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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Nov 11

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  • MCPL Byron Greff, 3PPCLI, R.I.P.  He’s home – more here.  Photos of his ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Facebook here (thanks to Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen of the USAF Info-machine).
  • Afghanistan (1)  Meanwhile, the CF Info-machine shares a backgrounder on part of the training mission“The Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) is the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) flagship training institution. Located on the eastern outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital city, the KMTC can house and train up to 12,000 trainees at a time. Over 60,000 soldiers graduate from courses at the KMTC annually. Two hundred and thirty-five Canadian Forces advisors serve at the KMTC as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Thirty-five members have been with the KMTC since mid-June and the remaining 200 recently arrived in October ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Canadian ingenuity as we continue to pack up in Kandahar.  “The Armour Removal Platoon of the Mission Closure Unit is responsible for removing the armour added to the combat vehicles used by Canadian troops in Kandahar Province and packing it for shipment back to Canada. The process of dismounting the armour from the vehicles is difficult, labour-intensive and inherently dangerous. Because safety had to be our highest priority, it was difficult to achieve any speed on the production line. That was the case until Private Bryan Capiak and Corporal Bradley Van Olm developed a new way to take the heaviest pieces of armour — the four Z bars — off the Light Armoured Vehicle Mk III (LAV III) ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Well done“On October 20th, 2011, Canada’s Acting Head of Mission Philip MacKinnon and Detective Ken Brander, a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), donated 11 Kobo e-readers to a group of female students of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Each e-reader comes with 50 classic books pre-loaded, which will greatly increase the number of books available at the SOLA library and allow young Afghan students to perfect their reading skills. The funds to purchase the e-readers were raised by Detective Brander’s EPS colleagues including a group of dedicated resource officers, local business, friends, and family, on behalf of Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alberta ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  The Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary does not appeal to all students. But some are more interested in war studies than peace studies. For them, the interest and focus they bring to class ensures an enormously fulfilling experience, particularly for us who teach them. Ryan Flavelle is one such student. Like several others, he is also a member of the military. Unlike his colleagues, he has written a riveting book. It deals with his service in the southern Panjwaii district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Flavelle’s motives for writing The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan were both universal and personal. Like every historian from Thucydides to the present, he wanted to ensure the memory of the immediacy of his experiences would not be lost in oblivion. But the personal side of his story is far more compelling ….”
  • Libya  NATO flies its last air mission.  “…. a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO’s history has come to an end. Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  LOADS o’ questions on the F-35 (transcripts from Hansard here, here, here and here) during Question Period in the House of Commons so far this week.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Military planners are concerned the Harper government is buying too few F-35 fighters with almost no room for any loss of the stealth jets throughout their projected lifetimes, according to internal Defence Department briefings. “Canada is the only country that did not account (for) attrition aircraft” in its proposal, said an undated capability-and-sustainment briefing given to senior officers late last year ….” No indication of The Canadian Press sharing the briefing notes in question.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Postmedia News Columnist“…. Harper has often shown an ability to execute tactical retreats with lightning speed, if he feels he’s lost the high ground. Look for that to happen with the F-35, sooner rather than later, as the economic gloom deepens south of the border.”
  • Big Honkin’ Ships  Duelling academics“…. Marc Milner, naval history professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the vessels will let the navy cruise the Canada’s Arctic waters later in the fall and earlier in the spring, though winter access will still be the domain of the Coast Guard. The ships also give the navy full year-round access to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He said that, while the new Arctic patrol vessels fit into the Harper government’s Canada First Defence Policy, which is looking to expand the reach and scope of the country’s military, the ships are not designed for serious combat. “Nobody anticipates getting into a real big dustup in the Arctic,” Milner said. “More effort will be put into their sensor suite and communications equipment than in their weapons.” The Arctic vessels will fulfil a constabulary rather than a combat role, Milner said. The icebreakers will let the navy patrol emerging shipping routes in the melting Arctic ice. The Russian route through the Arctic, from Europe to China, is “pretty much commercialized,” he said, with several ships having passed through this summer escorted by Russian icebreakers. “There’s good reason for us to be up there with a little more presence than we have at the moment,” Milner said. Paul Mitchell, a naval historian with the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said the Arctic ships will likely have little more than an anti-aircraft Bofors gun on their bows. “Despite the growing interests in the Arctic, the area is well handled by diplomatic efforts,” Mitchell said ….”
  • Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino set to say something in Richmond, B.C. today.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Event recorders for armoured vehicles in Afghanistan, loads o’ flashlights and rain jackets for sailors.
  • A new silver coin will commemorate Canada’s Highway of Heroes, as a tribute to the country’s war dead and the people who line the route to honour them. The Royal Canadian Mint says $20 from the sale of each coin will be shared between the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial and the Military Families Fund. The silver coin, which has a face value of $10, will retail for $69.95 and only 25,000 will be produced ….”  More from the Royal Canadian Mint here and here.
  • New Library of Parliament paper:  “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the Mental Health of Military Personnel and Veterans”
  • Remember the chap threatening a hunger strike over how he’s been treated by Veterans Affairs CanadaHere’s what the Minister is saying about the issue in Question Period“When our brave soldiers are deployed to theatres of operation, such as Rwanda or Bosnia, they may suffer serious injuries. That is why we are implementing specific and effective programs and services that are based on the most recent scientific data. When we implemented improvements to the new veterans charter, it was specifically to help veterans who had the most serious injuries or illnesses. As soon as I was made aware of this situation, I asked the officials in my department to take the necessary measures.”
  • Whazzup with Khadr Boy’s return?  The Conservatives are continuing to play coy over whether or not they’ll allow convicted war criminal Omar Khadr return to Canada. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday he will decide in good time if and when Toronto-born Khadr can return home to finish his sentence for murdering a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan. “I put the safety of Canadians first,” he said. “A decision will be made on this file, as on all applications, in due course.” The Conservatives were in the firing line from opposition parties, who accuse the Tories of trying to back out of a commitment they made with the U.S. government a year ago to allow Khadr to return to Canada after serving a year of his eight year sentence. “This fellow was arrested when he was 14-years-old and held since then and ought to have the benefit of Canadian laws,” said NDP justice critic Jack Harris ….”  More from Question Period on Khadr here, from QMI/Sun Media here and from Agence France-Presse here.
  • Canadians should “absolutely” be concerned about a call for young Somalis in Canada to kill non-Muslims made by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews warned Monday. Toews was responding to Al Shabaab, which released a recording on the weekend from a suicide bomber calling for a jihad in Canada and other countries. “If there are individuals with information that can assist us detecting any terrorist threat we would ask them to provide us with that information,” Toews said, adding that the Somali community works with Ottawa on security matters. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the RCMP, the Communications Security Establishment and the Privy Council Office – the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office – are Canada’s terrorist watchdogs. “We are aware of, and take very seriously, the threat posed by Al-Shabaab,” said CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti ….”
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Aug 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  There’s no way to tell right now whether NATO will have to extend its Libyan operation past the end of September, a top Canadian general told MPs on Friday. In June, the Commons overwhelmingly voted to extend Canadian participation in the operation to September 27. Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, the director of the strategic joint staff, said, however, that a rushed withdrawal by NATO, without some kind of political settlement, would be disastrous. Vance, who once commanded Canadian troops in Afghanistan, told MPs on the Commons defence committee that diplomatic and political efforts are vital now to produce a solution. He says no one can predict how things will unfold over the next six weeks …. Newfoundland MP Jack Harris, the NDP defence critic, said he believes that NATO has done the job it set out to do, which was to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi. “The capability of Col. Gadhafi to mount this kind of activity has been degraded to the point where that’s no longer the issue,” he said. “The problem that we have is that we don’t want this to morph into some sort of prolonged mission.” It’s time to go, said the New Democrat ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  “Top Canadian military and diplomatic authorities are saying little about whether they will be able to pull out of the UN-led military mission in Libya by the end of September as planned.  Maj.-Gen. John Vance could not give a direct answer when asked Friday morning by MPs if officials will stick to Canada’s mandated exit date of Sept. 27, 2011, based on how stable Libya is today.  “There are a lot of factors at play,” Vance told the informal parliamentary committee meeting. “The efforts of NATO today are essential.”  If the military withdrew today — without a negotiated settlement with dictator Moammar Gadhafi — Vance said it would be an “absolute calamity.”  The general, along with Sandra McCardell, Canada’s ambassador to Libya, and other officials were testifying at the defence committee meeting on Canada’s role in the Libyan mission to protect its citizens from Gadhafi’s military attacks …. Diplomats, meanwhile, are striving to hammer out a “verifiable” ceasefire, McCardell said. Gadhafi has announced a ceasefire in the past, but his forces kept shooting.  She said envoys are still looking for the right person within the regime to come to the negotiating table.  Vance said the military has no plans to “put boots on the ground” in Libya and become an occupying force …. Neither McCardell, Vance nor other witnesses could say for sure if the rebel group would be able to maintain security after NATO leaves, if Gadhafi would ever accept a ceasefire, or if the conflict is on its way to becoming a stalemate ….”
