Afstan update/Throwing to the wolves Update

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

Today’s stories:

Canadians have momentum in Kandahar: Commander

Petraeus cites progress in Kandahar

NATO squeezing Taliban, but no claims of victory
Taliban commanders dead or captured. Insurgents routed from strongholds. Stopping short of claiming it has broken the back of the insurgency, NATO is touting progress ahead of Washington’s year-end review of the war – and hoping that this time, the alliance has the force and experience to keep militants from regaining momentum.

[US] Digging in for the Long Haul in Afghanistan

On the other hand (via’sCANinKandahar“):

More ISAF Spinning, Clumsily

Update: Meanwhile a prominent Canadian pundit considers the Afghans in effect unworthy of our efforts:

…the Taliban are on their way back…

Nor are the Taliban interested in making major concessions. Knowing that the U.S. and its NATO friends no longer have the stomach for this war, they will bargain hard.

But the endgame has begun. Those who, like Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals, want Canadian soldiers to stay on and train the increasingly irrelevant Afghan army have been overtaken by events [Mr Walkom might read his paper's editorials].

The NATO foreigners are on their way out. The Taliban are on their way back. Sometimes the bad guys do win.

Doubting Thomas of the Crvena Zvezda seems only best pleased. Fie and hurl. But don’t you just love the grin as he merrily throws millions to the wolves:

One might almost think he positively lusts for us, and thereby the Afghans, to lose.


Iraq and US deserters: Sense from Doubting Thomas–and then Afstan nonsense

Posted September 22nd, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

One had hopes that one of the Crvena Zvezda’s, er, star columists had turned a bit sensible–until one got to the final paragraph:

Walkom: Trying to deal with U.S. deserters

…there are still between 200 and 300 American deserters from that war hiding out in Canada. And in Parliament, the pressure is on to let them stay.

The focus of this pressure is a private member’s bill sponsored by Toronto Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy. It would require the government to at least consider letting these deserters — or war resisters, as they prefer to be known — stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

…in an effort to be specific without seeming overtly anti-Washington, the bill would apply only to deserters fleeing a war not authorized by the United Nations.

To the bill’s supporters, that means the Iraq War. But, as Kennedy acknowledges, many conflicts are not authorized by the UN — including Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, India’s presence in Kashmir and virtually all of the wars in Africa.

In fact, the 1999 war over Kosovo, in which Canada participated, was not authorized by the UN.

To make matters even more confusing, while Washington’s invasion of Iraq was not UN-sanctioned, the subsequent American military occupation was. In October 2003, the UN Security Council specifically urged member states to participate in U.S.-led military efforts there [emphasis added, see below].

Kennedy wants to tighten the language of his bill once it gets before a parliamentary committee. “We don’t want it to become an alternative to the refugee system for people fleeing places like the Congo,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

But the bill’s real problem may be Afghanistan. What happens when American deserters fleeing that equally brutal and equally unpopular war start making their way into Canada? Are they to be turned back simply because the Afghan war has marginally better UN credentials than the Iraq conflict ["marginally", when repeatedly authorized by the Security Council? see: "Ignorance in odd places: Afstan is a UN-sanctioned mission"] ? And can we welcome foreigners fleeing a war — however pointless — that we insist our own soldiers fight?

Bloody blighter just can’t resist abandoning a rare moment of good reasoning. I sent this letter, not published, to the Star this August:

Dear Editor,

Re: Daring to object: Iraq war resisters, though often veterans themselves, have been met with a cool reception, much different from the draft dodgers of the 1960s, Aug. 20

American deserters seeking to stay in Canada often claim they have refused to take part in an “illegal war” in Iraq, since the U.S. invasion was not sanctioned by the United Nations.  But the U.N. Security Council, by Resolution 1511 of Oct. 16, 2003, made continuing coalition military activities in Iraq fully legal under international law, and indeed invited U.N. members to contribute troops.  The resolution “authorizes a multinational force under unified command [i.e. the U.S.-led coalition] to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq” and further “Urges Member States to contribute assistance under this United Nations mandate, including military forces, to the multinational force”.

So any member of the U.S. military who deserted after that resolution was passed on the grounds of refusing to take part in an illegal war is simply wrong.  From then on the war was a legitimate, U.N.-authorized, mission.



Today’s AfPak reading/Talibs whacked Update

Posted June 30th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International by MarkOttawa

At starting with a rather impassioned plea from a member of the US military, then noting problems with the Afghan security forces, and ending with a Pakistani view that fully reflects their Indian paranoia.

As for an Indian view, from some earlier reading:

…if you really want to expand your AfPak reading, take a look at this article by a retired, very senior, Indian civil servant…

For lots more on Canadian and international military matters, take a look at the “Forums”.

