News Highlights – 24 Nov 11

  • 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) 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 workAssociate 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 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: shared the documents it’s writing about in the above-mentioned story via (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 here. News Highlights – 27 Jul 11 News Highlights – 4 Dec 10

  • The F-35?  Greatest thing since sliced bread – just ask the manufacturer! More, this time throwing the “lookit all the jobs you’ll get” card onto the table during committee hearings in Ottawa here More of the same discussion coming to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence next week as well.
  • Congrats to Brigadier-General Hilary Jaeger, Director General Reserves and Cadets, and Commander Josée Kurtz, Commanding Officer, Her Majesty”s Canadian Ship Halifax: Two senior Canadian Forces (CF) officers were recognized among the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by The Women”s Executive Network (WXN)™ on Monday, November 29.  Brigadier-General Hilary Jaeger, Director General Reserves and Cadets from Ottawa, Ont., received an Award under the Cisco Public Sector Leader category, and Commander Josée Kurtz, Commanding Officer, Her Majesty”s Canadian Ship Halifax from Halifax, NS, received the Xstrata Nickel Trailblazers & Trendsetters Award.  “I am so proud of the accomplishments of these two outstanding officers,” said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “This award is a real testament to their leadership and commitment to the Canadian Forces.” …. Canada”s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards is Canada”s most recognizable award for the country”s highest achieving female leaders in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors where women are selected for recognition by an independent advisory board ….” More on the history of women in the CF here, and congrats from the Defence Minister here.
  • Rick Hillier for Premier?  Not so Fast! Perpetual anti-Conservative columnist James Travers over at the Toronto Star suggests the latest probe into unproven allegations against Canadian commandos could be a millstone around The Big Cod’s neck: “…. Horrible things happen in the fog of war and are often excused by it. But Sand Trap Two is making the brass unusually edgy by going beyond the events to deconstruct how the command chain reacted and what actions it took.  Making that particularly troubling is the unique special forces command structure. Unlike other units, it skirts the military’s many layers to report directly to the CDS, the country’s most senior soldier …. There are also risks in secretive systems. Accountability is suspect and there’s no place for the buck to stop but at the top …. this week new questions were being asked, first about children Canadians turned over to Kabul’s notorious interrogators and then about the Sand Trap probes.  Hillier, who declined an opportunity to comment for this column, has more than earned the benefit of the doubt and no conclusive evidence has seeped into the public domain that the commandos broke laws. But the very nature of JTF2 operations creates situations, doubts and suspicions that the inquiry needs to dispel before the general responsible for the special forces could safely begin a second career in politics.”
  • Speaking of special forces troops, the Winnipeg Free Press says ANOTHER level of staffing should keep the “men in black” in line better (assuming they’re out of line in the first place, of course):  “…. A new investigative body could still preserve JTF2’s necessary secrets, while ensuring Canadian principles and values are being upheld. It’s not a repudiation of the military, but an opportunity to ensure the trust of Canadians is never lost.”
  • Remember what I said about “hard” journalists and others in Afghanistan? Well, if you believe this piece, not all reporting teams can claim to be hardened by the experience in Afghanistan“…. A major Canadian broadcaster has a team of two here. They are nice, pleasant to talk to and working hard. The problem is, one of them refuses to “leave the wire,” military speak for going off the base. In three days, my partner and I have spent more time off the base than they will in their entire tour. How can a reporter report accurately on anything when so disconnected from their surroundings and the people who live, work, and die here, much less a national election dripping with corruption and complexity? The simple answer is they can’t. What suffers most in this scenario is the base of knowledge and understanding back home, the ability of our population to ask the right people the right questions, and make a somewhat educated vote in our own elections. True democracy requires an informed public, and that is precisely what we in Canada are not ….” To put a touch of context to this, I wonder if insurance is the issue?  If head office wanted a presence in AFG, but didn’t want to pay the (likely) HUGE money needed to cover someone headed outside the wire, it’s not the reporters’ fault.  However, if they’re covered and CHOOSE not to go, not quite holding up the traditions, are they? News Highlights – 17 Nov 10

  • 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 & MailCanada 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“…. 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 brigade has already come up with the rhyming chant:  “Activism Communiqué: The war in Af’stan, demand – Don’t Extend It. End It!” 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-DecimaCanadians 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 AfghanistanA 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

G8/G20 Security Highlights, 20 Jun 10 has posted this assessment of who’s going to be protesting:

So here I was sitting in the newly opened convergence space hosted by the Toronto Community Mobilization Network at 1266 Queen Street West (Toronto) and we’re all drinking tap water and listening to some great tunes and I’m thinking: yup, look at us scary anarchists doing scary things like spoken word performances, serving food to each other and napping quietly in the corner.

Yes, polite society should be very afraid! Here come the Berserkers tearing young saplings from the ground and whipping them at the police …..

In fact, we are so scary that the United States has issued a travel advisory for next weekend stating, “even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable. You should avoid them if at all possible.”

I mean, according to the police – who of course will all be wearing their kid gloves during the demonstrations and cannot be blamed if police riots break out; hmmmm….I mean, wait a minute…. aren’t they called POLICE riots and not PEOPLE riots for a reason? ….

Further reinforcement of the “it’s not our fault if there’s violence” message?

Some of the initial media coverage of the Ottawa Police Service arrest and charging of three men in connection with the RBC bank firebombing in Ottawa is starting to use the “T” word:

…. “Their actions do speak for themselves and their willingness to post it publicly is alarming as well,” said Ottawa Police Chief Vern White at a news conference on Saturday morning.  White also continued labelling the incident as an act of domestic terrorism, and said he was “confident” the Crown may still end up with terrorism charges.  RCMP assistant commissioner Francois Bidal appeared to suggest more charges were still possible.  “We will leave no stone unturned in uncovering the evidence we have before us now,” he said.  But Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer representing Clement, criticized those remarks.  “Pre-trial comments that attempt to characterize offences are not helpful to the administration of justice,” he said.  “There’s no talk of terrorism by anybody except our Chief of Police,” Greenspon said, adding that the charges laid so far relate strictly to property damage …. (

…. Police say the investigation continues and are determining whether they can lay charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The law has been used only a handful of times since Parliament passed it in 2001.  Terrorism charges can only be laid with the consent of the federal Attorney General, and police wouldn’t say whether they’ve initiated conversations to this end …. (Globe & Mail)

…. Asked whether he continued to consider the act domestic terrorism, White said: “I do stand by that label.”  But he added that determination is the investigative responsibility of the RCMP …. (Canadian Press)

…. In the past, Chief White has characterized the firebombing as domestic terrorism, and he stood by that description Saturday. But he said no terrorism charges have been laid so far, and it will be up to the RCMP to decide whether they should be …. (

All are to be considered innocent until proven guilty in our system, and I’m happy to let the police and courts do their thing.  Here’s how the Criminal Code of Canada defines “terrorism”, and here’s my quick-and-dirty assessment of the law in light of events we read/hear at

I await with interest how the legal process unfolds.

For more from all sides, check out the page o’ links here.

Another (Small) Shot at Taliban Jack

Remember when Jack Layton took a bit of a dig from a former federal Communist candidate about supporting the troops too much?

Well, buried in this piece on ISAF bombing hijacked fuel trucks in Kunduz, over at by Dave Markland, host of the not-exactly-entirely-inclusive blog,  is another dig.  This one points out Germany’s leftist opposition to the war in Afghanistan:

“One can only wish that Canada’s NDP would take the cue of the Left Party and oppose a war which a majority of Canadians do not want.”

Ouch – more, as I spot them.