Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

U.S. NOT WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS OF AFGHANS BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

November 20, 2009

 

U.S. lacks human touch: NATO adviser

 

Mission at risk because army can’t connect with people, military told

 

By David Pugliese

 

The Ottawa Citizen

 

September 11, 2009

 

The U.S. could be stuck fighting in Afghanistan for a long time because its army doesn’t have the training to connect with the population or understand that country’s complicated culture, a senior NATO adviser warns.

 

Stephen Henthorne says the U.S. army puts too much emphasis on combat while paying lip service to working with civilian agencies and Afghans, and figuring out a plan to establish stability in Afghanistan.

 

In a letter to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Henthorne notes that army commanders are well trained in kinetic operations, a term used to describe combat, but don’t understand how to successfully use their resources to provide for civilian-military co-operation.

 

“The real problem is that almost all of these U.S. Army Generals are ‘War Fighters,’ ” writes Henthorne, an American and the senior adviser to NATO’s Civil-Military Co-operation Centre of Excellence in the Netherlands.

 

The Citizen has obtained a copy of the letter he sent to retired Gen. James Jones.

 

Henthorne, who stressed his comments didn’t reflect the views of his employer or NATO’s member states, said other countries have had more success in making inroads with the Afghan population.

 

“The Canadians, the British and the Dutch do better at this because they do listen and they understand the culture,” Henthorne said in an interview. “We claim we have tons of culture classes for our soldiers and even for our civilians, but we really don’t have a clue. We think one Muslim is just like any other Muslim.”

 

He noted the U.S. “hearts and minds” campaign in Afghanistan is designed only for the short term. True civil-military co-operation is working with civilians in disputed areas, Henthorne added.

 

The U.S. army provides most of the troops in Afghanistan.

 

For Americans, Henthorne said, an overemphasis on combat means “we’ll be spending a lot of time, money and resources going back constantly redoing things or we’ll be stuck where we don’t want to be stuck for long periods of time.”

 

Henthorne said U.S. operations, such as eradicating the opium trade, do not take into account the long-term effects on the Afghan population who rely on that harvest for their livelihood.

 

“We’re not just dealing with Taliban. We’re dealing with people who need to grow the crops, we’re dealing with people who sell them the seed, we’re dealing with drug lords who we originally paid to create stability in 2001 and 2002, and we can’t wean these people off of this stuff. It is a form of currency ingrained in their everyday life. We’re not doing anything realistic about that at all.”

 

The Pentagon is working on designing a civil-military campaign plan for Afghanistan over the next 16 months, but he pointed out that the team consists of one senior public servant and an officer, with little staff or budget. “I really believe that it’s doomed to fail and its failure is intentional,” he added.

 

Col. Daniel Roper, director of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Centre, said he hadn’t seen Henthorne’s letter so he could not comment.

 

But Roper noted the U.S. military is continually improving its training based on lessons learned from places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The military uses sociologists and cultural anthropologists to help it understand local cultures, he added.

 

Roper noted that since 2001, U.S. military doctrine has changed. There is emphasis on what is called “clear, hold and build,” meaning that insurgents are killed off or forced to retreat from a region. After that, U.S. units control the particular area and provide support to local communities.

 

“The holding and building is where you win,” Roper said. “It’s no longer offensive and defensive. It’s offensive, defensive and stability.”

 

Roper said a counter-insurgency campaign is a long-term undertaking, and that while combat gets noticed, it is much more difficult to perceive subtle changes in attitudes of the local populations since those take place over a lengthier period.

 

“It requires time to adjust and learn,” Roper said.

 

Henthorne said aid for Afghanistan should be appropriate, and not about quantity or pre-existing agendas.

 

“From the American perspective, we build you a school whether you want one or not,” he said. “You may need something else, but we don’t care.”

 

Read Stephen Henthorne’s letter to Gen. James Jones at 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:

 

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

 

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CANADIAN FORCES REJECT ARMED UAVS FOR AFGHANISTAN BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN REPORTER

November 20, 2009

 

Canada won’t arm Afghan drones

 

 

By David Pugliese

 

The Ottawa Citizen

 

November 20, 2009

 

 

 

The Canadian military has decided against putting missiles on the unmanned aerial vehicles it now operates in Afghanistan.