  • CFB Borden getting two new dining halls and kitchens, CF Info-Machine version – emphasis mine:  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced plans to construct two new All Ranks Kitchen and Dining Facilities at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden. In total, these projects are valued at approximately $77 million and involve the construction of two new 6,133 m2 facilities that will replace four kitchen facilities …. The construction of the two new single-story kitchen and dining facilities will replace both existing Junior Ranks dining halls, the Officers’ Mess, and Senior NCO Mess currently being used at CFB Borden by 3,000 military personnel daily. This project is part of the CFB Borden Master Real Property Development Plan which aims to consolidate all training and quarters functions into two separate areas. Each facility will be able to serve approximately 1,500 persons per meal, and will be located on the north and south sides of the base. These new buildings will address existing deficiencies found at the current facilities, some of which are over 50 years old ….”  More in Backgrounder here.
  • CFB Borden getting two new dining halls and kitchens, media version:  “…. Critics called it a questionable expense, especially at a time when the government says it intends to cut expenditures. “We do have to question how they’re setting their priorities in terms of dealing with the deficit,” NDP defence critic Jack Harris told Postmedia News. “It seems — on the surface — an outrageous amount of money for dining facilities,” Harris said. The government recently announced the closure of two search-and-rescue co-ordinating centres in Quebec City and St. John’s to save “probably a couple of million dollars a year” and yet it can find the cash to replace existing buildings, he added. “Canadians are going to question the timing of this announcement,” said Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. While the armed forces should have up-to-date equipment and infrastructure, the country is running a $30-billion deficit and this type of spending will be difficult to justify to the public, Thomas said ….”
  • Way Up North (1)  The Kingston Whig-Standard appears to have a reporter with the CF in the north for Operation Nanook 2011. “The engines on the Twin Otter came up to full power and the aircraft started rolling along the gravel runway. In a remarkably short distance, the aircraft was airborne and on its way. The flight took the plane about 100 km from Resolute Bay, where it delivered three barrels of aviation fuel, part of a fuel cache being set up to support helicopters that are to fly out of the base in the coming weeks. Resolute Bay, at 74 degrees North latitude, is a five-hour flight from southern Ontario. It takes about as long to fly to Vancouver, and Resolute Bay is still almost 1,100 km south of Alert, Canada’s most northern point. Flying in Canada’s Arctic is largely ruled by the extremes of two factors: distance and weather. “The Arctic is difficult because there are so few communities up here. Especially with small aircraft, you have to plan better,” said Capt. Tom Turk, a pilot with the Canadian Forces’ 440 Squadron based in Yellowknife, N.W.T. ….” 
  • Way Up North (2)  CF research arm paper on proposed staging bases in Canada’s Arctic:  “Optimal RSOM-hub Locations for Northern Operations: A MAJAID Scenario Analysis” (PDF).  Part of the executive summary (abstract and executive summary is downloadable here (PDF) via Army.ca):  “…. The study indicated that the RSOM-hub concept could offer potential cost avoidance and response time reduction on deployment lift for MAJAID operations in the North and could be a potential strategy for improvement of the CF domestic support capability. For a single RSOM-hub solution, Yellowknife would be the time effective RSOM-hub location. From a cost avoidance perspective, Iqaluit would the optimal hub location. Both airfields have the required capability and resources (e.g., fuel, maintenance) for supporting strategic lift aircraft (CC-177) and tactical helicopter (CH-146) operations. For a multiple RSOM-hub solution, the analysis indicates that the optimal number of RSOM-hubs would be two, corresponding to Iqaluit and Yellowknife, when response time and cost avoidance are both considered ….”
