January 25, 2010

Canadian terp story: the unmentioned factor

Over at Milnews, growing concern over the delays in helping former Canadian interpreters emigrate.

I suspect a lot of the problem here is the problems with getting local national interpreters into KAF (cough... without getting caught... cough). Most terps don't have the ISAF accreditation to walk onto the base, which when I was there took over a year to complete. Hence you can't put any office meant to expedite their emigration on KAF itself: you have to put it in the city somewhere.

Do I have to explain the problem with having a fixed address in the city where Canadian-employed interpreters can visit to get help with their immigration application? Most of these guys' mothers don't know what they really do for us. And anyone who walked in the door would risk being strung up out in Loya Wiyala by midnight.

The smart thing to do would have been to set up a seacan or temporary office in the space between the Afghan outer security cordon around KAF, which terps can normally get through without drawing undue attention, and the ISAF inner cordon, which they can't get through very easily, a massive donut of space which includes the 1950s civilian air terminal, the Afghan army base etc., and man that post with Canadian civilians. I had some of my best and most memorable times out "between the lines" as it were; it's really pretty safe, compared to the rest of the countryside.

Trouble is, when I was there, most Canadian civilian employees at KAF were not cleared to go even into the intercordon areas for safety reasons. So for instance they couldn't (officially... cough) help much with the school for the Afghan soldiers' kids that's out there, either. So, I'm sure rather than fight that issue, someone chose to scratch that plan and go back to Afghan local nationals working somewhere in the city and shipping properly completed, translated applications back to the Canadian government, um, somehow. This when the country has no working internet or couriers, and dropping off or entrusting flash sticks with the personal details of a whole bunch of potential lynching targets poses its own set of problems. Yeah, this one is going to take a while...

Posted by BruceR at 08:46 PM

Rough times in the Arghandab, redux: American CO working for Canadian TF sacked

From Ricks, the CO of 2/508th Para Infantry, which as I understood it was at least TACON to the Canadian Task Force Kandahar and responsible for covering Arghandab District for us since last month, has been relieved of command. Reason given being his "actions were of poor judgment which fostered a command climate that was not consistent with our Army values." Oops. (No more known than that, but when one sees language about "command climate" and "judgment" and "values" it can often suggest allegations of inappropriate conduct involving one's own troops, rather than tactical failings.*)

The relief comes less than two months after the previous U.S. battalion in Arghandab, 1/17 Infantry, fired its company commander responsible for the same district, and shortly thereafter was moved out altogether in favour of the paratroopers. Arghandab District has always been a tough nut to crack, but these sorts of hiccups can hardly be helping to establish any continuity of approach on the Canadians' or ISAF's part. The district as a whole really seems to be a bit of a career-ender for commanders at the moment. Better luck to the next guy.

UPDATE: The CO's relief must have come shortly after this event on Jan. 7, where he briefed the ISAF commander in the company of Senators McCain and Lieberman.

UPDATE #2: A commenter over at Ricks' place notes the fired CO, LTC Jenio, was COL Steele's Brigade S3 in Iraq at the time of the 2006 Iron Triangle murder controversy, which ended up with Steele reprimanded and three soldiers convicted for murder. Small world.

UPDATE #3: 2/508 recently also lost one of its own company commanders, Capt. Paul Pena, and another soldier to an IED while on a foot patrol on Jan. 19. Note Jenio is not quoted in any of the coverage, indicating he was already out of theatre.

Aside: given that this is the most significant thing to happen at KAF in nearly a month, and undoubtedly a prime gossip item in every coffee line there, I'm kinda surprised none of our Canadian pool reporters there had picked up on it yet, and left it to a guy at the Fayetteville Observer back home to get the scoop. Kinda reminds me of when Jim Day, working for the tiny Pembroke Ontario daily (also called the Observer) heard about the Somalia allegations first. Desk editors here in Canada might want to get someone to check the huts to see if their reporters are under the weather. If they are conscious, questions they might want to forcefeed them would include: was Canadian task force commander BGen Menard consulted on the Americans' decision to fire his immediate subordinate? Did he request it himself? etc. (I'm sure things were at sixes and sevens after the tragic loss of reporter Michelle Lang to an IED four weeks ago, Haiti, etc., but surely some arrangements have been made to keep press coverage in Afghanistan going. This strongly suggests they're not working.)

*Also the fact the battalion sergeant-major was relieved at the same time. If this involved a battlefield failing the CO would be wearing it with a different member of his staff, or alone, not with the unit's lead disciplinarian.

Posted by BruceR at 07:32 PM