News Highlights – 4 Jun 11

  • Karl Manning, R.I.P.:  Funeral set for today in Chicoutimi.
  • Libya Mission:  Aboard the HMCS Charlottetown as it monitors the Mediterranean and the playoffs.
  • Afghanistan (1):  It’s too early to roll out the victory banners. Even though the combat mission in Afghanistan ends soon, Canada’s work is not over, and a national commemoration has not been confirmed. “It would be odd to have a great ceremony of ‘marching away’ because that’s not what we’re doing,” said Douglas Bland, a professor in the school of policy studies at Queen’s University and an expert in defence policy. While they will no longer be in combat, some Canadian Forces will remain in Afghanistan to train the Afghan army and police force until 2014. Bland said he expects the return of Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan at the end of the year will be marked “quietly” with remarks from officials and probably special recognition on Remembrance Day ….”
  • Afghanistan (2):  Postmedia News’ Matthew Fisher has been in and out of Afghanistan more than once, and shares this wrap-up series of articles about the history of the mission here and here, with a timeline of the mission here.
  • Speech from the Throne  Here’s what the Government had to say about it’s immediate plans for the CF in the 3 Jun 11 Speech from the Throne“…. The Canadian Armed Forces play a crucial role in defending our sovereignty and national security. As the Canadian mission in Afghanistan transitions to training, diplomacy and development, our Government joins Canadians in honouring those who gave their lives and in recognizing the sacrifice and achievements of all the men and women, both military and civilian, who have served and continue to serve in Afghanistan. Our Government will continue to recognize and support all veterans. Today, as North Africa and the Middle East are being transformed by their people, the Canadian Armed Forces are standing tall with our allies to protect civilians in Libya. Our Government will hold a parliamentary debate on the future of this important mission ….”
  • Building Big Honkin’ Canadian Ships (1):  One of Britain’s leading defence companies says it could still work with Canada on building new warships, even though the Harper government has slammed the door shut on collaboration with its NATO ally. A senior executive with BAE Systems told The Canadian Press it may be early days, but his firm and the British government hold designs for several warships — and they would be willing to share them with Canada in some sort of arrangement. The overture comes in the face of the Conservative government’s repeated declarations that its one-year-old National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy will be a made-in-Canada enterprise. And it will further anger Canadian shipyard workers, who have said that any collaboration with Britain would be bad for them. Canadian ships will be built in two yet-to-be selected Canadian shipyards, the government maintains. It even went so far as to publicly rebuff the British government’s lobbying for a joint ship building venture earlier this year ….”
  • Building Big Honkin’ Ships (2):  Premier Christy Clark will go to Ottawa this month as part of B.C.’s campaign to make a “big splash” as it champions the lone West Coast bid for a major federal shipbuilding contract. Details of the trip are still being worked out with the Prime Minister’s Office, Clark said in an interview Thursday. “It will be a focused agenda . . . and one of those focuses is going to be the shipbuilding contract,” Clark said. “It is fabulous news that she is heading out,” said Jonathan Whitworth, CEO of Vancouver’s Seaspan. Seaspan, owner of Victoria Shipyards, Vancouver Shipyards and Vancouver Drydock, is vying for a share of the 30-year, $35-billion national shipbuilding procurement strategy. Two main contractors, one for combat vessels and one for non-combat vessels, will be chosen ….”
  • Building Big Honkin’ Canadian Ships (3):  It makes strategic and practical sense to build the next generation of Canada’s combat vessels on the West Coast, retired Rear Admiral Roger Girouard, former commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, said Friday. “South Asia, East Asia are going to be where things happen for good and for ill,” said Girouard, who retired from the military in 2007 and now teaches human security and peacebuilding at Royal Roads University in Colwood. “Having numbers of ships and capacity to support those ships on our West Coast, I think for Canada, is geo-strategically a no-brainer,” he said. In just over a month, a shortlist of Canadian shipyards will submit bids to build large vessels within the $35-billion national shipbuilding procurement strategy ….”
  • Saving some military history from the trash heap – literally. “Thanks to the thoughftul actions of a good Samaritan, a precious piece of Canada’s military history has been salvaged from the dump. In March, Sylvan Lake resident Cade Graville found a scrapbook and a row of medals from the Second World War at Red Deer’s municipal waste management facility. This week, Graville brought the artifacts into the King’s Own Calgary Regiment Museum. The exceptional find has stunned officials of the Calgary museum. “To have something recovered from a landfill of this importance is incredible,” said Bruce Graham, collections manager for the museum ….” News Highlights – 1 Jun 11

  • Karl Manning, 5 RALC, R.I.P.:  He’s back in Canada – more here and here.
