fears that creating a second security force will significantly reduce resources available for Haiti’s other important priorities,” one of them being the need to strengthen Haiti’s national police department, Babcock wrote. Haitian President Michel Martelly is moving ahead with a plan to restore the national army that was disbanded in 1995, and recruiting an initial force of 500 troops would cost an estimated $25 million. Babcock said Tuesday Canada wouldn’t help pay for a second security force, echoing sentiments of foreign diplomats who told Martelly in October they wouldn’t fund the force ….”  Here’s a bit of what Canada’s done for Haiti’s police force, as well as the official line on our relations with Haiti.
  • Way Up North  More on how expensive it could be to keep troops in the north (again with no disclosure of “obtained” documents).
  • At least one Canadian Press reporter is not personally averse to the idea of sharing documents obtained through Access to Information Act requests, even if his employer doesn’t seem to be using available technology to make that happen yet – one can hope….
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  “U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned the F-35 project will be scrapped if a congressional “super committee” doesn’t come up with a credible plan to reduce the U.S. federal deficit by next week. Opposition parties in Ottawa jumped on the comments Tuesday, accusing the federal government of continuing to bury its head in the sand as the stealth fighter program suffers ever-increasing amounts of turbulence. But the government again stood firm, saying Panetta’s comments were in response to internal U.S. politics while expressing fresh confidence in the controversial military jet being delivered to Canada on time and on budget ….”  More on Canada continuing to stand behind its decision here, and how it could cost way more if the U.S. cancels here.
  • As the nuclear crisis over Iran heats up, Canada is veering toward a dangerous place. Israel is again contemplating a military attack on Iran to prevent its developing atomic weapons. This time it’s not clear that U.S. President Barack Obama can forestall the Jewish state …. In the past, Canada would have happily stayed on the sidelines …. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, Canada has taken a more militant approach to international affairs. His support for Israel has been rock-hard. He has also shown himself willing to deploy Canada’s small but effective military in combat operations the government deems politically useful …. In short, both sides now see the nuclear issue as life or death. The question for nations like Canada is not which country we like more but which alternative is worse. Is it better to let Iran follow in the footsteps of the U.S., France, Britain, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea by acquiring nuclear weapons? Or is better to unleash another Mideast war?”
  • A bit of Canadian aviation history will become a bit of a British monument honouring Bomber Command (PDF).  “A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Transport (landed) in Lethbridge, Alberta on Remembrance Day to pick up 800 pounds of aluminum that was once part of a wartime RCAF Halifax Bomber. The metal will become part of a £6,000,000 Bomber Command Memorial currently under construction in Green Park, London. The aluminum is being provided by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada to draw attention to the fact that 10,000 of the over 55,000 airmen lost with Bomber Command during World War II were Canadians. Halifax Bomber LW682 was part of 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron RCAF. It was shot down in 1944 and crashed into a swamp in Belgium. The seven Canadians and one Briton aboard were killed. The bodies of three of the Canadian airmen, missing in action and entombed in the Halifax bomber, were recovered in 1997 and given a full military funeral in Gerarrdsbergen, Belgium. The recovered parts of the Halifax were all saved and brought to Canada. Some of the parts were used in the restoration of the Halifax currently on display at Trenton, Ontario. The unusable aluminum was saved due to the rarity and heritage of this RCAF metal and was then melted down into ingots to be used into the future for Air Force Memorials, plaques, and statues by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Aug 11

  • Libya Mission (1a)  PM:  We’re not there forever, folks.  “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not sure how long Canada’s military needs to remain in Libya, but he said Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate an “indefinite” mission in the North African country. “This is the beginning of the end of the (Moammar) Gadhafi regime,” Harper told reporters after launching a tour of Canada’s Arctic region. “I don’t say it is the end. I think we saw last night a couple of surprises. We anticipate it will be at least a few days for the process of a regime change to actually take place.” Harper said Canada is sitting down with its allies to determine pressing needs for the country in the days to come ….”
  • Libya Mission (1b)  PM:  We’re not there for too much longer, folks “Stephen Harper says the mounting success of rebel forces battling Moammar Gadhafi’s regime means Canada’s military mission to Libya could end in the near future – but the Prime Minister cautions the North African country will need international help for some time to come. “We anticipate it will be at least a few days for the process of regime change to actually take place so obviously our military will remain there through this period, respond there accordingly during this period and in the days to follow,” Mr. Harper told reporters who accompanied him to the Arctic. “Our anticipation is that the military mission will obviously not be indefinite, that it will terminate some time in the not-too-distant future. But we will first make sure the job is actually finished before that occurs.” ….”  More from the Toronto Star here.
