Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Dewar News Highlights – 24 Sept 11

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  • Libya Mission  Motion tabled in House of Commons for Monday vote on on three month mission extension – another motion condemns the bad guys and supports the troops hereMedia version here, here and here.
  • MCPL Nicole Stacey, R.I.P. “Soldiers and members of the Army reserve community across Alberta and Yellowknife are grieving the loss of a much loved member of 41 Canadian Brigade Group who died suddenly in the tragic aircraft accident which occurred in Yellowknife on September 22nd, 2011. Master Corporal Nicole Stacey served most recently with the Yellowknife Company (C Company Loyal Edmonton Regiment), a unit within 41 Canadian Brigade Group ….” – downloadable PDF of statement here, condolence thread at here and media coverage (via Google News) here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Recent Canadian firefight in Kabul comes up in Question Period“Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, today, Canadians learned that our military trainers in Afghanistan were involved in active combat last week when a NATO compound in Kabul came under attack. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence repeatedly told Canadians that this would be a non-combat mission. Clearly, that is not the case. This training mission is a combat mission that continues to put Canadian troops at risk. Will the government now acknowledge that there is no non-combat military role in a war?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the combat mission in Afghanistan has now come to an end. We have transitioned to training. That training is taking place in and around Kabul. However, I do not think the member is naive enough to suggest that Canadian Forces are not going to protect themselves when in a volatile city like Kabul. They will return fire and protect themselves. That is what happened in this instance. The member and Canadians would expect no less ….”  Reminder to Mr. Dewar:  I guess you missed the PM’s warnings from April of this year here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  A senior member of the military says the Afghan army is well on the road to self-sufficiency thanks in part to Canada’s newly established training mission in Kabul.  But the upbeat assessment from Brig.-Gen. Craig King stands in contrast to a warning from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which said in a report earlier this week that allied nations have no plan in place to sustain Afghan troops and cops once they’re trained.  King, who sits on the military’s strategic joint staff, appeared before a House of Commons committee Thursday, where he faced a number of questions about how sustainable both the military and political situation is in Afghanistan.  “We have made some real, significant, systemic institutional progress to get them to the point where (Afghan security forces) will be self-sufficient,” said King, who served nine months at NATO’s southern Afghan headquarters in Kandahar.  But Matthew Kellway, an Ontario New Democrat MP, said the army being raised in Afghanistan far exceeds the country’s ability to support it.  “Afghanistan itself will not be able to take over funding the military and security forces that we’re attempting to build here,” he said. “So, is this financially sustainable?”  The U.S. study, released Tuesday, shows the U.S. paid 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s security bills between 2006 and 2010. According the stark review, Washington covered 62 per cent of the Karzai government’s overall $14-billion annual budget, other donors picked up 28 per cent of the tab ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1)  This from Question Period yesterday“Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, whether it is a tony royal gazebo, fake lakes, G20 spending or now fishing trips on search and rescue aircraft, the government’s ministers think taxpayers’ money is their personal reserve. No one is buying the defence minister’s excuse that his lift from a fishing camp was a preplanned training demo. Training demonstrations are day-long exercises. Could the minister confirm that his office overrode the local base, which initially denied his demand for vital rescue equipment to give him a lift to the airport?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, I was on a trip to the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a trip I paid for myself. As a result of pressing government business, I was called back from that vacation. I left the vacation early to come back to work. As the member might know, the government has reduced the use of government aircraft by over 80%. We take the use of government aircraft very seriously. It is used for government business. That is the line we will follow ….”  More from Question Period here, and the media here, here and here.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  This from the National Citizens Coalition (the group the PM used to be president of):  “With new information surfacing about Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s misuse of public funds for personal transportation, the federal government has a lot to answer for. Minister MacKay’s recent use of a military search-and-rescue helicopter for transportation following a holiday carried a price-tag of nearly $32,000 for less than an hour of flying time. “Let’s be clear,” says Peter Coleman, President and CEO of the National Citizens Coalition, “we are not talking about taxi receipts here – this is exactly the kind of wasteful spending this government has promised to eliminate.” ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  This editorial from the National Post“…. Minister MacKay has been a strong champion of Canada’s military, and is understandably popular among the troops. Canada’s military will need such a strong, passionate champion in the lean years ahead. Mr. MacKay owes it to himself, the troops and the Prime Minister to avoid any further acts that give others fair cause to question his judgment and commitment to living within his government’s limited means.”
