Friday, November 20, 2015

Canada and Iraq: RCAF strikes ISIS Weapons Facility in Mosul

The coalition airstrikes continue against ISIS. The coalition has stepped up the consistency of airstrikes against numerous ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria following the attacks in Paris one week ago.

Late yesterday DND released the following information regarding Canada's latest contribution to the fight.

On 19 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes to increase Iraqi security forces' freedom of movement in the region, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS weapons production facility in the vicinity of Mosul using precision guided munitions.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Canada and Iraq: Canadians Prefer Bombing to Training in Fight against ISIS

By: Mainstreet Polling 

November 19, 2015 (Toronto, ON) – A new national Mainstreet/Postmedia poll finds Canadians would choose a bombing mission over a training mission 38% to 28% – but more approve of the training mission, 70%, than the bombing mission, 60%, overall. The Mainstreet/Postmedia poll has a margin of error of +/- 1.88 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“Support is more intense for the bombing mission than the training mission,” said Quito Maggi, President of Mainstreet Research. “But the training mission has wider support. Either way, most Canadians believe Canada should be taking a role in the fight against ISIS. Only 8% of Canadians would support no action at all.”

Opinion is split on Canadian action on refugees. 46% of Canadians are dissatisfied (42% satisfied) and 53% disapprove of the government’s plan to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year.

“Conservatives have said the refugee plan needs to be slowed down for proper security screening,” continued Maggi. “This has been repeated in the United States with headlines showing some states won’t accept refugees. Our earlier polling showed strong support for bringing refugees to Canada but after the attacks in Paris security is now a higher concern.”

“We asked Canadians if they thought an attack was likely here at home, 28% said it’s very likely and 38%. Most expect the threat will come from overseas, 41% see international terrorism as a greater threat than domestic terrorism, 34%, despite the fact Canada has faced significantly more domestic terrorist attacks.”

“Most, 63%, are not concerned about an attack occurring at their home or workplace. And 42% of Canadians do not believe Canada is ready to confront a terrorist attack, while 26% do, and 32% don’t know,” finished Maggi.

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strikes 3 ISIS Positions Near Kirkurk and Mosul

As the coalition air campaign amps up its attacks on ISIS position in the wake of the Paris attacks last Friday, the RCAF is continuing to play its part.

Under the watchful eye of a new commander, Brigadier General Irving, on 18 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces offensive operations, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck three separate ISIS fighting positions, one south of Kirkuk and two others northwest of Mosul, using precision guided munitions.
4 February 2015 - Two CF-18 Hornets escort a CC-150 Polaris after being refueled during Operation IMPACT on February 4, 2015. (Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
Two RCAF CF-18's escort a CC-150 Polaris over Iraq in February 2015. Photo: CAF Combat Camera 
The RCAF broke news of these recent strikes around the same time that French Officials confirmed the death of  Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks. French officials confirmed that he died in the violet shootout between police and ISIS extremists in Saint-Denis on Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Air Task Force Iraq gets new Commander

Written by David Pugliese 

Brigadier-General James Irvine assumed command of Joint Task Force-Iraq (JTF-I) from Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon yesterday as part of a previously planned rotation for Operation IMPACT, the Canadian Forces announced.

Brigadier-General Irvine commands approximately 600 Canadian Forces personnel deployed on the Iraq/Syria mission.

JTF-I includes Air Task Force-Iraq (ATF-I) as well as planning teams and liaison officers working within the U.S.-led coalition.

Brigadier-General Irvine, a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora pilot, has served in command roles at the crew, flight, detachment, squadron, and wing levels, including as Commanding Officer of 405 “Pathfinder” Squadron during Operation ATHENA in Afghanistan, according to a statement from the Canadian Forces. He recently served as Director of Plans at the Canadian Joint Operations Command. Brigadier-General Irvine was promoted to his current rank on October 19 of this year.

In addition, following a ceremony on October 19, at Camp Patrice Vincent in Kuwait, Colonel Shayne Elder assumed command of Air Task Force-Iraq (ATF-I) from Colonel Sean Boyle.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Canada and Iraq: Expansion of Training Mission (Video)

Prime Minister addressed the Media on his plane to Manila with regards to his plans on Canada's future contribution to the fight against ISIS.

Canada will expand it's training of local forces in Iraq. No specific details we released, however, he said it will be more than the current 69 Special Forces, and it will not be a short engagement.

Canada is committed to the fight against ISIS - just not from the Air. The air campaign will end before the current mandate expires at the end of March 2016.

Canadian Killed fighting ISIS to be repatriated Thursday

Published by CTVnews

The body of John Gallagher, a Canadian soldier who was killed while fighting Islamic State militants in Syria, will be flown back to Canada this week.

Gallagher's mother, Valerie Carder, told that her son's body is set to arrive in Montreal on Thursday morning. She said the flight between Montreal and Toronto is not yet booked.

“The amount of time he will spend in Montreal depends on paperwork and things that are required officially," Carder said in a Facebook message on Tuesday. "Hopefully, he will get to Toronto fairly soon after that."
Facebook Photo of John Gallagher.
"You are encouraged to line the bridges and streets were safely possible, wave your flags and bring any messages of support that you may have for the family," the group wrote on its website.Meanwhile, the Canadian Heroes Foundation, a group that supports front-line responders, is encouraging Canadians to welcome Gallagher home by lining Hwy. 401 between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Blenheim, Ont., which is located about 100 kilometers west of London, Ont.