  • One American soldier’s view of Bdr Manning’s repatriation ceremony.  “U.S. Army Sgt. Cindy Curtis had never seen a repatriation ceremony.  But Tuesday, Curtis, a member of the 861st Quartermaster Company based in Nashville, Tennessee, and nine of her parachute rigger colleagues, watched as the flag-draped casket of Bombardier Karl Manning come home …. “We don’t hear much about the repatriation of our fallen soldiers in the United States,” she said, while keeping an eye on the C-17 Globemaster pulling up on the hot tarmac. “Unless you were serving with the man or woman who lost her or his life on mission, or are a family member, or a close friend … People know about it, but locally. The local newspaper and TV network of the town or city where the fallen soldier was from will cover the ceremony and report it the next day, but they (media) don’t publish any advance stories or anything as well documented as the work you guys do here today  …. As a public affairs officer myself with my unit in Tennessee, I asked if I could attend the ceremony with members of the press in order to learn more about how Canadian Forces hold this particular kind of ceremonies” …. Curtis thinks more people in the United States should see and know more about how Canadians Forces repatriate and honour the sacrifices their soldiers make when they are killed in action.  “I think attending those ceremonies is a good thing,” she said. “I think media in the United States should pay more attention to what’s going when one of us gets repatriated from Iraq or Afghanistan. It shows the reality of war. And I think it’s even more important that people can show their support to the families and to the military. I guess the mentality is just really different here in Canada.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (1):  The PM’s official release following his visit this week here.
  • Afghanistan (2):  “…. Harper can and should take pride in his country’s accomplishments, but he should be careful not to overstate his case simply because Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is about to change. When George W. Bush spoke in front of a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished” in 2003, a month after U.S. troops were deployed to Iraq, he succeeded only in making himself look foolish and drawing attention to the very stubborn challenges the American military still faced there. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
  • Afghanistan (3):  First wave of new Canadian trainers arrive.  “…. Col. Peter Dawe, deputy commander of the training mission, said the army is “mitigating the risks in many ways.” Troops will often live and work in same compounds, will limit their movements and “won’t be travelling frivolously” around the countryside. “But in the end of the day it’s a difficult environment,” said Dawe who once commanded the 3rd battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the unit selected as the core of the first training team. “Our troops are well-trained. They’re prepared for it. They’re going into this with eyes wide open. For the most part, we’re talking about combat veterans here.” The bulk of the 950 trainers will be deployed in Kabul, but 90 medical and military police advisers will be stationed in Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north. A further 15 soldiers will work out of NATO’s regional training centre in the western city of Herat ….”  More on Operation Attention here and here.
  • Afghanistan (4):  The PM’s said the danger is still not down to zero in Afghanistan – click here (Google search showing headlines only) if you want to see what the Taliban is saying it’s up to in and around Herat, one of the areas where Canadian troops will be training Afghan security forces.  Not sayin’ the claims are accurate (you know the Taliban’s track record if you check here from time to time), but the Taliban must be highlighting the area in its claims for some reason.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Attacks and assassinations alleged across Kandahar (including some Canadians) – more claims here.
  • Afghanistan (5):  “…. It is a well-tested rule of counterinsurgency that the perception of time is always critical. If insurgents believe their adversaries – in this case the United States and the rest of NATO – have no stomach for the fight, they will eventually win at least some of their objectives. Countries such as Canada have lost their stomach for the fight, preferring the role of trainers. (The Dutch pulled out in 2010.) The Americans, in increasing their military presence, simultaneously announced a timetable for beginning to withdraw. Blowing and sucking at the same time, in other words. In every NATO country, the public wants out ….”
  • A new study says the military’s overall suicide rate is no higher than that of the general population, though some soldiers and ex-soldiers are more than twice as likely to take their own lives. The Statistics Canada study of 188,161 military personnel who enrolled between 1972 and 2006 found that women between the ages of 40 and 44 were more than twice as likely to die from suicide as their same–age counterparts in the general population. The report comes just days after what appears to have been the fourth suicide by a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan. The study period, however, predates the bulk of Canada’s major combat operations in the country’s Kandahar region and it does not include deaths that occurred outside Canada. It therefore excludes combat deaths and suicides in Afghanistan. The study found the risk of suicide was much higher among the 112,225 personnel who joined the military in 1972 and left before Dec. 31, 2006 ….”  More from here.  You can find the study at StatsCan here, and discussion on the issue at here.
