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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump Presidency increases risk for Canadian Troops headed to Latvia

By: Laura Payton, CTV News 

OTTAWA -- A top Democratic politician says Russian President Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly test U.S. president-elect Donald Trump by moving troops into a former Soviet country - including one where Canadian troops will be operating in 2017.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former chair of the Democratic National Committee, says Trump talked during the presidential race as if he would undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and warned Putin will try to test him.

"Who knows how, but I think it'll involve troops, it'll involve Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine or even Latvia," Dean said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.

That's a significant prediction for Canada, which has 450 Canadian soldiers deploying to Latvia in early 2017 as part of a NATO force. NATO has been beefing up its presence in eastern Europe in response to recent Russian action, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last summer that the Canadian Armed Forces will lead a 1,000-person battle group and supply armoured vehicles for the open-ended mission.

Asked whether those soldiers are in a more dangerous situation now, with Putin likely to test to the U.S. president-elect, Dean warned there's danger any time there's uncertainty in foreign policy.

"We don't know what he's going to do... but I think the foreign policy stuff is really scary because a couple of words out of place, you can give people the impression that they can go ahead and do something that you don't want them to do. That is very frightening," Dean said.

'More dangerous'

"Is the world more dangerous or less dangerous now that Donald Trump is the president elect?" Solomon asked.

"It's much more dangerous. Because uncertainty breeds danger and Donald Trump is uncertainty," Dean said.

Trump has praised Putin as a strong leader, downplayed the impact of Russian aggression in Ukraine, and threatened to withhold American support for NATO missions if member countries don't meet promised defence spending targets.

A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan didn't answer a question about whether Sajjan agreed with Dean on the potential for increased risk to Canadian soldiers.

"The minister looks forward to a productive working relationship with the new U.S. secretary of defence, whenever he or she is named, just as he enjoys a strong relationship with the current administration and Secretary [Ashton] Carter," Jordan Owens wrote in an email to CTV News.

"Now more than ever Canada remains committed to NATO and to the promises we have made to our NATO allies, and we expect the same principles of ‎solidarity and collective defence will continue to guide NATO into the future."

Trump advisor Steve Bannon 'a Nazi'

Dean said Trump is a complicated person, pointing out he named Republican stalwart Reince Priebus to be chief of staff, but Steve Bannon, CEO of the far-right website Breitbart News, as chief strategist. Dean says Priebus is "a reasonable person," while Bannon is "a Nazi."

"It's a big word and I don't usually use it unless somebody's really anti-Semitic and really misogynist and really anti-Black," Dean said.

"It makes me very nervous. I mean it calls into question Donald Trump's judgement and that's the problem. So we don't know what to expect from Donald Trump," he added.

At the same time, Trump's daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism following her marriage to Jared Kushner, and the couple are raising their children in the Orthodox faith. Dean admits he doesn't understand how Trump "squares the circle," and said minority communities should be fearful.

"When you run a campaign based on hate, which is what he did, you run a terrible risk of somehow liberating people's worst instincts and that's just what's happened," Dean said.

Canadian troops and helicopters needed in Mali, says UN official

By: The Canadian Press

Canada’s troops and helicopters are urgently needed to protect and ferry peacekeepers at risk of ambush from Islamist militant forces as they travel through war-torn Mali, a top United Nations official told the Canadian Press.

Here is the rest of the Canadian Press article:

Atul Khare, the under secretary general of the UN’s department of field support, said he’s looking for Canadian help during an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum Friday.

“I think the most important contributions currently would be devoted to Mali,” he said after meeting with the Canadian and United Kingdom defence ministers.

He specified there is a shortage of both armed helicopters and military utility helicopters, adding “these challenges are quite critical and they need to be overcome.”


Khare said he’s also looking for Canada to help with combat logistical companies that escort military convoys as they make perilous journeys to the north of the West African nation.

“The logistical convoys … are frequently ambushed and we face many challenges there,” he said.

With a string of recent deaths along the roadways of the nation, Khare said he’s hoping Canada makes its decision quickly.

“The needs were yesterday. We are searching for them today because we have not yet fulfilled those needs,” he said.

The United Nations established an operation in Mali called MINUSMA in April 2013 after French and African Union forces pushed back rebel and Islamist militant forces that had taken control in the north of the country.

Islamist militants recently launched attacks on both a UN peacekeeping convoy and a Malian military camp in the country’s north, killing at least three people.

Khare says he would also appreciate Canada’s assistance with a regional protection force in the South Sudan.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan hasn’t yet committed to a specific mission, but he recently visited Mali.

“Canadians can be proud of the leadership role we’ve taken,” he said, adding final decisions on priorities for spending will come from a defence policy review the Liberals are finishing up.

But a spokesman for Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, who arrived at the conference on Friday, said the Opposition wants to know more about what risks the “potentially dangerous” mission might pose for the Canadian military.

Jake Enright said that Ambrose is scheduled to meet with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and “is hoping the minister can provide her with details about peacekeeping operations in Africa, given that Justin Trudeau has refused to share details with Canadians.”

