- Afghanistan Canadian flag coming down from over Kandahar Airfield – more here (photos from the CF Info-Machine), here and here.
- One blogger’s view of “Libya vs. Afghanistan” ceremonies: “…. After decades of Liberal governments treating the military like high-grade bathroom attendants, the Harper Tories have moved in the opposite direction. Now even a light bombing campaign is worthy of celebration. Oddly the Afghan mission has not yet rated such a grand ceremony. The cynical might suggest this has something to do with our efforts in Afghanistan being unpopular ….” (h/t to Mark for pointing to this one)
- “The Canadian Forces is slowing its pace of recruitment after the Afghanistan mission, because of a lower turnover and a troubled economy. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson said the military’s regular force strength is now in “very healthy” shape at about 68,000 members. Attrition is also down — with economic uncertainty and excitement for the job likely factors — which can make matching desired targets tricky. “That’s a very tough machine to manage,” Donaldson told the national defence committee Thursday. “But we have not stopped recruiting. In fact, we continue to recruit, because you need to keep the machine oiled and to keep new blood coming through, but fewer than before.” The Canadian Forces is now focused on finding people with specialties and technical trades, and providing spots for reservists who served in Afghanistan and want to switch to regular forces ….”
- The CF’s Top Doc Commodore Hans Jung on waiting times for troops to get psychological counseling: “…. The timing for an initial specialist mental-health-care appointment depends on whether a case is emergent, urgent or routine. In emergency situations, patients are accommodated the same day through the base clinic or civilian emergency care. If a case is urgent, the patient is seen within two weeks. And if the case is routine, the target is for the patient to see a specialist within 30 days ….”
- Remember the Minister needing a helicopter ride from a lodge to another engagement? Well, some e-mails seem to suggest the chopper ride may have been more…. requested by the Minister than offered by the CF (well done to the Toronto Star for sharing the e-mails in question (PDF), obtained via an Access to Information Act request). One officer’s e-mail is intriguingly prescient: “…. The request from MacKay’s office went out to senior air force officials on Tuesday July 6 at 8:49 a.m. It took just a few hours for then-Col. Bruce Ploughman, director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre in Winnipeg, to raise a red flag. “So, when the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minister getting on board and post it on Youtube (sic), who will be answering the mail on that one,” he wrote to colleagues in Ottawa and Winnipeg. “If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply,” Ploughman continued. “Given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it.” ….” More from CBC.ca, the Globe & Mail and Postmedia News (they haven’t shared their obtained documents yet). Here’s the back-and-forth during yesterday’s Question Period in the House of Commons.
- If you believe this historian and this web page, Canada may be working with other NATO and Middle Eastern countries to at least discuss “humanitarian corridors” in strife-filled Syria. “…. Monday, Nov. 28, debkafile reported a group of military officers from NATO and Persian Gulf nations had quietly established a mixed operational command at Iskenderun in the Turkish Hatay province on the border of North Syria: Hailing from the United States, France, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Turkish officers providing liaison, they do not represent NATO but are self-designated “monitors.” Their mission is to set up “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria to serve the victims of Bashar Assad’s crackdown. Commanded by ground, naval, air force and engineering officers, the task force aims to move into most of northern Syria. Laying the groundwork for the legitimacy of the combined NATO-Arab intervention in Syria, the UN Independent International Commission set up to assess the situation in Syria published a horrendous report Monday, Nov. 28 on the Assad regime’s brutalities. It documented “gross violations of human rights” and “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” ….” Caveat lector.
- F-35 Tug o’ War: More on the pricetag. “The federal government is under attack again over the true costs of buying stealth fighter jets for the air force. “Apparently the Norwegians are getting 52 F-35s for $10 billion while we’re getting 65 for $9 billion,” said Liberal MP Frank Valeriote in a Thursday defence committee meeting, citing comments from Norway’s defence minister in November. Asking Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino to explain the discrepancy, Valeriote raised anew the possibility that the government has lowballed the estimated purchase price. “I too spoke with the secretary of defence of Norway and they’re into a different kind of a world in Europe, requiring different armaments and so forth to what we are, in fact, looking at,” said Fantino. “It’s very difficult to compare dollar for dollar, but at some point in time we’ll be able to speak all these issues more fully.” ….” More here, here and a bit more (from the archives) from Mark Collins.
- What’s Canada Buying? “You might call it good blood money. Defence departments in Canada and the U.S. are jointly funding a scientific study to examine the optimal ratio for plasma and platelet to red blood cells. Work will be carried out by the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, which includes health research organizations from both sides of the border that conduct clinical research in areas of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and traumatic injury. Canada will contribute $220,000 to the study, which Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson believes is critical to the troops Canada sends into harm’s way. “We’re funding it to keep people alive,” he said Thursday during an appearance at the defence committee. “Loss of blood is the greatest risk of death to the wounded soldiers on the battlefield, so it’s very much in our interests to tend to our people, to fund research in different ways of replacing blood, and stopping bleeding.” ….”
- “A Korean War veteran living in Regina is disappointed after someone spray painted obscene graffiti on the east side of the cenotaph in Victoria Park. Ken Garbutt says the people who did it are “idiots” and the act is sacrilegious. The City of Regina has since cleaned it up, but Garbutt is not impressed. “Our cemetery, the U.N. cemetery, is in Busan (City, South Korea) and you never hear of anything of this nature. They are kept in the best shape possible,” said Garbutt. Garbutt maintains there should be stiffer penalties for people who deface war memorials ….” Veterans Affairs Minister agrees this is not good. Tory MP from Saskatchewan says he’s glad to see federal government supporting new law to impose harsher penalties against those who do this sort of thing.
- A bit of mainstream media coverage of the proposed “opt out of paying for the military” Private Members Bill (now including proposed text (PDF) of the bill) making its way through the Parliamentary sausage machine. A fair bit of wide-ranging discussion and option consideration, as well, over at Army.ca. Caveat: These bills have VERY little chance of passing without government party support.
- That time of year again: NORAD’s Santa Tracking web page – www.noradsanta.org – is good to go.
- Afghanistan (1) The latest quarterly report is out, this time tabled by the Defence Minister in the House of Commons (unlike the past few released by either the Foreign Affairs Minister or others) – more from media here.
- Afghanistan (2) Another Canadian unit packs it in at Kandahar Airfield (via CF Info-Machine, only 8 days after the ceremony)
- Afghanistan (3a) Toronto Star continues pressing story of Afghan interpreter rejected for “fast-track move to Canada” program. “An Afghan interpreter turned away from Canada says he has been hunted by insurgents on motorcycles because of his work with the Canadian military. Sayed Shah Sharifi disputes the accounts of Canadian officials who have played down the threat he faces for aiding allied forces in Kandahar. Indeed, Sharifi, 23, says he was forced to move his family out of Kandahar for more than two months last year for safety after motorcycle-borne insurgents left a chilling warning with his father. “Your son works with the Canadian Forces and we will kill him,” Sharifi recalled Wednesday in a telephone interview with the Star ….”
