Friday, March 11, 2016

US Still Waiting on Official Canadian Decision on F-35

Written by: CBC-News

The U.S. deputy secretary of defence says he'd like the Canadian government to make up its mind, one way or the other, whether it will replace its aging CF-18 fleet with Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets.

"Because Canada has been a partner in the F-35 program, if they withdraw — I think it's 65 airplanes — the price for all the other members in the coalition goes up slightly," said Robert Work, in an interview with Rosemary Barton, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

The Conservative government had planned to acquire 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the procurement process was put on hold after the auditor general accused the government of fudging the project's costs and not doing sufficient research.

During the last election Justin Trudeau announced his party would scrap the Conservatives' troubled F-35 fighter jet program. (Daniel Hughes/U.S. Air Force/Reuters)

One of the new Liberal government's main campaign pledges was to buy a less-expensive aircraft and plow the savings into the navy.

However, since taking office, Canada's Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote has said Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jetsmay still be in the mix to replace Canada's CF-18s.
Most costly weapons program in U.S. history

"It's important for Canada to make the decision on the aircraft that they need for their national interest, and then the United States and Canada can work it out," said Work.

Work said he doesn't think the Canadian government is dragging its feet, but the U.S. is watching closely.

"I work in the Pentagon, so I measure time different ways than other people, so I don't believe it's been long. These are very important political decisions and defence decisions for Canada to make, and we're not trying to pressure them in any way," said Work in an interview at the Pentagon.

"We'd like to know, we're anxious to know, where exactly will you go so we can start to plan together. But these types of decisions are made in due course and we're looking forward to the final decision."

The F-35 program was developed by Lockheed Martin to promote a common system between allied partners including the U.S, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Australia.

In 2010, the U.S. committed to buying 2,443 aircraft, making it the most costly weapons program in U.S. military history. It's been beset with delays and technical bugs, many of which are related to the development of the fighter's software​.

In 2013, Orlando Carvalho, executive vice-president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, warned that Canada's aerospace industry would likely fall out of favour if Canada withdrew its intentions to buy F-35s.

"Whatever Canada's choice is we're going to be interoperable," said Work. "I mean Canada and the United States armed forces are as about as interoperable as you can imagine."
Canadian trainers could land on front lines in Iraq, Syria

That close relationship also exists in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Work said.

He told Barton that Canada will be "central" in training local ground troops who will lead the combat against ISIS in two key cities, Al-Raqqah in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq.
ISIS airstrikes by Canada to end, training forces to triple
U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS in Libya kill Serbian hostages, officials say

Last month Canada announced it will triple the number of Canadian Forces members helping to train local ground troops. The Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy service, is also set to play a more prominent role in the fight.

When pressed about any disappointment with Canada's decision to pull its jets out, Work shook his head "no."

Libyan troops sit on an armoured personnel carrier in August 2015 in Benghazi. Libya's second-largest city has seen some of the worst fighting since the 2011 uprising against Moammar Gadhafi. (Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images)

He said the intelligence Canada provides "is just as important as six fighter jets."

Work, who previously worked as undersecretary of the U.S. navy, said it's hard to say whether Canada's decision to pull its six CF-18 jets out of the bombing mission will put people on the ground at risk.

"All of the pilots who fly over Iraq and Syria are at risk every day. A lot of people focus on the airplanes, for example, and of the 66 countries in the coalition, Canada punches well above its weight," he said.

Work said it's possible Canadian troops could find themselves caught in an unexpected attack alongside Peshmerga forces.

"It's a chaotic environment, it's a very fluid battlefield. It's not like a normal battlefield with front lines. [ISIS] is very canny and very good, tactically proficient at what they do on the battlefield," he said.
Canada welcomed in Libya campaign

The coalition is also trying to figure out the best way forward in Libya, a country disturbed by civil war and mounting Islamic extremism.

Work said he expects Canada to play an important role if the coalition does decide to expand its campaign into Libya. He said things have to happen sooner rather than later.

"We would like to have a government [in Libya] we could work with. That's the most problematic part right now," said Work.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has already signalled that Canada could soon join a military coalition to take on an estimated 3,000 ISIS fighters in the country.

Davie shipyard submits unsolicited $1B bid on Liberals to build icebreakers

The battle over building Canada's future Navy, Coast Guard, and Icebreakers just got even uglier. Davie, who is currently converting the Asterix into a Resolve-Class AOR for the Navy, says it can do the same for the Coast Guard, and Icebreakers that Canada needs, for $1 billion - nearly $1 billion cheaper than currently awarded to Seaspan. 

Here is the rest of the article. 

