News Highlights – 31 Aug 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is leaving open the possibility of continuing Canadian military involvement in Libya after the scheduled Sept. 27 end date. Canada’s participation in NATO’s air mission over Libya has been extended once, but the government hasn’t yet said whether it will propose another extension. The NDP, the official Opposition, is against another extension. Asked what happens after Sept. 27, Baird said he’s taking the situation one day at a time. “This is quickly coming to an end. It’s not over yet. Canada will obviously be there in theatre to support the Libyan people,” Baird told (CBC) …. “The end is in sight. We’re not there yet, but let’s take it one day at a time,” he said. Pressed again on whether the troops will return to Canada on Sept. 27, Baird reiterated “the job is not yet complete.” “I would think that once the people of Libya are safe, that’ll be something that we’ll consider,” he said ….”  More on this here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  “Canada is heading into high-level talks on Libya this week without formal offers of assistance for the country as it rebuilds after a bloody uprising. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief spokesman says the intent of the meeting in Paris is to determine what the rebels’ National Transitional Council needs. Dimitri Soudas says Canada can contribute in several ways but the international community first needs to co-ordinate assistance. “Before you just start putting things into force and implementing them, you actually have to make sure everyone is going the same direction,” he said in a briefing Tuesday. Mr. Soudas said Thursday’s meeting is also not a victory lap for NATO forces, even as military officials say their sustained campaign is seeing life slowly return to normal in many areas. “The definition of victory is always something that people try to establish,” he said. “Victory to a large extent is democracy in Libya.” ….”  If the Government of Canada really means that bit in red, we may be there a while….
  • Libya Mission (3)  Academic:  Canada should have own eyes, ears on the ground, not just sharing intelligence from NATO partners“…. When asked where Canada is getting its information, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, referenced the NATO-led mission in which Canadian fighter aircraft and a navy frigate have been participating since March. “Don’t forget this is a co-ordinated effort,” he said, “and information is shared internally.” Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said he was surprised to hear that Canada doesn’t have anyone on the ground in Libya given the importance the government has attached to the mission, both militarily and politically. “It is critical to have Canadian eyes and ears on the ground in order to make informed decisions,” he said. “We have to evaluate those in charge, provide humanitarian assistance and help build the peace.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (4)  “Canada is looking at how to “unfreeze” up to $2 billion in frozen Libyan assets for re-construction efforts in Libya, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas. The assets were frozen in February following a United Nations sanctions resolution and now Ottawa, following the lead of the United States, is trying to determine whether the money can be released and channelled toward “humanitarian and other needs” to help establish a transition to a democratic government in Libya. Ottawa is “looking at options at how to proceed to unfreeze those assets and for them to be put towards that use,” said Soudas ….”
  • Libya Mission (5)  And for all those calling for a U.N. mission in Libya, this, from the rebels“Libya is rejecting the idea of deploying United Nations military personnel to help stabilize the country. A 10-page document written by the UN Secretary General’s special adviser on Libya that was leaked and published online recently calls for the deployment of 200 unarmed UN military observers and 190 UN police to help stabilize the country …. that could include monitoring or mentoring police officers. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the transitional council, said Tuesday he had met a day earlier with NATO officials in Qatar, where it was decided that no foreign soldiers would be needed in Libya. “We decided that we do not need any forces to maintain security, be it international, Muslim or other,” he said ….”
  • The CF’s Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) is getting a new boss tomorrow.
  • Way Up North (1)  Lookit what the South Koreans are up to (hat tip to Mark Collins for sharing this one)  Commercial ships able to route through the Northwest Passage without ice breaker assistance are a step closer to becoming a reality. Korean shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), announced a few days ago that a model of their 190,000 dwt iron ore bulk carrier had finished its test program in the world’s largest – 90 meters long – ice test tank at Canada’s Institute for Ocean Technology (IOT). With an awareness that the traditional ice-breaker bow construction (where the mass of the ship’s bow structure bears down to break up pack ice) acts as a drag on efficient progress in open waters, international collaboration between IOT and Korean researchers from Pusan National University aimed at finding the optimal bow design for a ship operating in various ice conditions. Numerical computer analysis by the team culminated in manoeuvring and resistance performance tests of the model bulk carrier in the special ice-test tank ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  One academic’s view, post-Nanook 2011“…. one could argue that the senior military leadership views the Arctic (especially in a post-Afghanistan milieu) as a means of further justifying its reason for being. Stated differently, it gives them a mission priority that has the firm backing of the Conservative government in Ottawa. This is critical because it allows the military to make the case to political masters that the defence budget should be insulated from any deep cuts in the rush to balance the books …. It would be better for the military to wrap itself in an Arctic mission (and to secure the requisite procurement) rather than have the Coast Guard squeeze out more money for sovereignty patrols, scientific investigation and a polar-class icebreaker. In short, the Canadian military is perfectly content to play around in the Arctic just as long as the money taps stay open and they can use their training there for other “hot spots” around the world. And if this is the case, you can look for the Canadian Forces to deepen its military footprint in the Arctic.”
