Friday, May 13, 2016

Sajjan: The Warrior Minister - Legion Magazine Interview

Interview published in the Legion Magazine, by Adam Day 

Harjit Sajjan on the difference between the Taliban and Islamic State, why Russia is not behaving like a democratic nation, what we may have done wrong in Afghanistan, and a candid answer concerning hisleast-favourite thing about being a politician

Canada’s war against the Islamic State has switched into a higher gear. Hundreds of our special operations forces are flooding into Iraq, backed by helicopters, deepened intelligence capabilities and deployments of more than 100 soldiers to neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan. And in Iraq, at least, the likelihood is that the troops will be in combat, since they are going in on the same advise-and-assist mission that saw Canada’s troops placed in harm’s way last year.

But Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of national defence, doesn’t want to call it a war. Not yet, anyway. And don’t call it a combat mission either, even though there will be combat.

Despite the semantic evasions, Sajjan takes up his new post with a reputation for solving tough problems. He is not just a former lieutenant-colonel, an Afghanistan combat veteran and a former gang-unit detective. He is also reportedly an all-star thinker whose analysis of enemy networks in Kandahar Province earned him repeated tours and accolades. And it brought him to his current position.

Now, Sajjan’s training as an intelligence officer is being tested on a bigger stage. The world is complex, he says, and we can’t hope to stop threats unless we understand where they come from. Sajjan is always thinking about the big picture. As such, he sometimes sounds like he may suffer from the paralysis of a man who understands too much—aware of the situation’s complexity, of underlying causes and third-order consequences and the relentless nature of a negative feedback loop. The question then becomes one of where to act, when, and why.

To get a better sense of the new minister and his objectives, Legion Magazine conducted a brief, lighting-round-style phone interview with him as he sped toward the airport in Ottawa, slightly behind schedule. While he is certainly more forthcoming than many recent ministers, Sajjan has already picked up the politician’s game of dodging a question as if it’s a sport.
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, presents medals to the members of CANSOF Task Force during a visit to Iraq on December 21, 2015.
Legion Magazine: Please give your opinion, and remember you have one minute to answer this question: did we win the war in Afghanistan?

Sajjan: It was not about winning or losing. It was about making sure we brought the Afghan National Security Forces and the government structure to a point where they were taking greater responsibility. You have to leave at some point; otherwise there is no long-term solution for it. And I think that was accomplished.

LM: Can you compare the Taliban to the Islamic State? Which one was or is the greater threat to Canadian national security?

Sajjan: ISIL is definitely a greater threat to Canadian security. The Taliban stayed within the borders. You didn’t have a lot of conversation regarding what they wanted to do outside their borders. The brutality is literally the same, but one thing is that ISIL uses social media to get brutality out. The Taliban were just as brutal, although only some of us who were in certain areas knew and witnessed some of that.

LM: Here’s something harder to understand: we responded to the Taliban with military force, and indeed, occupation of their country. But we respond to ISIL with more of a hands-off approach, with less combat. So can you describe why we respond to the greater threat with less force?

Well, it’s not about us bringing capabilities and force, it’s about the totality of what you’re trying to do. If you look at how long the United States was at war in Iraq fighting the insurgency, and in the end, some Sunni tribes came onto their side and things were okay and they left. And what happened all of a sudden was that ISIL, a small radical organization that came out of Syria, became so big. This fight has to be done by the local regime. Yes, we can go in and fight and potentially get to a stalemate and even win. But it’s not about just defeating ISIL, it’s about allowing the Iraqi forces to defeat ISIL so we can have more of a long-term solution. And that’s far more important, because at the end of the day, we only have so much force, even with the U.S. and the European Union working together.

“As you fight, if you do not deal with the
recruitment, you will just keep fighting.”

LM: It seems that Sunni extremism—an ideology that gave rise to both al-Qaida and ISIL—is the real problem here. How do we deal with Sunni extremism?

Sajjan: I think any extremism needs to be dealt with. And in this particular region, ISIL—a small but very radical group—is at the forefront. Any group gets its recruitment based on its population. Even though we’re fighting, what we’re really doing is buying time to separate the population from the radical group and once you do that you end up fighting a smaller organization. And that’s the critical piece that has to be done in Iraq.

LM: So your proposal to defeat Sunni extremism is to separate the extremists from the population?

Sajjan: Well, in any counter-insurgency strategy, you have to do that. As you fight, if you do not deal with the recruitment, you will just keep fighting. So the base that they have to recruit from is absolutely critical to getting the long-term success that we’re looking to achieve.
“Dialogue is the absolute key to
understanding Russia’s intentions.”

What do you believe is the greater threat: ISIL or Russia?

Sajjan: You can’t separate them. You have to look at the threats in a different manner. With Russia, you have far greater regional and strategic issues. And with all the aggression they are showing around the world, the hope is that they’ll get back to a place of dialogue and be partners in the dialogue, which is better for their county. However, in ISIL you have a group you can’t negotiate with and so you have to deal with them in this [forceful] manner. So we need to be able to isolate that group and ensure they don’t take advantage of the political issues that have been created to push or pull the greater population. Once we isolate this radical organization in order to be able to destroy it, that’s going to be critical. But you can’t really look at which one is the greater threat. It’s like looking at apples and oranges, really.

LM: In your read, what is animating Vladimir Putin’s aggression? What is animating Russian aggression?

Sajjan: That’s pretty difficult to say for me, looking at it from the outside, like any other Canadian, having only recently gotten into this. It’s important to know what the person’s mindset is and what experience they have. When you’re leading a country like Russia, it cannot be done in an irresponsible manner, where you just invade other countries, regardless of what issues you have. Democratic nations deal with difficult issues. You come to the table and discuss them.
Defence Minister, Harjit S. Sajjan speaks with Antoni Macierewicz, his counterpart from Poland during the annual Defence Ministerial Meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on February 10, 2016.
LM: We are living in a unique historical period. We’ve seen international borders being rewritten, which doesn’t happen all that often. Crimea and Iraq. So, related to Russia’s aggression, NATO expansion into Eastern Europe does seem to be a bit of a trigger. Now we want to get Ukraine into NATO. How does this expansion serve our interests?

I’ll be going to my first NATO meeting in a week and half or so, and these are a lot of the important discussions that we will have. It’s important to have the right balance, but I think dialogue is the absolute key to understanding Russia’s intentions. But NATO has a really important role and has had for a really long time. We have to stay unified. We’re going to stay steadfast with our partners, with Ukraine and some of the other Eastern European countries, but the opportunity for dialogue will always be there.

LM: Your career as a soldier is over. What was its defining moment?

