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Thread: Afghanistan: Canadians in Action

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    Default Afghanistan: Canadians in Action

    What follows are blog entries by Scott Kesterson on the Blog 8 at KGW News. The links were sent along by a Canadian Army officer and good friend. Many of the blog entries follow the operations of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (Edmonton) - an organization I had the oportunity to instruct and brief at their "ORTONA RAM" urban operations exercise in 2000. The blog also covers U.S. advisor embeds with the Afghan Army.

    Here are the blog entries to include images and videos:

    5 July 2006 - A Forgotten War

    In the early hours of the morning, on the edge of the runway, sat a US Air Force cargo plane with its rear door open, its ramp resting on the ground. From the shadows, over the gravel and between the chain link fence, soldiers from all nationalities began to assemble. On one side the Americans formed, on the other, soldiers from the various nationalities here on this base... British, Canadian, French, Romanian, Dutch and Australian. Along side of the Americans stood a group of soldiers representing the Afghan National Army.

    At the the head of the formation near the open back of the C-117, two flags could be seen drifting slowly in the early morning breeze; one was American, the other Afghan. As the soldiers continued to file in, audible commands could be heard over the noise of the flight line. The soldiers were brought into two unified formations, set in straight lines front to back and side to side, then left in a standing rest while they waited. A walkway divided them in the center.

    As early morning moved to the twilight hours before sunrise, a vehicle could be seen driving up the runway. Its lights pierced the darkness as it drove under the aircraft wing and along side of the assembly of men and women. Making a hard right turn at the end of the formation, two soldiers could be seen sitting in the open back with a flag draped coffin between them; inside the casket lay the body of a fallen American soldier.

    The vehicle backed in slowly towards the formation, coming to a stop a few feet from its end. The first two soldiers stepped out, boots touching the ground in unison. They were followed by six more. Standing together at attention, four on each side, the casket was removed from the back of the truck. Taking a firm grip on the handles hidden under the "Stars and Stripes," they made a precision right face, and began slowly walking towards the plane. With the men and women of uniform lined on each side, the procession marched slowly forward, as all of the soldiers were brought to attention and saluted in a final farewell to a fallen comrade.

    Behind the procession marched a lone Canadian. He volunteered his time, as he does for every one of these ceremonies. Playing the bag pipes, his music cut through the noise of aircraft and equipment, settling in on the hearts for all to hear. A moment of silent tears and introspection.
    21 July - A Note to Readers

    On our first morning of being attacked, I found myself holding back tears as I filmed Canadians fighting a fight that began on American soil. In interviews that followed, I discovered the depth of commitment that these soldiers held in their hearts, as they expressed their belief in purpose and shared their emotions, at times with tears. Two countries, each proud of their roots and history, unified across the border that distinguishes each of us...
    27 July 2006 - Panjawi, Part 1

    We arrived at the fire base just after dark. A multi-national convoy of Canadian, American and Afghan soldiers and vehicles. Passing through the gates and barriers protecting the outer cordon, all one could see was a mass of armored personnel carriers, trucks, and tents. Following a quick meal of packaged rations, the Canadians gave a brief of their battle plan. The initial movement for the operation was scheduled for shortly after mid-night. That left us less than two hours for sleep.

    The first phase of the operation was to take place in Panjawi in the southern part of Afghanistan. A few weeks earlier in this same area a US Special Forces team along with two Army National Guard embedded trainers and a detachment of Afghan National Army soldiers were engaged by a group of Taliban for nearly a day and a half. The fighting was intense. When the US and Afghan units finally withdrew, a US Special Forces soldier and an Army National Guard embedded trainer had been killed; the Special Forces medic had been seriously wounded.

    Panjawi has been an area of rising Taliban and Pakistani insurgent activity. The plan called for an insertion into the area during the night, hitting the targeted compounds at first light...
    27 July 2006 - Panjawi, Part 2

    The temperature had risen to 138 degrees Fahrenheit. Laden with the addition of forty to fifty pounds of gear, sweat poured from our bodies soaking our clothes and boots. We couldn't drink enough, downing half liter bottles of water without a breath. Gatorade was added whenever possible, as packets of the dry mix were distributed around and shared from soldier to soldier.

    It was now approaching mid-day and we were headed back along the same dirt road where we had been ambushed a few hours before. Again, we entered on foot. This time, however, we used the Canadian light armored vehicles as a moving screen as we pushed back into the area. And again, that smell of the dead filled the air as we crossed the ditch under the blistering sun.

    Maj. Francis, the Missouri National Guard Embedded Trainer (ETT), and his squad of Afghan soldiers began by searching the various mud huts and living compounds along the route. A labyrinth of corridors and doorways revealed themselves from behind the gates of every entry. The process was slow, with the obvious dangers of ambush, booby traps and surprise. Success in these moments is measured in steps and inches. The squad completed the task without incident, finding nothing but empty spaces and locked doors...

