Friday, February 12, 2016

$26B Canadian Surface Combatant Program Under Review

Written by: JOHN IVISON, Ottawa Citizen
Published in the Friday February 12, 2016 Edition

The multibillion-dollar solesource deal to build a fleet of warships for the Royal Canadian Navy is being reviewed by a newly formed Cabinet committee set up to take a closer look at controversial defence procurement contracts.

Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax was awarded the build contract as part of Canada’s largest-ever defence procurement project, the $26-billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) program.

A concept design of the Canadian Surface Combatant from BMT Fleet Technology
Irving was also named as the prime contractor on the design phase. That role allows Irving a say in designating subcontractors for the project, and awards Irving a cut of their payment — which could be even more lucrative than building the ship hulls, since up to 70 per cent of the cost of the vessels derives from the complex combat systems that will be installed on them.

That role as prime contractor is now “under active discussion,” said a senior industry source.

Irving’s appointment as prime contractor was greeted with shock in the industry. Since the contract was awarded without being put out to tender, accusations followed that the taxpayer might have received a better deal had competing bids been received.

The Conservatives justified handing Irving the work without a tender on the basis that it would save money having one contractor instead of two (one for the build, one for design), each charging a percentage fee on every dollar spent.

Government and industry sources say Irving put out calls last fall for information and data from pre-qualified defence companies interested in bidding on the design and combat systems integration phase of the project.

However, that process stopped “dead in its tracks” after the new Liberal government indicated its plans for a new ad hoc Cabinet committee, chaired by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, to review key projects including the warship program and the plan to replace the CF-18 fighter jets.

Sources said the choice of Irving’s Halifax yard as the construction site for the combat vessels is not in question. Justin Trudeau promised as much during the election. “We will be able to guarantee the delivery of current procurements for the navy, we will keep those promises for the Halifax shipyards,” he said in September.

As Postmedia reported last month, Public Services and Procurement Canada has confirmed that no contract has been signed between the government and Irving, even though Irving has been designated prime contractor for the “definition and implementation” phase. “While three preliminary services contracts have been awarded to (Irving) for work relating to the CSC project the definition contract for CSC has not yet been awarded.”

A spokeswoman for new Public Services minister Judy Foote said Thursday: “Discussions on the process of selecting a warship designer and combat systems integrator are ongoing.”

However, sources said there are concerns in government circles about the risk of cost overruns, not to mention the challenges caused by asking U.S. defence companies to hand classified information related to their weapons systems over to Irving, a third party, instead of directly to the government.

“There is a degree of nervousness” on the Irving side, said one industry source.

A spokeswoman for Irving said the company had no comment.

The commitment to tighten up defence procurement rules was included in the Liberal election campaign. The Liberals said they would ensure “all equipment acquisitions operate with vastly improved timelines and vigorous Parliamentary oversight.”

A concept design of the Canadian Surface Combatant from the CASR 

The Conservatives had originally planned to build 15 warships but federal officials acknowledged last year inflation and currency pressures could see that number reduced. In December, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, said the cost of the surface combatant ships could reach $30 billion.

During the election, Trudeau promised to set aside any savings from the CF-18 replacement program and invest them in the navy.

Canada to Seek Seat on Security Council

Written By: The Associated Press
Originally published February 11, 2016

Canada plans to make a bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday as he hosted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

At a news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said he has indicated to Ban that Canada wants to “re-engage robustly” with the United Nations and the global community.

That includes “looking towards a bid for the UN Security Council," Trudeau said.

In 2010, Canada lost its bid for a two-year council term to Portugal, even though it held a seat at the table off and on for six decades. Critics blamed the historic loss on Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, saying that it failed to make a strong bid.

Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, said Canada’s frosty relationship with the organization dates back to 2006 when a Canadian peacekeeper was killed during the Israeli-Lebanese war.

“The loss of the Security Council seat, I think, was indicative that the contempt that the Canadian government was manifesting for the UN was being reciprocated by the UN members,” Heinbecker said on CTV’s Power Play Thursday.

“They preferred a bankrupt Portugal -- a country they knew was bankrupt -- to a solvent Canada,” he said.

Heinbecker said former prime minister Harper “basically snubbed” the UN multiple times by choosing to not show up to events.

“I think what we saw today with Ban Ki-Moon and Prime Minister Trudeau in their press conference was a much warmer relationship, a much more enthusiastic relationship.”

Ban said he welcomes Trudeau’s plan and called Canada “one of our most important partners.”

He credited Trudeau’s leadership with helping secure the “breakthrough” global agreement on climate change reached at the Paris summit in December.

Ban also “highly” applauded Canada’s ongoing efforts to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Ban said he and Trudeau had a “very constructive exchange” Thursday on a number of issues that also included global security and Canada’s contribution to UN peacekeeping missions, which has fallen from around 3,300 troops in 1993 to just 113 today.

The UN chief also seemed to nudge Trudeau to boost Canada’s international aid spending for poorer nations.

“I’m sure that Prime Minister Trudeau and his government will pay more focus on this matter,” Ban said.

Both Ban and Trudeau expressed their outrage over recent allegations that UN peacekeepers sexually abused underage girls in the Central African Republic.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strikes 2 ISIS Targets

Even though Canadian CF-18s will be ending their bombing of ISIS targets wby February 22, 2016 - they have not let up in the final days of their deployment.

In a press release on its OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that on 10 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS weapons cache in the vicinity of Al Habbaniyah using precision guided munitions.

