- Libya Mission CDS says CF’s good to go (but not with boots on the ground under the current UN mandate) if the mission is extended. “If Prime Minister Stephen Harper asks the Canadian military to extend its air force and naval mission in Libya beyond the end of September, the military’s top general says the Canadian Forces will be ready. “The Canadian Forces air, land, and sea have tremendous capability and depth,” said Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of defence staff, outside the House of Commons on Thursday. “It depends on what the international community wants, but the Canadian government has all kinds of options.” Would those options include ground troops to help secure Libya? “The mandates that we have are very clear that boots on the ground is not appropriate right from the UN Security Council resolution, so we’re fulfilling that,” said Natynczyk. Harper has also ruled out Canadian ground troops in Libya ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (1a) Remember, you read it here first: “The federal government will announce Friday that Sept. 11 will become a “national day of service” to inspire Canadians to show the kind of compassion and generosity that were in abundance following the attacks of 10 years ago. “It is important to recall the incredible acts of courage, sacrifice and kindness by Canadians on and following that infamous day,” a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said. As an example, the official’s remarks cited the efforts of the people of Gander, N.L., who hosted thousands of foreign airline passengers who had been re-routed to Canadian soil following the grounding of passenger flights in the days following Sept. 11, 2001. The day of service is also meant to honour the “selfless service of civilian and military volunteers who continue to stand up in the face of terrorism; and the outpouring of Canadian support in the aftermath of the attacks.” The national day of service will be marked every Sept. 11 ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (1b) “The war on terror is “an ongoing reality” but Canada is a safer and more confident country than it was a decade ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says in an exclusive interview with CBC News …. Harper reflects on how Canada has changed since the Sept.11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. He says that prior to 9/11 most people weren’t aware of terrorism threats facing the country and even though they existed and had been carried out — the 1985 Air India bombing was an example — they weren’t a source of general concern. “Today we are much more focused on it. We are much more concerned about it. We’re much more able to detect and thwart terrorism than before,” said Harper ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (2) “Mishelle Brown stood at the edge of the crater that was once the Twin Towers. Being at Ground Zero, she said, was an attempt at closure. “I needed to see the hole. I needed to see the reason Dennis died.” Her husband, Warrant Officer Dennis Brown of St. Catharines, volunteered to go to Afghanistan. He died March 3, 2009, with two other Canadian soldiers when their armoured vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb northwest of Kandahar. He was 38 ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (3) “Radicals, climate change, WMD remain top national security threats: Experts – Canada spent billions and went to unprecedented lengths to beef up security in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, but while there hasn’t been an incident on Canadian soil in that time, experts remain divided over some of the measures taken. A decade after four hijacked passenger jets flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field killing nearly 3,000 people, including 26 Canadians, there’s also some division as to what constitutes the biggest threats going forward and how Canada is or isn’t addressing them ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (4) RCAF officer Colonel Philip Garbutt shares his memories from 9/11 (YouTube video via NTM-A Info-Machine)
- 9/11 Plus Ten (5) “A man who would later command Canadian troops during the war in Afghanistan was deep in the back woods of New Brunswick the day al-Qaida struck with fury in New York and Washington. Jonathan Vance, who commanded both Canadian and American troops for almost 15 months in the killing fields of Kandahar, was on an exercise near Petersville, N.B., outside of the army’s training base at Gagetown. An intelligence officer passed a note to one of Vance’s staff. The major read the scrap of paper with silent disbelief before announcing the news that not only changed his life, but the lives of all of the men around him ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (6) Good question. “Uncertainty, it seems, is the only sure thing in the future for the Canadian Forces. It has been a decade since the Sept. 11 terror attacks touched off global events that led Canadian troops into war in Afghanistan. The combat mission has been Canada’s costliest since the Korean War, with 157 soldiers and four civilians, including two aid workers, a diplomat and a journalist, killed since 2002. Now, as the Kandahar combat operation winds down and transitions to a scaled-back training role in Kabul, questions abound about what comes next for Canadian troops. Retired Col. Alain-Michel Pellerin, executive director of the Conference of Defence Assocations Institute, expects the short-term focus will be on packing, cleaning and repairing equipment in theatre. Army troops will need a rest period after a decade-long deployment that took a heavy toll on hardware and human resources ….”