    Villagers usually know when the Taliban and insurgents are in the area. They also know when to flee, as the try to avoid the misfortune that will ultimately befall as the insurgents are rooted out. It is a fine line of survival for them. Being essentially powerless in this war, the villagers are placed in the middle having to choose sides between a force that lives among them and a force that has come from afar. For many, the choice is on par with rolling the dice on the table of craps. Choosing one side over the other is too often a gamble for their life as they make a choice of sides, of who will win and of who will be part their future. The insurgents know this, and use the current climate of political uncertainty in both the United States and that of the countries involved with the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) as an active part of their information and propaganda. The end result is that the insurgents too often end up winning the information campaign, swaying villagers by fear or threat of reprisal to their side. Support is given, places of refuge are taken and the insurgents gain a foothold with a malignancy of a cancer...
    27 July 2006 - Hydarabad - Dawn Raid

    After three days in Panjawi the soldiers and equipment were sent to a staging area an hour to the east. This was to be the beginning of the biggest phase of Mountain Thrust, a joint operation of British, Canadian, American and Afghan soldiers. The British had already moved one of their units into place, to a northern point in the Helmund Province. The Canadians coordinated the move; American and Afghan units were under Canadian command.

    The assembly area seemed like any other area of deserted landscape in this part of Helmund Province. Flat, dry, and littered with stones, life seemed to have left this place long ago, offering itself now as a parking lot for the columns of vehicles lined in a row. We had left early to get here, with the instructions that we would move again in a few short hours. However, the British, in what was to become a recurring pattern during this phase of Mountain Thrust, had failed to plan, leaving their pre-positioned unit in the north without adequate supplies of water. With flights of their Lynx helicopters grounded due to its inability maintain aerodynamic stability in the hot atmosphere of the Afghan summer, the British had failed to provide effective resupply alternatives. Complicating matters further was their lack of armored vehicles. Working from a military strategy that seemed to blend imperial arrogance with the tactics of the North African campaign under Montgomery, the British were under equipped for the fight. Fielding open topped Land Rovers with two machine guns mounted forward and aft, it was not unlike viewing a scene from the series "Rat Patrol." Thus, lacking the needed assets to move supplies or to ferry troops safely, the unit that had been pre-positioned to lead the attack, became the Achilles heal. With only 67 bottles of water remaining amongst the 120 men, and with temperatures pressing above 120 degrees F., the entire operation was postponed while American and Canadian assets were coordinated to essentially, save the Queens arse...

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    Default 2 August - Gorak - Blocking Position

    2 August - Gorak - Blocking Position

    We had sat in place for over twenty-four hours. Using the vehicles as an escape from the heat and the sun, the Canadian soldiers tucked themselves into the seats and crew areas in an attempt to remain cool. Empty water bottles were piled in the open on the desert floor along side of the now torn cardboard boxes in which they were packed. Water is life here, the discarded plastic bottles sitting as a reminder of the fine line between success and failure.

    The waiting is the most difficult, even more than the heat. With the pulse of intensity from the previous morning's raid still flowing through these soldier's veins, the order to shave, given from the visiting senior staff, sparked emotions and frustration. "We haven't even been thanked for yesterday's success, but there's time to tell us to shave," were the words from one of the A Company, Red Devils, 2d Platoon soldiers. The discontent continued to be voiced as the day progressed

    When the order to move was finally given, preparations were precise and focussed. The Red Devils quickly suited into their body armor, completed last minute weapons checks, finding their places in their vehicles. The day had pushed to early afternoon, and there were still several hours of travel ahead. As we left our camp, the fires that had been set to incinerate the piles of bottles and emptied packages from meals-ready-to-eat, could be seen thrashing in the desert winds.

    The mission was divided into two parts: secure a landing zone for a resupply drop for British troops; and, then move to secure the pass at Gorak, in the northeastern part of Helmand province. Now two days delayed, the beginning of the main effort for Operation Mountain Thrust had finally begun. We arrived at the site of the landing zone within an hour, having driven north of Sangin through Helmand Province. This part of the operation represented the third major effort of Canadian and US forces working together to try and keep the British troops adequately supplied...

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Canada and Afghanistan

    From CBC.ca

    Document outlines Canada's military plans in Afghanistan
    Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2007 | 7:49 AM ET
    CBC News

    The Canadian military effort in Afghanistan will be complete when Afghan security forces are established and the Afghan government gains full control of the area, says a new document from the military's chief of defence staff.

    The document — authored by Gen. Rick Hillier and obtained recently by CBC News —stated that the military's job in Afghanistan is considered successful and completed:

    * when new Afghan security forces "are established" and "fully controlled" by the Afghan government.
    * when those forces are trained and can conduct their own "counter-insurgency operations."
    * when the forces can defend against foreign fighters and "effectively control borders."
    * and when "terrorist groups are denied sanctuary within Afghanistan."

