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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Second Chance for Terps

Bruce Campion-Smith
Ottawa Bureau chief 
OTTAWA—More than 100 Afghan citizens who put their lives on the line to help Canada’s Afghanistan mission are getting a second chance to resettle here.
The Prime Minister’s Office has quietly ordered the federal immigration department to review the cases of Afghan citizens who helped Canadian diplomats and soldiers in Kandahar and Kabul — often at great personal risk — but were snubbed in their bids to come to Canada, theStar has learned.
The news could mean that Sayed Shah Sharifi, an interpreter whose story has been featured in the Star, could get another shot at coming to Canada. His initial application had been rejected, even though his service to the Canadian military won him accolades.
Niaz Mohammed (aka Junior) Afghan Terp who lost both legs while serving Canada
The surprise review comes amidst criticism that the Conservative government had betrayed a promise of Canadian citizenship to Afghans who had worked alongside Canadians on the battlefield.
As well, Harper’s office has removed one contentious criterion that had been seen as a roadblock to many Afghans seeking to make a new life in Canada, according to a source familiar with the file.
No longer will applicants have to demonstrate they face “extraordinary and individualized risk and serious injury” because of their service to Canadian troops, a subjective evaluation that prevented two-thirds of the candidates from qualifying.
While the resettlement program had dangled the promise of Canadian citizenship for Afghans who aided Canadians troops and diplomats during their Kandahar mission, many of those applications in fact had been rejected out of hand.
Among those was Sharifi, a 23-year-old combat interpreter, whose bid to come to Canada was rejected even though he had served the Canadian mission for the required 12 months and had won accolades from the military.
Afghan terp... showcasing just how much risk their job entails
Yet the government officials who reviewed his application doubted his claims that Taliban insurgents want to kill him as retribution. Sharifi said he had been hunted by insurgents on motorcycles because of his work with the Canadian military.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced in 2009 that he wanted to protect Afghans who could show “individual risk” because they had worked with Canadians in Kandahar. In return for their work, they would be offered fast-track immigration processing to come to Canada.
Yet the program became bogged down in bureaucratic delays and as of Dec. 31, 2011, only 97 applicants, plus their family members, had actually made the move to Canada.
But before Christmas, the order came down quietly from the Prime Minister’s Office to take another look at the cases that had been turned aside.
Those instructions are to review rejected files and accept Afghan nationals, such as interpreters, cultural advisers and others who can show proof that they worked with Canadians for at least 12 months.
“Obviously it flowed down from the political leadership to change the program,” said one source familiar with the issue.
Then, at a meeting last month of Ottawa’s Afghanistan Task Force — a committee of departments involved in the country, such as the RCMP, the defence department, foreign affairs and development — immigration officials revealed that changes were afoot to the program at the behest of the PMO.
They proposed a review of rejected applications and relaxed criteria that could offer hope to those already in the pipeline.
By the end of January, 159 files were under active review, the Star has learned. Decisions will be made by Feb. 15 on who is eligible, and those accepted will have to arrive in Canada no later than July 1.
While the program is not accepting new applications, there have been questions about trying to reach interpreters who didn’t apply the first time but might now have a shot under the revised criteria.
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney declined to comment whether a fresh review was underway in the department.
“The government of Canada has now received all applications under this program. Many of them remain under review. We will not comment on operational matters for ongoing programs,” Candice Malcolm said.