  • NATO’s mission boss in Kosovo:  we’re not ready to cut back troops just yet because of violence here.  Canada has five troops there with Operation KOBOLD – stay safe, folks.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Federal Court of Canada to Amir Attaran seeking pictures of detainees:  no photos for YOU! (via
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing shuts down (via CEFCOM Info-Machine  news release, 18 Aug 11)
  • Afghanistan (2b)  Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing shuts down (via CEFCOM Info-Machine feature story, 30 Aug 11)
  • Afghanistan (3)  QMI/Sun Media editorial“If there was a truly down moment during Jack Layton’s funeral on Saturday, it was Stephen Lewis praising Layton for wanting to negotiate with the Taliban. And, worst of all, this venture into the absurd got a generous and lasting applause. Can you imagine anyone but the elite left giving a generous and lasting applause to something so offensive and so wrong-headed? Yet, they lapped up the Orange Crush like it was cultist Kool-Aid. How sad is that knowing those same Taliban that Lewis and Layton think would give credence to a negotiated end to their terror have taken the lives of more than 150 of our Canadian soldiers, plus a diplomat, plus a Canadian journalist? And that’s not counting the hell and death they have brought down on the Afghan people. But everybody Rise Up! Rise Up! ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  I screwed up, missing this film from the CF Info-Machine:  “…. You don’t have to wait for a telling, warts-and-all documentary made about one Canadian military experience in Kandahar. Desert Lions: Canadian Forces Mentors in Kandahar is a great piece of reporting and surprise, it’s a Canadian army production. A reservist with the Calgary Highlanders regiment and a former CBC television reporter, Mike Vernon spent several weeks in 2010 shooting footage and collecting stories in the volatile Panjwaii district of Kandahar. This was a hairy time for the Canadian Forces, especially in Nakhonay, the small, Taliban-infested village where Mr. Vernon found himself encamped with nine members of an Operational Mentor Liason Team (OMLT), reservists like himself, assigned to a complex and dangerous mission: To hold Nakhonay while helping “enable” a company of Afghan soldiers, some of them good, some of them awful. All of the men struggled with cultural barriers and stupid military politics, inside a deadly combat environment where the enemy was always present but seldom seen. Scary ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Vendors aiming to sell the CF a quiet electric snowmobile have a bit more time to send in their bids (via
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Wanted:  someone to build a cold storage building in Petawawa.
  • Royalizing the CF  Survey says…. “According to (Harris Decima) Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “By and large, Canadians agree with reverting to the traditional names for Canada’s Navy and Air Force and only one in ten are strongly opposed to the change. As might have been predicted based on historical evidence, Quebec residents find the lowest level of agreement on this point, but even there, opinion is fairly evenly split.” ….”  More from The Canadian Press here.
  • Ministers responsible for Veterans Affairs and senior officials from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands today completed two days of meetings to discuss support for Veterans. Ministers emphasized the need for collaborative research, policy development and programs for Veterans. The meetings were hosted in Ottawa by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs …. The following statement was released by the Summit participants at the conclusion of the meetings: Honouring and providing services to Veterans is a shared goal around the world. All of our governments have programs in place to meet the needs of those transitioning from military to civilian life. Research is playing a growing part in allowing us to better understand the transition experience. By agreeing to collaborate more closely on common research projects, we will be able to develop improved ways of supporting Veterans throughout their lives ….”
  • Border Security:  Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird releases two reports on consultation results with Canadians – one here, the other here.  Media coverage:  folks seem to worry about privacy, information sharing/civil liberties (more on that here) and sovereignty (more on that here), while business wants a more open border.
  • Vancouver PD to public:  recognize any of these rioters?  Vancouver police have already received more than 50 tips after launching a website Tuesday aimed at identifying participants in the June 15 Stanley Cup riot. So far, police have posted photos of 40 suspected rioters, and scores more are expected to be added to the site over the coming weeks. Police Chief Jim Chu said Tuesday that the riot investigation was proceeding carefully to ensure suspects could be charged with participating in a riot, rather than lesser crimes such as looting or mischief. “We’re not pulling our punches. We’re going for the most serious charges we can give,” said Chu. The first 40 suspects posted to the Riot 2011 website were randomly selected from a group of some 200 unidentified people police are investigating ….” News Highlights – 1 Mar 11

