Saturday, October 24, 2015

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strike Two ISIS Positions

Air Task Force Iraq was active again Friday over Iraq. despite the fact that the Task Force will receive its stand-down orders from the new Government in the near future, the RCAF is continuing its fight against ISIS.

According to a statement from the Department of National Defence, two CF-18 Hornet aircraft struck an ISIS fighting position and an ISIS ammunition cache northeast of Ramadi on October 23, 2015.

Friday, October 23, 2015

8 Arctic Countries to Sign Coast Guard Treaty

Article Written by By Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

All eight Arctic nations — including Canada and Russia — are to sign a historic deal next week for their coast guards to work together in the treacherous and increasingly accessible waters of the North.

Creating the Arctic Coast Guard Forum is considered a significant step forward for international co-operation in the region and will flesh out previous search and rescue agreements.

"(The forum) will be an operationally focused organization that strengthens maritime co-operation and co-ordination in the Arctic," said an emailed statement from the United States Coast Guard.

"The impetus for creating (it) grew out of the concerns of Arctic Council member countries over the increasing need to ensure safety, security, and stewardship of Arctic waters."
The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Des Groseilliers travels to the Canadian Arctic in summer to escort cargo ships and conduct search and rescue operations. All eight Arctic nations — including Canada and Russia — are to sign a historic deal next week for their coast guards to work together in the  waters of the North.
Canadian Coast Guard Ship Des Groseilliers in Canadian Arctic Waters in this undated photo.
Photo (Canadian Coast Guard)

The forum will also discuss emergency response, icebreaking and collaboration, said a statement from the Canadian government.

"The heads of the eight coast guard agencies, including Canada, have agreed that collaboration on such operational matters is to everyone's benefit," said Carole Swaindon of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which runs the Canadian Coast Guard.

The forum was to have been created in Canada in March 2014.

An agreement in principle had been reached and the final deal was supposed to have been signed. But negotiations were delayed when the Harper government refused to allow Russian officials to take part.

"The (Prime Minister's Office) insisted the Russians not be invited because of the Ukraine," said John Higginbotham, who attended that meeting as a fellow of Carleton University's Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Canada's allies were not pleased at the refusal, Higginbotham said.

"That really put the cat among the pigeons."

Russians were allowed into the U.S. to complete the talks after the Americans assumed the lead. The deal will be signed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., at a meeting between the leaders of all eight services.

The signatories include Canada, the U.S., Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The meeting takes place next Wednesday through Friday.

In most countries, coast guards are a branch of the military. That means the new forum will also provide a venue for high-ranking officers from different countries to meet regularly and open channels of communication, say experts.

"It will create another channel of communication, especially between the United States and Russia," said international law professor Michael Byers. "This is part of a larger Russian and American strategy to maintain and build these back channels so as to provide some stability to the larger relationship."

Under the deal, the coast guard heads are to meet yearly.

The deal also puts meat on the bones of the 2011 treaty on Arctic search and rescue, negotiated through the Arctic Council. That treaty committed signatories to providing search and rescue in their sector of the North.

One of the forum's first actions next week in Connecticut will be to run a tabletop search and rescue simulation. That will establish communications protocols and determine who responds to what.

The head of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, has said an actual exercise could be mounted as early as next year.

The forum, although it will involve military personnel, will steer clear of security issues. That will follow the lead of other coast guard forums that already exist, such as those for the North Atlantic and North Pacific.

The forum is separate from the Arctic Council, the chief international diplomatic body on northern issues. However, its leadership will rotate in concert with the council, which is now led by the U.S.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 22nd Ottawa Attack: Photos of One Year Anniversary

All Photos property of The Canadian Press - Adrian Wyld and Sean Kilpatrick 
Corporal Nathan Cirillo's son, Marcus, places a wreath during the ceremoney remembering his fathers death at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. 
Members of the Cirillo family attend a ceremonial service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 to commemorate the attack on and the lives of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
Members of the Cirillo family attend the ceremonial service at the National War Memorial on  the October 22, 2015 ceremony remembering the attacks in Ottawa and St. Jean.  

