Saturday, January 30, 2016

1 Year Anniversary: CAF Dispatch Thank You!

How time truly flies! It was 1 year ago, January 30th 2015 that I started The Canadian Armed Forces Dispatch (formerly CAF Watch). [Well restarted really - my first attempts were using Microsoft's OneDrive]

In that year, I have amassed over 10,000 page views, and I have you (My Readers) to thank for that. The high amount of interest has fueled my desire to keep the page continuously up to date. This was my third attempt at a webpage for Canadian Forces News - and it seems it has finally succeeded.

In the past 365 days, I have posted, and re-posted 320 news stories. Many of these are laced with my personal opinion about the CAF, and many more have come thanks to David Pugliese, Michael Den Tandt, CAF Writers, and Defense News as well as others. To all those who I have re-posted; I thank you. Your professional reporting, as it has allowed me, as an amateur, to continue to power this webpage with constant updates. I always find joy when I seem to be the first to report on an Airstrike, or deployment before the regular news sources do.

This page was started a year ago with an article entitled, Canada in Iraq: Time to End Canada's Childish Military Debate. That article was only read 6 times; and the other 6 articles I posted that day, were read 55 times. A total of 61 page views on my first day! This seems small, but for a small page using Blogger, I was excited.

I find it truly interesting that this page was started with the debate about Canada's contribution in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, and a year later, it is now dealing with Canada's future contribution in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. A full year later - almost the same news.

The average daily readership reached between 50-100 readers; again, nothing big, but it keeps me going. My average article gets between 10-30 reads.

Over the past year, my top three articles have amassed 995 views at the time of this post being written. My two separate paged, dedicated to Project Resolve, and the Canadian Forces Deployment History, have gathered an additional 300+ page views.

So, if you will keep reading, I will keep posting.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Target ISIS Near Fallujah

In a press release on it's OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that on 28 January 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position northwest of Fallujah using precision guided munitions.

No further details were announced. 

Canadian Army Facing Serviceability Issues with Fleet

The Canadian Army continues to see limited serviceability rates due to its aging fleets, according to the newly released Department of National Defence Plans and Priorities report. “The Canadian Army assesses its major vehicle and equipment fleet serviceability at 60 percent,” the report pointed out.

According to DND, the Canadian Army tried to sell a number of its surplus Buffalo and Husky vesicles to help with increasing serviceability rates; but were unable to find any buyers. The Canadian Army also owns a third vehicle in the Expedient Route Opening Capability suite; the Cougar, but it has no plans on selling this model.

That issue covers its major vehicle and equipment holdings. “Until replacements fleets are fielded, and in order to minimize the impact on readiness, the Canadian Army is actively prioritizing the usage of its fleets,” the report stated.

Despite on-going issues with aging fleets and the availability of qualified technicians, the Royal Canadian Air Force achieved an overall fleet serviceability rate of 93 percent, the report noted. Parts availability remains a concern for certain fleets, as serviceability levels can only being achieved by taking parts from other aircraft, which increases maintenance requirements, it added.

The Canadian Army Buffalo 

The Buffalo’s extendable arm is stowed in the travelling position.
A Canadian Army Buffalo. Photo: Canadian Army
The Buffalo is the second vehicle in the Expedient Route Opening Capability suite of vehicles and equipment, which support the detection, investigation and disposal of buried improvised explosive devices (IED). IEDs became the weapon of choice against Canadian Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan.

The Expedient Route Opening Capability (EROC) Team is normally comprised of a section of engineers operating two Huskies, a Buffalo and a Cougar. The Husky is used to detect possible threats, the Buffalo is used to investigate what was detected, and the Cougar transports the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Operators and their vast array of tools. These vehicles are based on a proven design that offers a high level of crew protection against explosive blast and ballistic threats.

The Buffalo uses its extendable arm to physically expose the potential target for verification.

The Canadian Army Husky

The pronounced V-shape of the Husky’s hull is designed to deflect blasts from under the vehicle.
A Canadian Army Husky. Photo: Canadian Army
The Husky is the first vehicle in the Expedient Route Opening Capability suite of vehicles and equipment, which support the detection, investigation and disposal of buried improvised explosive devices (IED). IEDs became the weapon of choice against Canadian Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan.

The Expedient Route Opening Capability (EROC) Team is normally comprised of a section of engineers operating two Huskies, a Buffalo and a Cougar. The Husky is used to detect possible threats, the Buffalo is used to investigate what was detected, and the Cougar transports the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Operators and their vast array of tools. These vehicles are based on a proven design that offers a high level of crew protection against explosive blast and ballistic threats.