  • What’s next for Canada’s response to Libya? Canada pledges humanitarian aid to Libya (without explaining what kind) + CF reconnaissance and medical team in Malta (More) = DART deployment?  Time will tell.
  • Canada to Gadhafi:  Maybe it’s time to go? Canada is warning that the desire for freedom in Libya and across the region will overwhelm leaders who withhold democracy and abuse their citizens. After criticism of its reluctant embrace of the pro-democracy rebellion that toppled Egypt’s longtime ruler, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is now positioning itself squarely behind Libyan rebels who are massing on Tripoli’s doorstep and preparing for battle with their dictator. In Ottawa, Government House Leader John Baird tabled sanctions in the House of Commons and spoke openly of “regime change” to end Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 41-year rule. At a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Monday, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon spoke hopefully of a “tide of change” sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa ….”
  • How about a no-fly zone over Libya?  No consensus, says Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister“A military no-fly zone over Libya is unlikely to get off the ground as several allies are balking at the plan, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “In terms of the no-fly zone, there doesn’t seem to be consensus among our allies,” Cannon told a teleconference from Geneva, declining to offer Canada’s position. “There are too many elements still not known, so I would not want to offer an opinion at this time,” he said. “We still don’t have enough information.” Earlier, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain was working with its allies to draw up a plan for a military no-fly zone over Libya ….”
  • What Canada’s up to, 140 characters at a time from the PM’s chief spokesperson Dimitri SoudasHow many out so far? Brit warship gives some Canadians a lift to MaltaWhere’s Canada’s big military plane in the area?
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • More tidbits of information about missing Canadian Colin Rutherford in Afghanistan. This from “…. The police chief in Ghazni province confirmed that Rutherford was living in the region for almost a month and that he was seen dressed in local clothing several times ….” This from the Toronto Star:  “…. In late October, just six months into a new job as a media auditor in Toronto, Rutherford told his boss he was going on vacation. The 26-year-old wanted to learn Pashto, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages. “He went to Afghanistan and didn’t come back,” said Zia Hasan, manager of audit operations at the Toronto-based Canadian Circulations Audit Board. Rutherford had booked two weeks off. “We just thought he decided not to come back. Sometimes people do that. We’re obviously concerned for his welfare. We’re cooperating with the local authorities for any information that they require,” Hasan said ….”
  • How’re the Afghan troops being trained by Canadian and NATO troops doing?  Not all that great yet according to one journalist blogger: “…. The question on everyone’s mind these days is whether the OMLTs (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams) can mould the Afghans into an independent fighting force by the time Canada’s military withdraws from combat operations in a few months. Based on my two days on foot patrol with the OMLT (which hardly makes me an expert), the short answer to that question is no. The Afghan company I observed showed a capability to orchestrate simple security missions, though not without some problems. Capt. Eric Bouchard believes Afghans are now at a point where they can successfully conduct searches of compounds and fields for weapons. They are also fast at responding to Taliban activity. But as for more complicated missions, the Afghans seem to be lacking a level of sophistication ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Attacks, assassinations alleged in Kandahar.
  • February highlights of what Canada’s buying.
  • Defence research paper (PDF): Soldiers identified good-vs-bad guys better with Combat ID (CID) System than without (bot both CID systems were the  same re:  effectiveness) News Highlights – 28 Feb 11