  • Calgary Stampede board member backs CDS’s fly-in work appearances at the Stampede.
  • More media regurgitation of the same flight logs.  The majority of flights on the government-owned Challenger jets in the month of June were taken by defence officials who could have used commercial aircraft, according to documents obtained by CBC News ….”
  • This columnist asks a very different question on the CDS-Challenger non-fracas:  “…. Natynczyk says the Challengers are often being flown empty on training flights that are needed for to maintain the certification of the aircraft and pilots. That being the case, he argues he is only making use of flights that would have taken place anyway, but without a meaningful destination. After all, the added costs of actually using the jets, after deducting the fixed costs of ownership, is reported to be only about $2,600 an hour, a pittance compared to the $2.4 million an hour we spend on the armed forces that Natynczyk leads. Yet here’s my question. Why are we looking for make-work projects for such expensive aircraft? Three are equipped for medical flights. Why don’t we sell them if there isn’t enough cost-effective work? ….”  Along the same lines:  “…. Perhaps the key is not to expand the VIP list but the VIT (very important task) list.  Three of the fleet of six Challengers are occasionally used for medevacs. What other secondary roles might they be able to perform that could be of value to ordinary Canadians or Armed Forces members with important needs — subject, of course, to the planes’ availability?”
  • The Defence Department says HMCS Chicoutimi will be ready for action by 2013 but a former crew member who was on the sub the day it caught fire seven years ago believes it will never sail again. In an email Tuesday, a department official said Chicoutimi began a refit in July 2010 and work is expected to be finished by late next year. Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, the head of Maritime Command, welcomed the news on Wednesday. “We are looking forward to getting Chicoutimi back to sea where she is needed,” he said in a separate email.  But a former submariner, who had to leave the navy because of health complications from the 2004 Chicoutimi fire, laughed at the idea the submarine would be ready for 2013. Chicoutimi has been cannibalized,” said the man, who did not want his name used because he still has friends in the navy …. “Chicoutimi will be nothing more than a harbour training sub,” the former crew member predicted.  Still, the sub’s former skipper, Cmdr. Luc Pelletier, is more optimistic about Chicoutimi’s future. “It will be a significant milestone for me personally and for many, I am certain, when Chicoutimi returns to the operational fleet,” Pelletier said. “A lot of effort, dedication and sacrifice was made by the initial Canadian crew during her U.K. reactivation and repatriation to Canada. So her return to the fleet means our plight was not in vain and Chicoutimi can now shape her future in the defence and security of Canada.” Pelletier’s response was emailed to The Chronicle Herald by a Defence Department spokeswoman ….”
  • Way Up North  “Just days after Gen. Walt Natynczyk, Canada’s chief of defence staff, left Moscow after meeting his counterpart last weekend, a Russian official announced that the country would be increasing its Arctic military presence, a move that could increase tensions in the resource-rich area. Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted this week by the Interfax news agency as saying his country would be beefing up its presence in the Arctic, and that NATO was not welcome there ….”  In case this looks familiar, check bullet # 13 here from Tuesday’s summary.
  • Commander of Canada Command, Lieutenant General Walter Semianiw speaks to Washington D.C. university think tank – highlights of his speech via Twitter here (PDF of Twitter feed of speech also downloadable here if link doesn’t work)..
  • Canada, UK issue “Joint Declaration” – here’s some of the security bits:  “…. We will continue to work with Afghan and international partners to help build a more viable country that is better governed, more stable and secure, and never again a safe haven for terrorists. Through the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), regional diplomacy, and development assistance, we are working to help enable the transition of security in Afghanistan to the ANSF by the end of 2014. We will create greater interoperability between our defence forces and deepen cooperation on procurement and capabilities, to be enabled in part by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Material Cooperation, existing MoUs and the “Partners in Defence” dialogue, which will draw on the lessons of current and recent national and NATO-led operations. We will strengthen our counter-terrorism collaboration, in particular in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and South Asia, including our efforts to tackle terrorist finance activity in third countries ….”