 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was briefed in March by air force officials on the various options for arming the drones, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.

 

Such aircraft, also known as UAVs, are used by various militaries in Afghanistan to conduct surveillance on insurgent activities. In addition, the U.S. uses armed UAVs to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on insurgent leaders.

 

The Canadian Forces is currently leasing Israeli-built Heron UAVs from MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C. That deal, worth $95 million, has a number of Herons operating out of Kandahar airfield. The UAVs are flown by Canadian Forces personnel, but maintained by civilian contractors.

 

Canadian air force spokesman Maj. Jim Hutcheson said a number of factors were considered before the idea of arming the UAVs was dropped. “After due consideration of all relevant factors, including costs, capabilities and timelines, it was decided that no project would be initiated to arm the Heron UAVs,” he noted.

 

The lease on the Herons runs until January 2011. There are also options in the contract to extend that.

 

Stephen Priestley, a researcher for the Canadian-American Strategic Review, noted that there are no technical hurdles to arming the Herons. But there would have been additional costs, requiring the existing contract to be amended, he added.

 

The Canadian military has plans to eventually purchase long-endurance UAVs over the next several years. Dubbed the Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) program, it is not expected that those aircraft would be flying until after 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/

 

DAVID PUGLIESE DEFENCE WATCH COMMENTARY: THE SUDDEN PUSH TO GET A CANADIAN ARMY FIGHTING RIG

November 18, 2009

DEFENCE WATCH COMMENTARY

David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The Defence Department and Public Works recently put out the call for the acquisition of Modular Fighting Rigs for the Canadian Army.

 

The request for proposals closes on Nov. 25 but those firms who wish to take part in the project have to have provide samples seven days before that (i.e. today, Nov. 18).

 

The new system is to be designed to provide soldiers deployed in operations the ability to carry critical fighting equipment included in their Fighting Order (The Fighting Order consists of, but is not limited to, the minimum essential ammunition, weapons, communications, Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF), navigation, trauma, water, rations, ballistic protection and environmental equipment that must be immediately available for combat. The system will also cater to different position/role within a section or platoon.)

 

Delivery of the rigs is to take place by March 2010.

 

But some inside the Canadian Forces and within industry are questioning the rationale for this urgent operational requirement purchase at this point in time. They note that for quite some time, the criticisms of the current equipment have been ignored. Yet all of a sudden, the rush is on to acquire this new piece of kit.

 

Does that make sense? There are of course different viewpoints on this.

 

Defence Watch presents below one such viewpoint on the issue. This analysis of the situation comes from a defence industry source who is not associated with any textile company or soldier equipment manufacturer but who has closely watched this project unfold.

 

Here is the analysis.

 

“On the positive side, the Canadian Forces is looking to adopt a modular based system for load carriage. The current in-service tactical vest has been widely criticized by CF members as being inadequate for operational use. DLR and DSSPM have dragged their feet for years in coming up with a solution to the criticisms of the tac-vest, until now, at the 11th hour of our current Afghanistan mission.

 

The manufacturers specifications in are SORD Australia, Tactical Tailor (US based), High Speed Gear (US Based), and CTOMS (Canadian).  It is interesting to note that none of the products requested are Canadian manufactured (CTOMS product is Canadian designed, but manufactured in the US).

 

Given the fact that Canadian textile firms are excluded from doing business with the US Dept. of Defense through the Berry Amendment and ‘Buy America’ clauses , one would wonder why and how the Canadian government would expect to get this procurement contract (which will likely have a total contract value greater than $1M Cdn) through, without drawing attention and criticism from the Canadian textiles industry, as well as opposition political parties.

 

In particular, Canada’s textile sector has been hurt during the recession.

