MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 10 Oct 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 19 Sept 11

  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (1)  CDS gives his side of the story to CTV, mentioning he had the Minister of Defence’s permission to rejoin his family after cancelling a flight in order to attend the return of 4 dead Canadian soldiers and 1 dead Canadian journalist (video).
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2a)  Let the media’s herd coverage begin!  “Top soldier won’t apologize, repay for VIP flights” (CTV.ca)
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2b)  “Top soldier won’t reimburse public purse for flights” (QMI/Sun Media)
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2c)  “Defence chief says no need to pay back taxpayers for personal jet travel” (The Canadian Press)
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2d)  “Military chief sees no need to reimburse taxpayers for plane use” (Globe & Mail)
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3)  The best, most detailed explanation I’ve seen so far, from someone who knows WAAAAAAY more about the system than I do, on how the CDS’s flights, including one following the cancellation of his leave to attend the return of 4 dead Canadian soldiers and 1 dead Canadian journalist, didn’t really cost taxpayers any money (via Army.ca).
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (4)  NDP’s Defence Critic Jack Harris criticizes“Allegations that Canada’s top military officer spent more than $1 million for personal flights on government aircraft since 2008 aren’t sitting well with St. John’s East MP Jack Harris. The reports indicate General Walt Natynczyk took the pricey flights to sporting events, fundraising dinners and to join family members on vacation in the Caribbean. Harris says that million dollars could have been better spent, especially in this region. He says that kind of spending is awful, especially when one considers that one million dollars is as much as it costs to operate the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s for one year.”  Note to critic:  maybe you should read the next bulleted link.
  • Libya Mission  Scott Taylor’s take:  “…. In support of the rebels, NATO provided the factions with a wealth of high-tech intelligence, including satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle imagery. In other words, far from simply “holding the ring” for six months, NATO actively blinded, deafened, starved and pummelled Gadhafi’s forces and supporters to enable the Libyan rebels to gain the upper hand. Only in Harper’s mind could that be construed as “the Libyans fought their own fight.” ….”
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg  Former OMLT-eer Bruce Ralston over at Flit raises an intersting point about how much of the Leslie report has been officially released.  “…. It’s clear from the main body of the report (here) that most of the heavy lifting, and all the parts anyone in the Canadian Forces would find controversial, are in the annexes and appendices to the main body, such as Annex M, with Gen. Leslie’s schematic diagram for a transformed military. I note that, in addition to still relying on the worst search engine on the web today, the DND website has, I’m sure entirely coincidentally, only posted the main report document so far, annexes-free. The fact that this leaves reporters and DND personnel wrestling only with what is essentially a large quantity of diplomatically phrased generalities and unsubstantiated recommendations is almost guaranteed to minimize any impact the report could have. PR genius, that.”
  • An editorial calls for another look at Canada’s sub purchase.  “…. at a time when the Harper government is looking at cost-saving proposals to trim at least five per cent from every departmental budget, it would seem that the submarine program would be a good place to start finding annual savings. Defence is supposed to come up with around $1 billion in cuts. At the very least, it’s time for a full review of the submarine program – including a full accounting of all additional costs that are expected as well as an analysis of the actual, if any, benefits that can now be expected from a fleet that’s nearly halfway through its expected 30 years of service.”
  • Globe & Mail calls for continuation (for a little while longer) of Canada’s anti-terror laws enacted post 9-11. “…. Now that 10 years have passed since September 11, 2001, people may wish, understandably, to move on. Regrettably, it’s too early for that, but the least Parliament can do is move on from the petty gamesmanship, in the interests of public protection.”
  • Army Run in Ottawa reportedly went well – well done to all participants. “Capt. Kim Fawcett of the Canadian Forces may have lost her leg in an accident in 2006, but it doesn’t slow her down. “I run for Canada. That’s what I do,” she said, as she smiled after crossing the finish line of the five kilometre Army Run Sunday morning. Fawcett was one of more than 16,000 people who came out to run in the event designed to show support for Canadian troups and to raise money for programs that support members of the military, including Soldier On and the Military Families Fund ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Aug 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 22 Aug 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  PM’s take on the latest in Libya (via PMO’s Twitter feed):   Prime Minister Stephen Harper is receiving regular updates on the situation in Libya and continues to monitor the situation closelyCda is hopeful that the end is near for the Qadhafi regime & that authority will soon transition to the Ntnl Transitional Council of LibyaWe are hopeful that the end is near for the Qadhafi regime & authority will soon transition to the National Transitional Council of Libya.”  More from Postmedia News here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  For the latest on what appears to be rebels fighting at Gadhafi’s doorstep, check here (Google News) and here (European Commission’s EMM Explorer).