By: Murray Brewster, The National Post

OTTAWA — An unsolicited bid — potentially worth up to $1 billion — to provide icebreakers and multi-purpose ships for the coast guard was submitted to the Trudeau government late last month, The Canadian Press has learned.

The proposal by Quebec-based Chantier Davie Canada Inc. has the potential to undercut one pillar of the national shipbuilding strategy, which delegates the construction of civilian ships to Vancouver’s Seaspan shipyard.

In a presentation to Public Services and Procurement Canada, Davie is partially reviving a pitch made to the former Conservative government in 2013, where it offered to a construct a Polar Class 3 icebreaker and deliver it in 18 months.

The latest bid offers not only that, but three smaller so-called River-class icebreakers and two multi-purpose ships, which could be used for scientific research, border patrol of search and rescue.

Michael Den Tandt: Liberals’ untangling of shipbuilding strategy could ignite regional tug-of-war
Smaller Canadian Forces ships won’t have to be built in Canada, undercutting Tory shipbuilding strategy

The pitch involves converting three different types of vessels which Davie already has under construction — or can be obtained on the international market “at highly affordable prices.”

Some of the ships were being built for the offshore oil and gas sector, but the collapse in energy prices has led to their cancellation.

“This is a fast-track solution providing enhanced capabilities at a fraction of the newbuilding (sic) price,” said the proposal.

Davie says its ships can be delivered at 60 per cent of the cost of the current program with Seaspan and gives the federal government the option of either buying or leasing the vessels.

The prices are blacked out from a copy of the Feb. 24 cover letter to Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote, which was obtained by The Canadian Press. But officials, speaking on background because they’re not authorized to talk to the media, say the pitch adds up to at least $1 billion, depending on the options chosen.

Alex Vicefield, CEO of Davie’s parent company, said the pitch “has been very well received,” but would not go into detail.

Public services and procurement spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold would not confirm receipt of the proposal but did say the government has not issued a request for proposals for icebreakers and reaffirmed the department’s commitment to the overall shipbuilding program.

Vicefield said there is a business opportunity but also an important public policy issue at stake.

“We come from the international marine industry where we have to be innovative and lean to compete,” he said Wednesday.

“When we see a situation which is clearly facing all kinds of problems and we have solutions which can save our client many hundreds of millions of dollars and receive an even better product faster, it would not be in anyone’s interest to hold back.”

Davie used a similar approach to the federal government when it pitched — and won — a multimillion-dollar contract to provide the navy with a temporary supply ship. The former Harper government had to amend cabinet rules in order to allow the sole-sourced contract to go through.

Both Seaspan and Halifax-based Irving Shipyards, the other company in the national shipbuilding program, protested and the Liberals, shortly after being elected last fall, temporarily put the plan on hold. They relented and Davie has already begun the modifications for the leased ship.

The worst thing we could do is to stop, alter or otherwise change the (National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy) before it’s actually really gotten underway

Jonathan Whitworth, the CEO of Seaspan, said the new bid is an attempt to undermine the shipbuilding program, where the fundamental premise was to establish only two go-to shipyards in the country — one for combat, the other for civilian vessels.

“The worst thing we could do is to stop, alter or otherwise change the (National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy) before it’s actually really gotten underway,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

One of the biggest criticisms of the program, which was launched in 2011, is that it has yet to produce a single ship, something the Davie proposal plays on in its presentation by referencing the age of the current decades-old fleet.

“What has become increasingly evident is that it would be considerably more cost-effective and considerably better for the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard to fully replace these over-aged vessels,” said the presentation.

Whitworth would not discuss the potential legal ramifications of the Liberals running with the Davie proposal. But he said if the federal government was looking for stop-gap ships until Seaspan delivered, then it should allow an open competition among all the shipyards in Canada rather than a “sole-source gift” as the previous government did with the navy supply ship.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

CAF unable to account for all lost weapons

By Brigitte Bureau and Giacomo Panico, CBC News

Canada's military is unable to track whether weapons recorded in public accounts as "lost" are actually missing, or were removed from inventory for some other reason.

Public accounts records released in December 2015 tracked financial losses for individual departments, but don't detail how or why certain items — in the case of the Defence Department, a range of weapons and related equipment — disappeared.

So while the records show a total financial loss of 1,128 weapons and weapon accessories between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, DND is unable to differentiate between items that are actually missing, and those that were damaged beyond repair in training exercises, for example.

The revelation came after Radio-Canada submitted an access to information request asking for a breakdown of the types of weapons that were lost.

One month after the request was made, DND replied that it needed more time to tabulate the data, since it does not maintain a central registry of its lost weapons.
'I am shocked'

A DND spokesperson explained by email that while individual units within the military collect specific data on lost weapons, there's no master list to track those numbers nationally.

