Ottawa Citizen

Canadians in ministry during attack

Work resumes at Afghan complex

- MATTHEW FISHER

Several Canadian military advisers were in the Interior Ministry building where two senior American advisers were murdered on Feb. 25 by an Afghan angered by the burning of Korans a few days earlier at a U.S. airbase near Kabul, Canada’s top soldier in Afghanista­n, Maj.-gen Mike Day confirmed Saturday.

“There were Canadians in the Ministry of Interior complex, but they were not involved,” said the general, who also leads NATO’S Afghan army and police training program, adding that some Canadians, as with some other advisers in the building, were involved in the aftermath.

The sanctity of the investigat­ion into the deaths of an American lieutenant-colonel and a major precluded him from providing any details about what happened, Day said. As had occurred after other such “green on blue” incidents that targets or kills a coalition soldier, NATO was “unpacking” what had happened, he said.

The general said he was “reaching out” by calling Postmedia News Saturday to clear up what may have been misinforma­tion given by others about whether Canadians were in the Interior Ministry building at the time of the shootings last Saturday.

All Canadian military advisers, as well as advisers from other countries, have returned to their jobs working with Afghan forces, said Day, who used to command Canada’s special forces.

“We took on certain force protection measures,” after the murders, Day said. While deeply regretting “the loss of two of their own ... the overwhelmi­ng response of the (Canadian) soldiers was that they wanted to get back on the job,” he said. When exactly this had happened had depended, he said, on where the advisers were located in Afghanista­n and what their functions were.

“We try to make decisions pertinent to the situation,” he said. “No one size fits all in Afghanista­n. It depends on where they were going and how many of them may have been” in different locations.

Canada has about 920 advisers in Afghanista­n. Most are at various ministries and training bases around Kabul, although small numbers are in the west of the country in Mazar-i-sharif and Herat.

The advisers, who are largely drawn from the Edmontonba­sed Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, began arriving shortly before Canada’s combat mission ended last summer in Kandahar. The Conservati­ve government has committed to their stay until the spring of 2014, although Day told Postmedia News last month that as NATO reassessed training requiremen­ts it was possible that the number of Canadians and their duties might change a little. However, he stressed that any decision on that would be made by Canada’s government.

The Canadian advisers now in Afghanista­n have just begun rotating home. They are being replaced by a new group of advisers built around a Gagetown, N.b.-based battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Several dozen Afghans have died in protests of the burning of the Korans. So have at least two other U.S. advisers in Canada’s former area of combat responsibi­lity in Kandahar’s Zhari District. A preliminar­y investigat­ion has implicated five American military personnel in the incinerati­on of the religious materials from a detainee facility at Bagram Airfield and these soldiers may face legal repercussi­ons, according to recent U.S. media reports. That investigat­ion, as well as the one into the death of the advisers in Kabul, is ongoing.

There have been 45 green on blue incidents over the past five years, according to the Pentagon. About threequart­ers of them have occurred in the past two years.

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