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, prime minister-designate of Canada, place a wreath at the service.
Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau (Left) and outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Right) lay a wreath on behalf of the Government of Canada at the October 22, 2015 ceremony remembering the attacks in Ottawa and St. Jean.  
Flowers are placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, remembering the Attacks that took the lives of two CAF members. 
A new Memorial Plaque unverilled during the ceremony, marking the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. Located to the right of the National War Memorial in Ottawa. 
Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes the hand of Marcus Cirillo, the son of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was killed at the National War Memorial on October 22, 2014. 
 Justin Trudeau, prime minister-designate of Canada,  (left) and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, attend a ceremonial service at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 to commemorate the attack on and the lives of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau (Left) and outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Right) reflect after laying a wreath on behalf of the Government of Canada at the October 22, 2015 ceremony remembering the attacks in Ottawa and St. Jean.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen, and Justin Trudeau, prime minister-designate of Canada, and his wife,  Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, attend a ceremonial service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 to commemorate the attack on and the lives of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau (2nd from Left) and his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau (left) and Laureen Harper (middle) and outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper (right) during the National Anthem at the October 22, 2015 ceremony remembering the attacks in Ottawa and St. Jean.

Canada in Iraq: Two RCAF CF-18s Conduct Airstrike near Ramadi

Despite the looming stand down of Air Task Force Iraq, part of OP IMPACT; Canada is continuing its fight against ISIS. The RCAF CF-18s were at it again yesterday. 

The Information released from DND:
On 21 October 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position west of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

October 22nd Ottawa Attack: One Year Anniversary Ceremony

The Government of Canada will hold a ceremony at the National War Memorial on October 22, 2015, at 11 a.m., to commemorate the assault on Parliament Hill one year ago.

The event will also honour the sacrifices of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, and the bravery of the first responders.

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, and other dignitaries will attend the event. Dignitaries will lay wreaths and His Excellency will deliver an address on this occasion. Out going Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau will also be in attendance.

A 21-gun salute will be fired by 30th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery from the lawns of Parliament Hill around 11 a.m.

Four Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets, based out of CFB Bagotville will conduct a flyby in the missing man formation over the National War Memorial at 11:20 a.m.

50 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force will be in attendance in honour of Warrant Officer Vincent as he was an RCAF Firefighter;

50 members of the Canadian Army members including members of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s) will be in attendance in honour of Corporal Cirillo.

There will be two 50-person marching contingents of Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Paramedics, Ottawa Fire Service, Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Parliamentary Precinct Guards to honour the First Responders who were at the event of 2014;

Members of the public are welcome to attend.

When: Thursday, October 22, 2015, 11 a.m.

Where: The National War Memorial, 30 Wellington Street, Ottawa

What: A ceremony to commemorate the assault on Parliament Hill and the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Entry is restricted to journalists accredited through the Parliamentary Press Gallery. To register and for more information on accreditation, contact Terry Guillon, Chief of the Press Gallery, at 613-992-4511 or

Canada in Iraq: CDS Vance to Provide Trudeau with Options

David Pugliese had  a good piece today in the Ottawa Citizen, discussing Canada's possible future role in Iraq against the Islamic State (ISIS). The new Liberal government plans to end Canada's bombing campaign, but no end date has been determined yet. 

Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, then-Commander of Canadian Joint Operation Command, holds a technical briefing on combat strikes against the Islamic State at National Defence Headquarters last fall.
General (Then Lt. Gen) Jonathan Vance (former Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command) holds a technical briefing on combat strikes against ISIS at NDHQ in Ottawa in the fall of 2014.

Article Written by David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, October 22, 2015 (page A13)

Military planners are working to come up with scenarios for the new Liberal government on how Canada can contribute troops to train Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State, even as Canada winds down the bombing campaign.

Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau this week reaffirmed his intention to have Canada pull out of the bombing against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and instead focus on troops to train Iraqi soldiers.

Canada already has 69 special forces soldiers training Kurds in northern Iraq. It is unclear at this point whether an expanded training role would mean boosting the size of that special forces contingent or whether it would see regular troops helping improve Iraqi skills.

There have been initial discussions among planners at Department of National Defence headquarters but little can be done until a Trudeau government takes power. The cabinet will be sworn in Nov. 4.

“We would engage Canada’s military in something we’ve demonstrated tremendous ability at in Afghanistan and elsewhere: training up local troops doing the fighting on the ground,” Trudeau said during the election campaign.

The U.S. is conducting a training mission in Iraq and has more than 3,500 troops there. Troops from Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Finland all have been involved in training Kurdish forces.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed Canada to the Iraq war a year ago. Six CF-18 fighter jets, surveillance and refuelling aircraft, as well as 600 personnel are involved in the bombing mission.

It will be up to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance to present the options to Trudeau’s government.

Just 10 months ago, Vance — then a lieutenant general and in charge of the Iraq operation — was asked by journalists what would happen if the Canadian bombing mission ended early.