Sajjan: In Afghanistan in 2006, when an infantry section allowed me to do the work I did, it really opened my eyes. Just because you have rank doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Some of the best answers and solutions come from unlikely sources. And I don’t know how many times that golden nugget of a clue we were looking for came from troops on the ground. I can look back and say, wow, our troops really are second to none. The thought processes they can bring to the table, the heart that they have, and the fight that they bring. They can easily turn around from doing humanitarian work in a village to fighting within the hour. Being able to switch on a dime like that is pretty hard to achieve. Just being able to work with people like that was the highlight.

LM: What is something you don’t like about being a politician?

Sajjan: I would say that the discussions that sometimes happen in the House take away from the real work that’s being done for Canadians. In Ottawa now it’s like being in a bubble and fighting to stay out of that bubble so you keep connected with Canadians and the real issues and what’s going on. In the Canadian Armed Forces, we do have a perspective on politicians, but at the same time we know that a lot of people who’ve gotten into politics, especially the colleagues I know, really do want to make a difference. When we serve, we all know that if you think you can make a difference and you have the capability and the experience that you should seek and accept responsibility. I felt that my experience was needed and I didn’t like how certain things were being done, so I stopped complaining about it because I felt I had the capability to do something and so I did.

US Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation awarded to CAF members

DND Press Release

By: Ashley Black

After an exceptional contribution to Exercise TRADEWINDS 2015, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members have been recognized by the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.

Members of the TRADEWINDS 2015 Maritime Team were awarded the US Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation for their support and participation in the US-led exercise that focuses on countering transnational organized crime in the Caribbean.A total of 64 Defence Team members were among the 160 recipients who were part of the overall TRADEWINDS 2015 Maritime Team, being recognized for showcasing the exercise’s potential within the framework of maritime operations.
LS Vanessa Conde Torres, Marine Engineering Systems Operator on HMCS Glace Bay, stabilizes a member of the US Coast Guard as he operates the fire hose at maximum power during Ex TRADEWINDS in St. Kitts and Nevis, June 2015.
LS Vanessa Conde Torres, Marine Engineering Systems Operator on HMCS Glace Bay, stabilizes a member of the US Coast Guard as he operates the fire hose at maximum power during Ex TRADEWINDS in St. Kitts and Nevis, June 2015.

“The TRADEWINDS 2015 Maritime Team distinguished themselves as true professionals and showcased the Coast Guard’s unique capabilities while expertly demonstrating how the service fits into the great US Joint and Combined force,” reads the official commendation citation.

Ex TRADEWINDS helps strengthen relationships of partner nations in North America and the Western Hemisphere. This annual exercise allows for Canadian and American forces to promote regional security co-operation by training and supporting regional nations in the Caribbean community.

A CAF contingent consisting of HMCS Glace Bay and a dive training team from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) participated from May 31 to June 24, 2015, in the maritime portion of TRADEWINDS 15. Thirty-four members of the Canadian Army were also an integral part of the CAF contingent, leading and participating in land-based training serials for partner nations.CAF members assisted training regional partners in areas such as first aid, weapon usage, suspect vessel tracking and boarding procedures, group diving tactics, and live-fire ranges during the exercise.

Lieutenant-Commander Stephan Julien, former commanding officer of the Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), noted that much of the exercise’s success can be attributed to the enthusiasm of partner nations.

“Our partner nations were very professional and welcoming. They were very eager to learn new skills to enhance the knowledge that they already had. On the tactical side, the relationship is always great,” he said.

“When you analyze the area, you realize that the issue is not capability but capacity. Our goal is combatting transnational organized crime; we help build their regional security capacity so they can operate internally to deal with security issues. This is our long-term strategy,” said Clayton Purvis, the lead exercise planner on Ex TRADEWINDS.

This year, Exercise TRADEWINDS 2016 will continue to further the goal of helping partner nations in the Caribbean increase their capacity to operate independently and promote regional security. The upcoming exercise will run from June 5 to 28 in Grenada and Jamaica.

OP LENTUS-16-01 Concludes as RCAF Aircraft return from Fort McMurray

CAF military aircraft return from Fort McMurray deployment.

Canadian military aircraft will begin returning to their home bases after provincial authorities in Alberta assessed that they no longer required Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) air assets to support provincial resources in responding to the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

“The Canadian Armed Forces responded swiftly to the call for assistance from the Province of Alberta, providing professional and capable support when Albertans needed it most." said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. "I am extremely proud of our military’s contribution in supporting Albertans, first responders and the Government of Alberta.”

CAF assets and personnel currently in Alberta will begin repositioning to allow for ongoing support to the province if required. Joint Task Force West continues to maintain an Immediate Response Unit of 350 people on heightened readiness in order to support domestic operations, in addition to air assets that will be on standby in Edmonton.

“We are very proud of what our personnel have accomplished over the past nine days," said Brigadier-General Wayne Eyre, Commander Joint Task Force West. "As our first priority, we stand ready to protect our fellow Canadians here at home in their time of need.”

Joint Task Force (JTF) West shipped 124,700 lbs of freight, transported a total of 367 evacuees to safe areas, and transported 173 firefighters in and out of the affected area. During the deployment of personnel and equipment on Operation LENTUS 16-01, the CAF met all of the requests made by provincial authorities, such as assistance to evacuations including those in isolated areas, the delivery of essential aid, and the transportation of essential fire-fighting equipment and personnel to the affected area.

Working from Conklin, Alberta, the Air Task Force conducted one search and rescue mission, eight reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas and critical infrastructure, and eight night surveillance flights to monitor the status of the fire.

The CAF’s contribution to emergency efforts consisted of four CH-146 Griffon helicopters, one CH-147 Chinook helicopter, and one CC-130J Hercules aircraft. A total of 65 CAF personnel - consisting of aircrew, aircraft maintainers, air movements personnel, liaison officers, and other support staff - were deployed to the region.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sajjan in Washington for meetings; including with Sen. McCain

DND Press Release:

Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan will participate in a roundtable meeting hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 12, 2016. Minister Sajjan will then travel to Capitol Hill for meetings with senior officials, including U.S. Senator John McCain.

During his meetings, Minister Sajjan will be discussing a number of issues currently being examined as part of Canada’s ongoing defence policy review, including continental defence.

Following Washington, Minister Sajjan will proceed to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) Change of Command ceremony on Friday, May 13, 2016

Poland wants more CAF Troops to Deter Russian Aggression

By Jennifer Chevalier, CBC News

Poland's president says he hopes Canada will increase its military presence in his country in order to help deter Russian aggression.

In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Andrzej Duda said it is "beyond any doubt" that Russia has an "expansionist, imperial policy," and he would like to see Canada increase its military personnel and equipment in Poland.