 

Building load bearing equipment isn’t out of the realm of capability for Canadian companies such as Pacific Safety Products, or Fellfab who provide the Canadian Forces with much of the in-service items such as the Army’s rucksack, small pack and ballistic protective vest. What they need is some direction from DND in terms of a statement of requirement.

 

Canadian industry has not been given a fair opportunity to participate as companies were given less than 10 working days to submit a bid proposal along with material samples to meet a spec which DND has developed in relative secrecy. In fact, the project specifies that products utilize features based on intellectual property which are foreign owned.

 

Also interesting to note that neither CADPAT TW or AR are specified in his tender, which is odd, considering the significant amount of time, resources, and money which Canadian DND has put into developing the CADPAT pattern, which they claim significantly reduces the chance of a soldier’s detection in the visual and near infra-red spectrum, therefore increasing his survivability.

 

Canadian textile mills such as Lincoln Fabrics, and Consoltex have invested significant money and time to meet DND’s demanding specs for CADPAT fabrics, and have had a difficult time competing on the consumer market given the collapse of the North American textile industry. Is this how the government rewards their cooperation by spec’ing in foreign produced fabrics to be used by the Canadian Forces?

 

If DND were more forward thinking they could have engaged Canadian industry in terms of what their statement of requirement was, so that a made-in-Canada product which satisfies the requirements of the Canadian Forces could be fielded, rather than a rushed ‘UOR’ type requirement (this one is being labelled as an ‘Operational Evaluation’ by the CLS) at the 11th hour.”

 

 

 

Not everyone will agree with the above take on the situation. For instance, Soldier Systems, an website that covers the equipment industry, notes that Canadian textile manufacturers will likely get involved later manufacturing the fighting rigs under contract to the winning firm.

 

But it raises its own interesting aspects on this project: “What is even more interesting is that neither of the US companies chosen have major contracts with the US government,” Soldier Systems noted. “What is significant about their selection, and in fact all of the companies chosen, is that their selection is based completely on design. If you look at the initial list of 12 systems, none of the major US players were involved.”

 

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/

 

 

NO CANADIAN LEOPARD TANKS FOR AFGHAN ARMY; DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

November 12, 2009

NO CANADIAN LEOPARD TANKS FOR THE AFGHAN ARMY SAYS NATYNCZYK

 

BY DAVID PUGLIESE

Ottawa Citizen

 

The Canadian Forces could end up leaving some of its surplus supplies and equipment for NATO and the Afghan National Army and police after officers finish deciding what needs to be shipped back to Canada as the mission winds down.

 

But Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk told Defence Watch the one weapon system that won’t be provided to the ANA are Canadian tanks. The ANA has requested that the Canadian Leopard 1s be left for its use.

 

“We’ve given them a lot in terms of weapons and flak jackets,” Natynczyk said in a interview. “I know (Afghan Defence) Minister Wardak wanted some of the heavier equipment but some of the parts are no longer made. He wanted Leopard 1s but there are no parts made for Leopard 1s.”

 

“We anticipate the Americans and others will give them other vehicles that are still being supported by parts,” Natynczyk added. “It’s not reasonable to give them equipment and not give them parts because parts are not being made anymore.”

 

In August Natynczyk issued directions for Canadian officers to begin planning the drawdown of equipment in preparation for the end of the mission in July, 2011. He said shipping equipment and supplies back to Canada will be a year-long process.

 

In 2007, NATO and Canada examined the issue of transferring Leopards to the Afghan National Army, according to U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. Robert Durbin, who at that time was head of the effort to help develop Afghanistan’s army and police forces.

 

He said in a May 2007 interview that any move to supply the tanks would be handled through NATO. “So we’ve had some interesting discussions,” Durbin told the Citizen. “Canada is one nation. You’ve got Germany. Even New Zealand has Leopards,” he said.

 

Asked whether plans could involve the Canadian Forces turning over the Leopard tanks it already uses in Kandahar to the Afghan army, Durbin responded, “that might be one option that could make sense.”

 

Durbin said he favored a mix of equipment from NATO and Russian stocks. Ground equipment, most weapon systems and communications gear would be NATO standard so the ANA and ANP could be interoperable with coalition forces, he said.