  • Libya (1c)  Recycling an old script – where “Afghanistan”, read “Libya”.  “…. NATO has said any post-Gadhafi mission would not involve ground forces, would be secondary to an effort led by the U.N., and would only take place in response to an official request. Col. Roland Lavoie, military spokesman for Operation Unified Protector, says NATO must stay involved in Libya as long as Gadhafi is in power. “There’s nobody who could predict when exactly the Gadhafi forces will drop their weapons,” said Lavoie during a briefing in Brussels. “They will do so probably when there will be a political settlement to their conflicts.” Harper added Canada may need to play a post-Gadhafi role in Libya. “This country needs a whole range of assistance — all the way from monetary assistance to capacity building,” he said. “We stand ready to help any way we can. I don’t think, to be frank, it’s been decided yet who will do what, but the entire international community is prepared to help and see a peaceful transition here.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  “Stephen Harper’s new brand of Canadian foreign policy – one that chooses sides over sidelines and replaces peacekeeper with “courageous warrior” – is poised to have its clearest illustration yet as Libyan rebels celebrate the beginning of the end of the Gadhafi regime. Support at the United Nations for military intervention, a quick decision to approve Canadian Forces bombing raids and the move to expel Libyan diplomats while the status of the North African nation remained uncertain gave observers a chance to see a very different Canada on display. “This is a significant shift in Canadian foreign policy,” said Queen’s University professor Christian Leuprecht, a fellow with the school’s Centre for International and Defence Policy. “In the past, our objectives really in foreign policy have been defined by international stability and open trade routes. And what we see in Libya, previous governments very likely would have sat out.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  Globe & Mail editorial: “…. By the skin of their teeth, Canada and the other Operation Unified Protector countries have managed to avoid a long war of attrition. All’s reasonably well that ends fairly well. But, next time, the implications of the responsibility to protect civilians should be thought through more carefully.”
  • A Canadian company is helping Libyan rebels, one micro UAV at a time (company news release also available here (PDF) if link doesn’t work).  “While NATO countries fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) high above Libya, none of these UAVs, or the vital intelligence they provide, was available to the Libyans fighting to free their country – they were fighting blind. So, they got one of their own. It can now be disclosed that the Libyan rebels have been using the Aeryon Scout Micro UAV to acquire intelligence on enemy positions and to coordinate their resistance efforts. Representatives from the Transitional National Council (TNC) were looking for an imagery solution to provide to the troops on the ground. They evaluated a series of micro UAVs and chose the Aeryon Scout – and they needed it delivered immediately to those fighting at the front. Large UAVs are often flown far away from the frontline – often overseas – making it difficult to get the imagery to troops in combat. With the Aeryon Scout, the operator has direct control over the UAV and is able to see imagery in real-time ….”  More from the Globe & Mail, Wired.com’s Danger Room blog and the Financial Post on this, as well as a link to a British media article on the hardware from May of this year (8th bullet).  (Hat tip to Mark Collins for sharing this one).
  • Way Up North (1)  A simulated major air crash was only hours away when word came to soldiers, coast guard personnel and RCMP that they were faced with the real thing in remote Resolute. Saturday’s deadly crash of a chartered Boeing 737 barely a kilometre from the High Arctic hamlet’s windswept airport came smack in the middle of the largest Arctic military exercise ever conducted by the Canadian Forces. The final phase of Operation Nanook was to designed to simulate a mid-air collision between a small bush plane and cargo plane, the “signature piece” of the three-week exercise, according to a government official. The Canadian Forces had even positioned the wreckage of a long-ago crash on a plateau above the village of 250 people. Officers were sitting down to lunch in the mess on Saturday when someone burst in to report a jetliner was down. Lieutenant-commander Albert Wong, the senior public affairs officer for Op Nanook, said he sat for a brief moment in stunned disbelief. “Someone said, ‘No duff’ — which is military code for, this is real,” Wong told reporters who arrived Tuesday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “All of us started running to our posts.” ….”  More from the Globe & Mail here.
  • Way Up North (2)  Deployment of full emergency resources across Canada’s North is impossible, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday after meeting with rescue workers who responded to a fatal plane crash last weekend. “Part of the drill here is how quickly things can be moved up and deployed from the south as well,” said Harper, who is on his sixth annual summer tour of the region. “We have to be realistic. There is no possible way in the vastness of the Canadian Arctic we could ever have all of the resources necessary close by. It’s just impossible.” ….”  More on this from the Toronto Star here.
  • Way Up North (3)  “…. If sovereignty is about responsibility, that means Canada as a whole has a duty to understand the needs of the North, to make sure a child born there has access to education, health care and basic, appropriate infrastructure. In a less tangible, cultural sense, sovereignty means that the North belongs to all Canadians, and with ownership comes pride and engagement.”
  • Way Up North (4)  One academic’s view: “…. the Canadian military is perfectly content to play around in the Arctic just as long as the money taps stay open and they can utilize their training there for other “hot spots” around the world. And if this is the case, you can look for the CF. to deepen its military footprint in the Arctic going forward.”