- Afghanistan (3b) TorStar back stops coverage with letters.
- Afghanistan (4) Rabble.ca columnist complains about CBC call-in show featuring anti-Taliban writer Terry Glavin. I’m still waiting to hear if the columnist even tried to call in.
- Libya Columnist shares kudos for Canadian mission commander as preparations continue for today’s “well done on the mission” parade at Parliament Hill.
- Let’s not forget we have troops in Darfur, too – more on Operation Saturn here.
- Mark Collins: “Canadian Defence Spending–Less There Than Proclaimed”
- Armenian media reports Canadians (military and/or civilian staff) helping NATO help Armenia. “The NATO-sponsored international expert group is in the Armenian capital Yerevan, from Wednesday to Saturday, within the framework of assistance to Armenia’s reforms in military education. The group comprises military and civil representatives from US, Canada, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland, and NATO ….”
- What’s Canada Buying? Wanted: someone to design and build “Infrastructure for Tactical Control Radar Modernization, Primrose, AB”
- F-35 Tug o’ War “The Conservative government insists all of its new F-35 jets will arrive with the hardware needed to talk to ground troops and prevent friendly fire, but some will still need upgrades to make it work. Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino said the stealth jets will be ready to do whatever the government asks, when it asks. “All of Canada’s F-35s will not only be capable of operating overseas the moment we get them, but be able to communicate with aircraft and know where friendly ground units are well in advance of deployment on operations,” Fantino said under questioning in the House of Commons ….” More from yesterday’s exchange in the House of Commons here.
- Canadian plane engine company STILL gets some business from an American buy. “An unusual turn of events on a U.S. military procurement contract has lightly side-swiped three of Quebec’s largest aerospace firms. Wichita-based aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft Corp. was excluded without explanation last week from a competition to supply 20 AT-6 Texan II light-attack and training planes to the Afghan air force. Its four main suppliers on the bid to the U.S. air force – which would then turn the aircraft over to the Afghan forces – were all Canadian: Longueuil’s Pratt & Whitney Canada for the PT6A-68D 1,600-horsepower engine, St. Laurent’s CAE Inc. for the crew training, St. Laurent’s CMC Esterline for the flight management system, as well as Burling-ton, Ont.-based L-3 Wescam, which was to provide day-light sensors, infrared cameras with zoom and various lasers. The elimination of Hawker Beechcraft apparently makes a winner of the Super Tucano trainer and light-attack aircraft produced by Brazil’s Embraer, the only other bidder for the contract. Matthew Perra, spokes-person for Pratt & Whitney Canada, said by email that “as with any competition there was some investment made, but this amount is not material to P&W Canada.” But it does not signify a loss for Pratt & Whitney Canada – it also supplies the same engine for Embraer’s Super Tucano ….”
- My favourite bit from this piece from CBC.ca on monitoring efforts during the G8/G20: “…. (an undercover police officer) told the court about how he attended a meeting prior to the Toronto summit. There, a protest-planning group that included several of the 17 main G20 defendants was discussing whether to lend their support to a First Nations rally. Adam Lewis, one of the 17 accused conspirators in the G20 case, interjected, “Kill whitey!” The group chuckled. Lewis, like all but one of his co-accused, is white. When a Crown lawyer asked the officer what he thought Lewis meant, Showan said in complete seriousness, to “kill white people.” “Deliberately or accidentally, the undercover officers misinterpreted hyperbolic jokes as literal statements of belief,” said Kalin Stacey, a community organizer, friend and supporter of the defendants ….” Really? I’m guessing is a similar statement was made about the protesters, it would NOT be taken as “hyperbolic jokes”.
- Credit where credit is due: CBC.ca shared the documents it’s writing about in the above-mentioned story via documentcloud.org (like here for example). Hello? Reporters? News outlets? Are you listening about sharing ATIP’ed documents?
- Private Members Bill C-354, An Act respecting the establishment and award of a Defence of Canada Medal (1946-1989), makes it through First Reading in Parliament after being introduced by NDP MP Carol Hughes: “Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be able to reintroduce this bill for the establishment and award of a defence of Canada medal for the men and women who served in the defence of Canada during the cold war. This act represents the hard work and vision of one of my constituents, retired Captain Ulrich Krings of Elliot Lake, who presented me with this proposal shortly after I was elected in 2008. Its purpose is to formally honour the people who defended Canada from within Canada for the period from 1946 to 1989. As such, it is intended to be awarded to individuals who served in the regular and reserve forces, police forces, emergency measures organizations, as well as civil organizations, such as St. John Ambulance, all of whom were concerned with the protection of Canada from the threat posed by the countries behind the Iron Curtain. This medal will recognize the support of the men and woman who gave countless hours to Canadians as they trained and prepared in case of an attack on Canadian soil, which fortunately never took place. Their service to our country came at a time when we became aware of how fragile peace can be and how vulnerable we may become to advances in weapons of warfare. This medal would give something back to all those who worked in those years to keep us safe and prepared. I thank my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River (John Rafferty) for his continued support on this bill and for seconding this item for a second time.” Caveat: most Private Members Bills do not end up becoming law. Discussion at Army.ca here.
- Afghanistan (1a) Why is at least one media outlet surprised that Canadian troops remain in danger even if they’re training Afghan troops? “Canadian military trainers helped defend a NATO compound in Kabul last week when Taliban insurgents launched a dramatic attack against the U.S. Embassy and surrounding neighbourhood that killed 16 Afghans and wounded dozens more. This revelation, combined with assertions from a senior military official on Thursday that the Canadian Forces considers the Afghan capital an “extremely violent” environment, has raised fresh questions about the risks Canadian soldiers are facing in what was originally billed a low-risk, “behind the wire” training mission. According to a Defence Department spokesman, a small number of Canadian soldiers tasked with training Afghan counterparts were arriving at NATO headquarters in Kabul when the camp was attacked by insurgents. Capt. Mark Peebles said that during the ensuing battle, the Canadians helped Afghan security personnel and other NATO forces beat back the attack, including returning fire against insurgents in a building located nearby …. ” Re: the bit in red above, I guess this outlet missed the PM’s warnings from April of this year here, here and here.