- 9/11 Plus Ten (7) From Wired.com’s Danger Room blog: “10 Jobs That Barely Existed on 9/10/01, From Robot Squadmate to Warplane Whisperer”
- Afghanistan (1) Congrats to three soldiers awarded the Star of Courage for helping people out of a crashed civilian helicopter in Kandahar in 2009.
- Afghanistan (2) Packing up as another chance to win hearts and minds (via CF Info-Machine).
- The Leslie Report/CF Reorg What does retired General Rick Hillier, who helped set up at least some of the system currently in place in the CF, have to say? “…. Gen. Rick Hillier says the transformation report, written by Lt-Gen. Andrew Leslie in the months before his retirement last week, will compromise military effectiveness if put in place. “You try to implement that report as it is and you destroy the Canadian military,” Hillier told CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday. “You simply can’t take that many people out of command and control functions.” The Leslie report suggests up to 11,000 military and civilian jobs could be affected by the cost-cutting drive, many of these at National Defence headquarters where the bureaucracy has bloated in tandem with the Afghanistan mission. Leslie says cutting management ranks will shield the front lines from the planned five or 10 per cent cut in spending to be imposed on every department in the name of deficit reduction. “There are some areas where you can do some cuts and the Canadian Forces will have to pay a price, but to implement that report would not be wise,” Hillier said in the interview. “If you take a billion dollars out, you will lessen military operational capability.” ….”
- RCN equipment worries? “The Royal Canadian Navy is struggling to keep its largest warships in operational condition, in particular its aging destroyers and supply vessels, says the commander of the Navy’s East Coast maintenance yard. The coast guard, meanwhile, will be forced to nearly double over the next five years the amount of time it spends repairing and maintaining its own aging fleet. Such deficiencies reveal how critical it is, say senior navy and coast guard officials, that Canada not repeat the mistakes of the past after a massive new federal shipbuilding program gets underway in the coming weeks. “We are chomping at the bit to see what the NSPS (National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy) is going to bring,” Capt. Richard Gravel, the Navy’s East Coast fleet maintenance manager, told a defence industry conference in Halifax on Thursday ….”
- Way Up North It appears this blogger thinks a private sector company buying blimps to move big, heavy stuff to mines is the same as the military buying snowmobiles for patrolling in the Arctic. “Was Canada mocked one too many times at the last UN meeting/G20 powwow? Because they seem to be satisfying a serious manpower inferiority complex with plenty of…blimppower. The floating objects are NOT blimps, says Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company that makes them and is selling 45 to Canadian flight company Discovery Air—they’re lighter-than-air vessels. But they look pretty blimpy to us. And combined with the Canadian military’s recent purchase of a prototype stealth (wait for it) snowmobile, we see the seeds for an epic motion-picture event: the Great Canadian Wars of 2012. Waterworld at -12 degrees! …. military snowmobiles? Who knows. Even if Canada is prepping for the resource-rush that will likely ensue as the Arctic melts, they’d be better off investing in ships. Or, maybe, more blimps.”
- What’s Canada Buying (1) Wanted: someone to design, build ammo transit facility at CFB Borden – “estimated construction cost is in the order of magnitude of $12,500,000.”
- What’s Canada Buying? (2) Some discussion of getting new pistols at Army.ca here.
- What’s Canada Buying? (3) “The Department of National Defence (DND) has a requirement for Ferrous Ordnance Locators (FerOL) with data logging and analysis/evaluation software to detect and mark deeply buried unexploded Ordnance (UXO) ….”
- What’s Canada Buying? (4) “The Networked Sensors and Sensor Fusion Group (NSSF) of the Defence R&D Canada Ottawa (DRDC Ottawa) undertakes many research studies and projects in the field of Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR). To aid in completing these projects, NSSF requires resources experienced in the fields of C4ISR architecture, moving target exploitation tools, data fusion, sensor integration, system and network management, scientific evaluation and analysis, and scientific software development ….”