The Ontario Provincial Police told earlier on Tuesday that the police service will not be involved with the convoy.

Gallagher, 32, was killed in Syria earlier this month while fighting with a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia known as the YPG.

Shortly after his death, Carder said Canadian diplomats were working with the YPG to bring his body home.

Gallagher had once served in Bosnia under the Canadian Armed Forces. He left the military in 2005.

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strikes 3 ISIS Positions near Ramadi

Written by The Associated Press

Two Canadian fighter jets successfully struck three Islamic State fighting positions near the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Tuesday, according to the Department of Defence.

The CF-18 Hornets struck the ISIS positions with precision-guided munitions during two separate airstrikes, the department said in a statement.

The Canadian aircraft are part taking part in the U.S.-led coalition campaign against ISIS. The airstrikes are being conducted in support of Iraqi security forces. 
A Royal Canadian Air Force Air Weapon Systems Technician, deployed as part of Air Task Force – Iraq, prepares munitions for loading to a CF-188 Hornet, at the Camp Patrice Vincent flight line in Kuwait, during Operation IMPACT on August 1, 2015. Photo: CAF Combat Camera - OP IMPACT KW02-2015-0163-001
Tuesday's airstrikes are the second round involving Canadian jets since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people and wounded at least 350 others. ISIS has claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks in the French capital. The extremist group also claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Beirut, which killed 43 people the day before.

After the terror attacks, many questioned whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would keep his election campaign promise to withdraw the jets before the end of the government’s previously set commitment of March 2016.

Trudeau reiterated his position on Monday, stating that Canada will focus its efforts on training local troops to fight ISIS, instead of continuing to participate in the air campaign. He added that Canada will increase the number of special trainers it has in Iraq, up from the current number of 69.

The prime minister's announcement came as French President Francois Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to ramp up the assault against ISIS.

On Monday, Hollande spoke during a special session of Parliament, where he said the country was at war.

During the speech, he asked French lawmakers to vote on a bill extending the state of emergency for three months, and asked for changes to the constitution to help "destroy terrorism."

France has launched more airstrikes in the wake of the violence that rippled across Paris last Friday. Hollande said Monday that he would be meeting with Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month to discuss how to combat ISIS.

Meanwhile, Obama acknowledged Monday that the attacks in Paris represented a "sickening setback," but said he won't commit to a large-scale presence of U.S. troops on the ground. He said sending in a large military presence would result in a permanent occupation in Syria and Iraq.

Currently, Canada has contributed six CF-18 Hornet fighter jets, two Aurora surveillance planes and approximately 600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel to the coalition.

Canada in Iraq: CF-18's to be Withdrawn by March 2016

For the first time since being elected on October 20th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally put a rough timeline on the end of Air Task Force Iraq - saying yesterday that he will recall the CF-18 fighter jets before the current mandate ends at the end of March 2016.

Despite some pressure from G20 members on how the group can ramp-up pressure on ISIS, Trudeau is sticking to his election promise to withdraw from the air campaign. Trudeau believes that Canada can play a more important role in the fight against ISIS. Trudeau has called for an expanded role in training the Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq.

This is the first time the Prime Minister has set a timeline for bringing home the jet fighters. The end of March, 2016, is when a parliamentary motion on the ISIS mission which was passed by the former Conservative government expires, leaving as much as 4 1/2 months for the Canadian Armed Forces to prepare for the warplanes’ exit.

The Kurdish peshmerga troops, however, who are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq and are Canada’s main partners in the region, are now appealing to the Trudeau government for weapons and equipment.

“We hope that Canada will continue to play an important part in the coalition against [IS] and will provide weapons and training,” Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan Regional Government representative to the United States, said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

“The peshmerga are not equipped like a modern army and need everything, from basic tactical equipment to ammunition and arms to heavy assault vehicles. Weapons systems like the MILAN rocket have saved countless peshmerga lives. Battlefield medical kits, helmets, winter tactical gear, night-vision binoculars are in great need. Armoured vehicles are also critical to protecting Kurdish forces as we take the fight to [IS]. We also need medical training for frontline peshmerga and mine-clearance and counter-IED equipment.” 

Despite Trudeau's stance on the air campaign, he did take part in a closed door session of the G20 meeting Sunday, that went well past midnight local time. The United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China were all part of the meeting on how to respond to ISIS. Many from around the world are calling for increased military efforts in the wake of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. 

Trudeau said to the media, no one asked him to reconsider his pledge to withdraw from the air campaign. 

France’s ambassador to Canada, Nicolas Chapuis, insists his country is not critical of Mr. Trudeau’s plan to withdraw CF-18s, noting that the Prime Minister is emphasizing Canada will remain committed to the effort against Islamic State through other means. Mr. Chapuis said other contributions, not just airstrikes, are welcome.

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√© 

Canada in Iraq: CF-18's Strike ISIS after Paris Attack

In the wake of the Paris attacks, where 129 people have been confirmed killed, and more than 300 injured, the US-led Coalition carried out a number of airstrikes against ISIS, and I am proud to report Canadian CF-18s played a part in these strikes (although a relatively small part)

According to a release from DND, On 15 November, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces offensive operations, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position southeast of Haditha, Iraq using precision guided munitions.

An RCAF CF-18 takes off from its airbase in Kuwait, heading on a mission over Iraq. Photo: CAF Combat Camera