The Husky possesses a landmine overpass capacity and is mounted with a full-width metal detector and a ground penetrating radar (GPR).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dion: Canada Cannot Say 'Yes' to All Coalition Requests visa-vi ISIS

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:19AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 28, 2016 12:18PM EST

OTTAWA -- Canada will have to say no to some of the requests that its allies are making in the fight against Islamic extremists, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Thursday.

But the minister wouldn't say if some coalition members have asked Canada to keep its fighter jets in Iraq and Syria.

"We cannot say yes to everything," Dion said.

Dion was discussing Canada's future contribution to the mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at a major gathering of foreign affairs experts in Ottawa. He insisted the new Liberal contribution will be meaningful."When our plan will be out, it will not be all what our allies are asking us to do, but it will be pretty close of what they hope from us."

The Liberals plan to withdraw Canada's six CF-18 fighter jets from the US-led bombing coalition, which has sparked criticism from the Opposition Conservatives.

Dion will not say when the government will announce its new plan, but he says there would be no gap in Canada's contribution to the air war in the meantime.

"The plan is not out because the current plan is still there. There is no gap. We are still involved."

He also said he will travel to Rome next week for another major meeting of coalition partners.

Dion played down the fact that Canada was not invited to a recent coalition meeting led by the Americans. He such "ad hoc" meetings occur, but Canada is always fully briefed by the United States.

He said Canada is conducting two to three per cent of the coalition airstrikes and he said it is "doable" for the coalition to replace that contribution.

David Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Canadian warplanes may have been flying a relatively low percentage of bombing missions, but the contribution has been more meaningful than statistics would indicate.

"Canada's been flying a lot of the more difficult missions for quite some time and that will end."

UN Report Wants Ottawa to Cancel Saudi Vehicle Deal

Written by: Steven Chase, Globe and Mail 

A leaked United Nations report detailing human-rights violations by a Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaign in Yemen has spurred calls in Britain to suspend arms sales to Riyadh and is increasing pressure on the Canadian government to do the same.

A Canadian LAV III (light armoured vehicle) seen here in use in Afghanistan in this 2006 file photo.
A Canadian LAV III in Afghanistan in 2006. Globe and Mail file photo

The Trudeau government opened the door last week to halting a $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia when it issued a statement saying it reserves the right to do so if events warrant – a shift in message after weeks of framing the Canadian sale of combat vehicles as a done deal.

The UN report is raising fresh hopes among critics of Canada’s unprecedented arms deal with Saudi Arabia that Ottawa might finally be persuaded to suspend the sale of weaponized armoured vehicles to a country that already has an abysmal record on human rights. The office of Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

(The Saudi arms deal: A primer on what we've learned so far)

In a new report obtained by The Guardian, a UN panel investigating the bombing campaign in Yemen has found “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law – revelations that are prompting the Official Opposition in Westminster to urge an immediate inquiry and suspension of British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and Arab allies launched a military intervention in Yemen last year in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who was under threat from Houthi forces aligned with Iran.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Waterloo, Ont.-based Project Ploughshares, an anti-war group that tracks arms sales, said he believes the UN panel’s findings should galvanize Canada to act on the Saudi deal.

He noted the report documented “systematic targeting” of civilians in Yemen, rather than simply indiscriminate bombing.

“This report is further evidence of the Saudi regime’s utter disregard for human rights,” Mr. Jaramillo said.

“Is this not exactly the type of report that Mr. Dion’s office said it would consider to determine whether export permits should be suspended or cancelled?”

Last week, Mr. Dion’s office announced that while the Liberals had no intention of cancelling the deal, they would not ignore developments in Saudi Arabia and would “factor this information into consideration of future permits.” Permits for exports are time-limited and would need to be renewed over the life of Canada’s 14-year arms deal with Riyadh.

According to The Guardian, the new UN report attributes 60 per cent, or 2,682, of civilian deaths and injuries in Yemen to air-launched explosive weapons dropped by the Saudi-led coalition. “The coalition’s targeting of civilians through air strikes, either by bombing residential neighbourhoods or by treating the entire cities of Sa’dah and Maran as military targets, is a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. In certain cases, the panel found such violations to have been conducted in a widespread and systematic manner.”

The federal government has faced repeated requests to justify the shipment of weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for its atrocious treatment of women, dissidents and prisoners. The Liberals promised during the election campaign that they would revise Ottawa’s approach to international relations to improve this country’s reputation on the global stage, and marketed this change as “Canada’s back.”