- Libya Mission (1) “Forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi are no longer able to launch a credible military offensive, NATO’s top Libya commander told AFP Thursday, as rebels look to gain momentum in overthrowing the strongman. “The Kadhafi regime’s forces continue to be weakened, both in strength and their will to fight,” Canada’s Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard said, speaking from his Italy headquarters, as rebel troops made new advances. “They are no longer able to launch a credible offensive,” he added ….”
- Libya Mission (2) Some blog-borne armchair quarterbacking. “You might have been distracted by the riots in Britain, or the faux-scandal over NDP interim Leader Nycole Turmel, or the credit crisis in the U.S., or your vacation, but Canada is still dropping bombs on Libya with no end to the conflict in sight. Kelly McParland of the National Post takes a second to remind us just how committed the Conservative government is to the mission, and in particular the rebel leadership group, the Transitional National Council. “Even though the outcome of the upheaval in Libya is anything but clear, Ottawa is putting all its eggs in the rebel basket,” for example by booting out Moammar Gadhafi’s envoys out of Canada, handing over their embassy and assets to the TNC, recognizing the TNC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, and providing financial assistance to the rebellion – and that’s not including the combat support the Canadian Forces have provided. “Caution does not appear to be a major element of the Harper government’s foreign policy,” says McParland in one of the bigger understatements of the year so far ….”
- Operation Jaguar, from the Jamaican media’s perspective. “The Canadian government has deployed three CH-146 Griffon tactical helicopters and 65 personnel to support the Jamaica Defence Force’s search and rescue team for the rest of the hurricane season. National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, who made the announcement yesterday, said the deployment followed a request by the Jamaican Government. Expressing his gratitude, the minister said the helicopters will shore up the capabilities of the JDF, while soldiers will benefit from training from the Canadian Forces. For his part, Canada’s Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay said his government was committed to ensuring that Canadian forces are ready to assist their allies on the world stage if and when the call comes. “The request from Jamaica addresses a specific capability gap in the Jamaica Defence Force, which currently does not have helicopters suitable for taskings such as search-and-rescue and medical evacuation flights,” said MacKay ….”
- Canadian Taxpayers Federation underwhelmed with CF buying promotional give-away items (how little is $50K out of a budget of ~$21 billion?) “The Canadian Forces spent close to $50,000 of taxpayers’ money last year on miniature cardboard fighter jets, according to documents obtained by QMI Agency through an access-to-information request. The CF-18 replicas are 23.5 cm long, made of recycled material and were used to promote the Air Force at public events, particularly to children. The documents reveal the special order for the planes cost taxpayers $47,449 dollars. Paper planes aren’t the Forces’ only promotion material. The Air Force alone has an annual marketing budget of $200,000 dollars. Air Force spokesperson Lisa Evong said the paper planes are popular with children and Air Force enthusiasts. “(The planes) are used to educate the public on the role and responsibilities of the Air Force,” she said. Half the fun, Evong explained, is assembling all the pieces to form the plane. Each plane costs about 29 cents, giving the Forces 158,000 to fly around …. The federal government doesn’t seem to have the right priorities, according to Gregory Thomas from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an organization that advocates for low taxes and tight government spending of public funds. “It is not the role of government to use taxpayer money to do publicity, especially towards children,” he said. Thomas said public funds should go towards equipping soldiers with “quality, modern equipment.” “
- Afghanistan Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry? “As the international community quietly welcomes the news that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has decided not to seek re-election, his departure raises many questions about what the future holds for a country that has claimed so much of Canada’s time, money and lives over the last decade. Originally one of Karzai’s strongest international supporters, Canada has been walking a diplomatic tightrope in terms of its relationship with the Afghan president for several years. Plagued by corruption, patronage and opportunism, the Afghan government has, by many accounts, lost its legitimacy, especially since the 2009 presidential election, which was fraught with allegations of fraud ….”
- Congratulations Major General Vance (beware the huge photo on the page). “The (Conference of Defence Associations) Institute is pleased to announce that Major-General Jonathan Vance has been unanimously selected as the recipient of the Vimy Award for 2011. The award will be presented on Friday, 18 November at a mixed gala reception and dinner in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa …. The Vimy Award honours the bravery and sacrifices of the Canadian soldiers who were victorious at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. Fighting together for the first time, the battle won by the four divisions of the Canadian Corps brought global recognition to the nation’s arms and declared Canada a young nation entitled to a place at the councils of the world. The CDA Institute is the sponsor of the Vimy Award. Since 1991, the Award recognizes one Canadian who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the defence and security of our nation and the preservation of our democratic values ….”