    The military plan is achievable, but not in the short term, said Rob Huebert, a military analyst at the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies.

    More...
    CBC also has the results of the latest poll on Canada's involvement in Afghanistan (Nov 2006) available here.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Afghan War Takes a Toll on Canada

    Today's LA Times - Afghan War Takes a Toll on Canada.

    In the wind-scoured high desert that was once the heartland of the Taliban movement, the will and determination of a little-heralded American ally have been undergoing a harsh test.

    For the last six months, the task of confronting insurgents in volatile Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan has largely fallen to Canada, whose troops have participated in myriad peacekeeping missions in recent years but had not seen high-intensity combat since the Korean War.

    Although its nearly 3,000 troops account for less than 10% of the allied forces in Afghanistan, Canada absorbed nearly 20% of the coalition's combat deaths last year, losing 36 soldiers...

    The deployment is a strain for military families. Moreover, the Canadian mission points up the stresses and strains caused by unequal burden-sharing within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization...

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    Another one of the CBC backgrounders

    Atlantic Canada's role
    Last Updated Jan. 29, 2007
    CBC News

    With snow blowing around their heads and settling on their boots, more than 2,000 family members and friends of Atlantic Canadian soldiers lifted red placards over their heads hoping to form the largest human flag ever made.



    The crowd, which gathered at CFB Gagetown on Jan. 12, just one week before the first planeload of soldiers was set to depart for the conflict in Afghanistan, wanted to show support for the 1,160 troops from the Atlantic region joining the NATO-led mission.

    The deployment also contains a large group of reservists - approximately 240 Atlantic Canadian volunteers - who have put their professional and personal lives on hold to join the conflict.

    More...
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Go Canada

    Marc, I think the Canadian effort in Afghanistan has been first rate and your countrymen need to know that it is appreciated. I think we may be able to find work for these guys in a football game card section when they get back. Go Canada.

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    Default Canada's Involvement

    Hi Marc !

    4. I would like to know how you feel about Canada's involvements around the world in the last several decades. Please tell me if you are proud or not proud of each of the following: a) Canada's involvement in United Nations peace-building operations around the world since World War Two?
    Proud 92%
    I remember crossing the Zairian/Rwandan border with Tom. I don't recall how many clicks later once in Rwanda, but we came along a Canada patrol with a 113 APC. Something like night and day when we first came across the French (they didn't have an APC) they didn't have much of a sense of humor. I think I impressed them with my "Belgian" french though

    I'm glad your public is behind your military. I liked their attitude in Rwanda and most importantly, their professionalism.

    Yes, Marc, that would be a compliment !

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson View Post
    Marc, I think the Canadian effort in Afghanistan has been first rate and your countrymen need to know that it is appreciated. I think we may be able to find work for these guys in a football game card section when they get back. Go Canada.
    It's a weird situation in some ways. We have a lot of the politicians disparaging what we are doing, but there has been a lot of spontaneous public support. A lot of the people who you would normally think of as "left wingers" actually support our involvement in Afghanistan, and a larger number would probably support us if there was a deployment in strength to Darfur.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    I'm glad your public is behind your military. I liked their attitude in Rwanda and most importantly, their professionalism.

    Yes, Marc, that would be a compliment !
    Thanks, Stan .

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Canadian troops begin major offensive against Taliban

    From CBC.ca

    Canadian troops begin major offensive against Taliban
    Last Updated: Friday, May 25, 2007 | 12:49 AM ET
    The Canadian Press

    Canadian soldiers have embarked on their most ambitious operation against the Taliban in nearly two months.

    Operation Hoover saw Canadian tanks and infantry push overnight into Zhari district, a volatile region on the western edge of Kandahar province.

    The operation includes Canadian, Portuguese and Afghan infantry, with support from the tanks, British air power and distant howitzer positions manned by gunners from the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

    More...
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Also on the ground Friday were members of Canada's CIMIC team — Civilian Military Co-operation — to assist forces in their interaction with local civilians, who have been repopulating the region in recent months.
    The Op looks very promising when you note the inclusion of the CIMIC. Without this it would seem remenicent of one of Lester Grau's case studies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TROUFION View Post
    The Op looks very promising when you note the inclusion of the CIMIC. Without this it would seem remenicent of one of Lester Grau's case studies.
    Quite true. I will also be interested to see how they are integrating the British airpower. It will be an interesting example of a truly combined arms operation.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    I wonder how they get past the language barrier w/air support.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    I wonder how they get past the language barrier w/air support.
    Sign language .

    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Is it wrong that when I saw this I immediately thought of Bob and Doug Mackenzie charging up an Afghan mountain?

