May 29, 2006

Road rage? Not.

May 29 - The timing of the demonstrations in Kabul, coinciding as they do with Memorial Day, is highly suspicious, you know?

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May 27, 2006

The Battle of Panjwai

May 27 - I am impressed: this item, Canadian troops capture militants, which was written by Bob Weber and appeared in the Toronto Sun, has some solid reporting and indicates some understanding of the military and how they fight. I'm going to quote more than usual due to the uncertain lifespan of the link:

For nearly two weeks, hundreds of Canadians have been fighting in the mud-walled villages of the Panjwai district west of Kandahar, facing large concentrations of Taliban militants who - unusually - have chosen to fight rather than fade away.

The battle, a hide-seek affair of house-to-house searches and sudden, ferocious ambushes, has cost lives both Afghan and Canadian. Forty Taliban fighters were reported killed and 40 others captured in Panjwai last week in a battle that also took the life of Capt. Nichola Goddard, whose funeral was held in Calgary on Friday.

And still the fighting continues.

"We're not 100 per cent sure why (the Taliban) are fighting so hard for this area," said Capt. Dave Johnston of Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

"But this is definitely the main event now."

I suspect the Taliban are not fighting so hard for the area so much as fighting Canadians and hoping their ferocity will compell the withdrawal of Canadian troops from the region. They probably rely on the Star for their intel and have misunderestimated the character of Canada outside of Toronto.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the big action came to Banzya ...

A long convoy of light armoured vehicles - or LAV IIIs - and G-Wagon patrol vehicles had pulled into an adjacent field the previous night, its soldiers bedding down on the flat plain of dust and goat droppings.

By 8 a.m., about a dozen soldiers had filed through Banzya's main gate to begin the operation.

The Canadians set up a blocking cordon along one side of the town. Then, working with the Afghan police and army, they formed a line at right angles to the cordon. They started from one end of the cordon, searching homes, poking down alleyways and questioning villagers, moving along methodically like a squeegee cleaning a window.

The Afghans took the lead. They understood the tribal differences that allowed them to recognize someone out of place. They could spot the signs that suggest a man habitually carries an AK-47.

"We've got a lot of technology that they don't," said Johnston. "We've got more firepower, we can see better and we can call in artillery."

"But they've got a spidey sense."

The anti-war folk (and much of the MSM) are generally dismissive of the growing involvement of Afghan (and Iraqi) army units in operations because it defies their multi-cult worldview which respects the inherent dignity of people from places like Afghanistan and Iraq. No, wait, that's a contradiction. Let's try again: the anti-war folk (and much of the MSM) are generally dismissive of the growing involvement of Afghan (and Iraqi) army units in operations because it undercuts their premise that the Afghans and Iraqis liked living under the monstrous Taliban and Saddam regime.
For hours, the work went smoothly. Mid-afternoon, the Canadians and the Afghans broke from the mid-40s C heat under a shady tree. After days of fighting in the area, the place seemed deserted.

But about 3:20, as the Canadians were working through a narrow choke point of road near the vineyards, the Taliban sprung an ambush.

"There was a lot of rounds, a lot of (rocket-propelled grenades)," said Pte. Paul Carey - at least 15 of them. Carey watched one of the rockets bounce across a road like a stone over a pond, hopping over a soldier who had dived into a ditch.

The Canadians returned fire with rifles and their own grenade launchers.

Usually, such attacks last for 15 minutes or so then fade before the Canadians can call in air or artillery support. But this time, using the vineyard as a network of trenches and a nearby building for cover, the Taliban kept up fire for an hour.

One Taliban round rammed through a mud wall and the armour of a G-Wagon, setting its interior alight and badly wounding the platoon's interpreter.

The Canadians often escape an ambush by going around it. Suspecting that's what the Taliban anticipated, they changed tactics.

I'm just pausing here because it's hard to write with a big grin on one's face.
"We decided to power through the attack," said Master Cpl. Chris Alden.

Under cover of the big Canadian howitzers, landing punches from kilometres away as the soldiers cheered, the platoon gradually worked out of the trap the Taliban had tried to close on them.

But as they edged forward, they discovered their enemy had one more surprise in store. The road out was now blocked by an IED - or improvised explosive device, the sort of roadside bomb the Taliban regularly use on Canadian convoys.

"They had stuff set up for us," said Alden.

This time, the soldiers zigged, blowing a hole through a wall to open an egress.

Ka-boom! I love this stuff. It's almost Patton-esque. And, not to dwell, it's a testimony to the Canadian soldier that, despite years of neglect, they can still kick ass -- not because of what they carry in arms or equipment but because of what's inside them: guts and determination.
Meanwhile, air support arrived. A U.S. B1 bomber unloaded a 900-kilogram bomb, flattening a Taliban position with a concussion that could be felt inside LAVs two kilometres away. A U.S. air strike earlier this week in fighting elsewhere, in Azizi, killed at least 16 civilians along with dozens of Taliban fighters. Canadians were not involved in that battle.
Let it go. There are political reasons why Canadian non-involvement in that action needs to be emphasized. But, and this is directed to the American MSM, there seem to also be political reasons why the Geneva Convention is often mentioned when they report on the controversy over the Guantanamo holding facility but they don't condemn the Taliban for using human shields -- a definite violation of that same convention.
The platoon finally arrived back inside the defensive perimeter late that night, their interpreter the only casualty. During the skirmish, they had fired at least 7,000 rounds.

The work resumed the next morning at first light, with another platoon of soldiers filing into Banzya. A smattering of gunfire shortly after 10 a.m. was answered almost immediately with about 20 artillery rounds.

As I prefaced, one rarely read this kind of field reporting up here and I look forward to reading more by Mr. Weber.

One more nod to the Afghan soldiers:

Banzya is only one of a dozen tiny communities in Panjwai and operations in the area are ongoing. Each one will be different, and each will be the same.

"With the Afghan National Army taking the lead," said [Capt. Dave] Johnston [of Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry], "Canadians are going into compounds and making sure there are no bad guys around."

I ran a google on Bob Weber; a photo is credited to him in a Washington Post story about the battle last week in Musa Qala, a canada.com report about the death of Capt. Nicola Goddard, and there's an item by him cited in The Agonist about the Nov. 2004 Alberta elections. It seems he's a photojournalist who works for CP and AP.

I don't often note by-lines, but I'm going to be looking for his.

The season finale of Battlestar Galactica is about to begin (we're only concluding Season 2 up here) and I am so hyped. And the view on my monitor still looks brilliant.

May 28 20:35 - I wonder if information gathered from those detained is in any way connected to the successful U.S. air attack on an insurgent training facility near the Pakistan-Afghan border.

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May 18, 2006

Afghan mission extended

May 18 - Parliament voted yesterday to extend the mission in Afghanistan for two years. It was a very close vote at 149-145 with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP voting against the motion but, although the Liberals were split, enough voted for the extention to carry the motion.

17:22 - Andrew Coyne titles his post on this succinctly: We're staying and looks at the divisions within the Liberal Party over a mission they initiated when they ran the government.

