Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

SURVEILLANCE AEROSTATS IN AFGHANISTAN BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN

March 9, 2010

SURVEILLANCE BLIMP KEEPS TABS ON KABUL 24/7

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

KABUL –   The white blimp that hovers over this city has been a constant presence in Kabul’s dust and pollution-filled skies since it was sent aloft last summer.

Known as the Persistent Threat Detection System, it consists of an aerostat or “blimp” mounted with camera equipment. The system is flown on a tether at several thousand feet to enable around-the-clock surveillance of a wide area, according to International Security Assistance Force.

Through the PTDS, Afghan National Security Forces have access to high resolution imagery, including full-motion video and audio data from the greater Kabul area, ISAF officials say. That information, together with surveillance data from other security systems, allows for better and earlier threat recognition, which in turn will helps security forces’ “effective responses to threats and attacks,” or so ISAF claims.

The aerostat’s full-motion video camera can pan 360 degrees and provide nonstop, instant surveillance. “With that camera, we can go anywhere in the city to allow us to look for any threats or any intentions from the insurgency,” Col. Marilyn Jenkins, a U.S. Army intelligence officer told the Armed Forces Network Afghanistan last year.

The surveillance system is anchored at Bala Hissar, an ancient fortress on one of the hills that overlooks Kabul.

According to ISAF, such systems have a successful history of integration with security technologies to combat threats in Iraq, and dozens of PTDS have been employed effectively in eastern Afghanistan since early 2004. (ISAF is providing the technology to support the Afghan National Security Forces.)

But how effective is the system?

In the last six months Kabul has been hit by three spectacular insurgent attacks, with suicide bombers and insurgent assault teams targeting high-profile government sites as well as areas frequented by foreigners.  There is no indication that the government or ISAF had advance warning of such attacks because of the aerostat, although the system could have provided surveillance data as the attacks unfolded.

A similar system keeps watch over Kandahar but some military officers I have talked to suggest that the more open approaches to that city make the aerostat a more effective surveillance system for that environment.

Nevertheless, such aerostats/blimps appear to be making a comeback in military circles. Walter Pincus, the veteran security issues reporter for the Washington Post, has noted that the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Army Forces Strategic Command have revived a previous attempt to come up with a self-powered, intelligence-gathering airship. The ideal model would be able to linger for more than three weeks over a target area at 20,000 feet, carrying a 2,500-pound payload of signals and imagery interceptors with a view of 173 miles, according to a special notice issued recently by the Pentagon.

The notice, Pincus points out, outlines how the engines would be able to keep a steady speed of 20 knots, but if needed possess an 80-knot “dash speed.” Though it is expected to be unmanned and operated from the ground, it may be operated with a crew.

Added Pincus in his article: “The ambitious and new five-year program for a 250-foot-long “Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle” calls for 18 months of performance testing “followed by additional tests and demonstrations conducted in Afghanistan,” according to the notice.”

CANADIAN FORCES CYCLONE HELICOPTER SEA TRIALS: ANOTHER MISSED DATE

February 10, 2010

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The end of January has come and gone without the promised sea/ship trials for the new Canadian Forces Cyclone maritime helicopter.

“We’re still working out the details with Sikorsky,” Lianne LeBel said Tuesday in an interview with Defence Watch. “They’ll (the tests) start imminently.”

The sea trials should have been completed more than 20 months ago, according to the delivery schedule contracted with Sikorsky in 2004.

Public Works and Government Services spokeswoman Tricia Van der Grient had early said that the sea trials would be taking place in the new year, before the end of January. That followed claims in November by Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the fall that the first Cyclone would soon arrive in Canada.

LeBel said the tests for the Cyclone are not related to “compliance testing” of the helicopters.

“It’s to see how it (the helicopter) will fit on the ships,” she added.

But LeBel could not provide more specific details about the tests, adding that more information will be released later.

Sources tell Defence Watch that part of the delay is because of the planning for a “media event” to unveil the arrival of the helicopter in Canada. That is to offset the negative publicity and numerous delays that has dogged the troubled multi-billion project. It is still unclear whether the media event will go ahead, according to sources.