Meanwhile, one of our usualest suspects is unusually unhappy with the Liberals (and usually unworried about homegrown terrorists):

As for the reason behind the plots, the terrorists got their wish. Unless the more war-supportive Liberals win the next election, Canadian troops are due to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2011 [that's still the, er, firm policy of the Conservatives, latest today via Walkom should be cheering them] . Not because buildings blew up in downtown Toronto, but for a much simpler reason: Canadians don’t want their soldiers there any more.

Why not? In some serious measure because of those such at Doubting Thomas, who’s been at it for a long time. Fie:

A nattering nabob of negativism

Update: The Talibs get whacked and lie about it.  Yet we are supposed to worry–a typical piece of media reporting (plus Gen. Petraeus, more here, is confirmed by the US Senate):

US, Afghans repel attack against major base

U.S. and Afghan troops repelled an attack Wednesday on one of the biggest NATO bases in eastern Afghanistan by militants who used a suicide car bomb, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons in a failed attempt to breach the defenses.

It was the third ground assault against a major coalition base in Afghanistan in the past five weeks — a sign that the insurgents have not been cowed by U.S. efforts to ramp up the war.

Eight militants were killed in the attack, which occurred at the airport base on the outskirts of Jalalabad about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Kabul on the main road between the Afghan capital and the Pakistan border.

The attack began with a suicide car bomber detonating his explosives near the gate to the base, followed by a half-hour gunbattle, Afghan officials said. An Afghan soldier and one international service member were wounded, NATO said.

Chief NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said the attackers were unable to penetrate the defenses.

“While designed to garner media attention, this attack only temporarily disrupted operations as our forces successfully repelled the attack,” said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, a U.S. spokeswoman.

In a text message to The Associated Press in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said six suicide attackers killed 32 foreign and Afghan security forces. The insurgents often exaggerate their claims [no flipping shoot].

The Jalalabad attack followed a May 19 ground assault against the giant Bagram Air Field north of Kabul and another three days later against Kandahar Air Field in the south [more from Adrian, with audio].

Those attacks — though militarily ineffective — have raised concern in the NATO mission about the audacity of the insurgents in the face of overwhelming NATO firepower. In all three assaults, insurgents launched what the military calls complex attacks — those that employ multiple types of weapons…

Wednesday’s attack occurred hours before the U.S. Senate confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan…

And note this, never mentioned by our self-obsessed media:

The DAF [Danish Armed Forces] has suffered 31 troop-combat fatalities in Afghanistan since 2001, the highest number per capita of population than any other ISAF country…

Who here knew about those war-fighting Scandinavians?  Denmark’s population is some 5.5 million, almost exactly one-sixth Canada’s. On a per capita basis compared to us they have taken 186 dead; we’ve taken 150.

Upperdate: Broader media update from the Conference of Defence Associations:

Afghanistan: “A Winnable War”

Uppestdate: A real must-read from BruceR. (he’s been there as a CF mentor with the ANA, see here, and p. 8 here) at Flit on Afghan training, er, deficiencies:

Today’s essential Afghan reading: the SIGAR report

The SIGAR report on the problems with the ANSF Capability Milestone (CM) system is out, and worth a read. The clear implication is that prior to the arrival of Gen McChrystal and his team, ANSF mentoring had really been spinning its wheels.

The fact that this report was coming has been known by ISAF for some time: so long that the current official response that it’s now so out-of-date as to be unnecessary seems a little disingenuous…

This is significant: up until the month the SIGAR report’s conclusions were known, the DOD position was that the CM system was actually understating ANSF capability. Now that the SIGAR report has come out, along with other evidence that ANSF capability has been, if anything, historically overstated, they’re saying that in fact, they weren’t even measuring capability at all…

The reason a pure “potential measurement” system was not appropriate for units already in combat should be clear: combat tends to have an attritional effect on all three measurements. If the CM system had been purely an on-paper evaluation, and a truthful one, the units incurring heavy fighting should have seen their evaluation scores go DOWN, not up. And given the importance of a high CM rating to the Afghan defence ministry, this in turn would have led to Afghan units avoiding potential combat situations even more than they did, to keep from hurting their “scores.”..

Lots more worth the look.


Fun with prisoner figures/Doubting Thomas Walkom Update

Posted June 30th, 2010 in Canada by MarkOttawa

Now is the time at UA when we juxtapose:


Kenneth Clarke: Fewer criminals will go to prison
Fewer criminals will be jailed and more offenders will get community sentences because prison doesn’t work in many cases, Kenneth Clarke will signal.


‘2-for-1’ jail credit in jeopardy
Tory legislation would end discretion of judges to award prisoners for ’dead time’ served

The British government is facing much greater budget pressures than ours, the main reason for their justice secretary’s position.  The UK now has a prison population of 85,000 (see first link) while Canada’s is 39,000.  The UK actually imprisons more people per capita than we do (bet you didn’t know that: UK population 62 million, Canadian 34 million–so with a population the same at the UK’s we would have some 71,000 persons behind, er, bars).  So in fact we have some way to go to equal their incarceration rate.  Now, whatever one may think of the cost of such an increase, the current “two-for-one” time served credit for time in custody before sentencing is a disgrace.