Afghan interpreter arrives in Canada

CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STARFormer Canadian army medic Philip Hunter shakes hands with Afghan interpreter Sayed Shah Sharifi after his arrival at Pearson airport on Sunday. Sharifi, who served with Canadian combat troops on some of the Taliban heartland's most treacherous battlegrounds, got eloquent support from Hunter, who described Sharifi as a brilliant and brave friend.
2 of 2
Paul Watson
By Watson, PaulStar Columnist

The agonizing years of worrying that the Taliban would get him before he could get to Canada are over.
Sayed Shah Sharifi, a former combat interpreter for Canadian forces in Kandahar, arrived in Toronto from Afghanistan Sunday, ending a more than two-year fight to reach safety in Canada.
Philip Hunter, who worked closely with Sharifi, 24, as a combat medic, drove down from Ottawa with his wife, Oana, to welcome his comrade to the new home Sharifi often doubted he would live to see.
“Good to see you, buddy!” said Hunter, relieved but teary-eyed after waiting more than two hours in the reception area of Pearson airport’s Terminal 1, wondering if Sharifi had hit yet another snag.
“You made it!” Hunter beamed, shaking his head in disbelief after hugging Sharifi tight. “We’re brothers from different mothers.”
“Thanks a lot — to everybody,” Sharifi replied. “You really did a lot for me.”
In the end, after all the incessant danger and fear of life in a war zone, the hardest part for Sharifi was saying goodbye to his parents and siblings, who must now survive without him.
“They said, ‘You are leaving us alone,’ ” he said, as airline travellers pushed their way past. “I told them, ‘It is for my safety to go there. Some day, I will come back and see you guys.’ ”
Sharifi was also met by a representative of COSTI Immigrant Services, a settlement agency that helps some 42,000 clients, speaking 60 different languages, in the Greater Toronto Area each year.
The agency’s financial backers include the federal and provincial governments, the City of Toronto, the United Way and the Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund.
While he gets his bearings, Sharifi will live at a COSTI reception centre in Toronto, where he will get help finding a more permanent home.
Sharifi is also eager to find a job, and go back to school. He’s thinking about getting a degree in political science.
After Hunter was redeployed to Canada, he tried to stay in touch with Sharifi by email. When he suddenly lost contact, Hunter feared the worst.
And then he saw his old friend, as courageous as ever, standing up for himself and other rejected interpreters on the front page of the Toronto Star last summer. And Hunter immediately rallied to join the fight.
He knew well what might happen if Sharifi didn’t win this one.
In the summer of 2008, not long before Hunter was stationed on one of the toughest battlegrounds, an Afghan interpreter from the frontline base disappeared after going on home leave.
When his corpse was found by the roadside, it seemed the Taliban had stopped the young man, searched him and discovered a Canadian military letter of recommendation.
“He was found with their letter affixed to his chest with a knife,” Hunter said.
Sharifi worked as an interpreter for Canadian troops in Kandahar from November 2007 to March 2010.
He applied for a visa under a special program that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney set up to protect Afghans who faced retaliation from Taliban-led insurgents because they worked alongside Canadian troops or officials.
Sharifi had tentative approval last summer, but after complaining in a July 2011 story about long delays, and fears that he would be killed before a visa came through, Sharifi was suddenly rejected.
Kenney defended the decision, insisting a three-member panel, which included a senior Canadian military officer and diplomat in Afghanistan, didn’t find Sharifi’s claims of Taliban death threats credible.
As Hunter and other Canadian soldiers who served with Sharifi quietly lobbied on his behalf, the Defence department also fought a bureaucratic battle for him.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper intervened, forcing Kenney to review scores of Afghans’ applications rejected under the special program.
Under loosened rules, the rejected applicants no longer had to prove they faced extraordinary risk, acknowledging the reality that the Taliban considers any Afghan who has worked with foreigners a collaborator with infidel invaders.
Harper pulled all Canadian combat troops out of Kandahar last fall and the final Canadian civilian, an aid official working under U.S. military protection, left the Taliban heartland this spring.
Several hundred Canadian troops are in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and northern provinces training Afghan security forces.
The U.S. and its remaining NATO allies still in Afghanistan plan to have their combat forces out by the end of 2014, while Washington is expected to leave behind a small contingent to deal with any remnants of Al Qaeda.
But the main fight against the Taliban and allied insurgents will be left up to the Afghan military and police. The Taliban’s northern Afghan enemies are quietly rearming, laying the foundation for what many fear will be a new, vicious civil war.
As Sharifi packed to leave Kandahar, and his family, NATO reported Thursday that insurgent attacks increased 11 per cent during the past three months, compared to the same period last year.
June saw the most attacks since 2010, when the war sharply escalated under a surge of fresh U.S. combat forces that President Barack Obama hoped would deliver a death blow to the insurgency.

