MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Apr 11

  • Libya Ops – Let the protests begin! “Peace activists at a Halifax demonstration against military spending Tuesday questioned Canada’s military action in Libya — and the lack of discussion from candidates in an election campaign now in its third week. Tamara Lorincz, spokeswoman for the Halifax Peace Coalition, said she is worried about the silence of federal parties on Libya. “I’m concerned there wasn’t a debate,” said Lorincz. “Libya should be a topic that Canadian voters are questioning.” Helen Lofgren, an activist with the Quaker community, was hesitant to comment on Canadian involvement in Libya because she said the issue is complex and “we get so little information about it.” ….”
  • More on Canada’s mission to help protect Iceland from a CEFCOM fact sheet here (h/t to blogger Mark Collins).
  • Speaking of Mark, here he is on one of the “usual suspects” in Canadian defence commentary: “A perfectly progressive political professor, a former federal NDP candidate, can play very economically with the truth. His affiliation though is almost never, never identified in our major media for whom he is a go-to-guy for comment opposing any military Afghan mission, and for his views on most anything else to do with the CF ….”
  • Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan. “…. Warmer weather is settling in across the country, a change of season that generally announces the Taliban’s spring offensive. Coalition forces are at peak strength, with more foreign soldiers on the ground to hunt and kill insurgents than at any other point in the long war. As the tempo on the battlefield is set to pick up, spring has also brought fresh calls for a different kind of foreign intervention, this time to bring Afghans together in talks with the Taliban ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? “…. The Department of National Defence (DND) has a requirement to provide an alignment capability to be used by Fleet Maintenance personnel to align all types of equipment on Canadian Forces (CF) warships and submarines. The objective of this Price and Availability (P&A) is to seek industry input and information on current Alignment Systems to enable DND to examine off-the-shelf (OTS) equipment that is in service with other navies or soon to be in service ….” More from the full bid package here (PDF):  “…. The Canadian Midas System equipment procured in 1988 consists of three complete systems but due to age, obsolescence issues, technological advances, and no longer being supported by the OEM it needs to be replaced by a system with digital capability and increased capacity for multiple tilt tests …. The aim of the project is to find an alignment system capability which will allow the Canadian Navy to align the next generation of advanced Combat Systems using conventional surveying techniques for aligning two parts of a structure on a vessel while she is afloat ….”
  • Sold:  One former Snowbird CT-114 Tutor (minus engine) for $48,400. More from the mainstream media here and here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War – A former Canadian Chief of Defence Staff tells us what he thinks about a recent American visitor commenting on our fighter jet deal. “Winslow Wheeler’s piece on Canada’s plan to replace our CF-18 fighters with the F-35 should be seen for what it is: a low-credibility rant by an American visitor from a left-wing Washington organization renowned for its anti-defence posture. His highly questionable arguments for killing the F-35 program echo the thrust of his visit to Ottawa last week, hosted by the farleft Rideau Institute ….”
  • Months before the Conservative government dismissed talk of a perimeter security accord with the United States as hearsay, senior officials were quietly discussing a draft of the border agreement. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show federal deputy ministers considered a version of the accord early last September — one of a series of internal deliberations that played out during the fall. The planned perimeter arrangement is intended to expand joint operations on security, creating a sort of continental fortress while allowing for smoother flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel. Critics of the process voiced fresh concerns after reading the heavily censored documents, which were disclosed under the Access to Information Act. “It is not healthy for the democratic process for this to be happening behind closed doors, in secrecy,” said Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 12 Apr 11

  • Scott Vernelli, 1980-2009 & John Faught, 1965-2010, R.I.P.  Remembering the fallen in Sault Ste. Marie. Mandy Dickson is putting a face to the name of every Canadian killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Dickson, a former Sault Ste. Marie resident, has created her own “wall of heroes” tribute at her Mr. Sub outlet in Angus, Ont. “It’s important to me . . . It puts a face to every name,” said Dickson, in regards to the 154 three-inch-by-five-inch photos of Canada’s war dead in Afghanistan. “My husband Master Cpl. Scott Dickson and I know a lot of people on the wall . . . This is our salute to their ultimate sacrifice.” Among the miliitary dead they knew were Sgt. John Faught, 44, of the Sault, a cousin of Master Cpl. Dickson’s, and Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28, also of the Sault, who the Dicksons got to know while stationed at CFB Petawawa ….”