  • Computer simulation helps wounded warriors recover.  “…. The CF Health Services Group (CF H Svcs Gp) has teamed up with major Canadian rehabilitation centres in Ottawa and Edmonton to provide the best care to Canadian Forces personnel who have either lost limbs or suffered major injuries while serving. “With CAREN,” says physiotherapist Captain Pauline Godsell, CF H Svcs Gp, “the sky is the limit in creating new training programs that engage more than just the visual and auditory senses.” …. The system features real-time feedback, a wall-sized screen and a round, moving platform that makes it more exciting for users to practice walking, driving, swimming and skiing. The computer-controlled platform can be moved in any direction, bounced or sloped ….”
  • One MORE reason being opined about Julian Fantino’s appointment as Associate Minister of National Defence“…. Fantino’s new job quickly became known in the shorthand among Ottawa observers as the “Minister of Procurement”. But why was procurement taken off of the plate of Peter MacKay? A recently published Conference Board of Canada report notes that if the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is anchored in Halifax’s Irving shipyards rather than on the West Coast, this would mean over 11,000 jobs for the region. If MacKay oversaw a windfall for the BC shipbuilding industry it would hurt tremendously at home. On the contrary, if he was personally responsible for the same for Halifax, that would be the very example of a conflict of interest ….”  More on this theory here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Lockheed Martin is peddling untruths about the relative cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Super Hornet, according to Boeing Military Aircraft president Chris Chadwick. In a Tuesday morning teleconference, Chadwick not only called Lockheed Martin’s claims “fundamentally untrue” but named business development vice-president Steve O’Bryan as the source, and the fact that the claims were denied formally also points to a developing war between the two programs. The offending statement, quoted in Air Force Magazine’s Daily Report last week …. claimed that a fully operational F-16E or F/A-18E would be “the same cost” as an F-35 at maturity, around $65 million in 2010 dollars. Not so, Chadwick says, claiming a comparable (recurring flyaway) cost of $53 million for a Super Hornet — including a set of external tanks, an ATFLIR targeting pod and “working” helmet mounted displays. Any F-35 cost figure, Chadwick pointed out, “is an estimate based on numbers of unsold aircraft.” ….” (Thanks to “prolific blogger” Mark Collins for this one).
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Renting canoes for Petawawa Ironman competition, anti-ship missile defence research help (as well as a trade show dealing with “Maritime Missile Defence), more research into swarming tiny UAVs, and someone to teach people how to investigate airplane accidents.
  • Another screed about banning military research at universities. “…. The main channel for military funding to social and political science departments is the Security Defence Forum (SDF). Established during the Cold War by DND, the SDF exists to distribute department funds to Canadian political and social science departments through “centres of expertise.” In return for funding, centres are expected to produce academic articles, conduct media interviews, publish Op-Ed articles, participate in conferences, and host a number of events to reach out to the public. The impartiality of funding allocation for research topics is seriously questionable, and casts doubt on the objectivity and academic freedom of these centres.” How about the freedom of researchers to study militay-related subjects? I guess that doesn’t matter, right?
  • It’s been nearly 200 years and it seems that Canada and the United States are still at odds over who was the victor in the War of 1812. That was apparent Monday morning at a U.S. Memorial Day ceremony held here in Halifax to honour the nearly 200 American prisoners of war buried in what is now a small park known as Deadmans Island on the shores of the Northwest Arm. The brief ceremony was attended by American sailors off the USS Boise, a Virginia-based sub, which is visiting Halifax Harbour, and a smattering of locals and Canadian military. “We have different views about exactly how we came out on that deal,” said Anton Smith, the U.S. consul general for the Atlantic provinces. “You guys ended up with more territory than we did, but a lot more ice,” Smith said. During the ceremony, Canadian Rear Admiral Dave Gardam clearly stated that the U.S. did not win the War of 1812. However, both are firmly in agreement of the benefits of the war’s outcome. “The important thing is . . . it settled our differences in a way that allowed us to join hands and become the friends and allies that we have since become. That is why it was an important conflict, no matter how you see the resolution,” Smith said ….” News Highlights – 31 May 11

  • Karl Manning, 5 RALC, R.I.P.:  Arriving at CFB Trenton this afternoon – more here and here.
