Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Pierre Blackburn News Highlights – 4 Mar 11

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  • Canadians continue to GTFO LibyaA Canadian military transport made it to Malta safely on Thursday with another 31 evacuees and more flights were planned as a botched Dutch rescue operation underscored the perils of western military actions in Libya. A spokesman for Canada’s overseas headquarters said 14 of the passengers aboard the Hercules aircraft were Canadians and the rest were foreign nationals. The plane returned from Tripoli without incident, said Maj. Andre Salloum. As of Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Department said 327 Canadians, including those on the military flight, had found their way out of the Libya crossfire. The Harper government dispatched a frigate, HMCS Charlottetown, this week to take part in a possible blockade to enforce sanctions ….”
  • Commentariat on Libya (1): “…. the (HMCS) Charlottetown could turn its attention to ill-defined humanitarian relief operations or to the enforcement of a potential international embargo against the Libyan regime. Whatever the ultimate mission, it will likely come as a surprise — just as much of one as the decision to deploy the warship …. How Canadian assets could be used to alleviate the exodus from Libya or to deliver relief supplies remains to be seen. But clearly, Ottawa is committing to stay on the job long after its primary objective of securing Canadian lives is met. This is commendable, and not just from a humanitarian point of view. It also sends a strong signal to our European allies that their interests are vital to us …. The rapid downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi is the best way to prevent a full-blown refugee crisis inside and outside Libya. Whatever Canada can do to help tip the scales — short of direct military intervention — is worth doing.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (2): “…. The West should tread carefully in Libya. While it is tempting to imagine the country’s conflict as a simple struggle between good and evil that can be brought to a speedy and decisive conclusion, the reality is more complicated than that. Aggressive intervention might easily end up doing more harm than good.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (3): Canadians who believe that their military’s primary purpose should not be to fight wars, but fervently want their troops to only be Boy Scouts, should be pleased by Ottawa’s evolving commitment to the crisis in Libya.  With China, Russia, Turkey and Germany having already strongly rejected any kind of military intervention – which could result in unpredictable and unwelcome outcomes – the West will have considerable trouble gathering a coalition of the willing to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. But western countries want to be seen to be helping in other ways.  So, just in time to give the Harper government a wee bit of an election boost, Canadian sailors and air force personnel will be drawn into international humanitarian operations in the Maghreb.  Canada’s part in potential Libyan humanitarian operations are to be much smaller than what its armed forces did in Haiti after last winter’s earthquake. But there will still be a feel-good factor ….”
  • Interesting pointIt’s curious, how the most vocal opponents of military spending go quiet whenever boats and planes and superbly trained soldiers suddenly come in handy. Where were the critics of Ottawa’s C17 purchase last January, when these massive air barns were deployed at a moment’s notice to transport aid into earthquake-struck Haiti? And where are they now, as Canadian Forces aircraft based in Malta and JTF2 special forces troops work to extract Canadians trapped by the fighting in Libya? What will critics of the government’s proposed CF-35 jet fighter purchase say if, as now appears possible, Canadian Air Force jets are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone in North Africa, to protect innocents from Gadhafi’s warplanes? Here’s what they’ll say: Not much, for the duration of the crisis. Then, when the smoke clears and the planes are back at CFB Trenton, they’ll start again with the mantra that spending money on warriors and their gear is needless and wasteful ….” Not ALL vocal opponents of military spending are staying silent – more here.
  • Canada’s post-military legacy in southern Afghanistan may well rest on the slender shoulders of Haji Hamdullah Nazak.  The 32-year-old governs the district of Dand, a relative model of stability compared to the violence and intimidation that permeates other regions of Kandahar province.  But as the Canadian military gradually shifts its focus away from patrols and towards packing boxes for a training mission said to be “Kabul-centric,” Nazak frets over the possibility of lost progress.  “I’m a little bit afraid of that,” Nazak says through a translator. “If they stopped helping us, assisting us in this major purpose, we will face some challenges, problems.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, opposition to the war in Afghanistan is higher in Britain and Canada than the United States, with at least 60 percent against it, a poll indicated Thursday …. Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, of Canadians said they oppose the war, while only 32 percent support it, a new low. Last year, 47 percent supported the war.   Albertans were most likely to back Afghan operations, but even there only 43 percent said they support it. In Quebec, 75 percent oppose the war.  Vision Critical, based in Toronto conducted the poll on line from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, surveying 1,022 Angus Reid Forum panelists in Canada, 1,006 Springboard America panelists and 2,019 members of Springboard UK. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points for Canada and the United States and 2.1 points for Britain.”