That absence of information is cause for concern, according to lawyer and retired Canadian Forces colonel Michel Drapeau.

Michel Drapeau, a retired Canadian Forces colonel, says the absence of a central registry is alarming. ( ICI Radio-Canada)

"I am shocked by it. If a unit happens to have a higher share of what you would expect for a unit to lose, and if you have no national control over it, maybe a unit, or two or three could account for 50 per cent of the losses. That should drive, at the national level, to say, 'Just a second, there is something going on here,'" said Drapeau.

Among the weapons listed as financial losses last year are one rifle, one handgun, 29 bayonets and one missile launcher — which DND was able to confirm was destroyed when a military aircraft crashed.

But the reasons other weapons were recorded as losses are not known at the national level, something Drapeau says needs to change.
'Are they really lost or have they somehow fallen into the wrong hands? We need to know.'- Retired colonel Michel Drapeau

"It's important that we know exactly at any given moment, who has these weapons … and if they are lost, are they really lost or have they somehow fallen into the wrong hands? We need to know."

The DND spokesperson said the department treats the security of its resources very seriously, and any theft or loss of any public asset is investigated by the chain of command, ministry officials or military police.

Defence spending expected to drop $400M — despite Liberal pledge to keep up with Tories: sources

By: Murray Brewster, National Post 

OTTAWA — The upcoming federal budget is not expected to commit to a broad increase in military spending, say several defence sources.

In fact, newly tabled fiscal planning documents suggest overall spending on the military could shrink by almost $400 million in the coming year.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to maintain the former Conservative government’s defence spending levels and increase funding in 2017, as laid out in last year’s federal budget.

His government has been under pressure from allies to hike what it spends on defence, with both the United States and Britain asking Canada to aim for the NATO spending benchmark of two per cent of GDP.
Rick Bowmer / Associated Press An F-35 jet sits on the tarmac at an operational base

The demands have become particularly strident in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks last November, which killed 130 people.

Preliminary budget estimates for the coming year show the military is expected to end the year with a budget of just over $19 billion, but planned spending for fiscal 2016-17 amounts to $18.64 billion.

National Defence does routinely goes back and top up its budget later in the year, but the amounts vary depending on what is going in the world.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has denied there are spending cuts in the works, citing a Liberal promise to stick with planned annual increases through a budgetary mechanism known as the defence escalator.

The Conservatives used to use a similar line, insisting the military was getting its annual operating increase, only to cut spending elsewhere.

John Ivison: Liberals’ vision for Canadian Forces unlikely to be swayed by public consultations
Canadian military losing soldiers at increasing rate as headcount drops to level not seen in years
Director of support unit for wounded soldiers steps down amid DND’s sweeping overhaul of system

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show those annual two per cent increases don’t keep up with inflation and have been more than offset by the previous Harper government’s earlier deficit spending cuts.

Under the previous government, the operating budget would increase by roughly $300 million per year, but all told some $2.1 billion ended up coming back into government coffers.

The escalator was introduced by the Conservatives as a way to provide stable and predictable funding to the military, but analysis has shown that inflation in the defence industry runs higher than in the broader economy.

A lot of that is driven by so-called “technological inflation” on high-tech military hardware, which the U.S.-based think-tank Rand Corporation estimates to range from two to five per cent annually.

National Defence is also forced to buy from a limited number of suppliers, which charge a premium.
Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian PressPrime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Harjit Sajjan, and Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau during a press conference on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016
“The two per cent defence escalator appears to be more or less adequate to compensate for strict economic inflation factors; however, it is not adequate to compensate for other non-economic driven cost inflation factors,” said a memo written for the deputy defence minister on Nov. 12, 2014.

“The two per cent defence escalator does not provide the funding stability that will allow for the successful implementation of the (Canada First Defence Strategy) without access to the accrual envelope for additional funds to offset on-going non-economic cost pressures on the DND budget.”

Conservative defence critic James Bezan says at a minimum, the Liberals should honour the promise to maintain the planned escalator increases.

With all of the deficit spending going on in other departments, Bezan admits he’s getting nervous.

“Now that we’re talking a $30-billion deficit, there’s going to be increased pressure on National Defence is pare back their own funding requirements and that is something I’m going to be watching very closely.”

Soldiers from CFB Valcartier training in France

Written by: Frontline News 

About 150 members of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG), based at Valcartier, Quebec, have commenced training in three different exercises with the French Army; training is scheduled to end on March 25, 2016. The objective of this exchange is to create contact that will enable the two armies’ headquarters personnel and infantry and armoured units to share their knowledge and skills.