Poland. 15 March 2016. A Canadian Armed Forces member looks on as a Polish soldier fires a C9 machine gun at the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in Poland during Operation REASSURANCE on March 15, 2016. (Photo: Master Corporal Andrew Davis, Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force Imagery Technician)
A CAF member looks on as a Polish soldier fires a C9 machine gun at the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in Poland during Operation REASSURANCE on March 15, 2016. (Photo: Master Corporal Andrew Davis, Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force Imagery Technician)
Polish president urges NATO to bolster eastern flank
Boost military spending, former NATO commander says
Cold War-style hotline proposed

Western allies are considering sending about 4,000 additional troops to the Baltic states and Poland on a rotational basis. The move is being worked out ahead of a NATO conference in July, which Duda is hosting in Warsaw.

Asked if this number of troops would satisfy Poland's concern about Russian aggression, Duda said he would like to see more.

"This is a big group of soldiers," he said through a translator, adding, "I would like them to be joined by soldiers from other NATO member states … also by Canadian soldiers."

Canada has 220 troops stationed in Europe as part of NATO's Operation Reassurance. They are due to come home at the end of June. Duda is touring NATO member states to lobby for the troop increase ahead of the July summit.
Concerns over Polish democracy

Duda's request comes as the European Union has issued its own demands of Poland.

Since its election last year, the conservative Law and Justice Party has been criticized for attempting to rein in the Polish Constitutional Court.

After it took power, Duda's government refused to seat judges appointed by the previous government, appointing its own judges instead. It later amended legislation to effectively curtail the power of the top court.

The issue has led to ongoing protests in Poland. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Warsaw this past weekend.

The ruling party has also been accused of taking control of the country's public media. Poland's treasury minister is now in charge of hiring — and firing — public TV and radio management.

Last month, the EU called on Poland's government to respect democracy. Members of the European Parliament passed a resolution saying the paralysis of the country's top court poses a danger to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Political conflicts

Duda rejects the accusations that Poland's democracy is crumbling. He concedes there is a "political conflict" over the constitutional court, but nothing more sinister than that. Rather, he says it's the opposition party that is disappointed by its recent loss of power that is trying to use its connections in the European Parliament to stir up trouble.

"They are using that influence. Very often they are depicting the situation in our country in a false way," Duda said.

"The fact that people are free to demonstrate, the fact that nobody interferes with the demonstrations, the fact that there is absolute freedom of speech, this is a testament to the democratic system in Poland," Duda said.

When asked if NATO member states could put pressure on Poland to respect the rule of law in return for the military presence it is requesting, Duda insists these are two separate issues.

He said that on the one hand, "temporary political conflict … is just normal in every democratic state." On the other hand is military security, which Duda characterizes as much more important.

"Political disputes like the one we're going through in Poland are just temporary and passing," he said. "I don't think that wise politicians would like to combine these two things in any way."
Meeting Trudeau

Duda met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday to discuss security and trade issues. The Prime Minister's Office did not respond by the time of publication when asked if Trudeau brought up the EU's rebuke of Poland over democracy concerns.

Duda, 43, said he had "a very good conversation" with Trudeau. They had met briefly at the nuclear security summit in Washington in March, where Trudeau noted that with Duda attending, he was no longer the youngest leader in the room.

"I think we have a similar view of the world," Duda said of Trudeau. "Of course we might differ in our views, but we have this young outlook on the world. We try to look very far into the future, both of us."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

60 years ago: RCAF CF-100 Crash that killed 11 nuns in Orléans

1956 plane destroyed a convent in Orleans. Ruins of the Grey Nuns of the Cross Villa St. Louis convent in Orleans after a CF-100 crashed into it May 15, 1956.

On May 15, 1956 — 60 years ago Sunday — a CF-100 fighter jet, travelling at 1,100 kilometres an hour, descended crazily from an ungodly height to crash into Villa St-Louis in Orléans along the Ottawa River.

It was a residence for nuns, 11 of whom were among the 15 fatalities.

The blast was colossal, heard as far away as Manotick, and the 15-ton craft left a crater where once a brick building stood. Just as it broke windows two kilometres away, it shattered the city’s sense of order.
Piles of rubble and smouldering debris were all that remained of Orleans’ Villa St. Louis after a missile-laden RCAF jet fighter slammed into the convent.
How could a new aircraft on a routine mission — not far from its home base of Uplands — manage to strike the only building in a relatively rural area — and have its occupants be members of a religious order dedicated to serving the sick and needy?

Flipping through the archival news coverage, it is evident that the good citizenry was seized with this wretched existential question: if a God, how does this happen?

“God has sent us this cross from the sky,” a nun was quoted in the Citizen. “It fell on our chapel. May His Will be done.” It does scan a little oddly in a secular era, but we hardly have a better answer today, do we?

At the funeral, one of the biggest the city has ever seen, Archbishop M.J. Lemieux asked the mourners at Notre-Dame Basilica: “Is not the sacrifice of these sisters already accepted by God?”, later adding ” … for God who takes with one hand gives generously with the other.”

The tragedy is to remembered Sunday at a memorial built not far from the crash, the present site of a francophone seniors residence that is part of Bruyère Continuing Care. The memorial, a stone’s throw from the river, consists of a large cross with a small, descending aircraft halfway up. There are names on a plaque and 11 stones marking the dead nuns, members of the Sisters of Charity, or so-called Grey Nuns, who were so important in Ottawa’s early history.
A cortège of 200 friends, relatives and 700 nuns walking four abreast, followed 11 hearses containing 11 plain pine coffins. The 11 victims were buried in six graves at Notre Dame cemetery.

(Credit the 410 Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association for marking the event.)

Mo Aller, 86, will be there, playing the lament, Flowers of the Forest, on the bagpipes. A retired major from the Canadian Air Force, he arrived at Uplands only days before the crash with his wife and two young children. A check of his log found he flew the same CF-100 model a couple of days after the crash.

Those aircraft did not have the sophisticated “black-box” equipment of today’s planes, so investigators were left with the theory the two pilots lost consciousness due to an oxygen-supply breakdown during a flight that took them to 33,000 feet.

(To add irony to the tragedy, the two CF-100s that left Uplands that night were “intercepting” a Canadian plane on a harmless routine flight and spent a good part of the airtime burning fuel and practising manoeuvres.)

“How could an aircraft at night, go plummeting down, out of control, and smash into a convent like that?” asked Aller. “It’s just incredible, an unbelievable set of circumstances.”

He knows the plane well and pointed out that the pilots, if in crisis, would normally have ejected. Instead, at top speed, they crashed into a building surrounded by fields, only metres from the Ottawa River. The fuel and ammo on board only made things worse.

The city’s outpouring at the time was considerable.

The papers were full of stories of near-miss and heroism. Some nuns were saved because they were working late downtown at the hospital. Others were bedridden and didn’t stand a chance. They were mostly from Eastern Ontario or West Quebec, and their ages ranged from 21 to 71.