After the sea trials and completion of other flight testing to verify compliance, Sikorsky is required to start the delivery of the Interim Maritime Helicopter (IMH) in November 2010 as per the contract, according to Public Works.

After many denials, the government announced in December 2008 that the $5 billion project was not going to make its original delivery deadlines and that it would cost taxpayers more than originally expected.

Little additional information has been released on the troubled project, sparking concerns about further cost overruns and more delays. The ongoing secrecy has also raised issues about a lack of public accountability concerning the money being spent.

Members of DND’s helicopter project office have repeatedly declined interview requests. Van der Grient also confirmed PWGC does “not grant interviews on this issue.”

Sikorsky still has not responded to a Defence Watch request for comment made months ago.

The first Cyclone helicopter was originally supposed to be delivered in November 2008 but that never happened.

Because of that delay, Sikorsky faced financial penalties of up to $89 million but that was set aside by the Harper government. Little explanation has been provided on why penalties that could have been imposed were not.

In January 2008 MacKay brought up the penalties after news reports suggested Sikorsky would fail to deliver the aircraft on time. He suggested they would be a deterrent to Sikorsky. “There are penalties and clauses that will kick in,” he warned.

The first 19 helicopters delivered to the Canadian Forces will be designated as Interim Maritime Helicopters (IMH). These IMH aircraft will be fully functional and able to conduct testing and evaluation and training for MH maintenance and air crews, yet will not be fully compliant with the delivery contract, according to DND. Delivery of the first fully capable MH aircraft that meets all contract specifications will be in June 2012, at which point the previous IMH aircraft will then be retrofitted.

CANADIAN FORCES TO SHIP MORE TANKS TO AFGHANISTAN; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN DEFENCE REPORT

January 26, 2010

Canada to ship 20 tanks to Afghanistan as pullout looms

The Ottawa Citizen

Tue Dec 29 2009

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

Canada will ship another 20 tanks to Afghanistan in the fall of 2010 to replace those that have been destroyed by insurgents or worn out through repeated use.

The Leopard 2 tanks will be shipped directly from Germany, where they are being refurbished, to Kandahar starting in September.

Although the tanks will only be on the ground for nine to 10 months before they have to be shipped back when the Canadian military mission ends in July 2011, Defence Department officials say the armoured vehicles are essential.

“The tanks currently deployed to Afghanistan have been operating under some of the most austere field conditions in the world,” said Defence Department spokeswoman Lynne Rattray. “They will soon require repair and overhaul beyond that possible by regular in-theatre maintenance.”

The cost of shipping the tanks from Germany to Afghanistan has not been determined, as that will depend on the type of transport used, according to DND spokeswoman Annie Dicaire.

The government spent $1 million to transport each tank when the first group of Leopards were originally sent from Canada to Kandahar in the fall of 2006. At the time, it used commercial aircraft and U.S. military planes. Since then, Canada has received its own C-17 transport aircraft, which could be used to move the Leopards.

The Canadian Forces already had deployed 20 Leopard 2 tanks to Afghanistan and before that as many as 15 Leopard 1s.

Dan Ross, the Defence Department’s assistant deputy minister for materiel, told the Senate earlier this year that several tanks had been damaged. Military officers say insurgents have damaged three Leopards beyond the level of repair available in Kandahar.

Replacement parts are in short supply, making repairs on the tank fleet difficult. The government did not put in place a proper system for parts, those familiar with the tank project pointed out.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay had approved the deployment of 20 more Leopard 2s in the spring, but details of when the tanks would arrive in Kandahar hadn’t been figured out at that time.

Military officers say the tanks save lives by providing soldiers with a high level of protection.

When he was in charge of the army, Gen. Rick Hillier called the Leopards a “millstone” around the military’s neck and said they had limited use for Canada. The army was in the process of destroying or selling its Leopards when the request came in from officers in Kandahar that the tanks were needed. Since then, the tanks have been used extensively in Afghanistan, saving lives of troops in the process, officers say.