Soldiers listen to climbing instruction given by the mountain detachment chief (French Army) during Exercise CHEVALIER TRICOLORE. Members of 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada are training with members of the French Army’s 4e Régiment de Chasseurs in the Alps. Photo: 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada

From joint training exercises to personnel exchanges, strategic policy discussions, and operational cooperation, Canada and France share a broad-based, dynamic, and mutually beneficial defence relationship. The two countries continue to strengthen that relationship in order to protect their common values and interests and promote international peace and security.

“Military exercises and exchanges with France ensure that we build and maintain know-how in joint operations and interoperability," said Colonel Michel-Henri St-Louis, 5 CMBG Commander. "Our countries face complex threats and our militaries must be ready to work jointly with the Allied forces.”

About 50 members of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG) Headquarters are participating in a multinational command post exercise in Mourmelon, France, with NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, led by France. Exercise CITADELLE JAVELIN is being carried out in an environment that covers the spectrum of conflict, in order to train and prepare headquarters personnel to perform the tasks that are part of NATO’s high readiness mandate.

A platoon from 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment is training in Belfort, Sissonne, with France’s 35e Régiment d’infanterie during a unit exchange christened Exercise CASTOR TRICOLORE. The purpose of the training is to improve soldiers’ urban combat skills and familiarize them with French Army equipment, tactics and culture.

12e Régiment Blindé du Canada is training in Gap, Hautes-Alpes, with the French Army’s 4e Régiment de Chasseurs on a unit exchange named Exercise CHEVALIER TRICOLORE. The exchange will give the troops the opportunity to take part in an armoured reconnaissance exercise in a mountainous region under winter conditions.

Canada and France enjoy a long-standing, dynamic and mutually beneficial defence cooperation relationship. The two countries are united by a shared commitment to NATO, which is the cornerstone of the trans-Atlantic defence and security relation

New RCAF Cyclone Damaged during Training

By Michael Tutton,  The National NewsWatch 

HALIFAX — One of Canada's new CH-148 Cyclone helicopters had to be winched off a ship after a small piece tore off while it was being parked, an unexpected problem that sent engineers back to the drawing board.

Access to information documents say a metal ring on the helicopter's nose snapped as crew tried to get it lined up for a tow into a hangar originally designed to hold the vintage Sea King helicopters that are being phased out.

The incident — which wasn't noted in any news release — occurred during testing last year before the former Conservative government announced on June 19 it had accepted ownership of the choppers.

The 28 Cyclones have faced repeated development delays since being ordered in 2004 and are not expected to be fully operational on both the East and West Coasts until 2021.

Brig.-Gen. Paul Ormsby, director general of the helicopter program, says tests are being carried out to ensure docking the choppers goes more smoothly.

"Sikorsky has designed several options for us and as we speak they are right now, at sea, they ... are testing those designs," he said in an interview on Friday.

At the time of the incident, an email from the wing commander of a Halifax air base said deck crews straighten the Cyclones with winches and lines attached to either side of its nose to get the large machines ready to be towed into the frigate's hangar.

In a memo last April, a senior officer working on the project said Sikorsky hadn't yet met contract requirements on the deck handling process.

However, Ormsby said the firm eventually achieved the standards Ottawa was seeking for the parking system.

The helicopter was owned by Sikorsky at the time, and a spokesman for the company says the firm took the decision not to fly the aircraft as a precaution and the issue was rapidly repaired.

Paul Jackson, a spokesman for the U.S.-based firm, said Sikorsky has developed a new approach.

"A new procedure was developed that makes aircraft straightening easier within the time specified in the contract," he wrote in an email.

In a followup email, the military said Sikorsky is testing two hydraulically powered mechanisms that connect directly to the helicopter's nose wheel and allow crew "a remotely controlled, power steering capability" as the chopper is brought into line.

The deck incident on March 12 was among numerous issues noted in the access to information documents leading up to the former Conservative government's acceptance of the helicopter.

Documents prepared at the end of 2014 also say the first generation of the military helicopters, known as Block 1 versions, would have 64 restrictions on their initial capabilities, ranging from prohibitions on flying over rough seas, limits on ship borne operations and altitude restrictions on automated flying systems.

It also said the helicopters would have a lifespan of 200 hours before some parts had to be changed out.

Ormsby said since the original document, the operation of the first helicopters — which are primarily being used for testing — has been increased to 500 hours before some components need to be switched.

"It's a developmental project. What that means is we're introducing the capability in blocks, or phases, over time," he said.

Asked why the incident on board the frigate wasn't reported publicly, he said many steps in the process involve setbacks and workarounds.