 

The provision of surplus M-16s and M113 armored vehicles was planned, among other deliveries to the Afghans, he added.

 

But Durbin wanted Russian and former Warsaw Pact helicopters for the Afghan military because he considered such aircraft are highly reliable and well suited for Afghanistan’s rugged and often mountainous terrain.

 

For fixed-wing aircraft the Afghan air corps would continue over the short term to use its existing Antonov transport planes but Durbin said there was interest in acquiring western-built aircraft. C-130s, C-27s were among the planes he mentioned.

 

 

 

 

For a related David Pugliese’s Defence Watch article on this subject go here:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/archive/2008/01/03/is-giving-c-7s-to-the-afghan-national-army-the-right-move.aspx

 

For a related story on the proposed provision of Leopard tanks to the ANA go here:

 

https://davidpugliese.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/afghan-army-wants-canadian-leopards-by-david-pugliese-ottawa-citizen/

 

AFGHAN ARMY WANTS CANADIAN LEOPARDS BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN

November 11, 2009

Canada may supply Afghan military with Leopard tanks, says U.S. General.

 

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

 

May 21, 2007

 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Canada is in discussions with NATO to provide Afghanistan’s fledgling army with Leopard tanks so it can better fight insurgents.

 

Military officials say future plans call for the Afghan National Army (ANA) to switch from its Soviet-designed equipment to gear that is more compatible with the NATO nations fighting in this south Asia country. Defence sources here confirm that Canada is interested in supplying some of its older Leopard tanks to the Afghans and initial discussions have begun on that potential deal.

 

NATO nations would be expected to donate equipment to the ANA.

 

U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. Robert Durbin, who heads the effort to help develop Afghanistan’s army and police forces, said any move to supply the tanks would be handled through NATO. “So we’ve had some interesting discussions,” said Durbin. “Canada is one nation. You’ve got Germany. Even New Zealand has Leopards.”

 

Asked whether plans could involve the Canadian Forces turning over the Leopard tanks it already uses in Kandahar to the Afghan army, Durbin responded, “that might be one option that could make sense.”

 

The general added, however, that he would not be involved in such a decision.

 

The Canadian Forces shipped 17 Leopard tanks to Kandahar in the fall of 2006 after troops requested more firepower to use against insurgents. The Conservative government recently announced it would lease more modern Leopards for the Afghanistan mission from Germany. It will also buy 100 Leopard 2s at a cost of $1.3 billion. That price tag includes a 20-year maintenance and upgrade deal.

 

Some Canadian soldiers who have worked with the Afghan army in operations against insurgents said the plan to provide the ANA with more modern NATO-type equipment makes sense.

 

Warrant Officer Chuck Graham said such a move would make it easier for coalition forces to resupply Afghan troops as everyone would be using the same equipment. He said although the Afghans are natural warriors, one of the main challenges is shaping them into a professional army.

 

Graham also predicted it might be sometime before the ANA was ready to switch from Russian-designed to NATO tanks. “As far as going from the (Russian) T62 to the Leopard, I think that’s a ways down the road,” he said.

 

Afghanistan is in the process of beefing up its army and police force. The Afghan army is expected to have around 70,000 personnel and 82,000 police by 2008.

 

Afghanistan’s defence ministry is also working on fielding an air corps made up of 150 to 200 helicopters and planes. Future plans call for the Afghans to play more of a role in leading the fight against the Taliban and other insurgents.

 

“The Afghans want to do this,” explained Durbin. “They want to stand up on their own two feet. They want to take the lead.”

 

The Afghan army is also creating six new commando battalions of about 650 soldiers each. The battalions would be given the best equipment and most advanced training. The men, most of them combat veterans, have been specially recruited for the units.

 

Durbin said the Afghan army would decide where the commandos would be used but he suggested that it is most likely they would be sent to southern part of the country where insurgents are the most active. All six battalions would be in place by the end of 2008.