“Specifically, Ms. Ambrose would like to ask the minister about the French experience in Mali — what challenges exist in such a dangerous region and what types of threats face troops operating in the country.”

HMCS Fredericton to Visit Havana; First RCN Ship in 50 Years

Royal Canadian Press Release

HMCS Fredericton left for Havana, Cuba, today making it the first Royal Canadian Navy ship to visit in over 50 years, the navy noted in a news release.

The ship left Floria and is expected to arrive in Havana sometime Nov. 20, a RCN spokesman told Defence Watch.

HMCS Fredericton will visit the ports of Havana, Cuba; Cartagena, Colombia; and Veracruz, Mexico, “to enhance mutual understanding, cooperation, and capacity with partners in the region,” the RCN added in the news release.

HMCS Fredericton recently returned from a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea on Op REASSURANCE and completed two major exercises CUTLASS FURY and SPARTAN WARRIOR, the RCN noted.

Government Again Considering Sole-Source Super Hornet Buy

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

A Liberal government proposal to buy Super Hornet fighter jets as a replacement for the air force’s aging CF-18s is back on the table.

But whether it will move ahead is still unclear.
A U.S. Navy F/A 18 Super Hornet performs at the Canadian International Air Show at the CNE in Toronto, Sept. 4, 2016.
A U.S. Navy F/A 18 Super Hornet performs at the Canadian International Air Show at the CNE in Toronto, Sept. 4, 2016.
In June the government proposed the purchase of Boeing Super Hornets as an interim measure, but that option disappeared as it faced intense criticism from the aerospace industry and opposition MPs.

Aerospace industry officials say they believed the Liberals were moving towards an open competition for a fighter replacement. But the option to buy the Super Hornets on a sole source basis and forgo a competition until around 2030 has again resurfaced, industry sources now say.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, with advice from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, has been pushing the option, despite opposition from some leaders in the Royal Canadian Air Force, sources add.

Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Sajjan, said Thursday that no decision has been taken yet on replacing the CF-18s.

Sajjan has repeatedly stated there is a need to immediately replace the CF-18s but his comments have been undercut by air force officers who point out the aircraft can keep flying until at least 2025.

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The acquisition of an interim fleet of 20 Super Hornets would push off the need to acquire a new fleet of fighter jets for more than a decade.

Such a deal, if it proceeds, would give breathing room to the Liberals. During last year’s election campaign, Trudeau promised Canada would not purchase the controversial F-35, an aircraft he said was unnecessary for the country’s needs and too expensive. Trudeau promised his government would hold a competition.

By moving ahead with a sole source purchase of Boeing Super Hornets – and promising a competition in the late 2020s — the Liberals will still be able to claim they kept their election promise, industry sources say.

In July, the government asked for initial information from fighter jet manufacturers so it could determine how to proceed with a replacement program. Five companies responded.

Boeing submitted information on its Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin provided information on the F-35A, Dassault responded with the data on the Rafale, Eurofighter with the Typhoon, and the Saab Group offered details on the Gripen aircraft.

The re-emergence of the proposal to sole source the Super Hornets appears to have caught industry off guard.

Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin’s CEO, was in Ottawa Tuesday at an aerospace conference highlighting both the F-35 and Canada’s participation in the project. She pitched the aircraft as a way to bring more jobs to Canada.

“Since the beginning of the program in 2001, more than 110 Canadian companies have contributed to the development and production of the F-35, bringing advanced technology and engineering work to Canada,” Hewson told the audience. “Today, Canadian-built components are on every F-35 produced. Canadian industry has been awarded over $1 billion in industrial work to date, and I’m confident the F-35 will bring significant economic benefits for decades to come.”

In August, two U.S. Air Force F-35s travelled to Canada to highlight the capabilities of the aircraft. At the time, Lockheed Martin officials said it looked like a competition would be held and their aircraft would be invited to take part.

But Trudeau is not a fan of the F-35.

When the National Post first reported on the Liberals’ proposal in early June to proceed with a sole source deal for the Super Hornets, Trudeau responded to criticism in the Commons by slamming the F-35. He dismissed the F-35, claiming the jet “does not work and is far from working.”

But a short time later the U.S. Air Force declared the jet as ready for combat.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan said in an email Thursday that “the Liberals have completely politicized this purchase by promising in the election they would exclude the F-35.

“Justin Trudeau and his friends are not fighter jet experts. Only an open and fair competition will clear-up the political mess they’ve created,” Bezan wrote.

Sajjan has said a decision on how the government will proceed on replacing the CF-18s will be made shortly, suggesting it could come by the end of the year.

The F-35 became a major political headache several years ago for the Conservative government. Although a Liberal government originally signed on to a research and development program for the plane, the Conservatives significantly expanded the commitment and later agreed to buy 65 of the planes.

The program was dogged by controversy and the aircraft faced numerous technical problems.

