Apr. 22, 2006. 09:11 PM

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Taliban militants struck with fury early Saturday, killing four soldiers in what could be the worst one-day combat loss for the Canadian army since the Korean War.
Two of the troopers were part of Brig.-Gen. David Fraser’s personal protection force. The third was artillery non-commissioned officer and the fourth man was a liaison officer with local tribal leaders.

“It’s closer to home,” said Fraser, having to look away after being asked about the close knit group he often calls his posse.

“Every soldier over here is important to me. I feel that way about everybody in the brigade, but I knew these guys.”

A bomb, which may have been buried in the road, detonated just outside the village of Gumbad, 75 kilometres north of Kandahar. The huge explosion was reportedly felt kilometres away.

The four-vehicle convoy was returning by road to Kandahar after following Fraser’s goodwill visit Friday with village elders. The general, who is also the multi-national brigade commander in southern Afghanistan, returned by helicopter Friday night.

The third vehicle in the convoy, a G-Wagon carrying the four soldiers, was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) at about 7:30 a.m. local time.

Three of the soldiers died at the scene and the fourth died in hospital after being airlifted by a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter.

The soldiers were identified as:

Cpl. Matthew Dinning, of Richmond Hill, Ont., but stationed with the 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade in Petawawa, Ont.

Bombardier Myles Mansell, of Victoria.

Lieut. William Turner, of Toronto, but stationed in Edmonton.

Cpl. Randy Payne, born in Lahr, Germany, but stationed at CFB Wainright, Alta.
“While we are saddened by their loss, we will not forget them or their sacrifice,” said Fraser, calling the soldiers “outstanding Canadians” who believed in what they were doing in Afghanistan.

“We will redouble our efforts in southern Afghanistan in their memory.”

There was stunned disbelief among troops at Kandahar airfield, the main coalition base in southern Afghanistan.

“It was so many at once, four guys,” said Capt. Janus Cihlar.

“When you know them, perhaps not personally, but have worked with them, it hits even harder.”

Cihlar said the loss strengthens the resolve of soldiers on the ground.

“Once everyone has a chance to take their pause and get over the initial shock of the news, certainly everyone buckles down and says, we have a job here and a mission here.”

Hours later, two explosions shook the coalition base and military officials said 107-mm rockets may have been fired at the airfield. No damage or casualties were reported.

Coalition helicopters were scrambled within minutes of the explosions and the base remained locked down for the better part of the night.

The bodies will be returned to Canada early in the week, with a ramp ceremony on the tarmac at Kandahar airfield planned for Monday, said Col. Tom Putt, deputy commander officer of Task Force Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement extending his condolences to the family and friends of the four slain soldiers.

“These men were working to bring security, democracy, self-sufficiency and prosperity to the Afghan people and to protect Canadians’ national and collective security,” Harper said. “I am proud of the work that is being done there, and the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to do it.”

The flag continued to fly Saturday on the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. The newly elected Conservative government has said it will no longer lower the flag to half-mast every time a Canadian soldier is killed, a break with tradition established by the Liberals.

A total of 15 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died since 2002 when Canada first became involved in Afghanistan following the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime.

The last time the army suffered a one-day loss of this scale was in April 2002, when four Canadian soldiers were mistakenly bombed by a U.S. fighter jet.

Before that, army historians would have to reach back to May 1953 when the Royal Canadian Regiment suffered a horrendous one-day combat loss during the Korean War.

In a non-combat incident in 1974, nine Canadian peacekeepers were killed during a resupply mission to the Golan Heights when their plane was struck down by a Syrian missile. The Syrian government maintained that the missile launch was an accident.

Saturday’s insurgent attack happened on a notorious stretch of road where in January several Afghan National Police officers were killed.

“The thing with the Gumbad valley is there are only so many routes in and so many routes out,” said Alpha company Master Warrant Officer Pierre Leger.

“So to (the Taliban) it’s luck of the draw. What they’ll do, if they see a convoy come and have the resources and time, they will set IEDs in every route.”

Immediately after the bombing, the commanding officer of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry led a heavily armed patrol through the mud-walled compound in a show of force. In addition, Maj. Kirk Gallinger met with village elders to glean any information he could about those responsible for the attack.

Alpha Company — known as the Red Devils — had soldiers stationed near the blast site at a platoon house, which has been occupied by Canadians since early February.

An investigation has been launched into the attack, said Canadian military spokesman Lieut. Mark MacIntyre. He said no arrests have been made.

The G-Wagon, which was purchased to replace the army’s older Iltis jeeps has stood up to a number of insurgent attacks since Canadian troops were deployed enmasse in February.

Putt said the attack has not shaken his faith in the vehicle.

On March 29, a Canadian machine-gunner and a U.S. National Guard medic were killed in a firefight that lasted for hours in Sangin.

Saturday’s bloody assault comes in the wake of a Taliban warning of accelerated attacks against Canadians. A spokesman for the outlawed fundamentalist former government told The Canadian Press this month that the Taliban was counting on the increased casualties triggering a clamour among voters to withdraw Canadian soldiers.

Shortly after Saturday’s explosion, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused foreigners of funding and arming local militants.

“They are getting money, guns and conspiring through the encouragement of foreigners,” Karzai said during a visit to Qalay-I-Naw in the western Badghis province, some 400 kilometres north of Kandahar.

Karzai didn’t single out any country or group, but he and other Afghan officials have repeatedly urged eastern neighbour Pakistan to do more to stop Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants using Pakistani territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

Most of Canada’s 2,300 troops in Afghanistan are based in Kandahar, where they have taken over security from U.S. forces.
This whole endeavor is ridiculous to the extreme. There's not a chance in hell 2300 Canadian soldiers, or even the entirety of the US armed forces can take on the Taliban.

These are Mujahideen fighters.. they've taken on the British, they kicked the Soviets out of Afghanistan after bleeding them dry for half a decade.. they have an entire nations worth of underground mountain cavern networks to hide in...

We can't win this, I don't know why we're bothering. It's not defeatism either, it's simple deductive reasoning combined with insane topography. If the worlds superpowers weren't able to rid the country of these fighers, what chance in hell do we have?

Ill conceived, and all it did was appease the Americans after we refused to go to Iraq.