Also on 10 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISISL fighting position north of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

HMCS Fredericton Deployed to Aegean Sea

Written by: The Associated Press
Published Thursday, February 11, 2016

HMCS Fredericton will be among three ships that NATO has announced it will send to the Aegean Sea to monitor the ongoing refugee crisis and provide surveillance of criminal networks working in the waters.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the NATO Maritime Group is being ordered immediately into the Aegean to help end illegal smuggling of migrants between Turkey and Greece, a situation he called a "human tragedy.”

Three NATO allies -- Turkey, Germany and Greece -- had requested NATO's help in an international effort to end the most intense migration crisis Europe has experienced since the Second World War.

HMCS Fredericton is part of NATO Maritime Standing Group 2, a flotilla that also consists of German navy flagship The Bonn, and the Barbaros from Turkey.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the warships "will start to move now" to provide surveillance of criminal networks working in the sea. They will then relay the information to the Greek and Turkish coast guards and other authorities, Stoltenberg said.

"This is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats," Stoltenberg stressed.

"…This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation.”

The International Organization for Migration said earlier this week that 76,000 people have travelled across the sea since Jan. 1 in an effort to reach Europe by sea. That’s nearly 2,000 people a day.

.The group also estimates that 409 people have died so far this year trying to cross from Turkey to Greece and between north Africa and Italy.

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said NATO military authorities also will draw up plans for how the alliance could further act to help shut down illegal human smuggling in the region.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CAF and CCG Members Charged as a Result of Drug Investigation

Written by the Canadian Press 
February 10, 2016 

HALIFAX — Two former employees of the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of National Defence are facing charges in Halifax following a drug investigation with ties to Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.

The RCMP allege the pair used their positions to gain access to information for criminal intent.

The police investigation, which started in the spring of 2013, uncovered evidence of conspiracies to import cocaine from Antigua, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and the United States.

When the RCMP first announced the results of their investigation last year, they said multiple charges had been laid against people in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The Mounties also confirmed that among those charged was Ryan James Wedding, a former Olympic snowboarder who lives in Montreal.

The RCMP said they seized vehicles, firearms, drug paraphernalia, cash and more than 200 kilograms of cocaine.

In April 2015, 15 people were charged with 45 offences, including conspiracy to import cocaine and trafficking cocaine.

Additional charges were laid Tuesday against two of those accused, both of them from Nova Scotia.

Delbert William Meister of Halifax, a former employee of the Canadian Coast Guard, and Darlene Margaret Richards of Greenwood, N.S., who once worked with the Defence Department, have each been charged with breach of trust and possession of proceeds of crime.

The Canadian Press

103 SAR Sqn Trains with Icelandic Coast Guard

Written by: JDM, Canadian Forces Dispatch author
Last Updated: February 10, 2016

CH-149 Cormorant
A RCAF CH-149 Cormorant SAR Helicopter. (Undated DND Photo) 
As Arctic nations come together after the reaffirmation of the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement late last year, the RCAF's 103 Squadron has landed in Iceland to train with the Icelandic Coast Guard.

Unlike many other nations, Canada's areal search and rescue is not conducted by the Coast Guard, but by the RCAF; largely for budgetary reasons. The aerial Search and Rescue (SAR) is conducted by the RCAF using CH-149 Cormorant helicopters and Fixed-Wing CC-115 Buffalo aircraft.

103 Search and Rescue Squadron is located at 9 wing Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. Members from 103 Squadron are deployed to Iceland from the 9-12 of February 2016.
Training will involve multiple scenarios with the Canadian CH-149 Cormorant, the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Thor, and the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue also known as ICE-SAR. 

Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Thor (Photo: Naval-Technology)

The RCAF released the following images after the exercise concluded. More images can be seen here

CH-149 Cormorant helicopter to perform a mountain rescue scenario during a 
Joint SAR Exercise held in Iceland on February 10, 2016. 

Iceland SAR Exercise
CH-149 Cormorant helicopter hoist Sergeant Sean Daniell with a member from the Iceland Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) and his dog Joey in Neskaupstadur, Iceland during a Joint SAR Exercise on February 9, 2016.

Canada in Iraq: U.S. Applauds Canada’s Revamped Mission

Written by: Lee Berthiaume,  
Published in the Monday, February 9, 2016 Ottawa Citizen - NP Section 

Mission meets coalition’s needs, U.S. envoy says


The U.S. has headed off a potential controversy by giving the Liberal government a thumbs-up over its plan to stop bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and instead concentrate on military training, diplomacy and aid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the new mission Monday, as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan prepared to travel to a NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels. The plan includes tripling the number of troops training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to 200, while ending the bombing campaign by Feb. 22.

There had been fears the U.S. and other allies would react negatively to the plan to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the region, particularly at a time when other countries such as the Netherlands and Australia are expanding their participation in the bombing campaign.

But speaking in Washington, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Peter Cook, praised the new mission, describing it as the kind of response U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has been looking for from anti-ISIL coalition members.

“The secretary sees these as significant contributions,” Cook told reporters, “and he appreciates the decision by the Trudeau government to step up Canada’s role in the campaign at this critical time.”

In a separate statement, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said Canada’s “significant contributions” are “in line with the coalition’s current needs.” That includes trainers, as well as more than $1 billion in humanitarian and longer-term aid. Canada is also beefing up its diplomatic presence in the region.

But Heyman left the door open to more contributions in the future.