- Remember Canada’s Army boss presenting an American unit an award (9th item), and sharing the news via Twitter? The CF Info-Machine now has the story – more from what appears to be the hometown paper here.
- New boss for 9 Wing Gander. “After two years of commanding Canada’s most easterly Air Force Wing, Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Conway is heading to Ottawa. During a ceremony at the Canadian Forces Base 9 Wing Gander last Wednesday, Lt.-Col. Conway was given a proper sendoff, while incoming wing commander, Lt.-Col. Gilbert Thibault, was introduced ….”
- What’s Canada Buying: Big Honkin’ Ship Edition “Most people have never heard of François Guimont, Robert Fonberg, Richard Dicerni or Claire Dansereau. Yet, they hold Canada’s shipbuilding future in their hands. Some time this autumn, these four – they are the deputy ministers of Public Works, Defence, Industry and Fisheries and Oceans – will decide which Canadian shipyards will share a contract valued at a staggering $35-billion to provide the Canadian navy and Coast Guard with new fleets. Their decision is supposed to be apolitical. But there will be plenty of political fallout, regardless ….”
- No politics for the moment for retired Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier. “General Rick Hillier has shot down rumours that he is planning a bid to lead the Liberal Party in Newfoundland and Labrador, ending hours of confusion on a social media website over whether Canada’s former chief of the defence staff would run for the soon-to-be vacated post. “There has been some speculation over the last hours that I was going to run for the leadership of the Liberal party of Nfld,” Gen. Hillier, the province’s highest ranking officer in history, wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday morning. “I’m not! Just don’t see that, at this point, as where I am going in life.” ….”
- Guess who the rights to the yellow ribbon with “Support Our Troops” written on it belong to? “You can tie a yellow ribbon around your old oak tree for free. But if you want to use a yellow ribbon and the phrase “Support Our Troops” in your business, you’re going to have to pay Ottawa for the privilege. The Department of Natural Defence has owned the copyright to the phrase and the yellow ribbon image since 2007, said Department of National Defence public affairs officer Capt. Rob Bungay. “Although we appreciate and encourage individuals’ personal support of the Canadian Forces through the display of the yellow ribbon, the use of the department’s intellectual property in corporate promotional matter cannot be supported,” he said in an email. “The unauthorized use of the yellow ribbon in commercial advertising could mislead the public and Canadian Forces members with regard to the companies’ association with the official Support Our Troops program; and/or DND’s endorsement of the companies over that of their competitors.” ….”
- Historian disses NATO. “…. in diplomacy as in baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. Afghanistan was strike one; Libya was strike two. And strike three? No one yet knows where the next call for action might be – Syria? – but if NATO funks it again, then the pressure from Ottawa and, possibly, Washington may be irresistible. NATO has lasted more than 60 years, but even historic alliances can become so attenuated and powerless that their irrelevance can no longer be ignored.”
- Canadians headed over to Israel to join the Israeli Defence Force.
- Isn’t this done yet? “The Winnipeg Jets, when they unveiled their new set of logos last month, were open about drawing inspiration from Canada’s air force. That hasn’t sat well with all of their fans; John Samson, the singer and main songwriter for Winnipeg band The Weakerthans, expressed concern over the logo’s direct link to the military and would rather see a more nuanced design ….” For a counterpoint, check out the Toronto Sun here.
- Corporal Steve Martin, R22eR, R.I.P. He’s expected to arrive at CFB Trenton this afternoon. A bit more here.
