Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor assured Canadians in May that the military was restricting its G-wagons to the Canadian compound in Kandahar, after the lightly armoured vehicles proved highly vulnerable to roadside attacks in Afghanistan.
But newly released records indicate the minister's announcement came as a surprise to military commanders, who had imposed no such restrictions and continue to use G-wagons in dangerous convoys.
"It has come to our attention that a statement by the MND (minister of National Defence) . . . regarding G-wagons was not correct," says an internal e-mail to the minister's office, the day after the May 30 announcement.
The minister "indicated that in the future we are going to limit nearly all the G-wagons to the camp, with some exceptions. However, this is not the case. . . . Please advise the MND not to repeat that statement as G-wagons will continue to operate outside the camp," public affairs official Aarin Bronson warned.
"The risk here is that we could suffer additional casualties in the G-wagon while they are operating outside the camp."
On Friday, a soldier died when a suicide bomber hit the G-wagon he was riding in as part of a convoy in southern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.
The very day after Mr. O'Connor's announcement, Canadian G-wagons joined a risky convoy outside the camp to bring supplies to an artillery detachment in Panjwayi district, west of Kandahar.
During the 10-hour operation on May 31, intelligence reports indicated the convoy had been spotted by Taliban insurgents, though there was no attack.
And earlier this month, a Canadian soldier died in a traffic accident when his G-wagon collided with another vehicle 35 kilometres southeast of Kandahar, far from camp.
Records released under the Access to Information Act indicate that Mr. O'Connor's May 30 statement to reporters, which was also made to a Commons committee, left military officials aghast and scrambling.
"We're going to limit nearly all the G-wagons to the camp itself, inside the camp that moves supplies around and thing like that," Mr. O'Connor told reporters.
"There may be an exception here and there, of putting a few G-wagons out beyond the camp . . . (but) most of the G-wagons will be staying on base."
The minister's statement followed the deaths in April of four soldiers who were killed when a roadside bomb tore apart their vulnerable G-wagon near Gumbad, about 75 kilometres north of Kandahar.
After learning about Mr. O'Connor's statement, the military's public-affairs arm quickly drew up so-called media response lines to "reflect the actual operational situation in theatre . . . not what the MND's office would like it to be, based on his statement yesterday," says an internal e-mail.
The minister's office "needs to be upfront about this," it continued.
A military official did contact Mr. O'Connor's press secretary, Etienne Allard, who was "adamant that the line used by the MND . . . is accurate, i.e., that the G-wagons rarely go outside the wire," Lt.-Col. Roland Lavoie reported in an e-mail.
"I perceive an apparent contradiction," Lavoie wrote.
The public affairs office eventually produced a statement saying "the G-wagons will continue to operate when and where deemed appropriate, both inside and outside Kandahar Airfield, based on threat assessments made in theatre." It did not try to resolve the discrepancy between Mr. O'Connor's statement and actual military policy.
A military spokesman would not comment on the issue last week, referring all questions to Mr. O'Connor's office.
Mr. Allard, the minister's press secretary, declined an interview but sent an e-mail saying "Canada is still using the G-wagon outside of Kandahar Airfield when required, but with specific operational restrictions. The restrictions are implemented to mitigate associated risks as best possible."
The G-wagons, also known as LUVWs and manufactured by DaimlerChrysler, were purchased as a quick replacement for the even more vulnerable Iltis jeeps, standard army issue for years.
The Canadian Forces prefer the sturdy South African Nyalas, which are more blast-resistant, when its soldiers venture out on patrol in southern Afghanistan. The military took delivery of 50 Nyalas this spring, and another 25 are on order for fall delivery.