Canada is spending $1 billion on the tank project, which saw the purchase of 100 used Leopards from the Netherlands.

The tanks are being refurbished by the manufacturer, Krauss Maffei-Wegmann of Germany. That firm was awarded an $87-million contract in June for the repair and overhaul of some of the armoured vehicles.

FOR MORE NEWS SEE DAVID PUGLIESE’S DEFENCE WATCH

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

CANADIAN TROOPS HEADING TO AFGHANISTAN GET SCREWED ON PAY; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN DEFENCE REPORT

January 26, 2010

Foulup leaves troops out pay, benefits

‘Administrative error’ to blame: National Defence

By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

December 8, 2009

Troops now training at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa for a mission to Afghanistan next year are in the midst of a battle against the military bureaucracy over pay and health benefits.

It’s the second time in less than eight months that reserve soldiers assigned to the Afghan mission have run into pay problems. In February, soldiers contacted the Citizen after their pay was cut off while they fought in Afghanistan.

This time, soldiers say they have lost the extra pay they are entitled to because of a bureaucratic screw-up. According to the soldiers, the pay problems are due to a backlog in processing paperwork and an inadequate pay system at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.

As well, there are problems with health coverage for families of the part-time soldiers.

“A caveat to the fact that they aren’t inputted into the regular force pay system is that their families (eligible dependents) at home are not eligible for medical coverage under the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP),” one individual wrote to the Citizen, complaining about the problem.

“Soldiers who once had coverage under their previous civilian careers are left with the medical expenses for their children and spouses until their contracts are processed.” About 300 reservists training at CFB Petawawa will head to Afghanistan in the spring.

Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen confirmed there are problems with pay. “The army is aware of pay issues affecting some reservists conducting pre-deployment training at Petawawa and we’re working quickly to address them,” he said.

Janzen said the soldiers are receiving their basic pay, but the problem centres around incentive pay they would receive. That problem is “due to an administrative error.”

Janzen didn’t have specific numbers affected, but added it is believed to be fewer than 100 reservists. He said that once the problem is sorted out, the soldiers would receive the money owed. A military source said the health-care issue will also be taken care of once the paperwork goes through for the reservists and they are assigned to the full-time regular force.

It’s not the first time there have been pay problems for part-time soldiers. From December 2008 to February of this year, some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan said they had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.

The troops continued to serve, but some told the Citizen they were worried they would not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they were injured in battle.

At the time, the army confirmed in an e-mail that there had been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”

The e-mail also added that emergency financial assistance was offered to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed.

In 2006, former Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home. The investigation, completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists injured in the course of duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

EX-OFFICERS WANTED TO TRAIN AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN DEFENCE REPORT

January 26, 2010

WANTED BY CANADA: A FEW GOOD EX-OFFICERS TO TRAIN THE AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch

The Defence Department is on the look out for a few good men (and presumably women) security contractors to train the Afghan National Army in Kabul.

The contractors will be responsible for developing and teaching the Afghan National Army Junior Officer Staff Course or (JOSC) of the Afghan National Army Command and Staff College, Defence Watch has been told.

The Defence Department and the Canadian Forces committed last summer to sponsor the development and delivery of the JOSC. It is the first of four courses within the larger national CSC Afghan National Army training institution.

The idea behind the JOSC course is to prepare senior level ANA Captains and junior Majors to be assigned as primary staff officers in Kandak/Batallion/ Corps Headquarters.
The Canadian Forces wants to build up sufficient capacity for the ANA to administer and deliver the course on its own by July 2011.

The Defence Department intends to move quick on hiring a company to provide the contractors as the first course is to start in April 2009s and run until July, Defence Watch has been told.

A second course will run from September to December 2009. Then there will be four courses in 2010.

Each class will have between 25 and 40 ANA to teach.

Only companies who reside and carry on business in Canada will be allowed to bid on the upcoming competition.