 

That could provide some relief for Canadian and other NATO troops, he suggested. “So maybe (in the) spring 2009 you’re going to see an even more significant ability of the Afghan national security forces to stand on their own two feet and take on this fight,” Durbin said. “That would be a timeframe where maybe we can have the flexibility to make some strategic decisions about how much of a footprint NATO would be comfortable having in Afghanistan.”

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the Canadian mission in Afghanistan ends in 2009. But officers here doubt the Conservative government will walk away completely from Afghanistan since Canada has sacrificed too many soldiers and spent billions of dollars on the mission.

 

They expect the government to further extend the mission but it is not clear how many troops that would involve.

TRACKS VERSUS WHEELS; NOT AN ISSUE FOR THE CANADIAN FORCES CLOSE COMBAT VEHICLE

November 10, 2009

CV903puglieseVBCI photo to use

 

TRACKS VERSUS WHEELS; NOT AN ISSUE FOR THE CANADIAN FORCES CLOSE COMBAT VEHICLE

 

 

 

 

 

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

 

 

Canadian Army officers have told armored industry representatives it doesn’t matter whether the new Close Combat Vehicle is wheeled or tracked and that the lowest cost system which meets the requirements will be selected.

 

The wheels versus tracks debate is not an issue for CCV that will affect the procurement, industry representatives said in interviews with Defence Watch. They asked that their names not be published.

 

“I would have thought that the Army’s future doctrine or tactics – and whether it makes sense to go wheeled or tracked from a maintenance or transportation point of view — would come into play but we have been told that is not a factor,” said one industry official. “The best vehicle that meets the requirements at the lowest cost wins.”

 

Defence Watch had requested a briefing on the Close Combat Vehicle but the Defence Department declined. DND referred all questions to Public Works and Government Services Canada. A Public Works media spokesperson, via email, noted that the requirements for the  CCV have not been finalized.

 

In 2003 Army officers announced that the service would move to an all-wheeled armored vehicle fleet in the coming years as part of the Army’s plan to build a futuristic force and improve its ability to deploy on overseas operations. As part of that decision the Army decided to get rid of its Leopard tanks and purchase the U.S.-built Mobile Gun System, equipped with a 105mm gun.

 

“Tanks are a perfect example of extremely expensive systems that sit in Canada because they are inappropriate to the operations we conduct daily around the world,” then Army commander Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier wrote in the Ottawa Citizen. “The MGS, in conjunction with other combat systems, will give us a much greater capability on operations such as those being conducted in Kabul, and still give us options for high-intensity combat.”

 

But combat in Afghanistan and concerns about the MGS’s ability to meet future requirements changed that view.

 

In 2006, the Canadian Army’s senior leaders recommended the cancellation of plans to purchase the Mobile Gun System. Leopard 2 tanks were purchased for the Afghan mission.

 

Army officers have also noted that in some cases wheeled LAVs had difficulty with the terrain in Afghanistan. In addition, more armor protection was needed because of IEDs, further prompting the tank purchase.

 

The Canadian Forces sees the CCV as bridging the gap between light armoured vehicles (five to 20 tonnes) and heavy armoured vehicles (more than 45 tonnes), coming in between 25 and 45 tonnes.

 

The CCV will allow infantry to operate in support of the Leopard 2 tanks, providing the Army with a more balanced and integrated fleet, according to the Army.

 

Industry officials say they are unsure of what the Army means by “balanced and integrated fleet.” Does that mean more tracks, to keep up with tracked Leopards, or more wheels to augment the LAV-3s, they ask.

 

Nexter Systems, the French armored vehicle firm,  is offering the Canadian Army its wheeled VBCI armored vehicles for the CCV project.

 

The Hagglund’s tracked CV90 from BAE Systems is also being offered for CCV.

 

Armored vehicle manufacturer Rheinmetall has not indicated whether it will take part in the project.

 

The Canadian Forces will acquire 108 CCVs with an option for up to 30 more.

 

COMING IN TOMMOROW’S DEFENCE WATCH: AN UPDATE ON CANADIAN FORCES UAV PROGAMS.

