A day before he backtracked from his false claim that he was the “architect” of Operation Medusa, one of the biggest and most dangerous missions of the war in Afghanistan, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan inexplicably and stubbornly stood by them in a correspondence with me. What happened over the last five days might be called the anatomy of an apology.
The controversy stems from an April 18 speech the Minister delivered at “Conflict Prevention and Peacekeeping in a Changing World,” a conference in New Delhi, India. “On my first deployment to Kandahar in 2006,” the Minister said, “I was the architect of Operation Medusa where we removed 1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield … and I was proudly on the main assault.” It was an odd comment. Though Sajjan was a veteran of the 2006 operation, he was in no way the key planner. That role is typically credited to retired Major General David Fraser, then the commander of the Multinational Brigade for Regional Command South, and the man who organized and led Operation Medusa.
On Monday, April 24, I began hearing from a number of senior military veterans who called Sajjan’s claim about his role in Medusa an “exaggeration” and demanded that he correct the record. None of the sources would go on the record because none wanted to question the legitimate bravery Sajjan showed during the 2006 battle and his three tours of duty in Afghanistan. Still, they regarded his comments in India as an inappropriate embellishment of his role. “Sajjan had as much to do with designing Medusa as I did with designing NAFTA,” one source told me.