  • A parliamentary committee tasked with vetting documents related to the abuse of Afghan detainees could make the secret material public within the next two weeks, according to the Liberals. Amid mounting pressure from the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats, Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc suggested a report by the three-judge panel of legal experts advising the team of MPs should be available within a “week or two” along with “a considerable number of the documents” themselves. His comments come a day after Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe issued an ultimatum. Frustrated the uncensored documents still haven’t been released despite promises they’d be ready in January, Duceppe vowed to pull his two MPs from the committee. “The process has become bogged down and I don’t understand why,” he said ….”
  • Bye bye old subs“…. The Department of National Defence (DND), has a requirement for the removal, dismantling and disposal of the Oberon Class Submarines Olympus and Okanagan, and an option to dispose of a third, Ojibwa …. A bidders’ conference chaired by the Contracting Authority will be convened at HMC Dockyard, Jetty NL, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on March 23, 2011 @ 0900 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Steven Staples’ top 10 list on why Canada shouldn’t buy the F-35.
  • Operation: Western Front (OWF) – a very special initiative organized by mission commanders and philanthropists Warren M. Spitz and W. Brett Wilson to raise awareness and funds for military causes – has collected a stunning $1.5 million in sponsorship and donations. The funds will be donated to various military programs – including Outward Bound for Veterans and Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that builds a bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Military Forces, including providing scholarships to surviving offspring of fallen Canadian Forces personnel. The funds will support a variety of other needs – from medical support to childcare and financial aid – and will be directed through Canada’s True Patriot Love Foundation ….”
  • Conservative MP pitches softball question to Minister in House of Commons on what government is doing to help veterans in Quebec (giving Minister a chance to bash the Bloc). “I would like to thank the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse for his excellent work and his concern for veterans. Our government is listening to the regions of Quebec and to veterans. We introduced Bill C-55 in the House, and it will serve as the enhanced new veterans charter and will help our modern-day veterans, who may come back wounded from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bloc is still not co-operating as we would like, but we still hope to pass this bill before the upcoming budget ….”
  • Federal Crown prosecutors do not have to hand over a complete set of photographs used by French police to link former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab to a Paris terrorist bombing. Diab’s lawyer Donald Bayne had asked for the photographs to be entered into the record of the case, but federal Justice Department lawyers acting for the French government resisted. Only nine of 33 “mug shots” shown by Paris police to witnesses 30 years after the bombing have been used as evidence by the prosecution. All nine are of the 57-yearold Diab at various stages of adult life ….”
Advertisements News Highlights – 20 Jan 11

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  • A Canadian was arrested in Edmonton to face charges of helping kill Americans in Iraq.  Here’s the U.S. government’s news release, here’s the complaint (PDF, courtesy of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy blog), as well as mainstream media coverage here and here.
  • As I’ve said before, let’s hope…. “It’s a crucial question with no clear answer: will the Taliban return in strength to Kandahar when the traditional fighting season resumes after the annual opium harvest ends this spring? It’s a question of immense interest to Canada’s battle group, which will continue to patrol one of the three districts in Kandahar, where the insurgency has always been strongest, until its combat mission ends this July. With no firm evidence yet one way or the other, but armed with knowledge of the Taliban’s usual fighting calendar and their long history of resilience, Canada’s Task Force Kandahar — now led by a battle group in Panjwaii built around a Royal 22nd Regiment battalion — has had to prepare as if the enemy will be back again in April ….”
