World

Canadian soldiers add donkey brigade to Afghan mission

Canadian Forces in Afghanistan will have another item added to their arsenal next summer — donkeys.

Canadian Forces in Afghanistan will have another item added to their arsenal next summer — donkeys.

Soldiers plan on using a team of up to 30 specially trained donkeys to deliver critical supplies like water and ammunition.

Maj. Charles Janzen, the Canadian soldier spearheading the donkey brigade idea, says the animals can survive with very little water and can carry a significant amount of weight — nearly 160 kilograms.

Afghanistan's terrain is one of the major challenges facing Canadian and coalition troops. There are mountains, irrigation canals, grape fields, mud walls around compounds and wadis — a dry riverbed that contains water only after heavy rains.

Donkeys will also cut down on the use of tanks to breach walls to reach soldiers needing resupply, which has been a source of anger for many Afghan farmers.

A unit of Afghan soldiers, along with Canadian mentors, will be in charge of deploying the donkeys next year.

"Last summer we were up to 55 degrees Celsius," said Janzen, the self-proclaimed "ass-master" spearheading the donkey brigade idea.

"And when you think of the average soldier — whether he's Afghan or Canadian Forces — when you start putting on all your battle armour and you've got bullets and grenades plus small packs, you're carrying anywhere from 100 to 200 additional pounds of gear."

Many countries like the United States and Britain already use pack animals to support special operations in the mountains.

Canadian troops have used donkeys before, but not since northern Sicily in the Second World War.

Roughly 2,700 Canadian soldiers are serving in the southern Kandahar region of Afghanistan.