The Citizen story on May 22 that year said the highest-ranking nun, Rev. Sister St. Laurent Justinian, 71, was buried alone, while the other 10 were paired up and buried in five graves at Notre Dame Cemetery.

Curious, I tried to find the headstones on Tuesday, but could not. A call to the Mother House explained why. At least in the old days, to become a nun was to join a new family and leave behind the former “self”, thus the taking of a new religious name.

So prior to 1979, the sisters were buried in a large plot, below a monument to Elisabeth Bruyère, without individual markers — even those who died in public, spectacular fashion.

But, for a few moments Sunday, above the fast moving river, on the notes of a bagpipe, 11 names shall live again.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email
This simple cross with a sharply descending aircraft is a memorial to the tragic events of May 15, 1956 when 15 people were killed, including 11 nuns, after a CF-100 aircraft jet slammed into Villa St-Louis, in Orléans at the edge of the Ottawa River. It will be the site of a ceremony to be held Sunday. KELLY EGAN / OTTAWA CITIZEN
CF-100 crash destroyed Grey Nuns of the Cross convent in Orléans May 15, 1957.
A crane scoop removes fragments of the gutted Orléans convent following the tragedy at Villa St. Louis, which claimed the lives of 15 people on May 15, 1956.

DND owes Federal Treasury $147M for Unauthorized Expenses

By: Murray Brewster The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has absolved Canadian Forces members of liability after National Defence was ordered to repay more than $147 million in unauthorized expenses incurred by members of the military over nearly a dozen years, The Canadian Press has learned.

The department acknowledged five years ago it had made a mistake when it allowed soldiers and civilian staff to claim some travel expenses and benefits that fell outside of federal guidelines.

The practice went on between April 1999 and January 2011, but was then halted following an independent analysis.

The Liberal government has ordered National Defence to reimburse the Treasury Board for unauthorized expenses incurred by members of the military for nearly a dozen years.
The Liberal government has ordered National Defence to reimburse the Treasury Board for unauthorized expenses incurred by members of the military for nearly a dozen years. File Photo
At the time, the military said the mistake involved "tens of millions of dollars" over five years and that it would try to get the federal Treasury Board to cover the expenses, which included the cost of sending family members of fallen Canadian soldiers to visit Kandahar during the war in Afghanistan.

Other expenses included reimbursing travel fees for troops deployed in different parts of Canada, bonuses for overseas postings and allowances for soldiers assigned away from families.

The deputy commander of the military, the now-retired vice admiral Bruce Donaldson, said in 2011 that he was hopeful Treasury Board — the department that manages federal spending — would retroactively approve many, if not all, of the payments in order avoid forcing members to pay back the money.

Treasury Board spokesman Jean-Luc Ferland said Tuesday that the decision to have DND repay these funds was made under the previous government in 2013 and payments immediately began to flow.

"What was left to do for this Government was to absolve of liability all CAF members who may have erroneously received benefits by no fault of their own, but rather because of a misinterpretation of rules at National Defense," he said in an email.

"Since discovering those errors, DND and the CAF have amended their rules to prevent this from happening again."

No one in the department, or the Liberal government, could explain why the amount wasn't simply written off the federal books.

Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, said she wasn't able to comment on what went on before the Liberals took over. But she said the department felt the need to assume responsibility for the error.

"Our request to Treasury Board was that DND will pay back these debts, over the course of several years," she said.

"Partisan politics aside, I don't think anyone thinks (Canadian Armed Forces) members should be liable for money they believed they were receiving in good faith."

Dave Perry, an analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, was startled not only by the figure, but also the fact that the debt stretches back over 17 years.

"It's beyond bizarre that you be going back that far," Perry said.

"I don't understand what the point might be. It is money that was authorized by Parliament over the course of three governments and spent. And it seems to be a case of the left hand of government giving money to the right hand."

Part of it seems to be a regulatory, for-the-record exercise that formally absolves members of military from having to repay the cash themselves. Those who received the payments have been released from liability by the cabinet order, said National Defence spokeswoman Laura McIntyre-Grills.

What she did not reveal was how many years it will take the department to repay the debt.

Perry said he is concerned what — if anything — National Defence will have to forgo as a result of its decision to assume the liability.

"There are all kinds of good things that could have been planned with this money," he said. "Will this impact training? Will it impact national procurement funding?"

One of the reasons it has taken five years to sort out the issue is that after the error was discovered, defence officials ordered a more comprehensive assessment of the benefits system, said McIntyre-Gills.

"In 2011, the DND and the CAF discovered specific payment errors during a standard internal audit," she said.

"This initial discovery resulted in a more extensive review of other benefits and, thus, subsequent discoveries of unauthorized payments. In 2011, an independent external agency reviewed the circumstances of the unauthorized payments and found no evidence of wrongdoing, and that benefit payments had been made in good faith."

OP IMPACT: Camp Canada - Base Expansion

By: JTF–I Public Affairs Officer
DND Press Release:

Operation IMPACT began with the delivery of more than 1.6 million pounds of equipment from Canada to Kuwait in the late summer of 2014. This materiel was brought over to establish a base camp from which to conduct air operations to degrade, dismantle and eventually defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. After approximately 20 months of operations, Camp Canada is expanding in line with the refocused mandate of Operation IMPACT.

“We have levelled new ground here, expanding into land given to us to level and repurpose,” said the Joint Task Force Support Component Adjudant. “Working from a plan and map designed for us by our engineers, we are creating more bed spaces and a larger morale and welfare area to meet the influx of new people. Our operations cell coordinates the efforts across the different specialist groups to ensure the wide diversity of projects and tasks are managed and completed on time. Our logisticians, engineers, and signals personnel have made much of the construction appear seamless.”

In a very short period of time, the Joint Task Force Support Component (JTFSC) expanded the camp by more than 10,000 square metres. The camp now includes new headquarters space, weight and cardio rooms, the new Canada House with a recreation area and a multi-purpose room, a new health services tent, and a chapel, among other necessary resources for camp personnel.

An expansion like this takes meticulous planning and consideration of different units’ requirements.

“The detail that must go into the planning phase is intense,” said the Construction Engineer Commander. “For example, when planning to build a new medical inspection room, we had to think about the base, the walls and structure of the tent, the drainage material required in addition to ensuring the amount of power supply was adequate. A medical unit must have air conditioning, multiple power outlets for computers and medical equipment, lighting, and anything else they require to provide clinical care to members. All the infrastructure on base has unique needs, so we plan multiple times for each project, checking and rechecking the details, overcoming snags as we progress through our projects.”