But the actual instructors can come from a variety of countries as long as they meet certain criteria. Included among those are officers who have graduated from the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College Army Operations Course or from U.S. Marines Expeditionary Warfare School Courses, and the U.S. Command and General Staff officer course, among a variety of U.S. courses. Others who have graduated from command and staff courses offered by Germany, France, Norway, Belgium, Australia or the United Kingdom would also be considered, sources have told Defence Watch.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

CANADA GETS SURVEILLANCE AIRCRAFT TO HELP IN INSURGENT HUNT: DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN MILITARY REPORT

January 26, 2010

DND steps up hunt for IEDs; New surveillance aircraft to patrol Afghanistan’s skies by summer

The Ottawa Citizen

Jan 2 2010

By David Pugliese

The Canadian Forces plans to have new surveillance aircraft operating out of Kandahar by the summer to help hunt down insurgents planting improvised explosive devices.

The aircraft will be flown by private contractors, but the Department of National Defence is declining, for reasons of national security, to name what firm it has hired for the job.

The U.S. has used similar aircraft to detect Iraqi insurgents as they planted IEDs. Those aircraft are now also being used in Afghanistan by the Americans.

The U.S. army had originally reported that work on the surveillance planes to be used by Canada would not be finished until June 2011. Canada’s military mission is scheduled to end in July that year.

But according to information provided to the Citizen by Canada’s Defence Department, the aircraft are expected to be ready by mid-2010.

The aircraft will be leased by Canada, but the surveillance equipment has been purchased outright by the military.

The department declined to discuss many of the details about the project; the type of equipment to be used and the firm providing the pilots is considered secret.

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have claimed the lives of more than half the 138 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

On Dec. 30, four Canadian soldiers and a journalist were killed when an IED exploded as their vehicle passed through what was supposed to be a safe area just south of Kandahar City.

Killed were Sgt. George Miok, Sgt. Kirk Taylor, Cpl. Zachery McCormack and Pte. Garrett William Chidley.

Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang, on secondment to Canwest News Service, also died in the blast. Four other Canadian soldiers and one Canadian civilian official were seriously injured.

York University strategic studies professor Martin Shadwick said the Canadian air force has pilots who could operate the propeller-driven planes, similar to those currently being used at CFB Trenton.

But DND spokeswoman Lynne Rattray noted that it made more sense to use contract pilots.

“The aircraft will be flown by civilian contractors, who would be employed on a dedicated basis, as it is more efficient than training and diverting CF pilots to this short-term task,” Rattray said.

“These planes will see significant use in Afghanistan and are anticipated to be an extremely valuable surveillance asset,” she added.

The King Air 300 commercial aircraft will not stay in Afghanistan after the end of the Canadian military mission. Telford Aviation in Bangor, Maine, was awarded the $12-million contract to outfit the surveillance systems on the planes. The bulk of the installation on the small propeller-driven aircraft will be done in the U.S., but about a quarter of the work will be done in Afghanistan.

No details are being released at this point on how much the hiring of the pilots or purchasing of the surveillance equipment is costing.

The aircraft are available to, and in support of, Joint Task Force Afghanistan, Rattray noted.

A DND official close to the project said the equipment on board the planes is extremely sophisticated and marks a significant increase in the capability of such systems, even over that currently used by allied forces. Once the Afghan mission is finished, the surveillance equipment will be removed from the leased planes, but will stay in the Canadian military’s inventory for use in other operations.

The U.S. military flies similar aircraft as part of its Task Force ODIN, which has been used in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. The task force’s aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles use various sensors to detect insurgents as they are planting roadside bombs. After the insurgents are spotted, other aircraft are used to hunt them down and kill them. The U.S. army is also using a private firm to conduct some of its surveillance in Afghanistan. It recently hired L-3 Communications to provide and fly King Air 350s outfitted with high-resolution cameras for intelligence missions.