"There are a lot of things that will occur in terms of discoveries, many of them positive as well. We don't always report those," he said.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

New Iraq Mission to Cost $628 million

By TIM NAUMETZ. The Hill Times 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, March 9, 2016 4:31 PM
UPDATED : Thursday, March 10, 2016 12:56 PM

The one-year extension of Canada’s military mission in Iraq with double the number of special operations soldiers and other new troop and air force elements following the withdrawal of CF-18 fighter jets will bring the cost of the operation over two years to $628-million by the expiry of the new mission in March, 2017, according to Department of National Defence planning documents.

The renewed and expanded mission under the Liberal government will cost a total of $263.9-million over the next year, 72 per cent more than the cost of the former Conservative government’s extension of the mission a year ago, despite the Liberal re-deployment of six Canadian CF-18 fighter jets that had been taking part in coalition air strikes against Islamic State fighting positions and installations since 2014, according to the documents the government tabled in Parliament Monday.

Under the previous government of prime minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Heritage, Alta.), spending estimates and plans and priorities tabled in Parliament did not break out costs for Operation Impact, the Canadian Armed Forces designation for the mission that began when Canada joined a coalition led by the United States in response to attacks by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq earlier in 2014.

But the planning documents Treasury Board President Scott Brison (Kings Hants, N.S.) tabled, which were prepared by the National Defence under new Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.), included specific forecast and planned spending details for 16 identified “Major Canadian Armed Forces International Operations.”

An appendix in the document forecasts a planned cost for the Iraq mission of $416.9-million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which an explanatory note in the appendix says includes $153-million for the mission’s first extension “as approved in budget 2015, plus $263.9-million to support [the] extension to 31 March 2017.”

The report shows a separate cost of $211.7-million in mission costs for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, apparently including a period prior to the April 21, 2015, budget taking effect—which brings the total planned cost to $628.6-million from March 31, 2015, to the end of the Liberal extension. The first six-month term of mission began after a Commons vote in October, 2014.

The Commons majority of Liberal MPs approved the government’s February decision to extend the mission under new terms in a 178 to 147 vote on Tuesday.

Both the Conservative Party and the NDP voted Tuesday against the government extension—with the Conservatives accusing the Liberals of deserting coalition partners and abandoning “the fight” by withdrawing the CF-18s and the New Democrats taking the position that the government was ramping up combat elements of the mission by increasing the number of soldiers advising and training Iraqi security forces.

Mr. Harper was present for the vote, after having missed three of the 17 earlier House votes in the 42nd Parliament, and opposed the government motion.

The Iraq mission accounts for the lion’s share of the cost for all current Canadian military operations abroad, the National Defence plans show.

All of the international operations, with Operation Impact being the only one that includes combat elements among the 16, are forecast to cost a total of $325.3-million for the fiscal year 2015-2016 with a planned cost of $502-million for the fiscal year 2016-2017.

National Defence planned spending for its other areas of operations, including troop strength, sovereignty areas and international roles such as NATO and the U.S.-Canada North American Aerospace Defence Command, extends to 2018.

But the forecast for Operation Impact goes only to the end of the current fiscal year.

Mr. Trudeau said when he announced the mission extension Feb. 8 that the government intended to extend it for a further year, but would conduct a review before another renewal.

Although the new Canadian mission does not include CF-18 fighter aircraft, the government doubled the number of Canadian special forces soldiers attached near front lines with Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops to roughly 140, although a specific number has never been made public.

The Canadian soldiers, up to now deployed from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment near Petawawa, Ont., have also pinpointed targets for coalition aircraft, engaged with ISIL fighters who have either attacked them or posed a deadly threat and ought alongside Kurdish soldiers to repel a major ISIL offensive last December. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told the House National Defence committee on Tuesday Canada’s rules of engagement allow Canadian soldiers to fire first—”engage in a hostile act”—if they believe ISIL combatants are preparing to shoot at them.

The government also approved the deployment of an unspecified number of troops to Jordan and Lebanon to contribute to security and maintained up to two Royal Canadian Air Force surveillance aircraft and an in-air refueling jet, with other new elements including Canadian Armed Forces helicopters to transport special operations troops near front lines or enemy-held areas, to reduce the chance of injury or death from the kind of concealed bombs—called Improvised Explosive Devices—that were responsible for a majority of the 152 Canadian troop fatalities in the Afghanistan war.

The government as well committed $840-million in humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and a further $270-million rebuilding basic social services such as health, education, water and sanitation in the region, over a three-year period.

Those initiatives are planned to include Iraq and Syria, once fighting in those two countries diminishes to the point the assistance can take place, or if the conflict in the two countries ends. The CF-18 air strikes came to a halt by Feb. 22, and four of the CF-18s were redeployed to Romania for NATO duties.