Opposition parties on Wednesday intensified their demands for the Trudeau government to make public any study or report showing how the Saudi arms deal passes muster under Canada’s weapons export regime.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Tony Clement, whose government signed the Saudi arms deal, called on the Liberals to release those deliberations and said it’s up to the Liberals to determine if the justification for selling the armoured vehicles is still solid. “Clearly if circumstances have changed, the Government of Canada … should come clean to the Canadian people and we can have a discussion.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière urged likewise, saying the Liberals themselves were urging the release of this information when they were still in opposition.

The Saudi deal – the largest advanced manufacturing contract in Canadian history – is no ordinary transaction between a Canadian company and a foreign government.

In this deal, the Canadian government is the prime contractor, responsible for delivery of what are believed to be hundreds if not thousands of combat vehicles to the Saudi Arabian national guard. As The Globe and Mail first reported, LAVs sold to the Saudis will be equipped with anti-tank missile cannons and medium-calibre machine guns.

The former Harper government used its diplomatic resources to lobby the Saudis hard for this contract, and Ottawa is fronting the deal on behalf of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, a Canadian subsidiary of a major U.S. defence contractor.

The deal will support 3,000 Canadian jobs over 14 years, both in London, Ont., where the vehicles are assembled, as well as across the country.

The contract is currently in the material-procurement stage.

Before an export permit is issued, federal arms-control rules require Ottawa to ensure there is no risk that arms shipped to a country with a poor human-rights record could be used against civilians.

The Liberal government still refuses to release Ottawa’s deliberations on the matter, citing commercial confidentiality.

Follow Steven Chase on Twitter: @stevenchase

RCAF Targets ISIS Positions in Syria and Iraq

In a press release on it's OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that the RCAF was active over the skies of Syria and Iraq earlier this week. This marks just the fifth time RCAF CF-18s have targeted ISIS in Syria since March 2015, when the previous Conservative government expanded airstrikes into Syria. During this weeks airstrikes, the RCAF targeted three ISIS positions.

On 27 January 2016, while taking part in coalition operations, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS Improvised Explosive Device (IED) production factory East of Palmyra, Syria, using precision guided munitions.
26 Jan 2016

On 26 January 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position and an ISIS compound used as a staging area in an airstrike West of Fallujah using precision guided munitions.

An RCAF CC-150T Polaris refuels an RAF Tornado over Iraq, as part of OP IMPACT, January 26, 2016.

CAF Reservist Shortfall

In the Ottawa Citizen this week, the CAF is experiencing a short fall, both in regular forces, and an even larger Reservist shortfall.

Here is the article written by David Pugliese, Defence Watch

Reserve Members from Montreal Territorial Battalion Group participate in winter warfare training in Laval, Quebec during Exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE on January 23, 2016. Photo: CAF Combat Camera SJ03-2016-0015-07
The Department of National Defence’s Plans and Priorities report highlighted major issues with the Canadian Forces Reserves. The latest figures indicate a shortfall of 5,293 reservists. The total reserve strength is now 21,707.

Why has this happened?

Here is what the report states:

“The Reserve Force is a unique and valued component of the CAF. The Primary Reserve is currently below the Government of Canada-directed average paid strength due to a higher than forecasted attrition and challenges in meeting recruiting quotas. Mitigating actions are underway to improve recruiting success and to reduce voluntary attrition in order to re-establish and expand the Primary Reserve’s strength by 1,500 to a Government-authorized 28,500 personnel.”

“In addition, the CAF Regular Force recruiting plan includes the annual component transfer of 800 personnel from the Primary Reserve. Institutionally, a major review of Primary Reserve requirements will continue so as to ensure the allocation and employment of personnel is consistent with Defence priorities, is sustainable and remains within Government of Canada direction.”

The report also points to the percentage of reserve personnel occupations considered “manageable or healthy.” The target that the Canadian Forces was striving for in this regard was between 91 to 100 per cent. The actual number reached was 59 per cent, according to the report.

How is the DND/CF going to deal with this issue? Here is DND’s view from the report:

“For the Canadian Army Reserve, there is currently some geographic disparity in the number of soldiers unavailable to fulfill the requirements of the service. As a result, the Canadian Army will initiate a Regeneration Plan to determine the cause of personnel pressures linked to attrition and retention, with a view to producing actionable recommendations.

Overall the RCAF Air Reserve manning is at about 84 percent of its desired strength, which depicts a fairly healthy Air Reserve Force at this time, however the challenges to growth include higher than anticipated attrition rates, an aging population, and current recruiting processes. Mitigation strategies in place to help meet desired strength levels include dedicating an Air Reserve Chief Warrant Officer to address recruiting issues at the higher levels, as well as the development of alternative attraction and retention strategies, tailored by region where necessary.

