Well, well, well: The consequences of delaying our Afghan decision

Posted December 31st, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

You can’t always get what you want. See this Nov. 17 post by BruceR. at Flit:

I hear Mazar in spring is even nicer than Kabul in winter

Matthew Fisher continues to perform the sin of actual journalism by trying to pin down people on where Canadian troops in Afghanistan post-2011 will be going and what they’ll be doing. This was telling:

As Canada is insisting that most of its trainers will be in or near the capital, which is already awash with trainers from other countries, there is immense interest in what specific training tasks Canada is to be assigned by NATO and how its trainers will be shoehorned into already-crowded bases in the capital…

…the demand for what could be readily offered [by the CF] becomes rather small. So in the Kabul area, there were only 106 critical jobs in police and army training that could be filled by “regular” soldiers as of the NTM-A [NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan] annual report, dated three weeks ago… far less than what Canada is now offering…

Looks like Bruce was bang-on:

Canadian trainers likely to be sent across Afghanistan

The Canadian Forces is rushing to draw up a list of military trainers to send to Afghanistan once Canada’s combat mission ends next summer, but senior officers say training positions in the safer regions of the country are already growing few and far between.

The federal government announced earlier this year that up to 950 Canadian soldiers would participate in a three-year mission to train the nascent Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police force.

The Conservative government insisted that the Canadian trainers would be based “inside the wire,” working in secure bases in the relatively stable area around Kabul, the Afghan capital.

But the NATO training organization in Afghanistan is expanding rapidly and needs trainers at sites across the country.

Many of the training jobs in Kabul have been snapped up by nations who committed to the training mission much earlier and Canada may have to send its soldiers into riskier regions of the country.

Maj.-Gen. Stuart Beare, the Canadian deputy commander of the NATO training mission, told CTV News that the coalition needs military and police trainers in almost every province of Afghanistan…

Col. Paul Scagnetti is one of a group of Canadian officers that helped establish the Afghan Army Command College in Kabul, helping to train the Afghan army’s future leaders.

“They know how to fight, there’s no doubt about that: They’ve been doing it for 30 years,” Scagnetti said. “What we’re trying to do is give them a structure, an organization that’ll make them more effective in their fighting.”

But Scagnetti and his fellow trainers have been so successful that they’ve put themselves out of at least one training job: when the new Canadian-funded college opens next spring it will be run by Afghans [I think that may well be the staff college that Brian Platt posted about when he was in Kabul--unembedded--in early November] .

Caught by surprise at the government’s announcement of the training mission, the Canadian Forces is now working overtime to draw up plans for where the Canadian troops will go and what exactly they will be doing.

Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, the head of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, acknowledged that Canada may have little choice but to send soldiers into more volatile regions of Afghanistan.

“The direction I have from (Chief of Defence Staff) Gen. Natynczyk is that it is to be Kabul-centric,” Lessard told CTV News. “And what that means is that the emphasis is to be on Kabul, but not solely Kabul.”

Details of the training mission may become clearer after a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels later in January…

Update remark: Politics, politics, all is politics.


Afstan and the CF’s new training mission: Some serious research further to the “sin of actual journalism”/Bob Rae Update/Toronto Star Upperdate

Posted November 18th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

BruceR. at Flit, unlike most of our journalists, does some real analysis (I’ve omitted the numerical details, do check them):

I hear Mazar in spring is even nicer than Kabul in winter

Matthew Fisher continues to perform the sin of actual journalism by trying to pin down people on where Canadian troops in Afghanistan post-2011 will be going and what they’ll be doing. This was telling:

As Canada is insisting that most of its trainers will be in or near the capital, which is already awash with trainers from other countries, there is immense interest in what specific training tasks Canada is to be assigned by NATO and how its trainers will be shoehorned into already-crowded bases in the capital.

If only these answers were on the web somewhere… oh, yes, they are*. Now, first off, it seems I was off on my previous SWAG [Scientific Wild Ass Guess--see Update here] of the “behind the wire” strength of NTM-A, but not by a huge number: total current planned number according to Fig. 13 is about 1800, with the hope of rising to 2800 over the next year. Assuming most of that increase were Canadian in the end, that would mean we would be increasing the strength of the trainer force single-handedly by about 50%.