I was too tired this morning to do more than note this extremely important committment, but it should go without saying that it is indeed welcome news. The media here (as indeed it does everywhere) takes note of the firefights and deaths but the gains don't make the headlines: building schools (and a school system that educates girls as well as boys,) medical clinics and supplying much needed equipment and medicine.

Coalition forces are also helping to train Afghan police and army units. This too doesn't make the news nor does its significance: that we are helping to build the very institutions that will eventually lead to our withdrawal.

Did I mention that girls are now allowed to attend schools? Or that women are allowed to vote? I just don't understand how any woman who calls herself a feminist could not rejoice at this news.

Another gain has been downplayed: The Torch has a post noting, among other things, the emergence of a healthy press in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and al Qaeda are caught between coalition forces, the Afghan army, and Pakistan, a country that is somewhat reluctant to engage an enemy that threatens its government (as well as the tenuous peace between it and India) but cannot help but note the extension of the Canadian mission and all it conveys.

This period in history has increasingly become one in which actions speak louder than words, and the vote in Parliament confirms that Canada is indeed committed to advancing the march of freedom. Well done.

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May 13, 2006

Great reads

May 13 - I meant to go to sleep but I foolishly visited Newsbeat1 and I've spent the better part of the night (morning? whatever) reading some great stuff.

Top of the list is Michael Yon currently writing from Afghanistan. I need to put a post-it on my monitor to remind myself to complain about the "mainstream media" rather than the shortened "media" because assuredly Michael Yon is a member of that profession -- or maybe he is what they wish they were: someone that writes from heart and mind rather than studied artifice.

Just as he does always, this latest post, The Long Road Ahead, has filled me with a sense of joy, sorrow, laughter, fierce pride and all-round general choked-up-ness.

After reading it I realized I need to return to Right Wing News to re-read John's Favourite Hindu Story.

The thematic connection between the two is not restricted to dogs, though, but to the kind of steadfastness and loyalty we so often see in honourable warriors.

Now here's a thought: we should encourage the Lefties to send a peace delegation to a Hindu village in Afghanistan to explain to them why removing the Taliban was wrong.

If you followed the last link, by the way, you'll note a name that recently popped up yet again: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. I swear this guy is like an Afghan Keyser Soze.

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May 12, 2006

Canadian troops capture 10 Taliban

May 12 - Canadian troops capture Taliban suspects without firing a shot and turned them over to Afghan police. Much of the article content, though, focuses on whether photos taken by an embed from Agence France-Presse may have violated Geneva Convention articles on the rights of prisoners.

The Toronto Sun article also focuses on the photo issue, but provides much more information about the suspects and what they were carrying:

Ten prisoners were taken in the raid, including three known to authorities. [Maj. Marc] Theriault said the men were found with large sums of money and bomb-making materials.
That information is conspiciously absent from the Yahoo account as well as the the CBC story. which is exactly the same as the one at Yahoo but does include a link to a photo gallery (requires Macromedia Flash Player.)

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May 09, 2006

Leadership: Canadian Style

May 9 - The Conservatives continue to impress me with their handling of the big stuff. Recent polls have indicated support for the Afghan mission is slipping, so Peter MacKay, the foreign affairs minister. pays surprise visit to Canadian troops in Kandahar and pledges that Canada will "finish the job."

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April 01, 2006

Operation Peacemaker

Apr. 1 - Operation Peacemaker is a Canadian mission in which Troops will go deeper into the Taliban zone:

The aim of the latest mission - essentially Phase 2 of Operation Peacemaker - is to further extend Afghan National Army and coalition influence into districts such as Maywand, and to solidify their hold on Shah Wali Kot, where Hope said he wants to build "a sustained presence."

Earlier on, the Taliban had largely avoided combat, prompting some soldiers to christen this the "ghost war."

Over the last few days, however, Canadian troops and other coalition soldiers have faced a vicious series of assaults. They included two rocket attacks on the principle coalition base at Kandahar Airfield, a suicide car bombing, roadside explosives and a Taliban attempt to overrun a remote outpost in nearby Helmand province.

The brazen assault early Wednesday with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns on the newly established military outpost in Sangin district resulted in the death of Pte. Robert Costall. Coalition commanders conceded the attack was bigger and more intense than expected.

And they rose to the challenge.

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Attack kills bomber

Apr. 1 - It brings a tear of joy to my eye when a suicide bomber only succeeds in killing himself.

From the Dod: Attack Kills Bomber, Slightly Injures Afghan Soldier,

According to this report from CN News, the coalition forces to which the DoD report refers were Romanian.

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The Maple Leaf Forever!

March 31 - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Afghanistan could not have been timed better coming as it did right before the annual spring Taliban offensive. In contrast, the calls by the Opposition parties to debate the Afghan mission in Parliament could not have been timed worse. It effectively gave the Taliban reason to hope that Canadians would cut and run once blood had been drawn and why the assault on the base was stronger than expected; they well understand the nature and tactics of opposition parties which hope to bring down a minority government by any and all means. It was essential that Harper renew Canada's committment then and there, with his boots on the ground, and assure the troops (and Afghans) that the Canadian government and people supported them.

Not bad for a rookie prime minister, eh? And the response here has been overwhelmingly positive and makes one wonder what the heck is going on with Canadian sensibilities. Media pundits, meanwhile, gripe that Harper, who never received any respect from them, doesn't respect them. There have been major firefights in Afghanistan and the media is focused on themselves. Right.

Harper's visit and brief speech also marked a welcome shift in policy as he asserted his confidence in Canada - not as a heckler but as an active player on the world stage by recognizing that you can't "lead from the bleachers." Andrew Coyne's analysis on this is well worth reading and I won't go over the same ground but want to speculate about some possible implications on how that speech might affect the role of the Canadian military in foreign affairs and how it might affect Canadians as they perceive themselves.

Significantly, Harper asserted that the troops were in Afghanistan to "defend our national interests." Now I don't know how often the Liberals openly justified foreign policy on the basis of national interests but I'd hazard it would be somewhere between "not often" to "rarely if ever." Canadian participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, for example, was portrayed as one of altruistic peacekeeping -- as though Canada did not have a stake in the establishment of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan. (Harper did elide over the fact that it is a NATO mission by referring to it as a U.N. mandated mission. The political reality is that Canada tends to regard the U.N. as a Canadian accomplishment so invoking the U.N. confers better legitimacy. Sigh.)

He also stated that Canada has a stake in the role on terror, and by affirming that Harper broke new ground - not so much because of what he said but because he was completely and utterly sincere. If Americans regarded former prime minsters Chretien and Martin as indistinguishable from France's Chirac maybe it's because that perception was accurate: the previous governments were perceived to be paying token lip service to the war on terror and justified Canadian participation by playing the trade card, as though Canadian security and national interests were not at stake and as though terror attacks on innocent civilians were not an affront to Canadian values. Yet, like France, Canadian security forces have been more active than is publicly recognized here. It's as though they are contributing but don't want anyone to know about it - something that is insulting to Canadian citizens who are entitled to know what their government is doing.