  • Canada’s defence minister Peter MacKay met with his British counterpart Liam Fox in England this week this from the UK MoD’s Info-Machine“Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox welcomed the Canadian Defence Minister, the Honourable Peter MacKay, to London yesterday with a ceremonial guard formed by members of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. Defence Reform, Libya, Afghanistan and NATO were among the main topics discussed and both Defence Ministers agreed on the importance of the enduring bilateral relationship between their two countries ….”  Nothing yet on the DND/CF web page on the meeting.
  • A former Aussie officer makes the case for the Australian PM to stop attending every funeral of a fallen soldier, looking at how Canada does things“…. The full glare of the parliamentary press gallery will blaze as military colleagues say final goodbyes. Because, by convention, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott will take no other media appearances that day, the military funeral will become the only vision TV networks have of our political leaders. By virtue of the politicians’ attendance, a private funeral will become a nationally televised political event. For the next two weeks, when Australians think about the war in Afghanistan they will think of the only military event important enough to unite political and Defence leaders — the death of another young soldier. AusAID’s development progress won’t be in their minds, nor will the pressure on the Taliban being applied by our special forces. If form is any guide, media networks will run polls on our involvement in Afghanistan right at the time when coverage is dominated by terrible news. Australians, when asked what our Afghan strategy should be, will make an emotional decision framed by a military funeral ….”
  • Those wild, wacky funsters over at the International Committee of the Fourth International on Canada’s NDP has helped fuel “imperialist war” from Yugoslavia to Haiti, and from Kandahar to LibyaNot the first time the NDP’s been accused of supporting the troops too much for the far left wing’s fancy.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 May 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 23 Feb 11

  • Things don’t seem to be getting better in Libya, so Canada’s getting ready to fly people out of there. The federal government is sending flights to Libya to rescue stranded Canadians, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday. Evacuees will be flown to Europe and, as with flights arranged earlier this month to bring home Canadians in Egypt, Canada is working with “like-minded” countries to share flights. The first plane is expected to arrive in Tripoli, the country’s capital, on Thursday. At a news conference in Ottawa, Cannon said 331 Canadians are registered with the embassy in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, and 91 have told Canadian staff they plan to leave ….” More from Canada’s Foreign Affairs department on those flights here, as well as from Postmedia News, Reuters, Agence France Presse, the Globe & Mail and CTV.ca.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • A 14-year-old gets it on Afghanistan“…. Afghan teachers and the girls they’re teaching tell us how grateful they are to have the chance to finally live a freer life, with access to education. These are the voices we must listen to. We obviously couldn’t do the work we do without security. But when NATO eventually leaves, Canadians must not abandon Afghanistan. We should continue to support the aid projects that are changing lives, especially the right to education – because that’s the only way we’ll create and sustain peace.”
  • What Canadian troops are up to in Southern Sudan“CF observers deployed on Operation SAFARI pack their kit and head out into the bush on five- or six-day patrols. They carry not only food, water and tents but also a generator, because there is no electricity or telephone service in small Sudanese villages. Op SAFARI is Canada’s contribution to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). It is also the military component of the Canadian whole-of-government engagement in southern Sudan that also includes activities by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency and the RCMP. “We spend six days in the bush,” says Major Ed Smith, a UN military observer (UNMO) at Team Site (TS) Rumbek in the Sudan. “Our job is to know what is going on everywhere in this state, and send reports back to the United Nations. There are no lines of communication, no phones, no electricity, no running water, nothing – not even paved roads in this state. The only way the UN has of monitoring situations is through the UNMO, so we go and spend our time in the bush, then write up reports on what we see.” ….”
  • Remember this MERX listing from 2008, looking for someone interested in providing consulting services to build a new helicopter hangar on Canada’s west coast to replace a 60-year-old one? The PM has announced the building should be finished “in the winter prior to the arrival of nine new CH-148 Cyclone Helicopters in the spring of 2014.” More in the backgrounder here, and media coverage here, here and here.
  • A Defence Department study says it’s risky for the air force to continue using Griffon helicopters for search and rescue in Central Canada. The review by the chief of air force development cites limitations of the CH-146, pressed into service in 2005 at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., because the military’s principal search helicopter is often not available. The air force intends to keep using the Griffon at the base until at least 2014, say briefing notes for Defence Minister Peter MacKay. But the 2009 air force study, obtained under the Access to Information Act, said the helicopter’s “capabilities are challenged” when employed as a front-line rescue aircraft and its use constitutes a “risk.” The CH-146, a military version of the Bell 412 civilian chopper, is too small and lacks the range to reach wilderness sites in Northern Ontario and Quebec without refuelling. Having to stop for gas “increases the response time to an incident site, and the amount of time the helicopter can remain on the scene to perform rescue tasks,” said the 20-page censored report. It noted one incident where search-and-rescue technicians were lowered to a crash site “and the helicopter departed the scene to refuel before extracting the casualties.” ….” Re:  the bit in red, any chance of anybody reading the paper or the internet being able to read the report for themselves?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Anyone?