Vance answered that the coalition would adapt. “They have the capacity to react if a partner in the coalition leaves the mission,” Vance said in January. “It is possible to set priorities but we are very important at the present time in the mission, very important in the coalition, but they can change their method, their targeting and the priority of targets if one partner or another leaves the mission.”

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick said the impact of Trudeau’s decision to leave the bombing campaign will be blunted by Canada’s decision to commit more training troops.

“If it had been a complete pullout from the mission, then our allies would not have been happy,” said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University.

There have been concerns in the U.S. that the bombing campaign has had a limited impact. ISIL has retreated from about 25 per cent of the territory it seized in Iraq but it still continues to hold large areas of the country.

In late August, Harper acknowledged the effect had been less than envisioned. “The intervention has had the effect of largely stopping the advance of (the Islamic State), particularly in the north of Iraq and to some degree in other parts of Iraq and Syria – not maybe as much we’d like,” he said.

The Conservatives also committed the RCAF to expanding the bombing mission to Syria starting in April. At the time, Defence Minister Jason Kenney incorrectly claimed Canada was needed because it was one of the few nations in the coalition that had smart bombs.

Canada has only conducted a small number of bombing missions in Syria because it doesn’t have enough information about targets on the ground.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trudeau to Obama: RCAF to Leave Bombing Campaign

Article written by CNN's Jethro Mullen 
US Trudeau
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister-Elect in a 2013 photo in
Washington D.C. 

(CNN)Canada's new leader-in-waiting says he intends to follow through on his campaign promise to pull the country out of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq.

Justin Trudeau, who led the Liberal Party to a stunning victory in elections Monday, said he has already told U.S. President Barack Obama of his plans.

"He understands the commitments I've made around ending the combat mission," Trudeau told reporters Tuesday, without giving a time frame for when Canada's airstrikes would stop.

Trudeau is expected to take office in the coming weeks, replacing Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who sent Canadian warplanes to carry out airstrikes against ISIS.

Canada's bombing raids started hitting the Islamic extremist group's positions in Iraq in November 2014 and expanded into Syria in April.

As of last week, Canada's six CF-18 Hornet fighters in the region had flown 1,048 sorties in the anti-ISIS operation, according to the military, which didn't specify how many of the flights involved airstrikes. Other aircraft have conducted hundreds of refueling and reconnaissance missions.

For a full list of Canada's OPERATION IMPACT Airstrikes, see here

Canada to 'engage in a responsible way'

Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada would remain "a strong member of the coalition" against ISIS but would "engage in a responsible way."

His party wants to provide more humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria and for the Canadian military to take part in a larger training  role rather than bombing missions, CNN partner CBC reported.

The White House statement on the phone call between Obama and Trudeau didn't mention the Canadian leader's intention to withdraw from the air campaign. It said the two leaders "committed to strengthening the countries' joint efforts" on combating terrorism and other issues.

Other nations that have taken part in the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against ISIS include Australia, France and Britain as well as Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

As of early October, the coalition had carried out more than 7,000 strikes, nearly two-thirds of them in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. military has conducted close to 80% of all the strikes.

Canada in Iraq: RCAF conducts another Airstrike against ISIS

Well it seems my post yesterday about the RCAF's airstrike on October 17th as possibly their last was posted a day too early.

The day after Election Day here in Canada, October 20, 2015 the RCAF announced that two CF-18 Hornet's successfully struck an ISIS staging area northeast of Tal Afar.

Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau plans to withdraw Canada from the US-led coalition bombing campaign, but no timeline has been established yet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canada in Iraq: Will Oct 17th Airstrike be RCAF CF-18s Last?

With the Liberal Majority win in yesterday's historic Canadian election, the closing curtain is starting for Air Task Force Iraq.

Many have noticed a decline in RCAF airstrikes against ISIS during the election - perhaps for less media attention, or because they were getting read to end operations.

The last airstrike conducted by the RCAF CF-18s took place on October 17th, when two CF-18s struck an ISIS fighting position northeast of Tal Afar.

RCAF CF-18 fires ordinance during a training exercise. National Post 
With the Liberals public call for an end to the bombing campaign, and more effort put into training the Iraqi forces, the question becomes, will the October 17th strike be the RCAF's last? Perhaps the last shots fired in Combat for the CF-18s within the RCAF in general, as the Liberals plan to re-open the competition for replacing the CF-18, and have vowed not to buy the F-35.

No official word on the stand down of Air Task Force Iraq. I will post news on the developing aspects of OP IMPACT as I get the news.