the Paul Franklin story an absract


Master Corporal Paul Franklin (ret) will talk of his experiences as a medical technicians, the war in Afghanistan and the implementation of Tactical Combat Casualty Care.  He will then explain his near death experience and his recovery at home in Canada.  

Paul will talk of how the entire medical field has been changed not only of conflict but of also the Afghan war.  How 44 other military amputees have challenged the concept of recovery and rehabilitation to its very core.  Not since World War 2 has returning vets have challenged the concept of their medical care.

The medical system will quite literally never be the same again because a few highly trained medical professionals fought budgets, competing bureaucracies, old knowledge to produce some of the best rehabilitation programs in the country if not the world.

Paul's talk will challenge the audience to look at what they can do to improve their personal lives, their professional lives and even look at their own health in a new way.

As is the case with everyone, there are a handful of important years that define Paul Franklin's life. 1999 was the year he found his calling, with the Canadian Forces. In 2000 he welcomed his son, Simon, into the world. He completed his first marathon in 2005.
But according to Paul, the best year of his life was 2006; that was the year a suicide bomb ripped through his vehicle in Afghanistan - killing Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry, and seriously injuring two fellow soldiers. Paul nearly died that year. He lost both of his legs, but found a new purpose: to improve the lives of Canadian military and civilian amputees.
It was at this time he discovered a new passion...to help other amputees.  
Interacting with injured patients and amputees, and seeing how hard the hospital staff was working to care for these individuals.  Paul found he  was thriving and thus began his journey down a new path in life, helping other amputees.  Paul co-founded the Northern Alberta Amputee Program (NAAP) and the Franklin Foundation."with the mandate to improve the life and care of all amputees."  These charitable organizations have now transformed into the Amputee Coalition of Canada and the University of Alberta Amputee Research Awards.
When Paul returned from combat in 2006, Canadian vets were routinely sent to the U.S. for rehabilitation. At the time, Canada didn't have the programs or facilities that veterans and amputees needed. Now six years later, largely due to Paul's commitment to the cause, Edmonton is home to a state-of-the-art rehab hospital. In 2009, Paul left the Armed Forces to work as a veterans' advocate full time. He says the veterans community in Canada has come a long way in the last decade, but there's still much work to be done.
Paul became the first military Peer Visitor in Canada in 2006 and has since supported the implementation of civilian and military Peer Visitor Programs across Canada.  He is also on the board of directors of the ACC in the position of Fundraising Chair.  Paul works with several other charitable groups and veteran groups across Canada, the US, UK and Australia.
He says the veterans community in Canada has come a long way in the last decade, but there's still much work to be done.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Moderate Taliban speaks of divisions