But where are the jobs, actually, and what would they be doing? Ah, for that you’ll have to click on the link.

The key figure here is figure 14, which breaks down the 442 most critical deficiencies by location and trade. Cross-referencing that with the training locations on pages 30 and 31 gives, as a provincial breakdown…

If that kind of breakdown [by type of trainer] persists, it’s going to be difficult to answer the call with an existing unit, like an infantry battalion. Sure, combat arms soldiers can cover Afghan police training easily enough, but 38% of the shortfall are in specialist trades not found in the line units.

Put the two together, and the demand for what could be readily offered becomes rather small. So in the Kabul area, there were only 106 critical jobs in police and army training that could be filled by “regular” soldiers as of the NTM-A annual report, dated three weeks ago… far less than what Canada is now offering.

(What’s not defined are the locations and trades of the 450+ “non-critical” positions. One should expect a significant number of those will be in logistics, though, where according to the NTM-A report, exactly 0 (out of an undefined total number) have so far been secured.)

*I’m grateful to ANSF freelance researcher Anand Choudhuri for the pointer.

Update: Mildly related, at the National Post’s “Full Comment”:

Bob Rae on partisan politics and Afghanistan gamesmanship:

Upperdate: The Toronto Star likes the new mission too. Talk about a, er, coalition.


Afstan: “A training role is possible”

Posted November 14th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

A letter of mine in the Toronto Star (links added):

Re: Canadians need clarity, information, Nov. 9; Taliban waited and Ottawa blinked, Nov. 10; PM’s reversal on Afghan pullout flawed, Nov. 10

These columns all maintain that it will be almost impossible for the Canadian Forces to stay on with a training mission in Afghanistan that is not at the same time effectively a combat role. That is not so. Basic military training of Afghan recruits, officer staff training, training in technical skills and medical skills can be readily done in the Kabul area without going “outside the wire” alongside the Afghans.

The Canadian Forces have already sent a small number of personnel to engage in that sort of training in Kabul as part of the NATO Training Mission — Afghanistan. They have suffered no casualties and have not seen combat. I would imagine that any large Canadian training contingent would mostly be attached to that non-combat NATO mission.

Indeed, if the government sends the 1,000 personnel mentioned in the media, I would think Canadians would largely be taking charge of the NATO training mission. For which our allies will be very grateful as NATO has had great difficulty in getting members to provide the numbers of trainers needed.

Mark Collins, Ottawa

Though as BruceR. has pointed out at Flit, NTM-A does do a lot of outside-the-wire mentoring; but that would not be the CF’s role at Kabul–or elsewhere in Afstan if some CF members are also stationed outside the capital area, according to this story by Matthew Fisher of Postmedia News.  As for taking charge, that too would be at Kabul.

Update: The letter and this post are in the Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs:

Canadian Commentary

Mark Collins — The Toronto Star
Letter: A training role is possible – More


Media out! Of Afghanistan/People’s Daily Online Update

Posted November 12th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

One particular reason why moving the Canadian military mission to Kabul will be a Good Thing: without the prospect of fairly frequent deaths and ramp ceremonies to obsess over (which coverage has only undermined support for the mission), and with the much greater costs of being based in Kabul, the Canadian major media will rapidly lose interest in what the Canadian Forces are doing in Afghanistan.  The media will then bring almost all their people home.

That indeed can only be a Good Thing.  Those media, television above all and it has by far the greatest public impact, have done a generally miserable job reporting and explaining the Kandahar mission and all its aspects (though there have been some exceptions, most notably Matthew Fisher and Brian Hutchinson of Postmedia News).

Besides which our media’s almost exclusive focus on the CF and Kandahar has left Canadians miserably ill-informed about the war, and the country, as a whole.

In the name of God, go!  Without you the public, politicians, and punditocracy will rapidly lose interest in the mission.  Leaving the forces just to get on with their work. As was the case for by far the greater part of the CF’s some twelve years deployed in various major Balkan missions, first under the UN, then NATO.

Update: Once again our media media not on the job; as far as I can see none of them bothered to run this CP (AP) story rather relevant to extending our military mission:

Dutch government to investigate possibility of new Afghanistan mission

Now why might that be? Hell, the People’s Daily Online covered the news. How bizarre, and sad, that the controlled Chinese Communist media do a better job than ours on this.

