Thursday, September 15, 2005

Two Canadian Soldiers Wounded in Kabul

(Trooper Nicholas James, a gunner with D Squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoons loads his C-6 machine gun tray prior to departing on a Reconnaissance patrol. Tpr James is serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Athena Rotation 4.)

Remember what I said in my last post about Liberal words not matching Liberal deeds. Just after posting "What's That Smell and Why am I Not Surprised?", I come upon this story in the National Post.

OTTAWA -- Two Canadian soldiers suffered minor injuries when a roadside bomb exploded next to their armoured patrol late Thursday in Afghanistan's capital city Kabul, military officials said.

The blast hit one of two Canadian Coyote vehicles that are part of an armoured reconnaissance squadron. They were conducting a routine patrol before Sunday's parliamentary elections.

The (slightly, thank God) wounded soldiers are members of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, (part of the armoured corps) and are affectionately called zipperheads." The Coyote is a state of the art vehicle of much value to those poking around trying to find out what is going on. They're currently stationed in Camp Julien (the Canuck base camp) in Kabul.

It is this force of 700 soldiers (also comprising members of the Royal Canadian Regiment, or RCR) which are subject to the reservist troop reductions just instituted as a cost savings measure by the government. Their tour of duty is being truncated from six to four months leaving their regular force comrades behind to face peril with reduced numbers.

Defence Minister Bill Graham and the Prime Minister had this to say:

In a teleconference Wednesday, Graham repeated assertions that the nature of Canada's role in Afghanistan is changing and Canadians should expect casualties as operations shift toward combat from patrols and peacemaking.

The minister said he would be repeating those warnings in a series of speaking engagements through the fall.

Said Martin: "I think Canadians must understand that there are dangers and that there are greater dangers in Kandahar than there were in the previous Afghanistan missions by the Canadian troops."

Prime Minister, Canadian understand there are dangers. It is the reduction in current troop strength due a lack of proper funding of the reservists in the Forces that they don't understand.

Mr. Martin also had this to say.

At a UN meeting in New York, Prime Minister Paul Martin said he was aware of the incident. He said Canada's position in Afghanistan is becoming progressively more dangerous but it must stay the course.

"We have international responsibilities . . . to one, fight terrorism wherever it may be and wherever it may be nurtured," Martin said.

"We also have responsibilities to nurture a fledgling democracy and make sure that it can become strong. That is what we are doing in Afghanistan."

Of course, we do understand the Liberals have other more pressing expenditure matters which take precedence over actually paying our soldiers to fight terrorism and nurture democracy. For example, this matter from the Globe & Mail.

OTTAWA -- The Conservative Party said yesterday it will try to force Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew to appear before a parliamentary committee to explain why his office spent $10,000 to take a chauffeur on two overseas trips in which there was no driving to be done.

At the same time, Liberal sources cast doubt on Mr. Pettigrew's explanation that he invited driver Bruno Labonté to Europe in 2001 and to Latin America in 2002 as a "personal security adviser," saying it was more likely an expression of gratitude for Mr. Labonté's work at home.

In a television interview, Mr. Pettigrew said he felt the $10,000 cost to taxpayers to take his chauffer along on the two trips was fully justified. "Oh, absolutely," Mr. Pettigrew said on CTV's Canada AM.

"I believe it is important that everyone in the staff has a complete understanding of my work, so this is the way. . . . Of course, this individual is a security expert."

Conservative MP John Williams said he does not buy the explanation.

"Why is he taking his chauffeur around the world if they didn't bring the car?" Mr. Williams asked. Federal officials said that the ministers of Trade and Foreign Affairs always travel with a protocol officer who handles all logistical matters.

... In addition, [government officials said] if ministers need security, it is provided by the host country or the RCMP. Ministers often travel abroad without any special security arrangements, unless the mandatory threat assessment recommends otherwise.

Perhaps Mr. Pettigrew will ask the RTU'd (returned to unit) soldiers along on his next visit to his pied a terre in Paris. He goes to Paris frequently we're told and the militia volunteers may have the time to spare since they made arrangements with their employers to be in Afghanistan for six, not four, months and may not have a job to go to for two months.

Besides, I understand the soldiers know a thing or two about providing security. They come highly recommended by high ranking Afghani Cabinet officials.


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