  • Canada’s Foreign Affairs department confirms it’s working on the “safe release” of a Canadian, Colin MacKenzie, in AfghanistanThe Taliban has issued a statement claiming a captured “Canadian national” is a spy, saying they’ll be releasing a video shortly.  A bit more from the Canadian Press here, here, here, Agence France-Presse here and the BBC here.
  • A couple of more versions of the Taliban’s “we have a Canadian spy” statement, in Arabic and Pashto (with a Google translation of the Arabic version) here.
  • It appears, according to media accounts here and here, that the missing man, 1)  has been missing for 3 months (with RCMP involvement since November), and 2)  wanted to learn Pashto. In case one needs reminding, here’s DFAIT’s recommendations about touristing in Afghanistan” …. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to Afghanistan. Canadians undertaking travel despite this warning take serious risks. Canadians already in Afghanistan should leave. The security situation remains extremely volatile and unpredictable ….”
  • A U.S. squadron will head to Kandahar’s Dand district next month in a move that will enable the Canadian military to start “saturating” the western neck of Panjwaii before the conclusion of combat operations, Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan says. The 1st squadron of the 2nd Stryker Regiment will leave the Uruzgan province and take command of the Dand battle space in mid-March from the 1-71 Cavalry of 10th Mountain Division. The 500-member cavalry has been under the command of Task Force Kandahar, stationed alongside Canadian and Afghan forces in the relatively calm district since May. The 700-member Stryker squadron will fall under Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner’s command until the Canadian military mission ends in July. Two companies of soldiers will go to Dand and a third will be deployed to Panjwaii ….”
  • A snapshot of Canadian mentoring work with Afghan troops: “A hint of irritation is evident in Capt. Eric Bouchard’s voice as he tries to figure out where his counterpart in the Afghan National Army is going.  Canadian and Afghan forces have barely begun a two-day mission to search villages and fields in the central Panjwaii district, and already there’s confusion between the two groups. It seems the Afghan platoon commander paired with Bouchard has neglected to bring a proper map, and he’s leading his troops off the planned route.  Bouchard’s first instinct is to tell him to get back on track, but he restrains himself. After all, this operation has been organized by the Afghans and Bouchard’s job is to mentor their soldiers, not lecture them. Showing respect is paramount.  “Tell him the first objective is over that way,” Bouchard instructs his interpreter. “But … but, ask him where he wants to go.”  Such interactions are common for Canadians serving in the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, also known as the OMLT or “omelette,” which provides on-the-job training for Afghan soldiers in the field ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchMore attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan.
  • Wounded warrior preparing for run on artificial leg“When army Sergeant Jamie MacIntyre joined Toronto’s annual run in support of St. John’s Rehab Hospital two years ago, he had a special reason for taking part: Among those getting a new lease on life from the widely acclaimed facility was his friend Master Corporal Jody Mitic, who’d lost both legs in 2007 in Afghanistan after stepping on a land mine.  This year, Sgt. MacIntyre has a still better incentive for participating: Last June, two months into his second tour of Afghanistan, he too trod on a roadside bomb and his left foot was blown off. So when he does the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run/Walk on March 13, together with his wife and some military colleagues, this time he’ll be running with an artificial leg …”
  • Operation GTFO Libya More details are coming to light about why Canadian planes had to leave empty from Libya last week. “…. MacKay said Sunday the two aircraft had arrived in the middle of the night and officials were having difficulty both identifying Canadians who were waiting at the airport and determining if they were allowed to leave the country. The planes had been given a limited amount of time to remain at the airport, so aircraft from other countries could land. “There was very little co-operation being extended to Canadians by officials at the airport,” MacKay told CTV’s Question Period in an interview from Halifax. “And so they were then told they had to leave because there were specific time slots that were being given to countries at that time.” ….”
  • Two more Canadian military planes are being dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean to help with the evacuation of Canadians in Libya. Defence Minister Peter MacKay tells CTV News’ Question Period the pair of Hercules transport aircraft were deployed and could be used to land in austere areas of Libya outside of the capital Tripoli. An estimated 100 Canadians are still trapped in the country, many of them believed to be oil workers. The British military, including members of its special forces, used a Hercules to fly under the Libyan radar and rescue 150 Britons and foreign nationals in a desert area. A spokesman for the prime minister said Stephen Harper was spending the day in briefings on the evolving situation in Libya ….” More on that from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister here.
  • Here’s what the PM had to say about what happens next with Libya: “…. Canada earlier today implemented the following binding sanctions contained in the Resolution:
    • An arms embargo requiring all states to prevent the sale or supply of arms into Libya, or the export of arms from Libya;
    • The inspection of cargo going into Libya;
    • A travel ban on Muammar Qadhafi and 15 individuals closely associated with him; and
    • An asset freeze against Muammar Qadhafi and members of his family….” More from the Canadian Press here.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War The fighter plane at the centre of one of Ottawa’s hottest political debates has taken its first test flight over the skies of Texas.  The hour-long flight of the first production model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 II Lightning stealth fighter went off without a hitch, said test pilot Bill Gigliotti.  “The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight,” Gigliotti said.  The flight was an important developmental milestone for the aircraft that Canada plans to begin using in 2016 to replace its aging CF-18 fleet ….” News Highlights – 24 Feb 11