- Suuuuuuure the Taliban tries to prevent civilian casualties…. “A respected villager, his three brothers and his young son were walking home from early-morning prayers at their mosque when the man spotted something suspicious on the dusty road outside his family’s mud-walled compound. Crouching down to investigate, there was an eruption of dirt and shrapnel — the man, 38, was blown apart, the four others seriously wounded. The dull, concussive boom of the explosion shook awake the occupants of a nearby Canadian combat outpost camp, located in the Panjwaii district southwest of Kandahar City …. Was it a message to the village, a traditional Taliban safe haven, but in an area where the Van Doos and the Afghan security forces have announced their intentions to now stay? Or was it in response to a visit the previous day by Afghan and Canadian generals to a neighbouring village where the message was one of coming operations to chase out the insurgents? “It could have been for intimidation, but it was probably targeted at us, not the local population,” said Warrant Officer Claude Belisle of 5th platoon B Company, based at COP Imam Sahib …”
- The latest (and a warning) on the change o’ mission for Canada in Afghanistan: “2011 will be a year of massive transition for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, as troops close out the mission as combat warriors in Kandahar to open a new chapter as trainers in Kabul. After years of gruelling, costly and deadly warfare, the military will pull combat soldiers from the field. But the mission will continue — with up to 950 soldiers based around the Afghan capital – in a training and development capacity. Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin, chair of the Senate defence committee that urged the government to maintain a role in Afghanistan post-2011, said the impact would have been “quite profound” had Canada completely withdrawn. “It would have been a loss for the world,” she told QMI Agency. “It would have been a loss for NATO, it would have been a loss for the Afghans and I think it would have been a loss for Canadians if we hadn’t agreed to stay to finish what we set out to do.” …. despite the move from Kandahar to the relatively safer region of Kabul, Wallin warned the entire country remains a war zone and Canada could still suffer casualties ….”
- Speaking of training Afghan security forces, there still appears to be pretty big gaps to be filled. “NATO is not meeting its target for assembling specialized trainers to build up Afghanistan’s army and police forces, the key that would open the way to a withdrawal of coalition troops beginning next year. An internal progress report from the training mission headquarters here warned that it “does not have the required number of trainers, which threatens our ability to sustain momentum through the summer of 2011 to develop and professionalize the Afghan national security force.” The Dec. 12 report, obtained by The Globe and Mail, said NATO member countries have so far pledged to fill just half of the 819 “critical” trainer slots that need to be filled if Afghanistan is to begin to assume responsibility next year for its own security. Some nations that have made offers, including Canada, have yet to confirm their pledges or decide what kinds of skills and capabilities their trainers would bring. “It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle,” said a senior NATO officer in Kabul. “Some countries can confirm their pledges right away. Others say they need time to resolve political and budgetary issues.” ….”
- More on what Canada should be doing to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan, from Senator Mobina Jaffer, the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights: “…. If Canada is going to help create a more stable and secure Afghanistan then it will need to ensure that women are part of the equation. In addition they will also have to adapt their training so that it is gender sensitive. If this is not done then Afghanistan, a country that has experienced over 23 years of war, will never see peace.”
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to blow up 2 Canadian “tanks” – no mainstream media confirmation.
- “If you read only one letter over the holiday season, let this Canadian trooper’s heartfelt words be it”
- Some work for armoured fighting vehicle builders in London, Ontario. “…. GM GDLS Defense Group, LLC, JV, Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Dec. 16 a $9,614,102 firm-fixed-price/cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. This award will provide for 350 Stryker retrofit video display electronic terminal A-kits. Work will be performed in Shelby Township, Mich., and London, Canada, with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-D-M112) ….”
- The Globe & Mail‘s Geoffrey York (AGAIN) flogging his favourite question: why isn’t Canada helping the Congo? “It has become a grim Christmas ritual: hundreds of innocent civilians massacred in remote corners of Africa by the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the world’s cruellest and bloodiest guerrilla forces. Now, fearing a Christmas attack for the third consecutive year, the United Nations is mobilizing 900 peacekeepers to protect villages in Congo, and the United States has promised its own action against the LRA. But activists are calling for a much stronger response to prevent another wave of gruesome attacks by LRA fighters, who routinely kidnap, rape, torture and mutilate their victims. More than 1,000 adults and children were killed by the LRA in the days around Christmas in 2008 and 2009, while hundreds more were kidnapped and conscripted into the rebel army …. Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, a former lieutenant-general who commanded the UN force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, warned that there is an “imminent threat” of further massacres by the LRA this month. He joined a group of former high-ranking diplomats and UN officials in calling for a stronger strategy against the rebel army. “How many lives must be lost and destroyed before the international community agrees to take the threat seriously and act?” Mr. Dallaire said.” Since Mr. York didn’t mention it, the CF already HAS a presence in Democratic Republic of Congo. This isn’t the first time he’s asked for this – more here on his last call in
AugustOctober (thanks Mark at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for the bit in red) for Canada to do more there. Also, more on Canada’s national interests (or lack thereof?) in Congo at Army.ca here.
