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Canada to stage mock Afghan attack in Washington Add to ...

The Taliban will attack an Afghan village set up in the heart of Washington courtesy of the Canadian Forces, who will send in a medic in a dramatic effort to save a civilian crippled by the explosion.

At least four times over two days this month, simulated IED blasts will bring the Afghan war - and Canada's combat role in Kandahar - home to Americans if an elaborate scheme based on modern training realism attracts widespread attention, as is hoped.

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"If this works the way I want it to, more Americans will know what Canada is doing in Afghanistan," said Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas Martin, a military attaché at the Canadian embassy.

A clutch of top American generals, powerful Capitol Hill players and Afghan experts from both sides of the border are expected at the two-day conference hosted by the embassy.

But the highlight will be the explosive blasts, simulating the powerful improvised explosive devices wreaking havoc in Afghanistan, to be staged twice a day.

Whether they will send jumpy tourists and Washingtonians on Pennsylvania Avenue fleeing in fear remains unknown, but embassy officials say they have a green light from the Secret Service, the State Department and the D.C. fire marshal.

The mock village, complete with a small souk and peopled by nearly a dozen Afghan actors, will be created in the courtyard of the Canadian embassy, halfway between the Capitol and the White House. A handful of Canadian soldiers and, Col. Martin hopes, U.S. Marines will arrive to "see the village leader" just as the IED blows up, "critically injuring" at least one Afghan, who will get immediate first aid from a Canadian medic.

"It should provide the full flavour of hyper-realistic training," said Col. Martin, adding: "Absolutely, you are going to hear it out on Pennsylvania Avenue."

The dramatic recreation of combat, using sophisticated simulations developed by American companies and used to train U.S. and Canadian troops before they are sent to Afghanistan, is intended to garner attention for the often overlooked Canadian combat effort.

"Unfortunately there are still a lot of Americans … who don't know about how great the Canadian commitment is," Col. Martin said.

Along with the shock and awe of explosions ripping through a mock Afghan village, the two-day conference will feature an address by Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, commander of the Canadian army, who keeps chunks of shrapnel he has collected in Afghanistan on his desk and who has pushed hard for greater recognition of Canada's war effort.

Between scheduled IED attacks at noon and 2 p.m. on Sept. 23, the first day of the conference, there will be an Afghan luncheon hosted by Kabul's envoy to Washington, Ambassador Said Jawad.

A division of Lockheed Martin that specializes in combat-training simulations will construct the mock village of three buildings and a mini-souk and provide the role-players - Afghan actors who will play the defenceless civilians. Strategic Operations Inc., a California company that claims to bring the "magic of Hollywood" to hyper-realistic training, will provide the pyrotechnics for the IED explosions.

While the simulated attacks are expected to be the highlight of the conference, the sessions will grapple with many of the enormous challenges in Afghanistan. A panel of Canadian and American police officers will deal with the difficulties of training Afghan police. Another will consider the usefulness of pre-deployment training to try and reduce the psychological damage of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The embassy is confident that it has all the permissions and clearances it needs before it starts setting off explosions in post-9/11 Washington. But Americans, especially in New York and Washington, remain jumpy eight years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Earlier this year embarrassed White House officials apologized after thousands of New Yorkers were scared when one of the Boeing 747s used by President Barack Obama flew low over Manhattan with two F-16 warplanes in close pursuit. The failure to warn New Yorkers that it was a staged photo op resulted in widespread fear, confusion and a flood of panicked calls to emergency services.

In Washington, the staged Taliban attack in front of the imposing Canadian embassy in its prominent location may similarly require advance notification of the public.

Traci Hughes, a spokeswoman for Washington's Metropolitan Police Department, was unable to confirm the Canadian embassy claim that all the necessary permissions to set off explosions in its mock Afghan village had been approved, saying she needed to check with both the chief of police and Mayor Adrian Fenty.

 

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