[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Dead Canadians and SA's useless military exports
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Jul 5 21:29:51 BST 2007
Globe and Mail July 5, 2007
The Afghan Mission: Military death toll reaches 66
Taliban adopt deadly Iraqi tactics
6 Canadian soldiers and interpreter die as insurgents use powerful bomb
against Canada's strongest troop carrier
By Graeme smith
Kandahar, Afghanistan -- Six Canadian soldiers and their interpreter died
yesterday as the Taliban continued to launch bold attacks inside zones
considered mostly pacified, shifting their tactics toward the kind of
bombings that have proved devastating in Iraq.
About a dozen military vehicles, Canadian and Afghan, were driving west
along a gravel road after finishing a search of a village about 20
kilometres southwest of Kandahar city, when a powerful bomb detonated at 11
a.m. local time.
The explosion engulfed an RG-31 Nyala troop carrier, a vehicle manufactured
in South Africa and specifically designed with a boat-like hull to withstand
mine blasts. It's the Canadians' strongest vehicle against roadside bombs,
but the insurgents have recently been wiring up bigger caches of ordnance
and more sophisticated-shaped charges into their so-called improvised
explosive devices, breaking through even the best armour.
"We're not perfect and we do miss some, as we have seen today," said
Brigadier-General Tim Grant, the top Canadian commander in Afghanistan. "But
the battle against the Taliban and the battle against their choice of
weapons, IED, is successful."
This year, 19 Canadian soldiers have been killed by IEDs, and only one has
died under direct fire from insurgents. In total, 66 Canadians and one
diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.
The Taliban's increasing use of roadside bombs has also taken a toll on
civilians, Brig.-Gen. Grant said. "They have managed to kill six great young
Canadians today, which is an absolute tragedy," he said. "The other part of
this is that they're killing lots of Afghans. They're attacking the weak,
they're killing women, they're killing children, they're killing policemen.
These are not the tactics of anything other than terrorists."
Such terrorism has proven effective, however.
Police in Kandahar reported 13 officers killed and 14 sent to hospital
during a single week last month. Seven more Afghan police died in a roadside
bombing in nearby Zhari district on Monday. Humanitarian workers say their
operations have been squeezed by the increasing dangers in districts outside
Asked whether this represents an "Iraqization" of the conflict,
Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Trudel, who serves as chief of staff for the
Canadian headquarters in Kandahar, shook his head.
"Not particularly," he said. "It indicates a loss of control by the
Canadian troops faced insurgents in the farmland southwest of Kandahar city
last year in the largest battles Afghanistan has witnessed since the
collapse of the Taliban regime. Those fights have taught the Taliban that
it's fruitless to openly confront the Canadians, Lt.-Col. Trudel said.
"The fact that we've lost a lot of soldiers from IED attacks indicates a
success, in the sense that our conventional operations have succeeded
against the Taliban," the chief of staff said.
The identities of four of the dead soldiers were released late yesterday
afternoon. They are: Corporal Cole Bartsch; Captain Matthew Johnathan Dawe;
and Private Lane Watkins, all of 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian
Light Infantry based in Edmonton; and Master Corporal Colin Bason, a
reservist from The Royal Westminster Regiment based in New Westminster, B.C.
The families of the other two killed have not yet agreed to the release of
At the time of the blast, the military convoy was about 1½ kilometres
southwest of the village of Salavat, returning from a mission as part of
Operation Luger, a cordon search for suspected insurgents. Military
officials described the mission as led by Afghan troops, but house searches
remain highly unpopular with conservative Afghans. Homeowners frequently
accuse Afghan forces of stealing during their searches.
"It was a cordon and search operation that we conducted," Brig.-Gen. Grant
said. "They had gone into a small village. Our intelligence had pointed us
in the direction to determine if there were Taliban operating in that area."
Dusty flatlands and rocky outcrops southwest of Kandahar form the eastern
edge of Panjwai district, which the military believes it pacified months
ago. The Afghan government's main representative in the area, a provincial
councillor named Haji Aga Lalai, fled the district with his family last
summer. He hasn't yet moved back, but a district shura, or council of
elders, was re-established this spring and Canada's Provincial
Reconstruction Team has poured money and projects into the area. The
northeastern corner of the district is dominated by the Alokozai tribe, an
ally of the government.
"Our assessment still is that this part of Afghanistan, the Panjwai area, is
one of the safer areas in the province," Brig.-Gen. Grant said.
"Its neighbouring district, Zhari, is not as safe and we know we have
security problems in that area." The provincial government said 33 Taliban
were killed in pitched battles that swept through Zhari district earlier
"Panjwai, though, is an area we are comfortable travelling in," Brig.-Gen.
Grant said. "We have great relationships with the local elders, the district
leadership and the people on the ground. While this is an area the Taliban
operate in, they do not operate freely."
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