- The Canadian Press has been trolling jihadi online forums for some intriguing stories, the latest being one of Coptic Christians being named on these forums (maybe as possible targets?). “More than 100 Canadian-Arab Christians are listed on an al-Qaeda affiliated website, apparently targeted because of their alleged role in attempting to convert Muslims. Some of those named say concerned Canadian intelligence officials have contacted them. The Shumukh-al-Islam website, often considered to be al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece, listed pictures, addresses and cellphone numbers of Coptic Christians, predominantly Egyptian-Canadians, who have been vocal about their opposition to Islam. Three pages of the fundamentalist, Arabic-language website titled “Complete information on Coptics” sets to “identify and name all of the Coptics throughout the world who hope to defame Islam,” The website calls the Coptic Christians living abroad “dogs in diaspora,” a derogatory reference in Arabic. In a forum on the website, one member named Son of a Sharp Sword, says “We are going to return back to Islam and all of the Mujahedeen [holy warriors] will cut off their heads.” ….”
- A bit of a review of recent media speculation on Rick Hillier as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, from the Ottawa Citizen.
- 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 rabble.ca 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?
- A recurring theme this time of year: Time remains the real assassin as the number of World War 2 vets decline over time at Remembrance Day ceremonies. This from the Canadian Press: “…. The Historica-Dominion Institute says the average age of Canada’s 125,000 remaining Second World War veterans is 88 years. They are passing away at a rate of 400 to 500 a week, meaning that in another five years or so, all but the hardiest of Canada’s 1.1 million Second World War vets will be gone….”
- Families of the fallen travel to Kandahar remember.
- Soldiers are getting a chance to say goodbye to their fallen colleagues in a way that may help the survivors heal. More on that from Postemedia News.
- “Your parents could be taken away by their job for just a weekend and it might seem like forever, but some kids may never see their folks again. It’s a feeling 16-year-old Madeline Mills knows too well. She’s spent most of her teen years helping care for her younger siblings while her dad fought in Afghanistan. She doesn’t want attention for her challenge, but attention may soon surround her. Madeline shared her story in a new documentary about Canadian children whose parents have seen combat in Afghanistan. The National Film Board of Canada marked Remembrance Day with the national simultaneous release of the film, Children of Soldiers ….”
- An interesting tidbit buried in this Globe & Mail piece, quoting military writer/publisher Scott Taylor: “Only a “small sliver of the society is being impacted by the war in Afghanistan.” Most of the troops now are the sons and daughters of other soldiers, he said, explaining that 40 per cent of recruits either have one or both parents in the military ….” As others smarter than me have said, could this suggest Canadians’ support for the military is a mile wide and a millimeter deep?
- “Soldiers serving in Afghanistan were the first to receive the newly designed poppy coins on Remembrance Day. More than 3,000 troops stationed throughout Afghanistan were the first to receive the special 25-cent memento from the Royal Canadian Mint, each batch delivered in velvet pouches ….” More on the new coin here.
- Again witrh the “should Parliament decide Canada’s next mission in Afghanistan?” question, but this time, with an answer from the PM. This from the Globe & Mail: “My position is if you’re going to put troops into combat, into a war situation, I do think for the sake of legitimacy, I do think the government does require the support of Parliament,” he said. “But when we’re talking simply about technical or training missions, I think that is something the executive can do on its own.”
- So, is this a flip-flop on the Prime Minister’s part? It sure is, according to Norman Spector writing at the Globe: “…. as the even the Prime Minister himself had to (very slightly) concede in the CTV interview, leaving any troops in any role in any region of Afghanistan would constitute a major shift in his position….”
- Further to the right on the media political scale, QMI/Sun Media columnist Michael den Tandt wonders: “What took the Harper government so long? Why all the strenuous denials, month after month, that such an outcome was even possible? Because it was always likely, if not inevitable, given the situation on the ground and Canada’s alliances, that we would keep an armed force of some kind in Afghanistan beyond July, 2011 ….”
- This, from former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, on the prospect of Canadian troops training Afghan forces while avoiding combat: “You can come up with all kinds of schemes to hide away in camp and train people for the Afghan army, but they lack credibility …. If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army … you are going to be in combat.” CBC.ca says this is a quote from a “recent” interview with Macleans. The original Macleans article where this was quoted is from October 22, 2009 (more from Hillier here). Also, a point I raised about a year ago (or “recently”, using the CBC clock/calendar): if the Canadians train Afghan troops and don’t go out to fight with them, how long will the Taliban Info-machine take to start the “they come to help, and send you to die” message track?
- A new approach promised by Canada’s new Veterans Ombudsman – this, via CBC.ca: “Canada’s new ombudsman for veterans affairs said Thursday he’ll try to keep “buoyant” the issues raised by his predecessor, Pat Stogran. “Mr. Stogran has brought the issues to the surface,” Guy Parent said in an interview with the CBC News program Power and Politics. “I think my responsibility is to keep them buoyant now and to make sure we separate the issues into ‘chunkable’ pieces and that we can provide specific recommendations based on the issues.” But Parent, whose term began Thursday, made it clear he would be taking a different approach to the role than Stogran did. “I would definitely say so,” he said, laughing, when asked if he and Stogran had different styles. “Sometimes you accomplish much more through negotiations than you do by being vocal.” ….”
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Alleged Taliban Boss in Kandahar City Op Claims Taliban Rules the Night, “tried our best to completely end any civilians casualties on our part”.
There will still be a need for security and counter-insurgency operations when Canada’s current mandate expires in 2011, he said. If experienced Canadian troops leave Kanadhar, some other nation, likely less familiar with the local terrain and power brokers, will have to do the job.
Hillier also said there’s also no need for Canadian troops, except in Kandahar or the northeast, and there’s no way Canada can carry out a goodwill mission without encountering frequent violence.
“If you stay in the south and try to do something like training, you will still be in combat. I don’t care what (political) staffers say in the media about how they can find a way to do it. You simply will not. You will be in combat,” Hillier said during a promotional interview for his new book, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War.
Living behind blast walls and trying to carry out aid and reconstruction projects are futile, and potentially dangerous in a country where NATO and insurgent forces are battling for the trust of the local population.
“It would be like going to shore at Normandy on the sixth of June (1944) and driving around . . . sightseeing and leaving the enemy the opportunity, flexibility and initiative to attack you when they want,” Hillier said … “to have people and staffers coming out and saying that we can do this job in two years or five years, or we can train without being in combat . . . it’s just baloney.”
Get it now?
UPDATE (1): More of the same quoted by Macleans:
Is there a safer way to teach those Afghan recruits? Hillier doesn’t think so. Here’s what he told us about the sort of scenario sketched by Soudas: “You can come up with all kinds of schemes to hide away in a camp and train people for the Afghan army or police, but they lack credibility. If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army or police in southern Afghanistan, you are going to be in combat.”
A little more is seeping out about who shared and read what with respect to memos a Canadian diplomat says he sent up the line alleging torture of detainees by Afghan authorities after being handed over by Canadians.
We’ve already heard anonymous sources saying these reports had reached then-Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier. While some media outlets awaited Hillier’s comments in response to this, it appears the Globe & Mail’s John Ibbitson actually found the appropriate passage in Hillier’s new book, “A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War” – this, from the Globe:
By Spring 2006, as military operations in Kandahar province expanded, Canadian troops started taking an increasing number of prisoners. As previously agreed, the prisoners were transferred into Afghan custody. In Spring 2007, The Globe and Mail reported on allegations of abuse of detainees in Afghan prisons. Mr. Hillier acknowledged that was to be expected.
“Their judicial and prison systems were still somewhat nascent, and there was always some risk that abuse could occur,” he wrote.
The military decided to make frequent unannounced visits to Afghan prisons to monitor conditions, but the first visit raised sufficient alarms that “we lost confidence that basic, responsible measures were in place to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners.”
The book does not say when the first visit took place or how long the time lag was until the transfers were stopped in December, 2007. The Globe and Mail has reported that the first inspection visit was in May, 2007. Transfers resumed in early January, 2008.
Throughout the process, Mr. Hillier writes, the federal government was kept fully informed of the military’s handling of prisoners….
Here’s what the PM had to say last week on this, according to CBC.ca:
Speaking in Toronto, where he was making a funding announcement, Harper said he didn’t see the reports “at the time.”
Meanwhile, yesterday, in the House of Commons, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay said neither he nor the deputy minister received these reports. Now, if the Globe & Mail quoted him correctly speaking outside the House, the Minister also had this to say:
“There are hundreds if not thousands of documents, reporters, memos, advice that come through all departments,” Mr. MacKay told reporters outside the House of Commons. “The fact that one report or a series of reports weren’t read by a minister or a deputy minister shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.“
Compare this to what he said in the House on 19 Oct 09:
We receive hundreds, if not thousands, of reports annually through the Department of National Defence, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is why it did not make it to my desk …. I intend to hear from the Department of Defence, as well as foreign affairs, as to where this report stopped, because it did not make it to the deputy minister or my desk.
Am I the only one seeing a difference between “we didn’t GET the reports” and “we didn’t READ the reports”?
Two and a half years ago, on allegations that were circulating at the time, on thousands of reports that were circulating at the time, we acted to improve the transfer agreement that was left in place by the previous government. We then went about mentoring prison officials, went about mentoring police and went about improving the overall security situation …. We are co-operating with ongoing investigations. We are not pre-empting or prejudging those investigations. We are acting within the legislation, within the decisions that have been handed down by the Federal Court …. We are co-operating with investigations that are ongoing about what Afghans did to Afghans …. We will continue to work with officials to improve the human rights situation in Afghanistan.
UPDATE (1): The new title replaces the old one:
Hillier: I Told Prime Minister’s Office About Torture Allegations
thanks to some clarification in a discussion forum at Milnet.ca, where it’s made a bit clearer what the book said about who Hillier informed about possible abuse issues. Special thanks to Old Sweat for this!
As follow-up to the recent reaction to a Canadian diplomat saying he’d sent several memos up the line outlining possible abuses of Afghan prisoners after they were handed over by Canadians, Global Television (part of the CanWest empire) had this to add to the debate:
According to insiders, it turns out Ottawa was indeed aware of reports from a senior Canadian diplomat, which repeatedly warned that Afghan detainees turned over to local authorities risked being tortured.
Global National has learned from senior sources within the federal government and the Canadian military, that diplomat Richard Colvin’s warnings reached Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff at the time.
Hillier did not respond to Global National’s requests for an interview Monday.
Canada’s current top soldier says he’s working to get to the bottom of what happened to Colvin’s reports. Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of defence staff, said Friday he did not yet know where the diplomat’s reports landed back in Ottawa, who read them, and what was done with the information.
“That’s why I want to see the forensics, what actually happened,” Natynczyk said in an exclusive interview with Global National in Edinburgh, Scotland….
I find it interesting that this angle comes out at almost exactly the same time as advance coverage of former CDS Rick Hillier’s new book, “A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War”.
Here’s some headlines and tidbits from this advance coverage, for your consideration:
From the Canadian Press: “Many in military circles have long said they were concerned Hillier could be singled out for blame if the mission ultimately fails and for controversies such as the inquiry into the treatment of Afghan detainees, despite his popularity with the troops and general public.”
Update (1): This from the Defence Minister in the House of Commons, via Hansard (19 Oct 09):
I intend to hear from the Department of Defence, as well as foreign affairs, as to where this report stopped, because it did not make it to the deputy minister or my desk.
Someone else supporting this idea is none other than former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier – this, from a recent speech of his:
“Canadians crave information about the country’s role in Afghanistan, something they’re not getting enough of from the media, says Gen. Rick Hillier, one of the country’s most respected soldiers. “They don’t get enough information. They desperately want information so they can make their own decisions,” Hillier said during an interview between public appearances in Niagara Falls Saturday …. “I have not looked back (since leaving the defence department). I still think about Afghanistan. So should all Canadians,” he said.”