“Unfinished plates of lamb and rice are still being cleared away as the governor of Panjwaii, Haji Fazluddin Agha, receives a post-lunch briefing on security threats in his district. An official with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security stands on the shura room’s ornate red carpet to deliver his report, telling Agha his agency has identified a pair of insurgents who have been appointed to the new Taliban shadow government in Panjwaii. The official says evidence was recently discovered proving both men are responsible for killing Canadian troops and laying “thousands” of roadside bombs. It also seems both men had been previously captured by coalition forces and then released, though the reasons for this are unclear. Agha takes in the information and a discussion ensues among the dozen or so Canadian and Afghan military commanders in the room. The idea is raised of re-arresting the men or killing them. But a consensus ultimately forms around another course of action, which is verbalized by Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St-Louis, the commander of the Canadian battle group. Instead of taking punitive measures, give the insurgents a chance to change their ways, St-Louis says. “I think the district governor has a great opportunity to convince some of the fighters to live in peace, and maybe these two can be the start,” he tells Agha. “If these two individuals came here with their village elders, admitted to some of the choices they’ve made and vowed a future of peace, I think you could have the start of something very positive.” ….”
“The Conservative government quietly went to Federal Court last week hoping to impose limits on what a military watchdog can say in its final report into torture allegations involving Afghan prisoners. The Military Police Complaints Commission is currently reviewing evidence and writing its report after hearings into allegations that army cops turned a blind eye to suspected abuse in Afghan jails …. The Harper government …. (has) challenged the definition of what military cops could have known. Justice Department lawyers also accused the commission of stepping “out of its narrow jurisdiction” and investigating Ottawa’s policy of handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities — something it was strictly forbidden from doing. The government wants to exclude the testimony of diplomats and civilians who did not work for the Defence Department. Its lawyers also want any documents belonging to those officials, including reports that warned of torture or documented the abuse, excluded from the commissions findings ….”
Oopsie….“A military base commander who served with the UN has lost a bid to return to head CFB Borden after being stripped of his power for inappropriate behaviour. Capt. John Frederick Schmidt was removed from the top position in July 2008 following an incident in which he was drinking alcohol and inappropriately touched two junior female officers, according to court documents. Schmidt, a 30-year veteran, went to a federal court, seeking a review of his removal due to “procedural unfairness.” He wanted the decision set aside and for a new probe to be launched. Judge Robert Barnes recently tossed out the request, ruling that Schmidt admitted the incident to his commanding officer and did not answer questions about it when interviewed at another time ….” Full text of Federal Court of Canada decision here.
Canadian Forces’ statistics show 2010 saw fewer deaths, injuries among Canadian troops in Afghanistan than the previous year. More from the Toronto Starhere, and some interesting discussion on why those numbers have dropped at Army.ca here.
“He says” on reported collateral damage caused by a recent offensive/rebuilding effort: “A major coalition military operation in a volatile southern Afghan province has caused about 100 million dollars worth of damage to property, a government delegation said Tuesday. President Hamid Karzai dispatched the delegation, led by one of his advisers, to assess damage caused by Operation Omaid, which started in April and aims to root out the Taliban in Kandahar, a traditional heartland areas. The delegation then reported to the Western-backed leader, charging that the damage caused by the military offensive was worth over 100 million dollars, in part due to damage to crops, Karzai’s office said in a statement. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Brigadier-General Josef Blotz said he could not comment as he had not yet seen the statement. “As a result of military operation ‘Omaid’, significant property damage has been caused to the people in Arghandab, Zahri and Panjwayi districts in Kandahar province,” the delegation’s statement said ….”
“She says” on reported collateral damage caused by a recent offensive/rebuilding effort: “By building a road, Canadian troops may have burned some bridges. The commander of all NATO forces in southern Afghanistan says a major Canadian construction project is partly to blame for a recent slew of property-damage claims. The road Canadian troops are carving through the horn of Panjwaii is part of a much larger military effort in Kandahar province. This week, a delegation of Afghan government officials claimed the offensive has come at an astronomical cost: upwards of $100 million in damaged fruit crops, livestock and property …. The Canadian road cuts through farmers’ fields in a dusty corner of southwestern Kandahar that has long be a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency. Property owners who have found their land bisected by the thoroughfare have sought compensation, said Maj.-Gen. James Terry, who is in charge of the NATO contingent known as Regional Command South. “Some of the claims come from that, in terms of compensation back to the people because of putting that road in,” he said at a news conference in Kandahar city on Thursday. Terry, of the U.S. army’s 10th Mountain Division, pointed out that local elders asked for the road at a meeting, or shura. It will eventually link rural parts of the province and enable commerce ….” More on the road work in question here and here.