Advertisements News Highlights – 9 Aug 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  The consensus around Canada’s military deployment in Libya looks set to unravel next month, unless there is a resolution on the ground. In late June, the NDP supported a three-and-a-half month extension to Canada’s involvement in the UN-sponsored mission in Libya. But Paul Dewar, the party’s foreign affairs critic, said he would like to see an end to the military mission when the current parliamentary mandate runs out on Sept. 27. “Come the end of the timeline we’ve set in Parliament, I think it’s time to say that’s enough on the military equation for Canada, and that we need to put our focus on the diplomatic and political side, as other countries have done. Norway has just finished its commitment. Canada should be there until September, then we should say we’ve done our bit,” he said …. ”  More on the NDP’s GTFO Libya desires here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  It’s not up to anyone outside Libya to decide what happens to dictator Moammar Gadhafi if he’s forced from power, Canada’s ambassador to the country said Monday. Sandra McCardell, ambassador to Libya, says it’s Canada’s position, as well as that of NATO, that Gadhafi must go. But what happens next is up to Libyans, she told MPs at a briefing to the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. “What transition follows is for the Libyan people to determine. It’s their country and they’re responsible for developing a transitional government,” she said. “It will be up to them to determine their future.” Pushed on the question, McCardell said, “There’s no support for impunity” for Gadhafi, but the terms of an eventual peace settlement will come from the two sides on the ground. “I don’t believe the Libyan people … have any interest in returning [to the system under Gadhafi],” she said ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  “Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement: “Canada declares all remaining diplomats at the Libyan embassy in Ottawa personae non gratae, effective immediately. This is the latest step Canada has taken to isolate and delegitimize the Qadhafi regime. “These people now have five business days to vacate the embassy and leave the country. “As part of this declaration, we are also cutting off these diplomats’ access to the embassy’s bank accounts.” “
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  Taliban making hay over downing of Chinook full o’ special forces troops.
  • With three of its four submarines undergoing expensive and delayed repairs, Canada’s role under the waves is the subject of renewed controversy. “We keep hearing from (the Defence Department) that the subs are OK, that they’re gonna be fine, but we’ve been hearing this for 10 years,” said NDP defence critic Peter Stoffer on Monday. “Whoever kicked the tires on these didn’t do a good job, and this is taking money away from other aspects and operations of (the Defence Department).” Canada bought its fleet of four Victoria-class submarines second-hand from Britain in 1998 for $851 million to replace its aging fleet of Oberon-class submarines. Stoffer said that “it seemed like an excellent deal” at the time to increase the navy’s capabilities but subsequent repairs have meant the submarines have spent little time operating ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Wanted:  someone to determine the latest formula for Post Living Differential allowance and study CFB Suffield’s ecosystem.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Why is it so hard to find someone to run & maintain CFS Alert?  Maybe this time will be more successful than these other times.
  • Way Up North (1)  GG dropping by Canada’s Arctic“Governor General David Johnston will make his first official visit to Nunavut on Aug. 15. Johnston and his wife Sharon will visit Iqaluit, Qikiqtarjuaq, Repulse Bay, Kugaaruk and Resolute Bay between Aug. 15-21, said a Rideau Hall news release. “As a vital part of our collective history, there is much we can learn from the Inuit culture,” Johnston said in a statement ….”  More in the GG’s statement here.
  • Way Up North (2)  Canada will lose out to Russia’s Arctic shipping routes because it is too small to finance the infrastructure, France’s ambassador for the polar regions said Monday. Melting polar ice will make Canada’s Northwest Passage more accessible in the next decades, but Canada does not seem interested in exploiting it for shipping, said Michel Rocard, who recently returned from a tour of the Arctic aboard the Canadian icebreaker Amundsen. “I have the impression that Canada has given up on the competition to attract a large part of the traffic in 25 or 30 years,” Rocard said. The former French prime minister said Canada is “too small to finance itself the infrastructure” needed to spur commercial shipping through its Northwest Passage — a shorter route between European and Asian markets than the Suez and Panama canals ….”
  • Way Up North (3)  “It’s taken 15 years and nearly a half a billion dollars, but the curtain is beginning to come down on one of Canada’s largest environmental cleanup projects. By the end of the summer, cleanup at 19 of 21 abandoned Distant Early Warning Line radar sites across the North will have been completed, according to the Department of National Defence ….”
