MCPL Byron Greff, 3PPCLI, R.I.P. He’s home – more here. Photos of his ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Facebook here(thanks to Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen of the USAF Info-machine).
Afghanistan (1) Meanwhile, the CF Info-machine shares a backgrounder on part of the training mission. “The Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) is the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) flagship training institution. Located on the eastern outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital city, the KMTC can house and train up to 12,000 trainees at a time. Over 60,000 soldiers graduate from courses at the KMTC annually. Two hundred and thirty-five Canadian Forces advisors serve at the KMTC as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Thirty-five members have been with the KMTC since mid-June and the remaining 200 recently arrived in October ….”
Afghanistan (2) Canadian ingenuity as we continue to pack up in Kandahar. “The Armour Removal Platoon of the Mission Closure Unit is responsible for removing the armour added to the combat vehicles used by Canadian troops in Kandahar Province and packing it for shipment back to Canada. The process of dismounting the armour from the vehicles is difficult, labour-intensive and inherently dangerous. Because safety had to be our highest priority, it was difficult to achieve any speed on the production line. That was the case until Private Bryan Capiak and Corporal Bradley Van Olm developed a new way to take the heaviest pieces of armour — the four Z bars — off the Light Armoured Vehicle Mk III (LAV III) ….”
Afghanistan (3) Well done. “On October 20th, 2011, Canada’s Acting Head of Mission Philip MacKinnon and Detective Ken Brander, a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), donated 11 Kobo e-readers to a group of female students of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Each e-reader comes with 50 classic books pre-loaded, which will greatly increase the number of books available at the SOLA library and allow young Afghan students to perfect their reading skills. The funds to purchase the e-readers were raised by Detective Brander’s EPS colleagues including a group of dedicated resource officers, local business, friends, and family, on behalf of Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alberta ….”
Libya NATO flies its last air mission.“…. a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO’s history has come to an end. Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) LOADS o’ questions on the F-35 (transcripts from Hansard here, here, here and here) during Question Period in the House of Commons so far this week.
F-35 Tug o’ War (3) Postmedia News Columnist: “…. Harper has often shown an ability to execute tactical retreats with lightning speed, if he feels he’s lost the high ground. Look for that to happen with the F-35, sooner rather than later, as the economic gloom deepens south of the border.”
Big Honkin’ Ships Duelling academics: “…. Marc Milner, naval history professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the vessels will let the navy cruise the Canada’s Arctic waters later in the fall and earlier in the spring, though winter access will still be the domain of the Coast Guard. The ships also give the navy full year-round access to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He said that, while the new Arctic patrol vessels fit into the Harper government’s Canada First Defence Policy, which is looking to expand the reach and scope of the country’s military, the ships are not designed for serious combat. “Nobody anticipates getting into a real big dustup in the Arctic,” Milner said. “More effort will be put into their sensor suite and communications equipment than in their weapons.” The Arctic vessels will fulfil a constabulary rather than a combat role, Milner said. The icebreakers will let the navy patrol emerging shipping routes in the melting Arctic ice. The Russian route through the Arctic, from Europe to China, is “pretty much commercialized,” he said, with several ships having passed through this summer escorted by Russian icebreakers. “There’s good reason for us to be up there with a little more presence than we have at the moment,” Milner said. Paul Mitchell, a naval historian with the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said the Arctic ships will likely have little more than an anti-aircraft Bofors gun on their bows. “Despite the growing interests in the Arctic, the area is well handled by diplomatic efforts,” Mitchell said ….”
Whazzup with Khadr Boy’s return? “The Conservatives are continuing to play coy over whether or not they’ll allow convicted war criminal Omar Khadr return to Canada. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday he will decide in good time if and when Toronto-born Khadr can return home to finish his sentence for murdering a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan. “I put the safety of Canadians first,” he said. “A decision will be made on this file, as on all applications, in due course.” The Conservatives were in the firing line from opposition parties, who accuse the Tories of trying to back out of a commitment they made with the U.S. government a year ago to allow Khadr to return to Canada after serving a year of his eight year sentence. “This fellow was arrested when he was 14-years-old and held since then and ought to have the benefit of Canadian laws,” said NDP justice critic Jack Harris ….” More from Question Period on Khadr here, from QMI/Sun Media here and from Agence France-Presse here.