  • CF troops headed south – 4 Aug 11:  Honduras’ government approves 150 Canadian troops to enter as part of Exercise PANAMAX II
  • CF troops headed south – 12 Aug 11 (1) (emphasis mine):  “…. Canadian troops have been cleared to train with the Honduran military. On Aug. 4, the National Congress of Honduras approved the entry of Canadian soldiers into the country to take part in a joint training exercise. The results of three votes on the matter were posted this past Monday on the National Congress’ website. Canada’s Department of National Defence has not announced any training exercises in Honduras. The Prime Minister’s Office said it was unaware of any joint training exercise taking place ….”
  • CF troops headed south – 12 Aug 11 (2):  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, is pleased to announce the participation of the Canadian Forces in Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Athabaskan and Algonquin in Exercise PANAMAX, a multinational exercise that focuses on the defence of this important region and the Panama Canal …. Approximately 500 Canadian Forces members will participate in this exercise. HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Algonquin, each carrying approximately 240 sailors, will work with seventeen countries, including the United States, as part of this multinational exercise aimed at defending the Panama Canal from threat of terrorist attack, natural disaster or pandemic outbreak in order to maintain free and open access to the Panama Canal. HMC Ships Athabaskan and Algonquin are Iroquois-class destroyers, based in Halifax and Esquimalt respectively. These ships are area air defence destroyers and command and control platforms. They are fitted with sophisticated anti-air weapons systems, advanced weapons and communications systems and are capable of leading national and international task groups such as those in Panama. In addition to the naval assets, a CP-140 Aurora aircraft will deploy to Panama airport to participate in the exercise ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?   Wanted:  someone to carry out accreditation survey for Canadian Forces Medical Service, “Capabillity Survey of Naval Soft-Kill Systems” (more on that in bid documents – PDF – here) and someone to fly bad guy and target planes for training (more on that in bid document extract – PDF – here).
  • Afghanistan  She grew up and went to school in Winnipeg, now Alexandra “Ali” Lamont is trying to make it safe for kids in Afghanistan to go to school. “I’ll be assisting with the institutional development of Afghan police,” said Lamont, who leaves for Kabul next week. Making Afghanistan safe for people to get around is key to its future, said the 45-year-old with a law degree and masters in economics who works with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. “It’s fulfilling over there, trying to make some kind of difference,” said Lamont, who spent five months in Kandahar last year. “You see flocks of kids going to school.” There’s so many kids enrolled, some schools run in three shifts. “Afghans are keen to move forward — girls and boys — to take advantage of this opportunity.” Her one-year term is in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. The diplomat and policy analyst will work with experts from a number of countries to establish a police force to serve and protect Afghans ….”
  • A reminder: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s constitution, guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  That said, what’s worse than someone faking s/he has served in the military?  Someone faking military service AND lying about an illness to rip people off.  A B.C. man wanted for allegedly posing as a member of the military and seeking donations to pay for his health costs has been charged with fraud. Douglas Archie Clark, 64, of Burnaby, was charged with 13 counts of fraud, police said in a news release Friday. Police allege Clark has defrauded 40 or more victims out of more than $1 million. Complaints dating back to the 1990s claim Clark portrayed himself as either an active or retired member of the Canadian military – and was even seen in a military-style uniform, police said. It’s alleged he asked for money to pay for cancer treatments that were not covered by his medical plan. After an investigation spanning three and a half years, police arrested and charged Clark in June. The court released him under the conditions he not contact any of the alleged victims or wear any military uniform. He was also ordered to stay in B.C. and return to court July 11. When he failed to appear at that court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was picked up again Thursday ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 15 Feb 11

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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 10 Feb 11

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  • When the troops leave Kandahar, the civvies go, too“When Canada’s combat troops leave Kandahar this summer, all Canadian government workers in the South will depart, too. The thinning out of the combat mission — which still numbers well more than 3,000 soldiers — is expected to begin sometime late this spring. The wind-down of the civilian mission, which began several months before combat troops arrived in the spring of 2006, has already begun. Only 60 Canadian civilians are now based in Kandahar, down from 75 last summer. Starting next month, more civilians will be catching flights for home. “When I was preparing to come here it was clear — this was the last rotation of civilians in the context of completing what the government set out to do,” said Canada’s top diplomat in the South, Tim Martin, who transferred leadership of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team to an American diplomat last month ….”
