Reality check: What Harjit Sajjan said about Operation Medusa vs. what really happened
The Minister officially retracted his statement insinuating that he planned the operation, often described as one of Canada’s most successful military offensives in Afghanistan.
“I’d like to apologize for my mistake in describing my role. I’d like to retract that and I am truly sorry for it. I in no way would like to diminish the great work that my former superiors and our great soldiers,” Sajjan told the press.
WATCH: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan admits to embellishing his role in a major Canadian battle.
When asked by media members about instances where he’d exaggerated statements in the past, Sajjan deflected the questions, saying “I’m not here to make excuses, I’m here to acknowledge my mistake, and continue to serve.
Upon delivering a speech in India on Friday, Sajjan referred to himself as the “architect” of Operation Medusa, an operation in Afghanistan during which Canada “removed about 1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield.”
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After coming under fire for exaggerating his role, he followed up with a Facebook post apologizing for these statements, saying that he in no way meant to diminish the roles of the men and women that served with him in Afghanistan.
The “architect” comment was included in the prepared speech. He was criticized for these comments by fellow military personnel, one of whom called the statement a “bald-faced lie.”
Operation Medusa, often referred to as one of the Canadian military’s most successful operations, took place in 2006 during the second Battle of Panjwaii in the war in Afghanistan. The operation was a NATO offensive involving Canadian, U.S. and Afghan troops in efforts to push the Taliban out of the area.
Six soldiers were injured and four were killed during the battle. Soldiers who were also there in 2006, tell various outlets such as CBC, the National Post, etc., that while Sajjan played a key role, he never took part in planning the operation.
Sajjan came to his role as Canada’s defence minister in 2015 as a highly decorated officer from many tours of duty in Afghanistan, and was often commended for his invaluable contribution to Operation Medusa as an intelligence officer. In 2006, Commander David Fraser sent a letter to the Vancouver police praising Sajjan’s work throughout the attack, calling it “nothing short of remarkable.”
During the operation, Sajjan served as a primary liaison between Canadian commanders and local Afghan leaders, reports the CBC. A book detailing the 2006 conflict in Afghanistan entitled Fighting for Afghanistan: A Rogue Historian at War, describes Sajjan’s intelligence contributions. It’s unclear whether Sajjan played a significant role in determining an offensive was necessary.
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It’s important to note that Fraser’s letter, which was retrieved by the National Observer, goes on to state that the intelligence collected by Sajjan played a key role in driving the planning of Operation Medusa, though it does not identify him as an organizer of the attack.
Sajjan’s apology included a reference to Fraser’s leadership, as well as an official retraction of the comments made during his speech in India.
“What I should have said is that our military successes are the result of the leadership, service and sacrifice of the many dedicated women and men in the Canadian Forces. Operation Medusa was successful because of leadership of MGen [Ret’d] Fraser and the extraordinary team with whom I had the honour of serving.”
However, this isn’t the first time he’s referred to his own role with such language. On a B.C. podcast called “Conversations That Matter,” Sajjan said that chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, considered him to be a central figure.
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