Fractures in the Taliban are starting to come to the surface......   is this the time to force a peaceful solution on a now weakened and demoralized enemy????
Former Taliban fighters hand over their weapons to Afghan police as part of a reconciliation process in Herat, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 13, 2012. As the U.S. and NATO prepare for the downsizing of international troops with a final withdrawal scheduled for 2014 efforts are underway to bring the Taliban off the battlefield. Taliban leaders including one of the most senior members of the organization, Agha Jan Motasim told The AP that most Taliban supported a negotiated end to the protracted war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi)(Credit: AP)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — One of the most powerful men on the Taliban council, Agha Jan Motasim, nearly lost his life in a hail of bullets for advocating a negotiated settlement that would bring a broad-based government to his beleaguered homeland of Afghanistan.
In an exclusive and rare interview by a member of the so-called Quetta Shura, Motasim told The Associated Press Sunday that a majority of Taliban wants a peace settlement and that there are only “a few” hard-liners in the movement.
“There are two kinds of Taliban. The one type of Taliban who believes that the foreigners want to solve the problem but there is another group and they don’t believe, and they are thinking that the foreigners only want to fight,” he said by telephone. “I can tell you, though, that the majority of the Taliban and the Taliban leadership want a broad-based government for all Afghan people and an Islamic system like other Islamic countries.”
But Motasim chastised the West, singling out the United States and Britain, for failing to bolster the moderates within the fundamentalist Islamic movement by refusing to recognize the Taliban as a political identity and backtracking on promises __ all of which he said strengthens the hard-liners and weakens moderates like himself.
He lamented Sunday’s assassination in Kabul of Arsala Rahmani, a member of the Afghan government-appointed peace council who was active in trying to set up formal talks with insurgents. Rahmani served as deputy minister of higher education in the former Taliban regime but later reconciled with the current Afghan government.
“He was a nationalist. We respected him,” Motasim said.
Motasim used his own stature to press for talks nearly three years before the United States began making overtures to the Taliban in late 2010. At the time, he was also chief of the Taliban political committee, a powerful position that he held until he was shot last August. He is still a member of the Taliban leadership council, the Quetta Shura, named after the Pakistani city of the same name.
His voice softened and he paused often as he reflected on the brutal shooting in the port city of Karachi, Pakistan, where he lived, while moving regularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan in areas that he refused to identify.
Several bullets shattered his body and he was hospitalized for many weeks. In the first days after the shooting, he wasn’t expected to survive.
The AP spoke to Motasim from Turkey where he had gone for additional treatment. When speaking of his attackers, he referred to them as brothers and colleagues, saying they may have been Taliban hard-liners who opposed his moderate positions.
“My idea was I wanted a broad-based government, all political parties together and maybe some hard-liners among the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan didn’t like to hear this and so they attacked me,” he said. Some of the gunmen may have come from Afghanistan and some may have been from Pakistan’s North Waziristan where militant groups have found sanctuary, Motasim said.
In the early minutes of the telephone conversation, Motasim was reluctant to talk politics, saying he had been told by his friends and colleagues to stay silent.
“I am not involved in any talks. I am only here for my treatment,” he said.
But he gradually opened up, saying the Taliban have three main demands: They want all Afghan prisoners released from U.S.-run detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and near Bagram Air Field north of the Afghan capital; the names of all Taliban currently on the United Nations sanctions blacklist removed; and recognition of the Taliban as a political party.
He said talks in Qatar ended earlier this year after the United States reneged on a promise to release five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. “But those are just the famous ones,” he said. “There are thousands more being held in Bagram and they are being held under the name of Taliban but they are innocent people, farmers and clerics.”
The prisoner exchange issue is rife with sensitivity as the United States has sought to exchange American Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, captured by the Taliban in 2009, for Afghan Taliban held in Guantanamo. It appears the prisoner exchange fell through after the Afghan authorities demanded the five prisoners be repatriated to Afghanistan, according to an Afghan official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to brief the media. The five prisoners have demanded they be allowed to go to Qatar with their families.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, captured by the Taliban in 2009 and now used as a pawn in peace talks...
Motasim said he wasn’t told why the prisoners were not released but when they weren’t the hard-liners among the Taliban took it as a sign that the United States was disingenuous, said Motasim, who acknowledged that the Taliban have set up an office in Qatar.
He said the office has no official recognition as a political headquarters of the Taliban, rather it has been veiled in secrecy and the American interlocutors are engaging with them as insurgents not political representatives of at least some Afghans. Motasim said most of the Taliban who were negotiating with the Americans are on the U.N. sanctions list.
The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in November 1999 for refusing to send Osama bin Laden to the United States or a third country for trial on terrorism charges in connection with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The sanctions — a travel ban, arms embargo and assets freeze — were later extended to al-Qaida. In July 2005, the council extended the sanctions again to cover affiliates and splinter groups of al-Qaida and the Taliban.
“They (the U.S.) have to give political independence to the Taliban,” he said.
Looking ahead to next week’s NATO summit in Chicago, Motasim said he had a message for participants.
“The decisions of NATO should be for the good of Afghanistan and should not call for more violence. It should call for an end to the fighting, an end to the raids and killings,” he said. “Afghanistan is destroyed, the people are displaced, refugees, poor people are dying in their homes and also foreigners are dying here. It should end.”
Kathy Gannon is AP Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be followed on www.twitter.com/kathygannon

