Afghanistan (2) “Hundreds of sea containers stuffed with military gear that were supposed to be returning to Canada are instead languishing at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan because of Pakistan’s decision to close its border to NATO, a military spokesman said Wednesday. Lt.-Cmdr. John Nethercott said the border closure isn’t expected to affect the military’s imminent withdrawal from Kandahar, though he acknowledged there could be complications if Pakistan doesn’t reopen its borders soon. “We’re assessing the situation,” he said. “At this point, there’s no impact on our withdrawal of personnel and no immediate impact on our efforts to repatriate equipment back to Canada by land and sea.” About 1,200 troops are in Kandahar packing up for the imminent end of Canada’s military presence after six years in the southern Afghan province. They have until the end of the year to wrap up their work. High-priority and sensitive equipment is being shipped out by air, while the rest was to be sent by convoy across the Afghan-Pakistan border and down the 1,600-kilometre route to the Indian Ocean for transport by sea. Nethercott said there are containers already gathered at a port in Pakistan, where they were waiting to be loaded onto a ship once the remainder arrived. The containers being held in transit in Afghanistan are not at the Kandahar Airfield, he added, though he would not say where they are. It’s likely they are close to the Afghan-Pakistan border ….”
“The families of at least four unmarried soldiers killed in Afghanistan have stepped forward to file human-rights complaints. The relatives allege Veterans Affairs discriminates in favour of married troops in the payment of a $250,000 death benefit, The Canadian Press has learned. The cases, which are at the investigation stage, follow the dismissal last week of a similar complaint by the parents of Cpl. Matthew Dinning, who died in an April 2006 Kandahar roadside bombing. A federal human-rights tribunal rejected the complaint of Lincoln and Laurie Dinning because Veterans Affairs abruptly decided to recognize their son’s girlfriend as his common-law spouse, technically making him no longer single. Errol Cushley, the father of Pte. William Cushley, and Beverley Skalrud, the mother of Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield, confirmed they have launched their own challenges of the death stipend, which was instituted as part of an overhaul of veterans benefits in 2006. The families of Trooper Jack Bouthillier and Trooper Marc Diab have launched similar complaints. “You have four men killed in the same battle, three of them are paid $250,000, (but) William does not qualify because he is single. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Errol Cushley, who lives near Wallaceburg, Ont. “I always understood you couldn’t discriminate on those grounds.” ….”
Hamilton’s Mayor is hiring a former Reserve CO to be (what appears to be) an on-call military consultant.“A military consultant and a municipal affairs expert are the two newest additions to Mayor Bob Bratina’s staff. In an email sent to councillors Tuesday afternoon, Bratina announced that Lieutenant Colonel Geordie Elms — a defeated Progressive Conservative candidate in October’s provincial election — will take on the role of senior adviser of military heritage and protocol. “Hamilton always has been, historically, a military town. It continues to be. We had 400 people from Hamilton in Kandahar,” Bratina said in an interview. “So it’s important to have a liaison between the mayor’s office and the city. Municipalities have a set of skills and it doesn’t usually include the military.” Former city clerk Kevin Christenson will take on the job of municipal analyst. Bratina said Christenson’s role will be to provide advice and guidance on city issues. “There’s not necessarily a focus,” Bratina said of Christenson’s role. “He may tell us that based on how our office is operating, it may be better to do that or do this,” he said. The two men will act as consultants on an as-needed basis, Bratina said. They will be paid, though the mayor declined to reveal their compensation ….”
At one level, it appears the Cold War never really ended for some countries. “Picture it: a junior executive, excited to be travelling to Hong Kong representing his company at the table with potential Chinese investors. Little does he know, they’ll be the ones doing the courting — and the consequences, for his career, and his company, can cost millions. It happens all the time, says Brian McAdam, a former Canadian diplomat who now specializes in Chinese organized crime. “It’s the co-mingling of the oldest profession, and the second oldest profession: prostitution and espionage,” he said. McAdam, who spoke Wednesday at the Canadian Industrial Security Conference in Gatineau, said Canadian business people and government officials who frequently travel abroad are prime targets for “sexpionage” because, until now, Canadians have been “as babes in the woods,” only recently becoming aware that foreign spies will pay good money to steal our ideas. “Sexpionage is far more effective than any technological surveillance by satellite or anything else,” said McAdam. “It’s so easy and it doesn’t cost much: They hire a prostitute, she does her work, and they have a film — instead of complex spying.” Those who favour the technique — in particular, China and Russia — use hidden cameras and microphones to up their spygame ….” More here.
A former Canadian envoy to the U.N. warns Canada to think twice about getting stuck in with Iran. “…. Major Canadian interests are potentially at risk, including the integrity of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, respect for international law, the safety of friends and kin in the region, the health of the global economy and the preservation of the public peace at home. Canadians need to engage and come to as common a view as possible on how to protect our interests and project our values in the Middle East before we find ourselves drifting into war. This issue is too important to be left to politicians and politics as usual.”
Private members bill to end CPP clawback of CF, RCMP pensions makes it through First Reading– more on the proposed bill here (where it’s at) and here (what’s in it). Caveat: private members bills rarely become legislation.