  • Libya Mission (3)  What are some opponents of Canada’s & NATO’s work in Libya saying“…. while NATO partners like Canada and the United States can safely shirk some of their duties on this one — owing to the strategically convenient location of the Atlantic Ocean between them and the problem in North Africa — the financially strapped European members of NATO’s southern flank are about to experience all over again the reality of Gen. Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Rule: “If you break it you own it!” First of course, there is the matter of preventing an embarrassing massacre in tribally divided Libya. NATO has decreed that the transition must be peaceful, so — whatever actually happens on the ground in Tripoli over the next few days — that is presumably what we will be told before the cell-phone videos start leaking out. Longer term — and more significantly — is the reality that someone is going to have to maintain order in the North African country, and it seems highly likely that the rag-tag and disorganized rebels backed by NATO and slavishly praised by Canada’s foreign minister, John Baird of Benghazi, are not up to the job ….”
  • Way Up North (1)  PM’s (and company) headed for another tour o’ the North“Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that he will travel to Canada’s North for the sixth consecutive year. The Prime Minister will tour the North from August 23 to 26, 2011 …. The Prime Minister will visit Resolute Bay on Tuesday, where he will meet with community members and first responders involved in rescue and recovery efforts for First Air Flight 6560 ….  Following Resolute, the Prime Minister will stop in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon, where he will meet with Premiers, visit initiatives that are benefiting Northerners, and make several announcements that will further contribute to the economic and social development of Canada’s North. The Prime Minister will be accompanied by: Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and Minister of Health; John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; and Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources.”  More from the Globe & Mail here and here.
  • Way Up North (2a)  Minister of National Defence’s statement on First Air crash near Resolute Bay.
  • Way Up North (2b)  Three survivors of a plane crash in Canada’s Arctic region were recovering from their injuries Sunday as investigators sifted through the wreckage to determine what caused the Boeing 737-200 jet to slam into a hill in foggy weather, killing 12 people. First Air charter flight 6560 crashed Saturday afternoon as it was approaching the airport near the tiny hamlet of Resolute Bay in the Arctic territory of Nunavut. Local residents and soldiers from a nearby military exercise rushed to the scene in a effort to rescue survivors from the wreckage. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Angelique Dignard said two of the survivors _ a seven-year-old girl and a 48-year-old man _ were transported to a hospital in Ottawa from a medical facility in the Nunavut territorial capital of Iqaluit. A 23-year-old woman remains in a hospital in Iqaluit. Dignard said all three are in stable condition, but she would not comment on the nature of their injuries ….”  More here.
  • Way Up North (3)  To the naked eye, Canada’s North is largely remote and untouched, but what is buried beneath the earth and ice could turn it into an economic powerhouse. As the Arctic warms, a wealth of oil, natural gas, minerals, and potential shipping opportunities could be unveiled. “There’s really tremendous resources that are completely untapped in the North,” said Conference Board of Canada economist Jacqueline Palladini. As new prospects open up, concerns have also been sparked about the need to reaffirm Canada’s sovereignty. Stephen Harper will trek north of 60 on Monday – an annual trip the prime minister makes to assert Canadian presence in the area ….”
  • Report Leaked to the Globe & Mail (Propose) Cut(s) and run?  “A major report that advocates streamlining the Canadian military by chopping headquarters staff sits in limbo, awaiting a champion to drive its recommendations home. But with its author, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, leaving the military next month, that report’s future is very much in doubt. On Aug. 3, Lt.-Gen. Leslie submitted his resignation to Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “My military duty is complete,” wrote the former head of the army. He and his wife are currently on vacation in the Aegean. “On our return I have been invited to join a great Canadian corporation in the private sector,” Lt.-Gen. Leslie said in his letter. He could not be reached for comment ….”
  • Cuts to the CF (1):  One commentator’s hope regarding the recent “Royalizing” of Canada’s military branches.  “…. Let’s hope this time the retro-nostalgia of the Conservatives is genuine and not a distraction before the budget axe falls on long-promised expenditures.”