- Afghanistan (1b) I guess there were no reporters with said Canadian troops fighting in Kabul during the attack in question. Meanwhile, here’s what the CF InfoMachine is sharing with the public right now.
- MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (1) The latest: “Defence Minister Peter MacKay used one of only three search-and-rescue helicopters available in Newfoundland to transport him from a vacation spot last year, CTV News has learned. MacKay was picked up at a private salmon fishing lodge along the Gander River last July by a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter. Military sources said the order to collect MacKay came from the defence minister’s own office. “This is not a common practice . . . this is the only time a search-and-rescue asset was used as shuttle service,” a source told CTV News. The Department of National Defence has three Cormorant helicopters based out of Gander, N.L., which are expected to cover a massive region of eastern Canada 24 hours a day. According to the National Defence website: “9 Wing Gander is responsible for providing search and rescue services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as well as northeastern Quebec,” which the military calls “one of the busiest search and rescue regions in Canada.” MacKay’s office defended the move, saying it was an opportunity for the defence minister to see the helicopters’ search-and-rescue abilities up close. “After cancelling previous efforts to demonstrate their search-and-rescue capabilities to Minister MacKay over the course of three years, the opportunity for a simulated search and rescue exercise finally presented itself in July of 2010,” a statement from MacKay’s office said. “As such, Minister MacKay cut his personal trip to the area short to participate in this Cormorant exercise.” However, military sources say no search-and-rescue demonstration was planned until the very day MacKay’s office made the request to pick him up ….”
- MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (2a) “Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended his use of a federal military search and rescue helicopter, saying it was for work, rather than for personal use while vacationing in central Newfoundland. Speaking during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, MacKay said that he was on one of the three military choppers based in Gander, central Newfoundland, during the summer of 2010 but it was for work, not pleasure.. “I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010 on a personal visit with friends that I paid for. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 squadron 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration,” he said ….” More on this here and here.
- MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (2b) MacKay’s set of answers in Question Period yesterday: “Mr. Speaker, with respect to the question from the hon. member, I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010, on a personal visit with friends for which I paid. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 Squadron of 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration and later flew on to do government business in Ontario …. I think I just explained that I shortened a personal visit to take part in a search and rescue demonstration in Gander. Had any emergency requirement arisen that would have required search and rescue assets, they would have of course been immediately diverted. As the member would know, having participated in the parliamentary program with the Canadian Forces, members of Parliament, in fact 20 including himself, took part in search and rescue activities in the past. I am very proud of the work of the Canadian Forces, particularly those who take part in search and rescue. Canada has a rescue area of responsibility of over 18 million square kilometres of land and sea, the size of continental Europe. Our Canadian Forces and Coast Guard partners respond to more than 8,000 incidents every year, tasking military aircraft for over 1,100 cases, and in fact save on average 1,200 lives each and every year. I think that as Minister of National Defence I should familiarize myself at every opportunity with the important work of those who perform these daily heroics …. I am very proud of the work of the Canadian Forces. I have observed the work they do in Operation Nanook in the Arctic. I have observed search and rescue activities. I have observed live fire operations, as have members of the opposition who take part in the parliamentary Canadian Forces program. I can confirm that all government departments are looking at their departments for efficiencies, as Canadians would expect them to do, as Canadians and businesses themselves are doing …. the parliamentary program put on by the Canadian Forces every year has the enthusiastic participation of members of Parliament, including members of the opposition. I note that the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue took part this year in the program that was put on by the air force. I suspect she may have availed herself of a Canadian Forces asset at that time. This is a great opportunity for members of Parliament to see first-hand the important, critical, life-saving work that the men and women in uniform perform each and every day on behalf of our country.”
- MORE on use of Military Planes! “A retired major general and an Ontario Conservative MP successfully lobbied National Defence last year for the use of a C-17 heavy-lift transport plane to move a donated fire truck to the Dominican Republic over the objections of the air force. Both Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the country’s top military commander, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, signed off on the charity request, even though senior staff warned most transport flights were stuffed full with war supplies for Afghanistan and no training flights were slated to go the Caribbean resort island. Critics said Thursday that it adds to the growing list of questions about the use of government aircraft, including revelations that MacKay was picked up by a search and rescue helicopter following a vacation. In objecting to the charity request, air force planners noted there are exceptions that allow for specific aid flights. “The airlift of a fire truck to the Dominican Republic does not fit the definition of a humanitarian effort as there is no immediate life-saving or relief of suffering attributable to its provision,” said a Nov. 19, 2009 briefing note prepared for Natynczyk, obtained by The Canadian Press. The report went on to say that the Defence Department had to be careful not to set a precedent ….”
- No signs in the window on Parliament Hill for YOU! “Ottawa-Orleans Conservative MP Royal Galipeau says he was told take down two “Support Our Troops” stickers from the windows of his Parliament Hill office. Galipeau says he removed the large ribbon-shaped decals on instructions from Conservative Whip Gordon O’Connor, the former defence minister who was once a brigadier-general in the Canadian Forces. Galipeau complied with the order and instead hung up a flag with the same Support Our Troops logo, just inside his office but clearly visible through the window. “I’m still making my statement,” Galipeau said on his way into the House of Commons on Wednesday. His riding is known to some as CFB Orleans because of the large number of military personnel living there. But on Thursday, Galipeau wouldn’t comment further and complained that the Ottawa Citizen didn’t run a letter he wrote in response to an earlier story about the stickers. He hung up when asked on the phone for more information. A spokesperson for O’Connor said the message behind the stickers was not the problem. “A memo was sent to all Conservative MPs in August reminding them that no signs, regardless of message, are permitted to be displayed in the windows of their parliamentary office,” Andrea Walasek said in an email ….”
- Some of what the CDS has to say about Canada’s Reserves (via Milnet.ca): “…. My vision for the Primary Reserve is a force that consists of predominately part-time professional CF members, located throughout Canada, ready with reasonable notice to conduct or contribute to domestic and international operations to safeguard the defence and security of Canada. This force is fully integrated into the CF chain of command …. To support my vision, I will communicate more specific guidance in the future outlining the strategic environment, policy, management, and employment principles concerning the P RES. We will continue to develop relevant and sustainable missions and tasks which reflect the reserve culture in which the majority of pres members serve part-time as an integral part of the CF. As a priority, I will strive to align programs and benefits so that they effectively support all CF members ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1) “Liberal inquiry to DND inadvertently sheds light on F-35 procurement“ – more here from Mark Collins on (alleged?) transparency in the process.