    SFC W

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Is it wrong that when I saw this I immediately thought of Bob and Doug Mackenzie charging up an Afghan mountain?
    Bob and Doug would never charge up a mountain - unless the Taliban were stealing our beer! Now that is the true Canadian definition of "terrorism"!

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Afghanistan and Canadian military "transformation"

    The Ottawa Citizen, 4 Sep 07: Command performance: Mission has created 'organizational perfect storm'
    ....The military command whose job is to help Canadians at home in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster is not getting the attention or priority it should because the country's generals are focused on the Afghanistan war, according to a report produced for Gen. Rick Hillier and leaked to the Citizen.

    At the same time, Canadian Forces personnel assigned to another command in charge of the Afghanistan mission are burning out from too much work and their organization is not seen to be sustainable in the long run.

    The 62-page report produced in January for chief of defence staff Gen. Hillier details the progress of his ambitious plan to transform the Canadian Forces into an organization that is efficient, relevant and responsive to the needs of the government and public.....
    Last edited by marct; 09-05-2007 at 02:35 PM. Reason: spelling

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    CF Transformation - From Vision to Mission

    There are quite a few documents and presentations linked on this site, providing background going back a couple of years on Canadian military transformation. And you have the option of reading it in French....

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    Default Action at FOB Robinson, 28-29 March 2006

    Forward Operating Base (FOB) Robinson - Board of Inquiry
    Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM), released today (7 Aug 07) the findings from the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Robinson Board of Inquiry (BOI) that investigated the March 28/29 2006 firefight between allied forces and members of the Taliban.

    Private Costall was killed as a result of gun fire originating from a weapon manned by a US Army soldier during an attack of unprecedented intensity by Taliban forces from multiple directions. The firefight resulted in the death of Private Robert Costall and injuries to three other Canadian soldiers serving with the Canadian Quick Response Force of Task Force Afghanistan. Master Sergeant John Stone, U.S. Army, was also killed in the same incident and one other US soldier was injured....
    The report is in three parts with some portions redacted, but they haven't bothered with the "Secret" markings top and bottom of each page, which are still clear as day....

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    Default Canadian Forces Transformation

    The key to understanding "transformation" in the Canadian sense is that it was never intended to produce increased combat power or readiness. It was designed to kick out ad hoc battle groups for scheduled missions along the lines of SFOR in Bosnia while at the least maintaining the size and rank structure of the regular officer corps. For example the notion of having fewer full strength infantry battalions capable of rapid deployment was rejected in favour of maintaining skeletal units in order to retain the original number of command slots. The result being large scale augmentation of task forces going overseas by people plucked from other units and HQs, all of whom have to start training from scratch.

    Inter-service, regimental and language group politics exacerbate the problems of organizing the CF and attempts by the Hillier, the CDS, to mimic US military organizations, with their much greater economies of scale, have only made things worse.

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    Default Canada Fighting Again Over Same Afghan Ground?

    This is my first news post here (I'd like to share some highlights of media coverage of Canadian military issues from time to time) - all feedback (good and otherwise) appreciated!

    On September 1, the New York Times (as well as its sister publication, the International Herald Tribune), told the world, "A year after Canadian and U.S. forces drove hundreds of Taliban fighters from the area, the Panjwai and Zhare districts southwest of Kandahar, the rebels are back and have adopted new tactics. Carrying out guerrilla attacks after NATO troops partly withdrew in July, they overran isolated police posts and are now operating in areas where they can mount attacks on Kandahar, the south's largest city."

    The Globe & Mail, Can West News Service and other media outlets picked up the story, attributing the NYT. A later version of the New York Times story indicated, "The seesaw nature of the conflict is evident in Kandahar, where the local governor cites a slight drop in suicide bombings in the provincial capital as a sign of progress. But police officials and villagers bitterly complain that Canadian forces abandoned Panjwai and Zhare."

    Canadian Forces officials denied leaving Afghan police in the lurch, while a later Can West story took a slightly different tack later on -- it's the AFG police's fault that the ground wasn't held.

    All this while various media outlets (including Canadian Press, the Hamilton Spectator, and Legion Magazine -- a magazine put out by the Royal Canadian Legion) were offering post-mortem coverage of OP Medusa, a Canadian-led offensive by elements of ISAF and the Afghan National Army that began in August 2006, in which 12 Canadian soldiers were killed. During the OP Medusa, Pte. Mark Graham was killed, and a number of troops injured, by fire from an American A-10 in Panjwai.

    A first rate Canadian military news blog, The Torch, gave General Tim Grant, then-Commander of Canada's Task Force Afghanistan, a chance to give more of his side of the OP Medusa story. Back-and-forth (including comments from bayonets who say they took part in OP Medusa) also continued on a thread of Army.ca, a public internet forum NOT connected to the Canadian military.

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