  • Cuts to the CF (2):  A Canadian historian is concerned about a possible cut – the CF’s Security and Defence Forum (SDF).  “…. The SDF program has had its funding guaranteed for 2011-12, but DND has said the program will be cut to $500,000 on the way to future extinction. Most of the university SDF programs – except for a few that have developed private support – will disappear or, at a minimum, shrink into insignificance. And the money saved will be swallowed by the paper-clip budget at DND headquarters, producing yet another triumph for the bean-counters at Fort Fumble on the Rideau.”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Someone to spruce up DND’s security plan, manual.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Discussion about the CF’s proposed “silent Ski Doo” at Army.ca here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Jul 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  Remember this program to fast-track Afghan interpreters in danger wanting to come to Canada (previous gripes here, here, here and here)?  Here’s the latest“….Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced a special visa program two years ago to reward and protect Afghan interpreters who were critical to Canada’s military and aid missions here. Other Afghans who worked in direct support of the Canadian government in Kandahar province, as well as spouses of any who died because of it, are also eligible for visas under the special program. Kenney said in September 2009 that he expected “a few hundred” to qualify by the time the program ends this month, as the last Canadian combat troops leave. His ministry estimated applicants would only have to wait an average six months to a year. But almost two years later, only 60 Afghans have made it to Canada under the special visa program. More than 475 Afghans applied, ministry spokesperson Rachelle Bédard said from Ottawa ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  One columnist’s assessment of the state of Afghan security force training “…. After nearly a decade of training, equipping and funding the Afghan army and police, we have yet to buy their loyalty — and we never will. They are paid by foreigners to wear western-style uniforms in order to prop up a hated and corrupt regime that failed to win a democratic mandate following the farcical 2009 elections. They will continue to pocket as much NATO cash as they can. And it should be noted that Afghan soldiers make a relatively lucrative salary that is three times that of Afghan teachers. Once the U.S. and NATO countries complete the projected withdrawal of all troops by 2014, the Afghan security forces will quickly dissolve back into the private militias of warlords. One has to hope they have enough remaining loyalty in the rental agreement to secure the airfields until the last of NATO’s planes are airborne.”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Outgoing troops blow off steam blowing shit up“…. “This was partly training exercise, partly an opportunity to field-test and clear out artillery before packing up the pieces, and partly — mostly, I dare say — one last chance for big boys to play with their big toys before departing a country deafened to the clatter of shelling. “That’s the most fun I’ve had since I got here,’’ roared Col. Todd Wood, commander of 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, who joined the Canadian party of eight LAVs and a brace of Leopard 2 tanks on the make-shift firing range. “I fired them all,’’ boasted Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, out-going Task Force Kandahar commander, after moving along the flank of vehicles. “Hey, they’re all mine. Even the American ones are mine for another couple of days. And I’ve waited 11 months for this.’’ ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Lotsa tanks allegedly killed in Kandahar, Zabul.
  • More on the upcoming Arctic exercise Operation Nanook 2011.
  • Canadian foreign policy, military policy getting closer?  “John Baird stepped off a stomach-churning, ear-splitting military flight from Libya, straightened his suit and walked briskly across the sun-blazed Sicilian tarmac. He went directly to address the Canadian troops on a break from their part in the NATO-led bombing campaign, taking their questions without censor, and replying with considered opinions. “We’ve got to be patient. We are making progress,” the newly-named foreign affairs minister told about 100 camouflage-clad men and women last week, shouting to be heard over the CF-18s soaring overhead. The frank exchange was more than a simple duty filled by a federal minister travelling through a military base. It tied together Canada’s foreign policy and military policy — a link that has been left untended for far too long, critics say. “I think it’s important for Canada that we more and more match what our military effort is, with the work that we need to do politically and diplomatically,” said Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who has a long history of observing Middle Eastern politics. “Frankly, I think they’re beginning to feel their way,” he said ….”
  • The Conservative government’s choice of Ontario cottage country as the 2010 G8 Summit venue offered would-be snipers “ideal conditions” to assassinate a world leader, concludes an internal RCMP review. “It must be underlined that the location for the G8 was sub-optimal from a security perspective,” says the 353-page draft report completed in late May. The hilly, wooded terrain around Huntsville, Ont., featured not only excellent vantage points for gunmen, but also covered approaches for intruders, and problematic land and water routes leading in and out of the area, found the review released to The Canadian Press in response to an Access to Information request. In addition, the decision to host the G20 Summit in Toronto immediately afterwards “added a significant planning challenge” that prompted a “complete re-examination of the G8 Summit security” due to limited resources, says the review. “No host nation has ever conducted two world summits back-to-back in geographically different locations.” ….”  No indication Canadian Press is sharing the report so you can look it over yourself.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Remember the CF looking for someone to run and maintain buildings, as well as offer food and other support services, at Canadian Forces Station Alert TwiceMaybe third time’ll be the charm.
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  “…. The Department of National Defence has a requirement to update the host computer on the CH146 Griffon Helicopter Full Motion Flight Simulator. The purpose of this Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN) is to signal the government’s intention to award a contract for these goods to CAE Inc., Montreal, Quebec ….” 
  • What’s Canada Buying? (3)  Wanted:  someone to review literature dealing with spotting IED wires and someone to develop software to process swacks of imagery information coming in.
  • He also serves who is hairy and goes “baaaaaaaaa”.  “It has been said that there is nothing more handsome than a man in uniform. Whoever said that obviously never met Batisse, the Royal 22e Regiment’s mascot — a goat. As the Duke of Cambridge inspected the regiment at Quebec’s City Hall, Batisse stood there, doing goats around the world proud, in a blue robe with the regiment’s crest. Before Will and Kate arrived, he had a few moments of animal-like behaviour, where the soldier holding his leash had to get him under control. Batisse is a Persian goat descended from the Queen’s private stock of goats. He’s number 10 in the Batisse line, depending on who you talk to. Major Jean-Francois Lacombe said the original Batisse was gifted by the Queen in 1955. The Queen kept sending goats until it became impossible because of disease, around the era of Batisse the third, Lacombe explained. The regiment then purchased their goats from British Columbia, with the same lineage. They had to write the Queen for permission. She said yes. Goat enthusiasts rejoiced. The goat means, “will to succeed,” Lacombe explained ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Apr 11

  • Election Promises (1) A Liberal government would restore full university status to the Royal Military College in St-Jean, Que., the party said Monday. If elected May 2, the Liberals would immediately invest $25 million to pay for infrastructure to boost the campus from what is now a CEGEP-level facility, to university status ….”