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2) What Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino had to say during Question Period yesterday: “Mr. Frank Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has been caught, yet again, unable to justify sole sourcing its contract for new jet fighters. Despite repeated assertions that Canada needs a fifth generation fighter and that the F-35 is the only jet to meet those specifications, the government did not bother waiting to review complete F-18 Super Hornet specs. Fifth generation is merely a U.S. trademark of Lockheed Martin, not a guarantee of suitability. Why will the Conservative government not serve both our forces and taxpayers by holding an open competition for the best fighter jet? Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in 2001 Canada participated in the extensive and rigorous U.S.-led competition process where the two bidders developed and completed prototype aircraft. Partner nations were engaged during the competitive process. This led to the selection of Lockheed Martin as its partner at the joint strike fighter manufacturing of our F-35. Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for months now the government has been saying that the price per plane for the F-35 is $75 million. In light of statements made yesterday, the cost must have gone up to at least $125 million per plane. This leaves less than $1 billion for engines, spare parts, training, maintenance, initial suite of weapons, and everything else. The numbers just do not add up. In light of these new figures, would the Minister of National Defence now agree that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Congressional budget officer were right all along? Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Canada needs military aircraft in order to protect our sovereignty. The current CF-18s must be replaced. We have budgeted $9 billion to purchase F-35s. Let me be clear. In the last election, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to ensure that the brave men and women of the Canadian armed forces have the tools they need to do their job, and come home safe and sound at the end of their ….”
- What’s Canada Buying? (1) “The bidding process for a controversial billion dollar relocation contract for Canada’s military, RCMP and federal employees wasn’t perfect, but it was fair, a lawyer representing the government told an Ottawa judge Thursday. Derek Rasmussen said allegations by Envoy Relocation Services that senior officials in Public Works had a conflict of interest and rigged the competition so Royal LePage Relocation Services would twice be awarded the contract in 2002 and 2004 were not supported by the evidence. There was also a question as to whether Envoy’s bid was adequate to handle the massive contract that involved the coast-to-coast management of relocating Canada’s federal employees, Rasmussen suggested. Envoy’s allegations that senior officials involved in the procurement process accepted gifts and hospitality from Royal LePage and were therefore biased were unsubstantiated, Rasmussen said ….”
- What’s Canada Buying? (2) Wanted: training ammo to train Jamaican counter-terrorist forces (more details in extract from bid documents here (6 page PDF)) and lots of “leather, cattlehide”.
- What’s Canada Buying: Big Honkin’ Ships “On a billboard one block south of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, amidst a row of trendy bars and coffee shops, a hand holds up a dime with the caption Ships Start Here. But the ad for Halifax’s bid for national shipbuilding contracts, paid for by the Irvings themselves, is an anomaly. The real public relations war is taking place thousands of kilometres away. Many shipbuilding watchers agree the Ships Start Here campaign is not about convincing Ottawa power brokers but leveraging as much political capital as Nova Scotia can muster. On first blush, the lobbying campaign makes little sense. The federal government has promised the $35 billion in contracts will be awarded purely on merit. A committee of top bureaucrats will make the call. Consultants from Knowles Consultancy Services and Hill International have been brought in to ensure there is no political interference. When Premier Darrell Dexter travelled to Ottawa, he couldn’t even speak to the committee without independent watchdogs watching from the corner. But few insiders seem to buy it. Of about a dozen MPs, political staffers and industry watchers contacted by The Chronicle Herald, only the Tories expressed confidence that politics will not be a factor ….”
- Brazil’s military is hoping to soak up some “how to secure big events” expertise from the Canadian Forces (via the Army News InfoMachine).
- “Canada is among the founding members of a new international organization dedicated to fighting terrorism, announced Thursday. The new group will become “a counterterrorism network that is as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the inaugural meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. “Let us pledge to learn as much as we can from one another.” Canada is a founding member of the group, whose 30 members include Britain, China, the European Union, Japan, Australia, developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as leading Muslim nations including Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The U.S. and Turkey will co-chair the group. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney welcomed the initiative, noting a good friend in Pakistan was assassinated by extremists. Over the last few years, he’s met twice with Pakistan’s prime minister on the subject and in those conversations, Kenney said he expressed a desire for support from countries like Canada ….”
- “The public face of the Milice patriotique québécoise said Tuesday “everything we do is 100 per cent legal.” The self-styled militia favours Quebec political independence, provides firearms training at gun clubs and recruits using social media. “If we were doing anything even faintly criminal or wrong, we would have been arrested long ago,” Serge Provost said. “We’re not hiding anything.” Provost said the 10-year-old group has about 800 active members and has been growing. The Sûreté du Québec refused to say whether it is probing the group’s activities. “We can’t confirm whether or not an investigation into this group is under way,” SQ Sgt. Ronald McInnis said. Montreal police referred all queries to the SQ. “I’m sure we are under surveillance pretty well 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Provost, a 42-year-old carpenter. “If we do something wrong, we’re dead.” The group has grown by “between 75 and 100″ during the past year, Provost said, and its Facebook site lists 728 friends ….” Meanwhile, in the opinion pages, “…. It is not surprising that the shop Mr. Provost opened last November in east-end Montreal to sell militia-related gear has been refused a licence to sell firearms. Instead there are boots, balaclavas, radical books and paintball rifles. On an online message board run by the militia, one participant offered a bulletproof vest for sale. When another participant noted that the “problem with the vest is it offers no protection to the neck,” he received the message, “Thank you for your advice, patriot” from a militia member. Mr. Provost told the Journal de Montréal this week that he is “proud not to receive any subsidies,” although it is hard to imagine under what program the militia would qualify for aid. In addition to charging members a $100 membership fee, the militia makes ends meet by running a garbage recycling business, MPQ Recyclage. In June, Mr. Provost issued an appeal on Facebook for the donation of a used pickup truck to collect recyclables. “The vehicle … will serve the national defence as part of our logistics unit when operations require,” he wrote.”
- What’s Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney doing about homeless vets in the streets? This from Question Period yesterday: “Mr. Speaker, not only are we working with our partners, but we are taking decisive action to reduce homelessness in our country and among veterans. That is why we have established outreach initiatives in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and also in all our district offices. I was in Toronto this summer and I could see the action of the Good Shepherd Ministries on the ground in downtown Toronto, and of our officials working hand in hand in the refuge with those people. We are helping our veterans to transition to civilian life in a seamless manner and we will keep up that work.”
- “Billy Bishop – please, step aside. Canada’s most celebrated fighter pilot is about to share the podium with another, much less heralded First World War hero – Lieutenant-Colonel William G. Barker, VC. According to the wording on a plaque being unveiled Thursday in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, it is Mr. Barker, not Mr. Bishop, who stands as “most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth of Nations.” ….” More from the CF InfoMachine here.