  • Remember these stats, from a few weeks ago, showing the number of Canadians killed and wounded in action in Afghanistan dropped for 2010 from the previous year?  Another story has popped up about the numbers“For many, any death involving members of our Armed Forces is a bitter pill to swallow. But when soldiers are involved in a combat mission, such as what’s currently ongoing in Afghanistan, casualties occur. It’s an unfortunate fact of life in a war zone. Although it’s small comfort to families and friends who have lost loved ones over the last year in central Asia, 2010 actually produced the least number of deaths since 2005. According to statistics released in January by the Department of National Defence, 2010 saw 16 of our soldiers die in Afghanistan – 14 were killed in action and two more lost their lives as a result of other circumstances. The drop in Canadian deaths can be attributed to three factors – the build-up of coalition troops in southern Afghanistan, a change in the Canadian area of operations, and an increased involvement by Afghan National Army personnel and police ….” If you’ve spotted a CBC.ca story on these stats, please share a link, because I haven’t seen one yet.
  • Canadian General talks about his work as 2 i/c for police training, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. (Government of Canada story & video)
  • Taliban assassination via motorcycle. “Day and night, Taliban assassins on motorbikes hunt their victims, often taunting them over the telephone before gunning them down in the city’s streets. They are working their way through lists, meticulously killing off people fingered as collaborators with the Afghan government or its foreign backers. Unlike suicide bombers, who make headlines with periodic attacks that take themselves out along with their targets, most insurgent assassins escape as quickly, and anonymously, as they strike. They slip quietly back into Kandahar’s shadows, still in the hunt, sewing terror with murders that number in the hundreds each year. Each one sends a chilling message to anyone who doesn’t fall in line: You may be the next to go down. The execution could even come in broad daylight, close to home, in front of your children ….”
  • Human rights groups (finally) spending more time hounding Taliban for human rights abuses.
  • Nichola Goddard, 1960-2006, R.I.P.: Coast Guard to name ships after fallen in Afghanistan? Here’s the type of ship in question.
  • More grousing back and forth in the House of Commons over Canadian helicopter buying processes.
  • Convicted Canadian war criminal Omar Khadr will be seeking clemency in hopes of an early release from his prison cell in Guantanamo Bay and a quicker return to Canada, The Canadian Press has learned. An application which could seek remedies ranging from an outright acquittal to a commuting of his eight-year sentence is set to go before the head of the military commissions within a few weeks. Speaking from Memphis, Tenn., Khadr’s Pentagon-appointed lawyer Lt. Col. Jon Jackson confirmed that Khadr’s defence team was finalizing the application to the convening authority. “We haven’t made any final decision on what we’re going to request,” Jackson said Wednesday. “We’re (also) currently in the process of determining what specific areas of law we’re going to address.” The clemency application is expected to be submitted in about two weeks, and a decision could come shortly after ….” A bit more from QMI/Sun Media here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan = continued occupation

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Nov 10

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  • 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 – 17 Nov 10

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  • Guess what?  Canada’s keeping 950 military trainers and support staff (as well as about four dozen cops) in Afghanistan until 2014“…. The Canadian Forces (CF) will support ANSF training by providing up to 950 trainers to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). This training mission will build upon the CF’s established expertise in training the ANSF, thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security …. Through the deployment of up to 45 civilian police officers, Canada will continue its involvement in police reform by leading training programs, promoting the establishment of accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms, and advancing institutional reform and capacity building ….” Surprising, eh?  More on that from QMI/Sun Media, the New York Times, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and BBC.
  • What does this mean for the Canadian-led and run Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PDF copy of page here if link doesn’t work?  This from the Globe & MailCanada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian aid officials next year. Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan: dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts. There will be a deep cut to aid for Afghanistan. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada will provide $100-million a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the $205-million the government reported spending last year ….”
  • According to Postmedia News, late decision on new mission = rush to get ready for it.