The company will begin operating three such aircraft in Afghanistan in 2010. As part of its $99-million deal, L-3 Communications will provide maintenance crews as well as intelligence specialists to interpret the data.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

GIVE PEACEKEEPING A CHANCE IN AFGHANISTAN: DAVID PUGLIESE DEFENCE WATCH

January 26, 2010

GIVE PEACEKEEPING A CHANCE IN AFGHANISTAN

DEFENCE WATCH COMMENTARY

BY WALTER DORN

Associate professor of defence studies at the Canadian Forces College

As Barack Obama contemplates the future role of US and, by extension, Western forces in Afghanistan, he would do well to consider an option that is apparently not yet on the table.

The options currently being examined in Washington are variations of a “counter-insurgency” campaign designed to defeat the Taliban by winning Afghan hearts and minds and a “war-fighting” approach featuring special forces and drones to attack Al Qaeda and ill-defined “allied” groups. The first is essentially an evolution of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, while the second can be thought of as a beefed-up version of Operation Enduring Force (OEF), the US-led mission that toppled the Taliban government in 2001 and now operates in parallel with ISAF.

Unfortunately, neither of these approaches holds out much hope for any kind of “victory” or sustainable peace in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. A third option worth considering is the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force to operate, initially at least, with the other missions.

There is already a small UN “good-offices” mission, called the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), mandated to support democratization and reconciliation in Afghanistan. But a true peacekeeping mission—call it UNAMA II—would require a much larger military and police component, numbering in the tens of thousands. It would have to be deployed with the consent of the belligerent parties, including the Afghan government, NATO, the US, and the main insurgent groups. That all the parties would accept such a deployment cannot be taken for granted, but it cannot be dismissed either. As the fighting continues with no end in sight, the prospects for a UN peacekeeping force are likely to increase.

The initial goal of a UNAMA II mission would be to bring a modicum of peace to Afghanistan. Reducing and then ending the conflict will probably require making compromises with some unsavoury Taliban leaders, which would pose difficult ethical challenges. But continuing a war that kills thousands of people a year with little or no hope of victory poses even greater ethical problems.

Ideally, the UN mission would include a large number of troops from Muslim nations to help establish local legitimacy and to avoid the perception of being part of a Western occupying force. It would need to be impartial and clearly distinct from the US/NATO missions in the country. The force would adopt a defensive posture, using its limited combat power only when necessary, as a last resort. It would therefore be implicated in many fewer civilian fatalities and would likely be more popular with the local population.

Could such a mission succeed in Afghanistan? Almost certainly not on its own. In the absence of ISAF/OEF forces, the Taliban would probably push the UN force aside. But if the mission began while ISAF/OEF forces were still in Afghanistan, the Taliban would not have the option of simply imposing their rule.

As the peace process gained strength, the counter-terrorism (OEF) and counterinsurgency (ISAF) efforts would be able to decrease, while the peacekeeping mission could increase in size and influence. Such a force might be especially attractive to Western governments, as it could become part of the exit strategy for the coalition forces now in Afghanistan.

In fact, the UNAMA II mandate could be seen as complementary to that of ISAF, although not identical. UNAMA II would foster peace not war. It would contribute mediation, negotiation, and facilitation, relying on a strong sense of the indigenous traditions of Afghan reconciliation. It would be a robust protection force, but it would not adopt an enemy-centred mentality. The envisioned mission would place much greater emphasis on support and participation of the local populations. It would identify a broad range of appropriate interlocutors for the peace negotiations and help implement local and regional cease-fires. In the end some form of peace agreement would be put in place. As was the case in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge, this strategy could splinter the insurgents and bring more of them to the negotiating table. NATO and US forces would indirectly help this process by continuing to deny the prospect of an easy victory of the Taliban over the Afghan government. As in peacekeeping more generally, the UN strategy would be less offensive; the method less aggressive; and the approach more inclusive.

Most civil wars of the past century have ended in some form of negotiated settlement. The United Nations has gained tremendous experience helping settle internal conflicts through negotiations and peacekeeping. Its track record since the end of the Cold War is impressive, with successful missions to help end civil wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte D’Ivoire, Nepal, and East Timor. Some other missions (notably Somalia and Rwanda) have been less successful, even failures. But the UN learned a lot from those difficult experiences, and it continues to build its peacekeeping and peacebuilding capacity.

