Canadian commander in Afghanistan relieved of duty
Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, the top Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, has been relieved of his duties. Allegations had surfaced that Menard was involved in an inappropriate personal relationship, a military official said.
"It's a personal thing, so I don't see that as any sort of mark against the institution at all," Col. Simon Hetherington, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, said from Kandahar Airfield.
Hetherington would not provide further details on the allegations. But the military has launched an investigation.
The decision to dismiss Menard was made by Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, who commands Canadian military abroad, Hetherington said, after he lost confidence in Menard's ability to command.
Lessard learned of the allegations on Saturday, "did the proper assessment and made the decision to have him relieved," Hetherington said.
Menard was appointed commander of Task Force Kandahar in November. He was expected to remain in that post until the fall, when Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner is expected to assume command.
Until then, Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance will take over Menard's duties. Vance is scheduled to arrive in the war-torn country this week.
"Operations continue unabated" in the meantime, Hetherington said.
Menard had been on leave for several weeks. His dismissal came days after he pleaded guilty and was fined $3,500 for accidentally firing his rifle in the vicinity of the chief of defence staff earlier this year.
After that incident, freelance journalist Tom Popyk said, the new allegations were enough to have him relieved of duty.
"This seems to be a case where it's two strikes, you're out," Popyk told CTV News Channel by phone from Afghanistan. "They weren't going to take any chances on top command, which is expected to lead by example."
"Menard was the face and the power of the Canadian combat contingent in Kandahar," he said. "He'd be the soldier who would come out before the cameras and tell us about the soldier that passed away."
The change in command comes as NATO troops, including those from Canada, are preparing for a major offensive against the Taliban this summer.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press