News Highlights – 6 Sept 11

  • Afghanistan  Finally, a bit of info (from a visiting Canadian academic) from Herat, one of the spots where Canadian troops are helping train Afghan security forces during Operation Attention.  “…. Our participation in this training process, while likely the best course of action in a very challenging situation, simply adds to both the moral responsibility we owe Afghanistan and the strategic corner we have backed ourselves into. If we build this army, we had better be willing to fund it and support it long into the future. This will be added to the long-term development and humanitarian engagement we also have rightly committed to and have the obligation to maintain. Afghans, of course, have been taught to shoot RPGs before.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  New statement (link to non-terrorist web site):  child suicide bombers?  What child suicide bombers?  We have rules against that kinda stuff, ya know….  Meanwhile, here’s what Human Rights Watch has to say about using kids to blow themselves up:  “The Taliban’s use of children as suicide bombers is not only sickening, but it makes a mockery of Mullah Omar’s claim to protect children and civilians. Any political movement or army that manipulates or coerces children into becoming human bombs has lost touch with basic humanity.”
  • Libya Mission  Sun Media columnist says time to go home, not extend mission.  “…. Do Canadians really need to be mixed up in another protracted foreign military effort with an uncertain outcome? We may be headed into another recession. The federal government should keep its powder dry and focus now on the home front.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  “Canada is better positioned today to thwart a terrorist attack than before 9-11, but remains vulnerable to ever-evolving threats to national security — especially those targeted from within the country, says Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Billions invested in beefed-up security measures, more information-sharing with allies and tighter controls on the movement of passengers, cargo and vehicles since Sept. 11, 2001, have all helped detect threats before they become too far advanced. But Canada must keep “alert” to new sources of danger — including home-grown terrorists and cyber-attackers. “Relatively speaking, we’re in a better position. I think back in 2001 we had no idea about the possibilities and types of threats,” Toews told iPolitics. “I think we’ve become much more sophisticated in recognizing potential threats than we were able to 10 years ago, so in that sense we’re in better shape. We’re also in better shape because we share information with our allies on a more regular and consistent basis.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2)  “…. The consequences of 9/11 are a bit like the tip of an iceberg.  What you see is less important than what lies below the surface.  The most visible reminder of 9/11 is the inconvenience travellers face crossing the border …. The other major legacy of 9/11 is the resuscitation of hard power in Canada’s foreign policy …. That horrible day 10 years ago is a lasting reminder that Canada needs both hard and soft power to advance its interests in the world.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3)  EU, NATO:  World is safer post-9/11“…. A decade after Al-Qaeda traumatised the United States, the terror network has lost its leader, Osama bin Laden, and proved irrelevant in the revolutions sweeping the Arab world, said EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove. “The main finding is the real failure of the Al-Qaeda project,” he said. The once mighty group has been worn down by the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, which served as its safe haven prior to 9/11, and reinforced international cooperation, de Kerchove said. “Today an attack of the scale and sophistication of 9/11 is no longer possible,” he told a news conference. “Does it mean that we’re completely out of the threat? Probably not.” He added: “Are we safer today than before? I can say yes.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Wanted:  someone to plan and develop the next CF recruiting media campaign.  This from the bid document’s Statement of Work (PDF available here):  “…. the focus of advertising messaging will shift with the evolving focus of Canada’s military. Ongoing recruitment continues to be the priority and the emphasis will change to accurately reflect the reality of life in the CF. As Fight portrays the CF with a combat focus, and Priority Occupations promotes specific careers, future advertisement campaigns propose to showcase the CF’s readiness and proficiency in humanitarian efforts and domestic defence and support.  The readiness message should demonstrate that CF personnel are trained and the right equipment and necessary infrastructure are available when and where it is needed ….”  Check out the Statement of Work for suggested key messages and target audiences.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Jobs for east coast folks from one of the wanna-be TAPV competitors?  “A Dieppe company could be adding at least 120 new jobs to its roster if the Canadian government picks the Timberwolf as the newest tactical armoured patrol vehicle for the Canadian Forces. A prototype of the Timberwolf, a tactical armoured patrol vehicle designed specifically for the Canadian Forces, is seen in action. Dieppe’s Malley Industries Inc. will be the vehicle’s manufacturer if the design is selected. Specialty vehicle manufacturer Malley Industries Inc. will announce Tuesday that it has penned a deal with Force Protection Industries Inc., a leading United States designer and developer of military tactical vehicles. Malley Industries now joins a team of companies to potentially manufacture the Timberwolf – a tactical armoured patrol vehicle designed specifically for the Canadian Forces. There are at least three other teams vying for their vehicles to be picked. The government has until next July to choose a design. Up to 600 vehicles could be purchased ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying (3)  Wanted:  someone to build Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) building in Petawawa.
  • What’s Canada Selling?  “CAE today announced that it has been awarded a series of military contracts valued at more than C$100 million, including a subcontract to design and manufacture four additional C-130J simulators for the United States Air Force (USAF) as well as contracts in Germany to provide support services for the German Air Force’s Eurofighter simulators and to upgrade Tornado flight simulators …. Under terms of a subcontract from the prime contractor, CAE will design and manufacture four C-130J weapon systems trainers (WSTs) to support the USAF’s Air Mobility Command (AMC), Air Combat Command (ACC), and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). Three of the simulators will be HC/MC-130J WSTs for ACC and AFSOC, and one will be a C-130J simulator for AMC ….” News Highlights – 12 Mar 11