When expanding the camp, JTFSC worked quickly to avoid any significant impact on operations. This could be a challenge when moving personnel to new sections of the camp, but JTFSC was up to the task. For example, they tore down and set up the medical inspection room in a day, with many volunteers lending a hand to ensure the process was smooth and quick. They then moved the medical unit into their new site and soon had them up and running.

“With the help of members of JTFSC, the move was done with little disruption to services and in a very smooth fashion,” said the Task Force Surgeon.

Another example is Air Task Force – Iraq (ATF-I), which was relocated in March to join Joint Task Force – Iraq. The JTFSC was able to ensure initial operational capability within just two days of ATF-I’s arrival, with little disruption to their communications capability. This relocation was recently finalized with the official closure of a satellite location of ATF-I.

Overall, constructing the new camp and moving personnel to new areas have gone quickly and smoothly.

“I have been moving throughout Camp Canada as this expansion process has been underway and appreciate the heavy lifting and intensive labour of the JTFSC,” said Chief Petty Officer Andrew Tiffin, JTF-I Sergeant Major. “In a matter of weeks the camp has been completely transformed and to all those involved I want to say thank-you on behalf of the Commander, Brigadier-General James Irvine, and me.”

HMCS Algonquin Being Towed to East Coast for Recycling

By David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

The former HMCS Algonquin is on its final journey, 9 May 2016, from CFB Esquimalt to Port Mersey Commercial Park, N.S., for disposal in October 2017. For decades, the warship proudly served the RCN and allies in locations throughout the world. The ship’s illustrious 41 years of service to the RCN include deployments to the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic Task Group, Gulf of Oman for Operation APOLLO and the Eastern Pacific to participate in Operation CARIBBE.  All of those operations were part of RCN contributions to international security operations. 

Image by: Leading Seaman David Gariépy


©2016 DND – MDN Canada

The former HCMS Algonquin left Esquimalt on Monday. It is being towed to the east coast where it will be broken up. The ship is expected to arrive in Nova Scotia in mid-June, Royal Canadian Navy officers told Defence Watch.

The former HMCS Protecteur arrived on the east coast a few weeks ago after a 56-day journey. It will also be broken up.

Photo courtesy of MARPAC.

Operational Security for Special Forces Collateral Damage

By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

It wasn’t that long ago that the news media was prohibited from showing the faces of any Canadian military personnel taking part in the Iraq mission. Official photos from the mission were issued only after the faces of mechanics, pilots and other military personnel were blurred out. Journalists were told they were not allowed to take photos showing the faces of CF members involved in the Iraq conflict.

The reason?

The threat of retaliation from the Islamic State against a military member or their family was very real.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office inadvertently released a video showing the faces – albeit from a distance – of Canadian special forces the Liberals rose in the House of Commons and accused the Conservatives of putting Canadian lives at risk.

Harper’s office later issued an apology and removed the video imagery which was shot while the prime minister was visiting Canadian special forces in northern Iraq.

That was then.

Now it seems there has been a significant change of heart on operational security when it comes to the Iraq mission, and in particular, when it comes to Canadian special forces deployed to a war zone.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance recently took a tour of the front lines in northern Iraq with journalists in tow.

The media were not only allowed to photograph Canadian special forces but interview them as well (CANSOF personnel have been interviewed and photographed before by the Citizen, CBC, Global TV, CTV and other news outlets but on training missions and with various caveats attached…these latest interviews and photographs/video were taken in an active combat zone).

So what has changed?

The Islamic State is still a resourceful and significant enemy….or at least according to the Canadian government and Vance himself.

Military sources say the difference this time is that the Liberal government is keen on showing that Canada is indeed contributing to the Iraq mission, even though the Trudeau government pulled the CF-18s out of the coalition bombing campaign.

Vance was more than happy to accommodate the Liberals and so the military proposed the media tour of the front lines, highlighting Canadian special forces, sources added. It was all done in close co-ordination with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

CANSOF operational security was simply collateral damage, sources say.

(Photo below screen grab from CTV news report about Canadian special forces in Iraq. The video was taken during Gen. Vance’s recent visit to special forces).

My Ottawa Citizen colleague Lee Berthiaume has more details here in his article:

There are those inside the Canadian Forces who argue that OPSEC is too rigid for Canadian special forces. And still others who say it isn’t tight enough; that no faces should be shown or interviews granted….ever.

Whatever the case, the Genie has now been let out of the bottle.

In the wake of this new development on OPSEC, it should be interesting to see how the Canadian Forces will go about justifying operational security for future missions. If it is willing to show off its special forces in an active combat zone, where the enemy is a resourceful terrorist group that has shown it can strike at targets in the West, then it could prove very difficult for the Canadian Forces to rightfully claim OPSEC for other similar, or lesser operations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

CAF to invest at least $100M in green infrastructure

This article was posted about 2 weeks ago by CBC-News, and I missed it. (My Apologies) Here it is now if you haven't yet read/or heard about the CAF's new "green" initiative. 

By: Brett Ruskin, CBC News

CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia is getting greener.

The military base is among seven slated to receive tens of millions of dollars worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next decade.

And the program won't cost taxpayers a cent.

Companies will compete to provide the infrastructure improvements. The selected company (or companies) will finance the upgrades themselves, and will be paid using money saved on heating and electricity bills.

"These projects improve DND infrastructure at no cost to the taxpayer," the Department of National Defence said in a statement to CBC News.

The DND has issued separate tenders for work at CFB Greenwood and six other Canadian Forces bases and wings across the country:
Trenton (Ontario).
Alert (Nunavut).
Cold Lake (Alberta).
Esquimalt (British Columbia).
Shilo (Manitoba).
Petawawa (Ontario).

Each contract is valued between $13 million and $15 million. In total, the DND expects the investments to total $100 million to $175 million.

17% drop in emissions

In 2010, the federal government committed to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below levels measured in 2005. As part of that promise, the DND has so far reduced its emissions to 8.7 per cent below 2005 levels. 
Helicopter pilots walk across the tarmac at Nova Scotia's CFB Greenwood, one of seven military bases slated to receive part of $100 million worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next decade. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)
CFB Greenwood is among the top performers, with current emissions levels at 21 per cent below 2005 levels.

"I was pretty excited about it," Col. Patrick Thauberger said about when he heard of the infrastructure program.

"This is a great way to make the work environment a little better for people. And with no up front cost to us," he said.

Thauberger said these investments will also reduce maintenance costs.

"It's far fewer times that we will have people going up on scaffolding or ladders to change light bulbs," he said.

Defence review looms

This cost-conscious program coincides with the ongoing nationwide defence spending review.

The government is assessing its military needs to decide how future funding should be allocated. That review is expected to conclude this year, with the results unveiled in 2017.