Upperdate: By the way, the Dutch had attack helicopters in Afstan, a type that our Air Force does not possess useful though they might be–and is most unlikely to get given the pressures on the defence budget:

Adieu Apaches

Uppestdate: Please see Thucydides’ comment (he served at Kandahar) which is very revealing about our media’s general approach.


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AfPak: ISAF helicopters attack in Pakistan; US and Afghans expand ops around Kandahar/Audio Update

Posted September 27th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

1) This seems a major development, presumably Paks were informed:

NATO launches airstrikes into Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO helicopters in eastern Afghanistan launched rare major airstrikes into Pakistan, reportedly killing more than 50 militants, officials said Monday, while international forces began a key combat phase to drive out Taliban fighters around the southern city of Kandahar.

The airstrikes across the border came after the insurgents attacked a small Afghan security outpost near the border, and NATO justified the strikes based on “the right of self-defense,” a spokesman said. Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, but U.S. officials have said they have an agreement that allows aircraft to cross a few miles into Pakistani airspace if they are in hot pursuit of a target…

The strike killed 49 militants, said U.S. Maj. Michael Johnson, another ISAF spokesman…

International and Afghan forces in the south, meanwhile, were moving into two or three areas around Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan at once to pressure the Taliban “so they don’t get the chance to run away,” Shah Mohammad Ahmadi, chief of Arghandab district northwest of the city, said Monday…

A top NATO officer said Sunday that the alliance a few days ago had launched a “kinetic,” or combat, phase of “Operation Dragon Strike,” a joint military push with Afghan forces around Kandahar intended to rid the area of insurgents and interrupt their ability to move freely and stage attacks…

“Afghanistan and coalition forces are destroying Taliban positions so they will have nowhere to hide,”..

Will be interesting to see how effective the ANA are.

2) More on the Kandahar operations:

American and Afghan Troops Begin Combat for Kandahar [actually not really beginning, see below]

ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan — American and Afghan troops began active combat last week in an offensive to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds surrounding the city of Kandahar, military officials said Sunday.

In the last several days, soldiers shifted from guarding aid workers and sipping tea with village elders to actively hunting down Taliban fighters in marijuana fields and pomegranate orchards laced with booby traps.

Sixteen Americans have died in the push so far, including two killed by a roadside bomb on Sunday.

The combat phase began five or six days ago in the Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwai Districts, Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, said, defining the current phase for the first time…

Active combat began last week in three districts.

This is the first large-scale combat operation involving multiple objectives in Kandahar Province, where a military offensive was originally expected to begin in June. That offensive was downgraded to more of a joint civil-military effort after the military encountered problems containing the Taliban in the much smaller city of Marja and because Afghan leaders feared high civilian casualties.

During the last week of August, at the instigation of Afghan authorities, American troops supported a major push into the Mehlajat area on the southwest edge of Kandahar City, driving the Taliban from that area with few casualties on either side.

At the time, military officials said that was the beginning of what would be an increase in active combat around Kandahar…

Last Tuesday, a United States Army platoon left Forward Operating Base Wilson early in the morning and within 10 minutes, Taliban insurgents had opened fire with small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Although helicopter gunships were soon overhead to support the ground forces, the insurgents continued to fire on the patrol throughout the day as the troops made their way through vineyards and fields of marijuana plants 10 feet high.

None of the Americans were wounded or killed on that patrol.

Journalists from The New York Times, during a weeklong stay there, observed that every time soldiers left their bases, they were either shot at or hit with bombs, often hidden or booby-trapped.

Frequently, the Taliban did not — as they normally would — stop shooting once air support arrived [emphasis added]…

Along with the military buildup has come a similar effort to increase the presence of State Department employees, along with aid contractors paid by the Americans, who would serve as stabilization teams in those areas.

Although some 300 American civilian staff members have arrived in Kandahar Province, at the district levels there are only a few, mainly because of security concerns.

In Arghandab, where the civilian effort is deemed to have been the most successful, the district team consists of two Americans in addition to contractors and local employees…

From mid-September:

U.S., Afghan forces launch assault in southern Afghanistan
The push into insurgent strongholds west of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, aims to cut off the militants’ supply routes into the city. The troops will gradually expand their presence.