“Canada remains an essential partner in the counter-Daesh mission,” he said, using another name for ISIL, “and we will continue to discuss with all coalition partners additional ways to intensify efforts.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said in an interview he had spoken to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and was scheduled to talk with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“It’s not for me to put words in their mouth, but I’m very confident that both of them will be very positive,” he said.

Carter said two weeks ago there should be “no free riders” in the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL. While his comments were largely aimed at Turkey and some Arab states, critics of the Liberal government suggested the comment could apply equally well to Canada.

“If you think Canada is a free rider because we are not participating anymore to the airstrikes, then Germany is a free rider. And Italy. And about 50 members of the coalition,” Dion said. “This is not the case.

“In fact, in order to be more effective, we needed to deploy a larger panoply of our expertise, and to do it in a very integrated way with what our allies are doing. We are not alone in this fight. We are part of a coalition, and we looked at the best way for us to be optimally effective within the coalition.”

Experts on both sides of the border said the Americans’ biggest fear was the Liberal government would withdraw the fighter jets as soon as it was elected to power in October. The fact Canada is keeping its surveillance and refuelling planes in Iraq and Syria also helps.

Chris Sands, director of Canadian studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, said the expanded training mission is important because many allies don’t want to put troops on the front lines with the Kurds.

Still, there was skepticism over Washington’s overwhelming praise.

“I’m not sure this will be greeted with a great deal of hand clapping down in Washington,” said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, now vicepresident of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “There’ ll be disappointment because they thought maybe they could change the Liberal government’s mind.”

Added Sands: “I think people here will say ‘OK, fine. At least they’re not walking away.’ ”

Canada in Iraq: Trainers should build on Afghanistan Experience

Written by: Matthew Fisher, National Post
Published the Monday February 9, 2016 Ottawa Citizen - NP Section 


A soldier who ran Ottawa’s training mission for Afghan soldiers and police battling the Taliban believes the 500 Canadian Forces trainers bound for the Middle East to work with Iraqi forces fighting ISIL should mentor them on the battlefield as well as in garrison, as Canadian troops did in Kandahar in 2006-11.
A CAF Member instructs Afghan National
Guard how to load a riffle
That candid assessment by Col. Gregory Burt, who retired last summer after more than 30 years with the Royal 22nd Regiment, the Van Doos, comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canadians being sent to instruct Iraqi forces would not be involved in combat.

“Motivating them in a secure training base where someone is not firing at you is a lot different than when the enemy has a vote,” said Burt, who took me several times to see his troops mentoring Afghan forces in dicey situations on the battlefield.

“When the enemy is going to the other flank, you’ve got to be able to say, ‘You don’t want to go there’ … Our stellar actions under fire were a motivating factor, Afghans saw us out there when the s--- was going down everywhere. It was a demonstration that we were with them.”

When they accompanied Afghan troops into battle, the Canadian trainers also directed artillery fire, called in airstrikes and arranged for helicopters to get the wounded to hospital quickly.

However, Burt says no trainers were with him when he saw action for the first time and everything he had learned about combat came from training behind the lines. The career infantryman is gung-ho about the new training assignment.

“The reason we can do well on every kind of mission is that I don’t think any other army trains as well as we do,” said the 52-year-old Newfoundlander. “It is in our doctrine and the way we give our junior ranks independence. Our maturity is above and beyond that of others.”

Canadian forces spent five years helping train in Afghanistan. The situation is different in Iraq, where they will start with “a blank sheet.”

It sounds prosaic, but a key part of the process will be to establish how good the Iraqi students are at mathematics, says Burt, who adds he has not been briefed on planning for the mission.

“To do the nuts and bolts to train an officer to take a platoon down range, you have to first establish a baseline about where they are in their training and the level of their education,” he said. “In Afghanistan, most of them had never been to school so educating them was a challenge.

“If they cannot understand basic math, it is going to be an extremely long time for them to understand their guns. Even to blow up a mine requires (detonation) cords and there are equations that go with that in order to be able to get safely to cover. Anything technical — and that includes the logistics of water and food for soldiers in the fight — requires math.”

He warns there will be no quick fixes for the Iraqi security forces.

“It took us hours in garrison to teach the Afghans skills before we crossed the line of fire with them. It requires patience.”

The rule of thumb is that it takes 40 to 50 weeks to train new recruits to become infantry officers, and 2½ to three years to get those officers on to the battlefield.

OP ATTENTION - Canada's Training Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. CAF members training Afghan National Guard Members on the firing range. (Photo: OP ATTENTION - DND)
But because of the urgent need to field troops quickly in Afghanistan, the timelines were much shorter. The same is likely to be the case in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Among the top priorities, Burt says, will be to quickly establish a close rapport with the Arab-speaking interpreters, and cultural and linguistic advisers who will provide the vital link between the Canadians and their Iraqi students.

“I guess they will be creating a mini-Gagetown,” Burt said, referring to the army’s combat schools in New Brunswick.

“There will be firing ranges, basic mine awareness, how to conduct road sweeps (for improvised explosive devices), how to issue basic orders and call in their own fire support, map reading skills for leadership, manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvre, first aid, training for medics, arranging medevacs for the injured, and teaching how to establish headquarters command and control.

“There will be teams to coach brigade-level intelligence in how to work and to prepare reports, and to give operations officers a common understanding of how coalition forces work.”

Teaching such skills would be even more challenging if the Iraqis’ morale was low or if most of the troops were conscripts.