The incredible delays in bringing cases to trial in our justice system are the root cause (joke) of this problem.  Besides defence lawyers sometimes trying to put off trials in order to get the time served credit, it seems to me there are two main reasons for the delays: the Charter requirement for incredibly full prosecution disclosure of material to the defence; and a lack of money spent on the prosecution and court systems themselves (contrary to this article, which does have some good ideas).

One way or the other fixing the two-for-one problem will require more money.  I would prefer speedier trials, plus no automatic two-for-one.  Speaking of “automatic”, this price to end virtually automatic parole looks cheap to me:

…the Conservatives’ get-tough agenda comes with a steep price. Scrapping automatic parole will cost taxpayers as much as $60 million a year in additional prison costs…

That’s “steep”?

Update: Mildly related from dim and doubting Thomas Walkom of the Crvena zvezda:

Four years ago, the Toronto 18 terror case exploded in a blaze of publicity. Last week, with the conviction of the remaining two accused, it ended like a damp squib…

That didn’t mean the plotters weren’t trying to do something. But it did mean that, with the exception of bomb-aficianado Amara, they weren’t very good it…

One more was found guilty by a judge and immediately released after being sentenced to time already served [emphasis added]…

Meanwhile, the world has moved on. The public seems to have lost interest in the homegrown terrorism story and so has the media [more on inept home grown terrorism next door--obviously of no concern to the likes of Mr Walkom]…

Upperdate thought: Surely everyone professes that speedier trials are a Good Thing since they reduce the time people, some innocent, spend in pre-trial custody.  But if trials took place more rapidly the effect of the two-for-one credit would be reduced accordingly.  Which would mean those convicted would actually spend more total time in the clink as a result of those speedier trials–and thus cost the taxpayer more.

Those who decry the abolition of the credit on the grounds of increased costs for more prison time must therefore, as a matter of logic, also oppose speedier trials.  Lovely, eh?


One More Time, With Feeling

Posted March 10th, 2010 in Afghanistan by Adrian MacNair

Royal Canadian Dragoons, Bravo Squadron, Corporal Judd Walsh mans the front gate of Patrol Base Marianne using a 50 caliber machine gun attached to a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV). Photo credit: Master Corporal Matthew McGregor

Despite the myriad sources of information from which to draw in order to write a column that has a grain of truth to it, it would appear that the usual suspects from the usual media sources insist on getting it wrong. You can hardly blame them. Well, actually you can, but it will hardly help. At this point, people are merely going to believe what they want to believe, and truth be damned. When it comes to Afghanistan, has it ever been any different?

Thomas Walkom, in particular, seems to get it wrong the most frequently. This rather pathetic self-flagellation of Canadians throwing their hands up in the air and making excuses that nothing else could have been done, is as depressing as their inability to get basic facts correct. Journalists are treating this fluid battle with ever-changing dynamics as something static, as though everybody has morphed into Francis Fukuyama, mourning the end of history. Pakistan capturing half the Taliban leadership in the past month? Barely a whisper.

It’s certainly easier to report on a story if you have a prearranged view on what’s actually happening. The evolution of the detainee story is a prime example. What began as little more than hearsay from Amir Attaran in the CBC, became a report in the Canadian Press, which became a fact in the minds of the official opposition in the House of Commons, as Jack Layton and Ujjal Dosanjh asked ridiculous questions about secret spies, torture, and rendition. The latter word, as I mentioned before, being technically incorrect by definition alone.

The question is, what would make the critics of the treatment of captured detainees happy? It’s as though people actually expect that we can fight a battle against the Taliban, who abide by no rules of warfare, wear no uniforms, and respect no international laws, without ever making a mistake. It’s already disturbing enough that people seem more concerned about the treatment of men who are fighting for a way of life considered barbaric by just about everybody who isn’t an Islamic Fundamentalist, than they are for the women or children used as human meat shields in the Taliban quest to outlast our resolve. But to ignore these crimes, while sifting through every prison, poring through every report, to attempt to find one instance of injustice that might undermine our moral cause, is quite simply disgusting.

As Bruce writes on his blog:

So if we accept that the Afghan justice system was or is in no state to receive our detainees in anything like a just or efficient fashion, we are certainly justified in looking around for alternatives. The alternative the Americans came up with was American-run detention in Bagram, and we can see how well that’s worked out for them. I suppose a sort of Timurid approach of refusing to take any prisoners at all, ever, could be an option: not sure how well that would go over at home, though. Not really many other alternatives than those, though. Take them home in our kit bags? Soylent Green? What?