  • Meanwhile, Manning’s parents are having a hard time believing what happened French version, Google English translation.
  • Remembering the fallen through art. “For one parent it meant staring into the eyes of a son lost too soon. For another, it was a chance to honour the daughter who was taken too early. Canadians across the country will get a chance to see for themselves a hand-painted mural of the 156 members of the Canadian Forces who lost their lives as part of the mission to Afghanistan. The Portraits of Honour, created by artist Dave Sopha, is to be unveiled in Trenton, Ont., on Tuesday and will travel from coast to coast to give Canadians a chance to honour those who gave their lives to better those of others. The oil-painted mural stretches three metres by 10 metres and features the faces of every Forces member who has died as part of the Afghan mission. Sopha used photographs and advice from family members to make each face an honest depiction of the person. “Each one takes me about 80 hours and I become almost like their best friend,” Sopha said in an interview. “I sit there and talk to them and work on them all day and all night.” He has spent more than 6,500 hours on the mural but says his work won’t be complete until Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to a close in July ….”
  • Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P.:  Latest Court Martial of man accused of shooting delayed until August. – more here.
  • Afghanistan (1):  The PM drops by as the combat mission wraps up.
  • Afghanistan (2):  The PM reminds us it’s still dangerous…. “The first significant wave of Canadian troops destined to train Afghan security forces arrived on the ground Monday, marking the beginning of a major shift in Ottawa’s contribution to the war-ravaged nation. The announcement was tucked into Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s farewell tour of Kandahar. Instability reigns in many parts of Afghanistan and it was brutally driven home over the weekend in a deadly Taliban attack in the northern part of the country. “Obviously in every part of Afghanistan, dangers exist. We’re about this,” said Harper, who emphasized Canadian advisers and trainers will work in classrooms behind the wire, not on the front lines ….”
  • Afghanistan (3):  …. while mentioning the BIG danger seems to be gone.  “…. As Canadian troops prepare to pivot, moving from a combat role to a training role in two months, the Prime Minister all but declared victory for this mission, both in front of some 500 soldiers at New Canada House, but more passionately to reporters afterward. “We have to look at this mission as a great success,’’ Harper said. Canadians took on the toughest province in Afghanistan, he said. But the success was much greater than that, he added. “The world came to Afghanistan because Afghanistan had become such a terrible and brutal place — it had become a threat to the entire world. “Whatever the challenges and troubles that remain, Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the world. “This country does not represent a geostrategic to the world. It is no longer a source of global terrorism.’’ ….”  More of that messaging here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (4):  “After four volunteers were murdered by the Taliban for participating in a $60-million Canadian-funded project to eradicate polio in Afghanistan, Rahmattulah Bashardost continued to help distribute vaccine to more than 350,000 Kandahari children because, he said, it was the right thing to do. “The Taliban threatened to kill me if I did not quit this job, but what else can we do?” Bashardost asked. “We must support our people and our country. “Doing this in Kandahar is a hard thing because the roads are so often blocked by the Taliban, by Afghan security forces or by (NATO’s) International Security Assistance Force. To stop polio you have to pay attention, road by road, street by street even if in some villages the elders do not cooperate.” Bashardost and several dozen of the 8,000 anti-polio campaign volunteers in Kandahar were honoured Thursday with commemorative plaques by Canada and the provincial government in a ceremony at the governor’s palace ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Not one, but two choppers allegedly shot down in Zabul.
  • One in four Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan is suffering from mental problems or “high-risk drinking,” according to post-deployment screening reports obtained by The Globe and Mail under access to information. In the past decade, as Canadian Forces were called on to undertake perilous new missions, the military has struggled to understand the scope of mental-health problems among troops. The first comprehensive study of front-line soldiers based on their actual medical history is still under way, leaving questions about stress disorders to self-reporting surveys. The latest survey, completed last June, covered more than 17,000 soldiers returning from all regions of Afghanistan since 2005. It found that while most “report good mental health,” there was “an important minority” of 12 per cent who had one or more mental-health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In addition, “harmful” or “hazardous” drinking was reported by a further 13 per cent of the troops. Canadian Forces Ombudsman Pierre Daigle has called PTSD and related stress illnesses “a real hardship for Canada’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen for many years to come.” The Ombudsman is set to publish a major investigation of mental health among troops in coming months ….”  Meanwhile, the Globe has chosen to NOT share the report obtained via ATIP – interesting, considering the piece is written by a journalist who’s helped campaign for more freedom of information from government.