Reporting from Howz-e-Madad, Afghanistan —
Hundreds of U.S. and Afghan troops pushed into insurgent-dominated areas west of Kandahar city early Wednesday, hoping to establish a foothold not far from the area where the Taliban movement was born.

The assault south of the main highway in the Zhari district by elements of the 101st Airborne Division was aimed at cutting off routes that insurgents use to move fighters, explosives and drugs into Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

The operation, which involves parts of three U.S. battalions, as well as British engineers deployed to help clear hidden bombs, is one of the biggest troop actions in a months-long military campaign in the region. Stabilizing the area is one of the main objectives this year, U.S. commanders say…

Forces meet little resistance as offensive in Zhari district begins

Panjwai, mentioned just before the map in the quote above, is where the CF’s own field operations are now concentrated, see here and here.  Most recently:

`Positive change’ in security in Kandahar, Canadian officer says.

See also second part of this post for more, oddly under-reported, allied successes

Update: More from Matthew Fisher, author of final story headlined above, from CFRA Ottawa:

Monday, September 27, 2010
Afghan Security Improving
Madely in the Morning – 8:40am — Steve Madely is joined by Matthew Fisher, PostMedia News Middle East and South Asia bureau chief in Afghanistan.
mp3 (click here to download)

Upperdate: Some not so good news, via BruceR. at Flit, plus our government’s “Quarterly Report” for April 1 to June 30.


Afstan: Just say “no” to NATO/CIA Great Gaming, Canadian terrorist “shocker” Update/US AfPak docs Upperdate

Posted September 23rd, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

That would seem to be this government’s likely answer, unless the Liberals (odd it should have come to that) take some sort of initiative themselves to encourage the extension in some form of our Afghan mission.  By the way, Canada is saying “no” to the UN too, nice eh?  From a story by Matthew Fisher of Postmedia News:

NATO official to press feds for post-2011 help training Afghans

KABUL — NATO’s ambassador to Afghanistan is flying 11,000 kilometres to Ottawa late next week to try to convince the Harper government that the alliance badly needs military trainers to school Afghan security forces and that Canada is ideally suited to provide them after its combat mission in Kandahar ends on July 1, 2011.

“I will speak to Canada about the overall progress of the campaign and where we think the shortfalls are and where we need additional resources and rebalancing,” Mark Sedwill said in an interview Wednesday at NATO’s fortress-like headquarters in the Afghan capital.

“Any decision that Canada makes now or in the future to continue to provide input on the military or civilian side would be tremendously welcome and not only because of the political importance of Canada.

“Canada has a first-rate army and with the experience of combat on the ground in Kandahar that army has been tested and tempered in the most difficult circumstances. Canada’s skills in training, as in every other area of military competence are first rate.”

The visit to Parliament Hill by Sedwill, who has served in the region for many years as a senior British diplomat, is part of a concentrated, multi-pronged strategy by NATO and its biggest players to persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the crucial importance they attach to Canada maintaining some kind of military role in Afghanistan, which is slated to drop from nearly 3,000 troops to zero next year.

In a clear sign of the high importance that NATO and the U.S. attach to recruiting more trainers from across the alliance, U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen considered ways to tackle the training shortfalls when they met last week in Washington [interview with Mr Rasmussen here, plus more on other NATO members and trainers here]…

While NATO was acutely aware of the political “sensitivity” in Ottawa of what Sedwill referred to as this “delicate issue,” he said that “I don’t regard the door closed with Canada or any other country.”..

A resolution passed by Parliament [actually just the Commons] early in 2008 stated that Canada’s military mission in Kandahar must end next summer. However, the motion left open the possibility that troops could be deployed elsewhere in Afghanistan after that date [whereas the government lies and maintains the motion requires a complete withdrawal from the whole country, more on that at the middle of this post]. The House’s defence committee has called for a debate this fall on Canada’s military role after the Kandahar mission closes.

The Liberal party formally decided several months ago that it backed Canadian troops staying on in a training role here after next year. Many Conservatives are known to be of a like mind as the Liberals, but until now the prime minister has insisted that all the troops must come home.