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (1) Busy Monday for the CDS – he spoke to the Prime Minister and he spoke to the defence critics. Here’s the newest story line: “Canada’s chief of defence staff says he takes full responsibility for the travel expenses he has incurred and will reimburse the government if he is found to have broken any rules ….” Variations on that theme here, here, here and from the outlet that broke the story here. My read of this: if he says this after meeting the PM and the defence critics, I’m going to guess he’s pretty sure the rules have been followed.
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2) And who decides if the rules have been followed? This, from the CDS, quoted by the Globe & Mail: “Canada’s top soldier now says he will cut a cheque to defray the cost of taking a government jet to a Caribbean vacation last year if the Prime Minister’s Office requests it. ….“If the government, as the Prime Minister indicated, his office looks at that trip … if the interpretation of the Treasury Board guidelines on this regard is incorrect, then I will reimburse as required,” he said ….” Similar wording from CTV.ca here. We’ll just have to see what the PM’s Office has to say about Treasury Board’s rules and if they apply here (which is different from hearing what the Treasury Board has to say).
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3a) The CDS is appointed by the PM. And how was the PM’s defence of his choice of CDS in the House of Commons during Question Period? According to the Globe & Mail, “…. On the current controversy surrounding Gen. Natynczyk, NDP defence critic Jack Harris asked why the general had been allowed to take flights worth more than $1-million in the nearly four years he had headed the military – many of them on Challenger jets reserved for government VIPs. Mr. Harper, who met with Gen. Natynczyk on Monday, said the military chief understands the rules for taking government jets “and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. The Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives, we will look into that usage.” ….”
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3b) Here’s what a transcript of the exchange in the House of Commons says was said: “Mr. Jack Harris (St. John’s East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the cost of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s recent taxpayer-funded trips to events such as football games, hockey games and the Calgary Stampede have shocked Canadians. The government is now planning significant cuts to the Canadian Forces. Will the Conservative austerity plan only apply to soldiers, sailors and airmen and women and not to the brass? Why did the Minister of National Defence approve over $1 million of flights to be taken by the Chief of the Defence Staff? Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has outlined the rules under which ministers use government aircraft. I have spoken to the Chief of the Defence Staff. He understands what those expectations are and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. As members know, the Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives we will look into that usage.“
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3c) Here’s how Defence Minister Peter MacKay handled a similar question earlier: “Mr. Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Conservative ministers are developing quite a passion for the use of high-flying government jets. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of National Defence make particular liberal use of the jets. The Prime Minister says that everything is fine because he pays the paltry equivalent of a commercial airline ticket. Why have the Conservatives abandoned their commitment to respect taxpayers dollars when it comes to jetting around the country? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, just to throw a few facts into the mix, the policy for the Prime Minister and all ministers requires that commercial travel be utilized for public business, the government aircraft being used when commercial travel is not available. I would remind the member opposite that when it comes to the liberal use of this aircraft, the Conservative government has reduced the average annual spending of the ministers’ Challenger flights by approximately 80% over the previous Liberal government.”
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (4) I really have to give credit where it’s due – CBC.ca is offering more information (including an intriguing tidbit), and not just from those aching for a “gotcha” story. Good show for not JUST following the pack. “…. Last week’s news reports indicated that it costs about $10,000 an hour to fly a Challenger, including pilot salaries, training costs and the cost of the planes’ depreciation. The actual flying cost is $2,630 an hour, according to numbers provided by the Department of National Defence. “These aircraft — these Challengers — are not used very much,” CBC’s James Cudmore reported. Natynczyk said military Challengers are flown an additional 170 hours a year with no passengers on board so that pilots can maintain their proficiency. “So these hours are paid for, they’re all paid for — there’s no incremental cost to the Crown,” he said. “That’s why, especially when I travel and I have the team with me, it’s less expensive to the government of Canada to get into that Challenger than it is to put them into an aircraft, in a commercial aircraft.” Natynczyk travels with up to six or seven people, sometimes including a close protection team with automatic weapons. He also needs the secure communication lines provided on government aircraft that allow him to work while he’s in the air. Cudmore said sources told CBC News that the story about Natynczyk may have been leaked by someone, perhaps in a bid to see the general replaced ….”
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (5) We’ve gone from a Saturday Calgary Herald editorial headlined “Jet-setting general” to this commentary from the National Post: “…. Defence Minister Peter MacKay offered him use of the Challenger to join his family on vacation after he spent Christmas in Kandahar, and then attended a repatriation ceremony for five Canadians killed in Afghanistan, forcing him to miss his scheduled flight. Was he supposed to hang around Pearson airport waiting for a cancellation instead? ….”
- Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (6) One letter to the editor (bottom of page) sums it up for me: “…. If the Chief of Defence Staff had done what the average Canadian would have done, said, “sorry I cannot be there to honour a Canadian hero, I have a holiday booked,” then the headline would have been something like “Top General Too Busy On A Cruise To Honour Our Dead.” ….”
- In other news in case you’ve been distracted by the shiny bright thing that is the CDS’s jet story…. “An internal government investigation has concluded that Conservative MP Bob Dechert did not breach national security despite exchanging emails with a Chinese reporter, insiders say. CTV News has learned the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service have found no evidence Dechert compromised national security as a result of his relationship with Shi Rong, a reporter with the Xinhua News Agency in Toronto. Senior CSIS and RCMP officers confirmed to CTV that the Chinese news agency functions as an intelligence arm of China ….”
- Libya Mission The House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence prepares to hear about and discuss the Libyan misison today.
- A reminder that not ALL of Canada’s troops overseas are in Afghanistan. “On 27 August 2011, the nine members of Task Force Freetown were guests of honour at the jubilant opening of the rebuilt Grafton Scout Camp near Freetown, Sierra Leone. Guests and Scouts joined together in a heartfelt ceremony with gifts, singing and outbursts of rhythmic clapping to thank Scouts Canada, the members of Task Force Freetown and the people of Canada for their generosity and compassion. Task Force Freetown, the Canadian Forces team deployed in Sierra Leone with the International Military Advisory and Training Team, got involved with the local branch of the Scouting movement through a civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) project. With a budget of Cdn$90,000, it turned into the most ambitious CIMIC effort ever undertaken by the tiny task force in its 11 years of existence ….”
- Afghanistan Door Gunner 101 courtesy of the CF Info-Machine. “Door gunners are combat arms soldiers whose job is all about protecting soldiers. During the Task Force Freedom combat mission in Afghanistan, door gunners ranging in rank from private to sergeant flew aboard CH 146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook helicopters. On the Chinooks, they used their weapons strictly for local protection and close defence; on the Griffons, they were called upon to protect ground troops and ensure the security of the Chinooks they were escorting ….”