  • Notice who’s name is listed first on the news release?  Not Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay but Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Also, while Cannon got to answer questions in the House of Commons on the mission this week (Hansard transcripts here, here and here), Peter MacKay took a question on the F-35 fighter plane buy.  Yesterday, the PM fielded two questions (here and here) on Afghanistan, while McKay fiielded one question from a fellow Conservative party member (here).  Some see this as further proof that Peter MacKay may be on his way out (he says not so), but the government has been trying to civilianize the feel of the mission for at least the past couple of years – more on that theme here, here and here.
  • The Foreign Affairs Minister reminds us of the obvious, via CTV.ca“…. Cannon said the “non-combat” troops will be based in the Kabul area. However, Cannon admitted that soldiers would still be in danger, despite the relative security in Kabul compared to the current operation in Kandahar. “I am not going to hide the fact that there is a risk factor,” Cannon told CTV’s Power Play. “(But) our people will not be mentoring in the field, they will be in classrooms.” ….”
  • Who’s happy?  The White House and the NATO military alliance applauded Canada’s plan for a military training mission in Afghanistan Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper assured opposition parties that the armed forces will work safely “in classrooms behind the wire on bases.” ….” Here’s what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to say: “I warmly welcome Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that Canada will deploy a substantial number of trainers to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Canada has contributed substantially, over many years, to the operation in Afghanistan. Canadian forces have made a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people, often at a high cost ….” More from the Canadian Press on that.
  • Who’s unhappy?  The usual suspects: “…. The NDP again accused the Conservatives of lying, saying it was “inevitable” that the 950-strong training contingent that will be in Afghanistan until 2014 would be drawn into combat because the whole of Afghanistan is a “war zone.” ….” The rabble.ca brigade has already come up with the rhyming chant:  “Activism Communiqué: The war in Af’stan, demand – Don’t Extend It. End It!” Ceasefire.ca pipes in, too, comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam: Unaddressed by the ministers is whether the government really believes in the training mission it has committed Canadian troops to fulfill. No one seriously expects Afghanistan’s army and police forces to be ready to hold off the Taliban on their own in four years’ time. But it is still unclear whether NATO’s efforts to Vietnamize Afghanize the war are intended merely to provide a face-saving way for foreign forces to withdraw from a dead-end war or remain based on the illusory prospect of creating an ARVN ANA that can hold the field against the Taliban even in the south of Afghanistan ….”
  • It didn’t take long for the “Survey Says” crowd to get its numbers out there – this from Harris-DecimaCanadians Wary of Extension to Afghanistan Mission: The latest Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey asked about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “At this point in time, Canadians are split over whether to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the combat mission. While few feel that the combat mission should be extended, there is clearly some support for Canadian troops continuing to play some role.” ….”  More on that from the Canadian Press.
  • Blog Watch: Congrats from Mark Collins at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for those rating it here, while Terry Glavin at Transmontanus shares his words of wisdom this way:  “…. The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country’s post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today’s announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic ….”
  • Meanwhile, the transition continues on the ground in AfghanistanA scouting party from the NATO unit that could replace Canadian troops in Kandahar will be touring the area over the next few days. Planning for the departure of Task Force Kandahar is underway and a proposal on how the transition will take place is still being finalized, a senior U.S. officer with the alliance’s southern headquarters said Tuesday. The Canadians “are in a critical location,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to discuss the situation on background only. “We’ve got to make sure that area is still covered, and covered well.” ….”
  • The CF is working towards setting up a research institute devoted to studying military medicine. More from the Kingston-Whig Standard on a conference under way this week:  “…. That the military is taking the initiative seriously can be seen by the list of people attending, including Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, senators Romeo Dallaire and Pamela Wallin, veterans affairs ombudsman Guy Parent, and (Commodore Hans) Jung, the military’s top medical officer.  “We are the only nation amongst our major allies that does not have such a national institute,” (former CFB Kingston base commander and Kingston General Hospital chairman Bill) Richard said, a fact lamented by many of the high-profile attendees.   The military would love universities to dig through its wealth of data — it has comprehensive medical records on everyone who ever served from the day they enlisted to the day they discharged and keeps the records 99 years, but Jung said only 5% of that data has been analyzed because it doesn’t have enough people to do it ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: The Taliaban’s main English-language site appears to be down, so there’s the Taliban’s Lies o’ the Day via theunjustmedia.com.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 16 Nov 10

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