 

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/

 

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN: NO CANADIAN MILITARY PLANS FOR AFGHANISTAN POST-2011

November 7, 2009

 

No plans for Afghanistan after 2011, top general affirms

 

 

By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

 

November 7, 2009

 

 

The Canadian military has no plans for troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the summer of 2011, despite recent suggestions that soldiers could take part in training or support roles, says Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk. In this file photo Canadian Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance sits against a mud wall in the volatile Dand district of Afghanistan.

 

The Canadian military has no plans for troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the summer of 2011, despite recent suggestions that soldiers could take part in training or support roles, says Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk. In this file photo Canadian Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance sits against a mud wall in the volatile Dand district of Afghanistan.

Photograph by: Craig Pearson, Canwest News Service

 

The Canadian military has no plans for troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the summer of 2011, despite recent suggestions that soldiers could take part in training or support roles, says the Canadian Forces’ top officer.

 

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk said Friday he has not made any recommendations to the government about a new role for the Canadian military and, until he’s told otherwise, he is strictly following the parliamentary motion that outlines a troop pullout by July 1, 2011.

 

“The guidance has been clear from Parliament, so let’s get on with it,” he said.

 

“Until I receive guidance that would change that, from the Canadian Forces standpoint, we are marching to the drum of that (Parliamentary) motion.”

 

Natynczyk acknowledged, however, that there is more than enough time to detail plans for a follow-on mission in Afghanistan for the Canadian Forces even if they end their combat mission.

 

“It’s still a year-and-a-half away; we’ve launched operations on less than that, but I can’t assume that,” he added.

 

In the meantime, Natynczyk has issued direction to commanders to begin planning to pull equipment from Kandahar. The first gear to be returned to Canada would be non-essential items but that would later be expanded to include everything from tanks to trucks.

 

There have been mixed messages on what role Canada will play in Afghanistan after summer 2011. Some opposition MPs have complained that statements by Defence Minister Peter MacKay have suggested soldiers will stay on in some role.

 

In addition, Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told CBS News last month there will be Canadian troops in Afghanistan after 2011, though “exponentially fewer.”

 

“I would caution you against saying dozens or hundreds or a thousand, there will be exponentially fewer,” Soudas said.

 

“Whether there’s 20 or 60 or 80 or 100, they will not be conducting combat operations.”

 

Harper later tried to clear up the confusion by noting that the military mission would be replaced by a civilian operation. Asked by Global News if there were a role for soldiers after 2011 or whether they would be pulled out, Harper said: “The plan is to move to a civilian, development, humanitarian mission.”

 

Natynczyk said it will take more than a year to get tons of equipment and supplies back to Canada. The military also has to figure out what, if anything, it intends to leave for the Afghan army and police

 

Natynczyk expects the contracts to hire companies to move the supplies and equipment back to Canada to be in place in early 2010. He, however, stressed that the Canadian Forces will continue to have a strong presence in Afghanistan right up until the pullout date of July 1, 2011.

 

Last month, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day indicated Parliament will have a major role in shaping Canada’s future commitment to Afghanistan. He called on the special House of Commons committee on Afghanistan to begin compiling ideas on what role Canada should have after 2011.

 

“I think the time is ripe for consideration by this committee, participants here, to give us your views, give us your direction, your suggestions,” Day said.

 

“I can well imagine another motion or another form of parliamentary direction. We’ve already indicated on the areas of social development, community development, human rights, institutional capacity; we are there for the long term.”

 

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/

 

 

 

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN: THE KEVLAR COFFIN DEBATE

November 7, 2009

The Stryker armored vehicle a “Kevlar coffin”?

 

The Washington Times has an article today in which U.S. troops raise concerns about Strykers now in use in Afghanistan.

 

Soldiers call the Strykers “Kevlar coffins,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Paul Rabidou told the Washington Times.

 

More from the Times:

 

“ “Since they arrived at the outpost on Sept. 13, the Blackwatch unit – Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, with the 5th Stryker Brigade – had lost three soldiers and two civil affairs officers. IEDs had destroyed three of their four Stryker vehicles. Overall, 21 of 350 Strykers have been destroyed since the 5th Brigade deployed in southern Afghanistan in July; more than two dozen Americans have been killed and nearly 70 wounded.”