Good questions. What would make people happy? Take no prisoners? Inhuman. Hand prisoners over to their own legal authority? Inhumane. Build our own prisons? Well, then you get the complaints that it’s too expensive, or it’s an extra-judicial gulag, or it’s a sign of colonialism. And before long you can be sure Amir Attaran would find a document which proved that a detainee slipped in the shower and cut himself, and we’d be back in permanent scandal mode anyway.

The truth is that there’s probably nothing good enough for the critics of the Afghan war. Trying to appease people who are already dealing in bad faith is pointless. Trying to sanitize warfare is a comfortable illusion of a generation of Canadians who have been raised to believe that our military exists to “keep the peace”. They would be happy if we were deployed to sit in Kandahar Air Field with blue helmets and United Nations’ flags signifying the 1% of the province officially safe from the reach of the Taliban. That way, when the Taliban is massacring people 100 metres from the Air Field, we can cite our rules of engagement directive of non-interference, and never get our hands dirty. Sure, people will die. But at least we won’t run the risk of being the ones who handed over the Taliban fighter that wound up falling down in the shower.

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Selling Out To The Terrorists

Posted February 1st, 2010 in Afghanistan by Adrian MacNair

The recent conference in London with representatives from more than 60 countries comprised of Foreign ministers, diplomats, and leaders, has much in Common with the Copenhagen conference that weathered a winter storm of international attention the month before. Both attempted to use flawed reasoning and shoddy research to push through an agreement that would transfer billions of dollars of wealth from the industrialized world into the hands of corrupt, unscrupulous scoundrels looking to further their own interests.

Such is the case with the endemically corrupt Hamid Karzai government, now calling for peace talks with the Taliban “at any cost”. And a beleaguered western media, bored of the same coverage of an Afghan war that doesn’t seem to make for flashy headlines quite like it used to, are vigorously endorsing the sell out to the men who, a few short years ago, were routinely compared to the worst scum of the earth who ever walked above it.

Mr.Karzai’s finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, has even welcomed the idea of Taliban leaders in the cabinet of the Kabul government, and promised their participation from the very pinnacle of pernicious power, right down to the village districts where they currently run a shadow government of intimidation and terror. The Karzai government are asking for $1-billion to “reintegrate” these wayward fellows who call Mullah Omar their Supreme Commander.

The Canadian media has been preparing for the withdrawal with the kind of premeditated self-defeating rhetoric that has turned the public against the mission. The Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom asks what the Afghan war even accomplished, suggesting we sacrificed billions of dollars and “some” 139 souls for nothing more than taking sides in an “ethnic battle”.

The Toronto Star writer doesn’t bother to mention any of the positive developments that have emerged since the Taliban were ousted, going as far as to suggest that the war precipitated the planning of the foiled terrorist attack in Toronto. This is terrorist apologism at its very worst, as Mr.Walkom suggests the sovereign nation of Afghanistan was invaded by the United States on false pretenses, perpetuating that most widely circulated error about the war. He follows this with a glib remark about al-Qaeda not even being in Afghanistan anymore, paradoxically questioning the need for the war in the first place.

But what Thomas Walkom, and other proponents of his kind for whom no level of Taliban appeasement is too self-abasing, seems to miss, is that talks with the Taliban won’t work. Not eight years ago, and not now. That’s because the Taliban aren’t negotiating for a role in Kabul’s government; they are negotiating for the total control of Kabul, and the entire country it governs.

The insurgents realize that the western attention deficit disorder has run its course, and sooner or later the political will to stay will wane, aided and abetted by a media reprinting the public relations memos of Mullah Omar. Anyone with common sense has to realize that the Taliban need only stay the course for a few more years, wait for the NATO withdrawal, and then launch the siege of Kabul.

The western world is making a mistake in granting the Karzai conference as being anything more than a self-serving scheme to distribute more wealth into hands of the power elite. They don’t care about the 200 Afghan women’s rights and civil society organizations that gathered in Kabul prior to the conference to protest the idea of selling out the rights of Afghan women and men to the Taliban.

The International Declaration of Human Rights isn’t something that can be negotiated back behind a burqa. No serious person would entertain a power-sharing agreement with terrorists and criminals who are members of a United Nations watch list. The intellectual arm of the Taliban, not the warm bodies who serve for a paycheque, will not for an instant compromise their ideologically driven goal of reinstalling the Sharia State and a return to football stadium executions and stoning deaths for women who have had the misfortune of letting themselves be gangraped.

The myth of a power-sharing accord between the Taliban and the Karzai government is as legitimate as the myth about a “moderate” terrorist. The Taliban will entertain peace talk proposals for only so long as it benefits their current strategy. But when they see an opportunity to let the hammer fall, they will not hesitate. Expect it to be particularly brutal.


The Torch: Talking to the Taliban Roundup

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