When Conspiracy kills

Conspiracy theories fall into many different categories from the killing of JFK to reptilian aliens taking over the world banking system.   Its easy to simply dismiss those that believe in these theories as a kook or nut bar.   
 Its reality so it is never that simple.
Some are innocent people asking honest questions and having honest concerns about government and the world.   Some are not.   The call for the "truth" is such that despite obvious evidence to an event or incident the conspiracy theorists look and say the "official story" can not be true.  
At the worst level the most base of all levels is when you present simple facts, evidence and proof that do not fit their narrative you are branded a sheep of the government, a moron, stupid, idiotic and much much more.  Many of the so called skeptics are in fact the least skeptical of all as "they know" what happened.... 
Its actually a matter of faith... anything that does not fit their belief structure is wrong and potentially evil.
Polio victims that have become amputees... all preventable
I mean what does this matter in the whole scheme of things.....  well it can matter alot and this story from Pakistan shows what can happened when conspiracy unravels society:

The Conspiracy follows this line.....  
"This is a program by the US to cut the population of the Muslims and weaken them to a point that they become incapacitated to defend Islam," Qari Mohammad Akram, a resident of FATA's Bajaur agency, told IPS over telephone.

A cleric in Pakistan's Punjab province has warned that a jihad would be launched against polio vaccination teams at a time when the World Health Organisation has expressed concern at the emergence of new cases of the disease across the country.

Maulvi Ibrahim Chisti of Muzaffargarh district declared the anti-polio campaign as "un-Islamic" and announced at the local mosque that jihad (holy war) should be carried out against the polio vaccination team.
Chisti made the remarks after finding out that a vaccination team had entered Khan Pur Bagga Sher area of Muzaffargarh and asked families to cooperate with the campaign.
The cleric went to the largest mosque in the area and declared that polio drops were "poison" and against Islam, The Express Tribune reported.
He warned that if the vaccination team forced anyone to participate in the campaign, then jihad was "the only option".
As a result, the polio team returned to Muzaffargarh city without carrying out any immunisation and reported the matter to senior officials.
A police inquiry was ordered and a raid was conducted in the cleric's area.
However, Chisti escaped by the time the police arrived.
Residents said the cleric had tried to convince them that the polio campaign was a "Western conspiracy" to render the population impotent.
After the police raid, the vaccination team returned to the area to implement the immunisation campaign.
The WHO recently expressed concern over a spike in polio cases across Pakistan, particularly the country's restive northwestern tribal region, where around 150,000 children have reportedly not been immunised.
According to cases recorded by the National Institute of Health, the total number of polio cases reported this year is at least 21.
Eight cases were detected in the Khyber tribal region. Polio cases have also been reported in areas like Rajanpur district of Punjab and Larkana district of Sindh that were free of the virus since 2004-05.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Is it time for Canada to go back to Mali?

Does the world watch Africa bleed once again and do nothing?
As much as Syria is a hodge podge of cold war interests, new country interests and players on both sides of the fence fighting for a word and for a piece of "good" media attention... the world once again forgets about Africa.......

A still from a video shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1, 2012. Islamist rebels in northern Mali smashed four more tombs of ancient Muslim saints in Timbuktu on July 1 as the International Criminal Court warned their campaign of destruction was a war crime.