By the close of year, 33 percent of RCN Naval Reserve classifications were considered healthy and meeting the established Reserve Manning Requirement (RMR). In light of the ongoing DND and CAF initiative to redefine the role of a strategic reserve coupled with the RCN review of the Naval Reserve occupational structure, a conscientious decision was made to target the sustainment of its current manning level as opposed to trying to achieve full RMR. For the 2014-15 recruiting period, the RCN achieved 75 percent of the initial established recruitment goal.”

Those who have been keeping an eye on the situation have raised a number of concerns that they believe led to the shortfall.

Retired colonel John Selkirk of the group Reserves 2000, which lobbies on behalf of reservists, told the Canadian Press that the problem has been building for years. He blamed the Conservative government’s cutting of reserve training budgets and an ineffective recruiting system that is geared towards bringing former full-time military personnel into the reserves. In addition, a change in how reservist trades are selected contributed to the problem, he added.

“Is it any wonder the militia is under strength? Not at all,” Selkirk told Canadian Press.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

HMCS Summerside and Moncton Leave for OP CARIBBE

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Summerside and Moncton will leave Halifax for Operation CARIBBE on Wednesday.

The deployment of HMC Ships Moncton and Summerside marks the beginning of several naval and air deployments scheduled for 2016 in support of Operation CARIBBE, according to the Royal Canadian Navy. Operation CARIBBE 2016 is Canada’s 10th year of contribution to Operation MARTILLO, the multinational campaign against transnational criminal organizations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean.

Royal Canadian Navy ships deployed a total of 10 times and sailed for a total of 344 days in support of Op CARIBBE 2015, according to RCN.

During that time, HMC Ships Brandon and Whitehorse seized more narcotics during a 44-day deployment last fall than any other duo of Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels during the Operation’s history, with a combined total of approximately 9,800 kilograms, the navy noted.

Future of RCN in Question With Defence Review

By: Marie-Danielle Smith
Published: Wednesday, 01/27/2016 12:00 am EST

An upcoming defence review will necessitate a hard look at what capabilities the Canadian military wants to maintain or develop in the future.

More Related To This Story (From Embassy News)

For the Royal Canadian Navy, which is arguably facing the biggest capability gap in the Canadian Armed Forces, current and former officials agree this could result in a major culture shift.

The question boils down to this: will the navy maintain a significant international presence in the future, or will it turn most of its focus inwards, to maintaining sovereignty in Canadian waters?

With a change in government and leadership changes at the top of the Canadian Armed Forces—including a naval command shift coming this summer—Vice-Adm. (Ret'd) Ron Buck, a former commander of the navy and vice chief of the defence staff, said in an interview that there’s an opportunity to start making decisions more cohesively.

And David Perry, a senior analyst for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he thinks the 2016 defence review will be an educational opportunity for cabinet ministers who might not know much about the navy to begin with.

“My guess is there’s not a lot of people in cabinet that have a fulsome understanding yet of what it is the navy currently does,” he told Embassy.

'Self-image' of force could shift

“The ability to go anywhere in Canadian waters to demonstrate sovereignty is a critical one,” retired Lt.-Gen. Michael Day told Embassy in a recent interview.

“Canada has the longest coastline in the world, or one of the longest in the world if you count the Arctic. Those are our sovereign waters. Do you want the capability to know what’s going on in those waters...and to be able to do something about it?” added Vice-Adm. Buck.

“To be blunt, I think it would be very difficult for any government of any stripe to say, ‘no, we don’t care, we’ll let somebody else do it.’”

Beyond these basic necessities, though, things get tricky.

Up until recently, the navy was Canada’s go-to service when something happened internationally, Mr. Perry said.

A Canadian frigate has typically been deployed near conflict zones or areas of instability—in the last few years, that’s meant off the coast of Libya or close to the Baltic countries. It “reassures our allies,” Mr. Perry said, to have a “dedicated military asset which has a number of different capabilities,” from surveillance to deploying humanitarian aid or sending out a helicopter detachment.

But going a step further, to give Canada a place of “relative prominence” within a naval coalition, the navy needs to be able to form “task groups” of three or four ships, with anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities. These groups give Canada international clout, said a defence official speaking on background.

But readiness has dropped, the official said. Destroyers and supply vessels have been retired. While Canada's fleet of Halifax-class frigates are expected to last until the 2030s, possibly into the 2040s, with refit programs, after which new Canadian Surface Combatants are expected to take over, long expensive defence procurements like these have a habit of slipping. The fear is that replacements might not arrive, or not enough would be built.

