The Best Defense

Report: Canadian military leasing Russian Mi-17 helos in Afghanistan

I remember how I used to listen to various NATO officials complain about how member nations were not sending enough helicopters to Afghanistan. Now it appears that the chickens have come home to roost: The Canadian media is reporting that the Canadian Ministry of Defence has quietly leased a bunch of Russian helicopters to use in southern Afghanistan.

My first thought was this was to fool the locals. But I don't think it would fool the Taliban, who know their Russian helicopters. Canadian Navy Lt. Kelly Rozenberg-Payne said that Canadian forces in Afghanistan simply needed some additional vertical lift: "The (operational) tempo within the air wing became very great and it was just assessed by commanders on the ground that they needed additional platforms to help move troops around," she said.

My guess is that because both the Afghan and Pakistani militaries use the Mi-17, this makes it more convenient to fly NATO forces across the border and into the FATA as necessary, with lots of plausible deniability, especially if they are flown at night and no one gets around to painting a lot of markings on the aircraft. That would explain why, as the Canadian report puts it, "details were kept off the MERX web-site, which formally lists government procurement competitions, and no news release was issued about the new choppers, which have been in use since the spring."

ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

The Best Defense

Dogs beat machines at detecting IEDs

Readers of this blog won't be surprised to learn that, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch puts it, "Dogs turn out to be best at finding IEDs."

This isn't just a point to warm Rebecca's heart. There are some serious lessons to be learned from the more than $15 billion (that's a B, fellas) the Pentagon spent on its effort to defeat IEDs technologically. But it turns out that the two most dependable ways to counter the roadside bombs are both warm-blooded. The first is the dog, to detect bombs planted. The second is putting soldiers who have a bit of Arabic out in an outpost in a neighborhood for weeks at a time and protecting people sufficiently that they feel safe pointing out to soldiers who is planting the bombs or where they are. As an Iraqi once put it to a U.S. Army commander in Ramadi, we all knew who the insurgents were, we just couldn't tell you and expect to live. 

I think there probably is a good dissertation to be done by someone out there about how most of that $15 billion got wasted here.

U.S. Army