  • Just as Canada’s at least thinking about packing its bags in Kandahar to leave, it needs to find another staging base to move a not-insubstantial amount of hardware through“The Canadian military is casting about for another staging base for Afghanistan to replace makeshift arrangements in Cyprus – where the Forces relocated after Canada was kicked out of the United Arab Emirates late last year. A move is not certain, but the Canadian Forces are searching for another, possibly closer, location from which to move troops and supplies in and out of Kandahar …. Canada is using two civilian airports in southern Cyprus – Paphos and Larnaca – to shuttle soldiers and other personnel in and out of Afghanistan. In Cyprus, the Canadians are housed in hotels. The operation is a pay-as-you-go contract, and cargo is shipped separately into Afghanistan via Germany. The Forces are eyeing other locations that could offer more benefits, including lower costs, the ability to handle more volume or offer more flexibility. Defence sources wouldn’t identify possible alternatives, but it’s believed options could include another Gulf nation or one of the countries north of Afghanistan that diplomats refer to as “the Stans.” ….”
  • In case you had to ask, here’s why you don’t deploy a Type 1 diabetic to Afghanistan.
  • Remember this just-released chronology of Canada’s military activities in Afghanistan?  It seems, um, less than robustly fact checked. Luckily, participants are happy to provide corrections!  Let’s see how long this link to the report (PDF) keeps working, shall we?
  • Another military research paper (PDF):  how many pilots do you need (statistically speaking) to keep CF-188 Hornet missions going at various tempos?
  • Remember the Veterans Affairs Minister’s traveling road show I told you about last week, where he’s travelling across Canada to tell vets what a good job the department’s doing? Since the Minister can only be in one place at a time, the Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary – Greg Kerr – is on the road too, starting in Newfoundland“On behalf of the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), Greg Kerr, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, today met with Veterans, Canadian Forces members and other stakeholders in Newfoundland and Labrador to explain recent improvements at Veterans Affairs Canada to better serve Veterans and their families …. Mr. Kerr’s day-long trip included a visit to the Caribou Memorial Veterans Pavillion, a meet-and-greet luncheon with Veterans at The Royal Canadian Legion Branch #56 in Pleasantville, and tours of the Integrated Personnel Support Centre and Military Family Resource Centre at Canadian Forces Station St. John’s ….” A bit more from the hometown media team here.
  • The latest protest aimed at keeping American deserters in Canada from facing the music in the U.S. was in Winnipeg“Provencher MP Vic Toews’s constituency office will serve as the backdrop for a social justice rally in Steinbach this afternoon. The demonstrators, part of a nationwide action organized by the Keep Resisters in Canada Campaign, are urging Ottawa to discontinue the practice of deporting United States war resisters. The group wants the federal government to stop punishing American soldiers who come to Canada in protest of the U.S. military’s actions. Protesters say that would help restore “Canada’s tarnished international image.” ….” News Highlights – 27 Nov 10

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  • A Canadian military briefing note for the Minister has come to light saying If war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, Canada could become embroiled due to a half-century-old United Nations military alliance …. The note by the Defence Department’s policy branch, which was obtained by The Canadian Press, says the UN alliance could be used to generate an international fighting force if war erupts …. Because Canada was one of the combatants in the Korean War, it became part of an organization known as the United Nations Command — or UNC — following the 1953 armistice that ended three years of war between North and South Korea ….” No word from the CF or politicians, but at least one political scientist says it’s not bloody likely” “It’s a technical legal question, rather than a political question, not an automatic reprise of 1950-53,” said Paul Evans, the director of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. “The technical legal side is that Canada is a part of the commission. But it does not commit Canada or the UN — we’re not locked into any role in the event that hostilities resume.” “
  • An officer, while on leave in Canada from a deployment to Afghanistan, died of natural causes.  He was awarded the Sacrifice Medal.  His name was added to the Book of Remembrance. His family was presented with the Memorial Cross.  Now, Captain Francis (Frank) Cecil Paul is on the official list of those fallen“Following a review of the Canadian Forces’ casualty policy, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk, today announced his decision to add the name of Captain Francis (Frank) Cecil Paul to the official list of Canadian Forces (CF) casualties sustained in support of the mission in Afghanistan. Capt Paul died in Canada last February while on leave from Kandahar.  “Although his death came suddenly while on leave from his deployment in Afghanistan, he was still on duty and considered part of the mission, and therefore his death is no less important than any other CF member who served and died while in Afghanistan,” said Gen Natynczyk. “It is important that his name be added to the list of fallen.”  …. Capt Paul’s photo has been placed on the CF’s Fallen Canadians web site and a minute of silence will be observed throughout Department of National Defence and CF facilities in the National Capital Region on Monday, November 29 ….”