Burt says that training Afghan forces was the highlight of his career, which included deployments to Somalia, the Balkans and Germany during the Cold War. While he was envious of the challenge facing those receiving orders to deploy to the Middle East, “others now carry the flame and they will succeed.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Den Tandt: Canada is Stepping Back to War with ISIS Mission Update

Published by Michael Den Tandt, National Post 
February 9, 2016 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s revamped military mission in Iraq — because he wears it now, for good or ill — is neither cowardly appeasement, as the Conservatives allege, or a perilous escalation, as New Democrats would have you believe. But of the two themes, the second is closer to the mark.

As is the custom with Canadian military ventures, clarity and directness vanished or were non-existent from the start. The Conservatives’ soon-to-be-former combat mission, fronted by six Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter-bombers, was never as robust or aggressive as they or their critics let on. The effort unveiled Monday, with its tripling of the special forces contingent from 69 to 207, will be far more combative — that is to say, risky for those who will carry it out — than the PM’s swords-into-ploughshares rhetoric suggests.

This isn’t to say the new mission is wrong-headed. On the contrary: It appears to be robust internationalism, backed up with lethal force, of a kind Canada hasn’t engaged in since the final pullout from Afghanistan in 2014.

The irony is that politics prevents any of the warring tribes in the House of Commons from saying so.

This is, more than anything else, a replay of 2005, when then-prime minister Paul Martin and then-defence chief Rick Hillier conceived of a multi-pronged military and humanitarian project for Canada in Afghanistan that would clear away any cobwebs left by this country’s non-participation in president George W. Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.

That wasn’t the Kandahar mission’s tactical purpose, obviously, but it provided the context. We didn’t do that for you (thank God), the Martin government was saying to Washington, but we can do this for you, and this is both better, and more difficult.

The crack to be papered over in the current case, of course, is the withdrawal of Canada’s CF-18s from the air war in Iraq and Syria, which happens in two weeks, despite the Liberal government still not having managed to articulate why. In their disquisitions about this the PM and his ministers have tied themselves in one rhetorical knot after another, apparently out of a desire to avoid saying the wrong thing, or embarrassing their Obama administration allies. In the process they’ve sustained far more damage than they would have had they been more blunt from the get-go.

If there is a rationale for withdrawing the fighters (beyond that this was a campaign promise), as near as I can figure it, it is as follows: First, the carnage in northern Iraq and Syria, the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant itself, are primarily an American responsibility. ISIL, formerly al-Qaida in Iraq, formerly members of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni praetorian guard, would not now exist had the Iraqi dictator been left to rot. “If you break it, you own it,” General Colin Powell told his commander-in-chief before the invasion. That was true. Therefore, the American military should be at the sharp end in wiping out ISIL.

The second reason, now coming to the fore with details on the new mission: If Ottawa is tripling the special forces component, boosting overall troops deployed from 650 to 830, and spending a total of $1.6 billion in the region over three years, the cost has to come from somewhere. The PM alluded to this Monday in French, in answer to a question from reporters: “In any mission, there are choices to make. We can’t do everything.” Like Reason #1, this is laced with political pitfalls, which may be why Trudeau mentioned it only in passing. Is the government placing nickels and dimes above preserving human life? The direct answer is that resources are finite and no political party in Ottawa is calling for increased defence spending (though they should).

Finally to a third reason, related to the first two: The Trudeau government is keen to put its own stamp on foreign policy. It wishes to brand itself, domestically and internationally, as a government more interested in helping the needy than obliterating the wicked, to put it simply. Therefore it symbolically sets down Thor’s hammer, the CF-18s, and extends more helping hands, earning it kudos from agencies such as UNICEF and CARE Canada, while also throwing enough new ground muscle into the fight to appease the Pentagon.

This makes a certain kind of sense, from a Liberal political perspective, as it puts them squarely in the centre of the spectrum, taking shots from both left and right.

The wrinkle and the great risk in this, for Trudeau and his government, is precisely that it is so symbolic. For all the Harper government’s vaunted bellicosity, six CF-18s formed a relatively small hammer, in the context of the broader war, and their pilots were not routinely at risk of being shot at or blown up. This changes now. The risk of casualties has at least tripled. Aid requires transport and protection, all of it vulnerable to attack. That is the news here, not the CF-18s. In a modest but deliberate way, Canada is stepping back to war.

Canada in Iraq: CAF Looking to Deploy Griffons to Iraq

Written by: JDM, Canadian Forces Dispatch author
Last Updated: February 9, 2016 - 1:44 pm

With the dramatic shift in the Government of Canada's policy towards ISIS, and the change to Canada's contributions to the US-led Coalition against ISIS, Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance provided some details in a technical briefing.

The total number of military personnel deployed will increase from the currently authorized 600, to 850. This adjustment will be seen in the required ground crew required for the CF-18s, which will be returning home, and the increase in the number of Special Forces trainers in Iraq.

While specific numbers of Special Forces have not been released, it is assumed that close to 200 Canadian Special Forces members will be in Norther Iraq working with the Kurdish Peshmerga within the coming months, as both Prime Minister Trudeau, and Minister of Defence Sajjan said clearly that the training commitment would triple.

For the Special Forces in Iraq, reporters asked the Prime Minister if the CAF will still be on the front lines of the fight against ISIS, and if they would still be marking targets for the remaining coalition partners in the air campaign. General Vance responded, "I want Canadians to know that we will be involved in engagements as we defend ourselves or those partners who we are working with.” Vance also indicated that Special Forces will continue to "mark ISIS targets" for the coalition. This is something that the US Special Forces members in Iraq are not currently able to do.