- Way Up North Russia: If you’re not an Arctic country, keep your nose outta the Arctic. “Russia will increase its military presence in the Arctic – a region NATO should stay out of, a senior Kremlin official said Tuesday. ‘Our northern border used to be closed because of ice and a severe climate,’ said Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘But the ice is going away we cannot leave 20,000 kilometres unwatched. We can’t leave ourselves in a position where we are undefended,’ Vasilev said, in an interview with the Interfax news agency. Global warming and demand for new energy sources make necessary new and clearer international agreements on the division of Arctic region’s resources and usage he said. Only Arctic Council nations – and not outside agencies like NATO or the European Union – should set the groundwork, he said ….”
- I’m shocked, SHOCKED to hear someone from the Rideau Institute object to a British nuclear sub visiting Canada. “A British nuclear submarine will visit the Port of Halifax next month, CBC News has learned, and that has at least one military critic worried about the risk of a nuclear accident. The British nuclear submarine fleet has been plagued by accidents in recent years, including a fatal explosion and fire, an onboard shooting and an underwater collision with a French sub.There have also been multiple leaks of low-level radiation. And while the risk of a major accident is small, Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa said, the consequences for Nova Scotians would be dire if the worst should occur. “If a fire spread to a nuclear reactor and even any of the potential nuclear weapons that could be on board, you could see the release of radiation like we had in Fukushima,” Staples said ….”
- Now that the branches have been “Royalized”, more calls for unit re-namings are coming out of the woodwork. “Made up mostly of farmers, fishermen and blue collar workers from northeastern New Brunswick, they became one of the most decorated military units in Canadian history as the North Shore Regiment. They were one of the first Canadian units to fight in the Great War. Before the regiment was merged with others in New Brunswick, it was among the first to breach Adolph Hitler’s Fortress Europe on Juno Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day during the Second World War. And while the “royal” title has been restored to many Armed Forces veterans delight, a growing chorus of voices wants to see New Brunswick’s second battalion of the Royal New Brunswick Regiment drop the colonial throwback for its original name. Proponents now say they are closer than ever to seeing the North Shore Regiment return after meeting with both provincial and federal officials this month. “We lost our identity,” said Graham Wiseman, president of the North Shore Veteran’s Association, whose father, Sprague Wiseman, is the only surviving member of the original regiment from Bathurst. “It has been a long wait to get it back, but there is a feeling that it will now happen.” ….”
- The Bloc’s motion to condemn the coming training mission in Afghanistan? Crash & burn, thanks to the Liberals voting with the Tories against it – more on the vote here and here. It didn’t take long for Jack Layton to come out swinging, via e-mail: “…. Before Michael Ignatieff became leader, the Liberal Party voted to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan in 2011. Michael Ignatieff has turned his back on that commitment. Before Michael Ignatieff became leader, Liberals from Lester Pearson to Jean Chrétien were known for taking brave stands to ensure Canada remained a voice for peace in the world. But Michael Ignatieff is taking the Liberal Party in a different direction. It’s time for leadership you can count on to do the right thing. Leadership that understands the Canadian way. Leadership that will actually stand up to Stephen Harper and get results for you ….” Funny he didn’t mention the Liberal PM who was at the wheel when the troops moved to Kandahar. Anyway, here’s who voted which way (209-81, via Hansard).
- More questions in the House of Commons on how kids were handled as detainees in Afghanistan, this one from Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae, this one from NDP leader Jack Layton and this one from the Bloc’s Jean Dorion.
- Message to the troops: “Afghan mission ending, but work must go on”: “Canada’s top general for overseas deployments took pains during his latest visit to the Afghan mission to assure soldiers at the start of the last combat tour in dangerous Kandahar province that their work will go on. “It’s a question I asked myself,” said Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, who leads the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command. “We’re not just leaving . . . we’re handing over,” he told reporters at Kandahar Airfield on Tuesday. He said an American replacement brigade has been identified, but cannot yet be named, to fill the void when the Canadian battle group leaves Kandahar next summer after four years. Canada’s Afghan involvement after next July will be “Kabul-centric,” Lessard added ….”
- More from General Lessard, from the Canadian Press: “…. Canada’s overseas commander, Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, said the military’s focus between now and May will be to help deliver long-promised development projects and governance to unstable districts of the province, in particular areas where Canadian troops are operating. It is a window of calm through which a lot of bricks, mortar and good intentions will have to be stuffed. A period of relative calm has settled across southern Afghanistan after the bloodiest year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. Since the beginning of the year, 669 coalition troops have been killed, including 15 Canadians. Lessard set down the May deadline because it marks the end of the poppy harvest and the start of an annual spike in violence known as “the Fighting Season.” Between now and then it’s “important to deliver,” said Lessard ….”
- And who’ll do what where in the upcoming training mission? Stay tuned: “The contours, staffing and timing of the Canadian training mission in Afghanistan have not been settled and probably won’t be until early next year, the commander of Canadian forces overseas said. Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard, head of the central military command, or CEFCOM, said a fact-finding team was in the country last week and is expected to propose various options before Christmas. The seven-member team is to analyze what training skills are required, what rank of officers will be needed and the timetable for the deployment of trainers …. “The emphasis is to be on Kabul but not solely Kabul,” Gen. Lessard said, meeting with reporters after the latest of his frequent visits to Afghanistan ….”
- Meanwhile, the message back at home: “Canada’s contribution will continue when combat ends” (from a column submitted by an MP in a local paper): “Canada’s remarkable service in Afghanistan has made true gains for women, children and for all citizens of that troubled land, although the strides forward have sometimes come at a painful cost. The 152 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to Canada and in defence of human rights have improved Afghans’ prospects for a brighter future, while serving to protect the national security of Canada. Our soldiers’ leadership as part of this UN-mandated, NATO-led mission has made Canadians proud. It is important to build on our troops’ hard-won achievements to ensure they result in a lasting legacy for the people they fought to defend. Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011, as planned. But our responsibility to preserve the progress we’ve made after a decade of service still remains …. When our current combat mission ends, Canada will deploy up to 950 military trainers and support staff at facilities centered in Kabul, and in a strictly non-combat role. This new training role will continue until March 2014. Canadian skill and expertise will be tapped to properly train Afghan security forces – in classrooms and inside bases – to enable them to provide security for their own people …. Our ongoing involvement in a non-combat role to equip Afghanistan for the challenges still ahead will continue to build on the foundation laid at great cost by our soldiers.”
- Remember the video game order for the troops downrange? Potential vendors get more time to submit their bids.