The government said in February the increase in military resources in support of Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition would cost $264-million, plus a further $41.9-million in 2017 for redeployment of personnel and equipment.

It said a further $145-million over three years would be spent on counter-terrorism, stabilization and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security programming, and other measures to counter ISIL, including cutting off access to financing.

CAF Heading back to Libya?

Written by David Pugliese, 

There has been a lot of talk about a new coalition to intervene against Islamic extremists in Libya. Those extremists took over parts of the country in the wake of the 2011 removal by rebels of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

The opposition groups had support from NATO and Canadian CF-18s and other aircraft took part in that bombing campaign.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has suggested that Canada might take part in a new mission to Libya to deal with ISIL operating from that country, if that comes about.

“There’s a much more significant threat of ISIL in that region and that’s the reason we are having greater discussions on that,” Sajjan recently told journalists.

The Pentagon is reported to have presented U.S. President Barack Obama with plans for extensive airstrikes against ISIL training camps in Libya.

It could be a long haul, however, to get Libya stable. The top U.S. general in Africa says the country is now a failed state.

Army Gen. David Rodriguez said that foreign fighters, weapons and illegal migrants are flowing through the oil-rich North African country, supplying the conflicts in Syria and Iraq with combatants and threatening U.S. allies, the Associated Press writes.

Here is the rest of the Associated Press article:

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rodriguez said the recent agreement to form a unity government in Tripoli is an important step. Yet even with strong international support, the new government will struggle for the “foreseeable future” to establish its authority and secure Libya’s people and borders, he said.

Rodriguez estimated that it would take “10 years or so” to achieve long-term stability in Libya. He cited a “fractured society” and the lack of government institutions as major hurdles to overcome.

“The continued absence of central government control will continue to perpetuate violence, instability and allow the conditions for violent extremist organizations to flourish until the (government) and appropriate security forces are operational within Libya,” Rodriguez told the committee.

Rodriguez’s assessment comes nearly two weeks after Secretary of State John Kerry stopped short of declaring Libya as failed, citing the selection of a prime minister-designate to lead the new government.

“It’s close,” Kerry said last month during testimony before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “If they cannot get themselves together, yes, it will be a failed state.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Rodriguez to quantify how much of Libya is under the control of extremist groups. Rodriguez replied that the Islamic State group controls the area in and around its stronghold city of Sirte.

The Islamic State has been recruiting militants from abroad into Libya in an effort to exploit years of chaos and expand its foothold there.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the Islamic State now commands 5,000 fighters in Libya.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Canada in Iraq: CAF to Train and Arm Peshmerga

Written by: Lee Berthiaume, The Ottawa Citizen "NP Section"

Peshmerga fighters from Iraq take part in a training session with German troops last week. Canada’s top soldier says Canadians will train a battalion of Kurdish troops.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance made the comments during an appearance before the Senate defence committee on Monday, where he also acknowledged that ISIL has chemical weapons, which represents a “huge concern.”

The Trudeau government announced last month that Canada would be tripling the number of military personnel working alongside the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq to 200, as well as providing “lethal aid” to the Kurds.

The move coincided with the Liberals ending Canadian airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

Vance told senators that Canada does not have a specific number of peshmerga fighters it wants to train over the next year.

Most of those being trained are average citizens who volunteer to man the front line against ISIL for a few days before going back to their jobs and families, he said.

“We’re not building an army,” he said. “We’re building an effect that will last as along as it needs to last.”

But Vance said Canada is also looking at training some “discrete forces” as part of its new mission.

“One of the programs will be a program to try and take conventional forces and give them a bit more focused training,” he said. “That is where we’re going to equip people. So try to take roughly … 300 to 400 (Kurds), give them training for months (and) equip them so they have a stronger core of more professional fighters.”

The hope is to have such a force ready to help retake Mosul. Iraqi and Kurdish forces have been building up for an attack on the country’s second-largest city for months.

The assault is expected to be difficult and bloody, as ISIL has thousands of fighters and is holding up to one million residents as human shields.

Meanwhile, Vance confirmed ISIL has access to chemical weapons. He described the mustard and chlorine gas weapons as “rudimentary” and “smallscale,” and said Canadian troops on the ground are well protected against such attacks.

However, he acknowledged fears that ISIL’s capabilities will grow either in size or with the addition of nerve agents.

“We don’t have indication of that right now,” he said. “But it is a huge concern. It’s also, if you can imagine, a concern because of the impact it could have on a civilian populace.”