NATO would not make a specific demand for troops when he visits Canada’s capital, Sedwill said. But it is an open secret that NATO would like Ottawa to contribute at least several hundred military trainers to teach in Afghan army and police academies.

Such an assignment would not involve the far more dangerous work of mentoring Afghan forces in the field [emphasis added]. It would also cost a tiny fraction of the current combat mission…

…the number of Canadian casualties has dipped sharply this year [emphasis added, how come that has not been more widely reported?] as its task force’s area of operations has shrunk to two, still very dangerous districts to the west of Kandahar City, after a huge influx of U.S. troops into the south of the country [more on current American operations here].

One wonders whether Prime Minister will have the political courage to stand up for Afghanistan–and Canada. Earlier:

Afstan: Even the Toronto Star seems open to keeping some Canadian troops

Afstan flash: One and half cheers for Peter MacKay/Dipper Update

Meanwhile back at the front in Afstan:

Afghanistan security ‘deteriorating:’ Feds

OTTAWA — Afghanistan’s security situation is “deteriorating,” with a rise in insurgent violence and intimidation of civilians, according to a new report on the war by the Harper government [report available here].

The latest quarterly report by the government, which covers the period from April 1 to June 30, also notes the assassination of several Afghan officials and an “early escalation of the fighting season.”

“This quarter was marked by a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, with increasing insurgent violence and intimidation targeting civilians, the assassination of several officials from Afghan government institutions and civil society, and an early escalation of the fighting season,” states the report, referring to the security situation as “increasingly volatile.”..

Despite the increasing violence, the report notes that Canada has made progress on a number of fronts. For example, the report notes that Afghan National Army forces have doubled in the dangerous Zhari district of Kandahar province, although the ANA’s overall capacity remained “unchanged,” according to the report.

Among other signs of progress, workers cleared 52,000 cubic metres of silt as part of the refurbishment of the Dahla Dam in Kandahar province, one of Canada’s “signature” reconstruction projects.

Three schools were refurbished with the help of Canadian Forces, bringing the number of refurbished schools to 19. More than 390,000 children in Kandahar received vaccinations for polio through a Canadian program…

Update: While on the covert front the CIA is even more active than generally thought (and doing some Great Gaming):

Paramilitary force is key for CIA

On an Afghan ridge 7,800 feet above sea level, about four miles from Pakistan, stands a mud-brick fortress nicknamed the Alamo. It is officially dubbed Firebase Lilley, and it is a nerve center in the covert war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The CIA has relied on Lilley, part of a constellation of agency bases across Afghanistan, as a hub to train and deploy a well-armed 3,000-member Afghan paramilitary force collectively known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. In addition to being used for surveillance, raids and combat operations in Afghanistan, the teams are crucial to the United States’ secret war in Pakistan, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The existence of the teams is disclosed in “Obama’s Wars,” a forthcoming book by longtime Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward [more here]…

A U.S. official familiar with the operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the teams as “one of the best Afghan fighting forces,” adding that they have made “major contributions to stability and security.”

The official said that the teams’ primary mission is to improve security in Afghanistan and that they do not engage in “lethal action” when crossing into Pakistan. Their cross-border missions are “designed exclusively for intelligence collection,” the official said…

Then there’s this from Norman Spector (keep up the good work, a weekly must-read on Fridays), wonder what details the CIA has today–and is sharing with us:

A shocker for Canadians in Bob Woodward’s book

…we can expect pressure to leave some troops in Afghanistan to increase significantly between now and the NATO meeting in November. But, for Canadians, there’s also, according to the New York Times, a real shocker in the Woodward book – one that should be factored into the debate on Afghanistan as well as other national debates:

“A 2009 President’s Daily Brief and another highly restricted report, Mr. Woodward writes, ‘said that at least 20 al-Qaeda converts with American, Canadian or European passports were being trained in Pakistani safe havens to return to their homelands to commit high-profile acts of terrorism.’

‘They included half a dozen from the United Kingdom, several Canadians, some Germans and three Americans,’ the book continues. ‘None of their names was known’.”