  • A mostly Canadian-led seven day sweep across Panjwaii district that involved thousands of Canadian, American and Afghan troops ended Sunday, having found a trove of Taliban weaponry and homemade explosives as well as large quantities of drugs often used to fund the insurgency. The weapons and improvised explosive device caches discovered during Operation Hamaghe Shay II were expected to make it much harder for insurgents to plant homemade bombs during the summer fighting season in Kandahar. Attacks by the Taliban are expected to increase when the annual poppy harvest ends in a few weeks. “The caches were mostly in the fields, not in the compounds,” said Maj. Martin Larose, operations officer for the Royal 22nd Regiment battle group. “Because we also found a lot of stuff in compounds in January and February, they may have changed their tactics.” ….”
  • Is anybody out there watching anymore? Where have all the embeds gone? At any one time in 2006, when the Canadian military formally launched its embed program in Kandahar, and throughout 2007 and 2008, between 10 and 15 journalists were always embedded in Kandahar to chronicle Canada’s first major combat mission in half a century. However, for the first time since the formal embed program was established in Kandahar just over five years ago, only two reporters are embedded with the troops today — yours truly from Postmedia News and a journalist from The Canadian Press …. You would think that this would be the ideal time for journalists to assess Canada’s military and diplomatic triumphs and failures in Kandahar and to provide insights into the Harper government’s controversial new training mission, which is soon to begin in northern Afghanistan. But Canadian editors obviously have different priorities. For them — although certainly not for the soldiers and their kin or Canadian taxpayers, Afghanistan is yesterday’s war ….”
  • “Afghanistan: Should the Canadian mission continue to 2014?” CBC online survey says (so far), no.
  • Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, now a Conservative candidate, says Canadian soldiers never knowingly handed detainees over to a high risk of torture though he admitted the Afghan system was rife with abuse. Chris Alexander, a former United Nations deputy envoy in Kabul who’s running in the riding of Ajax-Pickering, says the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody is overblown. Until now, Alexander has resisted public comment about allegations by fellow Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin that Canadian government officials turned a blind eye to reports about the clear risk of torture facing prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers. But in a wide-ranging interview with the Star, Alexander flatly disagreed with Colvin’s interpretation. “I don’t think that happened at all. “I don’t think any Canadian ever handed over a detainee knowing there was a high risk (of torture) because anyone handed over by Canada — as the record shows — was going to be tracked through the system, was going to be monitored more than other detainees would. As a UN official, I was much more worried about people who were being detained by the Afghans or other countries that weren’t as careful as we were.” ….”
  • Here’s the report I mentioned yesterday, saying a training mission in Afghanistan would be dangerous for Canadian troops (PDF).  Here’s some of what someone who’s been there, done that in Afghanistan has to say: “…. this was a rather shoddy paper, even by CCPA standards. What was remarkable about it to me was that the writers did no real research of any kind, with all their citations pointing to news articles or other similar papers. They didn’t interview a single soldier or former soldier, or anyone with any first-hand knowledge of Afghan military training in Canada or outside. (The bibliography is also bereft of any references to Afghan sources of any kind, for that matter.) I doubt I’d have said anything if they had called, but I really don’t think we’re all that hard to find. So there’s no real reason to take anything they have to say seriously ….” More from CTV.ca here and CBC.ca here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Assassinations and attacks claimed in Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Taliban (responsible for 3/4 of civilian casualties) worries about civilian casualties.
  • Libya Ops (1) – Canada backfills fighters to ensure Iceland has air cover now that CF-18’s are in Libya. “Three fighter jets landed at Iceland’s Keflavik airport and NATO military base yesterday evening and three more are expected later today. The air cover for Iceland had to be swiftly re-arranged because the Canadian Forces Air Command decided to send the team originally earmarked for Iceland on a mission to Libya. Canada has just taken over responsibility for Icelandic airspace under the NATO arrangement which sees allied nations take turns to patrol the air above Iceland. Air forces often also take the opportunity to use Iceland for exercises, as the NATO member country has the relevant equipment and ground crews despite not having a military of its own. Before the three F-18 fighters arrived yesterday, Canada had already sent personnel, tools and equipment to Iceland. Later today one more F-18 will arrive, along with a P-3 aircraft used for aerial re-fuelling. Some 150 personnel accompany the planes and will be staying at the Keflavik base over the coming weeks. As well as patrolling, the Canadians also plan to conduct exercises and landing practice at Keflavik, Akureyri and Egilsstadir ….”