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 ….”
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.”
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 ….”
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 ….”
Libya Ops (1) – “The Canadian military continues to play a large role in the NATO mission in Libya, a Defence Department spokesman said Wednesday. Brig.-Gen. Richard Blanchette said that Canadian CF-18 fighters have been active in Libyan skies, accounting for 98 of the 832 fighter missions flown by NATO jets since the start of combat operations. Canada dispatched six CF-18s to the NATO-led mission to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Blanchette told a media briefing that since April 6 Canadian mid-air refuelling tankers have flown 11 missions in support of NATO’s fighters, while CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft have flown five missions ….”
“A Toronto man charged with terror-related offences was set up by a man he thought was a friend, the suspect’s lawyer said Wednesday. Mohamed Hersi, 25, is charged with participating in a terror group and counselling to participate in a terror group. He was arrested March 29 as he was boarding a London-bound plane. That flight was then headed to Cairo. Hersi’s lawyer, Anser Farooq, said that’s where the story takes divergent paths: His client says he was going to Cairo to study; the government agent claims Hersi was headed to Somali to join the dreaded terror group al-Shabaab. Hersi appeared briefly in Brampton court Wednesday morning, only to have his bail hearing adjourned until April 20 and 21 ….”
Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, “A dreary makeshift military outpost at the extreme western edge of the Horn of Panjwaii is literally the end of the road for a mammoth, 18-kilometre long, $10-million Canadian-led construction project. When the last three kilometres are completed later this month, the road — which NATO forces call Route Hyena and Canadian Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner calls “a dagger through the heart of the Taliban” — should benefit generations of hardscrabble farmers in what is arguably the poorest corner of one of the poorest countries on earth. Until a few months ago the Taliban freely roamed the Horn, protected from ground attack by hundreds of improvised explosive devices. As elsewhere, they terrified the local population, threatening to kill them if they did not co-operate ….”
Remember the possible deal for Canada to buy torpedo conversion kits from the U.S. (5th item)? Here’s the latest version from The Canadian Press: “Canada’s navy is waiting to hear back from the U.S. regarding the purchase of $125 million worth of torpedo refit kits so it can properly arm its four Victoria-class submarines. At the moment, none of the British-built diesel boats is capable of firing the navy’s current stock of MK 48 torpedoes. Any sale of American made military equipment to a foreign government must be approved by Congress. “The Canadian government submitted a letter of request for these things,” said Paul Ebner of the Defence Security Co-operation Agency, the office in Washington that oversees the clearance of such sales. “We’ve notified Congress and if there’s no objections over the 30-day review period we put together a letter of acceptance.” In a release issued March 23, the agency backs the sale on national security grounds, saying it will improve the security of a NATO ally that “continues to be a key democratic partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability.” ….”
CBC’s angle on the torpedo conversion (without an identified, or even described, source): they’ll need more converting to be used in Canada’s subs.“Canada’s navy plans to spend about $120 million to upgrade 36 torpedoes, but they still won’t work in its four submarines without further refits, CBC News has learned. The navy has MK-48 American torpedoes in stock, but the four British-built submarines aren’t capable of firing them. Even after the weapons are converted, Canada would still have to spend millions more to refit the submarines to fire them. Defence Minister Peter MacKay confirmed the plans on Friday but said no decision had been made about the procurement. “Of course I know about it,” MacKay said during a campaign stop with Conservative MP Gerald Keddy in Bridgewater, N.S. “There’s absolutely no decision taken at this point. The Department of National Defence is continuously looking at different procurements whether it be munitions, whether it be new equipment.” ….”
Election 2011 (1) – Greens on defence:“…. the Canadian military should stay in Afghanistan, but only under a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Canada would assist Afghanistan’s domestic affairs, including poverty, economic development, amplifying the nation’s government and public institutions and help develop the military and police force ….”