From a political perspective, the government might be satisfied to let go of the naval task group capability, meaning that it would retain a more modest ability to participate overseas.

“If we showed up with only one modern ship, that might satisfy the politicos, as they can argue that we’re doing our bit,” the official added. Domestic capabilities, in that case, could be prioritized. “The self-image of the force would shift from a combat-capable organization with global reach to a regionally-focused force that can provide a very modest presence in a single crisis area."

Procurements need to be more than 'public relations exercise'

The previous government’s major thrust towards generating naval capability, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, was announced in 2011 and aims to maintain shipbuilding capabilities in Vancouver and Halifax. Some ships are already being built, among them six Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships.

Vice-Adm. Buck, while suggesting the "fundamental concept" of the NSPS is solid, said the issue was understanding the financial premium Canada is paying for trying to build the ships at home. The premium is paid in exchange for sovereignty, he said—not relying on outside suppliers—as well as industrial capabilities.

The drawback? Costs inevitably spiral up, up, up.

A recent example surrounds the Canadian Surface Combatants, a procurement project touted as the largest in Canada’s history. The government awarded the prime contractor designation to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, but Irving had already won the "umbrella" contract in 2011 to build new combat ships like the CSCs. The government had reserved the right not to award the two contracts to the same company, but then chose not to exercise that right, leading to criticism that it had sole-sourced the contract.

On top of that, the project has already faced delays, and costs are indeed skyrocketing. Though $14 billion of a $26.2-billion budget was initially devoted to building 15 new warships, independent firms predicted they would really cost more than $30 billion, CBC reported in December.

It’s the surface combatant project that, of the projects under the NSPS portfolio, is most likely to be revisited by the Liberal government, Mr. Perry suggested.

Capabilities are a 'Rubik's cube'

The defence official accused successive governments of procrastinating on naval capability to the point where everything is now happening at the same time, saying, “government is given to benign neglect because it doesn’t perceive the navy’s utility.”

“There has always been tension between various capabilities under the defence portfolio,” Mr. Buck said—the army, the navy and the air force can’t all be fully satisfied. “There’s never going to be enough money to do everything everybody wants. So it’s always going to be a compromise.”

In a report titled Smart Defence, University of British Columbia political science professor Michael Byers argued that Canada’s submarine program should be cancelled, calling them a “misadventure from the outset” and saying they weren’t useful enough to justify their cost.

Mr. Perry said he thinks that would be a mistake. The submarine fleet is “extremely relevant,” he said. Given the sightings of Russian submarines in Northern European waters, he said he would be “thoroughly unsurprised” to find similar activities were being conducted in Canadian waters.

“If that’s the case, then having a submarine of our own provides the most effective way of countering that potential activity,” he said, adding that Asian countries have been ramping up their submarine capabilities. Canada shouldn’t be left behind when so many other countries are developing this capability, Mr. Perry argued.

The defence official told Embassy that the navy would “dearly wish” to keep the submarine capability, even though it would be pricey.

“A replacement project would have to overcome biases within and without DND against a vessel that, by its very nature, operates in the shadows. Out of sight could mean out of mind at budget time,” the official said.

The Liberals have promised to maintain defence spending, including a three per cent budget escalator mandated by the Conservatives in their 2015 budget, but made no commitments to increase it. The defence review promised by minister Harjit Sajjan will initiate a “difficult conversation” about what the military should prioritize, and every decision will have repercussions on the rest of the force structure, Mr. Buck said.

“It’s a Rubik’s cube. Everything is interrelated.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Canada in Iraq: Sajjan - Government will Vote on New Iraq Mission

By: Tim Naumetz, The Hill Times 

The Liberal government will bring a decision on renewing and changing Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State combatants in Iraq to the House of Commons for a vote, says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

“We promised to be an open and transparent government. We will be discussing it in Cabinet, and we will be bringing it to the House as well,” Mr. Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) told The Hill Times Monday in response to questions as the March 30, 2016, expiry date approaches for a year-long extension to the Iraq mission by the previous Conservative government.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his Cabinet have indicated the government intends to continue Canada’s role in a U.S.-led military campaign against ISIL, Mr. Trudeau as late as last week signaled the government will stick to a Liberal election promise that it would withdraw six Canadian CF-18 fighter bombers that have been part of air-strike operations along with the U.S. and 11 other countries.

Despite Mr. Sajjan’s statement, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) continued to criticize Mr. Trudeau and his government over the time that has passed with no change to Canada’s Iraq mission since the Liberals took office last Nov. 4.

Air strikes by Canada's CF-18s have continued, while operations by Canadian Special Forces soldiers attached to Iraqi security forces also continue.

