Front Lines

Russia, China flex muscles after Taliban takeover
Defence Today, Front Lines

Russia, China flex muscles after Taliban takeover

American troops had barely begun their withdrawal from Afghanistan in August when Russia’s military began flexing its muscles near the country’s border, ostensibly in attempts to discourage the spread of terrorism. Moscow seemed to send mixed messages, with its Kabul-ensconced diplomats describing the purportedly new Taliban as “normal guys” and declaring the Afghan capital a safe place, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin grudgingly called the takeover a reality they had to work with—all while orchestrating joint military exercises with China and other border nations. The first of several exercises, said China’s official Xinhua News Agency, aimed to “deepen the joint anti-terrorism operations between the Chinese and Russian militaries and demonstrate the firm determination and ...
UN fact-finders chronicle war crimes, crimes against humanity in Libya
Defence Today, Front Lines

UN fact-finders chronicle war crimes, crimes against humanity in Libya

A United Nations fact-finding team has gathered evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya, where militias, mercenaries and security forces have been fighting since former leader Moammar Gadhafi was ousted a decade ago. In what amounts to an interim report to the UN Human Rights Council, the three-member team cites testimony and other evidence of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, and arbitrary arrest and detention throughout Libya—some committed by the former UN-sanctioned government based in Tripoli. “Since the fall of the [Gadhafi] regime in 2011, the fragmentation of the State and the proliferation of weapons and of militias vying for control of territory and resources has severely undermined the rule of law in Libya,” said the docume...
Canada bids farewell to its first female general
Defence Today, Front Lines

Canada bids farewell to its first female general

Family, friends, commanders and colleagues gathered in Ottawa this week to bid a final farewell to Sheila Anne Hellstrom, a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran and the first woman to reach the rank of brigadier-general in the Canadian Armed Forces. Hellstrom was known for her confidence, compassion and fortitude in a male-dominated profession where women had long been relegated to secondary roles. She mentored women, opened doors for them, and oversaw sweeping changes in the roles they would assume both inside and outside the military ranks. A native of Lunenburg, N.S., she died last Dec. 7. She was 85.   Judy Harper, now a retired navy captain, first met Hellstrom in 1980, when Harper was a newly minted major under the combined services of the day and Hellstrom—a lieutena...
Early days: Canadian troops in Afghanistan 2002-2004
Defence Today, Front Lines

Early days: Canadian troops in Afghanistan 2002-2004

March 13, 2002 The 3PPCLI Battle Group launches Canada’s first combat assault since the Korean War on a mountain called the Whale’s Back, overlooking a valley near the Pakistan border. The soldier in the foreground is a Canadian sniper in specially designed British combat fatigues. Taliban and al-Qaida fighters attempting to escape into the mountains to the east came under heavy bombardment from American B-52s and F-16s. Scaling elevations up to 2,650 metres, 500 Canadians, along with U.S. Navy Seals and infantry from the U.S. 10th Mountain Division, spent five days clearing caves and gathering intelligence among the rocks and crevices.   March 16, 2002 Canadian snipers set two distance records while on operations with American forces in March 2002. Here, a sniper team loo...
Bleeding us dry
Defence Today, Front Lines

Bleeding us dry

Osama bin Laden had more in mind than inflicting incidental death and mayhem when he dispatched 19 al-Qaida terrorists to strike at the heart of American economic and military might two decades ago. With hatred rooted in real and perceived abuse and exploitation, he aimed to lure the West, specifically the United States, into a protracted and costly war of attrition on home soil, where devout jihadists would be motivated and readily available. Bin Laden spoke of “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” By doing so, the son of a Saudi construction magnate believed he could engineer the moral and economic collapse of his enemies by bleeding them dry, both in human lives and treasure. The strategy is detailed in al-Qaida manuals and a 2004 al Jazeera broadcast in which bin Laden sp...
The graveyard of empires
Defence Today, Front Lines

The graveyard of empires

The graveyard of empires appears to have claimed another victim. But why couldn’t a high-powered coalition that included the United States, United Kingdom and Canada defeat a radically fundamentalist group of murderous zealots? Many said from the beginning that the post-9/11 invaders of Afghanistan were doomed to follow the Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Britons (three times) and Soviets—none of whom managed a permanent presence or far-reaching impact in the parched and willfully independent land of deserts, mountains and open plains. A successful campaign of liberation relies as much on winning hearts and minds as it does on strategic military successes. Winning over Afghans, as the recent collapse of their national army suggests, was far easier said than done. There...

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