Election 2011 (2) – NDP promises ships over jets:“Jack Layton says the NDP would prioritize investment in naval ships over new fighter jets as part of a broader plan to refocus Canada’s defence policy. “Instead of focusing on F-35 fighter jets, I’ll get the job done when it comes to building joint support ships for our naval forces,” he said Friday from Esquimalt, B.C. The NDP would also commit to developing a white paper to chart the future course of defence needs within 12 months of taking office, Layton said, noting that Canada hasn’t issued a white paper on defence since 1994 ….” More from Postmedia News here.
Ah, those wacky funster Khadr kids…. “Ontario’s highest court on Friday reserved its decision on whether it should extradite Abdullah Khadr to the U.S. to face a terrorism-related charge. The three-justice panel at the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments from the federal government that a Superior court justice erred by cancelling the extradition and releasing Khadr last August. The main basis of their argument was that the judge had no jurisdiction and did not properly balance the benefits of Khadr’s release with the seriousness of the charge he faces. Khadr’s lawyers, Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney, countered the judge didn’t need to be taken into consideration because of the “egregious abuse” Khadr was subjected to in Pakistan at the behest of U.S. Authorities ….”
Ooopsie (continued) …. “To his neighbours, Aaron Lacey is a bit of a loner, a quiet guy who likes to keep to himself. But to Niagara police, the self-taught artist from Beamsville is allegedly deceitful and aggressive in his pursuit of information from a senior Canadian Forces official. Lacey, 38, was arrested March 30 and charged with five counts of impersonating a military officer and criminally harassing the senior military official. He was also booked on 10 counts of breach of recognizance relating to charges from last August, including attempted fraud, forgery and an additional count of impersonation. Cumulatively, he faces 29 charges. His bail hearing got under way Monday and will continue Friday in a St. Catharines courtroom ….”
“Unfinished plates of lamb and rice are still being cleared away as the governor of Panjwaii, Haji Fazluddin Agha, receives a post-lunch briefing on security threats in his district. An official with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security stands on the shura room’s ornate red carpet to deliver his report, telling Agha his agency has identified a pair of insurgents who have been appointed to the new Taliban shadow government in Panjwaii. The official says evidence was recently discovered proving both men are responsible for killing Canadian troops and laying “thousands” of roadside bombs. It also seems both men had been previously captured by coalition forces and then released, though the reasons for this are unclear. Agha takes in the information and a discussion ensues among the dozen or so Canadian and Afghan military commanders in the room. The idea is raised of re-arresting the men or killing them. But a consensus ultimately forms around another course of action, which is verbalized by Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St-Louis, the commander of the Canadian battle group. Instead of taking punitive measures, give the insurgents a chance to change their ways, St-Louis says. “I think the district governor has a great opportunity to convince some of the fighters to live in peace, and maybe these two can be the start,” he tells Agha. “If these two individuals came here with their village elders, admitted to some of the choices they’ve made and vowed a future of peace, I think you could have the start of something very positive.” ….”
“The Conservative government quietly went to Federal Court last week hoping to impose limits on what a military watchdog can say in its final report into torture allegations involving Afghan prisoners. The Military Police Complaints Commission is currently reviewing evidence and writing its report after hearings into allegations that army cops turned a blind eye to suspected abuse in Afghan jails …. The Harper government …. (has) challenged the definition of what military cops could have known. Justice Department lawyers also accused the commission of stepping “out of its narrow jurisdiction” and investigating Ottawa’s policy of handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities — something it was strictly forbidden from doing. The government wants to exclude the testimony of diplomats and civilians who did not work for the Defence Department. Its lawyers also want any documents belonging to those officials, including reports that warned of torture or documented the abuse, excluded from the commissions findings ….”
Oopsie….“A military base commander who served with the UN has lost a bid to return to head CFB Borden after being stripped of his power for inappropriate behaviour. Capt. John Frederick Schmidt was removed from the top position in July 2008 following an incident in which he was drinking alcohol and inappropriately touched two junior female officers, according to court documents. Schmidt, a 30-year veteran, went to a federal court, seeking a review of his removal due to “procedural unfairness.” He wanted the decision set aside and for a new probe to be launched. Judge Robert Barnes recently tossed out the request, ruling that Schmidt admitted the incident to his commanding officer and did not answer questions about it when interviewed at another time ….” Full text of Federal Court of Canada decision here.