As an erstwhile leader in UN peace operations and a current combatant in Afghanistan, Canada should strongly encourage the US and other countries now considering their future in Afghanistan to give the United Nations a strong role in that war-torn land.  The war-fighting role has shown its limitations now it is time to give peacekeeping a chance.

Walter Dorn is an associate professor of defence studies at the Canadian Forces College and the Royal Military College of Canada. He recently visited UN missions in the D.R. Congo, Haiti, Cyprus and Lebanon at UN behest to recommend improvements to the capabilities of these field missions.

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST ARTICLE: PAY PROBLEMS FOR AFGHAN BOUND CANADIAN TROOPS

December 17, 2009

Foulup leaves troops out pay, benefits

‘Administrative error’ to blame: National Defence

By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

December 8, 2009

Troops now training at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa for a mission to Afghanistan next year are in the midst of a battle against the military bureaucracy over pay and health benefits.

It’s the second time in less than eight months that reserve soldiers assigned to the Afghan mission have run into pay problems. In February, soldiers contacted the Citizen after their pay was cut off while they fought in Afghanistan.

This time, soldiers say they have lost the extra pay they are entitled to because of a bureaucratic screw-up. According to the soldiers, the pay problems are due to a backlog in processing paperwork and an inadequate pay system at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.

As well, there are problems with health coverage for families of the part-time soldiers.

“A caveat to the fact that they aren’t inputted into the regular force pay system is that their families (eligible dependents) at home are not eligible for medical coverage under the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP),” one individual wrote to the Citizen, complaining about the problem.

“Soldiers who once had coverage under their previous civilian careers are left with the medical expenses for their children and spouses until their contracts are processed.” About 300 reservists training at CFB Petawawa will head to Afghanistan in the spring.

Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen confirmed there are problems with pay. “The army is aware of pay issues affecting some reservists conducting pre-deployment training at Petawawa and we’re working quickly to address them,” he said.

Janzen said the soldiers are receiving their basic pay, but the problem centres around incentive pay they would receive. That problem is “due to an administrative error.”

Janzen didn’t have specific numbers affected, but added it is believed to be fewer than 100 reservists. He said that once the problem is sorted out, the soldiers would receive the money owed. A military source said the health-care issue will also be taken care of once the paperwork goes through for the reservists and they are assigned to the full-time regular force.

It’s not the first time there have been pay problems for part-time soldiers. From December 2008 to February of this year, some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan said they had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.

The troops continued to serve, but some told the Citizen they were worried they would not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they were injured in battle.

At the time, the army confirmed in an e-mail that there had been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”

The e-mail also added that emergency financial assistance was offered to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed.

In 2006, former Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home. The investigation, completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists injured in the course of duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN CANADIAN TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN HIT BY PAY PROBLEMS

December 9, 2009

Red tape ties up paycheques for reservists fighting in Afghanistan; Soldiers whose contracts expired overseas also worried about health coverage, benefits

The Ottawa Citizen

Feb 14 2009

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

Some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan have had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.

The troops continue to serve, but some have told the Citizen they are worried they will not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they are injured in battle.

Military staff in Afghanistan have told the reservists they can sort out the problems once they return to their home units in Canada. However, the soldiers are worried they will face an uphill battle with the military bureaucracy for entitlements such as leave and benefits. They are also concerned that if they are injured overseas, their families will have to fight the bureaucracy for assistance.

At the heart of the problem are the contracts the part-time soldiers have signed with the military.

The contracts, for temporary full-time employment for either a six-month or nine-month period, are supposed to be monitored so they do not expire while a reservist is in the middle of a tour in Afghanistan.

But that hasn’t happened in some cases and as contracts expired, the pay for troops was cut off.

It is not clear how many reservists are in that predicament. It is estimated that about 20 per cent of Canada’s military force assigned to Afghanistan is drawn from reserve units.

According to soldiers in Kandahar, the head of the army, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, has directed that all of the contracts in question be extended to cover the rest of a soldier’s tour. However, the response in Kandahar has been slow and some troops are still having problems, these soldiers say.