Harper also reminded the Canadian troops of the two dozen Canadians that died on Sept. 11, something the Liberal government had been quick to shrug aside just as they underplayed the deaths of Canadians who have lost their lives in other terror attacks. The previous government followed much of the world by pretending that the U.S. alone was the target -- as though the name World Trade Center was as devoid of symbolism as was the death roll of citizens from around the world.

Right about this time three years ago the booing of the U.S. national anthem at a Montreal Canadiennes game was noted by the American news media (although not so much the determined cheering of the anthem at a Blue Jays game in Toronto.) There were a lot of people up here who recognized that, despite one's attitude about the war in Iraq, the ties of friendship and shared values were worth defending, and it was in that spirit that the Friends of America organized rallies across Canada in early April of 2003.

The Toronto rally was on a Friday afternoon and, despite the freezing rain, some 2,000 people attended. One of the most spirited speakers at that rally was Stephen Harper, then leader of the Alliance Party, who ended his speech with the cries "God Bless America" and, very significantly, "The Maple Leaf Forever!"

The response was electrifying. By invoking that cry he hearkened back to an earlier, pre-Trudeauian era when Canadians were internationally regarded as tough and gritty - bold men and women who strode down from the North with determination and got the job done. (The song Maple Leaf Forever is quickly recognizable because it was often background music in war films where Canadian troops were featured, and was the unofficial song of Canada before Oh Canada was institutionalized.)

The capabilities of the Canadian military have been so diminished that that when Canadian soldiers first arrived in Afghanistan they were wearing forest green uniforms. It is to their credit that they scrounged for paint in order to create desert-camo fatigues and blankets but they shouldn't have had to go to such lengths, nor should Canadian troops have had to hitch a ride for the deployment. Sea Kings should not fall out of the air nor should a sailor die on a second-hand submarine and it is hard to swallow the pious sentiments expressed at cenotaphs on Remembrance Day when it is government indifference that most puts military lives at risk.

Polls indicate that Stephen Harper's approval ratings shot up after his trip to Afghanistan and it has been reported that enlistment numbers for the Canadian military are steadily increasing. Is it possible that a long-stifled urge is at work here, an urge for Canada to count as a player on the world stage and be recognized by her deeds rather than by the empty words of past governments? Is it possible that the energy checked by too much political correctness is about to spring free?

I still can't gauge how Canadians are reacting to the reality that her soldiers in Afghanistan are engaged in active warfare as well as reconstruction efforts but the lack of demonstrations argues that Canadians are fine with it. American forces in Afghanistan as well as Iraq have been doing both for a long time and I suspect that Canadians are sensible enough to recognize that there is no reason why, with proper support, Canadian troops can't do so as well, but there is also a deeper recognition that springs not so much from American sentiments but from Western sentiments: we are not only willing to die for our values but also willing to kill to defend those values.

There is a part in most of us that is dismayed when we ask our sons and daughters to kill. That is it should be in a moral society and is a key value that separates us from those who enthusiastically rejoice when their children commit murderous terror acts which kill inocent civilians. Yet the fact is that killing and detaining terrorists are the best if not only ways to protect civilians - including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus - from terror attacks, and those who will not defend the innocent are selfishly immoral.

As I prefaced earlier I'm just speculating, but there's a reason why Don Cherry was voted to the Top Ten List of Canadians and why hockey thrives up here. If the Canadian youth are totally anti-war then why are they wearing desert camo clothing? There's something askew, and as neither Don, hockey nor military wear are for sissies, maybe there's something going on that neither the media nor the polls have addressed but which Stephen Harper has.

Confidence is a concept that has been eroded by fretting over self-esteem. It takes confidence "to do" but one needs neurosis to obsess over self-esteem, and a less neurotic and more confident Canada can be a strong and valuable participant on the world stage. I sincerely hope that Harper can tap the wellspring of Canadian confidence sufficiently to render ludicrous accusations that such is an American-style approach to life and the world because the detractors are dead wrong: confidence is not the sole province of Americans but is God's gift to the world as surely as is liberty, and there are no more confident people on the planet than free people.

To repeat Harper's exhortation of three years ago, The Maple Leaf Forever! Stride onto the world stage with the same gritty confidence that once marked Canada as a force to be reckoned with and show 'em what Canadians are made of and yes, do it for the children - including mine.

[It only took me three days to write, edit, and re-write this. Heh, maybe that's why I don't post as often as I used to. Oh well, Stephen den Beste and Bill Whittle I ain't.]

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March 30, 2006

And yet another attack

Mar. 30 - A joint Romanian-Canadian convey was attacked this morning and a Canadian soldier wounded in suicide attack in Kandahar as were six Afghan civilians.

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Pte. Robert Costall, KIA

Mar. 30 - The opening sentence says it all:

[Pte. Robert Costall, 22, of Thunder Bay is] Canada's first soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan ...
One American soldier and eight Afghan soldiers were also killed. And some 32 of the enemy were killed.

Although there has been a Canadian presence in Afghanistan since 2002, the mission has been grossly underplayed by the government and the news media. It's been all "wave and smile" and tea-time, and there has been this general illusion that Canadian soldiers are peacekeepers who don't kill even when though they are killed. Sure, they return fire and try to find whoever is lobbing mortars at them, but they don't catch them so it's okay. That's the myth, anyway, and it is one that has been earnestly portrayed by far too many journalists who are also so naive as to reveal in which section of the camp the mortars landed. But it's all out in the open now: the Canadian Forces are truly an army, capable of taking and inflicting losses.

When we engage the enemy we take casualties. Every thinking person (who is not a member of the news media) knows that basic truth, and those of us who are honest want our soldiers to prevail. A soldier's death must be a meaningful one because he has made the ultimate sacrifice in our names.

March 29, 2006 Coalition forces killed 32 insurgents and destroyed two Taliban headquarters buildings in Afghanistan's Helmand province today, officials at Bagram Air Base said. The early-morning engagement continued into daylight hours as coalition forces defeated a large enemy element that was attempting to retreat into sanctuaries.

Coalition forces also discovered large caches of munitions as they overran the Taliban compound and the enemy fled. Coalition forces destroyed the munitions, which included weapons and bomb-making materials, causing multiple secondary explosions and destroying the compound and all enemy military equipment inside.

There has been an escalation in attacks on Canadian soldiers and on the base since they moved to Khandahar. Although the previous government had warned that it would be more dangerous they really didn't make it clear that there would be fighting, i.e., that Canadians would fight back.

I don't know how the Canadian public will react to all this but I suspect most soldiers would, given the chance, prefer to die fighting than from being sucker punched by IEDs or homicide bombers. Soldiers are not victims but fighters, and their willingness to fight is what allows us to natter and nit-pick and whine and opine without worrying about who might be taking names or a knock on the door in the middle of the night. (Joe Warmington has a good column on this and contrasts the homecomings of Pvt. Costall and James Loney.)

I don't know how the Canadian public will react to the fact that Canadian soldiers fought valiantly and inflicted casualties but I suspect that many -- if not most -- will be heartened if not downright joyful.