Minister Sajjan echoed Vance's statement, when he told CTV's Canada AM program, " This is a conflict zone - it comes with risks." 

In yesterday's Press briefing the Prime Minister said that as part of Canada's new advise and assist role, Canada would be sending small arms and ammunition to Iraq. Vance indicated that Canada would be supplying machine guns and riffles to Iraqi forces, but did not specify who in particular. He also could not indicate how the arms will be sent legally to Iraq; as Iraq is not approved for arms export under the Automatic Weapons Country Control List.

A CAF Door Gunner mans his machine gun aboard a CH-146 Griffon over the desserts of Afghanistan (Undated DND Photo)
To help mitigate some of the risks, the DND Spokesman was quoted as indicating that, the CAF is looking at deploying 4 CH-146 Griffon Helicopters to Iraq. Daniel Le Bouthier, was quoted to Defence Watch as saying, "options are being explored to enhance in-theatre tactical transport, further analysis, coordination and discussions with our coalition partners is required before details regarding the deployment of Griffon helicopters can be finalized, though the current plan calls for 4 airframes."

No specifics as to what the Griffons would be used for. CANSOFCOM has their own Griffon Helicopters, but there is no public information as to what vehicles CANSOFCOM has deployed in theater already.  The Griffons are expected to be used for Troop Transport, as well as Medi-Vac Capabilities within Norther Iraq.
Image result for Black 427 SOAS Griffon
Chief Instructor, Major Alain Matteau walks away from one of the Griffon helicopters of the 427 SOAS (Special Operations Aviation Squadron). At Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa, members of the ultra secretive Canadian Special forces (CANSOFCOM) go through a variety of training exercises.  (RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR)

In Afghanistan, the CAF deployed RCAF Chinook and Griffon Helicopters. The Griffons were often used as gunships while the Chinooks took over the role as Troop Transport. There is no current plan to deploy Chinooks to Iraq. For a short period of time, the RCAF also piloted and leased Russian Mi-17-V5 Helicopters (known in the RCAF as CH-178's) while waiting for the Chinooks to be delivered. The RCAF added Armour plating and Gatling-guns to the Griffons that served in Afghanistan.

According to the RCAF; the Griffon aircraft can carry up to 13 people (two pilots, a flight engineer and 10 passengers) and has a maximum gross weight of nearly 5,400 kilograms. The Griffon can reach speeds up to 260 kilometres per hour.

There has been some backlash over the Governments commitment to withdraw Canada's CF-18s, even many calling the new mission a form of backing down to ISIS, and letting our allies down. That is not necessarily the case. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Canada is "Doubling Down."  The article continues saying, "The Canadian government announced Monday its six CF-18 fighter planes would end their bombing runs on the Islamic State by Feb. 22 and come home. But don’t count Canada out. A close look at what Ottawa is doing in Iraq actually reveals a growing mission that may increase the dangers for Canadian troops." 

Even the US Ambassador, Bruce Heyman agrees with the new mission outline. He indicated that Canada's new plan amounts to a "significant contribution to the coalition," and is "in line with the coalitions current needs." He went on to say, "The commitments that Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet ministers announced today are in line with the coalition’s current needs, including tripling Canada’s training mission in northern Iraq and increasing its intelligence efforts throughout the region. Canada remains an essential partner in the counter-Da’esh mission and we will continue to discuss with all coalition partners additional ways to intensify our efforts. The United States, Canada, and the rest of our coalition partners remain unwavering in our commitment to degrade—and ultimately destroy— Da’esh and we look forward to continuing that mission together.”

The Liberal Government's new ISIS plan goes beyond military contributions. The government will enhance measures focused on stabilization, counter-terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security programming in the region, dedicating $145 million to unnamed initiatives in these areas over the next three years.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Canadian Army Begins Arctic Warfare Training

DND Press Release:
February 8, 2016

OTTAWA — Starting today until early March, approximately 2,500 Canadian Army soldiers from the Regular Force, Primary Reserve and the Canadian Rangers, will be training in several areas of Canada’s North. The Canadian Army aims to maintain and sharpen its operational capabilities in austere Arctic environments.

Slide - Arctic Readiness – Canadian Army trains in Canada's North
CAF Members during Arctic Warfare Training. Undated Photo (CAF Combat Camera)
The Canadian Army maintains readiness and continues to enhance its ability to operate in the North by training in highly challenging conditions in some of Canada’s most isolated regions. Troops will develop and test their advanced cold-weather survival skills, as well as prepare for quick responses to simulated threats and domestic emergencies, such as natural disasters, extreme weather events and other hazards. Highlights of the exercises will include parachute jumps and engagement involving remote First Nations communities.

The exercises offer soldiers a valuable opportunity to collaborate with the Canadian Rangers, local communities, as well as other government departments and agencies. Soldiers from the United States Army National Guard, the New Zealand and Polish Armed Forces have also been invited to take part in the training in an effort to strengthen interoperability between Canada and these nations. 

At the same time: 

Close to 900 soldiers will be participating in Exercise UNIFIED RESOLVE 1601 (Ex UR 16) in Edmonton, Alberta, from February 8 to 12, 2016.

Ex UR 16 is a key step in the Canadian Army’s preparation for Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE 16 and the Road to High Readiness training program. Approximately half of the participating soldiers will come from 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, while the remainder will be made up of other Canadian Army units from around the country.

