MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 25 Feb 11

  • Whaddya do when you want to help Canadians GTFO Libya, but the insurance company won’t cover the charter plane you’ve hired go in? Send in the big honkin’ military plane instead! “Canada will send a military cargo plane to evacuate its citizens from Libya, where conditions are becoming more dangerous, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Thursday. The announcement came hours after plans to send a chartered civilian airliner on Thursday to the Libyan capital Tripoli fell through over insurance concerns. Cannon said nearly 200 Canadians had been, or were about to be, evacuated from Libya on planes and ships arranged by other nations. Cannon, speaking to reporters in the Canadian embassy in Rome, said a C-17 military transport plane with 156 seats was on its way to Italy from Germany and would fly to Tripoli as soon as Libyan authorities have permission. He also said a charter plane from Amman would arrive in Tripoli in the early hours of Friday. So far, 213 Canadians have expressed a desire to leave Libya ….” About the bit in red, if this is correct, I really hope a politician is not going to take up a seat in any of the planes flying out of Libya.  To be fair, I’ve also found this for his being there:  “…. Cannon is in Italy to discuss the situation in Libya and the region with his Italian counterpart….” More from CBC.ca here.
  • Other ways outta Libya: “…. Canada’s governor general …. has agreed to keep his aircraft on standby for possible use; he is due to be in Kuwait on Friday. Italy has also offered to welcome any Canadians trapped in Benghazi aboard its navy ships that have authorization to approach Libyan shores, he said. It’s not clear if and when the Italian vessels might arrive ….”
  • Here’s more on how the military does this sort of thing if the effort is cranked up further.
  • At least one observer with Canadian military experience is saying something more needs to be done about Egypt.
  • A Liberal and a Tory senator lay out how Canada can help in Libya. “…. Support from the international community, and Canada especially, should be offered for building Libyan civil society and the national institutions neglected and denied during Gadhafi’s four-decade, one-man rule.  Although the Security Council has expressed “grave concern” and called on Libya “to meet its responsibility to protect its population,” its issuance of a press statement is insufficient to communicate the gravity of the situation that Libyans face -namely, the threat of mass atrocities. Time is literally of the essence …. But strong words must be paired with strong action. Canada and the international community must stand by the people of Libya who, like so many others throughout the Arab world, seek the basic human rights that should be enjoyed by all who desire them. Whereas the protests elsewhere have led to relatively peaceful transitions or to dialogues for reform, Libya’s rulers have chosen repression and slaughter …. We have seen the cost of inaction, delay and obfuscation on innocent populations elsewhere. The Responsibility to Protect is about the world engaging when a civilian population is under attack -either from its own government or because its government lacks the means or will to protect it. Libya is one of the clearest examples yet of just such a circumstance.  Canada has an opportunity to help build a coalition at the UN for rapid engagement. This needs to be a matter of hours and days, not weeks and months.”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The leader of Canada’s last battle group in Afghanistan says his goal to establish a presence in every town and village in Kandahar’s Panjwaii district may not be attainable. Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St-Louis said last month that it was his aim to be present in every Panjwaii community before Canada’s military mission ends in July. But St-Louis says that may have been overly optimistic. Still, he says the Canadian military and Afghan National Security Forces have eroded the insurgency’s freedom of movement in the violent district in recent weeks ….”
  • Taking a trick out of the Taliban’s play book to reassure Afghans. “The letter opens with a greeting seemingly ripped from a fairy tale: “Brothers and sisters, sleep soundly.” Beginning this week, Afghans in Kandahar province will wake up to those warm words posted on their front doors. The Canadian military is borrowing a Taliban tactic to counter the insurgency’s message, coming up with night letters of its own to be distributed in select communities in the Panjwaii district, where most of Canada’s battle group is based. The letter, written in Pashto, is an attempt to reassure locals that the Afghan National Security Forces are patrolling their villages at night. It also encourages them to report suspected insurgent activity, such as the planting of improvised explosive devices or stashing of weapons, and provides phone numbers where people can offer tips while maintaining their anonymity ….” More on the Taliban’s use of night letters here and here.
  • Poochie story o’ the week: “The Canadian Army has been employing sniffer dogs to detect mines and improvised explosive devices (IED) not only along routes, but also in buildings and vehicles. “We work with canine teams nearly every day, and the dogs form an integral part of our teams and sections,” explained Sergeant Alexandre Murgia, commander of a combat-engineer section of the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group (1 R22eR BG) ….”
  • 23 Feb 11: The head of Canada’s public service gives a Twitter atta boy to civil servants working in Afghanistan. 11 Jan 11: The date of the speech by the head of Canada’s public service in Afghanistan, giving them an atta boy about working in Afghanistan. The good news: good to see government using social media. The bad news: a bit more immediacy (something less than 6 weeks) would keep this sort of thing more timely.