I shudder to think of how the political opportunists and media will manipulate this in days to come but this day Canadians can feel proud and grateful that this country still produces men and women made of that stern stuff from which heroes spring.

There can be no finer tribute:

More than 2,500 troops -- Canadian, American, British, Australian, Dutch and Romanian -- lined the tarmac for the solemn ramp ceremony. Eight soldiers carried the casket to the aircraft. The lament of a lone piper drifted across the desert.
Rest in peace, Private Costall. Your country -- and ours -- salute you.

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March 01, 2006

Yay!

Mar. 1 - George and Laura Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan.

(Do you suppose that, back in D.C., the White House press corp. sulked?)

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February 28, 2006

Canadian takes command of forces in South Afghanistan

Feb. 28 - Brig. Gen. David Fraser, Canadian, takes over in southern Afghanistan, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

Read this post at The Torch for good, well-linked information on the structure and nature of the command.

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February 26, 2006

Canadians in Afghanistan

Feb. 26 - A Canadian soldier was slightly wounded after two grenades exploded near a Canadian patrol on the Kandahar road between two Canadian camps. The attack was made at approximately 10:30 p.m. and and, as too often happens, it was a hit-and-run attack and thus no chance to return fire (Canadian patrol under rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan):

The first round exploded on the road between vehicles. The second projectile struck a rear door.

"It was bang, bang," said Grimshaw. [Maj. Nick Grimshaw, the senior officer on the patrol.]

Capt. Jay Adair was standing through the hatch in the rear the lead LAV-3 and saw the RPG attack firsthand.

"I heard the bangs and I also saw the explosions," Adair said.

"I'm not sure whether I saw the explosions from the weapons being fired or the weapons striking the ground and the vehicle. But certainly a bright flash and two loud bangs."

[...]

The attack was on the main road from the city to Kandahar Airfield, the same road where Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry died in a bomb attack.

As the article notes, the soldiers were traveling in G-wagons, which replaced the unarmoured Iltis vehicles after Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy was killed in January, 2004.

Properly funding and equipping the military is going to be a major challenge for the newly installed minority Conservative government. Canadian chief of the defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier lays it out:

"We remain short about three quarters of a billion dollars just to sustain the present Canadian Forces," he said.

"That's everything from married quarters to spare parts, to ammunition, the running of simulators, to gas and oil, to rations and to everything else necessary to march or fly or sail."

Beyond these day-to-day expenses, there's an enormous backlog of repairs and maintenance that has been deferred for years.

"The bow wave of things that we have not done, that we have put off . . . is enormous," he said. "It is going to take us billions of dollars to get out of that hole and I mean billions with a capital B."

Hillier also said that the military has too many buildings, hangars and other infrastructure on its bases that cost money but add nothing to the Forces.

"My estimate is that we have anywhere up to a quarter of our infrastructure that is not operationally required."

Hillier has welcomed the Conservative government's proposals for new planes, bases and 13,000 new troops.

[...]

Hillier seemed to be taken aback by a new poll published Friday which suggested almost two-thirds of Canadians oppose Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

[...]

Hillier also said he wants to build a stronger connection between the Forces and the rest of the country after years in which the military and the civilian community have drifted apart.

"Having been disconnected from the population for many years in my view, disowned by Canadians in this past decade and seen their confidence in us plummet, we have an obligation to ensure that we as Canada's armed forces are seen by our population . . . as exactly that; as their armed forces."

Although I can't scientifically prove it, I do believe that the impact of American Milbloggers on communications between the American public and military has been immense. As this chart indicates, though, there is a decided lack of them in Canada.

Bloggers do have a way of filling a vacuum, though, and Damian Brooks and Chris Taylor are part of a new enterprise to fill that need: The Torch, a blog focused on the Canadian military and which already has an impressive series of posts including this one which takes on the notion that Canadians are a nation of "peacekeepers." Be sure to bookmark and visit The Torch.

(Yahoo link Neale News; CTV and Milblogs links via Newsbeat 1.)

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February 19, 2006

Canadians in Afghanistan (Updated)

Feb. 19 - It may be underfunded and underequipped, but the Canadian military in Afghanistan does this country proud and doesn't back down when it comes under fire from insurgents:

Military officials told The Canadian Press that attackers fired three rocket-propelled grenades at a platoon from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry taking shelter in a compound in Gumbad, about 60 kilometres northeast of Kandahar.

No Canadians were reportedly injured in the attack, which occurred at about 7:30 p.m. local time. The rockets fell into fields surrounding the camp, just south of the small village.

Military officials said a patrol was sent out to investigate the enemy firing positions, but found no sign of insurgents.

It's the first minor skirmish reported since a new rotation of Canadian soldiers began arriving in the country for Task Force Afghanistan during the past month. The number of soldiers is expected to reach 2,200 by next month.

There will probably be accusations that this attack was a direct result of the decision to publish the Danish cartoons in the Western Standard (as though there had not been prior attacks on Canadian Forces!) Damian has a thoughtful essay (which predated this recent rocket attack) and questions whether we can keep our soldiers safe without becoming something less than we are now.

(N.B.: The headline reads the troops "exchanged fire" with insurgents although nothing in the story indicates there was actually an exchange of fire. I can't account for the discrepancy. Nevertheless, the fact that a patrol was sent out implies the willingness to shoot back.)

Update: The CTV account has been expanded and it appears there was indeed a firefight:

The soldiers returned fire using rifles and their new 155-millimetre M777 howitzer, a towed artillery piece. Military officials said a patrol was sent out to investigate the enemy firing positions, but found no sign of insurgents.
There's a somewhat detailed account of the procedure the patrol undertook in their effort to locate the enemy:
"There were no locals, there was no enemy traces found," Lt.-Col. Ian Hope, the head of the PPCLI battle group, told CP. "But that's quite normal too because normally they shoot and they run.''

The troops did, however, find a series of trenches and tunnels which were likely used as an escape route.

"According to our American counterparts, it is a well-known area that the Taliban have used for fortifications in the past," said Hope.

"They've conducted several ambushes there. They've actually killed some (Afghan National Army soldiers) from those positions, so it was no surprise ... that that was an area that they were firing from."

I've probably quoted more than I should have, but after calling them on what they left out I wanted to fully acknowledge the additions they've made to the original story.

(Via Neale News.)

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October 21, 2005

Operation Rudolph

Oct. 21 - Operation Rudolph - as in guiding Santa's team to deliver packages to Canadian Forces personnel in Afghanistan (link via Newsbeat1.)

There's no nice way to say this: public support for Canadian troops up here is all talk and no show. Yes, everyone shows up at the local Cenotaph once a year on Remembrance Day, stands around solemnly and intones "Never Again!" but when it comes to actually giving something (and we won't even go into federal funding for the troops) there isn't the kind of personal, local support here as there is in the U.S.A.

No one's asking you to "give 'till it hurts" (that right is reserved for the taxman) but maybe you can send a thank-you note. Or a donation (tax-deductible, no less!)

I'm as guilty as anyone up here of doing little to support the Canadians in Afghanistan, but then my energy and money go to supporting my people in my army in the U.S.A. What's your excuse?