  • Election Promises (2)Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pledged Monday to deliver a two-year $120 million plan to help Canadian military veterans return to school and find work. Ignatieff, backed by local candidates and a couple of veterans, said the plan would be increasingly important in the near future with thousands of Canadian soldiers returning from the mission in Afghanistan. “We get a lot of veterans coming home and end up on the street,” Ignatieff said. “One of the things I want to do is make sure those brave, young Canadians get the education that allow them to get the great jobs of the future.” ….” Liberal Party statement here, a critique of the pledge here.
  • Election Promises (3)  Blogger Mark Collins quickly sums up the Liberal’s defence platform (hint:  there’s a reason he can do it quickly).
  • Libya Ops  Columnist says it’s time for Canada to GTFO Libya. “…. this has now become a matter of power and prestige for the U.S. It is no longer about enforcing a UN resolution. It has, instead, become a showdown between America and Gadhafi. Canada was quick to deploy fighter jets and to take overall command of the NATO-led, UN-sanctioned no-fly zone. However, now that this situation has quickly morphed into yet another American intervention in yet another oil-rich Middle Eastern quagmire of tribal warfare, it is time for us to cut bait.”
  • Meanwhile, in AfghanistanThe Arghandab River is barely a trickle as Claude Desilets scrambles down the bank to inspect recent repairs on the Dahla Dam water network — arguably the most important infrastructure project in southern Afghanistan. Of particular interest are recently installed gates at the diversion weir, a vital control point for the entire irrigation system Canada is spending $50 million to refurbish. While the river lapping at the gates is currently more reminiscent of a lazy creek, Desilets knows big changes are coming. “In a week, all of this will be under water,” he said. The project field manager notes the traditional agricultural season in Kandahar province is set to begin, at which point the Dahla Dam reservoir 17 kilometres to the north will begin unleashing its contents into the Arghandab ….”
  • More on how the Government of Canada wants one of the probes into how Afghan detainees were treated to exclude non-military sources here (Toronto Star).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The company says things are looking good for the new jet. “Lockheed Martin Corp said on Monday it made considerable progress on testing three variants of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the first quarter, conducting 57 more test flights than planned. Lockheed said the short takeoff version of the new radar-evading fighter, put on probation by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for ongoing technical issues, logged 61 vertical landings in the first three months of 2011, six times more than the 10 landings done in all of 2010. The F-35 test program remained ahead of plan, despite a dual generator failure on March 9 that grounded the entire U.S. fleet of 10 F-35 fighter planes for 4 to 15 days during the quarter, the company said. “The vector is moving in the right direction,” said Lockheed’s F-35 program manager Larry Lawson ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) As an American, I am extremely reluctant to presume to offer Canada advice on how to proceed with the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. However, the airplane is the culmination of such malevolent trends in my own country that I believe all allies and neighbours should be warned about going down the same path ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Anyone interested in providing professional services for designing/building new honkin’ ships for the CF gets a bit more time to submit a bid (via Army.ca).
  • Remember how the CF’s top cop would be getting more control over some parts of the military police apparatus (fourth item)?  Here’s the CF’s new fact sheet on what the new organization looks like.
  • I’m.  NOT.  Making.  This.  Up. A second military court martial is being convened against a Canadian Forces seaman accused of disgraceful conduct after a prank involving a glass of milk and a sailor’s penis. The unusual case happened aboard the HMCS Nanaimo when the coastal defence vessel was visiting Seattle in 2009. A leading seaman in the ship’s mess poured the last of the chocolate milk; mess protocol dictates he refill it. Master Seamen W.L. Boyle told him to refill it and the sailor of a slightly lesser rank said he would do it after lunch. An argument ensued and the junior sailor left, presumably to get fresh milk. While he was gone, MS Boyle took the glass of milk, unzipped his overalls and, according to one witness, inserted his penis into the drink, swirled it around and returned the glass to the table. The sailor was warned by a shipmate not to drink it. MS Boyle was charged with disgraceful conduct and conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, under the National Defence Act, which he was found not guilty of almost a year later. The military appealed, however, and won a retrial on the disgraceful conduct count ….” The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada decision is here.
  • A bit of a reminder from a Sun Media columnist. “Canadians are not capable of terrorism. We are the mild mannered and polite people of the Great White North who apologize to furniture when we bump into it. Surely we are not a nation capable of producing people who are willing to kill innocents in the name of an ideology. Reality, however, tells another story. There is a long, disturbing list of Canadians who have been arrested on terror charges both at home and abroad. Many have been convicted, Canadians with darkness in their hearts and violence on their minds: Members of the Toronto 18, Mohammad Momin Khawaja, Mohammed Jabarah among them. Since August 2010 alone, five Canadians have been arrested on terrorism charges. Yet Canadians continue to delude themselves into believing that terrorism doesn’t exist here, that every arrest is an aberration and that Canada is somehow an island in a world of instability ….”