  • Libya Ops (2) – Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister: Off the campaign trail, over to discuss Libya. “After taking heat for skipping a major international conference on Libya to stay on the hustings, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will globetrot this week to two major meetings aimed at finding a way around the impasse in the country. With nations around the world looking for a way past what appears to be military stalemate and a divide over whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must depart before a ceasefire can be struck, Mr. Cannon is leaving the campaign trail this time – but first asked for a blessing from opposition parties ….”
  • Election 2011 – Blogger Mark Collins on the Conservative and Liberal platforms on defence.
  • Remember James Loney, the Canadian peace activist kidnapped with some others in Iraq, then rescued in 2006?   He has a new book out about his experiences. “An angry soldier told a Canadian hostage in Iraq that many people risked their lives to rescue him from terrorist kidnappers, according to a new book. Captivity by Christian activist James Loney reveals how a team of Mounties, soldiers and diplomats teamed up for a joint British-Canadian operation that apparently relied heavily on the mass surveillance of cellphone signals to pinpoint the hostages and their captors ….” My own humble open source analysis of what was said in public about the rescue here (Scribd.com).  Amazon.com only has the Kindle version out for now here.
  • Added #100 to my list of Fave War Flicks here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Jan 11

  • The troops at work in Afghanistan. “The chopper comes in hard and fast, banking sharply before slamming onto a patch of rutted soil. Troops charge out the back of the Chinook and form a protective cordon. They kneel in the dirt and scan the horizon, rifles ready …. Military intelligence identified the village as a Taliban hiding spot. Until recently, foreign troops had rarely patrolled this part of southern Kandahar province. Their absence let the insurgents move freely, crossing in and out of safe havens in neighbouring Pakistan. The Taliban stage attacks out of Khenjakak. They move supplies and weapons along the nearby Tarnak River to other parts of the province. Military officers suspect they caught the Taliban by surprise last week when they raided Khenjakak for the first time. No one shot at them and the bombs they found were disconnected, a sign that the insurgents weren’t expecting foreign troops to find them. This time could be different. The insurgents know Khenjakak is being targeted. Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Imam Sahib expect a fight. Or booby traps ….”
  • The U.S. Army’s buying 80+ Light Armoured Vehicles from the General Dynamics plant in London, Ontario – deal worth ~$138 million. More from the Canadian Press here, and a company news release here (PDF).
  • On the Coptic Christians in Canada, the Globe & Mail says it has a piece of paper (that they don’t seem to be sharing) saying the risk to the (mostly) Egyptian Orthodox Christians is “medium”, while the Canadian Press says security is being cranked up as they get ready to celebrate Christmas this week.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Looking for someone to make a 155 gram/5.5 ounce “bullet” to be shot out of a special cannon at around 1400 meters per second/~5000 km per hour/3300 miles per hour for research purposes. More on hypervelocity gas guns here (usual Wikipedia caveats) and here.
  • The Canadian Press says it has a piece of paper (which it doesn’t seem to be sharing) saying CSIS is tightening up the rules for its’ foreign agents. “An internal review uncovered policy violations in the international wing of Canada’s spy agency — the latest indication of shortcomings at the branch that oversees growing operations in foreign hotspots. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service audit, completed in 2010, says the spy agency’s policy framework governing certain covert activities “is not adequate.” As a result, “practices frequently do not comply with policy and key controls have been weakened or eliminated.” CSIS said Tuesday that new policies have since been put in place to fill the gaps ….”
  • We’ll see….  “The federal government is poised to sign an international treaty that will make Canada legally responsible for search and rescue in its part of the Arctic. Northern experts say the deal, expected to be signed in May, could pressure Canada into upgrading its capabilities in the region. And, they add, it shows new resolve by the eight nations in the Arctic Council to show the rest of the world that they intend to set the rules for the uppermost reaches of the planet. “By ratcheting up the capabilities of the Arctic Council, countries like the United States, Russia and Canada are essentially saying, ‘No, we have matters under control. We are making laws for this area. You can relax,’ ” said Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia who has written extensively on the Arctic. The deal — quietly reached last December in Reykjavik, Iceland — divides the North into search-and-rescue regions and coordinates emergency response efforts between council members, which include Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Taliban reject idea of permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan.