Allan Woods, Toronto Star
August 26, 2008
OTTAWA — The federal government is hiring private U.S. terrorism experts to train Canadian Forces in Afghanistan in the mindset and ideology of Taliban insurgents.
The Department of National Defence intends to award a one-year, $850,000 (U.S.) contract to a private U.S. terrorism training centre after identifying a strategic weakness in how it prepares soldiers being deployed to Kandahar.
The new knowledge requirements for soldiers bound for the central Asian country include the latest top secret information on terrorist indoctrination, surveillance and intelligence gathering, weaponry and other techniques, according to the documents.
Previously, soldiers were only given cultural awareness training before deploying to Afghanistan that included brief lessons on language, culture, customs and food.
“This training, while providing basic instruction in these areas, did not provide the operational relevance required to conduct (counterinsurgency) warfare,” the document states.
The gap was identified in only last September when DND conducted a “Training Needs Analysis” and found a greater need for more specialized instruction to better target insurgents.
The Taliban have shown a surprising resiliency in recent months by mounting spectacular and deadly ambushes on foreign troops. Ninety-three Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002, including three that died last week.
The military says there is only one place that can provide the necessary training with the latest intelligence on terrorist tactics — the Terrorism Research Center in Arlington, Va. The private consultancy firm is closely tied to the U.S. government and already runs courses on everything from basic deployment training for soldiers to one session called “Mirror Image: Training to Combat Terrorism.”
The proposed contract is for one year, with the option for a two-year extension.
“Operational cultural motivators are the deeply rooted ideologies, mindsets, codes and sensitivities that form the impetus for potential enemies to commit actions. These actions can result in operational consequences, sometimes resulting in tragic deaths or injuries of Canadian and allied soldiers.”
The training comes at a time when the mission in Afghanistan is supposed to be transitioning to reconstruction and development.
Parliament voted earlier this year to extend Canada’s presence in Kandahar from 2009 to 2011 on the condition that the 2,500 deployed forces shift their efforts from combat fighting and Taliban hunting to training Afghan soldiers and police, securing redevelopment efforts and delivering aid. The Liberals, who supported the government motion, claimed it as a political victory.
“At the end of the day I think the mission changes, the mission ends and it’s about more than military,” Liberal defence critic Bryon Wilfert said following the March 13 Commons vote. “I think that is very clear in the motion.
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