  • Speaking of which….The Toronto family of a young woman who has sparked an international panic over her sudden travels to Somalia says that she has called home to tell them that she is not affiliated with terrorists. “Based on direct contact with her, they are assured she is safe with family in Somalia and that she is not with al-Shabab,” a source who spoke to the woman’s close relatives on Monday told The Globe and Mail. He asked that neither he nor the family members be named ….”
  • A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant seeking the extradition from Canada of a former Guatemalan soldier suspected of involvement in a brutal 1982 massacre during Guatemala’s civil war, a court official said Monday. Judge Santiago Pedraz ordered the arrest of 53-year-old Jorge Sosa Orantes for his alleged role in the massacre in the village of Dos Erres in 1982 in which more than 100 people died, the court official said. Sosa faces charges of crimes against humanity, according to the court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with policy. The more-than-three-decade civil war in Guatemala claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996. The U.S.-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to the findings of a truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed Sosa has been in custody in Alberta since January on U.S. charges of lying about his role in Guatemala’s war when he applied for American citizenship in 2008. He lived for many years in Southern California, working as a martial arts instructor ….”
  • How some troops in the Dominican Republic seem to be supplementing their wagesA dozen soldiers in the Dominican Republic have been arrested in an alleged plot to ship cocaine to Canada in a child’s suitcase.  Prosecutor Elvis Garcia says the 12 soldiers include a lieutenant colonel. Eight work with the national anti-drug agency at the airport in Puerto Plata and four with the airport security agency. Two civilians have also been arrested.  The arrests stem from the discovery last month 33 kilograms of cocaine in the suitcase of a Canadian child at the airport. The girl was traveling with her parents to Toronto ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Feb 11

  • Canada’s newest upgraded tanks arrive in Afghanistan to help in (what’s left of) the fight (via Army.ca).
  • Another way Canada’s helping in Afghanistan:  building secure quarters to protect Afghan public servants “Two weeks ago, Kandahar deputy governor Abdul Latif Ashna inspected a Canadian project to provide secure homes for 15 Afghan government officials and their families. Exactly one week later the Afghan lead on the Committee to Secure Civil Servants was dead when the car he was riding in was blown up by a suspected suicide bomber on a motorcycle. “Ashna’s death was very poignant,” said Philip Lupul, a Canadian diplomat who worked closely with Mr. Ashna on the housing project, which is to be completed by the end of next month. “He had pointed out some changes that he thought should be made to the houses and we had accepted them. “One of the tragedies of this is that he would certainly have been a candidate for one of these homes. We lost a good friend who was part of this project.” …. “
  • Canada spent more than $41 million on hired guns in Afghanistan over four years, much of it going to security companies slammed by the U.S. Senate for having warlords on the payroll. Both the Defence and Foreign Affairs departments have employed 11 security contractors in Kabul and Kandahar since 2006, but have kept quiet about the details. Now documents tabled in Parliament at the request of the New Democrats provide the first comprehensive picture of the use of private contractors, which have been accused of adding to the chaos in Afghanistan. The records show Foreign Affairs paid nearly $8 million to ArmorGroup Securities Ltd., recently cited in a U.S. Senate investigation (link to news release – 105 page, 23 MB PDF report downloadable here) as relying on Afghan warlords who in 2007 were engaged in “murder, kidnapping, bribery and anti-Coalition activities.” The company, which has since been taken over by G4S Risk Management, provided security around the Canadian embassy in Kabul and guarded diplomats. Tundra SCA stands on guard for the Defence Department outside Canadian military forward operating bases and has collected more than $5.3 million ….” A bit more on one of the bad boys turned good boys here.
  • A school that’s a hallmark of Canada’s struggle against Afghan insurgents is on the brink of getting rid of some teachers and classes as Ottawa ponders whether to toss a lifeline. The Afghan-Canadian Community Centre, where thousands of girls and women have braved Taliban threats to get an education, needs more than $500,000 by month’s end to avoid severe cutbacks, said Ryan Aldred, who heads a charity that supports the school.  Thousands of women, girls and men have learned skills such as how to use computers, start a business or speak English at the centre …. The Canadian International Development Agency has contributed $313,773 to keep the school open, but when Aldred applied for more money in late 2009, CIDA eventually turned him down.  “Although approved in principle, the grant was declined in May 2010 due to a ‘lack of resources to support new initiatives’ and ‘the priority currently placed on initiatives that directly support the attainment of (CIDA’s) benchmarks,’ ” Aldred said ….”
  • Meanwhile, a wounded warrior says in the reality that is Afghanistan, sometimes a good warlord can help keep a grip on things“The Canadian Forces have always been pragmatic in who it uses to help the CF in places like Kandahar. White western forces are at a disadvantage in a place where it is incredibly difficult to know who is on first. That’s why warlords and those on the ground are the way to ensure peace. Their troubled past will not make these people go away and in fact Col Toorjan is well known as the protector of the Provincial Reconstruction Team ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Claims of civilian casualties in Kandahar.