The U. S. State Department said Thursday ISIL is believed to have used the deadly chemical in an attack near the town of Makhmur last August. Approximately 35 Kurdish peshmerga fighters were affected by the gas, which causes severe burns to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

Makhmur is about 100 kilometres south of Mosul and the Kurdish capital, Erbil. Canadian special forces have been training and accompanying Kurdish forces around those two cities, and to the north of them, since September 2014.

National Defence said it did not believe Canadian troops have been directly exposed to mustard gas, which was previously used by the Iraqi military against Kurds in Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.

Vance also said Canada is not technically at war, noting the legal definition is an armed conflict between two states. “The word ‘war’ doesn’t enter the lexicon, and it doesn’t necessarily matter from my perspective. It doesn’t change the status of my forces. … It doesn’t alter the benefits and allowances that the soldiers get.”

Public input unlikely to alter Liberal CAF Vision

Written by: John Ivision, National Post 

Within days, Def ence Minister Harjit Sajjan will launch public consultations on the new review that will mandate the future size of the Canadian Forces, what kind of equipment they will use and the theatres in which they will operate.

In tandem with the upcoming defence review, the Department of National Defence will issue a new statement of requirement for the CF-18 fighter jet replacement. Insiders suggest the campaign pledge not to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 remains, John Ivison writes, which means it looks like Canada will end up choosing Boeing’s Super Hornet.

The goal is to have the feedback process wrapped up by June 30 and the whole defence review signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the year, just in time for the 2017 budget.

The degree of haste suggests there won’t be much weight placed in those consultations because the Liberals already have a pretty good idea what they want — as the election platform detailed, a “leaner, more agile” military that can defend Canada and North America; can provide support during natural disasters; can offer humanitarian support missions and peacekeeping operations; and (last and, apparently, least) has a degree of combat capability.

In tandem with the defence review, Sajjan’s department will issue a new statement of requirement for the CF-18 fighter jet replacement. Insiders suggest the campaign commitment not to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 remains written in stone, even if it’s not clear how you conduct an open and transparent tender process while barring one competitor.

There are two or three European fighter jet options available to the air force, but government officials concede it will be problematic to buy a plane not operated by Canada’s NORAD ally, the U.S. So, it looks as if we will have a lengthy, expensive competition that will end up choosing Boeing’s Super Hornet.

In their campaign platform, the Liberals said they would buy a cheaper option than the F-35 and re-direct the savings to the navy, since there is not enough money left in the capital spending pot to fund all the ships on order under the Canadian Surface Combatant program.

But the only way significant savings are likely to manifest is if the Forces buy a far smaller fleet than the 65 jets planned in the original F-35 contract.

That might be exactly what the Liberals envisage.

The party’s election platform suggested Canada will no longer participate in the kind of air-to-ground campaigns we witnessed in Iraq. If we are no longer in the business of sending our jets overseas, and their sole focus is on continental defence, we can afford a far smaller fleet.

The platform also committed to implement the recommendations of the 2011 Report on Transformation, a controversial effort led by none other than the current Liberal whip and former lieutenant-general, Andrew Leslie.

While the platform is explicit in endorsing Leslie’s road map to a more “modern, efficient and effective military” — less tail, more teeth — mention of the report was conspicuous by its absence in Sajjan’s mandate letter.

Leslie appears to have known his recommendations to reduce headquarters overheads, including the $2.7 billion spent annually on consultants and contractors, would face resistance.

“Very few of the recommendations to get where we think we have to go will be easy, popular or risk free,” he wrote.

He concluded with a quote from Machiavelli: “The innovators have for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions.”

But he did not perhaps anticipate the virulence with which the advocates for the status quo would fight back against his call to fundamentally restructure the Canadian Forces.

It seems the uniforms, whose livelihoods may have been impacted by the recommendation the Forces adopt a single, streamlined command structure, are still fighting.

People familiar with the current review say many of Leslie’s suggestions for addressing the bloating bureaucracy (the tail grew by 40 per cent from 2004 to 2010; operational or deployable jobs by 10 per cent) are not likely to see the light of day.

Yet “leaner and more agile” — even smaller — may not necessarily be a bad thing. Rick Hillier, the former chief of the defence staff, has advocated reducing the size of the military as the only way to ensure it remains strong and stable. He has said the number of fulltime members could fall to about 50,000 from the current 66,000.

An internal Department of National Defence review conducted by the Conservative government also recommended cutting one infantry company from each of Canada’s nine battalions.

The Conservatives failed to act on that recommendation, having criticized the Liberals for ushering in a military “decade of darkness” under Jean Chrétien.

For the same reason, the Trudeau government is likely to be nervous about reducing head count.

But the crucial metric is budget. As David Perry at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute points out, the Liberals promised to find $3 billion in savings in an expenditure review during the election.