By the way, before anyone sneers at the Canadian presence in 'stan, they might want to read Canadian forces offer first peek at JTF2 mission in Afghanistan from Sept. 21. (Run the complete headline through google for article.)

Also, read Postcard from Kandahar over at Small Dead Animals.

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October 05, 2005

3 Canadian soldiers injured

Oct. 5 - Three Canadian soldiers received minor injuries today by what initial reports indicate was a homicide bomber about one kilometer outside of Kandahar. Approxomatly 250 Canadian soldiers are stationed in that city at present and the deployment will be increased by 1,250 in February.

Kandahar is considered to be more dangerous than Kabul and thus the risk to the Canadian contingent is higher, but Kabul isn't all that safe either. Two Canadian soldiers sustained injuries Sept. 15 from a roadside bomb there.

(Link via Neale News.)

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October 03, 2005

Terrorists criticized by Human Rights Watch

Oct. 3 - Maybe I was too pessimistic on Saturday when I despaired that there was sufficient tinder to feed Muslim outrage over terrorist attacks.

Human Rights Watch has condemned terror attacks by anti-Iraqi forces (whom they call insurgents) and accuse them of committing war crimes. They also say that the attacks are backfiring and reducing popular support for the anti-Iraq forces. (Link via Mudville Gazette.)

In Afghanistan, the assassination of candidate Mohammed Ashraf Ramazan sparked protest demonstrations by nearly 4,000 in Mazar-e-Sharif. Ramazan was a Hazara, an ethnic group that is about 10% of Afghanistan's population, and the protesters accused international peacekeeping forces and the Karzai government of discrimination which led to the lack of security which enabled the killing. (Link via Jack's Newswatch.)

Captain Ed reports that the Balinese are going from shock to anger and asking Why us?. He also points out the the usual excuses given for attacks on Western targets simply don't apply to Bali or Indonesia as a whole.

It should be remembered that some of the largest demonstrations against U.S. intervention in Iraq took place in Indonesia yet bombs still went off in Jakarta and Bali.

Pieter focuses on some of the reasons why the Balinese are targets and draws a parallel between the challenge fundamentalist forces pose to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Instinctive anti-Americanism once sufficed as an excuse for the apologists of terrorism but the instict for survival may yet prove more persuasive.

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September 15, 2005

Canadians troops injuried in Kabul

Sept. 15 - They hold the line so others can be free, and too often at a price: Two Canadian soldiers were injured in Kabul by a roadside bomb during a routine patrol in preparation for Sunday's elections. Details are sketchy, but thankfully the injuries are said to be minor.

This attack is yet another in a series intended to prevent consensual government in a Muslim nation and coincides with the terror attacks in Iraq yesterday and today.

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May 09, 2005

75 anti-Iraqi forces killed in Iraq

May 9 - A new offensive has begun in the northwestern Anbar province and FoxNews reports indicate that up to 75 anti-Iraqi forces were killed in the first 24 hours of fighting.

There has also been an increase in activity in Afghanistan of late, and yesterday two Marines were killed during a 5-hour firefight. 23 anti-Afghan forces are believed to be dead.

It has been one year since Nick Berg was murdered and his vicious killing was posted on the internet.

I've never regretted watching or linking to it, feeling that it was not so much a punishment or chastisement for supporting the war but an obligation to try and remain honest ... acknowledging that whatever gain might come from this risky undertaking there would be men, women and children lost who could never be returned to this life.

The Fox article quotes from Nick's father: "Forgiveness was something I had been wrestling with since the moment I got the phone call that Nick was dead," he said. "I had this huge burning fire within me, and I wanted to get rid of it."

I don't think we were prepared for the bloodlust of the enemy. We thought we had seen evil on Sept. 11, but what we really saw was a brief glimpse of that evil as the 4 planes went down within 2 hours of one another.

Now we've seen over two years of evil in the present tense and the thousands of mass graves in Iraq bespeak of evil in the recent past tense.

One last thought. Pray for Douglas Wood tonight, if you can.

Posted by Debbye at 02:33 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2005

Canadian troops return from Afghanistan

Feb. 20 - Members of the Land Force Western Area returned to Edmonton last night after a 6-month tour in Afghanistan (Hope delivered):

"They kept Kabul, and the region around Kabul, secure in a way that allowed people to start to create normal lives, to start to build houses and invest in their future," said Brig.-Gen. Stu Beare.

"The bottom line, people are making buildings. People are building roads, people are putting in electricity in a country that had none of that during the Taliban era.

"What does that mean? That people have hope, so there's been a huge difference."

Efforts to rebuild Afghanistan are often overshadowed by the bloodier events in Iraq, but restoring stability to Afghanistan is vital to the war on terror and Canadian forces have played an important role in that endeavour.

Despite the questionable support of the Canadian government, members of the Canadian military have steadfastly adhered to their duties, and as the post below demonstrates, this has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the public.

Posted by Debbye at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2004

Peter Worthington in Afghanistan

Oct. 12 - Today's Worthington column is on The rise of Afghan women. Very inspiring read and reinforces what feminists once knew but have seemingly forgotten: we have the right to select the paths for our own lives and that includes the right to wear or not wear the burka.

Saturday's entry in David Frum's diary has been updated to include a picture of Peter Worthington, who reported on the elections from Kabul.

For comparison, read this report that the Saudis won't let women vote, fearing that reforms are going, you know, too fast.

Posted by Debbye at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004

Canadians in Afghanistan

July 6 - When the US asked Canada to to extend the tour of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan so they could help provide security during that country's September elections, the answer was "no."

There is a critical lessons in this, one which is especially relevant for Americans who believe that having the U.N. and/or NATO inolved would therefore bring significantly increased military assets: while we do gain more "allies" who demand a voice at the table, they won't or can't commit military or monetarily to do what it takes to see the mission through.

Major-General Lewis MacKenzie (ret.) explains real reasons behind the Canadian refusal (Political excuses disarm military morale):

Unfortunately, it was left to a junior Defence department spokesman to explain why Canada would not agree to the U.S. request: "What the Americans are looking for is not exactly what our troops are trained for."

This need not have been such a highly embarrassing admission, as it is blatantly untrue. There are reasons why our contingent is incapable of taking on such a role, but it has nothing to do with a lack of training. On the contrary, they are the best-trained troops for such a mission in the multinational force.

[...]

Regrettably, a considerable degree of inflexibility was built into the organization of the Canadian contingent and a very un-Canadian solution was chosen.

It was decided that the soldiers would live in a large encampment with creature comforts previously unknown and deemed unnecessary on other missions -- Internet cafe, exercise tents, individual living compartments, a sewer and water system, extensive air-conditioning, etc.

Despite the fact that Afghanistan qualified as an operational theatre, civilian contractors were brought in to run the logistics support system for the soldiers. Meals, accommodation, ammunition control, overall maintenance of vehicles and equipment were all centralized in a static civilian component that could not deploy outside of Kabul.