  • F-35 Watch With all the buzz around Ottawa about a potential spring election, there remains a drought of hot-button political issues over which the coming campaign will be contested. One exception to this, of course, is the Conservative government’s controversial commitment to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Although no contract has been signed, the Harper Tories remain adamant that they will proceed with the purchase of 65 of the sophisticated aircraft, which, at an initial procurement cost of $9 billion and an estimated $7 billion in future maintenance expenses, makes this the largest military project expenditure in Canada’s history ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? Translation cards (~$47,000 worth) that soldiers can point at when they don’t know the language of the locals (via Army.ca).
  • Canada’s lead weapons treaty negotiator has been removed from his post after American negotiators complained he was “too tough and aggressive” on behalf of Canada in disarmament talks. The Ottawa Citizen has learned that veteran Foreign Affairs arms treaty expert Earl Turcotte has also run afoul of his bosses after apparently objecting to key elements in long-awaited legislation that will see Canada ratify the international Convention on Cluster Munitions. Turcotte, widely respected and often publicly praised at international negotiations for his negotiating skills, has emailed colleagues across the world telling them he will soon resign from Foreign Affairs to independently advocate for the cluster treaty he helped to craft in Dublin in May 2008 ….”
  • Members of Canada’s civilian intelligence service are apparently being asked to be more discrete with the swag they can buy in their kit shop“Canadian spies are being warned not to wear their loyalty on their sleeve — or their wrist or lapel.  The hush-hush reminder to employees of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service advises keeping polo shirts, watches and pins emblazoned with the distinctive CSIS crest away from curious eyes.  The items are sold in a secret shop tucked away on the lower level of CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, and made available to employees posted elsewhere through the agency’s online memorabilia catalogue.  The souvenirs — which also include hoodies, key chains, mugs, pens and plaques — offer members of the intelligence service “a tangible sense of belonging to the organization,” says an internal CSIS article obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.  But in keeping with CSIS policy, it seems the stylish spy must be careful to keep the merchandise undercover.  “Although the clothing does not display the Service’s acronym, it does feature the emblem,” says the October 2010 publication, parts of which remain classified …. “The policy essentially states that employees should exercise discretion in disclosing employment outside the work environment. Furthermore, employees working in (deleted from document) must be particularly vigilant in concealing their employer or any association with CSIS.” ….”
  • Egypt Watch:  My guess is that someone with a rank in his title will be boss in Egypt before end of week. “…. Since it would be the army that finally tells Mubarak to leave, the military would dominate the interim regime. They would not want to put yet another general out front, so they might decide that ElBaradei is the right candidate for interim leader, precisely because he has no independent power base ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Dec 10

  • Canada is apparently continuing to use a controversial Afghan security company to help protect a big dam project in Afghanistan. “Canada is standing by a controversial Afghan security firm that’s controlled by Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family despite a U.S. military decision to sever ties with it, The Star has learned.  The Watan Group, which safeguards Canada’s signature Dahla Dam restoration project in Kandahar, was blacklisted this week as part of a U.S. effort to stop aid dollars slipping into the hands of corrupt officials and Taliban commanders.  But Watan Risk Management, the specific subsidiary facing intense American scrutiny, will remain Canada’s security partner on the ground, according to Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the lead partner in the project.  “For the moment, we have no plans to replace Watan. Until or unless we have evidence that these contractors have done something illegal we will continue to employ them,” SNC-Lavalin spokesman Leslie Quintan confirmed in an email to The Star.  “Our primary concern is, as always, the safety and security of our people and we will do nothing to put them in jeopardy.” ….” Meanwhile, the U.S. military is apparently blacklisting said security firm “to clean up a contracting process in Afghanistan that has been riddled with corruption and allowed U.S. funds to pass to insurgents.” A bit of the rocky history of the company protecting Canada’s signature dam project here at Army.ca.
  • The past (Canadian) chair of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission says some progress is being made, and Canada can still help make the voting process there better. “…. Now is the precisely the time for Canada to renew and redouble our efforts in this area by working with Afghans as they continue to build their nascent democracy. Let’s use the momentum that the IEC has created so that the next elections are less fraudulent, more inclusive, credible and transparent than has been the case to date.”
  • Meanwhile, John Manley (of the 2008 Manley team report on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan) also says Canada can still help out there. “…. Afghanistan has surely taught us that there are limits to what can be achieved through traditional military/ civilian approaches to state-building. Canadians who have grown weary of the war in Afghanistan will welcome the shift to a new, less dangerous role for Canadian troops in that country — a role that will mean fewer ramp ceremonies and solemn processions along the Highway of Heroes in southern Ontario. So Afghanistan will fade from the daily news. But the chilling era of terror that we entered unexpectedly in 2001 will still be with us. We must be intelligent about how we deal with these risks. And we must not allow our will to weaken, nor our determination to flag.”