  • DefMin MacKay in Brussels for NATO Meeting (1) – He’s back from a defence ministers’ meeting with this to say about Libya: “…. “Since the crisis began in Libya, Canada has been actively engaged in responding to requests for evacuation and for humanitarian assistance,” said Minister MacKay. “Canada has also emphasized the importance of NATO planning, so the Alliance can stand ready to respond to humanitarian crises as required.” Minister MacKay informed Canada’s allies that Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown is joining the NATO Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR, patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in response to the crisis in Libya. The ships of NATO and other like-minded nations will be monitoring shipping and providing a maritime presence during this time of ongoing instability in North Africa. “Canada is standing with our allies to monitor the current situation in North Africa and will keep working with our allies as the situation continues to develop,” said Minister MacKay. “The versatility of HMCS Charlottetown and her crew allows Canada to be ready at a moment’s notice to carry out humanitarian missions and whatever mandate the international community calls for.” ….”
  • NATO’s read of what happens next in & around Libya“NATO Defence Ministers …. agreed to increase the presence of NATO Maritime assets in the Central Mediterranean using ships from two of NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups.  “It has been decided to increase the presence of NATO maritime assets in the Central Mediterranean under the command of Supreme Allied Commander Admiral Stavridis, “said the Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen,  in a news conference following the meeting.  “These ships will improve NATO’s situational awareness which is vital in the current circumstances and  they will contribute to our surveillance and monitoring  capability, including with regard to the arms embargo established by the UN Security Council  Resolution 1970”.  Admiral Stavridis will determine the number of ships required to provide this enhanced presence and it is expected that these ships, drawn from the Standing NATO Maritime Group and the Standing Mine Countermeasures Group, will begin moving to the region in the very near term.  Defence Ministers also agreed to have more detailed planning options for humanitarian assistance and support to the arms embargo.  “We  have  also directed NATO military authorities to develop, as a matter of urgency, detailed planning with regard to humanitarian assistance and ,  provided there is a further UN Security Council Resolution, more active measures to enforce the arms embargo”, the Secretary General highlighted.  The topic of a possible no-fly zone over Libya was also discussed and it was agreed that further planning will be required  in case NATO were to receive a clear UN mandate ….”
  • DefMin MacKay in Brussels for NATO Meeting (2) – He also did a bit of work with the Americans there as well. “…. While in Brussels, Minister MacKay and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates also took the opportunity to sign a joint Statement of Principles for a Space Situational Awareness Partnership, building on the long history of close defence cooperation between the two countries ….” What are those principles?  Here’s what they were when Australia signed on to the partnership in November of last year.
  • NATO DefMins on Afghanistan:  At the same NATO defence ministers’ meeting, the gang decided on which areas in Afghanistan can be protected by Afghan security forces.  Here’s the NATO-speak version“….Ministers took a crucial step towards the implementation of Transition – the process by which security responsibility for Afghanistan is gradually transferred to Afghan leadership.  The recommendation will now be conveyed to the Afghan government to decide on the areas that will initiate transition. Transition will commence only once it has been approved by the Afghan government and announced by President Karzai.  They endorsed the recommendations of the Joint Afghan NATO Inteqal (Transition) Board for the first areas to be transitioned to Afghan lead. In doing so, NATO has taken its own decision to move to Phase 4, or the Transition Phase of the operation, in those recommended areas ….” Here’s the easier MSM version: “NATO defence ministers on Friday endorsed a list of the first cities and provinces where Afghan police and soldiers will take control of security — a key element in the West’s exit strategy from the decade-old war. The areas include the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, as well as all of Bamiyan and Panshir provinces, and Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district. The list was provided by officials and diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue ….”
  • GG presents valour, other decorations (anonymously) to Canadian special forces troops for work in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Protest alleged in Kandahar over civilian casualties, and other claimed attacks.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War PM visits Ontario high-tech company to highlight jobs coming from F-35 buy (more), and companies in the biz “saluted” PM, saying F-35 is good news.
  • Lasers, even the hand-held ones, are not a joke – they CAN damage peoples’ eyes“A 26-year-old man accused of pointing a green laser at the Winnipeg police whirlybird says he didn’t realize it was dangerous. Sheldon Friesen had just wrapped up a shift as a cook early Thursday and noticed a helicopter circling near his West End street. He said he recently bought a laser pointer with a green beam for 99 cents on eBay and wanted to test it out. “Just to see the distance. You point it up into the sky and see the beam go forever. I don’t know how far forever is, so I see something in the sky that’s worth reflecting, well why not?” he said. Friesen got something of an answer — fast. From about 1,000 feet up in the sky, the police chopper crew quickly zeroed in on a suspect with a laser, while officers on the ground were dispatched to the 200-block of Toronto Street. “There was about three cars in about five minutes. They weren’t really impressed. They were trying to figure out why I did it,” Friesen said. “It was supposed to be for simple entertainment rather than having to cause someone danger like that.” ….” More on this from the Winnipeg Free Press here.

