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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.


Canadian troops prepare to meet Taliban 'head-on'

Insurgents reportedly executed 26 residents of a village last week

Brian Hutchinson, Can West News Service, 26 Dec 06

Article Link


Having savoured a warm holiday feast and a short break from their duties, Canadian soldiers are now preparing for the next phase of Operation Baaz Tsuka, the latest NATO-led campaign in the war against the Taliban.


While senior military officers have revealed little about what the next phase in the campaign will involve, they indicate that Canadian troops will confront the enemy head-on after avoiding "kinetic" contact over the first 10 days of the campaign.


Earlier, NATO announced that the village of Talukan, one of several Taliban strongholds in Panjwaii District, is "now secure," as are the villages of Howz-e Madad and Zangabad.


Talukan is the village where up to 26 residents were beheaded and hanged by Taliban fighters last week. While NATO has not confirmed the scale of the slaughter, first reported by Can West New Service, Canadian officers have received intelligence reports that describe the carnage and count the number killed at 26.


On Sunday, in a scene that bordered on surreal, Canadian troops gathered inside a former Taliban stronghold to enjoy a traditional Christmas feast, served up by an eclectic delegation of visitors flown in for the occasion -- including Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier and comedian Rick Mercer.


Standing within a maze of ancient fortress-like walls that until recently protected a hive of Taliban insurgents, and surrounded by a heavily armed Special Forces militia, Hillier delivered to the troops a speech touching on hockey, offbeat soldier haircuts, and the task still ahead.


Comedian Mercer echoed the general's comments about rising support for the Canadian military's mission in Afghanistan and then cracked wise about "eating lemon pie" in the middle of a war zone.


Also flown in for the event were Conservative cabinet minister John Baird, the president of the Treasury Board, as well as MPs Laurie Hawn and Jay Hill.


Hillier told troops that while he understood they were weary after spending the last four months fighting the Taliban, there was "light at the end of the tunnel."


At the same time, he implored them not to take their eyes off the prize, which is the liberation of Kandahar province and the rest of Afghanistan from insurgents.


In an interview later, Canada's top military officer admitted he is aware some of his soldiers question the mission's viability and the so-called "soft knock" strategy used early on in Operation Baaz Tsuka.


"I think it's entirely natural that some soldiers would say 'Well, this is not the way to do it,' " he acknowledged.

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