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) “…. Stephen Harper threw down the gauntlet Tuesday to his critics who question his government’s military spending, including $16 billion for 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets. That purchase is expected to be a major election issue for the Liberals and NDP in the next campaign, whenever it’s called. While announcing a new $155 million helicopter base in B.C., Harper warned against “willful naivete” in national security, and said Canada has to be ready to defend itself from any and all threats. “If you don’t do that, you soon don’t have a country and you don’t have any of the other good things you once thought were more important,” he said. “Our country has certainly never gone and will never go looking for trouble. However, many times during the past 200 years, trouble has come looking for us. While Canada does not aspire to be an armed camp, neither is their any place in national defence for willful naivety.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) The Department of National Defence says it is hiding a key F-35 document from the public because that type of document is classified. Yet its own website hosts many of these same types of papers for public downloading, almost all of which are marked as “unclassified.” This has prompted allegations the Harper government and military have “twisted” Canada’s procurement process so it can buy the billion-dollar planes. The document, called a “Statement of Operational Requirements,” is a well-established centerpiece of the military’s procurement process. Save for certain classified bits of information, it is typically released publicly so Canadians can examine what their armed forces need before their tax dollars are spent. However in an unusual step, the Harper government did not release an operational requirements statement before announcing its plan to replace Canada’s fleet of ageing CF-18 fighter jets with the F-35. In fact, the military has admitted it chose the F-35 before it even drew up the Statement of Operational Requirements. Despite this, the department has continued to hide the document from public view, saying in an email that “an Air Force project’s Statement of Operational Requirements is an internal Department of National Defence document.” “SORs are classified documents” that are “not disclosed publicly,” added spokesperson Evan Koronewski ….”
  • If this has been reported properly, apparently, the RCMP says a former military police officer (who’s served overseas in Bosnia and Cyprus) hasn’t been a Halifax cop long enough to qualify for a U.N. policing job in Haiti. “RCMP brass in Ottawa won’t allow a former Canadian military member and current Halifax cop who’s done two previous tours in wartorn countries to be a peacekeeper in Haiti. “It’s absolutely asinine,” said Dave Moore, president of the Municipal Association of Police Personnel, the union that represents the unnamed Halifax officer. “To me it’s making a statement that (he’s) substandard and that’s not true at all in our eyes.” The officer, who’s worked under the auspices of the UN in Bosnia and Cyprus, has been on the Halifax Regional Police force for more than two years. Before that, he spent 12 years in the Canadian military, seven of those as a military cop. “We’ve worked many, many years with the military police. They’re as well qualified as the federal force,” said Moore ….”
  • Over his 22 years in the Canadian Forces, Chris Hennebery saw not a single gunshot fired in anger. It’s only now, as a married father of two little girls and a successful software executive, that he’s going to find himself in a combat zone. Hennebery leaves at the end of next month to work as an artist in Afghanistan, capturing in his sketchbook and watercolours images of Canadian soldiers at war. After three weeks in NATO combat outposts and on patrols in the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, Hennebery will return to Canada to turn his preliminary works into a series of 10 large acrylic paintings. Accompanying the former professional artist will be photographer Shaun O’Mara, a former British commando and Canadian soldier whom Hennebery served with in the Royal Westminster Regiment ….”
  • Sigh….One of the doctors charged last week with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in downtown Toronto hotel is a long-serving member of the Canadian military, CBC News has learned. Dr. Amitabh Chauhan, 32, of Ancaster, Ont., has been closely associated with the Canadian Forces since 1997, when he became a cadet. The following year he enrolled in the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., as an officer cadet. Chauhan, received his undergraduate degree from RMC in 2002 with an honours BA in politics and economics. “Following his education with RMC, he began his training to become a pilot in January 2004. He ceased training in July 2005 and undertook a variety of duties,” the Department of National Defence said in a written statement to CBC News. He did his pilot training at CFB Moose Jaw. On Monday, Toronto police said that when he was arrested Chauhan had a Saskatchewan driver’s licence. Chauhan left the military in 2007 but continued his association as a member of the naval reserve, which he joined three years ago. “Mr. Chauhan is a naval reservist who works part-time at the naval reserve division HMCS Star in Hamilton [Ont.] and holds the rank of acting sub-lieutenant,” according to the military. He is currently a post-graduate student in the plastic surgery department at McMaster University in Hamilton ….” I can’t wait for the CBC to start writing about the university history of future criminals.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claim responsibility for killing translator for Americans in Mullah Omar’s (alleged) former compound in Kandahar City.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 17 Feb 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 12 Jan 11

  • A bit more excitement at CSIS offices in Toronto than they would have liked“Toronto police say they have arrested a man in connection with a bomb scare in the city’s downtown. Police used a stun gun to incapacitate the man they believe left his car and suitcases in front of the CSIS building, prompting a bomb scare …. one of the city’s main traffic arteries, was shut down for a second time during the height of the evening rush hour as police reopened their investigation into the incident. Police told CBC News that the man they arrested was the owner of the car involved in the earlier incident. The man apparently put up a struggle with police even after being stunned with a Taser and was taken to hospital for observation, said police spokesman Const. Tony Vella. During the evening there were three loud noises near Front Street. Police later explained they were controlled explosions, detonating a package the man was carrying when he was arrested. The earlier bomb scare ended quietly after police cleared an area outside the offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service after finding nothing untoward in two abandoned pieces of luggage and a car parked nearby ….”