  • Canadians are starting to GTFO Libya. “The first group of Canadian evacuees left Libya Wednesday by boat and more are expected to fly out Thursday, the federal government says. Foreign Affairs confirmed at least 26 Canadians, along with several American and British citizens, left the Libyan capital of Tripoli on a U.S. charter ferry heading to Malta. The Canadian charter flight is scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon from Tripoli to Rome, Italy. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is expected to greet the flight, as well as meet with his Italian counterpart to discuss the situation in Libya. Evacuees are asked to bring food and water and will have to reimburse the federal government $500 for the cost of the flight. So far, 178 Canadians currently trapped in the North African nation have said they want to leave the country. Some 350 Canadians are registered with the embassy in Libya ….” More on the exodus from and Postmedia News.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • I would f**king well HOPE so! “Troops who will be sent to Afghanistan for training missions later this year will include corporals, not just senior officers, Canada’s chief of land staff for the Canadian Forces has revealed. Canadian corporals have a “level of maturity and capability and pride that we think is important to share with the Afghans,” Lieutenant General Peter Devlin told QMI Agency in an exclusive interview. Devlin said the corporals will join officers and senior NCOs (non-commissioned officers such as sergeants and warrant officers), which will help spread out the work for Canadian troops. Corporals are ““gifted instructors, I would put them up against senior NCOs from other nations, and that is our approach,” he said. While corporals are among the more junior ranks of Canada’s Army, they posses valuable combat experience in Afghanistan, Devlin added ….”
  • What Canadian trainer/mentors are up to in Afghanistan.
  • More on Canadian troops serving in Sudan, especially following the referendum creating the world’s newest country. “The Canadian Forces members of Task Force Sudan took part in efforts by United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to support the recent referendum in South Sudan: maintaining a constant patrol presence in all sectors of the country, both north and south, and facilitating the delivery of ballots to polling stations. UNMIS kept a low profile, focussing on security and support for the U.N. agencies that monitored and assisted the voting process directly.  The vote was largely free of violence or fraud, and the participation rate was much higher than we ever see in Canada. The international community has praised the people of South Sudan for their patient participation in a watershed decision.  Task Force Sudan is deployed under Operation SAFARI to provide UNMIS with staff officers and United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs). At any given time, Task Force Sudan comprises about 26 military personnel, including a small but mighty national support element in Khartoum supporting both the CF members of the task force and the Canadian police officers serving in Sudan with the U.N. Police (UNPOL) ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Who’s interested, qualified to refit HMCS PROTECTEUR? “The Department of National Defence has a requirement for a refit of HMCS PROTECTEUR; a West Coast Canadian based PROTECTEUR Class Auxiliary Oil Replenishment (AOR) ship based in Victoria, British Columbia. It is anticipated that the refit work will commence February 2012 with a completion date of December 2012 ….” (via
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2) Someone to set up a “temporary” camp at Resolute Bay for $6.5 million, and three organizations get contract to conduct Taser research. (via
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1a) From the Toronto Star:  “Federal Liberals plan to open a second front in their document war with the Harper government. The party’s defence critic, Dominic Leblanc, is demanding the release of a key air force report that lays out the justification for the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets. The statement of operational requirements was stamped classified by National Defence last year and the Conservative government has resisted calls by the opposition parties to make the document public. LeBlanc served notice to the House of Commons defence committee that he’ll table a motion demanding the release of the statement — a measure he hopes the NDP and Bloc Québécois will support. That sets the stage for another tug-of-war over document secrecy ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1b) From the Toronto Sun:  “Another day, another Liberal MP attacking the Conservatives for allegedly being too secretive and wasteful with public money. Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc lashed out at the government Wednesday for hiding the true costs of their tough-on-crime agenda, and for going ahead with the F35 stealth fighter jet purchase amid fears the $16 billion figure for the 65 aircraft (including maintenance) is going to grow. “Despite repeated reasonable requests by Liberal MPs for precise cost estimates on the Conservative stealth fighter purchase and the prison expansion plans, the Harper government continues to hide these numbers,” LeBlanc said at a press conference Wednesday. “The bottom line for us is Canadians have a right to know before Parliament is asked to vote on important pieces of legislation or approve massive expenditures like those involved in the stealth fighter purchase.” ….”
  • Canada’s Air Force is pumping a bit of $ into the Kansas economy. “The sky of Salina may be a little louder than usual as our neighbors to the north with six CF-18 Hornets and two CH-146 Griffon helicopters from Canadian Air CF-18s on the flightline in Salina. Canada’s Tactical Fighter Squadrons have an economic impact of close to $2 million each deployment. Force 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron take advantage of the training and basing opportunities at the Salina Airport Authority and the Smoky Hill Weapons Range, through March 23 ….”
  • Loooongish service from an aviation workhorse. “Nine CC-138 Twin Otters have served with the Canadian Forces (CF) since 1971. In 1994, 440 Transport and Rescue Squadron was renamed 440 Transport Squadron (440 (T) Sqn), its fleet was reduced to four aircraft and the squadron relocated to Yellowknife, where it remains today. “[The Twin Otter] has supported a wide number of roles while supporting Canada, the Canadian Forces and Canadians,” explains Lieutenant-Colonel Dwayne Lovegrove, Commanding Officer, 440 (T) Sqn, “so it’s worthy of a little bit of celebration.” ….”
  • Uh, no they DON’T (corrections in terminology mine).  War resisters Deserters in Canada need our support …. Thank you for the eloquent article on Rodney Watson, the U.S. Army resister alleged deserter who is living in Vancouver under constant threat of deportation. Watson’s Canadian wife and their young son also suffer from this unconscionable situation. All of us who care about justice for military resister alleged deserters should besiege Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney’s office with requests for a humane resolution.” Anyone who volunteers for the military and runs away because they don’t like the mission is like a cop who won’t police in a certain area of town because s/he disagrees with protecting people living in that area.  Want to make a solid political statement that’ll impress people?  Don’t go, and face the music. News Highlights – 15 Feb 11 News Highlights – 27 Nov 10

