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Canadian commandos heading to Afghanistan
Toronto Globe and Mail


July 15, 2005

OTTAWA - Members of an elite commando team are heading to Afghanistan as part of a 2,000-troop deployment that will target the "detestable murderers and scumbags" behind the rise in international terrorism, Gen. Rick Hillier said.

In a blunt briefing that signaled a new aggressiveness at the top of the Canadian Forces, the chief of the defense staff said Thursday that the impending operations are risky but necessary in light of last week's bombings in the British public-transit system.

"The London attack actually tells us once more: We can't let up," Hillier told reporters.

He said terrorists are ready to target Canada as much as any other Western country and that Canadians have to be aware that their soldiers are in for some "risky business" as they head out to Afghanistan.

It was the first time Hillier has confirmed that members of the Joint Task Force 2 - Canada's secretive commando team - will be involved in combat missions against the remnants of the former Taliban regime and supporters of al Qaeda.

"These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I'll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties," Hillier said.

He stressed the new face of the Canadian Forces, which he said are now focused on the first job at hand: protecting Canadian interests at home and abroad.

"We're not the public service of Canada, we're not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people."

Previous Canadian missions in Afghanistan have provided security in Kabul, the capital. But the next three missions, involving 2,000 troops, will be heavily centered in the southern mountains, where soldiers will be called upon to hunt down and fight the insurgents.

Hillier said Canada is already in the crosshairs of the terrorists, and he does not believe it becomes a bigger target by participating in military operations that give hope to the Afghans.

"We're not going to let those radical murderers and killers rob from others and certainly we're not going to let them rob from Canada," he said.

He pointed out that during World War II, Canadian soldiers did not shy away from fighting the Nazis.

The native of Newfoundland has been the top soldier in Canada for five months. Bolstered by a growing budget, he is promising a "radical transformation" of the forces to make them more effective in daily operations.

With his straight-talking style, Hillier has already brought about a major change at the top of the military hierarchy in comparison with his blander predecessor, Gen. Ray Henault.

Hillier is a popular figure among the troops, and he has impressed his political bosses with his vision for the forces.

His goal now is to rally Canadians behind the military and convince young talent to join the expanding forces.

He would not speak about the number of potential casualties among Canadian troops in Afghanistan, while stating there is no such thing as a safe mission.


Distributed to subscribers by Scripps Howard News Service,

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