The energy efficiency contracts are now open for bids on the government's website.

Later this year, DND officials will select contractors, determine the exact scope of each project and approve the efficiency upgrades.

HMCS Preserver to be Paid-off in 2016

By: David Pugliese,

HMCS Preserver is currently is being used for a “Harbour Replenishment Role.”

“The RCN’s intent is to pay off HMCS Preserver later in 2016, with an exact date yet to be determined,” Royal Canadian Navy spokesman Lt(N) Kelly Boyden told Defence Watch. “Until such time, Preserver will continue its role of supporting the Atlantic Fleet by conducting alongside replenishment.”

HMCS Preserver is pushed by tugs in Halifax harbour on Oct. 19, 2011. The Canadian navy is going to retire four veteran ships that have been in service for decades. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
HMCS Preserver is pushed by tugs in Halifax harbour on Oct. 19, 2011. Photo by the Canadian Press.
Here, courtesy of the RCN, is the history of the ship.

Commissioned at Saint John on 30 July 1970, she was selected to carry Governor-General Roland Michener on a visit to the Netherlands and Belgium in 1971. On this trip she twice hosted royalty, on 16 April Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and on the 22nd, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium. That June she carried out the first-ever replenishment of a hydrofoil at sea, the recipient being HMCS Bras d’Or. In 1974-75 Preserver served as supply ship for Canadian troops stationed in Cyprus as part of a UN peacekeeping force. On 7 April 1993, she returned to Halifax from duty off Somalia. Between 18 October and 23 November she served in Operation Forward Action (UN sanctions against Haiti). Preserver next departed on 27 January 1994, to join the multinational force carrying out sanctions against the former Yugoslavia. She operated there again from May to June 1995. She was another of the fleet units that participated in the Swissair disaster off Nova Scotia in September 1998. She departed Halifax on 17 October 2001, with Charlottetown and Iroquois, to support Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led response to the terrorist destruction of the Twin Trade Towers, New York City, on September 11. She returned to Halifax on 27 April 2002.

Over the next decade Preserver continued to serve as the east coast tanker, but with increasing challenges to ensure the mechanical availability of the ship for operations. She participated in TGEX 6/07 in November 2007, the largest fleet activity in recent years, and was the coordinating unit for a major multinational sail-past of the Quebec Citadel on 01 June 2008 marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city. Following a major refit in 2010-11, her return to operational status was delayed by a jetty collision in Halifax on 04 November 2011. Preserver returned to high readiness, represented Canada at the War of 1812 Bicentennial celebration in Boston in July 2012 before a deployment to the Caribbean 14 August – 03 October 2012 to participate in Operation CARIBBE and UNITAS 53-12. In 2013 Preserver continued a successful operational cycle, with major deployments including the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group work-ups off the Virginia Capes and Exercise Joint Warrior 13-1 in the North Sea. Preserver’s last operational deployment was again to the Caribbean 23 August – 24 October 2013 participating in Operation CARIBBE and UNITAS LANT 54-13. While on deployment Preserver was successful at interdiction operations and despite its size, captured a go-fast transporting narcotics in the region – a remarkable feat for a vessel of its kind! Preserver commenced 2014 participating in TGEX 2-14 in the North Atlantic 24 February – 13 March 2014 operating with the Canadian Task Group and the German BERLIN-Class replenishment ship FGS Bonn. This exercise marked the final operational time at sea for Preserver, and in September 2014 the ship entered Extended Readiness.

Military Defends Publication of Special Forces Photos

In a new report published in the Ottawa Citizen today, the military is defending the publication of photos; which clearly identify members of Canada's Special Forces team in Northern Iraq. (Photos which were also republished in previous posts on this webpage). The debate began, as the Liberals accussed the former Conservative Government of endangering CAF Special Forces members when then Prime Minister Harper visited Iraq. 

Here is the full report: 

By: Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Military officials have defended the publication of photos and videos that clearly identify Canadian special forces soldiers operating in Iraq — even though the Liberals accused the Harper government of endangering lives by doing the same thing last year.

CTV and the Toronto Star shot and published the photos and video last month, after being invited to join defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance on a tour of the Canadian mission in Iraq. Vance organized the tour in close co-operation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Several members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment from Petawawa, Ont., are clearly identifiable in the footage, with one even sitting down in an interview to discuss what the unit has been doing in northern Iraq.

Military spokeswoman Maj. Isabelle Bresse said in an email that “considerations for the safety of our deployed personnel and the security of military operations are at the forefront of our military planning and decision-making processes.” She did not say who decided to let the soldiers be filmed and photographed.

Bresse said the military has tried to maintain a balance between security and transparency when it comes to the mission. The two media outlets were required to sign an agreement outlining what they could and could not show, she said, adding: “The images were vetted and approved prior to release.”

The footage stands in sharp contrast to the extreme restrictions imposed at the start of the Iraq mission in early October 2014, when media were forbidden from publishing photos or video that would identify military personnel — whether they were involved in the Iraq mission or not.

Officials warned at the time that the Islamic State or supporters would use the information to identify and target the family and friends of military personnel. Those concerns were reinforced after two self-declared ISIL supporters killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in separate attacks later that month.

(Military intelligence reports later obtained by the Ottawa Citizen also showed several worrying incidents in which Canadian military personnel or their families received messages from purported ISIL supporters on Facebook and other social media.)

Those restrictions were still in place when then-defence minister Jason Kenney tweeted photos in March 2015 of Canadian Forces personnel participating in a ramp ceremony for Sgt. Andrew Doiron, who was killed by so-called friendly fire from peshmerga fighters.

Two months later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office was forced to apologize after posting a video that showed Canadian military personnel in Iraq. The videos, shot while Harper was visiting the troops, were quickly removed after officials confirmed they posed a security risk.

In both cases, the Liberals accused the Conservatives of endangering Canadian troops. “They just want to promote themselves at any cost — and that’s at the expense of our Canadian Armed Forces,” Liberal MP Marc Garneau said of the Harper video at the time. Garneau is now the federal transport minister.

But Bresse said the threat to deployed military personnel “vary between geographic locations and change frequently over time.” She would not say what specifically had changed from last year to now.

FBI Director James Comey warned in an annual report in October that ISIL is targeting U.S. military personnel and their families back home. “The names continue to be posted to the Internet and quickly spread through social media, depicting ISIL’s capability to produce viral messaging. Threats to U.S. military and coalition forces continue today.”

Iraqi leaders have to reconcile differences to avoid conflict after ISIL defeated, Sajjan says
New video shows Canadian soldiers wearing Kurdish flag on uniforms: Why this risks fracturing Iraq
Kurdish battle with Iraqi forces raises questions about Canadian military training

Retired major Michael Boire, an associate professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said he was surprised to see Canadian special forces troops in what he described as “full frontals,” given the nature of the conflict against ISIL. He said the real threat isn’t to the troops, but their families back home.