The Road to High Readiness is the Canadian Army’s flagship training regime that prepares soldiers for national or expeditionary deployments, as mandated by the Government of Canada. The goal of the training is to generate a competent, confident and integrated Army brigade that can provide scalable, mission-tailored and responsive forces for full spectrum operations.

Ex UR 16 provides a simulated environment making it possible to virtually represent the movements and manoeuvres of units and troops, without the participants actually deploying to a training area.

Canada in Iraq: Trudeau Outlines Canada's New ISIS Commitment

Written by: JDM, Canadian Forces Dispatch author
Last Updated: February 8, 2016 - 2:12 pm

In a nearly hour long briefing and question session, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by Minister of Defence Sajjan, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dion, outlines Canada's new mission against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

Prime Minister Trudeau started the press conference by thanking the RCAF and its personnel for their service to Canada over the past year and half in the fight against ISIS. The Prime Minister made it clear, he believes that, "airstrikes can be useful...and there is a role for bombing in the short-term," however, he said, "they cannot ensure a long-term stability for the region."

As examples to support his opinion, Trudeau pointed to US led airstrikes in Afghanistan and Libya.

The Prime Minister stated that Canada is going to contribute and is committed to a multi-lateral robust mission to stabilize the region.

Canadian CF-18 fighter jets will halt their airstrikes on ISIS positions as of February 22, 2016, and will be withdrawn from the region. The CC-150 Polaris, and CP-140 Aurora aircraft will remain as part of the US-led coalition.

Canada will triple the size of its training force in Northern Iraq. Specifics on who Canada will be training are still vague - and should be outlined in a technical briefing by the Chief of Defence Staff later today. It is assumed that most of this training will be to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces that Canada's current 69 Special Forces trainers are currently working with. There were also some hints that some of the training might be for the Iraqi Security Forces in the northern region of Iraq. However, it was announced that the CAF will also provide medical personnel to the new training mission; something that is currently not part of OP IMPACT.

Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Parliament will debate and vote on this motion when Parliament resumes next week. However, with the Liberal Majority, it will likely not make any difference, as it is expected all Liberal members will support the motion. The Opposition Conservatives will likely be up-in arms over the withdrawal of Canada's CF-18s which can be seen as valuable in this mission, especially with the 10 RCAF Airstrikes already in February.

Prime Minister Trudeau has faced opposition on many fronts to maintain the CF-18 presence in Iraq and Syria - but has remained adamant that he will not back down from his election promise; this despite the fact that most polls continue to show that Canadians support the bombing mission. According to an Angus Reid poll late last week, it showed that only 27% of Canadians agreed with the Liberal plan to withdraw the CF-18s. While, 64% said the bombing should continue, or increase.

“We know Canada is stronger, much stronger, than a threat posed by a group of murderous gang of thugs,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said his decision to pull the CF-18 fighter jets was guided by a “desire to do what Canada can do best” to assist affected regions.

“For us, this is the right approach,” he said.

Increased training efforts are “very much appreciated by the Iraqi government,” he added.
Canada's training mission will be an "Advise and Assist" mission. So the specifics seem not to have changed from Canada's current training mission, and CAF members will potentially still be on the front-lines of the Battle with ISIS - although will only fire-back when fired upon.

The difference in the Liberal plan is Canada will commit to sending small-arms and ammunition to those who the CAF is training. The mission will remain under the OP IMPACT banner until March of 2017; at which point the mission will be reviewed, and ensure it remains relevant before any extension is considered. Any changes will again be subject to parliamentary approval. The total number of personnel deployed under Operation IMPACT is increased to a maximum of 830 CAF members, from the previous mandated level of 600 personnel and 69 advisers working in an advisory and assistance role to the Iraqi security forces.

Over the next three years, Canada plans to commit $1.6 Billion to the region to combat ISIS. Much of this funding will go to Lebanon and Jordan who have seen the largest influx of refugees. A large portion of this funding will be directed to building local capacity to ensure long-term stability in the region. The humanitarian mission includes $840 million to provide water, shelter, health care, and sanitation. Another $270 million will be provided to assist countries that are helping refugees from the region.

In a statement by the interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose, she called the withdrawal from the combat mission a “shameful step backward” for Canada.

“For generations, our men and women in uniform have fought bravely against those who violate human rights, and those who threaten and terrorize the innocent and vulnerable,” she said. “Today, in his first major foreign policy decision, the Prime Minister has shown that Canada is not ‘back’.”

Ambrose went on to call ISIS “the greatest terror threat in the world” and said pulling back threatens the safety of Canadians.

Today's announcement comes before the NATO Secretary meeting in Brussels later today.

In a statement on DND's OP IMPACT webpage reads:

"Subject to further discussions with the Government of Iraq and coalition partners, the Government of Canada is implementing a renewed and broadened whole-of-government approach to the fight against ISIL. The main areas of engagement are Human Assistance, Building Resilience, Political Engagement and Security and Stability. The CAF is responsible for the Security and Stability area and sees its contribution of military capabilities and personnel increased. The military engagement in Iraq and Syria under Operation IMPACT is extended until 31 March, 2017."

Canada in Iraq: Canada's Kurdish Conundrum

This past weekend, the Ottawa Citizen ran the following report about Canada's current mission in the Middle East, and the possible ripple effects it may have on the region, whether we indented it too or not.

Canada’s military support for the Kurds brings unintended consequences in northern Iraq, writes David Pugliese. Every single course in the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless what rank level you go up to, always starts with ethics and values and that is the same level and standard we apply when we do our training.