Is Canada up to taking custody of a convicted terrorist? “Omar Khadr, the first Canadian convicted of murder, spying, and terrorism and held at Guantanamo Bay, needs another first before he can go home to serve out his sentence in a Canadian prison. Canada must first be certified as a fit place to send a convicted terrorist, a nation not likely to permit him to attack the United States, and one that has control of its prisons. That certification must be delivered to Congress signed by U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta with “the concurrence of” U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton. It’s new, but hardly trivial. It’s a part of the 2011 National Defence Authorization Act, the annual funding legislation for the entire U.S. military that, among other things, outlaws using U.S. taxpayer funds to airlift a Guantanamo detainee to the United States ….”
New book just out on the “Crazy 8’s” in Italy during WW2. “Anybody who’s ever been to Moncton’s Centennial Park has probably noticed the big Sherman tank between the steam engine and the ship’s anchor, but might not know the significance of the word “Coriano” in yellow lettering on the side. The Sherman that has been sitting peacefully at the park since 1972 is a tribute to the men of the 8th Princess Louise’s (New Brunswick) Hussars, one of Canada’s oldest military regiments. Coriano is the name of a little farming village in Italy where the Hussars and their tanks fought a vicious, deadly battle in September of 1944. The story of the New Brunswick tank regiment is told in a new book called Steel Cavalry: The 8th (New Brunswick) Hussars and the Italian Campaign. The book was released just before Remembrance Day. It was written by Lee Windsor, Deputy Director of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick and is Volume 18 in the New Brunswick Military Heritage Series published by Goose Lane Editions ….”
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.”
“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 ….”
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.
“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.
“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 ….”
Afghanistan (1)“Upon arriving in Mazar-e-Sharif, we met the U.S. Army team that we would be replacing. It didn’t take much time for a U.S. Army sergeant to tell me, “I hope you have thick skin because we haven’t had a female adviser down at Camp Shaheen, so I don’t know how they will act toward you.” My first reaction was to shake my head, throw my hands up and say, “Really? Aren’t we past this – females in the military — by now!” In Canada perhaps we are, but welcome to Afghanistan ….”
DND allowed to keep some money it didn’t spend (but don’t get used to it). “…. up to $11 billion in approved funding remained in public coffers. In 2009, the government approved $6.3 billion, $9.4 billion in 2010 and $11.2 billion in 2011. When pressed on why the funding was never spent, Flaherty said rebuilding the Canadian Forces was a factor. “We have a very large program to rebuild the Canadian Armed Forces and found repeatedly that they cannot get as much done in a given year as they perhaps thought they were going to,” said Flaherty, who was in Honolulu, Hawaii for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. “At the end of the year, we look at what is happening within the departments. We let them carry over some cash from year to year, but it’s limited because we don’t want to create that kind of expectation that if you don’t use the money that is allocated to it, you get to use it the next year,” he added ….”
Federal politicians join the CFL in honouring vets – an MP in Edmonton and a Senator in Montreal.
Again with the “end of the beginning” messaging on the Victoria-class subs (previous occurances here and here)!“Canada’s navy is promising its Victoria-class submarines will by fully operational by 2013 — nearly 15 years after the boats were purchased from the United Kingdom. Speaking with W5’s Lloyd Robertson on Oct. 28, navy commander Vice Admiral Paul Maddison said he understands Canadians’ frustration with the submarine program. “I understand why they would feel impatient. I ask all Canadians for patience. We are at the end of a long beginning,” Maddison said ….”
Royal Military College Academic: Iran strikes might be the CF’s next shooting stint? “Canada may get pulled into military strikes against Iran if it comes to a showdown between western powers and the rogue state. And things could get messy considering a new report from the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog that’s expected to indicate Tehran is on the brink of being able to develop a nuclear warheads, said Houchang Hassan-Yari, an expert in military and strategic issues at the Royal Military College of Canada. “If it gets to a military campaign, I think Canada will participate with the Americans and their allies,” the international relations professor said. “If sanctions are the next avenue, Canada will participate in that.” ….”
What a surprise: the military appears to be planning and weighing how to deal with evacuating Canadians in trouble overseas. “Plucking Canadians out of the world’s hot spots is a growing area of concern and study for military planners, who until a few years ago didn’t have their own tools or the resources to carry out such missions. Internal Defence Department documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that in the aftermath of the Libyan crisis, the Canadian military is examining not only its war-fighting skills, but its newly enhanced ability to quickly organize evacuation and rescue missions. Planners have been quietly taking stock of the world’s flash points and considering how to get military forces into those troubled regions, while at the same time smoothly getting civilians out of harm’s way …. internally at the Defence Department there has been angst about future evacuations, especially in light of expected budget cuts, suggest the documents obtained under Access to Information. Among the most worrisome trouble spots is South Korea, where frequent and increasingly violent outbursts from the hermit kingdom in the North have military planners concerned and looking for guidance. “With over 20,000 Canadian citizens resident in the (Republic of South Korea), in the event of a full-scale crisis (censored) the evacuation efforts required could significantly exceed those of the Lebanon evacuation,” said a Nov. 30, 2010 briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay ….” I’ve asked if CP plans to share the obtained documents online for anyone interested to read – no word back yet.
