News Highlights – 14 Nov 10

  • More troops headed downrange for next rotation in Afghanistan this from David Pugliese’s Defence Watch“Another group of 120 Valcartier-based soldiers will deploy this Monday to take part in the 10th Rotation of OPERATION ATHENA, in Afghanistan. This flight is the 7th since the beginning of the deployment on November 3, according to the Canadian Forces.”
  • Reporter Ian Elliot raises a good question in this from the Kingston-Whig StandardAs the Canadian Forces abandon the desert base that was their staging area into Afghanistan, they are bringing back one of the most important items there. The centrepiece of Camp Mirage was a subdued but elegant cairn in the centre of the camp, outside the mess. On it were plaques commemorating each of the 152 Canadian soldiers who have died in the war, including three who grew up in this area. The granite monument at Al Minhad Air Base, surrounded by carefully tended green grass that was an anomaly in the desert, is on its way home. “It will be reinstalled in Canada, but we haven’t selected a location for that yet,” Capt. Jennifer Kellerman of the Canadian Expeditionary Force command confirmed Friday …. She vowed that it won’t just be put into storage somewhere. “The decision on where it will go here in Canada will probably be made at the level of the chief of defence staff,” she said ….” A bit of debate/discussion on possible options here at an forum.
  • According to the Canadian Press, former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, “says until he knows more about the (extended Afghan) training mission, he doesn’t want to comment on the decision.  But he told reporters in Calgary that it is clear that the Afghan security forces are not ready, and that another three or four years of training would help prepare them for the job ahead ….”
  • Former U.K. PM Tony Blair’s take on Canada extending its stay in Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces, via the Canadian Press“(Canadians are) hugely respected there …. It’s a decision for Canada to take. It’s absolutely got the right to do what it wishes to do in respect to this …. My view about the broader question of extremism, though, is that this extremist security threat is still absolutely a threat we face.”
  • Toronto Star columnist James Travers sees the mission extension as both a flip-flop and a double-tactical win for the Prime Minister“…. (Harper) neutralized any Liberal advantage in outflanking Conservatives on a post-combat Afghanistan policy and then widened the all-important fissure to his party’s ideological left.  Best of all for Harper, the consequences of Canada’s hastily recalibrated Afghanistan position won’t be known until after the next federal election ….”
  • Political columnist Chantal Hebert on how the news of Canada’s new mission oozed out of Ottawa, via the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:  “…. The sight of an unelected partisan staffer apprising Canadians of their government’s thinking on a top-of-mind defence and foreign policy issue that involves committing hundreds of Canadian men and women to a war theatre for an extra three years was unprecedented. The power of the PMO has been in ascendancy at the expense of the federal cabinet for a number of decades, but that evolution has rarely been as blatantly obvious as over the past two weeks ….”
  • Canadian military analyst Mercedes Stephenson calls the decision to stay and train “the right one” via QMI/Sun Media: “…. Canada has spilled too much blood and invested too many resources in trying to create a stable and secure Afghanistan to walk away because of a rubber-stamped date set in a far off capital ….”
  • So, where exactly will Canadian troops end up training Afghan soldiers and cops? The government says they’re still sorting that stuff out, but some media coverage (like QMI/Sun Media) hints it could be done out of Kabul, while others (like Postmedia News) say the opposite – this, from Canada’s senior officer in the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan headquarters:  “The need for training is national …. It doesn’t matter where they go. It’s the same mission with the same force protection. The training centres are all over the country because that is where the trainees are.”  Everywhere but Kandahar, if the government wants to stick to the letter of the March 2008 resolution.
  • Blog Watch:  The Peace, Order and Good Government, eh? blog wonders who Canadian troops will be training in Afghanistan: “…. And I find it more than a little interesting that (NATO) is in much greater need of trainers for the ANP (Afghan National Police) than for the ANA (Afghan National Army). Canadian troops may well be terrific at training army recruits but does that make them good at training police officers? Though the answer wouldn’t change my own lack of enthusiasm for the project, the question seems worth asking.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged across Kandahar.
  • Two messages from the Taliban, according to one analyst speaking to Reuters, as NATO leaders prepare to meet at a summit in Lisbon this week:  “From one side, the Taliban would like to show that the United States could not defeat them militarily in the past nine years and from other side want to introduce themselves as an acceptable political force, too”.
Advertisement Highlights – 1 Oct 10

Main website’s on the fritz, so I’m sharing some Canadian military news tidbits that catch my eye here – enjoy!

Bit of Tension in Canada’s Civilianization of AFG Mission

Another announcement showing Canada’s drift away from the mainly military nature of its mission in Afghanistan – the naming of a top cop:

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, William Elliott, today announced the appointment of Assistant Commissioner Graham Muir as the first Canadian Police Commander (CPC) in Afghanistan …. The appointment of the senior Canadian civilian police officer in Afghanistan will provide expertise at the national level to strengthen ANP capabilities. He will be stationed at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul and, as a member of the Embassy’s senior management team, will provide technical expertise and advice to Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan on the reform of the ANP ….

Translation:  another civilian head office presence.

Meanwhile, more of the ongoing saga that is the reported tug-of-war between DFAIT and National Defence on their respective roles in Afghanistan, from Matt Fisher of CanWest News Service.