Liberal Majority: What to Expect for the CAF

Justin Trudeau

It is the morning after - and we now have another Majority government - no election until October 2020 (unless the fixed date election law changes)

So with a Liberal Majority will we see a return to the "Decade of Darkness" for the Canadian Armed Forces as was seen under the leadership of Jean Chretien? It is highly unlikely, as the world has changed a lot since the 2000, and the CAF is just as involved internationally now as we were then, albeit less involved in UN led missions. So what should we expect for the CAF under a Liberal government for the next 5 years?

The Liberals and Justin Trudeau pledge to boost Canada's support for International Peace and Security. The policy calls for a renewed commitment by Canada to Peacekeeping Operations. (I personally do not believe Peacekeeping exists, but Peace Enforcing, or Peace Making, but that is another rant all together)

The Liberals have said they will support Civilian Police Training Operations, particularly in French-Speaking nations where our highly Professional Military Police, RCMP and Civilian Police agencies can help developing nations maintain law and order.

They will lead an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations, and will insist that any peacekeepers involved in misconduct be held accountable by their own country and the United Nations.

They will recommit to supporting international peace operations with the United Nations, and will make the specialized capabilities – from mobile medical teams to engineering support to aircraft that can carry supplies and personnel  of the CAF available on a case-by-case basis.

For military spending, the Liberals will not let Canada’s Armed Forces be shortchanged, and we will not lapse military spending from year to year. They will also reinvest in building a leaner, more agile, better-equipped military, including adequate support systems for military personnel and their families. So perhaps no new money, but no new cuts, and current planned increases will take place. 

The Liberal Party will not by the F-35 Stealth Joint Strike Fighter. They will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft. The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability. (My vote would be for the Dassault Rafael, which Dassault has offered to build in Canada = JOBS; it is also faster, cheaper, and dual engines) The Liberals will reduce the procurement budget for replacing the CF-18s, and will instead purchase one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defence needs.

The money saved from the F-35 purchase will be invested in the Royal Canadian Navy - which despite the ship building contracts awarded by the Conservatives has seen a "Decade of Darkness" under Harper. Many will claim that is because the Navy was not highly active in the War in Afghanistan (2001-2014); but I contest that they were deployed in the Arabian Peninsula almost entirely throughout the War.  The Liberals say they will have the funds that we need to build promised icebreakers, supply ships, arctic and offshore patrol ships, surface combatants, and other resources required by the Navy. These investments will ensure that the Royal Canadian Navy is able to operate as a true blue-water maritime force, while also growing the economy and creating jobs.

They will immediately begin an open and transparent review process of existing defence capabilities, with the goal of delivering a more effective, better-equipped military. The Canada First Defence Strategy, launched by Stephen Harper in 2008, is underfunded and out of date. The Liberals will review current programs and capabilities, and lay out a realistic plan to strengthen the CAF.

The Liberals plan to develop the CAF into an agile, responsive, and well-equipped military force that can effectively defend Canada and North America; provide support during natural disasters, humanitarian support missions, and peace operations; and offer international deterrence and combat capability. (The CAF already does much of this, but we can look forward to more domestic operations)

The Liberals plan to  continue to work with the United States to defend North America under NORAD, and contribute to regional security within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

They will do this by ensuring that equipment  is acquired faster, and with vigorous Parliamentary oversight; and  put a renewed focus on surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches, particularly our Arctic regions, and will increase the size of the Canadian Rangers.

The Liberals remain fully supportive of OPERATION REASSURANCE and OPERATION UNIFIER. However, they will make changes to OPERATION IMPACT. The RCAF involvement in the air campaign against ISIS will come to an end, but the Liberals plan to increase the number of trainers in Iraq (no specifics given yet) and will increase Canada's commitment to helping 25,000 Syrian refugees. Although no specif role for the CAF in the Syrian refugee crisis has been announced yet - the CAF can and will most likely play a role. 

The Liberals will restore funding for Canada’s four heavy urban search and rescue teams. Being able to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies like ice storms, floods, wildfires, and building collapses is in our national interest. In the past, Canada’s four heavy urban search and rescue teams have proven invaluable in keeping Canadians and communities safe.To protect Canadians, our oceans, and our coastal economies, they will also re-open the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s, and the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver. No specifics yet on a new FWSAR for the RCAF.

The Liberals also plan to be much better to Veterans, who also seem to have been in a "Decade of Darkness" under the Conservatives, and invest in new career opportunities in a new Veterans Education Benefit program, at a  cost of $80 million per year. 

There is a lot here - so now we can sit back and watch for the next 5 years and see how things go. The CAF should be in good hands.

Feel Free to let me know what you think? Comment here or on Twitter, @Avro_ArrowRL201