“Canada says it would consider direct diplomatic contact with anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya, but unlike its ally Britain, it hasn’t moved in that direction yet. “This is a continuous moving target so, this is the first I hear of this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “There’s always a great deal of validity in being able to speak to these people.” Opposition MPs urged the Harper government to talk directly to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi. Liberal MP Bob Rae presented the option as one of the more “active and inventive” ways Canada could help speed Gadhafi’s overthrow. The National Libyan Council has now positioned itself as the political branch of the anti-Gadhafi forces ….” Let’s see if any OTHER “councils” or “committees” pop out of the woodwork before deciding who to talk to, shall we? More from CBC.ca here and QMI/Sun Media here.
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae says Canada (and others) have to do more about Libya. “There are many other plans of action the government should be taking against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi right now according to Liberal critic Bob Rae. Rae said he would like to see Canada prepare itself to take part in a no fly zone and place further sanctions on individuals and countries that help the regime by doing things such as buying Libyan oil. “It is no longer a matter of it’s important to try to do this. I think it’s absolutely necessary for Canada to do this. We simply have to engage on the governance issues. We have to engage on the human rights issues and we have to engage successfully in making sure Colonel Gaddafi is history,” said Rae. ….”
Meanwhile, what’s NATO considering? “NATO has decided to boost surveillance flights over Libya as the alliance debates the utility of imposing a “no-fly zone” over the country. U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said allies agreed on Monday to increase AWACS flights from 10 to 24 hours a day, an expansion that is part of contingency planning for possible military intervention in Libya beyond humanitarian efforts. The decision came as the alliance’s governing board met to discuss what unique capabilities NATO could bring to Libya. Daalder said other ideas being considered are redeploying NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, along with nearby air assets, to deal with humanitarian aid as well as establishing a command and control structure to co-ordinate relief efforts ….”
More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief: Libya), here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
“A major Canadian road project in southern Afghanistan has been hampered by an element the military has no control over, one rarely associated with the arid region of Kandahar: rain. Heavy downpours over the past couple of weeks have slowed construction of a 22-kilometre road in the Panjwaii district, a volatile area where the Canadian battle group is conducting one last push to win over locals before combat operations end in July. “I would say that up until the last few weeks, it was going pretty well,” said Capt. Jean-Francois Huot of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment. “The first rain didn’t affect much, but then with the accumulation and the speed at which it evaporates we’ve seen, well, look how slow it is.” The deluge has clogged irrigation canals and left sandy plains a muddy mess. Last week, a crew from the Kandahar Air Wing had to be dispatched to rescue two Afghan men whose truck became stranded because of flash flooding. The Royal 22e Regiment had hoped to have the road finished by mid-April. Military officials say once completed, the road will link rural villages together, boost commerce and trade and improve the freedom of movement for Afghans ….”
Sikorsky on the CH-148 Cyclone choppers: They’re coming, honest, really soon!“Sikorsky is ‘weeks rather than months’ away from finally delivering the first interim aircraft for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter programme for the Canadian Forces (CF), according to CEO Jeff Pino. A long-running dispute regarding the purchase of the maritime helicopters was seemingly settled when 28 Cyclones were ordered under a $1.8 billion contract to replace the primary Canadian shipboard helicopter, the CH-124 Sea King. Following delays due to issues surrounding the mission system integration aboard the aircraft, in June 2010 Sikorsky announced that as a provisional measure the CF would receive six interim CH-148 Cyclones in November. However, delivery of these aircraft was also delayed due to undisclosed issues Sikorsky claimed was beyond its control. Speaking to reporters at a ‘state of Sikorsky’ presentation at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Pino said delivery of interim aircraft was now ‘imminent’ and highlighted progress on the programme that included 750 flight hours completed, ongoing sea trials in Canada and the finalising of the aircraft’s certification ….”
The rehab of Omar Khadr continues apace in Guantanamo. “Providing Omar Khadr with a formal education should help allay fears expressed by many Canadians that he will return to Canada an angry and perhaps dangerous young man with a grudge against society, says his Canadian lawyer. To prepare the 24-year-old for his return to Canada, Khadr’s defence team enlisted a Canadian university professor to design a home schooling program, says lawyer Dennis Edney. Pentagon lawyers travel to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, every other week to do the teaching. “We provide them with the material and then they go to Guantanamo and sit with Omar and they take him through the subject matter,” Edney explains. The curriculum includes math, history, astronomy and is heavy on English grammar. If Khadr passes a high school equivalency exam, he intends to apply for admission to a college or university as a mature student …..”