"Mr. Trudeau made a crystal clear commitment to withdraw Canada's CF-18s from the bombing mission. Instead of making good on that promise, the bombings increased and then his Defence minister mused about extending the mission without consulting with Parliament,” Mr. Mulcair said Monday.

“The Liberal government must bring any change to the mission before Parliament and finally come clean with their plans for our military. It is unacceptable to have this much confusion when it comes to our troops in combat,” he said through his top media aide, George Smith.

The motion passed on March 30, 2015 stated that the Commons supported the previous Conservative government’s decision to extend the mission, which the Conservatives first approved for a six-month period in October, 2014, to “a date not beyond March 30, 2016.”

The motion also stated that the House of Commons “continues to support the government's decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists aligned with ISIL, including air strike capability with authorisation to conduct airstrikes in Iraq and Syria."

Canadian CF-18s took part in only four air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria up to last July and have not conducted air strikes in Syria since then, but the wording of the March 30, 2015, motion suggests withdrawal of the CF-18s by this coming March 30 would have to be included in a new motion, as well as continuance of Canadian refuelling, surveillance and cargo aircraft in the mission.

As well, considering the Liberal commitment to Parliamentary reform and consultation with Parliament, any increase in the number of Canadian Special Operations Regiment soldiers as advisers and trainers for Kurdish Peshmerga Iraqi security forces would likely also be included in the motion.

Mr. Trudeau reiterated the Liberal CF-18 withdrawal plans at the World Economy Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

“We are committed to withdrawing our six CF-18 fighter jets and looking for another way to continue in the efforts against these global terrorists,” he said.

Relatives of six Canadians who were killed in an Al Qaeda terrorist attack in Burkina Faso last week—all from Quebec and four from the same family—called on the government to maintain Canada’s role in the bombing campaigns.

Mr. Sajjan suggested Monday the Canadian mission could continue as it is until the March 30 deadline, as Mr. Trudeau and his Cabinet map out the new Canadian contribution.

“We do need to look at how we're going to evolve in terms of the next, you know, what the next year may look like or even beyond that, and this is where it's extremely important,” Mr. Sajjan told reporters outside the Commons after Question Period.

He said Canada’s new mission has to be “synchronized” approach involving several departments. “The decision will be coming soon,” he said.
The Hill Times

Canada in Iraq: What Role Will CAF Play?

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

RCAF personnel and Canadian special forces have played the key roles for Canada’s Iraq mission so far.

But there are reports that the Liberal government could be looking at a deployment of up to 300 military personnel to conduct training.

If they proceed with that number there could be a role for the regular Canadian Army to play in Iraq.

A Canadian Army deployment would dovetail into some of the Liberal government’s messaging on the future mission. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have repeatedly used the example of the Canadian Army in Afghanistan to explain that Canada has specialized expertise in training foreign forces.

There had been an earlier view that the Canadian Army could take too long to get its training personnel into position. But if larger numbers are required, then the government might not have a choice as special forces tends to provide its capabilities in smaller numbers/training packages.

Australia’s contribution could provide Canada with a template. Australia has both special forces and regular Army in Iraq. A combined training force, known as Task Group Taji, consists of around 300 Australian soldiers and 110 New Zealand soldiers. The photo below shows those troops conducting training (photo courtesy of ADF).

A further 20 Australian Defence Force personnel serve within coalition headquarters in Iraq (another option for Canada)

In addition, Iraq’s prime minister has asked the U.S. for more police to help conduct training of the country’s police.

That too could factor into the Liberal government’s plan. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has already acknowledged that Italy has requested Canadian help in training Kurdish police.

When will a decision on the new mission be made and announced? That was the question journalists tried to get Sajjan to answer Monday, without luck.

“The decision will be coming soon,” Sajjan said.

“Which means?,” asked a reporter.

Sajjan didn’t answer.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cabinet Close to Decision on Canada's Role in Middle East

By: Mark Kennedy, Ottawa Citizen, 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Sunday the federal government is close to deciding how Canada will play a role in the mission in the Middle East against the Islamic State Iraq and the Levant.

Sajjan made the comments to reporters as MPs geared up for their return to Parliament on Monday. The governing Liberals promised during the election campaign to bring home the six CF-18 military jets dropping bombs on ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria.

That combat mission, ordered by the previous Conservative government, was scheduled to end in March, but the Liberals have not pulled back the planes yet or even definitely indicated if they will do so before March.

Conservative critics say Canada is losing influence with its western military allies because of its plan to pull out of the combat air sorties; the NDP is critical of the Liberals for delaying their promise.