  • A number of authors and analysts have signed this open letter to U.S. President Obama, calling for the United States to “sanction and support a direct dialogue and negotiation with the Afghan Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan”. From the letter:  “The Taliban’s leadership has indicated its willingness to negotiate”.  Who put up the letter?  Good question, considering Alexa.com shows no stats or information to track for the address, and the URL is registered with a company that hosts addresses.  While I understand that public statements only show part of the picture, the public statements I’ve read all seem to say “no talks until foreign soldiers leave” (check here, here, here and here for some of the latest variations on the “you go, we talk” theme).  I’ve asked signers of the open letter for open source information showing the willingness mentioned in the letter – I’ll share that information as soon as I get it.  Meanwhile, a tidbit from a Taliban statement just posted this morning (links to Scribd.com):  “(The Taliban) is determined that it would never show its readiness for negotiation in conditions that the foreign forces are stationing in the country.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have destroyed a new U.S. base in Kandahar.
  • More “Question the F-35 Purchase” copy from the Ottawa Citizen here, here and here.  Some supporting commentary here, and more partisan “Attack the F-35 Purchase” copy here.
  • More on Canada’s JTF-2:  they’re more likely to nab bad guys than nail them. “Canadian special forces in Afghanistan capture more insurgents than they kill.  Surprised?  Well it’s true.  Like most issues surrounding the secretive Canadian special operations community, the truth is more nuanced and complex than the myth.  Contrary to popular belief, Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is not Canada’s only special operations unit, nor does it spend most of its time shooting.  “You can’t kill your way to victory,” says Brig.-Gen. Michael Day, commander of Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM).  Day shatters the shoot-’em-up, cowboy special forces image of popular culture.  Apparently, Canada’s elite commandos don’t go around kicking down doors and shooting up insurgent compounds.  Canadian special operations forces (known as SOF) “pull the trigger less than a quarter of the time,” Day explains ….” The information seems to come from a conference in Kingston last week (information on conference here and here, both via Google’s web cache, or here at Scribd.com of those links no longer work), where the author, Mercedes Stephenson, participated in a media panel.  An interesting message at the end of the column:  “…. This column isn’t long enough to smash every special operations myth, but there’s one more worth mentioning: SOF are expensive. The entire budget for Canadian special operations this year is $205 million. A number that small is peanuts in the defence budget. Now that’s value for money.” Out of a total budget of about $22 billion (according to Treasury Board budget documents), that’s just under 1%.
  • The Toronto Star uses the story of one Canadian military officer to seque into lamenting the loss of Canada’s “peacekeepers” “Unlike most other Canadian soldiers, Lt.-Col. Dalton Cote doesn’t carry a gun. He is a peacekeeper, one of 27 left in a military that used to be defined by that role.  For the past six months, while his comrades in arms were patrolling through Kandahar and sidestepping IEDs, Cote left his guns at home, donned a blue beret, climbed into a UN truck and negotiated his way through checkpoints in an effort to observe troop movements, monitor weapon stashes and investigate violent attacks on both sides of the makeshift border that could next month become the official partition between north and south Sudan.  As the leader of 20 Canadian peacekeepers sprinkled across the Sudanese countryside, Cote, a 45-year-old father of two, was, until five weeks ago, leading the largest Canadian peacekeeping contingent currently deployed ….” More on Canada’s mission in Sudan here, and how the CF’s helping out in Darfur here.
  • Oopsie at Veterans Affairs Canada or the Canadian Forces. ” The Department of Defence has launched an investigation after a former member of the Canadian Forces found sensitive health and personal information about other military personnel in his medical file. Wayne Finn said he was stunned to discover everything from other service members’ social insurance numbers, blood test results, X-ray reports to dates of birth mixed in with his military medical file. The 49-year-old Nova Scotia man said he still has information referring to about 20 people in his file, even after returning the files of eight others to the base in Halifax where he was serving ….”
  • Canada willing to help Haiti (but nobody’s asked for more troops at this point)“Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is ready to do whatever it is asked to help maintain order in Haiti, but doubts that will mean sending more troops to the troubled Caribbean nation. Cannon told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that Canadian soldiers and police officers are already part of a UN-led security force in Haiti, and Canada has not been asked to send more …” More on Canada’s military presence still in Haiti working under a U.N. mandate, and more on the current unpleasantness there here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? A review of a big plane contract review, and starches in pouches

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Nov 10

  • Remembering the fallen, one tree at a time“The first tree planted in the Afghanistan Memorial Forest at CFB Petawawa has been dedicated to the memory of Sapper Sean Greenfield, who was killed in Afghanistan on January 31, 2009.  “Spr Greenfield’s tree will be the first of many planted here,” said base commander Lieutenant-Colonel Keith Rudderham.  The Memorial Forest is in the Memorial Park on the eastern edge of the base. Its purpose is to provide a lasting link for the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan for generations to come ….”
  • Looking for Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables? Sorry, but just like the Afghanistan and Iraq leaks, every piece of paper is an individual snapshot of what one report writer had to say about a specific meeting.  Do we know if all the cables are there to show a full picture?  If they were, would mainstream media go for the meat (digging and waiting for some context) or the sizzle (what tidbits can we mine NOW)?  Nothing to see here, friend – feel free to move on to other news.