“It was a thundering display of Canada’s Northern resolve with jet fighters, a frigate and even a submarine, but a recently released poll suggests such exercises in military prowess play to the public’s mistaken belief the Arctic is under threat. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay posed for a photo-op on the deck of HMCS Toronto 18 months ago in Frobisher Bay, internal polling told them a majority of Canadians believed the North was in peril — a view not shared by defence officials. “Three in five Canadians (60 per cent) living north of 60 degrees, and one-half of Canadians (52 per cent) in the south, believe there is a threat to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty or to the security of its northern border,” says a 2009 Environics survey. The poll was commissioned by the Defence Department and released under the Access to Information Act after long delays. But a Defence Department briefing note that same year assured the minister there was no real threat. “There is no longer a conventional military threat in the Arctic,” says the Aug. 11, 2009, briefing note, also obtained by The Canadian Press under the access law. “The resumption of Russian military exercises in the region is more symbolic of Moscow wanting to be taken seriously as a world power than a return to the armed standoff of the Cold War.” ….”
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 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 ….”
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.
Operation GTFO Libya (1) Here’s one way of putting it. “The Canadian government has “facilitated” the safe evacuation of about 200 Canadians from Libya on a number of flights and vessels, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a televised statement Friday evening. Saying the situation at the airport in Tripoli was “becoming ever more difficult,” the prime minister said evacuation efforts will continue Saturday. “A Canadian armed forces C-17 is standing by in Malta, ready to be deployed to Libya at a moment’s notice,” he said. So far, however, Canada hasn’t directly airlifted any of its citizens out of Libya. Many have found their own way out of the strife-torn country by hitching rides on allied countries’ flights and ships ….”
Operation GTFO Libya (2) Here’s, um, another way of putting it (albeit via unnamed “sources”). “A flight chartered by Canada to evacuate its citizens from Libya left Tripoli empty after panicked Canadians fled the country by other means before it arrived, a government source said Friday. Almost 200 Canadians, including 105 who were left waiting at the Tripoli airport for an earlier plane that was nixed by an insurer on Thursday, found passage aboard other flights and boats. They safely arrived in Britain, Malta, Madrid and Turkey overnight, the source said. When a second charter flight arrived in Tripoli from Amman, Jordan Thursday evening, there were no Canadians or citizens from countries cooperating with Canada on the evacuation at the airport, the source explained. The jetliner was granted only two hours to land, pick up passengers and depart, and so it had to leave with no passengers ….” If this is true as reported, someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do. More on this here, here and here.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Defence Minister manages expectations on what can be done for Libya right now. “Just how far will the world go to stop the bloodshed in Libya? Probably not as far as anti-government demonstrators in the country are calling for, said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. While the United Nations Security Council debates a long list of measures designed to punish and disarm Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the security forces that remain under his command, a number of nations say they are unlikely to order their military forces into the country to keep the peace. The decade-long military slog in Afghanistan and the lukewarm global response to civilians being killed in Sudan’s Darfur region have shown that the UN’s famous Responsibility to Protect doctrine, a policy conceived in Ottawa in response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has “lost it’s lustre,” MacKay said. The lesson, he told a defence conference in Ottawa, was that countries should not “overextend” themselves or “raise expectations that can’t be met.” “I perhaps tend to lean toward practical conservatism when it comes to assessing what Canada can provide to these international missions.” ….”
Speaking of managing expectations, here’s what the PM had to say on the Libyan fracas: “…. I have instructed our officials to prepare a full range of sanctions against the Libyan regime, both in collaboration with our international partners, or unilaterally, if necessary. No options have been ruled out. Canada fully supports the United Nations Security Council on a resolution that could include a weapons embargo, individual sanctions against key Libyan officials and an asset freeze. The Libyan regime must and will be held accountable for its violation of human rights atrocities committed against the Libyan people. Canada also calls for Libya’s immediate suspension from the United Nations Human Rights Council. We are working with our allies and international partners to ensure that this suspension occurs, and will be acted on by the General Assembly. As well, Canada fully supports the Human Rights Council’s decision to dispatch a mission to investigate human rights violations in Libya. Finally, we call on the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court ….”