Sajjan said the government doesn’t want to rush a decision on the complex matter and that he is close to bringing a thorough plan to cabinet to approve.

“I think Canadians deserve to know,” he said of the government’s plan. “But also, Canadians expect us to be very responsible in making sure that we do an absolutely thorough assessment.

“The last thing we want to be doing is making any type of knee-jerk reaction decisions just for the sake of getting an answer out.”

Sajjan said he has been working with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and other ministers on the plan.

“Because this is not just strictly a military issue. It’s political, it’s development, it’s humanitarian. And that’s why we want to make sure we take the time to have proper consultation.”

“We’re being very responsible. We’re working very closely — from the minister level in discussions all the way through our staff in making sure that we have a good synergy. We’re working out the few details right now and we’ll be taking it to cabinet very shortly.”

Sajjan said an announcement will be made “soon” about the timing of the CF-18 pullout from the region.

He stressed: “The air strikes will be ending. But it will be done in a responsible manner.”

It’s expected the Liberals will increase the number of Canadian troops training local forces in Iraq, possibly keep some surveillance planes in the air, and enhance the country’s humanitarian assistance in the region.

“We want to do a proper assessment. When you send the treasure of Canada — which is our men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces — into harm’s way, we have to be (acting) in a responsible manner.”

He downplayed a meeting in Paris last week in which Canada was not at the table as his counterparts from seven countries discussed the fight against ISIS.

Defence ministers from the United States, France, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Britain planned the next steps in the war against ISIS.

Some have suggested the alliance is unhappy with Canada’s plan to pull out the CF-18 jets.

But Sajjan said he has had “deep discussions” with his counterparts, has already visited the Middle East twice since becoming minister and will be at a forthcoming meeting of NATO ministers.

CAF Special Forces to Train Senegalese and Niger Spec. Forces

By David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

As many as 100 soldiers, most of them special forces from Petawawa, will be heading to Senegal to conduct counter-terrorism training for African commandos.

The training comes in the aftermath of the killings of six Canadians in Burkina Faso and as western nations try to shore up African militaries to battle Islamic extremists.

Maj. Steve Hawken, a spokesman for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, said the military personnel are taking part in Exercise Flintlock, an annual “counter-terrorism capacity building” event that provides troops from African nations with a variety of skills.

Those range from shooting to communications, mission planning and to first aid, and providing medical aid and support to civilian populations.

More than 1,700 military personnel from a variety of western and African nations are expected to participate in the U.S.-led Exercise Flintlock.

Canada’s participation was set up before the Burkina Faso attack, but military officers have noted that the exercise is taking on greater importance as al-Qaida and other extremist groups try to expand their influence in Africa.

Twenty-eight people died and 54 were injured when gunmen linked to al-Qaida seized hostages at a hotel and attacked a nearby café in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital city, on Jan. 15.

Among the dead at the hotel were six Quebecers, including a family of four.

Special forces from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Canada, Tunisia, Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States have taken part in previous Flintlock exercises. It is unclear at this point which countries will be attending this year.

Hawken said members of the RCAF, Canadian Forces medical staff, and special forces will be taking part. They will be working with troops from Niger, he added.

Flintlock is scheduled to start Feb. 8 and run until near the end of that month.

Last year Canadian special forces involved in Flintlock training were pulled out of a town in Niger after a battle broke out between government forces there and Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group.

The Canadians were training with Niger soldiers on the outskirts of the town of Diffa when members of the jihadist group launched attacks in the centre of the municipality. The Canadians were not involved in combat.

Canada’s involvement in Exercise Flintlock has continued to grow over the years. It first contributed 14 soldiers from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, based in Petawawa, to Flintlock in 2011. Those troops trained members of Mali’s military in Senegal that year.

The Flintlock exercises are co-ordinated by the U.S. Africa Command.

A small number of troops from that command supported Burkina Faso’s military in dealing with the recent al-Qaida attack in Ouagadougou. U.S. troops were primarily advising and providing information to the response forces from Burkina Faso as well as to the French military as they dealt with the siege at the hotel, according to an Africa Command spokesman.

Burkina Faso soldiers and French special forces ended the attack after storming the luxury Spendid Hotel. They killed the gunmen and freed at least 126 hostages.

Al-Qaida’s North Africa affiliate, known as AQIM, claimed responsibility for the attack.

AQIM traces its roots to Islamic insurgents fighting the Algerian government. The insurgents have since become associated with al-Qaida and have branched out to conduct attacks in other countries in the region, as well as kidnapping westerners.

Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay were held by AQIM after they were kidnapped in December 2008. They were released 130 days later amid claims by government officials in Mali that four AQIM detainees were set free in return.

AQIM helps finance its operations through kidnappings and weapons and drug smuggling.

R22eR Van Doos Perform in Brazilian jungle heat at UNITAS 2015

DND Press Release: Article / January 22, 2016 / Project number: 15-0186
By Lynn Capuano and Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Canadian soldiers from 2nd Canadian Division proved they can perform not only in the hot and cold extremes of Canada but also excel in steaming Brazilian jungle conditions during an annual U.S.-led allied sea exercise in South America.

The Canadian Army doesn’t have a specialized amphibious force and comes from a country more closely associated with extreme cold than heat. Nonetheless, 47 members of Compagnie B, 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment (2 R22eR) more than held their own during exercise UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS, which took place in Brazil from November 14 to 25, 2015.

Soldiers and Marines climb on board a Boeing VH-22 Osprey.
Members of the R22eR Van Doos board a VH-22 Osprey next to their U.S. Marines counterparts during the South American exercise UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS in Brazil (November 2015) ©2015 DND-MDN Canada.
“We were able to demonstrate that we, while small, are a force to be reckoned with. We are very well trained, very well experienced. Canada doesn’t have a Marine Corps, so anytime there’s an amphibious operation that requires Canadians, we send in the Army to do the job. We have the versatility,” said Captain Ken Wang of 2 R22eR, who commanded a Canadian infantry platoon. “So we demonstrated that, even though we’re not Marines, as Army infantry soldiers we have the ability to operate at their level.”

“We were able to demonstrate that we, while small, are a force to be reckoned with. We are very well trained, very well experienced. Canada doesn’t have a Marine Corps, so anytime there’s an amphibious operation that requires Canadians, we send in the Army to do the job.”

Captain Ken Wang, 2 R22eR

UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS 2015 involved U.S. Marines and armed forces representatives from Canada and six Latin American countries: Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Columbia and Peru.

“UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS is a multi-national exercise designed to increase interoperability in amphibious operations between participating countries,” said Canadian Contingent Commander Major Rodrigo DeCastro. “This year, the Canadian participation allowed for a professional development opportunity at the tactical level and in the various headquarters.”

Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, Commander of the Canadian Army, said multinational exercises like UNITAS are about more than just preparing for combat. He noted that by helping to build the capacity of regional institutions, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contributes to the security of the Americas, advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“Joint military exercises offer valuable opportunities for the CAF to practice working together with our partners in the Americas in areas such as counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and efforts to counter illicit trafficking,” noted LGen Hainse.

The exercise scenario revolved around an amphibious landing using the Americans’ remarkable V-22 Osprey, which is half-helicopter, half-airplane. With its tilting front rotors up, the hybrid combat aircraft takes off, hovers and lands like a helicopter. With the rotors tilted down, it has the speed and range of a fixed-wing airplane.

“Overall for Canada, it’s a chance to participate in an exercise with foreign nations from the Americas and exchange best practices when it comes to amphibious operations,” Capt Wang explained. “We’re talking about leaving the ship and landing so that doesn’t necessarily always mean boats, but also aircraft such as, in the case of this particular exercise, the Osprey.”

Before moving out to the field, Capt Wang said, the participants spent three days in an “academic phase” indoors to share their different practices and get familiar with the Osprey and other vehicles involved.

Once in the field, he added, his troops upheld Canada’s reputation for punching above its weight.

The Canadians, along with a group of U.S. Marines, were transported by Osprey to a small island southwest of Rio de Janeiro and tasked with securing and defending an airstrip from a fictional enemy force. While the temperature contrast, which at times exceeded 40°C, between 2 R22eR’s home base of Quebec City in November and the humid Brazilian jungle was stark, Capt Wang said his troops, many with combat experience from the Afghanistan mission, acquitted themselves well.

“There was a day where it was really hot,” he said. “We were holding a defensive position under the sun, the humidity – and that’s where some guys collapsed from the heat. The Canadians, we held on and we worked pretty well. It all comes down to training and grit, I guess and it’s one of those things Canada can pride itself on. We have very well-trained soldiers, well-seasoned.”

Maj DeCastro added that this year’s UNITAS exercise was unique in his experience in that it was the first with four languages in play: English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Canada’s participation was also a success in terms of communications, he said. Maj DeCastro is himself tri-lingual, fluent in English, French and Portuguese.

“I think we clearly demonstrated the strength of our multilingual army and our ability to operate in a multinational context. In terms of performance on the ground, the soldiers of the R22eR held their own, serving as willing mentors and mentees.”