The army declined to provide a spokesman to discuss the issue.

However, an e-mail sent from the army confirmed that there have been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”

According to the e-mail, when the issue was first identified in December, immediate action was taken to extend the contracts of the reservists in question.

There have been some “administrative” delays in processing the extensions for all the soldiers, the e-mail acknowledged.

“There were some disruptions in January and February pay for some, but the administrative supervisor in-theatre was aware of this and was able to provide emergency financial assistance to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed,” the e-mail said, adding, “All outstanding pay issues have now been dealt with.”

In the past, the Canadian Forces ombudsman’s office has raised concerns that reservists, particularly those who have been injured in Afghanistan, were falling through the cracks of the military bureaucracy.

In 2006, then-ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home.

The investigation, which was completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists who were injured in the course of their duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.

The federal government has promised to take care of injured reservists.

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN: NO DIFFERENCE IN CAPABILITIES OFFERED BY MORTARS AND AUTOMATIC GRENADE LAUNCHERS SAYS CANADIAN ARMY REPORT

November 23, 2009

There is no difference in the capabilities offered by mortars and automatic grenade launchers in urban fighting, according to a newly released Canadian Army report.

 

The May 2003 study, obtained by Defence Watch, examined the use of a Company Area Suppression Weapon in urban operations. The study, called Iron Bombard, looked at the ability of several weapon systems to provide the Light Armoured Vehicle-3 Rifle Company with an internal suppression/neutralizing capability in an urban environment.

 

The report, obtained under the Access to Information law, was withheld for two years and only released after the Army was able to move ahead with its plans to purchase an automatic grenade launcher. Army officers have said that the grenade launcher will provide more and accurate firepower than the 60mm mortar, which will taken out of service since it is too old and considered unsupportable.

 

Bids from two companies are now in for the Army’s Close Area Suppression Weapon (CASW) project. There is no indication when the winning bid will be selected but defence sources expect that to be completed by January or February 2010.

 

The weapon systems tested in Iron Bombard were used in the offence and defence during a series of house to house clearing scenarios, according to the report. The infantry section was also equipped with machine guns and rifles.

 

“The study concluded that no differences between the capabilities of the Advance Grenade Launcher and the mortars were observed, however the Advanced Grenade Launcher could make a contribution to the effectiveness of the Rifle Company and the 60mm and 81mm light mortars provided value because of their ability to provide smoke screens,” the report concluded. “The study recommends that the Advanced Grenade Launcher be considered as a possible support weapon for the LAV 111 Rifle Company and that there may be a requirement to retain mortars in the support mix.”

 

Iron Bombard was done because the present weapon system available is the 60mm M19 Mortar, generally considered by the Canadian Army to lack the range, lethality and accuracy to be effective. In order to alleviate that deficiency an 81mm light mortar and a 40 mm advanced grenade launcher were evaluated using the close action environment urban combat war game.

 

Meanwhile, the evaluation of the bids on CASW continues at Public Works. Rheinmetall Canada and Singapore Technologies each put in a bid, Defense Watch has learned.

 

Rheinmetall had offered the army the Heckler and Koch 40mm grenade launcher which is being used by 16 militaries, including many NATO nations. Singapore Technologies, which has kept a low profile during the competition, has its own 40mm grenade launcher and ammunition. If the Singapore Technologies gun is selected, then Canada would join the small number of nations which use the weapon.

 

The winner will be selected on the basis of the lowest cost meeting the requirements outlined by the Army.

 

Testing of both weapons was done several weeks ago at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, NB, according to sources.

 

The $100 million CASW project has been repeatedly delayed, with some industry officials pointing to it as an example of the major problems plague the Defence Department’s procurement system.

 

In 2004, Canadian Army officers said the weapons would be delivered in August 2006 for eventual use in Afghanistan. Then the delivery date was later set as the summer of 2008.

 

Later the delivery of the guns was revised to occur in late 2009.

 

The new date for delivery is now 2012.

 

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

 


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