More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief: Libya), here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
Someone else runs with the “fewer casualties in Afghanistan” story: “Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have reached an important milestone, one that speaks to their recent success in securing territory previously under insurgent control. Yet, it’s also an accomplishment few troops are eager to discuss publicly, as if the very act of acknowledging it might prompt their run of good fortune to end. As of this week, just one Canadian has been killed while on duty in the last six months. That soldier was Cpl. Steve Martin, 24, of St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., who was killed by an improvised explosive device during a foot patrol on Dec. 18 ….” I’m looking forward to CBC.ca sharing this information – please e-mail me a link to any story they may have done along these lines since official stats were released here.
Some highlights from a recent town-hall meeting on Afghanistan near Edmonton. “…. One town hall attendee listed off the number of times Afghanistan has been conquered in its history, then asked Hawn why the “NATO Canadian invasion” would see a different outcome. Hawn said Canada was invited to come into Afghanistan to help, and that’s what he hopes to see happen. “I can’t look at an Afghan child … and say, ‘You don’t deserve a chance,’” he said. “We’re not there to conquer Afghanistan. We’re there to give the Afghan people a chance to build themselves up.” Another person asked why the Afghan government recently awarded a contract to develop mineral resources to Chinese companies when they could “show some gratitude” and award such contracts to Canada or other allied nations instead. Hawn said that he has “no love” for Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the corruption in the current government there, but it is something NATO is working on. “We’ve got to get a grip on Karzai and corruption. … Will we succeed in the end? I don’t know,” he said. “But I know we’re trying very hard to do this.” ….”
“A Canadian who served with U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan is to receive an American bravery medal. Grant Derrick, a duel Canadian-American citizen, will receive the Silver Star on Friday for his part in a 14-hour battle in Hendon village, an isolated community east of Kabul. The former Ottawa man, a member of the U.S. army special forces, was part of a raid in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan last spring. The action saw two commandos killed and three badly wounded. Derrick, a 31-year-old retired staff-sergeant, was a member of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, based in North Carolina. A medic who spent most of his life in Canada until joining the U.S. army in 2003, Derrick is credited with saving the life of an Afghan commando shot in the face as the force swept into a Taliban weapons depot May 4 ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War“A battle of numbers has broken out over the Harper government’s deal to buy the F-35 joint strike fighter jet. Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the country stands to lose up to $1 billion if the purchase of the stealth jets is scrapped, largely because of lost economic benefits in research and development. The loss estimate includes up to $100 million in royalties earmarked for the federal treasury because of Canadian research on the aircraft. Ottawa invested in the development phase and is in line for a cut of export sales to other countries. MacKay underlined that the $9 billion price tag for the initial purchase of 65 F-35s is firm — a number critics say will only increase ….”
More on Canada’s troops chipping away at a problem area in Afghanistan.“It has long been Canada’s problem child in Kandahar. The Panjwaii district has vexed the military brain trust for years. It is the cradle of the Taliban movement, the insurgency’s spiritual heartland. Many Taliban fighters hail from the district’s dominant Noorzai tribe, so the sympathies of villagers do not always lie with foreign forces. It is one of the last three districts of Kandahar still under Canada’s watch. The other districts, Dand and Daman, are relatively stable by comparison — ‘relatively’ being the operative word. So with seven months left on Canada’s combat clock, time is running out to pacify the Panjwaii. Canadian troops are in the midst of a massive effort to do just that ….”
More, via the CF, on the latest road-building work by Canadian and Afghan engineers. “An important achievement of previous rotations was the construction of new roads across Kandahar Province. Today, we continue that initiative with the development of a land link between the eastern portion of Panjwa’i District and its western point, the Horn of Panjwa’i. Our mandate is to build a safe road that is feasible to use all year round ….”