  • 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 – 19 Nov 10

  • Short and sweet on the plane that crashed near Cold Lake, from the CF news release“At approximately 11:45 p.m. MST on November 17, a CF-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed in a field approximately 13 kilometers northwest of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta.  The pilot, Captain Darren Blakie of 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron, successfully ejected from the aircraft and was taken to hospital upon being recovered. He is in good condition and is being released from hospital.  The exact cause of the crash is unknown at this time. The Directorate of Flight Safety has begun an investigation into the crash.” A bit more from the Canadian Press here, here, as well as a “how many of these things have crashed lately?” round-up here.
  • Guess what NATO leaders are going to be talking about in Lisbon this weekend? Got it in one.  Now that the PM has said out loud that we’re keeping troops in Afghanistan until 2014, one of the regulars at the forums raises a good point for NATO to remember when Canada offers its help (again)“…. My guess is that this week, in Portugal, Minister MacKay will tell NATO/ISAF what to tell us to do. If we decide that we are going to train computer engineering officers and kosher cooks then, Presto!, computer engineering and kosher cooking will, suddenly, be top of ISAF’s list of priorities for training. We have earned, and had bloody well better use, our right to a caveat or two. We will teach the Afghans whatever in hell we want to teach and NATO/ISAF will be suitably grateful for our efforts ….”
  • Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae sums it up best when it comes to the debate (or lack thereof) on Canada’s Afghanistan mission: “…. We went into Afghanistan with our NATO partners, with the full approval of the United Nations.  It is one of the poorest countries in the world, ravaged by 30 years of civil war.  Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have found a haven in the south of the country and the north of Pakistan.  Of course all issues are about politics.  But some issues can transcend partisanship.  In every other country in the NATO alliance there is multipartisan support for efforts in Afghanistan, a willingness to discuss options, in a climate of public candour.  Why should Canada be any different ? Our political culture is now all about trench warfare.  Everything is supposed to seen through a partisan lens, and everything played to short term advantage.  Anyone who asks “what’s best for Afghanistan ?”, or “what’s best for Canada, our role as a reliable member of NATO and the UN ?” is portrayed as some kind of poor sap who doesn’t “get” politics.  It’s called doing what you think is right, talking to the public about it, and worrying less about who gets credit. There’s something almost pathological about the state of our politics, to say nothing of political commentary, if we can’t have that kind of conversation ….” Check out his detailed and nuanced discussion of the issue during debate in the House of Commons more than a year ago here.
  • Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, said something interesting in the House of Commons yesterday during Question Period:   If we were sending troops into a war situation again, we would put the matter before Parliament. However, the assignment post-2011 for Canadian Forces troops will be to train behind the wire.” Really? We’ll see, then, 1)  next time and 2)  if a Conservative government is still in power.  More on the “why?” of such a vote here and here, and the “why not?”  here and here.
  • Blog Watch: QMI/Sun Media’s Ottawa bureau boss David Akin reminds us that the latest decision on the mission in Afghanistan fits into the guidelines of the March 2008 motion of the House of Commons.  In the comments section, Mark Collins of Unambiguously Ambidextrous fame reminds us who’s been saying something different.  Hmmm, where else have I read this?  Meanwhile, former OMLT-eer Bruce Ralston points out where ELSE in Afghanistan Canadian trainers could be deployed (as well as what’s needed vs. what Canada is offering).
  • Remember the Leopard tanks we borrowed from the Germans for Afghanistan while we bought some from the Dutch? They’re on their way home now: “…. the Canadian army is taking the opportunity to return some of the tanks it hastily borrowed from Germany more than three years ago as the war was exploding in the withered farmland west of Kandahar city.  The heavily armoured Leopard 2 A6Ms were rushed into Kandahar in the summer of 2007 to help defend troops against bigger and more powerful roadside bombs.  Fewer than half a dozen of the 20 borrowed machines are being replaced with upgraded Leopard 2 A4M tanks, which the Defence Department purchased from the Dutch and modified for use in Afghanistan’s arid desert, said Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, the head of the army.  All of the borrowed vehicles will be returned after the combat mission ends next spring, and will have to be refurbished before they are returned, Devlin said in a recent interview.  “The ones going now are part of the normal replacement, based on hours and mileage.” ….”
