Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our military mission in Afghanistan is supposed to end in 2011 but of course it won't.

No doubt the US is pleading with Harper to provide more help for this ill-conceived illegal and misbegotten mission. The Canadian taxpayer will continue to help out the US in its hopeless attempt to enforce its will in Afghanistan. We will pay not only in our money but in useless sacrifices of life and limb.

Canada preparing a military role in Afghanistan beyond 2011, say experts
By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

Canada is sending two surveillance aircraft to Afghanistan in a move some defence analysts see as laying the groundwork for a military mission in Kandahar beyond the announced 2011 pullout date.

Although the federal government has not made any details public, the U.S. army issued a news release on Monday that an American company had been awarded a $12-million contract to modify two aircraft being provided by Canada. Work on the surveillance planes would be done in the U.S. and in Afghanistan and would be completed by June 15, 2011.

Canadian Forces officials have said their military mission in Afghanistan would end in July 2011 but questions are now being raised about whether that will happen. Officials with the Prime Minister’s Office have said that soldiers may stay beyond that date but they won’t be involved in combat.

However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been adamant that all parts of the military portion of the Afghan campaign will be wrapped up. “We are very much planning to have the military mission end in 2011,” Harper said in October, in trying to end confusion about Canada’s future role in Afghanistan.

But on Monday, Ben Rowswell, Canada’s representative in Kandahar, pointed out that the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team, with several hundred soldiers, will remain in Afghanistan after 2011.

Canwest News Service also reported that while Parliament has voted to end the current combat mission in Afghanistan in July 2011, discussions are underway between the U.S. and Canada over a continued Canadian presence in Afghanistan post-2011, according to U.S. officials. Michele Flournoy, U.S. undersecretary of defence for policy, did not rule out a future military role for Canada, but she appeared to suggest other options also were under discussion.

Defence analyst Allen Sens said the contract for the surveillance aircraft shows that Canada’s Afghan military mission is not yet over.

“This seems to support the idea that we will be staying on with a military mission,” said Sens, an analyst with the University of British Columbia. “I was always under the impression we would continue with some kind of military presence such as JTF2 (Joint Task Force 2), PRT assets and a headquarters battlegroup.”

He acknowledged, however, the Canadian public would not have been left with that impression because of Harper’s statements that the military mission was finishing in 2011.

According to the U.S. army, Telford Aviation in Bangor, Maine, was awarded the contract to outfit the surveillance systems on the two King Air 300 commercial aircraft provided by Canada. The bulk of the installation on the small propeller-driven aircraft would be done in the U.S. but about a quarter of the work would be taken care of in Afghanistan, it noted. The contract was a sole source deal.

The Defence Department could not comment on the U.S. army release of information.

Stephen Priestley, a researcher with the Canadian-American Strategic Review, said what Canada is doing with the King Air planes is similar to programs undertaken by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

He noted that if Canada uses private contractors to fly the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, it could say it was contributing to Afghan security in a non-military way.

“It might be argued that ISR flights are not directly related to combat,” Priestley added.

“Seen in that light, performing ISR over Kandahar would not be regarded as an extension of the CF’s combat mission.”

Priestley said Telford Aviation is well-known for successfully adapting civilian airframes for surveillance and reconnaissance roles. In addition, the Canadian Forces has experience with the King Air aircraft since a similar plane is used at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., he noted.

But Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa said the aircraft contract appears to be a way for the Harper government to do an end-run around Parliament on the 2011 pullout date.

“It draws into question the government’s own statements that the military mission will end,” said Staples, who has been critical of the Canadian Forces mission to Afghanistan. “Canadians should be concerned by these moves because it creates confusion about a mission that so many people expect to end in 2011.”

Ottawa Citizen

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Canadian soldiers keep watch during a joint foot patrol with U.S. and Afghan National army in Arghandab district, Kandahar province Oct. 31, 2009.Photograph by: Omar Sobhani, Reuters

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