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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Spin Cycle: Polaris and CP News 
(en francais)

This report and news story are in dire need of a good run through the spin cycle.

The headline is striking:
$4.1 billion spent on Afghanistan

OTTAWA (CP) - The federal government has spent more than $4.1 billion on its Afghan operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed 25 Canadians in New York's twin towers, a think-tank said Wednesday while calling for hearings on Canada's role in the wartorn country.

Afghanistan and related operations account for 68 per cent of the $6.1 billion spent on international missions between the fall of 2001 and the end of March 2006, the Polaris Institute said in a report released hours before Parliament was to debate and vote on a two-year extension to the mission.
The reality is a far different story. I have to wonder if CP News even made it past the first page bullets of the report.

First up, I always find it strange that the Polaris Institute is described simply as an institute or a think-tank instead of a left-wing institute or left-wing think tank. We never fail to see the term right-wing applied to the Fraser Institutue or the C.D. Howe Institute, why the double standard?

Next let's take a look at the actual report - Boots on the Ground:Canadian Military Operations in Afghanistan and UN Peacekeeping Missions. By Bill Robinson, May 17, 2006.(pdf)
Page 1
• Canada has spent $4.146 billion on military operations in or related to Afghanistan since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.
There's that $4.1 billion dollar number again. Highlighted for ease of viewing by the press, just in case they don't care to read the rest of the report. Personally I like a little more meat in my research than just the bullets so off I go looking for some stats. The first hint that something is amiss comes in the very first line of Page 2, a term catches my eye:
"Canada spent more than $4 billion on military operations in or related to Afghanistan between the fall of 2001 and the end of March 2006."
I wonder what the Polaris Institute considers "related to Afghanistan". Let's look at their chart.

(Click on chart for full size picture)

Lots of names, figures and footnotes. Lets take a look at the footnotes.

Footnote 1: Operations
Canadian operations related to Afghanistan:
APOLLO: Canadian “military contribution to the international campaign against terrorism,” including the war in Afghanistan, from October 2001 to October 2003.

ACCIUS: Canadian contribution to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Canada contributed one Lieutenant Colonel from November 2002 to June 2005.

ALTAIR: Canadian contribution to U.S.-led naval coalition in the Persian Gulf (part of U.S. Operation ENDURING FREEDOM); contribution continued from APOLLO. The most recent Canadian contribution was a six-month deployment of the frigate HMCS Winnipeg during 2005.

ATHENA: Canadian contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF). Canada participated from October 2003 to October 2005.

ARCHER: Canadian contribution to U.S. Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Afghanistan. Canadian participation began August 2005. Current number of Canadian personnel: 2300.

FOUNDATION: Canadian liaison team at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command for “liaison with the CENTCOM campaign against terrorism.” Current number of Canadian personnel: 7.
Operation Apollo includes all deployed Canadian Forces contributions to the International Campaign Against Terrorism.

Things like the Canadian Naval Task Force deployed to the Persian Gulf:

Chronology of Ship Deployments

August 4 , 2001-February 14, 2002:

HMCS Halifax

December 5, 2001-May 27, 2002:

HMCS Toronto

October 17, 2001-April 27, 2002:

HMCS Charlottetown

October 17, 2001-April 27, 2002:

HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Preserver

October 29, 2001-May 28, 2002:

HMCS Vancouver

December 5, 2001-May 28, 2002: HMCS Toronto

February 17-August 17, 2002:

HMCS Ottawa

March 23-October 14, 2002:

HMCS Algonquin

May 1-November 17, 2002:

HMCS St. John's

May 22-November 24, 2002:

HMCS Protecteur

September 9, 2002-April 25, 2003:

HMCS Montreal

September 15, 2002-May 2, 2003:

HMCS Winnipeg

February 2-July 1, 2003:

HMCS Regina

February 24-July 29, 2003:

HMCS Iroquois

March 5-August 28, 2003:

HMCS Fredericton

June 15-December 14, 2003:

HMCS Calgary

and 'Foundation' listed above, the Centcom liaison team was something else before it became 'Foundation':

Joint Task Force South West Asia (CA JTFSWA)

The CF units and formations committed to Op APOLLO are organized under the Commander, Canadian Joint Task Force South West Asia (CA JTFSWA). The headquarters of the CA JTFSWA is the Canadian National Command Element (NCE), employing approximately 40 CF members, co-located with U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida. The NCE links the Chief of the Defence Staff with U.S. CENTCOM and the various CF units assigned to Op APOLLO.

In mid-August 2003, following the re-alignment of Canadian activities in southwest Asia, the NCE was reduced to a liaison staff. This liaison team is part of a new mission known as Task Force Tampa (TFT) or Op FOUNDATION.