  • If quoted correctly, the outgoing boss of Canada’s mentor-trainers in Afghanistan sounds optimistic“The outgoing commander of Canada’s mentoring team in Kandahar says the Taliban have been routed and won’t present a significant threat in the future.  Col. Ian Creighton, who was in charge of the operational mentor liaison team _ or OMLT _ says the lull in violence across southern Afghanistan over the last few weeks has nothing to do with onset of colder weather, as in previous years.  “This is not just a winter thing where some guys have gone back to Pakistan. They have been defeated on the battlefield,” he said Friday shortly after handing command to his replacement, Col. Hercule Gosselin …. Still, Creighton wasn’t reluctant to use an unambiguous word not often spoken here: “Victory” ….” I really, really hope he’s right – such certainty can always return to haunt one.
  • If you’re an Afghan working for Canada on contract in the “sandbox”, and you’ve been on contact for almost 3 years, it appears you’re about to lose your job. This from Postmedia News:  “The lives of Canadian soldiers could be put at greater risk because of Treasury Board regulations that prevent Task Force Kandahar from continuing to employ its best cultural advisers.  About half a dozen of Canada’s top advisers, who are ethnic Afghans with Canadian citizenship, have been told that they cannot be rehired when their current contracts expire. They are being let go because of government rules that state that if they work for more than three years for any federal department they must be offered permanent employment in the public service ….”
  • A reminder to journalists who want to talk about how “hard” they are for their embedded work in Afghanistan compared to politicians who had it softer:  the politician may have had it softer, but keep in mind men and women stayed there and get shot at after you left too. There’s ALWAYS someone harder than you.  Not being hard myself, I’m guessing those that really are don’t complain much, especially in public.
  • No, this hasn’t gone away. The inquiry by the Military Police Complaints Commission into whether military police failed to investigate if commanders illegally ordered the transfer of detainees to a known risk of torture in Afghanistan will hear the final witnesses next week. The hearings are based on complaints that were filed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International Canada in 2007 and 2008. Since the filing of the complaints, startling information about the conditions prisoners faced and the Canadian Forces’ failure to investigate the legality of the transfers has been made public ….”
  • Blog Watch: More kudos for Liberal Bob Rae for his nuanced and intelligent debate on the Afghanistan mission. More on that here, too.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.  Also, a writer-analyst living in Kandahar has spotted a statement made by a former Taliban envoy to Pakistan saying Osama Bin Laden lied to the Taliban when asked directly if he was responsible for 9/11.  A way for the Afghan Taliban to distance themselves from OBL and become less nasty looking?  Time will tell, but an interesting thing to say out loud, nonetheless.
  • Agent Orange compensation for those exposed while spraying at CF bases?  One dollar out of every three earmarked for compensation is going back to general revenue“The Harper government has returned more than $33 million set aside to compensate veterans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange to government coffers after many veterans failed to meet its strict qualifications for payments.  Liberal Senator Percy Downe said the veterans didn’t qualify because compensation was narrowly limited to those affected by the chemical spraying at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown between 1966 and 1967.  As a result, about one-third of the $96 million earmarked by the government for compensation was never paid out and has been returned to the Consolidated Revenue Fund ….”
  • Column:  Killer-rapist Russell Williams kit burning as “excorcism”
  • Canada’s (No Longer Nameless) Navy Mascot Update:  First was the tender process for the costume/character (with caveats in the Statement of Work like “His personality will be that of an average young boy of no particular age. He will be clean living, fun loving, bashful around girls, polite, brave and clever. He will not be a clown, nor silly or dumb.”)  Then, the contest to find the mascot, a Labrador poochie, a name.  Now, at long last, the Navy mascot has a name.  Welcome to the CF family, SONAR!