  • Meanwhile, “…. The CF continues to over-extend its mandate in filling the many gaps in (Veterans Affairs Canada’s) patchwork of often inadequate programs. A new universal approach which has veterans, the CF, their families, medical, and business experts needs to be driving veterans’ policy. Canada does not have to reinvent the wheel. We did it right after World War II. The ingredients are the same: income bridging, comprehensive post-secondary education, business start-up assistance, housing assistance and extended medical care all working towards a program of complete and universal financial, professional and psychological transition. Either Canada relearns a universal and comprehensive approach to caring for its releasing and injured military or one day the eager recruits may dry up. Otherwise, a military collective bargaining unit may be the only way to force government to act where once Canada was only too eager to care.”
  • There will be 2,100 jobs lost over the next three years at the Department of National Defence, but it doesn’t change the department’s recruitment goals for Canada’s armed forces, says a DND official. “The recruiting goals are set out in the Canada First Defence Strategy and that doesn’t change, so what was announced earlier has no effect on recruitment,” said Andrea Cameron, a communications adviser with DND ….”
  • Congrats, and here’s hoping one day, the fact that the new person’s a woman won’t make any difference in the announcements.  Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett (links to bio) was appointed as the first female Chief, Reserves and Cadets today, replacing Major-General Dennis Tabbernor upon his retirement from the Canadian Forces. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, presided over the ceremony at National Defence Headquarters. The Chief Reserves and Cadets advises the Chief of the Defence Staff and other senior DND/CF officials about matters concerning the 35,000 member strong Reserve Force to help ensure their unique requirements are integrated with Canadian Forces policies and programs. The Reserve Force includes the Primary Reserve, the Cadet Organization Administration and Training Service, and the Supplementary Reserve ….”
  • Time for an apology to the Canadian Airborne Regiment? “…. 16 years after the Somalia inquiry which resulted in its “disbandment in disgrace,” the final commanding officer of the regiment is demanding an apology from the federal government. “When they disbanded the regiment, they tore the heart out of me, and of every other man that was serving that day and serving in that regiment before,” said retired colonel Peter G. Kenward. “It was a miscarriage of justice, it was grossly unfair and it was a politically expedient move by the Liberal government of the day.” …. “The soldiers, the people who built that regiment, 99.9% were so harshly punished for the misdeeds and the wrongs of a few,” said Kenward. “Under any justice system, that is totally unacceptable.” Groups dedicated to the “Airborne Brotherhood” are filled with calls that the regiment be reinstated and the term “disgrace” removed from the official record. Many young soldiers still wear the disbanded colours. The Conservative MP representing CFB Petawawa, the final home of the Airborne, supports the call ….”  Follow the wide-ranging discussion on this at
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Ottawa is no longer imposing penalties on Sikorsky for delays in the production of its fleet of maritime helicopters, which have missed their latest deadline. The federal government vowed in 2004 to slap penalties of $3-million a month – up to a total of $36-million – for delays in the delivery of the aircraft that will replace the aging Sea Kings. At the time, the goal was to get the first Cyclone CH-148 in 2008. However, the contract was later amended to allow for the delivery of an interim, or incomplete, helicopter in late 2010, with fully equipped choppers arriving in 2012. Last year, the government announced more delays, saying the first interim helicopters would arrive this spring. Now the prognosis is for formal delivery later this summer. However, Sikorsky is not paying any penalties these days, as the amended contract imposed a cap on penalties for the “interim” helicopters, which will not meet all of the contractual requirements that were imposed upon Sikorsky seven years ago. “The maximum amount for liquidated damaged for the late delivery of the interim helicopters is $8-million. That maximum amount has now been attained by Sikorsky,” the Department of Public Works said on Friday in answer to a question from The Globe and Mail ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  With 70 per cent of its defence revenues coming from within the country, Thales Canada is keeping a close eye on procurement activity in Ottawa. Rumblings of trouble are already starting as the federal government aims to shave $4 billion in annual savings by 2014 from a program spending budget that currently tops $80 billion. Further, in 2010 the Department of National Defence began a strategic review as part of an ongoing process by which the government examines how each of its departments and agencies spends their money ,and how funds can be saved. Given a contract Thales Canada recently received, the firm has an interest in the results of the DND review, said Dave Spagnalo, the company’s vice-president of defence and security. Thales has 140 employees in Ottawa. Thales was awarded a nearly $11-million contract in March to create a new command, control and communications system for defence applications …. “
  • G8/G20 Money Pits Watch:  The bill for security at last summer’s G8 and G20 summits could have been much lower if the government had used more military personnel instead of police officers, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer says. Kevin Page’s comments on Monday came in response to a CBC/Radio-Canada report that revealed the RCMP contracted hundreds of police officers from across the country to travel to Ontario for the two summits, and paid millions in premiums to them for working on days off or during vacations. Page also cited the decision to host the dual summits at separate venues in Toronto and the Muskoka region as the main reason why the final price tag is expected to exceed more than $1 billion. “Could we have saved money? Yes. If the decision was made that we could have had one venue as opposed to two, we could have reduced those costs quite significantly,” Page said Monday. “If we were comfortable having more of a military presence, as opposed to an RCMP presence, we might have been able to save costs further.” ….”
