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Hillier on Afghanistan troop training “schemes” that “lack credibility”


 

This week’s issue of Maclean’s (on newsstands today—get ’em while they’re hot) features Kate Fillion’s  interview with Gen. Rick Hillier as the retired chief of defence staff promotes his newly published memoir A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War.

Most of the considerable controversy generated by the book swirls around Hillier’s recounting of old clashes with his political masters and the public service. But in the interview he wades none too delicately into a very current issue—the possible role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan after they are withdrawn, as promised by the government, from fighting in Kandahar in 2011.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman, have both commented on this thorny question in recent weeks.

MacKay said any Canadian soldiers who remain in Afghanistan beyond 2011 will move to non-combat roles that might include training Afghan forces. Soudas elaborated by stressing that ongoing training will be “in training facilities” and “Canadian soldiers will not be doing combat training of Afghan soldiers in harm’s way.”

That’s important because, as I’ve pointed out before, much of the current training involves Canadian troops working closely with Afghan units in the fighting zone. Training today largely means mentoring Afghans in those dangerous places where IEDs explode and firefights errupt.

Is there a safer way to teach those Afghan recruits? Hillier doesn’t think so. Here’s what he told us about the sort of scenario sketched by Soudas: “You can come up with all kinds of schemes to hide away in a camp and train people for the Afghan army or police, but they lack credibility. If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army or police in southern Afghanistan, you are going to be in combat.”


 
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Hillier on Afghanistan troop training “schemes” that “lack credibility”

  1. But surely we train our own soldiers train almost entirely outside of combat? Have our own troops undergone training which lacks credibility?

    And if Hillier means only that field experience is a vital component of any training, than surely the Canadian forces can work in tandem with others, sending off the trainees to field experience when they're ready.

  2. I believe it's the 'hiding away' part that he believes infringes on the credibility.

    As in the locals wondering why the visitors won't go out in the field if what they're being taught 'keeps them safe'

  3. You can say what you want about Hillier's philosophy, or whether you like him or not, but he was for many years a professional soldier, and by all accounts, a very successful one at that – it's a profession he knows very well. So, second guessing him or dismissing his thoughts on how the military can best function might be more about politics than good sense. If my life on a battlefield were at stake and I were asked whether I would willingly follow McKay, Soudas or Hillier, I'd choose Hillier every time.

  4. I have always been very impressed with Hillier and most especially when he placed things in their proper perspective discussing the Taliban as SCUMBAGS and killers and the like – my respect for him increased exponentially and will take his word before anyone elses and that you can take the bank – a canadian one of course – having said that he is a soldier first and foremost and not a poltician per se a military and career type politician but not a suck up to a dufus for his vote sort of politician.

  5. Yup. He should have his own reality show. They can bring in selected Afghanis and he
    can call them scumbags to their faces. Could be a short series.

  6. I would suggest that following him into the battlefield while he is turning around and promoting his new book, might be the more perilous option. Much of Hillier is currently saying is directly related to book sales, and controversy increases book sales.

    There is a certain strangeness to the argument that you feel safer with someone who would prefer to go to combat zone over a safe zone.

  7. I second the motion. There is a technical term for those who would rather follow McKay, Soudas (or Harper): they are called casualties.

  8. One of the least brilliant ideas out of the PMO that Hillier had to deal with was the idea of transferring operational control of the troops in Kandahar to the embassy in Kabul.

    Surely they were kidding. Putting civies in charge of day to day militatary operations is about as intelligent as putting a doctor behind at the controls of a jet liner. The doctor is probably very intelligent and does marvellous apendectomies but I would not willingly get on the plane. The idea of our ambassador to Kabul (now a conservative candidate) would have direct operational control of our forces is ludicrous. That such a bizarre idea would be considered by the PMO further demonstrates the degree to which political considerations outweigh everything else (even the lives of our troops) for the Harper government. As a former member of our armed services and a relative of soldiers on active service I find this incident most disturbing. I do not agree with all of General Hillier's positions and opinions but our servicemen were very lucky to have him defend them from the enemy …. in Ottawa.

  9. Whatever his faults or shortcomings I do not for a moment doubt that he would have no trouble calling them scumbags to their face. The Generals' ethics do not appear to be as situational as those of his former conservative masters. He is not a bully like Harper who has no trouble appearing courageous while picking on the weak but who, in typical bully fashion, backs down or runs away when confronted.

  10. your forgetting that Hillier did not insult Harper but look into the book and you see that it Martin and Chretien he had more problems – Hillier is an equal opportunity critic

  11. Ed, that Hillier is a good and professional soldier goes without saying. Where he lost all credibility for me is when he decided that his role was to be dismissive his civilian masters in the media and take it upon himself to comment on public policy matters in an attempt to sway public opinion.

    I am no fan of this Harper government and the way they have handled this afghan engagement but I am more disturbed by the notion military officials would go beyond their advisory role and now engage in the public discourse to influence public policy.

    There are way too many historical examples that show why such behavior on the part of a general should have no place in a democracy.

  12. More points in his favor

  13. Your comment is the exact same attituted that put our military into the disrepair it was in for many years and still is in. Remember just because someone is in the military does not me they are not a citizen of Canada, this is a mistake to many people make. Sometimes regardless of your job you must stand up for what you believe in, Hiller said what needed to be said, behavior like yours has no place in a democracy.

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