  • Watching the Grey Cup? Watch for these guys flying by. News Highlights – 3 Nov 10

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  • A Canadian Forces media advisory says Canada’s next contingent (a battle group based on troops from the Royal 22nd Regiment from Valcartier, Quebec) is beginning its deployment to Afghanistan – bonne chance, and stay safe!
  • Canadian troops in Kandahar are now working for a new American boss, according to the Canadian Press.  Meanwhile, the outgoing commander of Regional Command South, British General Nick Carter, is quoted by UK media saying that squeezing Taliban supply lines is making it harder for the insurgents to make IEDs“The price of ammonium nitrate has increased 10 times. Basic IED components by 11 times. With these constraints and the economic impact of the poppy blight this year, we believe it is difficult for them to go on the offensive.”
  • One sign of success in Kandahar, according to a story posted to the Government of Canada’s Afghan mission pageIncreased participation at local shuras shows that people are turning to their government to get things done. In southern Afghanistan, that means security operations are achieving a positive effect.” I hope so, but I’d be happy to see comments from those more in the know about such things.
  • “It is in the early spring that they are going to have to start looking inward” – this from a Canadian officer just back from Afghanistan, quoted by Postmedia News, regarding how Canada will “rapidly begin winding down as much as three months before a July 1, 2011 deadline set by the House of Commons”.
  • A reminder that it’s not JUST soldiers working hard in Afghanistan, from the Toronto Star” “Some things you just can’t change, so you have to make the best of it,” added the Jamaican-born police officer.  “Most people can’t see it, but what we’re doing here is great.” (Toronto Police Service Constable Toronto police Constable Phillip Sinclair, 36) is one of 32 Canadian police, including several Toronto police officers, working against the clock in Kandahar to help the Afghan police force shape up before Canada’s military mission is set to end next July….”
  • Is everyone in Cabinet happy with the Omar Khadr plea bargain, including serving part of his sentence here? Apparently not, if you believe this from this blog post by a Sun Media senior correspondent on Parliament Hill:  “…. Conservative cabinet ministers are not happy with the Khadr deal and the reality that he will be returned to Canada next year and free shortly thereafter. On Monday when cabinet gathered to prepare for question period tempers flared.  According to sources at the meeting and those close to cabinet ministers, there was yelling and accusations.  Top Conservatives are also not happy with the way the Khadr deal was handled.  The deal appears to have been sealed while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was travelling in Europe and there is the suggestion that foreign affairs officials used this time to offer and accept more than Harper was willing to. Diplomatic notes were exchanged with the Americans on October 23rd in the middle of Harper’s trip to Switzerland and the Ukraine. The question now is, was Harper fully aware? ….” My guess:  would something this big go down WITHOUT the PM’s approval, no matter where he was in the world?  If he could be reached, he could provide input.
  • Canadian Press saysA trove of leaked internal Veterans Affairs documents suggests bureaucrats knew from the beginning that a new system of benefits would mean less cash for injured soldiers with one analysis projecting savings of up to $40 million per year….” And who’s fault is it?  According to the Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, quoted by CP as well, “the Conservative government is only cleaning up the mess the Liberals left behind when it comes to benefits — or lack of them — for injured soldiers….” BTW, CP, any chance of sharing some of those documents with the public?
  • Blog Watch: “UBC Student Brian Platt travels to Afghanistan for a 10-day trip to explore how the country has changed, and the role students and universities are playing”.  Check it out – it’s great stuff.  Meanwhile, my fave new acronym describing non-governmental organizations (oxymoronically) organized by governments:  GONGO (Government-organized NGO).  More on that, and how Afghanistan’s new Youth High Peace Council(link to ISAF news release) might be considered one, here at the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims responsibility for more than 30 killed in Kandahar, Zabul attacks

Enjoy your day!