  • Well, we know ONE place diplomatic paperwork apparently didn’t find its way to: “Canadian reports about torture in Afghan prisons could have been helpful — if they had been passed on — the military’s former head of investigations said Monday. Retired lieutenant-colonel William Garrick was the commanding officer of the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service when detainees transferred to Afghan authorities told foreign affairs department officials they had been tortured. But Garrick told the Military Police Complaints Commission he didn’t see any of those allegations. When asked about reports that detail several prisoners’ allegations they were kicked, beaten with electrical cables and given electric shocks, Garrick said he wasn’t aware of the reports. He also said he didn’t know about site reports foreign affairs officials filed after visiting prisons and interviewing detainees ….”
  • Some questions about from how Canada handled juvenile detainees in Afghanistan: “The Canadian Forces have for years arrested children suspected of working with the Taliban and handed them over to an Afghan security unit accused of torture …. Allegations that militants captured by Canada were transferred to Afghan forces and later tortured were hotly debated in Parliament last fall.  A document obtained by the CBC’s investigative unit shows that Canadian soldiers captured children as well in the fight against the Taliban, and that many of them were transferred to the custody of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, or NDS.  The document, obtained under an Access to Information request and marked “secret,” shows that Defence Minister Peter MacKay was briefed on the topic of juvenile detainees in Afghanistan March 30.  The “Canadian eyes only” note informs MacKay of how many children suspected of “participating in the insurgency” have been arrested by Canadian Forces and how many of them have been transferred into Afghan custody in the previous four years ….” Kudos, by the way, to CBC.ca for sharing the briefing note in question here.  The “Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre” in Afghanistan where the kids were sent popped up in Canada’s backgrounder on detainees recently:  here’s the original backgrounder, and here’s the latest version.  When did it change?  Apparently, about the time CBC got the briefing note.  More from CBC.ca here, the Globe & Mail here, Postmedia News here, QMI/Sun Media here and United Press International here.
  • One columnist’s take on the Liberals supporting the extended mission in Afghanistan“…. In that sense Ignatieff, with a very public nudge from foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, planted the party’s foreign policy flag on high ground. Staying in Afghanistan in hopes of morphing a military stalemate into a rough facsimile of peace makes sense in many ways. It accepts Canada’s responsibilities as a good Samaritan middle power, recognizes the domestic economic realities of being sensitive to Washington’s international security preoccupation, and is consistent with Liberal proposals to equip the military with the “kit” it requires, not stealth fighters Canada neither needs nor can afford. But while getting policy right, Ignatieff and Rae got the politics wrong. By giving Conservatives a free Afghanistan pass, Liberals further undermined their already suspect prospects in a federal election now widely expected to be just months away ….” Gee, you’d think the columnist in question prefers the Liberals to win than do something that might help – or am I being cynical here?
  • For those who think “it’s just sex” when it comes to Daniel Menard’s court martial for an alleged affair and for reportedly destroying evidence: “…. Daniel Menard was not summoned to face a court martial nor did he resign his commission because he had sex with Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois. He was charged because he broke the rules …. Had Menard simply had an affair with a subordinate, he would have likely suffered at least a minor blow to his career. However, by attempting to use his position to obstruct justice, Menard committed a far more serious breach of discipline ….”
  • Worries about how much (more than planned?) proposed new F-35 jet fighters will cost: “Canada’s new stealth fighter aircraft will require extensive maintenance, as well as very expensive changes to improve security at the military bases they operate from, according to Defence Department documents obtained by the Citizen.  Critics of the Conservative government’s proposal to buy the high-tech Joint Strike Fighters have been warning that the purchase will come with hidden costs that could drive up the price tag far beyond the current estimate of $16 billion.  The 2006 DND report, which looked at next generation fighter planes as well as the stealth Joint Strike Fighter, highlighted issues that could play a factor in any aircraft purchase ….” Unlike CBC.ca, though, the Ottawa Citizen doesn’t appear to be sharing the briefing note with its readers.
  • Some folks would like to see Canada go back to calling the Navy the “Royal Canadian Navy”.  The latest?  Great name, but not bloody likely.
  • Elvis murderer-rapist Russell Williams continues to leave the buildingmore here.
  • On a more pleasant note, five new pilots rotate into positions with Canada’s Snowbirds “Five Canadian Forces pilots were officially introduced as the latest members of 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Wednesday, November 24 at 15 Wing, Moose Jaw, Sask., after a rigorous selection process and months of preparation. The newest squadron members are Snowbird 3, Captain Padruig MacIntosh, of Windsor, Ont.; Snowbird 5, Captain Brett Parker, of Edmonton, Alta.; Snowbird 6, Captain Denis Bandet, of Regina, Sask.; Snowbird 8, Major Ryan Stich, of Toronto, Ont.; and Advance and Safety Pilot – Snowbird 11, Captain Robert Chagnon, of Laval, Que. ….”
  • Surely he can’t be dead?  Yes he can – and don’t call him Shirley. Erik Nielsen, dead of complications from pneumonia at 84, predeceased by his brother, former Canadian Minister of National Defence (1985-1986) Erik Nielsen.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: IED’s allegedly destroy “tanks” in Arghandab.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Nov 10