  • The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman Annual Report 2009-2010 is now available here.
  • The Kingston-Whig Standard tells us more work may be forthcoming to look into the health of serving and former CF members“A national centre to study the health of veterans and serving military members is on its way to being established and Senator Pamela Wallin said Thursday morning that an institute to co-ordinate research is all but certain to be placed in Kingston. “This is going to happen,” said Wallin, who was interviewed in the wake of a two-day international conference in Kingston this week that brought together scientists, military brass and veterans advocates. “We have the right people in the right places and I am behind this, 1,000%.” The conference was organized by Queen’s University and Royal Military College to bring together researchers from different universities and countries to share their data and experiences in the field, which range from combat injuries to long-term problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of chemical exposure ….” More on that conference from the CF here.
  • Speaking of research – Available:  Software developed by Canadian military researchers that can scan loads o’ documents, pick out target words, and analyze patterns with those words.  Wanted:  some help to make some money selling that software.
  • Who’s causing civilian casualties in Afghanistan? If all you read this story by Postmedia News, the aid groups spoken to talk only about NATO forces.  The news release, announcing a new report calling for more protection of civilians during the fight, isn’t much better, although it does admit, “Anti-government groups cause most Afghan civilian casualties.” The report (22 page PDF here) spends most time talking about what NATO/ISAF should do, but a closer reading shows it doesn’t let the bad guys completely off the hook:  “…. (Armed Opposition Groups, or) AOG continue to be responsible for the great majority of casualties, and are increasingly utilizing tactics that violate the principles of distinction and proportionality. While a recently issued Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) Code of Conduct states that “the utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties” and “the Taliban must treat civilians according to Islamic norms and morality,” this appears to have had little impact on the ground …. Another major tactic of concern is assassinations and executions of civilians by AOG, which account for 14% of all civilian deaths. Assassinations reached a record average high of 18 per week in May and June 2010, representing a “systematic and sustained campaign of targeting tribal elders, community leaders and others working for, or perceived to be supportive of the Government and IMF,” according to the UN ….” Pretty consistent reporting from the UN and other sources (check here, here and here) indicate more than 2 out of 3 civilian casualties are caused by the bad guys.  Should we be less careful?  No way.  Should the bad guys be maybe nagged a bit?  Oh yeah.
  • Here’s one way to keep a multiple murder-rapist’s paraphenalia off ebayThe Canadian Forces have searched convicted serial killer Russell Williams’ Tweed cottage to retrieve his military kit — and burnt his military clothing. Four military officials, including two police officers, entered the Tweed cottage on Tuesday with the former air force colonel’s permission. They emerged after 90 minutes with enough military equipment, including books and manuals, to almost fill a van. “All his military clothes — boots, headdress, shirts and everything — as soon it was taken it was also disposed of, it was actually burned the same day,” Cmdr. Hubert Genest, a Canadian Forces spokesperson, said in an interview. He added that while the retrieving of military equipment is standard procedure for anyone who leaves the army, the burning of uniforms is not. Normally, the military tries to recycle and reuse clothing. “In this case,” Genest said, “all of his clothing had his name on it, and we felt it was actually more appropriate to actually dispose of it by burning the equipment.” Asked why it was burned, he said: “I could speculate about what could happen to the clothing, but by disposing of it like this, we’re sure it’s not going to be used again.” ….”

