"Canada is sending two surveillance aircraft to Afghanistan in a move some defence analysts see as laying the groundwork for a military mission in Kandahar beyond the announced 2011 pullout date.
Although the federal government has not made any details public, the U.S. army issued a news release on Monday that an American company had been awarded a $12-million contract to modify two aircraft being provided by Canada.
Work on the surveillance planes would be done in the U.S. and in Afghanistan and would be completed by June 15, 2011.
Stephen Priestley, a researcher with the Canadian-American Strategic Review, said what Canada is doing with the King Air planes is similar to programs undertaken by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
He noted that if Canada uses private contractors to fly the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, it could say it was contributing to Afghan security in a non-military way.
“It might be argued that ISR flights are not directly related to combat,” Priestley added.
“Seen in that light, performing ISR over Kandahar would not be regarded as an extension of the CF’s combat mission.” "
Thanks to the US Army for the heads up.