Erroneously assuming that the Canadian mission to Afghanistan would not change and that the umbilical chord to the civilian supply system would always be available, the infantry battalion was required to leave behind in Canada its own internal supply capability provided by its service support company -- which normally provides the services offered by the civilian contractors in a more austere manner, but is considerably more flexible and mobile and can deploy into high-risk areas.

I can appreciate that our government might not want to respond positively to the recent U.S. request. To do so would mean that we would take on an expanded role that would see our soldiers move throughout Afghanistan during the election process to confront any attempts to interfere with the democratic process.

Any increased support for the United States during the current election would be seen as a negative for the government, given its anti-U.S. Iraq policy rhetoric.

When National Defence was told to come up with an excuse for us not agreeing to the U.S. request for us to rejoin the war against terror, the response should not have been that our troops were not trained for such a role. An honest -- but politically unacceptable -- response would have gone something like this:

"Sorry, the need to find more savings in our defence budget forced us to contract out the logistics support for our soldiers to a static civilian organization and that restricts them to operations less than 70 km from Kabul. We also have a massive administration and security overhead in Kabul, which means that out of our 2,000 personnel, only about 300 are available for taking any potential fight to the enemy. That reality is extremely unfortunate because the 3 R22eR soldiers in their light infantry role would be as good as any elite unit in the world at tracking down and eliminating the terrorists who would threaten the election process and the security of Afghanistan. They spend most of their time training for such a task and would prefer it to patrolling the streets of Kabul."

The lessons we can learn from this are: (1) we should think of our soldiers' morale and pride when politically correct excuses are made for all the world to see; and, (2) we should not fool around with the well-proven organization of an infantry battalion on the assumption that a particular role in a particular mission area will not change. It will, as it should but can't in Afghanistan.

Note that both the U.N. and NATO are in charge in Afghanistan, but aiding in Afghanistan is seen as aiding the USA.

Note also that desiring to influence the American presidential elections is far more important to the Canadian political elite than assisting Afghanistan in holding its elections.

In all likelihood, more terrorist attacks will occur in Afghanistan as the September election nears. Whenever a sombre Canadian broadcaster or politician tut-tuts the death toll and criticizes the US military for inadequate security, remember that Canada could have been part of the solution.

(Link via Neale News.)

Posted by Debbye at 07:43 PM | Comments (22)

May 01, 2004

Tillman awarded Silver Star

May 1 - US Army Ranger Pat Tillman has been awarded the Silver Star posthumously (Army awards Tillman posthumous Silver Star.)

"Dumb jock?" If going back to assist fellow soldiers under fire is dumb, then I don't want to be smart.

"Tillman's platoon was split into two sections. Tillman was the team leader of the lead section when the trail section began receiving suppressive mortar and small-arms fire. ... [The] cavernous terrain made it extremely difficult to target enemy positions, and there was no room for the trail element to maneuver out of the kill zone.

Even though his element was out of the area that had come under fire, Tillman "ordered his team to dismount and maneuvered his team up a hill toward the enemy's location," the Army said.

During the battle, he issued "fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground," the statement continued.

"Only after his team engaged the well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished."

Because of Tillman's leadership and his team's efforts, the trail section under fire "was able to maneuver through the ambush to positions of safety without a single casualty," the Army said.

Tillman was also promoted to corporal:

"The Army always notes that rank and promotion are not a reward of what was done well, but a recognition that you have the potential to do more," Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd told the AP. "This promotion is essentially saying he would have been a fine leader."
Greyhawk and homicidalManiak have expressed some thoughts about Tillman that civilians might want to look at and consider.

It's righteous that most Americans recognized immediately that what Tillman truly represents are the hundreds of thousands of men and women who put their lives on hold to serve their country.

God bless them all.

Update: Thanks, Murdoc. Fixed the error.

Posted by Debbye at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)

April 25, 2004

Afghan forces with ISAF teams raid terrorist cells

Apr. 25 - NATO operations in Kabul turning into more-offensive measures on terrorists:

KABUL (CP) - NATO operations in Afghanistan's capital city have taken a significant shift away from routine patrols, do-good projects and social visits to more-offensive measures against terrorist elements.

Canada and other countries are cashing in on 2 1/2 years of nurturing trust among locals with relentless presence patrols, whose main weapons have been simple smiles, friendly waves and a cup of tea.

While the routine continues, the 34-member International Security Assistance Force is now showing its other hand - a formidable arsenal of intelligence and military might backing city police and national security forces in so-called directed operations.

Recent raids involving Canadian and British troops acting in support of Kabul City Police and National Security Directorate agents have captured several members of the terrorist group Hekmatyar Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG.

The group is believed responsible for last October's mine strike that killed two Canadian soldiers and wounded four, as well as last June's suicide attack on a bus that killed four German soldiers and wounded 29.

The ISAF commander, Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier of Newfoundland, said that these are Afghan missions backed by ISAF and that the training of Afghan security forces are beginning to produce results.

Posted by Debbye at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2004

The last full measure of devotion

Apr. 24 - I came to a full stop yesterday when I learned of Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan (Former Cardinals safety Tillman killed in combat.)

Maybe this story has had so much impact because it is about everything, and, like everthing, it can't be summarized.

When placed beside media piffle-stories about other celebrities who are so prominent in the news, this story - and the man - stand while the others just lie supine as do all sick things.

I tried to put everything into words but I can't. There are those who just can't get beyond their disbelief that a man would give up fame, gridiron glory and millions of dollars to serve the country he loves because they know they never would. I doubt anything I or others might write will clarify matters for such because they lack that language of the heart that defines the overwhelming love of country.

The USA isn't perfect. It's not about how things are but how we continue to strive to form a more pefect union. It's about ideals, and hopes, and dreams that aren't shattered by an oppressive regime that dictates how long the beards must be, restricts the freedom of our thoughts, and decaptitates those who say "No."

Love isn't about perfection. If it was, none of us could love; it's all about loving despite flaws and often even because of them.

What astounds me is not how much we love our country but the lack of bold admissions from others that they love their countries. I may be a simpleton because I love my country, but they are ungrateful, shallow bastards for not honouring the blood and dedication of those who came before them.

Love of country isn't pride, people, it's humility. It's being bowed by the burden of mighty examples and, even as we enjoy the freedoms bequeathed by those who came before us, we freely accept that our heritage includes the admonition that we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

Is that the real reason modern education obscures the country's history? Are they trying to eliminate the debt we owe to those of the past by juggling the books? History, which didn't end in the last decade, still informs our thoughts like an insistent whisper that won't be stilled.

History is the story of those who stood up straighter and said Fix bayonets with grim determination. It's about the willingness to fight, die, and yield no quarter.

I used to believe that everyone had something they felt worth fighting for. Now I know better, and maybe that's why I feel so indebted to those who stand so tall and are willing to fight.

That his death should come right now while there's babble about reinstating the draft contains rich irony as well as the definitive response to that debate.

Tillman symbolizes every single man and woman who has chosen to do their part in this mighty struggle. If the fact that his is a household name has lent new clarity to words like honour, valour and service, then I think he's content.

Where do we find such people? Look at your next door neighbour and maybe you'll have your answer.