- Now that his kit has been incinerated, there is at least one call to have all of murderer-rapist Russell Williams’ photos burned, too: “If I were in charge of QMI Agency, and therefore newsroom boss of its 36 major dailies and 200-plus community newspapers, I would send out an edict that no picture of convicted killer-rapist Russell Williams will ever again be published in our pages with him wearing a military uniform. But I have no such clout. Perhaps the power of suggestion will win the day. It would be the right thing for the largest newspaper chain in Canada to do, and for it to then publicly state why this corporate decision was made ….”
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Three Afghan “puppets” alleged assassinated in Kandahar City.
- Guess what? Canada’s keeping 950 military trainers and support staff (as well as about four dozen cops) in Afghanistan until 2014: “…. The Canadian Forces (CF) will support ANSF training by providing up to 950 trainers to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). This training mission will build upon the CF’s established expertise in training the ANSF, thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security …. Through the deployment of up to 45 civilian police officers, Canada will continue its involvement in police reform by leading training programs, promoting the establishment of accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms, and advancing institutional reform and capacity building ….” Surprising, eh? More on that from QMI/Sun Media, the New York Times, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and BBC.
- What does this mean for the Canadian-led and run Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PDF copy of page here if link doesn’t work? This from the Globe & Mail: “Canada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian aid officials next year. Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan: dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts. There will be a deep cut to aid for Afghanistan. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada will provide $100-million a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the $205-million the government reported spending last year ….”
- According to Postmedia News, late decision on new mission = rush to get ready for it.
- Notice who’s name is listed first on the news release? Not Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay but Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Also, while Cannon got to answer questions in the House of Commons on the mission this week (Hansard transcripts here, here and here), Peter MacKay took a question on the F-35 fighter plane buy. Yesterday, the PM fielded two questions (here and here) on Afghanistan, while McKay fiielded one question from a fellow Conservative party member (here). Some see this as further proof that Peter MacKay may be on his way out (he says not so), but the government has been trying to civilianize the feel of the mission for at least the past couple of years – more on that theme here, here and here.
- The Foreign Affairs Minister reminds us of the obvious, via CTV.ca: “…. Cannon said the “non-combat” troops will be based in the Kabul area. However, Cannon admitted that soldiers would still be in danger, despite the relative security in Kabul compared to the current operation in Kandahar. “I am not going to hide the fact that there is a risk factor,” Cannon told CTV’s Power Play. “(But) our people will not be mentoring in the field, they will be in classrooms.” ….”
- Who’s happy? “The White House and the NATO military alliance applauded Canada’s plan for a military training mission in Afghanistan Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper assured opposition parties that the armed forces will work safely “in classrooms behind the wire on bases.” ….” Here’s what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to say: “I warmly welcome Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that Canada will deploy a substantial number of trainers to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Canada has contributed substantially, over many years, to the operation in Afghanistan. Canadian forces have made a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people, often at a high cost ….” More from the Canadian Press on that.
- Who’s unhappy? The usual suspects: “…. The NDP again accused the Conservatives of lying, saying it was “inevitable” that the 950-strong training contingent that will be in Afghanistan until 2014 would be drawn into combat because the whole of Afghanistan is a “war zone.” ….” The rabble.ca brigade has already come up with the rhyming chant: “Activism Communiqué: The war in Af’stan, demand – Don’t Extend It. End It!” Ceasefire.ca pipes in, too, comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam: “Unaddressed by the ministers is whether the government really believes in the training mission it has committed Canadian troops to fulfill. No one seriously expects Afghanistan’s army and police forces to be ready to hold off the Taliban on their own in four years’ time. But it is still unclear whether NATO’s efforts to Vietnamize Afghanize the war are intended merely to provide a face-saving way for foreign forces to withdraw from a dead-end war or remain based on the illusory prospect of creating an ARVN ANA that can hold the field against the Taliban even in the south of Afghanistan ….”
- It didn’t take long for the “Survey Says” crowd to get its numbers out there – this from Harris-Decima: “Canadians Wary of Extension to Afghanistan Mission: The latest Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey asked about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “At this point in time, Canadians are split over whether to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the combat mission. While few feel that the combat mission should be extended, there is clearly some support for Canadian troops continuing to play some role.” ….” More on that from the Canadian Press.
- Blog Watch: Congrats from Mark Collins at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for those rating it here, while Terry Glavin at Transmontanus shares his words of wisdom this way: “…. The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country’s post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today’s announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic ….”
- Meanwhile, the transition continues on the ground in Afghanistan: “A scouting party from the NATO unit that could replace Canadian troops in Kandahar will be touring the area over the next few days. Planning for the departure of Task Force Kandahar is underway and a proposal on how the transition will take place is still being finalized, a senior U.S. officer with the alliance’s southern headquarters said Tuesday. The Canadians “are in a critical location,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to discuss the situation on background only. “We’ve got to make sure that area is still covered, and covered well.” ….”
- The CF is working towards setting up a research institute devoted to studying military medicine. More from the Kingston-Whig Standard on a conference under way this week: “…. That the military is taking the initiative seriously can be seen by the list of people attending, including Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, senators Romeo Dallaire and Pamela Wallin, veterans affairs ombudsman Guy Parent, and (Commodore Hans) Jung, the military’s top medical officer. “We are the only nation amongst our major allies that does not have such a national institute,” (former CFB Kingston base commander and Kingston General Hospital chairman Bill) Richard said, a fact lamented by many of the high-profile attendees. The military would love universities to dig through its wealth of data — it has comprehensive medical records on everyone who ever served from the day they enlisted to the day they discharged and keeps the records 99 years, but Jung said only 5% of that data has been analyzed because it doesn’t have enough people to do it ….”
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: The Taliaban’s main English-language site appears to be down, so there’s the Taliban’s Lies o’ the Day via theunjustmedia.com.
Item: The latest expression of the “official” position of the government on what we’re doing in Afghanistan post-2011, notwithstanding some message teasing from the PM, from Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) during Question Period Friday:
There is absolutely no confusion on this side of the House about our position in Afghanistan. We have made it eminently clear that this government will respect the parliamentary resolution of 2008 and cease our military mission to Afghanistan in 2011. It will become a civilian and a development mission …. For the past several months, despite foot dragging by members of the Afghan committee, we have been putting forward motions to consider the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan. We urge opposition members of the committee to participate and to forward their suggestions to Parliament.
On that bit in red: have I missed something? What “motions” have the government put forward to consider re: the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan? Have I been in a cave? Or did things come up that were drowned out/swamped by that other thing the Committee was doing instead of considering the future mission? If you’re reading this, and can share a link or any proof of any such offer via the comments, go for it.