  • Coming up at next month’s Conservative Party convention“The Conservatives are to consider whether to declare that any Canadian who takes up arms against the military of this country or one of its allies should be automatically stripped of citizenship and be tried for “high treason.” The resolution is just one of dozens -on issues ranging from tax policy, to euthanasia, to prostitution to samesex marriage-that Tory delegates will discuss at a party convention in June. Currently, the Criminal Code allows for someone to be charged if they assist “an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.” Anyone convicted is automatically sentenced to life in prison. In recent years, as the war on terror has spread throughout the globe, some have debated whether Canada has enough legal clout to punish people who do battle not only with Canadian troops, but also with allied forces ….”  More here.
  • “…. Newlyweds William and Kate will spend Canada Day in Ottawa as part of their whirlwind, nine-day royal tour from June 30 to July 8 to seven cities – Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Summerside, Charlottetown, Yellowknife and Calgary. Heritage Minister James Moore said Monday the royal presence will make it the biggest bash ever in the nation’s capital …. The itinerary will place a special focus on, among others, Canada’s military and war veterans. Both Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, are members of the British Forces and Harry served a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007-08 ….” More on the itinerary and theme details here and here. News Highlights – 30 May 11

  • Karl Manning, 5 RALC, R.I.P.:  On his way home as family, colleagues wonder – more here.
  • Afghanistan (1):  An organization that keeps track of threats to aid workers in Afghanistan is bracing for a tough, desperate summer and warns of an “escalating stalemate” as it says the Karzai government is losing its grip on northern parts of the country. A new report from the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office suggested insurgent forces are growing in areas that have previously been assessed as calm. We anticipate 2011 will be the most violent year since we have been keeping records,” said the organization’s quarterly report, which was released over the weekend ….”  Afghanistan NGO Safety Office site here, latest report mentioned in story here (PDF).
  • Afghanistan (2):  The Canadian-funded textbooks and computers aren’t overly expensive — certainly not compared to the price Afghan women risk having to pay for using them.The sort of mundane learning most westerners have long taken for granted carries a persistent and very real threat for female students in southern Afghanistan: injury or death at the hands of the Taliban. For the determined, however, it’s no deterrent. “For sure, I am afraid,” says Heena Tariq, a teenager who’s taking an online accounting course at a school in Kandahar city. “It’s not fair we are afraid and stay home. We have to be brave. We have to study for the future and brighten our lives.” Tariq is one of about 700 women who have defied custom and the threat of insurgent thuggery to attend the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Attacks claimed in Kandahar, Uruzgan.
  • Libya Mission (1):  One opinion.  “…. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said from the start that Canada was at “war” and Defence Minister Peter MacKay allowed that the mission “… isn’t without risk, let’s put it that way.” Canadians from coast to coast to coast, as they say, have a vested interest in the Libyan mission. And Harper recognized that when he committed Friday to consult Parliament on his wish to extend the Canadian military mission in Libya beyond the three-month limit approved by the Commons in mid-March …. But the need to draw all MPs into the debate isn’t founded on differing party philosophies alone, it’s also based on geography. Bombardier Karl Manning of Chicoutimi, Que. was the latest Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan, apparently as a result of suicide. An inordinate number of soldiers from Quebec and Atlantic Canada seem to have died in Afghanistan, likely reflecting the overall makeup of the Canadian military. So, it’s imperative that the voices of the MPs from those regions are heard, no matter what their party affiliations are ….”
