Soldier: Canadians ill-equipped in Afghanistan
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2008 9:00PM EST
A Canadian soldier returning from Afghanistan has made some startling claims about the equipment he and his fellow soldiers are provided for their mission.
Cpl. Daniel Beaulieu told TVA, Quebec's French language network, that Canadian soldiers are poorly supplied. He says the equipment they are given -- boots, pistols, vests -- are better suited for peacekeeping. Canadian soldiers are performing a combat role in southern Afghanistan, one of the country's most volatile regions.
The criticism brought a swift reaction from military officials in Ottawa after the TVA report became public.
"We have to field 2,500 soldiers, so the equipment, by default, is generic a bit. It's not entirely specific to one soldier. Is it perfect? No. Does it satisfy the vast majority of soldiers? Yes," said Col. Jean-Marc Lanthier, the military's director of land requirements.
Beaulieu -- who came back from Afghanistan two weeks ago -- also claims the soldiers don't have enough side arms. They're given one, when he said they should carry two. The soldiers' vests, according to Beaulieu, also don't have enough pockets to hold the ammunition that they should have. They have pockets for four ammunition magazines, but Beaulieu claims they should hold about 10 to 15 magazines.
When it comes boots, Beaulieu says their footwear is not suited for Afghanistan's rugged terrain. TVA said Beaulieu is not the only soldier to complain, although he was the only one interviewed on the record.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay responded to questions about Beaulieu's claims in the House of Commons.
"Our government is always looking at ways to improve the soldiers' equipment, but I have to say that we have the best equipment in the world. Of course, if we can make it better, we will try to do so," MacKay said.
An expert on the Canadian military says he doesn't understand the criticism. Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, says Canadian soldiers are equipped as well as other NATO allies such as the Americans.
"If you just look at what you see on those news clips that are coming back, these guys look like 'robo-cops' from their helmets to their protective gear ... a lot of stuff is state of the art," Taylor told CTV Newsnet Wednesday.
Taylor said he doesn't know where the criticism is coming from, noting that "it's completely from left field."
Taylor said Beaulieu's comments seem to be unrealistic.
"He wants to have 15 magazines of ammunition on his protective vest. That would weigh about 35 additional pounds," Taylor said.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie told CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live he doesn't understand some of the criticism either. He said the complaint about having two side arms baffles him because most soldiers do not carry any at all. Also, MacKenzie pointed out that he has worn the boots that Beaulieu complains about and "they seem to be popular with most of the troops."