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Canadian military tackles Afghan intelligence woes
Fri Sep 7, 2007 12:21 PM EDT

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian armed forces are tackling a serious inability to quickly provide troops with military intelligence, a problem that has hampered the country's Afghan mission, a senior officer said on Friday.

Commanders had started to address the issue but redoubled their efforts after a January report said the headquarters running all overseas operations "clearly suffers from a lack of intelligence capability," said Colonel Stephen Christensen.

Canada has 2,500 troops in the southern city of Kandahar on a combat mission that is due to end in early 2009. So far, 70 soldiers have been killed, most by roadside bombs and mines.

Christensen told Reuters that officials were trying to combine information from four separate teams -- mapping and charting, meteorology, analysis of freely available material and intelligence-gathering.

Previously, all four teams would pass on data separately, a process that was time-consuming.

The January report, compiled by three senior military experts, said small units on missions were not receiving useful information fast enough.

"We had a feeling about this anyway and the ... report just amplified our understanding of how grave the problem was," said Christensen, one of the officers running a program to streamline the armed forces.

He said a special team was now in place to gather information from disparate sources and pump it out to the troops.

Last week the officer in charge of all overseas missions told Reuters that Canadian forces had arrested several bomb makers and militants around Kandahar in the last month.

Asked whether the arrests could be linked to the new team, Christensen replied:

"I would suggest that they absolutely can be and that that is an indicator here on the ground of where our commander is seeing the results of the accelerated emphasis on the intelligence capacity."

The system would undoubtedly be modified as operatives on the ground gathered more experience, Christensen added.

"As the team works together they become more polished, speedy all the time and hopefully so will our intelligence delivery, that is, all the way out to the smallest unit that can use it effectively," he said.

Canada's minority Conservative government says it will not extend the mission beyond February 2009 without a mandate from Parliament. All three opposition parties say they oppose the idea of keeping troops in Afghanistan beyond the deadline.

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