Lotsa work, money to get Canada’s military forces and facilities outta Dodge.“It will cost “lots of hundreds of millions of dollars” to move Canada’s nearly 3,000 soldiers, all their gear and equipment and nearly a decade’s worth of supportive infrastructure out of Kandahar province this year, says the man in charge of preparing for the mammoth undertaking. “It’s like moving a very large village or small town, lock, stock and barrel,” said Lt.-Col. Steve Moritsugu, who is leader of the mission transition and liaison team for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. “We have to clean, repair and pack everything up and move it halfway around the world,” he said. A more precise price tag isn’t available at this stage. Canada hasn’t undertaken such a large-scale military pullout in nearly 60 years. The 1st battalion Royal 22e Regiment battle group has to be out of the fight by July, and most traces of Canada’s military presence in Kandahar must disappear by the end of the year ….”
The Halifax Regional Municipality is going to consider allowing the naming of a new road in honour of the fallen.“The Halifax region could one day have a municipal road named to honour Canada’s fallen military personnel, a city staff report says. In November, a petition was filed with regional council asking it “to name a new collector type road in (metro) Heroes Avenue (or) Street, or Highway of Heroes,” the report says. The report, attached to council’s agenda for their meeting Tuesday, says city hall staff are reviewing the request in accordance with municipal policy. “If the name request meets the criteria laid out in (policy), staff will recommend that . . . council approve Heroes Avenue as a commemorative name,” the report says. “Staff would then begin the process of finding an appropriate street to apply the name.” …. “Here’s the city staff report (PDF) mentioned above.
Still loads o’ work to be done in Afghanistan, according to a 2009 report. “Afghanistan’s women and children continue to live a mainly wretched existence, despite a decade of well-intentioned, international intervention, says a new report obtained by The Canadian Press. Mothers die in childbirth at alarming rates, aspiring female politicians face death threats and most school-age girls never see the inside of a classroom. That portrait emerges from a 2009 Foreign Affairs report, the department’s most recent human-rights audit of the war-torn country. It contrasts sharply with the Harper government’s usual, upbeat talking points on the pace of progress in Afghanistan — particularly the educational gains of girls. With Canada withdrawing combat troops next year in favour of a military training mission, the report underscores the formidable challenges that remain for Afghanistan’s most vulnerable …. “
On day, it won’t be “news” that women can lead men into battle.“Maj. Eleanor Taylor caused quite a stir when she deployed to a remote outpost deep in the Taliban heartland of western Kandahar last spring. When the 34-year-old soldier from Antigonish, N.S., took off her blast goggles and helmet, Afghan elders in Panjwaii were taken aback, meeting the first woman to command a Canadian infantry company in combat. “I would be disingenuous if I did not acknowledge that they were often very surprised,” Taylor said during an exclusive interview with Postmedia News at the end of her seven-month tour. “There was shock on their faces and they would exchange a couple of words among themselves. I know the word for women in Pushto and I heard that word.” ….” Good to see you and your troops are back safe and sound. A photo from CF Combat Camera here.
A returning Mountie shares some of his story of training Afghan border cops.“It’s a wild and bloody 5,000-kilometre stretch that goes from Himalayan-type mountains to Sahara-style deserts and waters wide as the Mississippi River. RCMP Supt. John Brewer has spent the last nine months helping Afghan Border Police secure this perilous, porous border that touches six neighbouring countries. As part of an international NATO team, Brewer has helped locals intercept insurgents and organized criminals running drugs, weapons and explosives along the loosely-defined “front line.” “In peace time, this would be difficult enough. But in times of fighting an insurgency, that of course makes it even more difficult,” Brewer told QMI Agency in an interview from Kabul ….”
The Afghans know what the Taliban are really like. “The man in the white cloak and turquoise striped turban didn’t want to be photographed, and pleaded that his name remain a secret. That’s always a sign around here, but not necessarily a good one. “If you write my name, by the evening my throat will be slit,” the villager with anxious eyes said through an interpreter. A young boy of about 10 stood at his elbow. “Not only me, but they will kill my family. The Taliban know my face.” Just moments earlier, the man had stood shoulder to shoulder with the governor of Panjwaii district in an interview with a western journalist. He’d given his name and offered his support to Haji Baran, who’d come to put the Afghan government’s stamp on this enmeshed little corner of Kandahar province ….”