  • PTSD:  it’s not just about soldiers“Diagnoses of an affliction once met with only stoicism and stigma within Canada’s national police force have skyrocketed as commanders encourage officers to seek treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. More than 1,700 Mounties have been diagnosed with PTSD, with nearly 300 officers joining the ranks last year alone. Within police circles, the RCMP’s new-found determination to tackle the disorder has quietly raised questions for policy makers at all levels of government. What can be done to better shield police from trauma? How should panels assess claims for taxpayer-funded compensation? And if police PTSD is truly pervasive, why are other police forces apparently doing relatively little about it? ….” News Highlights – 20 Nov 10

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  • News flash:  the U.S. Marines are sending tanks to southwestern Afghanistan Guess where the idea (may) have come from? “…. U.S. commanders have called on the tanks of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) to assist them during key combat operations against the Taliban including during a recent offensive. The German-built Leopards have also provided frequent fire support for American troops from within a base in Panjwaii District that overlooks Zhari District. Even before the decision by the Marines, the U.S. army was taking “a hard look at bringing them (tanks) over,” to Kandahar when Canada’s combat forces are withdrawn next summer, because of the successes that the Strathconas have had with them here, said Brig.-Gen. Frederick Hodges, who ran the war in Regional Command South until this month and now heads the Afghanistan Pakistan Co-ordination Centre for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington ….”
  • Survey Says “Let’s Stay to Train (But Parliament Should Vote on the Mission)” (news release also here if link above doesn’t work): “As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay meet with their NATO counterparts to discuss the future of Allied efforts in Afghanistan, a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global Television shows that a majority (53%) of Canadians back the decision to have some Canadian Forces remain in Afghanistan strictly to train soldiers until 2014 but it comes with a caveat: a bigger majority (61%) believe that “there should be a vote in Parliament to determine whether Canadian Forces should stay in Afghanistan past 2011, even if it is for a training mission” thus echoing the demand of NDP Leader Jack Layton to do so …. These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Postmedia News and Global Television from November 16-18, 2010. For the survey, a representative randomly-selected sample of 1,002 adult Canadians was interviewed by telephone. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population of Canada been polled. ….” More from Global News here.
  • So, how much is this new Canadian mission in Afghanistan going to cost?  Good question, says the NDP“The NDP wants Parliament’s budget watchdog to calculate the true cost of extending Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.  NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says he’s asked Kevin Page to clarify the price tag of the three-year extension because he doesn’t trust the conflicting estimates offered by the Harper government so far.  Defence Minister Peter MacKay initially said it would cost up to $500 million per year to keep 950 military personnel in Afghanistan on a training mission until 2014, three years beyond the previously scheduled July 2011 end date for the combat mission.  International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda then added another $300 million over three years in development assistance, bringing the total annual tab to $600 million.  However, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon subsequently emailed reporters to clarify that the extension will cost an estimated $700 million annually over three years and that “final costs will not be known until after 2014.” ….”
  • But at least NATO’s grateful, right? “Canada was praised for its “absolutely essential” commitment of military trainers in Afghanistan as a NATO summit opened Friday to chart the military alliance’s post-combat partnership with the war-worn country.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen personally thanked Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the leaders of 28 member countries gathered at Lisbon’s giant bayside EXPO centre, arriving in pouring rain under gloomy skies ….”
  • Some good news from a recent survey out of Afghanistan? “New field research shows some improvement in negative perceptions of the international presence in southern Afghanistan” The bad news? “92% of respondents in the south were unaware of 9/11 events”
  • Now that Canada’s hemmed,. hawed and decided to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2014, guess what? “International troops will be needed past 2014 in a non-combat training role in Afghanistan, the NATO chief said Friday, creating a potential new political headache for the Harper government.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed that view on the opening day of the NATO summit in Lisbon …. Rasmussen said it was “realistic” for NATO-led forces to successfully hand over security duties to the Afghans by the end of 2014 as hoped for by the alliance and its partner in Kabul.  “But let me stress that I foresee presence of international troops also after 2014 but not in a combat role, in a more supportive, including training and education of Afghan security forces,” Rasmussen said….”
  • Here’s hoping for a quick recovery: A military clearance diver was taken to hospital in Halifax on Thursday after he became unconscious while diving off HMCS St. John’s, said a military public affairs spokesman. The member of Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic was conducting regular dives off the ship into Halifax Harbour, when his supervisor noted that he was unresponsive in the water, Mike Bonin said. His supervisor recovered him and called an ambulance, Bonin said. The diver regained consciousness shortly after he was taken from the water and was in hospital for observation, said the spokesman.”
  • Remember murder-rapist Russell Williams’ uniforms and kit being burned Apparently, his days left in the military are numbered as well.