Canada Accused of, Denies “Bribing the Tribes”

The U.K. Times Online, attributing the story to “Western military officials,” alleges the Italians were paying the Taliban to keep them quiet, and not telling a French unit relieving them of the arrangement,  Shortly after the relief, 10 French troops were killed in a major ambush.

Italy and France denies the allegations, but The Times goes further, receiving confirmation from Afghan officials as well as a Taliban commander:

Mohammed Ishmayel, a Taleban commander, said that a deal was struck last year so that Italian forces in the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, were not attacked by local insurgents …. Mr Ishmayel said that under the deal it was agreed that “neither side should attack one another. That is why we were informed at that time, that we should not attack the Nato troops.” The insurgents were not informed when the Italian forces left the area and assumed they had broken the deal. Afghan officials also said they were aware of the practice by Italian forces in other areas of Afghanistan.

Now, buried in this story from Agence France-Presse, a “Western military source” says Canada (among others) have been doing the same thing:

…. according to a number of Western and Afghan officers, all speaking on condition of anonymity, the politically sensitive practice is fairly widespread among NATO forces in Afghanistan.

One Western military source told of payments made by Canadian soldiers stationed in the violent southern province of Kandahar, while another officer spoke of similar practices by the German army in northern Kunduz.

“I can tell you that lots of countries under the NATO umbrella operating out in rural parts of Afghanistan do pay the militants for not attacking them,” the senior Afghan official said.

He added that it “seems to be the practice with military forces from some NATO countries, excluding the US forces under NATO, the British forces and the whole coalition forces” under the US-led “Operation Enduring Freedom“.

“I think more than 50 percent of NATO forces deployed in rural Afghanistan have such deals or at least have struck such deals” to ensure peace, the official said.

He said he did not want to say precisely how many but one Western officer said: “As it’s not very positive and not officially recognised, it’s never spoken about openly. It’s a bit shameful.

“Consequently, it’s sometimes not communicated properly between the old unit and the new unit that comes in to relieve them,” which may have happened between the Italians and the French.

A spokesperson with Canada’s Expeditionary Forces Command (CEFCOM) denies such payments, bringing up a good point:

“I haven’t heard of any type of payment that would be done by our troops in order to remain protected,” said Lt.-Col. Chris Lemay, a spokesperson with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command. “With the number of casualties we’ve been getting, had we paid these guys they wouldn’t be holding up their end of their bargain.”

The best summary of why the “bribe the tribes” approach can’t work in the long run in Afghanistan (compared to how it seemed to work in Iraq) comes from Nathan Hodge over at’s Danger Room blog:

…. the biggest flaw in the “bribe the Taliban” argument: What happens when you stop paying?

Once again, the Iraq example is instructive. Responsibility for paying Sunni tribal militias, referred to by the U.S. military as the Sons of Iraq (SoI), was handed over to the government of Iraq, and a certain number of SoI were eventually supposed to be absorbed into Iraq’s security forces. But not all has gone to plan: Earlier this year, fighting erupted in Baghdad after the arrest of Adel Mashadani, a Sunni militia leader and key figure in the “Awakening” movement. As the central government moved to disarm and disband Awakening councils, it prompted concern about a renewed violence in Iraq as U.S. troops packed up for withdrawal.

And Afghanistan presents a much more difficult case. Iraq’s central government can count on a decent stream of revenue; Afghanistan’s government is pretty much broke. Bribery may work to a point, but it seems highly unlikely that Kabul could keep its internal opponents on the payroll when its operating budget is largely drawn from foreign aid and it can barely cover the cost of maintaining its army and police.

Makes sense to me.

Update (1): This, from the Canadian Press:

Task Force Kandahar spokesperson Maj. Mario Couture says an Agence France-Presse report that alleges Canadian soldiers tried to buy off insurgents is “totally baseless” …. Couture says Canadian soldiers do pay out sums to Afghans who agree to hand in their weapons, while offering others paid work to encourage them to turn their backs on the Taliban …. Defence Minister Peter MacKay, speaking in St. John’s, said it was the first he was hearing of the report and described it as likely “Taliban propaganda.”

UPDATE (2): So, could the story be Taliban propaganda?