Upperdate: Some very interesting US diplomatic documents from 2001-6 relating to the Pakistani role and situation are quoted in this article at Foreign Policy’s “AfPak Channel”:

Taliban strategy comes full circle


Afstan: Rush for exits gaining momentum/Parliamentary elections

Posted September 19th, 2010 in International, Uncategorized, united states by MarkOttawa

Terry Glavin develops a theme:

“Participating In Election Is Treason With Islam And Afghanistan.”

Although the “west” has all but given up on Afghan democracy – the agreed-upon euphemism for this betrayal appears to be “working to lower expectations” – it would seem that a few million Afghans have voted in today’s elections anyway, braving Taliban threats of dismemberment and death.

“But Afghanistan is not Switzerland,” we keep hearing, over and over. Thomas Ruttig conducts an archeological investigation of this pathetic excuse for cynicism and abandonment and notes in passing a friend’s observation: “Afghanistan is also not Switzerland because it doesn’t ban minarets.” One might add that Afghans are further unlike the Swiss in the way so many of them are prepared to actually fight for democracy…

As Lauryn Oates observes: “This is the frontline of the battle for enlightenment, and these Afghan voters are the bulwarks of civilization. I hope, dearly, that the significance of their actions is not lost on those of us privileged enough to have never had to fight for the most basic political right: to vote.”

Here’s the sort of threat these Afghans have defied…

More on the elections in a story from Matthew Fisher of Postmedia News:

Voters brave Taliban attacks
Despite intimidation and fraud claims, parliamentary election draws praise


U.S. marines escort a girl carried by her father to an air ambulance near Marja, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Saturday. The girl suffered wounds to her face and legs after being struck by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade that was fired at U.S. soldiers patrolling in her family’s village.
Photograph by: Scott Olson, Getty Images

Another way of looking at it:

Afghan turnout low amid violence

While at another front:

U.S.-led troops push into rural Kandahar


Guess who else is staying firm on Afstan?/Dead Talibs and brazen media (with an apology Update)

Posted August 4th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa


Guess who looks like staying on in Afstan?/Danish Update

Now, more news you won’t see in our major media (via Moby Media Updates):

France to keep Afghan mission despite defense cuts


France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) salutes French Legion soldiers wounded in combat in Afghanistan during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14, 2010.
Credit: Reuters/Eric Feferberg/Pool

“The French army must stay because there is no other solution,” the centrist politician [defence minister Hervé Morin] said.

“If we weren’t there, Afghanistan would collapse,” he said, referring to the NATO-led international mission. “It’s difficult to make people understand this, but what’s at stake in Afghanistan is the stability of the region.”..

Stephen Harper sure ain’t no Nicolas Sarkozy. And one simply cannot imagine a member of our government speaking thus:

French premier says country ‘at war with Al Qaeda’

Meanwhile our media continue to hype suicidally stupid Talibs:

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Almost a dozen Taliban insurgents launched a brazen daylight ground attack on the largest military base in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, but they were immediately repelled by coalition soldiers including a group of Canadian engineers performing training exercises near the base perimeter…

…eight to 10 insurgents were killed by coalition forces who responded to the ground assault with 25 millimetre cannon fire. There were no coalition casualties…

More previously on our brazen media from Adrian, and Matthew Fisher of (now) Postmedia News:

The Taliban Can’t Buy Propaganda This Effective

Update: I was rather unfair in my critque of the story on the latest KAF attack, which is in fact overall a good piece of straight reporting.  I apologize for my over-sensitivity.  The “hype” I meant is the use of “brazen”, as with stories on the May attack.  The Canadian public, by the use of such words, has come to believe that the Taliban are much more militarily dangerous than they are in many actual firefights and that the ISAF forces are in a hopeless situation.

The story then does immediately point out the suicidal and futile nature of the attack.  I’m obviously not a professional journalist but I would have started the story thus:

Almost a dozen Taliban insurgents launched a very rare daylight ground attack on the largest military base in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, but they were immediately repelled by coalition soldiers including a group of Canadian engineers performing training exercises near the base perimeter.  Maj. Josh Major, a Canadian officer based at KAF, said that eight to 10 insurgents were killed. There were no coalition casualties.