 The hardline Islamists who seized control of Timbuktu along with the rest of northern Mali three months ago, consider the shrines to be idolatrous and have wrecked seven tombs in two days.

They began their destruction of tombs on June 30, 2012, after UNESCO put Timbuktu on its list of endangered world heritage sites.

Groups linked to al Qeada have taken over the northern end of the country and like their Taliban and al qeada brethren in their destruction of the famous Bayman Buddha statues they to are destroying historical relics, and shrines.......
Timbuktu once seen as the farthest place in the world and home to ancient texts is systematically being raped and pillaged. 

Soldiers from Mali, trained by the Canadian Special Operations Regiment from CFB Petawawa, will be on the front lines in the fight against al Qaeda in Africa.

OTTAWA — Canada is facing the possibility of being dragged into a new war against Islamic extremists as the situation in the West African nation of Mali quickly spirals towards chaos.
The Conservative government says Canada stands ready to provide support as calls for military intervention grew Thursday following reports militants linked to al-Qaida have taken sole possession of the northern half of the country.
Fears are mounting the jihadists will consolidate their gains into a base of operations from which they, and other terrorist groups, can launch further attacks across the region — and against Western targets, as well.
Canadian Special forces Soldiers training the Malian Commandos
Such concerns have been the main argument for continued involvement in Afghanistan, where Canada will continue to deploy hundreds of military trainers until 2014.
Now there is a growing sense, bolstered by recent events in Mali and other countries across the Sahel — a belt spanning northern Africa from Sudan in the east to Senegal in the west — that the frontline against Islamic extremism has shifted.
“It’s a serious situation because it is the first time terrorists have taken root in important cities and could be in a situation to implant themselves in an entire country,” Reuters quoted French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as saying Thursday. “You have this risk . . . and threat that what is happening in northern Mali can happen in other areas.”
The United Nations Security Council has already condemned the violence and there are ongoing discussions about deploying an international force to counter the threat posed by the Islamists.
That force would be led by West African nations, the majority of whom are concerned about what would happen if the jihadists are allowed to regroup and then spread across the region. But there is an expectation Western nations like Canada would be asked to provide support in any number of forms, particularly given the vast amount of terrain involved, the absence of logistical bases, and the strength of the Islamic forces.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada is working with its partners to finds solutions to the crisis in Mali and “remains ready” to provide assistance to West African nations, in consultation with other partners, “once the needs for support have been defined.”
“Canada remains concerned by the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Mali, a country facing a political, security and humanitarian crisis,” spokesman Rick Roth added.
Canada is already no stranger to Mali.

Cpl. Arnaud (left) and Sgt. Cordell from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment confer with soldiers from Mali during a training exercise in Senegal

Like in Afghanistan, Canadian special forces troops helped train Malian government soldiers in small-unit tactics, communications, first aid and other military skills in recent years.
This came in the aftermath of the kidnapping of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay at the hands of the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb, and in direct response to the growing threat of Islamic extremists.
Other Western nations have also been training armies in several countries throughout the region.
The former French colony has received hundreds of millions in international assistance from Canada over the past 40 years.
A model of stability and democracy for the rest of Africa, Mali remained an aid partner even after the Conservative government shifted its attention from the continent towards Latin America and the Caribbean.
“This was a country that went well, that was working well,” said Lucien Bradet, president of the Canadian Council on Africa. “Mali has always been in the good graces of Canada.”
But Canada’s training and development initiatives were suspended when a military coup ousted democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Toure in March.
This created a power vacuum that was exploited by an alliance between separatist Tuaregs tribesman and the Islamists, who subsequently captured the north.
That alliance has shattered, and there were reports Thursday the last Tuareg bastion had fallen to the jihadists, giving them complete control over an area the size of France.
“This situation has become worse so much faster than anyone thought it would,” said Paul Hitschfeld, chair of the Ottawa-based Africa Study Group. “Now we’re starting to see an Islamic terrorist belt across the Sahel region. This is a slightly scary situation.”