“They must be fairly certain that ISIL no longer poses a threat to the families,” Boire said of senior military officials. “If I were commanding those guys out in Iraq right now, I would be very, very leery of exposing their identities. And I sure as hell wouldn’t go on TV, but that’s just me.”

Conservative defence critic James Bezan said the Liberal government has an obligation to explain how publishing the faces of Canadian special forces troops does not constitute a security risk.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the government of the day to monitor and control media access to our troops,” he said in an email. “I expect the government to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of our troops, even if that means correcting a mistake.”

Monday, May 9, 2016

Would the U.S shield Canada from a missile strike? Maybe not

Late last month I posted a link to the new Vimy Paper by David McDonough on the pospects of Canadian participation in the US Ballistic Missile Defense system. McDonough recently wrote an op-ed based on his paper, which then appeared on the CDA Institute's Blog.

Here is his op-ed.

CDA Institute Research Manager and Senior Editor David McDonough wrote an op-​ed in iPolitics exploring the prospect for Canadian participation in missile defence, based on his recently released Vimy Paper. This was originally re-published on their Blog: The Forum. 

As part of its long-​promised defence policy review, the federal government is reviewing Canada’s 2005 decision to opt out of continental ballistic missile defence. Change of heart? Or red herring?

Either way, it’s a good time to revisit the debate about Canada’s potential role in missile defence. First, let’s start by putting an end to one scare tactic — the notion that the future of the North American Aerospace Defence command (NORAD) would be somehow jeopardized without BMD. Given the importance of airspace warning and control after 9/​11,NORAD is here to stay.

But that doesn’t mean NORAD’s current mission (aerospace warning, airspace control and maritime warning) is necessarily secure. In 2004, Canada’s agreement to allow NORAD’s early warning functions to be used in BMD helped to safeguard its role in ballistic missile warning. NORAD is no longer alone here, however; a number of new fixed and mobile X-​band radar assets provide tracking and cueing capabilities for a range of BMD systems, not all of which are linked to NORAD. If Washington ever chose another conduit for early warning, one of the binational command’s key missions would come to a halt.

Canada’s refusal to participate in missile defence also has created a curious anomaly, given that key allies in NATO, the Asia-​Pacific and elsewhere have moved quickly to develop and deploy BMD alongside the United States. This is especially true in NATO, which is planning to deploy an operational system capable of defending both deployed military forces and European cities.

In effect, Canada accepted the logic of BMD for its allies in Europe — but not for North America. That makes Canada’s position anomalous, to say the least. It also raises the question of whether Ottawa should seek some sort of protection from ballistic missile attack.

Many people assume — falsely — that Canada would be protected from a missile attack by America’s BMD system. That system, however, can now better identify a missile’s trajectory and determine if its target is Canadian or American before it hits.

Simply offering the use of current Canadian personnel at NORAD might offer a fig leaf of involvement in BMD, but it probably won’t be enough to ensure Canadian cities are actually being protected. Interception opportunities are limited, as are the bullets in the BMD gun; the number of U.S. interceptors is only expected to hit 44 by 2017. As its warhead tracking capabilities improve, the Americans increasingly may face a choice between protecting a Canadian city and an American one. No points for guessing which one they’d choose.

But it may be difficult for Canada to secure participation and protection in a BMD system now — without a quid pro quo, at least. The U.S. always has been reluctant to give Canada either a guarantee of BMD protection or a say in the intercept planning process that decides which cities get protection. In 2004 and 2005, for example, U.S. negotiators showed little interest in giving Canada a voice in drafting the interception algorithm.

In other words, simply offering the use of current Canadian personnel at NORAD might offer a fig leaf of involvement inBMD, but it probably won’t be enough to ensure Canadian cities are actually being protected. Canada will need to do more — to provide an ‘asymmetrical’ or ‘in-​kind’ contribution.

One idea making the rounds is to volunteer a site at Goose Bay, Newfoundland for X-​band tracking and cueing radar. That would fill an important gap in radar coverage for tracking something launched out of Iran; continental BMD is designed to shoot down a North Korean missile. It would be particularly useful if the United States chooses to build a third interceptor site on its east coast.

Another proposal is to establish continental surveillance radar in the Canadian Arctic capable of tracking aircraft, maritime vessels and cruise/​ballistic missiles. American military officials have shown interest in having multi-​purpose sensors in the Arctic, and such assets would have the advantage of replacing the aging North Warning System (NWS) radar line.

A third idea is to skip the land-​based proposals altogether and make our contribution in space. By deploying a satellite that could be linked to U.S. space-​based BMD sensors, Canada could support missile defence interceptions beyond North America and be in a better position to pursue cooperation with the Americans on military space.

None of these proposals would come cheap. Any Canadian contribution to BMD also could entail opportunity costs. Money spent on a Goose Bay radar site, for example, reduces the already limited funds for recapitalizing the Canadian Forces. Still, the benefits of participation could outweigh the costs and trade-​offs.

Much depends on what the U.S. expects of a Canadian in-​kind contribution to BMD. The only way to find out is for Canada to start talking with the Americans. The United States has indicated it wants to see proof of definite interest on Ottawa’s part before releasing such information — while Canada has been loathe to send any premature signals that it intends to sign up.

Still, it’s time to assess our options and start the discussions with Washington on missile defence — at least to see where such a dance may ultimately lead.

This article is based on the author’s new Vimy Paper that explores in detail Canada’s participation in ballistic missile defence.

Dr. David S. McDonough is Research Manager and Senior Editor at the CDA Institute, and a research fellow at Dalhousie University’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies.

Canadian Army Begins Ex. CASTOR ANGLE

About 120 members of the Canadian Army will take part in exercise CASTOR ANGLE from May 9 to 13, 2016 in the training areas of 2 Canadian Division Support Base Valcartier, the Canadian Army says.

Exercise CASTOR ANGLE aims to prepare the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (2 R22eR) to act as the Land Force Component of any task force, assigned to evacuate Canadian nationals and other non-combatants from at-risk areas around the world, the army added in a news release. This command post exercise will lead the military to develop procedures and skills for the high-readiness confirmation exercise MAPLE RESOLVE 16, which will take place from May 23 to June 6 in Wainwright, Alberta.

Army Completes STAGED RESPONSE-16

DND Press Release

Approximately 190 Canadian Army soldiers, the majority of whom were reservists, took part in a training exercise that tested their readiness for domestic operations. The Army’s annual Exercise STAGED RESPONSE 16 took place from 6 to 8 May, 2016 within several regions throughout Atlantic Canada.