The PM is apparently eyeing a special parliamentary committee to vet top-secret intelligence. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considering creating a multi-partisan parliamentary committee to vet the top-secret intelligence gathered by Canada’s national security agencies. Several of Canada’s close allies — including Britain and the United States — have established committees of lawmakers to keep tabs on the operations of their spy agencies. When asked Friday whether he would consider creating a parliamentary intelligence committee, Harper noted that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton have been sworn in as members of the Queen’s Privy Council, a process that allows them to receive sensitive national security intelligence under an oath of secrecy. But the prime minister said the government is looking at ways to broaden Parliament’s involvement. “I know that has been under consideration for some time. I don’t think we’ve yet landed on a particular model that we think would be ideal,” Harper told reporters at a news conference in Welland, Ont ….”
More on how it’s not necessarily the bureaucrats’ fault that some things happen the way they do at Veterans’ Affairs Canada.“…. Take the Sean Bruyea affair as an example: high level VAC officials briefed Ministers on Bruyea’s personal medical and financial information. Bruyea, involved in protesting the New Veterans’ Charter, found his benefits cut and claims stalled. There were even attempts by Veterans’ Affairs to have Sean commit himself to a mental hospital. All this came to light last fall. What did the government do? Apologise, settle Bruyea’s court case, and require all Veterans’ Affairs staff to undergo privacy training. The message? VAC staff messed up and we’ll make sure they know better. Implied course of events: the frontline staff was upset by Bruyea’s lobbying and tried to take him down …. Here’s an alternative scenario: Bruyea ruffles feathers in the upper echelon of Veteran’s Affairs – the Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Orders are sent down: pull Bruyea’s files. Files are reviewed, annotated, and included in briefing notes (all of which has been confirmed). Decisions are taken to “take the gloves off” with Bruyea, after which Sean’s descent into the nightmare begins. Who can make such a decision or issue such an order? Not the people answering the phones ….”
QMI Ottawa bureau boss David Akin manages to see the forest in the midst of the trees. “…. Simply put: Our Canadian Forces needs billions and billions of dollars worth of new gear — not just new fighter planes — but no one has any clear plans to pay for what they need, particularly in a time of global fiscal restraint. Alternately, one party or the other could stand up and, as Conservatives have done in Britain and Democrats did in the U.S., start announcing big-time cuts to military acquisitions and other programs. Instead, we’ve been watching Conservatives and Liberals argue bitterly about the merits of purchasing the F-35 fighter plane, though both largely agree we will need some kind of new fighter plane to replace our fleet of excellent-but-aging CF-18s. Whatever plane we choose is going to cost us billions. How will we pay? And is that most urgent need? Is that the top spending priority? ….”
Potential base closures are always publicly contentious because of how much money such facilities pump into neighbouring economies. As part of a strategic review of the military overall, a Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) paper ranks Canada’s military bases according to their “operational impact, infrastructure condition and efficiency, and economic impact”. The list, the paper’s executive summary and a link to the paper itself are all here (as well as always interesting discussion) at Army.ca.
It’s still messy in Ivory Coast, where one guy says he won the election for president, and the other says he’s still president. Here’s how one academic says Canada could help: “….First, it should mobilize like-minded states to impose travel bans and freeze assets of Mr. Gbagbo’s family and close associates. Second, it should lead efforts to move Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff who is under siege in a hotel in Abidjan, to Yamoussoukro, the capital, where he seems to have the backing of the local political establishment …. Third, Canada should work with other governments to press the African Union to give Mr. Gbagbo a deadline to step down or face comprehensive economic sanctions …. And fourth, Canada should help Mr. Ouattara to form his government by encouraging financial institutions such as the West African Monetary Union, the African Development Bank and the World Bank to deal with him ….”