 

The Stryker is “essentially a paramilitary police vehicle,” said retired Army Col. Doug Macgregor, a specialist on tank warfare. “It’s designed to transfer American light infantry down a road,” not to fight an elusive enemy in treacherous terrain.

 

Col. Macgregor said the U.S. Army would do better to follow the example of Canada, which has bought German Leopard II tanks for use by ground forces in Afghanistan. “What you need in Afghanistan is tracked armor, off-the-road capability and a stable platform for large-caliber guns,” he said.

 

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said U.S. officials are “well aware of the fact that the Stryker brigade out of Fort Lewis [Wa.] has taken heavy casualties” in southern Afghanistan.”

 

 

At the same time, the latest issue of Defense Technology International has an article about how MRAPs are too bulky and because of that their effectiveness is limited in Afghanistan.

 

The U.S. Marine commander in the Garmsir region of Helmand province says 90 per cent of his combat patrols are dismounted. “To be amongst the people, you’ve got to walk out there,” said Lt.-Col. Christian Cabaniss, commander 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines.

 

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN: NEW VETERANS CHARTER HURTS VETS

November 7, 2009

DOES THE LUMP SUM PAYMENT CONTAINED IN THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER SCREW DISABLED/INJURED CANADIAN SOLDIERS?

 

In my Ottawa Citizen article from earlier this week, Veterans Ombudsman, retired Col. Pat Stogran, outlined various problems with the New Veterans Charter.

 

One concern he had centered around the fact that Afghan veterans (and any future veterans) who are wounded now receive a lump-sum payment. In the past, former soldiers got a monthly disability pension, he noted.

 

“I have some significant misgivings about that,” said Stogran, a veteran of Afghanistan and missions in the former Yugoslavia. “Personally, my instincts tell me the last thing you want to do when a young soldier comes back from overseas, perhaps with an operational stress injury, or with a dependency on alcohol or drugs, is give him $250,000 to self-medicate.”

 

The money is meant to recognize and compensate Canadian Forces members, veterans and their families for a service-related disability. The award is a tax-free lump-sum payment with the amount depending on the extent of the injury. The maximum amount is slightly more than $267,000.

 

It’s a concern that I’ve heard a lot about from Defence Watch readers and Afghan veterans.

 

A Citizen editorial in Thursday’s paper weighed in with this: “Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, a medic who lost both legs in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan, is among the veterans who have expressed these concerns. Indeed, he told Legion Magazine that he has heard from injured soldiers that there is real skepticism about in the new Veterans Charter. It’s easy to see why. Franklin was injured before the new system came into effect and therefore receives a monthly disability pension that, over 40 years, will amount to about $2 million. That’s four times as much as the maximum payment under the new system.

 

Veterans Affairs officials say they offer financial counselling to soldiers on how to deal with the lump sum, but surely soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder need more guidance than can be provided by an investment adviser. The federal government needs to reassure veterans that it had their best interests in mind when the benefits system was revamped, that it wasn’t simply a money-saving exercise.

 

Canadians who are risking their lives in Afghanistan and other places deserve nothing less than total confidence that their government is behind them — before, during and after every deployment.”

 

But Veterans Affairs has a different take.  During a recent Commons committee on Veterans Affairs, Brian Ferguson, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Programs and Partnerships, Veterans Affairs Canada noted this:

 

“There’s a component of the charter that offers financial

advice to the veterans, at their choice, where we encourage them to use the free financial service that is available from the department to actually assist them, particularly if it’s a fairly significant lump sum, because a significant lump sum gives many of these individuals a

unique opportunity to buy a home or to make a significant serious investment. We’re also very concerned about the potential for wasting that particular resource, and that’s why we introduced that particular component.