Exercise STAGED RESPONSE 16 is a command post exercise under the direction of the 5th Canadian Division and focused on the challenges soldiers would face when dealing with a major disaster that might occur within the Region. The training is intended to challenge the leadership, enhance teamwork and the intellectual capacity of the 5th Canadian Division Territorial Battalion Groups – key Groups that could be deployed to support civilian authorities in the event on an emergency situation.

The ability to employ military forces in response to major emergencies in Canada remains a core part of the Canada First Defence Strategy. Exercise STAGED RESPONSE 16 provides the venue for the Canadian Army to train within realistic contemporary situations in response to disasters and emergencies that require the Canadian Army to offer support to civil authorities and other government departments.

“The Canadian Armed Forces stand ready to offer assistance in support of civilian authorities during any crisis in Canada, including natural disasters, wherever and whenever required. As we all know, major emergencies and natural disasters can happen at any time and often with very little notice or warning. For that reason, we create opportunities like Exercise STAGED RESPONSE to give ourselves a chance to test our ability to respond as quickly as possible when faced with a challenging emergency" said, Brigadier General C.J. Turenne, Commander, 5th Canadian Division

The Exercise focused on training reservists from 36 Canadian Brigade Group and 37 Canadian Brigade Group on the Force Generation process, including the Territorial Battalion Group stand-up, battle procedure, operational training, deployment and planning required in the early stages of assigned missions.

Canada’s Special Forces face the risk of Daesh gas attacks in Iraq

Published by: Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, Ottawa burreau

ERBIL, IRAQ—For the first-time in more than a century, Canadians troops are facing a scary reality on the battlefield: the threat of a chemical attack.

Daesh militants have used mustard and chlorine gas in Iraq and Syria, the very weapons used to such horrific effect in the First World War that the international community outlawed their use.

But now Canadian special operations forces soldiers helping to mentor Peshermga troops in northern Iraq are braced for the grim possibility they could come under chemical attack.

Canadian special operations forces soldiers - a corporal, left, and a sergeant, right,- on a security detail in an area west of Erbil, just a short distance from the front line.
Canadian special operations forces soldiers - a corporal, left, and a sergeant, right,- on a security detail in an area west of Erbil, just a short distance from the front line. (Bruce Campion-Smith/Toronto Star)
The chemical weapons employed by Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, are described as rudimentary but coalition commanders are not discounting the threat.

“We’ve known that’s a possibility. Obviously there were significant stockpiles of these things in Syria and ISIL made no bones about the fact they were interested in leveraging,” Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, head of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, told the Star.

“We have always been prepared to deal with that threat from the very first days that we got here,” he said in an interview at a Canadian outpost, west of Erbil.

“This is something that we pay very close attention to. It’s a troubling development,” Rouleau said.

To help ensure the Canadian mission is ready to cope with the potential threat, the special operations forces command has deployed several personnel from its specialized branch responsible for dealing with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

The deployment of the experts was to “make sure that our sampling and identification and decontamination regimes were all as good as they could be,” Rouleau said.

Canadian soldiers were among the first to ever face a chemical attack on the battlefield, when Germans deployed chlorine gas in 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres; more specifically, the Battle of St. Julien. 

German Chlorine Gas Attack, 1915. (Wiki-commons) 
Now Daesh have been accused of using banned chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, told parliamentarians earlier this year that Daesh possessed mustard and chlorine chemicals and had the means to deliver the weapons.

“It is rudimentary and relatively small-scale, but I don't take any solace in that,” Vance told the Senate defence committee in March.

“It could grow and it could get more dangerous if they were to get their hands on other types of chemical weapons, be they nerve agents or otherwise,” Vance said.

U.S. officials have confirmed that Daesh militants have used chemical agents in battle.

“We continue to track numerous allegations of ISIL’s use of chemicals in attacks in Iraq and Syria, suggesting that attacks might be widespread,” James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in February.

Days later, John Brennan, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said Daesh has access to “chemical precursors and munitions.”

“We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield,” he told the CBS news program 60 Minutes.

Yet U.S. marines Col. Andrew Milburn, who commands special operations forces in Iraq, sought to put the risk in context.

“I’m the last guy to minimize the threat of chemical weapons but I think you have to put it in perspective and that almost all casualties in this theatre have been caused by high explosives or bullets,” Milburn said.

He suggested that Daesh lacks the technical skills to successfully deploy chemical weapons. “Otherwise I think we would have seen much more widespread use,” he said.

Instead, Milburn sees the use of what he calls “shock value” weapons as sign of desperation, an organization that is “flailing.”

“I’m not saying Daesh is down the canvas but they’re certainly against the ropes ... the last thing we want to do is underestimate the enemy but we have to be honest,” Milburn said.

“We’re not seeing a formidable organization anymore,” he said.

Rouleau agrees, saying that his soldiers face bigger threats in their Iraq mission, such as the danger of Daesh rockets and mortars.

“It’s just another one of the hazards that we pay close attention to,” he said.

RCAF Chinook provides humanitarian assistance in Alberta

Originally Published by: Frontline Defence, In the News 
A CH-147F Chinook helicopter from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at 4th Canadian Division Support Base lands at Leismer Aerodrome in Conklin, Alberta, on May 6, 2016, as part of Canadian Armed Forces support to the Province of Alberta's emergency response to wildfires in Fort McMurray.
A CH-147F Chinook helicopter delivered 8,200 pounds of food, water, and other sundries to Fort McKay First Nation yesterday as part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) ongoing support to the Province of Alberta in responding to the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

It is the first time that the CAF is operating a CH-147F Chinook helicopter on a domestic humanitarian operation. The aircraft, from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa, joins four CH-146 Griffon helicopters and one CC-130J Hercules aircraft currently supporting relief efforts in the province.

The CH-147F Chinook is an advanced, multi-mission, medium to heavy-lift helicopter. Its primary mission is the tactical transport of equipment and personnel during domestic or deployed operations. The versatility, impressive capacity and extended range of the Chinook make it ideal for operations in Canada’s vast territory and demanding environment.

“It brings me great pride to be a part of the first ever employment of the CH-147F Chinook in Canadian domestic humanitarian operations," said Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Kimpinski, Air Task Force Commander – Joint Task Force West. "The helicopter’s role is just another example of how Joint Task Force West is ready and able to help fellow Albertans affected by the wildfires.”

The CH-147F Chinook is part of Joint Task Force West’s Air Task Force - Forward, which is working to evacuate people, transport emergency response personnel, conduct search and rescue missions, deliver emergency supplies, and fly reconnaissance and night surveillance missions.

The CH-147F Chinook is deployed under Operation LENTUS, the CAF’s contingency plan that outlines the joint response to provide support to provincial and territorial authorities in cases of major natural disasters.