  • Here’s what the head of NATO’s training effort in Afghanistan had to say in a recent paper on what Canada could do in Afghanistan (PDF):  “…. The Canadian military and civilian police forces have done much to support NTM-A (NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan) and the development of the ANSF (Afghan national security forces). The recent addition of 44 police trainers and 10 air mentor trainers to the NTM-A mission has been invaluable, as these specialties are particularly hard to fill.  However, to move from building the basic Afghan military and police forces to developing the key capabilities required for those forces to be self-sustaining requires, more of your trainers with specialized skills and experience are required. Police, air, and medical trainers are especially needed, and your nation has the capabilities to provide more air mentor teams in Kandahar, police trainers in Kandahar, trainers at the ANA medical facility in Kandahar, and logistics facilities across the country. Your forces are more broadly experienced than most other nations serving in the International Security Assistance Force, and such mature soldiers, with multiple tours serving in Afghanistan, would be extremely effective trainers for the ANSF ….” Sorry, General, but there’s a parliamentary motion out there that says we’re outta Kandahar, but thanks for the compliment.  More on the U.S. aching for Canada to stay in Kandahar here, here and here.
  • In case you missed it in yesterday’s e-mailed version, The military will ground Canada’s spy plane program after the Afghan combat mission ends this summer. The commander of the prop-driven CU-170 Herons, which operate out of Kandahar Airfield, said the Canadian Forces will disband his squadron once troops pull out of Kandahar. Maj. Dave Bolton, the new and final commander of Task Force Erebus, said his team will then go on to other jobs within the military. “There’s a lot of very young people that were involved with this program,” he said in an interview. “There’s probably going to be a hiatus of somewhere between two and five years ….”
  • “…. Bureaucrats working alongside the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are baffled why civilian police officers and Tim Hortons employees at Kandahar Airfield are eligible for military medals but they aren’t. Public servants were eligible for the military’s General Service Medal when the mission began in 2002 and they worked under the authority of the Canadian Forces. But several months ago, bureaucrats were notified by Afghanistan Task Force officials they no longer qualified because they don’t work for the military. The change ruffled feathers earlier this month when Task Force Commander Brig-Gen. Dean Milner handed out medals to 14 civilian police officers at the Kandahar Airfield for their nine-month stint working with Afghan police. Bureaucrats say most police officers are paid by the Foreign Affairs Department and work for it on its projects. National Defence officials have since begun an examination into whom the civilian police reported to and whether they were given the wrong medal ….”
  • An interesting suggestion from a former Canadian general on how to improve Veterans Affairs Canada “…. The only way to change Veterans Affairs in favour of instead of against Veterans is to convert the place into a department filled with younger Veterans of all three services starting with the post of Deputy Minister–if the Prime Minister can’t find a Veteran in his caucus to be minister.” I have to disagree, General.  The people implementing it aren’t the problem – it’s the RULES that have to change.
  • Remember this woman, who ran a pro-Taliban/jihadi news page, who was kidnapped in Pakistan and reported dead?  It appears some journalists aren’t happy with the lack of attention paid to her (reported) plight“…. Giesbrecht never defined herself as such but she was, in a sense, a practitioner of immersion journalism—sometimes defined as reporting from an intensive personal perspective. As author/journalist Norah Vincent puts it in her book Voluntary Madness: “The whole point is that you are not objective.” As for her controversial website, friends say it was not propaganda, but rather a tool to gain the confidence of the people she wanted to interview. “If you put up a website that looks like another CNN wannabe,” says one close friend in Canada, Glen Cooper, “they’re not going to pay much attention to you.” Giesbrecht herself said of her website: “It is my hope that this will inspire others to Islam and to take a stand against this shameful war on ‘terrorism.’ I am not a ‘terrorist,’ a fanatic or mentally unbalanced. On the contrary, I am a level-headed, capable woman, a humanitarian and a contributing member of society.” ….” In my as-yet unposted comment, I raise the point that if she was “inspiring” people to “take a stand” and running pro-Taliban material to seek the group’s attention, 1)  this is a columnist, not a journalist, and 2)  be careful what you wish for.