If the defence review is geared to finding savings that are re-invested in new capability areas such as space and cyberspace, a reduction in numbers may be politically marketable.

But if it turns out to be a cash grab, designed to free up funds to flow back into general revenues and fluff the deficit, the Liberals will deserve all the opprobrium that comes their way.

Whatever the granular detail, it seems certain Canada will emerge with military more geared to fighting famine than war.

Honoring Canada's Military Past

Written by Mathew Fisher, National Post 

Amid the acrimonious debate over the competing Liberal and Conservative visions about where and how Canadian Armed Forces members should be remembered for their heroic service in Afghanistan, there has been no public discussion about the fate of the poignant, wood-framed, grey-granite memorial depicting the 190 Canadians and American soldiers and civilians who died while working with Task Force Kandahar.

There has been no discussion about the fate of the grey-granite memorial depicting the fallen 190 Canadian and American soldiers and civilians who died while working with Task Force Kandahar, Matthew Fisher writes.

That solemn cenotaph remembers, among others, my friend, Calgary Herald journalist Michelle Lang, my old roommate, Glyn Berry, and many soldiers I knew personally. The monument, which arguably means far more to those who served in Afghanistan than any other, stood for years as a place of quiet remembrance in a gravel courtyard behind task force headquarters at Kandahar Airfield.

When the combat mission ended there in 2011, the tribute was taken apart, flown home at considerable expense and taken on a cross-country vigil. Canadian Joint Operations Command has confirmed it is languishing in a warehouse in a Canadian military compound in Ottawa while the government and the Department of National Defence decide what to do with it.,

Because it is too brittle to withstand Canadian winters, the monument must find a permanent indoor home. Suggestions have included putting it in the Canadian War Museum or in the main lobby of the new National Defence Headquarters.

That memorial and others that recall Canada’s decade-long involvement in Afghanistan are a potential political minefield for the government, judging by the emotional Internet response to an article Friday by Postmedia’s Lee Berthiaume. My colleague revealed the government is ending a well-regarded Community War Memorial Program to build modest local cenotaphs that would remember Afghanistan and other wars where Canadians have fought.

That decision, and dithering by the new government about whether it intends to proceed with a National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan, approved by the Harper regime in 2014, dovetails with its oft-stated intention to promote the narrative that ours is a country of principled peacekeepers, rather than a nation of principled warriors.

Little consideration has apparently been given to how it would not be a contradiction to honour Canada’s distinguished history of peacekeeping and its far longer, equally noble history as peacemaking because both have been about making the world a safer place.

Senators on the national security and defence committee will have a chance Tuesday to ask Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on the government’s plans.

It is a tricky file for Sajjan, who served three tours as a senior military intelligence gatherer in Kandahar, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who has publicly sought to downplay what he regards as the militarism of the Harper government.

It is a fact that the United Nations peacekeeping missions Trudeau greatly admires and talks about Canada being part in future no longer exist. Almost every UN sponsored military mission now is extremely dangerous. Today’s blue berets are, in reality, blue helmets and must be prepared to fight at a moment’s notice.

Sajjan is not the only respected Liberal Afghan vet who should publicly state where he stands on how Canada should remember its long military engagement in Afghanistan. Liberal Party whip Andrew Leslie was deputy commander of the international mission in Afghanistan in 2003, before returning home to eventually run the Canadian Army. Another Afghan veteran is retired RCAF Lt. Col. Karen McCrimmon, now Liberal MP for Kanata—Carleton.

As diplomats were also to be honoured for their brave service by the Afghan national memorial, it would be worthwhile for senators, MPs and the media to seek out the opinions of ambassadors such as Bill Crosbie, Elissa Goldberg and Ben Rowswell, and former ambassador and Conservative cabinet minister Chris Alexander who all led teams of diplomats who engaged in “combat diplomacy” in Afghanistan.

Walt Natynczyk, who ran the Canadian Armed Forces for much of the Afghan campaign, now deputy minister of Veterans Affairs, would have a highly informed opinion too. So would Canada’s best-known Kandahar vet, Gen. Jonathan Vance, who now sits in Natynczyk’s old chair as chief of defence staff.

But most of all, it is the voices of the battalions of soldiers, aviators and sailors who served in often harrowing situations in Afghanistan that must be heard. A few Afghan vets generated a lot of noise about alleged shortcomings in the treatment of veterans who served there. Judging by my email and social media streams, many vets of the war against al- Qaida and the Taliban are furious that their service and the sacrifices of their fallen comrades in Afghanistan have been turned into yet another hot potato where politicians can score partisan points.

The families of the 158 Canadians who died in that bleak, hot, distant land and the thousands more who returned home with severe physical injuries and mental trauma deserve much better than that.