  • Libya Mission (2):  Another opinion. “…. When Canada first committed military resources to support the UN-authorized intervention in Libya, all four political parties backed the proposal but agreed to review our participation after three months. While there was virtually no debate about Libya during the recent election, let’s hope that the lack of purpose and progress to date will be enough to convince the Harper government to abort this ill-fated venture before we get dragged into yet another costly unwinnable quagmire like Afghanistan.”
  • Environmental and funding concerns are adding years to the construction of an Arctic naval port considered crucial to enforcing Canadian control of the Northwest Passage. The Nanisivik port in Nunavut was originally supposed to be at least partially up and running by next summer, following a promise made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007. But no construction is planned for this summer and defence officials admit that the refuelling station, intended to give the navy a permanent presence at the eastern gate of the contested passage, won’t be operating for years. “Construction work at the Nanisivik Naval Facility will begin in 2013,” said a defence department spokesman in an email. “It is forecasted that the (facility) will be operational in 2016.” Officials weren’t immediately available to explain why. But correspondence with the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which is conducting the project’s environmental review, suggests the extra years have been added to the project through a combination of bureaucratic delays, funding problems and environmental liabilities lingering from the site’s previous life as a lead-zinc mine. “There are many challenges operating in the North and DND now has a better understanding of the site condition,” wrote the spokesman ….”  Environmental screening documents on the project are available via the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s web page here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  “Everything is bigger in Texas — the cowboy hats, the belt buckles, the steaks, and the factories. Lockheed Martin’s production line here, where the U.S. defence giant manufacturers the F-35 stealth fighter jet, is actually more than two kilometres long. And putting aside the mounting concerns of the program, the F-35 and the factory here have a very high cool-factor. If it weren’t so restricted, a visit to the facility should definitely be on the to-do list of anyone who’s ever had a fighter jet poster on his wall. But critics aren’t swayed by the cool quotient, and are sounding the alarm bells that the jets’ price will skyrocket ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Round two of “we need Large Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device Disrupter Systems”.  More on round one from March 2011 here and here (bullet #9). News Highlights – 29 May 11 News Highlights – 28 May 11

  • Libya Mission:  Stephen Harper is planning to extend Canada’s controversial military intervention in Libya and will ask the Commons, which he controls, to approve this. He announced this Friday at the Group of Eight leaders’ meetings in France. It’s not clear yet how long Mr. Harper intends to extend Canada’s involvement ….”  More here, here, here and here – more on Operation Mobile here.
  • Karl Manning, 5 RALC, R.I.P.:  A Canadian gunner was found dead from non-combat related wounds at approximately 5:30 a.m. local Kandahar time on 27 May 2011 at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zangabad, southwest of Kandahar Airfield.  More here and here – condolences thread at here.
  • Afghanistan:  Meanwhile, work – including on roads – goes on.  “The Taliban tried to crash the Canadian army’s party Friday by launching an attack on the ceremonial opening of a road in the heart of the perilous Panjwaii district. The speakers weren’t even finished and pieces of the ribbon had just been picked up when a pair of explosions rang out, followed by small-arms fire. “Nothing like a few fireworks,” said Brig-Gen. Dean Milner, who was still speaking when the first muffled explosion occurred. Milner, unfazed, carried right on talking. “Like a good day in Afghanistan, there’s still lots of things that happen out there,” he said. “I think we even heard a couple of bangs. To make good things happen, you still have to challenge those bad guys, those insurgents.” ….”
  • Afghanistan: Reservists remember.Cpl. Scott Hahn came under fire for 20 minutes on his first patrol in Afghanistan. “You think right away you’re going to die,” he says. Then his infantry training kicked in. He started breathing properly, getting oxygen to his head, thinking straight. Ten minutes into the firefight he felt confident enough to start cracking jokes. “I’m glad it happened,” he says. “You learn your mistakes and how to correct them.” The war in Afghanistan left its mark on five soldiers from the local Royal Highland Fusiliers who completed tours of duty last year. Each went for up to eight months, undertaking different jobs in different places ….”