A Canadian Special Forces Member supervises a training exercise with the Kurdish Pesherga (DND Photo) 
Harjit Sajjan, whenever he is asked what direction Canada will take in fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan points to what he calls the “ripple effect.”

The Liberal government, he says, wants to ensure that its actions don’t make matters worse. In Afghanistan, for instance, the West’s support for corrupt individuals helped drive some of the population into the arms of the Taliban.

In Iraq, Islamic extremists took advantage of grievances felt by some groups and recruited those individuals into their ranks, explains Sajjan, a former Canadian Forces officer and Afghan war veteran. This time will be different, he says. “When we look at the decisions we make, the policies we create, we have to figure out what ripple we’re creating,” Sajjan said recently at a foreign policy conference in Ottawa. “We may not be able to control all the ripples that are out there, but we can control the ripples that we create.”

Can we? The ripples Canada is making in Iraq now, even before it announces its next steps, may already be flowing in directions we did not intend.

Since the fall of 2014, Canada has been providing equipment and military training to Kurdish troops in northern Iraq. Canadian special forces have been working closely with the Kurds, providing them with skills needed to field a modern army.

And while the Kurds have used that training to fight Islamic extremists, such skills will also be useful in the future for another goal that Canada does not endorse: their plan to separate from Iraq. “The problem with training foreign forces is that you never know what they will put those skills to use for in the future,” said Walter Dorn, a professor with the Royal Military College. “With the Kurds there is the danger we are supporting a secessionist movement.”

The Liberals still have to decide how they want to proceed with the Iraq mission, an announcement that is imminent. Military sources say the government is leaning towards keeping the Canadian military’s aerial refuelling aircraft within the U.S.­led coalition, as well as providing more surveillance planes. Canadian troops could also provide training to Iraq’s army.

But also high on the list of options is providing the Kurds even more training. A new Kurdish special forces unit could be developed with Canadian expertise. Canadian training could also be expanded to include Kurdish police, Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion has said.

When the Conservative government first committed Canada’s military to fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) in the fall of 2014, it said its goal was the protect the security of a unified Iraqi state. CF18 fighter jets have been providing support to Iraqi security forces as they try to take back land seized by ISIL.

But Canada’s military efforts in northern Iraq are another matter. There, the Kurdish people have their own semi­autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government, as it is known, is technically still aligned with the federal government in Baghdad.

The Liberals, like the Conservatives, maintain that Canada remains committed to a unified Iraqi state. But Canadian military officers privately acknowledge that, although it’s not their goal, they are indeed training an independent Kurdish army.

 “We are providing training to essentially an independent military force that may or may not be used in other ways down the road besides fighting ISIL,” said retired Lt.­Col. Chris Kilford, who until 2014 was Canada’s military attaché in Turkey.

Canada’s policymakers are aware of the problem of supporting the Kurds too much. But their alternatives are limited. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars and years training the Iraqi military yet it seems incapable of making many inroads against ISIL.

The Liberal government has suggested that one of its options could be providing aid to Lebanon and Jordan, to shore up those countries in a troubled region. That might be a safer bet – if one is trying to minimize ripples. The Kurds have never hidden their plans to eventually form an independent country.

In December, Sajjan meet with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and his son Masrour, who heads the intelligence services of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Both are strong advocates for an independent Kurdistan. Massoud Barzani has suggested that Iraq is finished as a nation. It has already been broken up into various regions controlled by different forces or ethnic groups, such as the Kurds. Full independence is next on the agenda. “We are not pushing for forced separation,” Masrour Barzani said in July 2015 during an interview with Al­Monitor, a news site that covers developments in the Middle East.“We are talking about an amicable divorce.”

Indeed, the Kurds have emerged as the real winners from the chaos that has engulfed Iraq and Syria with the arrival of ISIL.

Western nations have seen them as reliable allies in the war and have provided them with air support, training, equipment and cash. As a result, the YPG, the Kurdish force that is battling ISIL, has been able to carve out its own mini­state in northeastern Syria.

 In July 2014, as the Iraqi army was in retreat from ISIL forces, the Kurds from northern Iraq moved to seize the Kirkuk oil fields. That gave them control of 40 per cent of Iraq’s oil and a steady flow of cash from oil sales to bolster their quest for independence. By seizing additional territory from ISIL, the Kurds have been able to consolidate the borders of what they see as their homeland.

Since then, Kurdistan has been exporting between 400,000 and 600,000 barrels of oil a day through a new pipeline it has built.

In November 2015, Falah Mustafa Bakir, the Kurdish region’s foreign minister, visited Calgary in search of Canadian support and investment, not only in its oil business but other areas such as agriculture. Iraq’s government is understandably not happy with the situation. Last June, Iraq’s government excluded the Kurds from a high­level meeting in Paris that was planning strategy for dealing with ISIL.

In October, Iraqi officials seized a military aircraft carrying weapons for Canadian special forces in Kurdistan. They claimed the Canadians were carrying supplies and weapons into the region without authorization from Iraq. The Canadian transport plane sat on the ground for four days and was eventually allowed to return to Kuwait with its cargo.

The Iraqis were clearly trying to send a signal that they still had some form of control over what was happening in the Kurdish autonomous region. The Kurds push for new territory has also increased tensions with Turkey. Turkey enjoys good relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government but other Kurdish factions are another matter. It has launched some attacks on YPG units in Syria near its border. Turkey considers YPG a terrorist group because of its affiliation to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The party’s armed wing, the PKK, has been waging a war against Turkey since 1984 as it fights for greater rights for Kurds in Turkey. In December, Turkish fighter jets attacked PKK supply camps in northern Iraq. Over the last several weeks, new fighting has erupted between Turkish troops and the PKK in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir. Human rights observers also point to a darker side to the Kurds’ consolidation of power in the region.

