Monday, January 19, 2009

"A role for us in Afghanistan"

A letter of mine in the Toronto Star:

Jan 19, 2009 04:30 AM

Re: No light at end of Afghan tunnel, Jan. 18

Allan Woods' story deals with the likelihood that the new Obama administration will put pressure on Canada to continue its military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2011. I'd like to propose one approach to doing that, focused on the Canadian Air Force.

A Canadian Air Wing has just been established at Kandahar. It will have Chinook (transport) and Griffon (escort) helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance; it will also support supply flights by Hercules and C-17 transport aircraft. Why not keep the air wing at Kandahar after 2011?

And, besides the air wing, keep a provincial reconstruction team from the army, some troops to mentor the Afghan army and police, and a small unit based at Kandahar airfield to provide force protection. The primary role of the air wing would be to support our allies and the Afghans in the field.

I would imagine a maximum of some 1,500 Canadian Forces personnel would be required, down from some 2,750 now. Such a contingent would be a significant and useful contribution that would be welcomed by NATO and President Barack Obama.

Mark Collins, Ottawa

Selected as one of the LETTERS OF THE DAY in Norman's Spectator and included under "Canadian Commentary" in Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs.

Update: The following are the views of an Air Force helicopter pilot:
A worthwhile idea but I think we will face the same problem as the Army. The problem being a manpower shortage that we will likely face before the end of the current mission let alone a possible future one. We will have to seriously ramp up our training output but the result can take years to realise. We'll need to train people, especially pilots, considerably faster than we are now able to (thankfully this is being worked on [see links here, and here]) or things will quickly become unsustainable.
Upperdate: Another complicating factor concerning Griffons (and the army):
The need for Canadian Forces helicopters to help provide security for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver is likely to put strain on the military's air capabilities in Afghanistan, the commander of Canada's air wing said Wednesday...

The diversion of the choppers to Vancouver will affect the military effort in Afghanistan, Scott said, by limiting the number of available helicopters.

"Because of the security requirements for the Vancouver Olympics, there's a big drain on helicopter resources," he said.

"So, of course, with all the operations going on here in theatre, plus the Olympics all kind of smashed together in the same time frame, that's where the (air) wing is going to be working hard to make sure that everything gets done."

Earlier this month, the head of the army, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, said up to 4,000 Canadian soldiers would be on the ground in Vancouver for the Games, stretching the military's resources as the war in Afghanistan continues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the PM said . . "the mission as we know it ends in 2011"

The key word is not "ends"

8:48 a.m., January 19, 2009  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

The Griffons are already flying in Kandahar, Mark. Hence the video from my Tac Hel post.

1:45 p.m., January 30, 2009  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Babbling: Just repeating what the Air Wing commander was reported as saying.


2:55 p.m., January 30, 2009  

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