Monday, November 16, 2015

Opinion: Canada Should Keep CF-18's in Iraq

If you have not already discovered my personal bias from reading this blog when it comes to the military, and the use of force - well this post should finalize where I stand.

This post is my opinion - and my opinion alone - and should not be attributed to any other news source, or author that I have re-blogged at any point in time.

I blogged back in September that support for the continued deployment Air Task Force Iraq was needed. This post came before the 2015 Election that saw the election of a Liberal Majority government in Canada. I have no qualms about the outcome of the election - but with it came the promise to withdraw Canada from the US-led Coalition bombings of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

I fundamentally disagree with this stance. ISIS needs to be degraded and ultimately defeated. While I can admit the air campaign has been extremely slow to show progress, it is making progress.

Need evidence of this success? Take a look at late last week - before the Paris Attacks. Air support was key in helping Kurdish and Peshmerga forces in retaking Sinjar, and helping gain control of the highway linking Sinjar, Iraq and Ah Raqqah, Syria - the defacto capital of ISIS.

Sinjar had been in the control of ISIS for the past year, and it has now been liberated. Mosul, is also almost completely liberated thanks to air support - an area where Canada has been highly active.

While the rest of the world is using fierce tones denouncing ISIS, and standing behind France militarily - Canada has remained largely quiet. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his condolences to the French people, and said Canada stands with France - but ignored the question about whether or not the attacks would change Canada's plans to withdraw from the air campaign. Giving Trudeau the benefit of the doubt (still within his first 100 days) - ISIS had not yet claimed responsibility when he gave his statement - but it has been close to 72 hours since the attacks, and ISIS has now claimed responsibility, and Trudeau has not spoken to the media since 8:30 PM EST Friday.

A member of his staff spoke without being named on Saturday and said the attacks have not changed the Liberal Party's plan to withdraw from the air campaign. Today, it was reported that Finance Minister Bill Morneau seconded this statement - the first official member of the Trudeau Cabinet to do so.  Personally, how or why the Finance Minister has any input on matters of National Security seems odd. Why was the statement not made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or National Defence?

Morneau did say that Cabinet is looking at alternatives to how Canada can contribute to the coalition. He said that Canada is committed to the coalition, just not in the air campaign. That is largely what the coalition is about - bombing ISIS because no one wants to deploy ground combat forces. Trudeau called for an increase in Canada's training mission, mainly to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, but that he would ensure CAF special forces members were further from the front lines.

While I am fully insuport of deploying more training forces - as Canada has a specialty in training foreign forces, we should keep our CF-18s in the fight. Yes, they have only contributed to less than 2% of airstrikes, but that is because they are less 2% of the fighter jets involved in the fight. Despite this, according to the Combined Joint task Force, Canada contributed to 4.9% of the 141 airstrikes since November 3rd.

According to DND as of 14 November 2015, Air Task Force-Iraq conducted 1747 sorties:
  • CF-188 Hornet fighters conducted 1119 sorties;
  • CC-150T Polaris aerial refueller conducted 305 sorties, delivering some 18,024,000 pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft; and
  • CP-140 Aurora aircraft conducted 323 reconnaissance missions. 
That does not include the airstrike by two CF-18s yesterday near Haditha, Iraq. This was a very small contribution on Canada's part - all six CF-18s should have been out bombing yesterday. France deployed 10 fighters and dropped 20 bombs on ISIS, mainly around Ah Raqqah, Syria.  Canada has a few times bombed in Syria since the expansion of its mission. Yet the coalition is thankful we have expanded our role. The British Parliament still refuses to expand into Syria. The difference is in Britain the Paris Attacks have re-ignited the conversation on how to engage ISIS. 

I do not know if France will envoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty - but if they do, Canada might be required to do more than  just train Kurdish forces. Article 5 states that an attack on one member is an attack on all - and all are required to come to the defence of that member. France called the Paris attacks an "act of war." The two houses of the French Parliament are set to meet today for only the third time in the history of the French Republic. many expect the State of Emergency to be extended for 3 Months. We wait and see what else comes out of the meeting. 

No one will place blame on Prime Minister Trudeau for going back on his Election promise to end the air campaign in the wake of the Paris Attacks. Canada should keep our CF-18s in Iraq - at least until the end of the current mandate of March 2016, and reassess the situation at that point. 

If you feel the same way, push your MP to voice a concern, and keep Canada involved in the fight against ISIS. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the barbaric attacks in Paris on November, 13, 2015.  - Soliderit√©