  • Latest volley in the “the F-35 is great – no it’s not!” fight comes from a senior politician“The federal government is standing by its multi-billion dollar investment in the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has boosted the country’s economy and will create job opportunities in the Canadian aerospace industry for decades, Government House leader John Baird said Tuesday. Baird defended the government’s commitment to purchase 65 F-35s, insisting the deal will help the Canadian Forces while significantly contributing to the economy. “It’s the right thing to do and our government is committed to seeing this through,” Baird said of the planned purchase, which is estimated to be at least $14 billion, while touring MDS Aero Support Corporation, an Ottawa-based engineering organization involved with the development of fighter jet engines ….”
  • It seems I’m not the only person out there thinking this column on the woes and misery that will befall the U.S. military when it allows gays/lesbians to serve is a bit beyond its best-before date“…. The article actually tries to make the point that European countries have gays in the military but have underperformed in Afghanistan. Tell that to the Danes that have been fighting hard in the toughest parts of Afghanistan with few restrictions (few caveats) and paying a high price in casualties–highest per capita. Tell that to the Aussies who have been working hard in Uruzgan but/and have gays in their military. Same for the British ….” Another take“…. He cites some NATO countries lack of “resolve” to continue the fight in Afghanistan, as if all decisions related to the Afghanistan adventure somehow hinge upon the fighting ability of homosexual soldiers. In this narrow view of the world, Stephen Harper’s decision to end Canada’s “combat” role in Afghanistan must be because gay soldiers have inundated Defence Minister Lawrence Cannon’s office with pleas to come home, or to at least relocate behind the wire in Kabul. Likely, the truth is that the Conservatives received more letters from those upset with the long form census than from gay soldiers lacking the will to carry on Canada’s mission. ….”
  • A UN official says Canada was asked “pretty please” to keep its post-earthquake military presence in Haiti longer. “The Canadian government turned down a plea to extend its military relief effort in Haiti after last year’s earthquake, says a top United Nations official in Port-au-Prince. Canada was widely praised for rushing to provide emergency help, including clean water, security and medical care, following the devastating temblor last Jan. 12. Armed with heavy equipment, Canadian military engineers also cleared rubble and helped Haitians reopen their roads, particularly in the hard-hit areas around the cities of Leogane and Jacmel. But despite attempts by the UN and local authorities to persuade Ottawa to keep the engineers in Haiti beyond the end of Canada’s relief mandate, the military packed up and left. “I think there was a strong request that they stay on,” Nigel Fisher, the UN’s head of humanitarian aid in Haiti, told The Canadian Press in an interview from Port-au-Prince. “Many felt that they wished they had stayed because they were extremely effective.” ….” More from The Canadian Press here.  Meanwhile, this just in:  Canada finds $90 million for Haiti assistance – more on that from Postmedia News here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Taliban page post asks, “Why isn’t the Peace Council calling for American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan?!?”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 14 Dec 10

  • The CF is reportedly reviewing the files of some of Canada’s most seriously war wounded to figure out if they can continue to stay in the Forces“The administrative review is expected to start in the spring but sources say as many as 18 of the soldiers, some severely wounded, could be asked to leave. Rear-Admiral Andy Smith, chief of military personnel, confirmed the reviews will take place but he said it is too early to determine the outcome. “Those who are wounded in action represent a special set of people who have gone out there and done the business and merit the full compassion of the institution and the country,” he said. But Smith said that the Canadian Forces still adhere to the principle of universality of service, which dictates that all members must be fit and capable of deploying on operations ….” How far we’ve come from then-CDS Rick Hillier, who in 2008 reportedly said “no soldier injured in Afghanistan is to be released from the military without his express authority.” (2008 G&M article via militaryphotos.net forum)
  • Some moves afoot to make sure wounded warriors are properly represented, by both legal counsel and by the Vets’ Ombudsman. “Moved by the stories of Canada’s wounded soldiers who’ve come home only to be forced to fight the federal government for benefits, Ontario’s trial lawyers say they’ll represent injured veterans for free.  And in Ottawa, sources tell the Star that the Liberals will present legislation Tuesday that, if passed, would elevate the Office of the Veterans’ Ombudsman so that it reports to Parliament, and not the minister of national defence, as is currently the case …. The 1,100-member Ontario Trial Lawyers Association told the Star it is astounded by the “hurdles, the runarounds and the hardships” Canada’s veterans face when they try to collect federal military service and disability benefits.  “These veterans fight for our country and they really should not have to fight for these benefits,” said lawyer Patrick Brown, chair of the new initiative called Trial Lawyers for Veterans ….”
  • A name change coming after all for Canada’s Navy? “…. Senators on the national security and defence committee recommended Monday evening that the Senate adopt a motion encouraging the national defence minister to change the name of Maritime Command to a new name that includes the word “Navy”. The motion, by Liberal Senator Bill Rompkey, originally called on the minister to change the name to “Canadian Navy,” a term already used by Maritime Command in much of its communication, including on its website. The compromise position allowed senators who favour a return the navy’s original name of “Royal Canadian Navy” to support Rompkey’s motion. The Senate is expected to pass the motion Tuesday, opening the door for National Defence Minister Peter MacKay to rename the naval force R.C.N. before the end of the navy’s centennial year.” Nice idea, but do we need to spend all that money changing letterhead, web pages and everything else to include one more word?  I’m as much for tradition as the next guy, but there ARE better things to spend the money on.
