May 06, 2002



(See previous article.) So let's assume the F-16 pilot was not a complete idiot, and honestly thought those were enemy troops below him on the Kandahar anti-tank range. What could they have been doing that led to that belief, if it wasn't the firing of weapons itself? Suspicion has to fall at this point on the use of parachute flares.

Paraflares are illumination devices, used for lighting up a battlefield, or a night live-fire at an anti-tank range. Launched from a hand-held tube, they are sent up to altitude with a small rocket, like a firework, sending off an nice display of sparks on the way up (fired horizontally, it's even more impressive... the movie Platoon, among others, used paraflares or something very much like them to simulate overhead RPG fire). At altitude, the magnesium head ignites, the parachute deploys, and it floats down. Firing ranges at North American bases characteristically have paraflare chutes dangling from dozens of nearby trees.

It is conceivable, I suppose, if you were flying low enough, in the dark, that you could mistake the little flare rockets as they rose for some kind of SAM. In the day it'd be impossible. If you'd flown over a flare-illuminated range at night much before, it would also be impossible. But we don't know that... it's also likely that pilots in the Afghan theatre have been warned of the possibility of Talibs sneaking Stingers close to airfields such as Kandahar's, so the pilot may have been primed to interpret a flare as a missile in that area if he hadn't seen many of them before.

Some amount of panic or recklessness on the pilot's part is still required, of course... combined with far lower level flying than would seem to be necessary for the theatre, and an obvious measure of inexperience. But given the information available at this time, it seems the most likely scenario.

UPDATE FOR GLENN REYNOLDS FANS: You can read my earlier, now apparently erroneous surmises on this subject here and here. You can also read my random surmises from the military funeral in Toronto, which I attended, here.

Posted by BruceR at 11:44 AM



N.Y. Times, today:

"If you look out ahead six months or so, I think gradually you're going to see the number of U.S. forces come down and the number of coalition forces go up," a senior Defense Department official said this weekend.

Canada's National Post, today:

But the government is not expected to make a decision [on extending the Canadian presence in Afghanistan past this summer] for several weeks, Randy Mylyk, director of communications for Art Eggleton, the Minister of National Defence, said yesterday.

He said from ''Day One'' there was always the possibility of the ''spectre of another rotation'' but that the government had always been looking for ''more of a short-term commitment knowing that there were other commitments that the military would be asked to make.''

A senior Liberal aide said yesterday the decision is dependent on a number of factors, including the role played by the military at next month's G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alta.

The Prime Minister, it should be noted, repeatedly swore up and down that Canada would be out of Afghanistan by the fall. No one in the armed forces believed him then, and they sure don't now. He is now about to be overruled by the Americans, it seems: as Lew Mackenzie and Michel Gauthier point out in the National Post, withdrawal this summer ceased to be an option for logistical reasons a long time ago. Prediction: Canadian soldiers will watch the next SuperBowl in Kandahar, too.

Assuming Bosnia is kept up, as well... that's it... we may be officially tapped out. Cupboard's looking bare. So much for the PM's penchant for West Bank peacekeeping... never going to happen, either, because we have no troops to send. You know, it must be frustrating to be ignored so often, being the leader of the country and all. I wonder how he puts up with it sometimes...

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 AM