The assault was launched at 11:18 Tuesday morning, local time, on a northern boundary at Kandahar Air Field. A lone insurgent ran up to the base perimeter and blew himself up, creating a small breach in a chain-link fence.   According to Maj. Taylor coalition forces including the Canadian engineers then engaged more insurgents, who arrived on foot, with 25 millimetre cannon fire…

Upperdate: More on Talibprop:

ISAF Briefs Media on Taliban Propaganda

It’ll be interesting to see how much we see in MSM on this briefing…


The Taliban Can’t Buy Propaganda This Effective

Posted May 24th, 2010 in Afghanistan by Adrian MacNair

Photo credit: Master Corporal Matthew McGregor, Image Tech, JTFK Afghanistan, Roto 8

In the aftermath of the much publicized “attack” on Kandahar Air Field, in which some journalists glowingly praised the “rising resolve” of the heroic Taliban, Canada’s most senior foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Matthew Fisher, has responded with an attack on his fellow journos.

Matthew Fisher has set the record straight on numerous issues blown out of proportion by the Canadian media sitting comfortably at home, including an interview with CFRA radio in Ottawa last December that should have properly put to rest the matter of the so-called “Afghan detainee scandal.”

Mr.Fisher describes attacks over the past week and a half in Kandahar and Bagram airfields [the main bases for Canadian and US Forces, respectively] as militarily insignificant but “spectacularly successful publicity coups for the Taliban.” Well, that isn’t surprising when Canadian writers make a mad dash to lavish praise on the insurgents for their “brazen” attempts to take the main bases of some of NATO’s top armies. Which is sort of like praising a mosquito for trying to bite a camper.

The fact of the matter is that the insurgent attacks on Bagram and Kandahar didn’t have a snowballs chance on Venus of succeeding, outnumbered as they were by several thousands to one, which is certainly not a good ratio when you consider Canadian Forces have consistently managed a kill ratio of about 100 to 1. But that’s besides the point, because the Taliban didn’t send Allah’s warriors with the intent to succeed. No, they were counting on the foreign media to help them with that latter objective.

Matthew Fisher explains in an interview with CFRA today:

Because it’s the main base, it gets a tremendous amount of attention. And that’s exactly what the Taliban want. You know, they’re not trying to achieve success with these attacks in terms of military. They’re just trying to get a lot of attention. This works in terms of intimidating the local population, and it works also in undermining support for the mission overseas by the idea the main bases are being attacked.

The fact of the matter is Canadian small bases get attacked constantly and in much more systematic ways than the big base, and virtually none of that ever gets reported. It’s just the big bases that have the attacks reported on, and that was the case in Bagram last week and here, and certainly it has achieved a success, and a strategic success with the Taliban because they’ve received massive publicity about it.

One of the things that Matthew Fisher says bothers him most is that a lot of these articles detailing this growing and robust insurgency are being written by journalists who either haven’t been to Afghanistan in years, or else haven’t been to the country at all. All they’re trying to do is get their name above the fold on the front page, realizing that an article about the Taliban making headway against ISAF is a lot more exciting than reporting the fact that the Taliban continues to make no progress whatsoever outside of their IED strategy.

What’s significant about this rebuke of the Canadian media from a senior correspondent of the Afghan war, is that he has no bias or interest in the mission beyond reporting the facts correctly. It frustrates him that he’s there reporting events on the ground as he witnesses them personally, or from people he interviews on the ground who are first on the scene, yet back in Canada there is an entirely different story being told to a Canadian public which, unfortunately, all too readily laps up the defeatist milk.


By now you’ve probably heard that Canada’s 146th soldier has died in Afghanistan to an IED attack. Trooper Larry Rudd, from Brantford, was killed by an IED today.

I think it’s worth pointing out that the only means of warfare left to the Taliban is the unconventional IED attacks. I went through the casualty list, and the following statistics reveal the most common type of death is by these random roadside bombs:

Improvised Explosive Device: 84
Conventional Gunfire: 23
Accident: 18
Suicide Bombing: 12
Friendly Fire: 5
Landmine: 4

What’s interesting is that gun-fire related deaths are mainly from 2006-07 when Canadians were slaughtering the Taliban at a 100:1 ratio. If you go through the casualty list, you’ll find that conventional deaths from gunfire drop precipitously from 2008 onward, to nearly zero as the Taliban changed their strategy to avoid direct confrontation with ISAF.

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