  • Remember this tidbit last week about Canada sending a party of ~150 to Roswell, New Mexico for interesting training Here’s the Globe & Mail‘s version: “It’s got a grounded 747 with no engine, fake villages that can be stocked with speakers of unfamiliar languages, and 300,000 acres of some of the most Afghanistan-like desert-and-mountain terrain that money can buy.  And next month, the training camp built upon a decommissioned army base in New Mexico will be taken over by about 150 visiting special-operations soldiers from north of the border.  There, Canada’s most secretive military units will get a respite from the winter, while they keep up with the kind of training that their military masters in Ottawa are loath to highlight.  According to a new $900,000 contract tender posted on a federal government procurement site, they will refine their standard special-operations skills – such as how to storm hijacked airplanes, how to parachute from aircraft, and how to fire and react to live ammunition.  They will also delve into specific lessons drawn from the Afghanistan conflict – including learning how to rappel from helicopters during night raids, how to capture and question foreign enemies, and how to make sense of surveillance drawn from drone planes ….” Remember, you read it here first!
  • A bit of late-night debate in the House of Commons last night over Haiti, and what to do there. “In Ottawa, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken granted Liberal MP Denis Coderre’s request for an emergency debate, held early Monday evening, on the “extremely tense” situation in Haiti. The MP, who said Haiti has “practically ceased to function,” reiterated the need for the federal government to create a special envoy to Haiti to work with all ministries and help get rid of red tape. “A wave of violence is now raging all over the country and we must, as responsible parliamentarians, look at Canada’s role in the outcome of this major crisis,” Coderre said. Coderre also suggested Canada send troops, such as the Disaster Assistance Response Team or DART, to provide additional security in Haiti ….” More on that from CTV.ca here and Agence France-Presse here.
  • If one believes reports from the Canadian Press based on briefing notes obtained through Access to Information requests, it was not smooth sailing flying for Canadians training Aussie UAV crews in Afghanistan. “Canadian aircrew played a significant, largely unheralded role in helping Australia get its unmanned aerial vehicle program off the ground in Afghanistan, federal documents show. The assistance, which continued for more than a year, involved teaching Australian pilots how to fly the Israeli-built Heron drones. The fact it went unheralded may not be a bad thing, considering the number of accidents the Aussies have had with their remote-controlled aircraft: two of them have crashed, while a third was damaged when its landing gear failed. Reports from the Australian defence ministry suggest one of the incidents forced the private Canadian company that leases the unmanned aircraft to both countries to temporarily suspend flights for two days early last month. Operations resumed once MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), the B.C.-based defence contractor, checked the gear problem with the manufacturer …”
  • Note to headline writers:  I like to think ALL soldiers think before they shoot, not just special forces troops. Screen capture of headline also here in case link doesn’t work.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban site says fight won’t end when NATO leaves, and (once more) rejects talking to the West until foreign troops are gone.
  • In other security-related news, the RCMP is looking for a consultant to help come up with a plan to fight human trafficking. Some details in the summary of a recent (September 2010) RCMP threat assessment here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Dec 10

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

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 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 (CTV.ca 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.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 23 Nov 10

  • No Canadian reaction yet, but this is scary enough to include:  North Korea has shelled a South Korean island, killing and wounding people living there.  More here – something to keep one’s eye on.
  • Postmedia News is starting to share some details about what Canadian trainers could end up doing in the newly-announced-but-not-publicly-fleshed-out training mission in Afghanistan“Canada’s war-hardened soldiers are going back to the basics for a three-year Afghan training mission. Up to 950 soldiers who would normally have been facing combat in Kandahar will now be dispatched to walled-off bases around Kabul to lead Afghan soldiers in basic training exercises between 2011 and 2014. Jogging, marching, push-ups and firing weapons will replace Taliban hunting in the Canadian playbook, under a plan rolled out Tuesday by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and international development ….” So, what type of troops does Canada send to train the Afghans? How do you prepare those troops being sent to train? Where previous rotations prepared by training to fight and work with Afghan forces in battle, should future trainers be taught how to set up schools and training systems before being unleashed on the Afghans? Who trains the Afghan troops?  Their junior leaders?  Their officers? Outstanding discussion under way on this, including commentary from them that’s been there, at Army.ca – well worth the read.
