PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Defence Minister, Bill Graham has again warned Canadians they should expect soldiers serving in Afghanistan to be killed and wounded. Speaking from Germany, Graham says he's about to embark on an extensive tour in Canada to "explain the nature of the mission" to Canadians.
Canadians Made Ready
for Afghanistan Death Toll
C. L. Cook
September 15, 2005
The nature of the Afghanistan mission has transformed somewhat in the past few months, as has the nature of Canada's military. No longer focused primarily on "peacekeeping," Canada's forces are being restructured to more resemble the American model.
Graham recently ordered Canadians out of the north of Afghanistan, where they've operated out of Camp Julien for several years, patrolling the streets and near environs of the capital, Kabul. The bulk of the Canadian contingent, one of more than a dozen international military forces in the country, is to be redeployed to the more volatile south and west of the country.
Military insiders, report Mike Blanchfield and David Pugliese of CanWest News Service, refer to Mr. Graham's travel plans as a "pre-body-bag speaking tour." Though, Mr. Graham would certainly disagree: Nobody calls them "body-bags" anymore; the au courant term in the United States is "Transit Tube." And, Mr. Graham wants nothing more than the complete integration of Canadian and American military terminology, and more.
Seven Canadians have so far officially returned home via transit tubes since the 2002 launch of 'Operation Enduring Freedom.' Four of those perished when bombed by an American warplane that mistook a live-fire practice range exercise for enemy hostility. That pilot was charged, tried, and found guilty of negligence causing death. It was later discovered he was "high" on amphetamines, or "Go Pills" at the time of the bombing. The drug, known on the street as "speed," is routinely issued to U.S. pilots undergoing long missions.
There are reportedly 250 Canadian soldiers, and an unknown number of the secretive JTF2 commandos unit in and around Kandahar presently, but that number will increase to more than 1300 when deployments begin in earnest. Camp Julien is scheduled to be evacuated after this week's general election in Afghanistan.
The Canadian mission shift has not gone unnoticed by Taliban and reputed Al Qaida elements in the country. Just today, a Canadian patrol in the relatively calm capital city, Kabul, came under attack. Two soldiers were reported as being "lightly wounded" when a remote control road-side bomb was detonated as they passed by.
The Defence Minister brushed off growing political pressure to bring troops home, saying "they're well-trained, they're well-equipped, they're ready for this mission, and I think the Canadian public is supporting it on that basis."
How far that imagined support will go when the transit tubes start rolling home is something the minister would rather not discuss, for fear of damaging morale.
Chris Cook host Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor at PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.