Canada is taking part in U.S. Northern Command Exercise Operation Vigilant Shield ’12.“The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as the Canadian military, have begun an extensive annual field training exercise for the U.S. Northern Command. “Operation Vigilant Shield 12” is the biggest multi-spectrum, high-level exercise for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. Northern Command is a Unified Combatant Command of the United States military, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 to protect the United States homeland and support local, state, and federal authorities. Operation Vigilant Shield 12, or VS 12, is a joint exercise supported by the Joint Coalition Warfare Center and conducted as a command post exercise with a supporting field training exercise in Key West, FL. The exercise is also linked to a Canada Command exercise called “Determined Dragon,” and runs concurrently with the Arizona’s “Vigilant Guard” exercise. It runs Nov. 1-10 ….” More from the Pentagon Info-Machine here.
Remembrance Day (2) Unambiguously Ambidextrous on Remembrance Day and Canada’s newest vets. “…. There is a new generation of soldiers returning from war, something that has not been seen in Canada in about 50 years, or two generations. That’s not to trivialize Rwanda or Bosnia, but our country hasn’t had to deal with the reality of war dead in a half century and we have not handled their sacrifices very well. In fact, it would be fair to say we have broken faith with the dead, choosing not to carry on their torch and honour their sacrifices by seeing through the mission to success. It was a political decision made to pacify the pacifists created by two generations of peace. Today’s young people know nothing of war, and so their only reaction to it is revulsion ….”
“An audit into Veterans Affairs Canada and how it handles privacy issues will be released in early 2012, Canada’s privacy commissioner said Monday. The news came as a third veteran went public with complaints into the number of times civil servants accessed his file, and how his file was handled at the agency. Sylvain Chartrand, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Bosnia, says his file was accessed more than 4,000 times between 2003 and 2010. HIs complaint is similar to one by Sean Bruyea, another veteran who advocates for veterans’ rights, and whose private medical information was shared with both Liberal and Conservative ministers of veterans affairs. A statement by a spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says an audit into how Veterans Affairs handles private information is coming soon ….”
“A military veteran on a hunger strike collapsed momentarily during the third day of his protest against the federal government Monday. (Pascal) Lacoste is trying to convince the government to recognize that he and other soldiers were poisoned while serving overseas. The 38-year-old former soldier was leaving a camper lent to him by a friend and heading back to his SUV when he fell to the ground. An ambulance was called as his mother rushed to hold him, clutching him to her chest. Lacoste eventually recovered after taking gasps of air from an oxygen mask. But the exhausted-looking man refused to go to hospital. He decided to continue his hunger strike instead ….”
All of a sudden, Canada’s Liberal Party is keen on helping veterans – more in an online petition here and an e-mail soliciting signatures to said petition here (PDF).
CF looking for more military artists.“The Canadian Forces Artists Program allows Canadian artists the opportunity to record Canada’s soldiers in Canada and around the world. It follows the long-standing tradition of Canadian war artists and is designed to portray today’s Canadian military experience through art while providing artists with a taste of military life. These artists, all volunteers, are helping usher in a new era of Canadian military art …. A new competition is currently being held for the selection of a new group of Canadian artists who wish to participate in the program. Selected artists will be able to participate in a military-related exercise for a period of approximately seven to ten days. This opportunity is designed to springboard their creativity, create works of art depicting military life and to provide memorable military experiences. There is no payment for artists, who in turn are not required to provide works to the program. However, artists may be asked to lend some works for promotional art tours or other uses. Deadline for applications is November 30, 2011 ….”
Canada and Foreign Intelligence (1) “As the Harper government prepares to re-introduce the anti-terrorism measures that were allowed to lapse because of opposition concerns about privacy and Charter rights, there are whispers Conservative plans to expand the role of Canada’s spy service to operate overseas are being dusted off. Currently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is largely concerned with domestic intelligence and is able to conduct covert operations overseas only if there is a direct threat to Canada. In their 2006 election platform, the Tories promised to overturn this arrangement and set up a separate foreign intelligence service. Once elected, they were persuaded by the bureaucracy that it would be quicker and cheaper to allow CSIS to take on the role ….”
“A Canadian man has been indicted in Seattle for allegedly conspiring to support the Sri Lankan terrorist group the Tamil Tigers nearly six years ago. The single-count indictment against Ramanan Mylvaganam, 34, is the result of a jurisdictional dispute between federal prosecutors in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and Mylvaganam’s attorneys. Mylvaganam is a former Bellevue resident. Brooklyn prosecutors in 2006 had indicted Mylvaganam along with nine others in connection with an alleged plot to pay to import surface-to-air missiles and other military equipment to the Tamil Tigers. The charges also alleged the group was attempting to bribe U.S. officials to have the Tamil Tigers removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Mylvaganam’s attorneys had argued that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York had no jurisdiction over Mylvaganam’s alleged crimes because he was living at the time in Bellevue, according to court papers ….”