20:33 Ghost of a Flea pays tribute (and be sure to follow the link under hero.)

Apr. 25 10:41 Just to clarify, when I refer to next door neighbours, I mean that literally. The kids who play hockey in the street or deliver your paper are the stuff from which our real heroes are made.

I sympathize with Al Maviva's epiphany:

I wish I could call him a hero - but he isn't.

He is simply what the rest of us should be. That's right, he's not a hero, it's that most of the rest of us are slackers.

Yep. That about sums it up.

Opinion Journal is republishing a piece by Peggy Noonan when Tillman first enlisted. It makes even better reading today especially given the foolish utterances by those who are promoting conscription.

Posted by Debbye at 10:30 AM | Comments (8)

January 05, 2004

Afghan Constitution

Jan. 5 - Some more links to articles about the newly approved Afghan constitution from the AP, Daily Telegraph and Afghan News Network.

The AP dispatch mention that the constitution leaves open the possibility that Parliament could overrule rule the President. The Telegraph says the constitution provides for "two vice-presidents and an upper and lower house with strong legislative authority."

Not everyone is pleased: shots were fired and a grenade was thrown into the Afghanistan office of the United Nations refugee agency in Kandahar early today. There were no injuries.

Posted by Debbye at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2004

Afghan Constitution

Jan. 4 - The Loya Jirga approved a new constitution for Afghanistan after a number of compromises, many of which involved language rights.

There isn't much specific information in the article, but I noticed one thing: it states that men and women should be treated equally even though laws are to be in accordance with Islam.

The office of the Presidency retains strong powers including control of the army and direction of policy, and there is no provision for a Prime Minister or strong regional councils.

Posted by Debbye at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

Canadians in Afghanistan

Jan. 2 - Soldiers at Camp Julien in Kabul took part in a polar bear swim Making a splash. The swim took place as Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson was visiting Afghan Pres. Karzai.

The Loya Jirga constitutional convention continues to be contentious as they grapple with the degree of powers granted to the presidency and how the different ethnic groups will share power. Tribal conflicts have long dominated Afghanistan.

Yesterday's meeting was hastily adjourned when opponents of Karzai began to organize a boycott.

Posted by Debbye at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2003

Afghan Constitution

Dec. 30 - Troops wary after attack yesterday by a homicide bomber in Kabul who killed 4 Afghan security officers and their driver after they took him into custody. The Taliban claim that 60-120 would-be terrorists are already in the country and set to attack UN workers and ISAF forces during the upcoming conference being held in Kabul to draft a new consitution.

Kabul police chief Baba Jan said the suspect was a foreigner, but refused to identify him further.

It wasn't clear if the constitutional convention, being held by a grand council, or loya jirga, about 10 km from the blast, was the intended target.

Osama bin Laden had no comment. He's been awfully uncommunicative these days.

The Daily Telegraph reports from the conference: Like drinking water from the edge of a sword.

By mid-morning yesterday it was clear the debate was not going well. The anger among the 500 delegates of the loya jirga - now dragging into its 17th day - was palpable.

So the deputy chairman of the grand assembly did what any Afghan politician would do in a time of crisis: he announced a poetry reading session.

[...]

A powerful group of former jihadi leaders and Islamic fundamentalists demanded six major amendments, including the appointment of three vice-presidents and the establishment of provincial councils.

This would dilute the powers of the central government. Mr Karzai and his supporters are pushing for a strong presidential system to unite the country after years of factional fighting.

So far, 124 of the 160 articles have been approved and he seemed to be winning. But by mid-afternoon, the petition demanding the changes appeared and the chairman of the loya jirga, facing a major crisis, adjourned the proceedings with a suitably poetic speech.

"The job of our delegates to create a constitution is surely a difficult one," he said. "It is like drinking water from the edge of a sword."

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Debbye at 07:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2003

Bombing attempt at Kabul airport

Dec. 29 - You've all probably already read about today's attack and the claim that 60 bombers ready to strike: Taliban:

SIX people were killed when a suspected suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body after being arrested by intelligence agents near Kabul international airport, Afghan officials said today.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast, which he said was aimed at International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) peacekeeping troops based at the airport.

He warned that dozens more suicide bombers were in the capital.

Kabul police chief Baba Jan told reporters at the blast scene: "Chairman (Abdul) Jalal along with four bodyguards were killed while trying to arrest a terrorist who had explosive devices with him."

Jalal was the head of the 21st intelligence directorate, a department of the Afghan intelligence service.


The bomber was identified as Abdullah, a 35-year-old from Chechnya.

Posted by Debbye at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2003

Raija-Liisa Teigen

Dec. 22 - Another dispatch from Licia Corbella of the Calgary Sun about a rather remarkable young women, Raija-Liisa Teigen, who believes (with justification) that Afghanistan is in her soul. She has been running a woman's centre in Zaranj, a city of about 70,000 people in southern Afghanistan near the Iranian border.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Debbye at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

Tiger Williams supporting the troops

Dec. 22 - Some interesting observations in this article on Dave "Tiger" Williams' visit to Kabul about reconstruction progress in Kabul and how the people living there feel about the presence of Canadian and other forces.

The forces at Camp Julien held a ball hockey tournament in memory of the two soldiers killed last October by a land mine:

To help out, the Maple Leafs donated 2,000 t-shirts and the Vancouver Canucks gave 2,000 ball caps for a raffle to raise money for a Canadian Mine Awareness program.

"It doesn't only benefit the charity itself, it benefits everybody that's over here, trying to help out the people of Afghanistan," said Cpl. Steve Posthumus of Burlington, Ont.

"So far they've cleared a 60,000 square foot ( 5,570 square metres) area (of landmines), and that's 60,000 square feet that is safe to walk on for the troops that are over here."

A number of hockey jerseys, hats, headbands and pins were also donated by Team Canada, the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Leafs and Canucks, with many of the items autographed by Williams, former Canucks goalie Kirk McLean and Olympic Women's Hockey Gold medalist Cassie Campbell.

McLean and Campbell are also in Kabul with Williams.

Hockey figures in Canada have been very active in supporting the troops. I don't know how well known Don Cherry is to non-hockey fans in the US, but his strong denunciation of the Sept. 11 attacks as well as his staunch support last winter of the US in Iraq eclipsed anything said by any national leader, and Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Tiger Williams have been among those active in reminding Canadians that the soldiers are in harm's way and letting the troops know that they are appreciated.

UPDATE: The Toronto Sun has an update and picture of the rink (Hockey night in Kabul) and a bit more information on the raffle and jersey auction held to raise money for the Mine Awareness Program.

Posted by Debbye at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2003

Licia Corbella from Afghanistan

Dec. 21 - Another dispatch from Calgary Sun editor Licia Corbella: Khaki Christmas in Kabul. Arghh, the clock is ticking on me, so read the whole thing!

Posted by Debbye at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2003

Licia Corbella from Afghanistan

Dec. 20 - Another dispatch from Calgary Sun editor Licia Corbella from Kabul: Smiles and waves win fans.

Don't forget to send your thanks and holiday greetings to the Canadian troops here.