  • Manitoba Flooding: The Canadian Forces flood-relief mission in Manitoba is over, the military said Friday, having deployed 1,800 troops over the past 2½ weeks to pack and place sandbags, monitor dikes and help evacuate communities. “From coast to coast, the men and women of the Canadian Forces have proven they are ready and willing to assist Canadians in times of crisis,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in a written statement. “I’m very proud of their efforts to protect the people of Manitoba and their property from the flooded Assiniboine River.” This year’s seasonal flooding on the Assiniboine resulted in some of the highest water levels in a century. In Brandon, Man., about 1,400 people were forced from their homes more than three weeks ago and will return this weekend. The province’s second-largest city suffered the highest river crest since 1882 ….”  More from Postmedia/Global News here and QMI here, from the CF in its latest update here and its fact sheet here.
  • Quebec Flooding (1):  Defence Minister drops by.  “Defence Minister Peter MacKay toured the flood zone in southern Quebec’s Monteregie region Wednesday, meeting with area mayors and residents and clarifying the role of the Canadian Forces in the area. MacKay expressed pride in the work of the soldiers, saying they proved their versatility and efficiency but also made it clear that they were there only to provide emergency support and not to help in the cleanup. “We’ve taken the decision with the mayors and soldiers we will stay for the weekend and make day to day,” he said ….”
  • Quebec Flooding (2):  More on why militaries don’t tend to help clean up AFTER floods:  The Canadian army isn’t the only military force that doesn’t do cleanup. Local mayors and residents in flood-stricken areas near Montreal have been trying to get soldiers to stick around and help once waters eventually subside. But they need only look south of the border to see they’re not alone: the Vermont National Guard, which comes under the control of the state governor, is not allowed to help out on private property, either. Spokesperson Lt.-Col. Lloyd Goodrow says U.S. federal law doesn’t let National Guard members help people with their flooded basements. “That’s why people have insurance,” he told The Canadian Press on Friday. Goodrow says the National Guard is not allowed to provide any services that compete with the private sector ….”
  • Canadian, American and British intelligence troops practice their skills together in Arizona at Exercise Empire Challenge (hat tip to Bruce Ralston at Flit for sharing this).
  • Still MORE reading of the Julian Fantino tea leaves.  “Winning a majority government doesn’t make everything easier. Take, for example, the headache facing the Conservatives as they negotiate to buy the cost overrun-prone F-35 fighter-bomber from the United States, where a top Pentagon official recently called the jet-building program unaffordable without revisions. Helping sort this out and defend Canada’s purchase will now be Julian Fantino’s yoke to bear as the newly minted associate minister of defence with responsibility for procurement. Mr. Fantino will contend with two constants in his new job: Buying military hardware is infuriatingly complicated, and it gets more difficult during an era of belt-tightening. The retired cop’s appointment as Ottawa’s No. 2 defence minister after Peter MacKay gives the military a second voice at the cabinet table to promote and defend its big spending plans during a period of restraint when others might be inclined to delay. It also provides Stephen Harper with a point man to shepherd military procurement decisions through Ottawa’s frustrating and delay-plagued buying process – an assignment that may leave the Prime Minister feeling better-served on this file than in recent years ….”
  • A former radar site on Hudson’s Bay is about to be cleaned up. “Six decades after the radar operators gave up their search for Russian bombers streaking across the Northern Ontario sky, a massive cleanup effort will finally begin to erase a ghost town that was very briefly one of Canada’s most important military installations. The town doesn’t even have a formal name – military documents simply refer to it as Site 500. It was the operations centre for the Ontario portion of the Mid Canada Line Radar installation, a network of 17 sites built as part of a national network in the 1950s to monitor the skies for foreign invaders. Site 500 is now at the centre of the largest environmental remediation project ever undertaken in Ontario. Its scale is dwarfed only by the national cleanup of the Distant Early Warning radar line – a more northern string of radar installations that the federal government has already spent half a billion dollars cleaning ….”  More on the multiple tries to find a successful bidder for the work here.

Karl Manning, R.I.P.

This from a CF statement:

One Canadian Forces member was found dead from non-combat related wounds at approximately 5:30 a.m. local Kandahar time on 27 May 2011 at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zangabad, located 45 Kilometres southwest of Kandahar Airfield.

Bombardier Karl Manning, from 5e Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada based at CFB Valcartier, Quebec serving as a member of the 1er Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group was found dead from non-combat related wounds.

A Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) investigation is ongoing to establish the circumstances of this incident. No further details are available at this time, although enemy action has been ruled out ….

Condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of the fallen.  We will remember him.