 

There’s a balancing act, obviously. If someone is mature enough to serve Canada in a military context, there’s a line that you don’t want to cross in terms of telling them how to live their personal lives. There’s also the issue around the old Pension Act, where we had similar circumstances arise from time to time as well. So it sort of transcends the kind of payment that you’re making. It’s an issue, and we’ve made an attempt in the charter to try to come to grips with it.”

 

 

Any thoughts out there on this issue?

 

 

 

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/

 

 

 

DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN: CANADIAN AFGHAN VETERANS

November 7, 2009

The New Veterans Charter might confuse those suffering from an operational stress injury, says Col. Pat Stogran.

 

Afghanistan vets fear for future care; Ombudsman has ‘misgivings’ about giving wounded lump-sum payments

 

The Ottawa Citizen

Tue Nov 3 2009

 

By David Pugliese

 

Canada’s Afghan veterans are raising serious concerns about their future and whether they will be taken care of by the government in the decades to come, says the country’s Veterans Ombudsman.

 

Retired Col. Pat Stogran says the problems revolve around the New Veterans Charter and some of the provisions in that legislation. One concern is that Afghan veterans who are wounded now receive a lump-sum payment. In the past, former soldiers got a monthly disability pension, he noted.

 

“I have some significant misgivings about that,” said Stogran, a veteran of Afghanistan and missions in the former Yugoslavia. “Personally, my instincts tell me the last thing you want to do when a young soldier comes back from overseas, perhaps with an operational stress injury, or with a dependency on alcohol or drugs, is give him $250,000 to self-medicate.”

 

The money is meant to recognize and compensate Canadian Forces members, veterans and their families for a service-related disability. The award is a tax-free lump-sum payment with the amount depending on the extent of the injury. The maximum amount is slightly more than $267,000.

 

Other veterans have complained that the Charter is mired in red tape, Stogran added. “This New Veterans Charter, especially for someone suffering from an operational stress injury, is going to be so confusing and frustrating,” he said.

 

“Another problem we’re seeing as well is that a lot of the benefits fall off the face of the earth when the veteran turns 65,” Stogran added.

 

The New Veterans Charter, started in April 2006, represents the most sweeping change to veterans’ benefits and services in years, according to Veterans Affairs.

 

Department spokeswoman Janice Summerby stressed that the disability award is one of several benefits available. “The New Veterans Charter is … part of a group of programs with a completely different focus which is the re-establishment (of the veteran) in civilian life,” she added.

 

Summerby noted that Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson has repeatedly said the legislation is a “living charter.”

 

“The department has been doing a lot to keep it current and there is a commitment to look at the input that other groups have provided,” she added.

 

But Stogran said while the Charter is a good first step, there doesn’t seem to have been too much effort to fix the problems. “There are (Afghan) veterans who are worried about the rest of their lives.

 

“All parties had a sense of urgency and agreed to put this thing through on the condition it was a living charter and it would be fixed where there were problems,” Stogran explained. “My position is; let’s fix it with the same sense of urgency that we brought it in with in the first place.”

 

He said that if problems with the charter aren’t fixed, he could see the various issues becoming a “political football” that will be played out on the floor of the House of Commons as problems emerge in the future.

 

Stogran also said any changes should be grandfathered to cover veterans who received such benefits starting in April 2006.

 

Some disabled Afghan veterans fall under the old system in which they receive the monthly pension and they have expressed their relief at being covered by that benefit, he added.

 

Both Senate and Commons committees looking into veterans’ issues have been examining the Charter. “There will be lots more to come on this subject,” added Summerby.

 

Several hundred Canadian soldiers have been physically injured during the Afghanistan war. In addition, there is the issue of post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD. Some specialists estimate about 20 per cent of those who served in Afghanistan will exhibit PTSD symptoms, ranging from anxiety to nightmares to suicidal tendencies.

 

A Commons committee recently released a report outlining how hard the problem is expected to hit the ranks in the future. Of the estimated 27,000 military personnel who have served in Afghanistan since 2002, the committee received estimates that slightly more than 3,600 could come down with some sort of mental health problem while, of those, 1,624 would have symptoms of PTSD and depression.

 

 

 

 

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/