Posted by Debbye at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2003

Licia Corbella from Afghanistan

Dec. 18 - This is bittersweet: Near riot for gifts at camp. Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian aid organization, put together shoeboxes with toys, candy, toothpaste and other sundries for distribution to kids at a refugee camp in Afghanistan but there was a near riot as children and adults fought for the gifts.

"We had a plan to have the adults help us control the movement of people," said Maj. Steve Whelan, in charge of the military unit that distributed the boxes. "But clearly ... they overwhelmed us very quickly. It was a mob scene."

Several times, soldiers had to wave off adults, who beat the children with sticks and tightly wound blankets as they advanced on the flatbed truck.

No one suffered serious injuries as the children appeared to accept what, for them, is considered normal treatment by adults.

"It's a bit overwhelming," said Godfrey Vandeleur of Vancouver, who helped organize the delivery. "I feel happy to give them out, but then you also feel a bit sad when you see them fighting for the boxes."

Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, is in Kabul and writing about her experiences there. Her description of the distribution is here centers on the response of the child who received the box she and her children had packed in Calgary.
This 10-year-old boy lives with five sisters and four brothers in a ramshackle structure at the internally displaced persons camp (IDP) known simply as "the big one."

That, of course, is bad enough, but two months ago, Anjomudin had his left leg amputated below the knee after he was run over by a truck carrying bricks to a neighbouring shack.

Nevertheless, if he thinks he's lucky, I'm certainly not going to tell him otherwise.

"This is the best day of my life," he declares.

What made yesterday so special? For the first time in his life, Anjomudin was given a present -- a shoebox packed to the brim with toys, school supplies and hygiene items.

The box he received was the one my six-year-old boys and I put together back in Calgary and it was jam-packed with goodies.

Toy cars and trucks, three balls, school supplies galore, socks, gloves, stickers, sugarless gum, hard candies, a stationery kit with scissors, glue, an eraser, ruler and doodle pad bought by my boys, a harmonica, a yo-yo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap and much more.

But Anjomudin was not alone. Santa came to many good little boys and girls yesterday -- more than 1,450 of them -- on this stinking, dirty hillside.

But, rather than red, Santa -- or rather, many Santas -- wore camouflage green, a big smile, and an assault rifle strapped across his chest.

The shoeboxes are organized by the Christian aid organization, Samaritan's Purse under its initiative called Operation Christmas Child, that will put some seven million shoeboxes into the hands of the world's poorest children this year.

And for all of those Scrooges out there who object to a Christian aid organization helping Muslim children, all I can say to you is bah, humbug.

May I second that? (I'm going to anyway!) Samaritan's Purse does not proseletize when the shoeboxes are handed out, but it's a Christian based organization and the politically correct in Canada find that objectionable.
Master Warrant Officer Wayne Bartlett, 40, says the recent return to Kabul of Afghan refugees is proof that peacekeeping is making a difference.

"When I got here in August, this camp had just 70 or 80 people in it," says Bartlett.

"Now, there's 1,400 kids alone. I think that just shows the confidence Afghans have in Kabul now and the ability to start a new life."

At that, Bartlett, a father of Natasha, 16, and Emily, 12, shows a couple of little boys how to work a toy truck.

"I'm not going to be home for Christmas, so doing this helps," says Bartlett, who has helped hand out shoeboxes three times in Bosnia, once in Somalia and once in Rwanda.

It takes a special kind of person to care so much about others. He sounds like quite a guy.

Posted by Debbye at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003

Canadians in Afghanistan

Dec. 11 - There are some additional Canadians in Kabul these days, such as Rick Mercer and Tom Cochrane who are there to entertain the troops.

The entertainers have three shows scheduled for the troops. All the while, video cameras will be rolling to provide the backdrop for a TV special Mercer is preparing, to be aired in Canada Dec. 21.
I'm marking my calendar.

Always remember those who serve.

Posted by Debbye at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2003

Canadians in Afghanistan

Dec. 5 - War On Terrorism - Kids boost morale of Canadian soldiers which indicates that truly, the children shall lead the way:

KABUL (CP) - "Dear Peacekeeper: Please Don't Die."

Simple messages of hope such as this can be found in holiday greetings from young children in Canada that are reaching appreciative Canadian Forces soldiers in Afghanistan. Thousands of Christmas cards, letters and coloured-in posters have been delivered to the troops in Kabul, with hundreds more streaming in every day.

"I got at least 40," a smiling Sapper Paul Zuwerkalow of Barrie, Ont., said Thursday.

[...]

Messages have also come from Girl Guide troops, family members and business people, offering wishes that the soldiers come home "safe, happy and uninjured."

While many letters and cards are addressed to specific soldiers, thousands simply read "Dear Peacekeeper."

Seeming governmental indifference to Canadian troops is not matched by how Canadians feel, and the failure to fund the military has resulted in more respect for the troops and their steadfast adherence to duty as well as their adaptive ability to jerry-rig (remember how they painted their blankets to provide desert camo on the first Afghanistan deployment?)

I don't have numbers, but I saw many messages from Canadians posted at the
"Operation Dear Abby" website at the beginning of the Iraq war.

How about a bit of reciprocation, people? Anyone and everyone can send their good wishes to Canadian soldiers here.

God bless and protect they who serve.

Posted by Debbye at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2003

Project Mercury

Nov. 12 - Project Mercury was started by a Canadian soldier, Master Cpl. Russell Storring, who had been deployed in Rwanda in 1994 and had seen all to much suffering there. These days he is a kids' saviour. He enlisited his mother to organize a drive to gather clothes and shoes for orphans in Afghanistan.

In August, [Master Cpl.] Storring, a 29-year-old father of three, started Project Mercury Hope, an initiative to collect clothes, toys and school supplies for orphans in Kabul.

Storring called his mother and asked her to encourage friends and family to donate items for some 1,200 children.

[...]

After her son's initial plea for help, Atkins gathered 26 boxes of supplies and sent them to Kabul. This week, a military flight from CFB Trenton will carry two triwalls of footwear, five with clothes and 1 1/2 each of toys and school supplies overseas.

Storring was born to be a soldier, his mother said. His father, Floyd, who died four years ago, was a World War II veteran.

"Russell was 3 or 4 and he knew he wanted to be in the army. He wanted to be just like dad," Atkins said.

Atkins herself is president of the Canadian Legion in Tamworth, about 50 km northwest of Kingston.

The project is named for Mercury, the Roman messenger god and the symbol of the signal unit of the army.

Most good ideas inspire others, and this one affected Traci Mohamed, a grade 7/8 teacher at Kennedy Public School in Scarborough, who saw a TV interview with Master Cpl. Storring and decided to help, rallying students and teachers in the process. They gathered over 60 boxes of supplies which will be delivered to a local legion this week.

Ah, the underappreciated Legion again! And we thought they only sold poppies once a year and sponsored youth baseball teams!

For more information on the project visit Mercury Hope. Please note that they will not accept money, but do request that monetary donations go to the Red Cross Fund for Afghan Children (website linked at Mercury Hope.)

There are some good people who really do think of the children.

Posted by Debbye at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)