  • WHAT’S CANADA BUYING? Improving Blood Testing for Diver Problems
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar and Uruzgan and they claim to have shot down a helicopter in Helmand, too. News Highlights – 15 Nov 10

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  • If you’re a soldier in Petawawa, it may get harder to get counselling for you or your family. This, from the Canadian Press“Hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa who sought counselling at a nearby hospital in eastern Ontario must get help elsewhere.  The Pembroke Regional Hospital says it can no longer afford the adult outpatient service that saw more than 400 soldiers a year seeking treatment outside the military health system.  Individual counselling has been dramatically scaled back with the retirement this year of four social workers who are not being replaced. Marital sessions are no longer offered.  Soldiers had received free counselling for anger, stress, depression and relationship problems ….”
  • Canada’s buying lotsa real estate – in Afghanistan. This, from Postmedia News“Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs has bought millions of dollars worth of land and property in Afghanistan over the past two years, contributing to a 410% increase in its spending on real estate and capital works since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power.  Foreign Affairs spent $24.5 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year on real estate or renovations in Afghanistan — nearly one third of the $85.3 million the department spent on diplomatic digs around the world. It spent another $1.5 million in neighbouring Pakistan …. Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic, said money would be better spent on programs than real estate at the moment.  “Everyone knows the costs in Kabul. The price of land is similar to Manhattan right now in terms of buying real estate there …. Why would you buy in a market that is incredibly inflated right now because of what some people call the UN gold rush?” ….”
  • Guess what the chatter o’ the day on Parliament Hill’s going to be today? Canada’s role in Afghanistan is expected to be high on the agenda as Parliament resumes sitting on Monday, even though NATO has yet to announce firm plans on troop levels and what exactly it wants from Canadian forces ….  While the Liberals appear to be onside with the government, the NDP and Bloc are not ….”
  • One Canadian officer in Afghanistan, speaking to Postmedia News,  has an interesting perspective on what Afghan security forces should be learning: “Col. Paul Scagnetti’s small unit at the Afghan Army Command and Staff College has already been doing for 18 months what the Harper government is about to order hundreds of soldiers to do after Canadian combat operations cease in Kandahar next summer: train Afghans to bring security to their country.  “If Canadians want bang for their dollars, this is it,” he said.  “Every soldier wants to be on a combat mission, but if they have to do something else, training is actually more important,” said Scagnetti, who was a high school teacher in Timmins, Ont., for 31 years and who has been an army reservist for almost as long.  “In the long-term, this (training) is an enabler for peace, because you end up with an Afghan teaching an Afghan, who brings security to other Afghans. And there is now a generation of Canadians with combat experience with lessons to pass on.” ….”
  • Another idea for a Canadian role in Afghanistan, according to Postmedia News, is protecting women’s rights “Championing the emancipation of Afghan women is emerging as a possible non-military, post-combat role for Canada as politicians and activists debate the future of the costly mission in Afghanistan …. Ottawa has yet to unveil its full strategy for Afghanistan once combat troops pull out of restive Kandahar in July 2011 but, on Monday, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights will begin hearing from experts on what role Canada might play in supporting the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the war-torn country ….” More on the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights here.
  • Yet another idea for an alternative future mission, courtesy of Scott Taylor at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald“….Harper could have announced the establishment of a vocational school staffed by a corps of well-remunerated recruits from the Afghan-Canadian diaspora. Without a linguistic barrier and no religious or cultural chasms to bridge, these instructors could quickly mentor thousands of students to literacy and competency within a variety of essential trades.  In other words, Afghan-Canadians would teach Afghans how to construct and maintain the basic infrastructure necessary to improve the day-to-day lives of other Afghans.  Instead, we will be sending thousands more Canadian soldiers to teach young Afghan men how to fight.”
  • According to the Canadian Press, A new report, partly funded by the Foreign Affairs Department, says western nations have misunderstood the war aims of the Taliban and it cautions any potential peace deal with them could be a threat to human rights …. The report suggests many insurgent fighters have taken up arms in retaliation for perceived military aggression by NATO — a sentiment echoed Sunday when the Afghan president asked western armies to restrain their operations ….” You can find the report, “Dangerous Liaisons with the Afghan Taliban:  The Feasibility and Risks of Negotiations,” as well as an executive summary, here.
  • Blog Watch: Mark Collins on “Since When Does the PM Alone Have the Power to Make Military Mission Decisions?”
  • Also from Mark, a reminder that training can, indeed, happen without trainers facing combat.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost two dozen U.S., AFG troops alleged killed in attacks in Kandahar