  • Oopsie…. “The cost to refit one of Canada’s trouble-plagued submarines is skyrocketing, according to documents obtained under an access to information request by CBC News. In the year 2010 alone, the Canadian navy spent $45 million on repairs to HMCS Windsor. It had budgeted to spend just $17 million, the documents show. It appears that every system on the British-built submarine has major problems, according to the documents, including bad welds in the hull, broken torpedo tubes, a faulty rudder and tiles on the side of the sub that continually fall off ….” Broken record:  any links to the access to information documents obtained?  Nope (again).
  • Tracking down the identity of REALLY “old” soldiers. “The Honourable Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, announced today that Department of National Defence has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Avion, France, in 2003, as those of Private Thomas Lawless of Calgary, Alberta …. In October 2003, two sets of human remains were found at a construction site south of Avion, France, in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Over a period of six years, the Casualty Identification section of the Directorate of History and Heritage, sought the identity of the soldiers …. The first soldier was identified, in February 2007, as Private Herbert Peterson of Berry Creek, Alberta. Through continued genetic testing using inherited genetic material through the maternal line (mitochondrial DNA), osteology, facial reconstruction, military history and finally, stable isotopes – the second soldier was identified as Private Thomas Lawless on January 10, 2011. Veterans Affairs Canada has made contact with the members of Private Lawless’ family and will provide on-going support to the family as arrangements are made and carried out for the final interment ….” More on how this sort of thing is done.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Attacks alleged in Kandahar, and the Taliban like what the Washington Post has to say.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 17 Dec 10

  • As Christmas gets closer, the Canadian NORAD Region has put the finishing touches on plans to track and escort Santa Claus when he visits Canada, and has selected four CF-18 fighter pilots who will act as Santa’s official escorts. 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sylvain Ménard, and Major Eric Haas, an exchange officer from the United States Air Force, will launch from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., to welcome Santa as the sleigh approaches Canadian airspace. 409 Squadron Commander, Lt.-Col. Eric Kenny, and Captain Chad Ireland of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., will take over the escort duties as Santa makes his way into Western Canada. Special NORAD SantaCams, positioned around the world, will take photos and video of Santa and his sleigh as he journeys around the world. The SantaCams instantly download the photo and video imagery so that it may be viewed by children worldwide on the NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, on December 24. All of this information will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese ….” Let’s hope these pilots are nicer than the ones we see here (YouTube video).
  • In related news, Air Canada jumps aboard the “NORAD Tracking Santa” bandwagon, too“…. The NORAD Tracks Santa program has grown immensely since it was first brought onto the Internet in 1998 and Air Canada is NORAD Tracks Santa’s newest partner. Air Canada has been playing the NORAD Tracks Santa promotional video on all of their flights since the beginning of December, as well as displaying a NORAD racks Santa promotional page in all of their in-flight magazines ….” One hopes Santa gets better service than some we hear flying with Air Canada.
  • If you believe Angus Reid’s latest poll, a lot of Canadians don’t seem happy with Canada’s new task in Afghanistan. “While just over a third of Canadians support the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, the decision to keep 950 soldiers in a strictly non-combat role after 2011 has split views across the country, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.  In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,023 Canadian adults, more than half of respondents (56%, +1) oppose the military operation involving Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, while just over a third (36%, +1) support the mission. Strong opposition to the war remains highest in Quebec (48%) while Albertans (19%) and Atlantic Canadians (18%) are more likely to strongly support the mission …. Methodology: From December 3 to December 6, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,023 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.” More details here (13 pg. PDF).  Then again, depending on how you read it, a slim majority of Canadians are OK with the mission, too – more from the Globe & Mail.
  • The only Wikileaks story I’m going to share is right here.  What a shock!  Canadian officials met to talk about possible harm caused by Wikileaks revelations! Concerns over a cache of WikiLeaks documents on the war in Afghanistan prompted Canadian military and intelligence officials to hold two secret summer damage assessments. The concerted effort to sift through and analyze the 91,000 classified U.S. military logs reveals how seriously the Harper government took the unprecedented late July leak about coalition operations in the bloody, long-running war. The Privy Council Office’s Afghan Task Force met July 29 to “review and assess the impact of the leaked documents” on Canadian government programs related to Afghanistan, newly declassified memos say. Officials from the PCO, the government’s bureaucratic nerve centre, Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Public Safety and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service gathered in an Ottawa boardroom to discuss what each “has been doing, intends to do and their assessment to date” regarding the leaked documents. The Canadian Press obtained CSIS minutes of the meetings, originally classified secret, under the Access to Information Act. Portions of the memos were withheld from release ….” Dear Canadian Press:  Any chance of being able to share these memos with the public?
  • So, the U.S. President has released some details of the administration’s latest assessment of the fight in Afghanistan.  Is it good news Mixed news Bad news? Hell, even the Taliban’s commented on it already (links to Scribd.com).  You be the judge – here’s the summary released yesterday.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan & Zabul.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Research into better decision making, another try at armoured vehicle pre-bids and (misspelled) swords.