Item: The CF’s mission at this point remains clear: keep packing – this from the Chief of Defence Staff via CBC.ca:
“We have got very clear instructions from the government of Canada to move out on the withdrawal and that is what we’re going to continue to plan on.”
What this story doesn’t include is an interesting point in the CDS’s description of his task. CTV.ca’s story on the same issue quotes General Natynczyk talking about the March 2008 Parliamentary motion:
“From the Government of Canada through to the minister to me, it’s clearly a focus on enabling the motion as it stands today and that is the withdrawal from Kandahar in 2011 and the end of the military mission,” Natynczyk told reporters in Ottawa.
Compare and contrast this to Peter Kent’s statement in the House of Commons:
This government will respect the parliamentary resolution of 2008 and cease our military mission to Afghanistan in 2011.
General Natynczyk also mentioned who’s going to be staying (via CanWest/National Post):
He noted the institutions that will continue a non-military mission for Canada in Afghanistan include Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, the RCMP and the correctional services.
Item: I’m all for keeping a Canadian military element behind to keep helping out, even with training. That said, former OMLT-eer Bruce R at the Flit blog reminds us that training “inside the wire” may not be easy, and has its hazards:
Afghan police and soldiers are trained on their own bases, obviously, but those are not “inside” coalition military facilities in any real sense. Afghans of any kind aren’t normally allowed free run of ISAF military facilities, so the two have to remain physically distinct. So really what you’re talking about is “inside the Afghan wire,” at least part of the time: in other words, either cohabiting with Afghans, or failing that, “commuting” from a nearby ISAF base.
Which can be fine, of course, given some sensible precautions: I always felt quite safe in those sorts of situations. But in this context it might be worth noting today’s news from Afghanistan.
…an American contractor died in a suicide attack against the police training center in Kandahar city, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said… The American contractor, who was not identified, and another person were killed when a team of three suicide bombers attacked the gates of the police training center….
I guess this still means we’re going, yes?
I know the details of Canada’s post-2011 mission are still being sorted out.
Mixed messaging by Ministers of the Crown during Question Period (QP), the most public (and probably least representative) portion of House of Commons business, doesn’t help, though.
This from Hansard during QP 8 Oct 09 (highlights mine):
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is some confusion on the government’s position with respect to the military mission in Afghanistan post-2011. For the second time in as many weeks the Minister of National Defence has talked about this. I would like to get the minister again on record. I tried to get him last week on this question. Could the minister confirm that the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan will be over in 2011, yes or no?
Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it seems the only person who is confused is the hon. member on the other side of the House. Let me be perfectly clear. Canada will end its military mission in 2011. Do I have to repeat it to him in French?
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am not the one he needs to repeat it to. He needs to repeat it to his colleague, the Minister of National Defence. The problem is that when he speaks in committee or elsewhere, he says the exact opposite, and that is important. I will ask the minister the question again. How will the government ensure that the House of Commons is consulted before any changes are made to the military mission in Afghanistan?
Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, let me quote the hon. member who said, this week, in the House:
I do not believe that Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan can, in any way, shape or form, end in 2011. I do not believe our commitment to the region can end in 2011.
Then he went on to talk about development.
Our position is clear. The military combat mission will end in 2011.
Funny what a difference that one word “combat” can make…
Yesterday, during Question Period, the Prime Minister gave another version of what’s next for Canada in Afghanistan post-2011 (highlights mine):
“Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons voted last year to have all troops out of Kandahar by 2011, but now we hear hints from the Minister of National Defence that the troops may stay in Afghanistan longer. It is now the established practice in the House that there be a vote in the House of Commons on the deployment of Canadian troops. Does the Prime Minister believe that he can keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2011 without a vote in the House authorizing such a deployment?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, let us be clear that it was this government that brought in the practice that military deployments have to be approved by the House of Commons. The position of the government is clear. The military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011. I have said it here and I have said it across the country. In fact, I think I said it recently in the White House.”
The day before, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon shared this message during Question Period:
“I will say this clearly and succinctly so that the member will understand. Yes, we are sticking to that motion. Yes, the Minister of National Defence answered that question previously with the same response that we always give. We are putting an end to our military combat mission by 2011, and that is clear.”
On my highlights above:
2) That’s NOT what the Motion says – it only says Canadian Forces troops will be out of Kandahar by the end of 2011.
E.R. Campbell over at Milnet.ca sums it up quite well:
“Political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Cannon and MacKay, and Michael Ignatieff have all been careless with the facts and, almost without exception, Canadian politicians have done a real disservice to Canadians, especially to the Canadian men and women who are prosecuting this war. They should all be ashamed.”
I offer only a couple of changes to ERC’s masterful summary to express my feelings:
“Political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Cannon and MacKay, and Michael Ignatieff have all been careless and inconsistent in the facts their statements to the public and, almost without exception, Canadian politicians have done a real disservice to Canadians, especially to the Canadian men and women who are prosecuting this war. They should all be ashamed.”
This exchange, from yesterday’s Question Period in the House of Commons, further feeds the “what happens post-2011 in Afghanistan?” sausage machine – highlights in red mine:
“Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs about Afghanistan. The motion that we passed in the House was very unambiguous and very clear with respect to Canadian troops being redeployed out of Kandahar by December 2011. Certain comments have been made by other ministers and by other candidates for the Conservative Party with respect to the intentions of the Conservative Party post-2011.
My question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs is about Canada’s presence in Afghanistan. Is he sticking to the motion that was passed by the House in March 2008?
Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I will say this clearly and succinctly so that the member will understand. Yes, we are sticking to that motion. Yes, the Minister of National Defence answered that question previously with the same response that we always give. We are putting an end to our military combat mission by 2011, and that is clear.
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the problem is that yesterday outside the House the minister said something else. The other problem is—
An hon. member: No, he didn’t.
Hon. Bob Rae: The record will stand. The record will stand.
Mr. Speaker, what I would like to ask the minister is very clearly it states that Canadian forces will be redeployed out of Kandahar by December 2011. It is unambiguous and clear.
I would like to ask the minister, how is that compatible with the statements by the minister, as well as the statements of the candidate who is running in Ajax? The two statements are incompatible.
Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the answer to his question is yes. I would strongly recommend that the hon. colleague read the transcript so that it will be clear. He might not understand what is written, but we all understand that is what it means.”
OK, so now we’re back to “no Canadian troops at all in Kandahar by end of 2011”.
Mark at The Torch hits the nail squarely on the head:
The government is dancing madly to avoid the clear meaning of the resolution. Any ongoing CF mission at Kandahar will require a new Commons’ vote. The last thing the government wants before an election. So the dancing will continue, regardless of the facts.
Couldn’t have put it better myself.