Let's not forget, we're not talking about Afghanistan alone here, but all CF operations related to the War on Terror. The Polaris Institute thinks that operations such as Navy Destroyers patrolling in the Gulf are "related" to Afghanistan, at least related enough to help them increase their figures. Can't forget that catchy headline.

Here's some soldiers deployed to the Arabian Gulf deemed "related to Afghanistan" :
On March 14, 2003, a platoon of about 35 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, Alberta, deployed to the Arabian Gulf region to provide local security to CF units deployed on Op APOLLO. The deployment of the security platoon is part of a Force Protection Plan. In July 2003, soldiers from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery based at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, Manitoba, replaced the Patricias.
How about some Air Force pers:
On December 27, 2001, the Minister of National Defence announced the deployment to the Arabian Gulf region of two CP-140 Aurora long-range surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft with about 200 Air Force personnel, including flight crews and support personnel, from 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia.
Can't forget about communications for all these deployed units:
In May 2002, the National Command, Control and Information System Squadron (NCCIS Sqn) was created to organize communications for the CF personnel and units deployed on Op APOLLO. The NCCIS Sqn provides the Canadian Joint Task Force Commander and the commanders of deployed CF units with national communications and information system capabilities. The personnel of the NCCIS Sqn build and maintain the computer and telephone networks that link the units deployed in the Arabian Gulf region to their headquarters in North America.

At its peak, NCCIS Sqn strength stood at about 90 all ranks; it now comprises about 30 CF personnel. The core membership of the NCCIS Sqn comes from the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment in Kingston, Ontario, and from communications units at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. The mission of this unit, too, is changing to focus on Op ATHENA.

Already, the Polaris Institute's numbers are starting to create a smell.

On to Footnote number 2 - Full Cost:
“Full cost” as defined by DND includes civilian and military salaries; overtime and allowances; petroleum, oil and lubricants;spares; contracted repair and overhaul services; and depreciation and attrition costs of all equipment involved. All figures are in thousands of dollars.
Seems straight forward. But wait a minute! Wouldn't most of those salaries, depreciation and attrition costs, amongst other things, still be going on if the CF wasn't in Afghanistan?

That question brings us to Footnote number 3 - Incremental Cost
“Incremental cost” as defined by DND is the cost incurred by DND over and above what would have been spent on personnel and equipment if they had not been deployed. It is derived from the Full Cost by subtracting salaries, equipment depreciation and attrition, and other sums that would otherwise have been spent on exercises or absorbed as part of normal activities.
Now we're actually starting to approach some real numbers. The total incremental cost, according to Polaris, is $2.166 billion dollars since 2001, and that's only if you include the Persian Gulf Deployments in the Afghanistan figures.

We're not done yet. In Footnote 1, they have listed:
ACCIUS: Canadian contribution to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Canada contributed one Lieutenant Colonel from November 2002 to June 2005.
United Nations Assistance Mission? I thought the United Nations missions were being tallyed up in a later section of the report. Why are they including United Nations costs under the Afghanistan total? The officer was deployed to Afghanistan, but not as part of Apollo.

How about Altair:
ALTAIR: Canadian contribution to U.S.-led naval coalition in the Persian Gulf (part of U.S. Operation ENDURING FREEDOM); contribution continued from APOLLO. The most recent Canadian contribution was a six-month deployment of the frigate HMCS Winnipeg during 2005.
More destroyers in the Persian Gulf. You'll note the addition of the text "part of U.S. Operation ENDURING FREEDOM". This is one of the institutes thin lines of reasoning for including all these costs under the 'Afghanistan' category.

The U.S. actually has troops deployed to Afghanistan under Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. They also have troops deployed in many other places under that Operation.

It's the U.S. name for global operations in response to the September 11th terror attacks.

The Operation comprises several subordinate operations:
  1. Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan (OEF-A)
  2. Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines (OEF-P) (formerly Operation Freedom Eagle)
  3. Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA)
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's go back and look at that $4.1 billion dollar figure again. The Polaris report and CP story would like you to believe that is the total cost spent on Afghanistan since 2001.

We now know that the actual figure is $2.166 billion and if you strip away all the "related to" numbers I suspect that number would at least be halved.

The Polaris report would like you to believe that the cost of the Afghan mission is approaching $1 billion a year and climbing. Nice bit of fear, but we've seen how reliable their numbers are.

Yet another interesting question is the lack of "related to" costs when analysing Canada's spending on UN missions. You know, the number they want to appear as small as possible. If related costs are good for the Afghanistan calculations, why not the UN?

The worst thing about this is that most Canadian newspapers and news outlets ran with this CP story virtually verbatim. Published as fact. At least that's what Canadians think they got.

That's enough of the spin cycle for this one. Time to apply some heat to this report and story. By heat, I'm certainly not thinking about the dryer.

Paul Synnott at 8:05 a.m.    | en francais | Go to Top|

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