  • One tool Canada appears to be unleashing to help train Afghan cops, who are notorious for their less-than-stellar reliability and integrity:  a TV show. More from the Toronto Star“Canada is underwriting a propaganda campaign to transform the image of the notorious Afghan national police in the hearts and minds of the country’s television viewers. The half-million dollar initiative casts Lt. Humayun as a dedicated, incorruptible Afghan National Police officer trolling the streets of Kabul to settle tribal disputes and put drug traffickers and warlords out of business. The popular Saturday evening television series, Separ, is sort of an Afghan version of Paul Gross’s Mountie in the popular Due South series. The two dozen planned episodes of the show are intended to educate the country on the roles and duties of the Afghan National Police (ANP), a force that is hardly better trusted than thugs and terrorists it is meant to be targetting ….” Canada’s development agency CIDA Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is pumping more than $400,000 into this one. (Correction based on Toronto Star correction of original version of story)
  • United Press International says we will be hearing more details (eventually) about Canada’s mystery purchase of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan“…. A Canadian Forces officer says the Department of Defense might release more information about the helicopters at a later date. The Defense Department acquired the MI-17 helicopters for combat use in Afghanistan but has refused to provide details about how much the deal cost taxpayers or how many aircraft are operating, Postmedia News reported ….” Kinda harkens back to summer 2006, when Russia tried selling some helicopters to Canada, which was then in a bit of a rush to buy helicopters for the troops.
  • One senior Canadian officer says the victory he’s seeing in southern Afghanistan is not the fleeting kind“Some people say it is only because the Taliban have gone back to Pakistan because it is the winter,” said Col. Ian Creighton, in charge of the operational mentor liaison team (OMLT) that has gone to war alongside the Afghan army as advisers. “And, you know, it is the truth. Some have. But others have died or given up” ….”
  • Back here in Canada, the Bloc Quebecois is pushing for a vote in Parliament on the new Canadian mission in Afghanistan (more from Postmedia News here).  And the Liberals? Well, shortly after the 16 Nov 10 announcement, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was OK with the plans for a training mission “We could conceive of a training mission …. What are we there for, anyway? …. We’re not there to run the country. We’re not there to take it over. We’re there to enable them to defend themselves.”.  His foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, even went as far as saying, “We obviously want to see what the detailed mandate for the mission is, but a non-combat mission would not normally require a parliamentary vote.” And now?  This, from the Globe & Mail“…. “We’ve never ducked a democratic debate on Afghanistan,” (Ignatieff) told reporters in Montreal on Monday after addressing college students. The Liberal Leader said he would not propose a vote himself but that, if there is one, “we have no problem with that.”….”  I’ll say he’s being squeezed from all sides, including from within his own caucus – more on Ignatieff as wishbone from the Canadian Press here.
  • The Ottawa Citizen points out how a Conservative cabinet minister speaking in the House of Commons this week doesn’t seem to consider Afghanistan to be at war.  Reminds me of a bit of debate in the House in October 2009, where then-parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Deepak Obhrai expressed a similar sentiment (Hansard here, more here):  “This is not a war. We are providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security. Let us get it very clear so the NDP can understand what a secure environment is and what a war is. A war is between two nations; a war is between two parties. There are not two parties there. This is a different kind of war. We are facing a terrorist organization that does not respect any rules of engagement.”
  • One American soldier’s memories of his colleagues seeing Canadian tanks in Afghanistan, via a New York Times blog“One of the most memorable moments during our 12 month tour was arriving on FOB Wilson in Zhari, Kandahar, for the weekly district security shura and watching the tanker half of my platoon swoon over the troop of Canadian Leopard 2A6Ms parked in the motor-pool. Memories of past I.E.D.s and firefights flowed through our heads. And of course, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What if…” ….” They won’t have to wonder for much longer.
  • Blog Watch: Gotta love the “Compare and Contrast” dare Terry Glavin puts out, asking folks to compare the Taliban’s latest statements and those from people and groups opposed to Canada’s continued presence in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 30 claimed killed, wounded in alleged attacks across Kandahar.
  • In case you haven’t heard, there’s a significant outbreak of cholera in Haiti.  Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Canada should go check things out and see how we can help: “…. “We just think the Canadian government cannot stand by while cholera ravages Haiti,” the Liberal leader told reporters in Montreal on Monday.  “This is a country that has been in the inner circle of the damned for the past year.” …. Ignatieff says Ottawa should send “a strategic evaluation mission right away” to take a closer look at the situation in the Caribbean country.  “Once we’ve done an evaluation around what’s needed, it may be necessary to send the DART team or maybe even some element of a military mission to basically help these cholera hospitals get this thing under control,” he said ….”
  • Finally, this, buried in an American tender award announcement“The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $7,625,501 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract (N00019-09-D-0010) to exercise an option for in-service support for F/A-18 aircraft of the governments of Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Malaysia and Spain. Services to be provided include program management, logistics, engineering support, and incidental materials and technical data. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the governments of Switzerland ($2,461,884; 32 percent); Finland ($1,702,014; 22 percent); Canada ($872,514; 12 percent); Kuwait ($874,264; 12 percent); Malaysia ($864,264; 11 percent); Australia ($464,714; 6 percent); and Spain ($385,847; 5 percent), under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.”