POST-2011 MISSION IN AFG: The PM Finally Speaks. Clearly.

What a difference a few hours makes.

Remember when I guessed Prime Minister Harper wouldn’t use Remembrance Day to announce a change of heart on Canada’s future missio?  I was wrong – this, from the Canadian Press:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he decided with some “reluctance” to reconsider his decision to pull Canadian troops out of Afghanistan next year.  Speaking on the sidelines of meetings of the G20 leaders, Harper said he told his NATO allies in no uncertain terms that Canada’s combat role is coming to an end.  But he said he sees merit in the argument that Afghan troops aren’t ready to stand on their own, and Canada could help in their training.  “I do this with some reluctance but I think this is the best decision, when one looks at the options,” he said.  “Look, I’m not going to kid you. Down deep my preference would be, would have been to see a complete end to the military mission.” …. Harper said Thursday he did not succumb to pressure, but decided to reconsider based on the fact that the Afghans aren’t ready for Canada to leave.  “I don’t want to risk the gains that Canadian soldiers have fought for and have sacrificed in such significant numbers by pulling out too early, if we can avoid that.”  Harper acknowledged he has been under pressure by NATO allies to continue in a combat role, but a training role was the most he could agree to …. “I think if we can continue a smaller mission that involves just training, I think frankly that presents minimal risks to Canada, but it helps us to ensure that the gains that we’ve made,” Harper said.

More on this from QMI/Sun Media, Postmedia News, the Globe & Mail, and Reuters.

I like the idea of doing something to keep helping Afghanistan get on its own feet to protect itself (and, hopefully, keep bad guys who’d do harm to US out of the country).

It’ll be interesting to watch the next few news cycles.  Now that he says “we should stay (at least a bit)”, will MSM who (lately) called for a training mission now say “hey, he did the right thing?”

Also, watch for public opinion polling in the next few days.  Along these lines, look for a tight focus on “NO COMBAT” in the PM’s (and other government officials’) messaging from here on in.

Also, I wonder if the Taliban’ll have anything to say?  The last report of Canadian casualties before the most recent one was in the summer.  Will they think it’s important enough to either attack Canada’s decision (after all, they endorsed Canada’s decision to leave, right?)?   Stay tuned…

POST-2011 MISSION IN AFG: MORE Anonymous Sources!

Silly me.  I thought the political bosses were (finally) pretty clear regarding Canada’s future mission in Afghanistan.

Now, it appears we’re back to the “hall whispers” model of letting Canadians know what the job will be in Afghanistan post-2011 – this from the Toronto Star:

Canadian troops could remain “behind the wire” in Afghanistan involved in training local troops after their combat mission ends next summer, the Star has learned.

While the Conservative government is holding firm that the combat mission will end in 2011, one of three options emerging is that some soldiers could remain in the troubled nation, well away from combat zones, as trainers.

The other two potential roles on the table are aid and development, a senior government official told the Star.  There are roughly 3,000 soldiers involved in Canada’s Afghan mission. The size of the training contingent would be “much smaller” and would be away from Kandahar, a hotbed of the insurgency, the official said …. there’s a chance that Harper will be ready to present allied leaders with several options of what Canada is prepared to do in Afghanistan post-2011.

With less than a year before troops begin their pullout, discussions between officials at foreign affairs, defence and international development have taken on fresh urgency to frame the next stage of the mission.

Officials have already briefed the Liberals in their role as the official opposition about the options being considered, suggesting the Conservatives are hoping to avoid a bitter partisan fight over the future of Canada’s biggest foreign policy priority.

Conservatives have taken note of comments by both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Liberal MP Bob Rae, the party’s foreign affairs critic, suggesting their party would be open to a continued Afghan role for Canada ….

Why doesn’t anyone have the courage to either say, “hey, we’re done” or “no, the right thing to do is to keep helping”?  Could it be the polls?

Or could it be, as some theorize, a case of different sides in the government wanting different things?

I’ll believe a change when I see it. News Highlights – 5 Nov 10

Enjoy your weekend!