In January 2015, Human Rights Watch complained to the Kurdish Regional Government that its forces had barred Arabs displaced by fighting from returning to their homes. In addition, some of those Arab homes were turned over to Kurdish families. In July, the U.S.­based Foreign Policy magazine interviewed diplomats who warned that the Kurds were conducting ethnic cleansing of some of the areas they captured.

In October, Kurdish forces in Syria were accused of forcing out thousands of civilians, mainly Arabs, from their villages and demolishing their homes. A Kurdish official acknowledged at the time that some of its forces might have targeted civilians suspected of supporting the Islamic State but most of the expulsions were done for “security reasons.”

Then, in January 2016, Amnesty International reported that the same actions were underway in northern Iraq – where the Canadian ­trained Kurdish troops operated. Thousands of homes owned by Arab civilians had been blown up or burned down and tens of thousands of people forced out of their villages, Amnesty International’s report concluded.

The attacks against the civilians were in revenge for their perceived support of the Islamic State as well as a settling of scores from abuses that took place more than a decade ago under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, according to the study.

The report, Banished and dispossessed: Forced Displacement and Deliberate Destruction in Northern Iraq, was based on investigations in 13 villages and towns as well as testimony from more than 100 eyewitnesses and victims of such forced displacement, Amnesty noted. Hilary Homes, a spokesperson for Amnesty International in Ottawa on security issues, said the report is corroborated by satellite imagery that revealed evidence of widespread destruction of the villages. “It would be very hard to see how this was militarily justified,” she said. “When you are doing this kind of deliberate destruction, punishing an entire community, that can very easily escalate to being considered war crimes.”

That destruction was carried out by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, or in some cases Yezidi militias and Kurdish armed groups from Syria and Turkey, operating in co­ordination with the Peshmerga. Tens of thousands of Arab civilians were forced to flee their homes, according to the report. They have been barred by Kurdish Regional Government forces from returning to the recaptured areas.

Donatella Rovera, a senior adviser with Amnesty International, who carried out the field research in northern Iraq, pointed out in a statement that the Kurds are also consolidating territorial gains in so­called “disputed areas” which the Kurdistan Regional Government has long claimed as rightfully its land. Homes said the Canadian government, as well as soldiers on the ground, must use the influence they have with the Kurds to force them to stop the mistreatment of the civilians. “If you’re interacting with those forces, I think you’re obliged to know what they’re doing,” she said. “You have an obligation to ensure that violations of human rights and humanitarian law aren’t occurring.”

 Defence Minister Sajjan, however, has remained vague. “Every single course in the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless what rank level you go up to, always starts with ethics and values and that is the same level and standard we apply when we do our training,” he said in response to the Amnesty report.

It’s unclear at this point what effect the ripples from Canada’s involvement in Kurdistan will ultimately have. In November, Kurdish forces, with support from coalition fighter jets including Canadian CF­18s, helped push ISIL out of the city of Sinjar.

The Kurdish flag – not Iraq’s – was erected over the city. “Long live Kurdistan,” Kurdish gunmen shouted as they fired their weapons into the air. Kurdish President Barzani has said the Kurds will never surrender any of the territory they now hold in Iraq.

 Just a few days ago – Feb. 2 – he announced his government would hold a referendum on independence, although he indicated at this point it is only to be used to gauge the will of the people. Barzani wants the referendum to be held by the fall and he cited Quebec’s quest for independence as one reasons why he and his fellow Kurds are entitled to their own country.

“If the people of Kurdistan are waiting for someone else to present the right of self­determination as a gift, independence will never be obtained,” Barzani explained to Kurdish journalists. “That right exists and the people of Kurdistan must demand it and put it into motion. “The same way that Scotland, Catalonia, and Quebec and other places have the right to express their opinions about their destiny, Kurdistan, too, has the right, and it’s non­negotiable,” he added.

 Kilford, the retired Canadian Forces officer, said Barzani’s call for a referendum will only further antagonize Iraq’s government. “There’s already a lot of tension there with the situation in Kirkuk,” said Kilford, who now teaches at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

“It’s a delicate situation.” Some Iraqis, have already, indicated they won’t be standing on the sidelines if the Kurds try to separate. Iraqi Shia militia groups, who have been battling ISIL, say they will not rest until the Kurds are pushed out of Kirkuk. In November, there was a series of firefights between the Kurds and the Shia militias near the city of Tuz Kharmatu, south of Kirkuk.

In December, the Shia militias increased the number of troops near Kirkuk to around 400. Once ISIL is dealt with, a new round of fighting could take place, this time between various Iraqi factions and the Kurds. The training Canada is providing Kurdish forces could ripple into a tsunami of trouble.

Canada in Iraq: Four RCAF Airstrikes on ISIS in Ramadi

The first weekend of Feburary was a busy weekend for the RCAF in Iraq. In a press release on its OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that on 6 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck ISIS heavy engineering equipment in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

Also on 6 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position north of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

Previously on 5 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS staging area and weapons cache in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

The announcement of these airstrikes comes as Prime Minister Trudeau announced that RCAF CF-18s will end airstrikes against ISIS on February 22, 2016.