Aerospace industry officials say the declaration that the F-35A is ready for combat is good news for the aircraft program. But others point out that more development of the plane is needed.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Plan to Arm the Kurds stalled by Iraqi government

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in February that Canada would be providing the Kurds with lethal military equipment.

That still hasn’t happened and the Canadian government can’t say when such shipments might take place.

But at the Canadian Forces briefing Wednesday to provide an update on the progress of the Iraq war, details emerged about the holdup. Canadian officials said the arms have not been sent to the Kurds because the Iraqi government has yet to approve the shipment of such weapons.

The issue of arming the Kurds, who have been trained by Canadian special forces, is highly controversial. Kurdish leaders openly acknowledge their intent is to eventually create an independent state. They argue it is their right to break away from Iraq, pointing to Quebec’s attempts to leave Canada as an example. The arms are needed both to fight against ISIL and to defend an independent state, Kurdish leaders have said.

Strangely, other nations have received permission from the Iraqi government to provide weapons to the Kurds.

The U.S. military already has outfitted Kurdish units with mortars, anti-tank weapons and armoured personnel carriers.

The UK recently announced it had shipped heavy machine guns and ammunition.

In August, Germany resumed weapons shipments to the Kurds. Such shipments were halted in January after it emerged that some of the weapons Germany previously supplied to the Peshmerga had turned up on the black market.

Germany’s latest shipment included 1,500 rifles, 1 million rounds of ammunition, three armored vehicles and 100 MILAN guided missiles.

Canadian Special Forces Destroyed Explosives-Laden Vehicles In Iraq

By Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Canadian troops supporting Kurdish allies have destroyed three explosive-laden vehicles with anti-armour missiles, senior military officials revealed Wednesday, as they started lifting the veil on what the country's forces are doing in Iraq.

Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of Canadian Special Forces Operations, told reporters the three suicide vehicles were charging the Kurdish lines and could have caused "mayhem" if they had not been destroyed.

"The Kurds do not possess weapons like we have," he said. "So our three engagements with anti-armour weapons systems prevented that from happening several thousand metres before they wanted to detonate."

The comments came amid an ongoing debate over whether Canadian troops in Iraq are involved in combat, which was further fuelled this week by revelations some of the more than 200 soldiers have shot first.
B.Gen. Mike Rouleau holds a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)
The Liberal government has been accused of hiding information and even misleading Canadians about the nature of the mission, after promising to end the combat mission in Iraq during last year's election campaign.

In March, they withdrew six CF-18 fighter jets that had been deployed by the previous Conservative government to bomb ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria.

But the Liberals tripled the number of special forces soldiers on the ground in northern Iraq to more than 200 from 69, even though they had insisted while in opposition that those troops were also in combat.

Military officers say Canada's "advise and assist" mission has evolved from primarily training the Kurds behind the lines to supporting Kurdish operations, but that the rules governing the mission have not.

Canadian troops not leading fight: Rouleau

Rouleau said Canadian troops are not leading the fight or engaged in any "offensive combat operations" as a unit against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh.

"We have never accompanied any leading combat elements," he said. "My troops have not engaged in direct combat as a fighting element in offensive combat operations. We do not plan on that basis, because our mandate does not allow us to do so."

Rather, he painted a picture of Canadian troops sitting on rooftops or hilltops with sniper rifles and other weapons, largely watching but also ready to protect Kurdish forces as they advance or civilians as they try to flee the fighting.

"rom deliberately-selected positions that maximize our utility to advancing Kurd forces, we have either defended ourselves, defended friendly forces, or defended civilians who are caught in the middle," Rouleau said.

"And we have done so with kinetic force against Daesh."

"My troops have not engaged in direct combat as a fighting element in offensive combat operations."

Rouleau said there has been a "substantial" increase in the number of times Canadian troops have fired on ISIL forces since Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched their attack to free the city of Mosul.

Only a minority of incidents involved Canadians shooting first, he added.

A former Ottawa police officer, Rouleau at one point compared the rules governing his soldiers in Iraq to those that dictate when a police officer can use lethal force.

"When confronted with a situation of serious bodily harm or death, a police officer does not have to wait to be stabbed. Does not have to wait to be shot at, in order to use force," he said.

"I think it's reasonable to conclude that we would not expect to deploy our soldiers overseas with any lesser ability to defend themselves than our police officers have in Canada."

Government playing word games: opposition

Rouleau's comments appeared to have no impact on opposition critics, who say the government and military are playing word games to fit the Liberals' promise of a non-combat mission.

"The Canadians Forces who are there need to do everything possible to protect themselves, to defend themselves, and to make a contribution to the mission,'' said NDP defence critic Randall Garrison.

"The point is that the Liberals promised they would not be in a combat situation, and they've clearly broken that promise."

Conservative defence critic James Bezan accused the Liberals of putting military commanders in an "uncomfortable position" by insisting that the mission be labelled non-combat.

"This is now strictly a supportive role, but it is a combat role," Bezan said. "We're okay with that. But the government should be open and transparent about what it is."

"The point is that the Liberals promised they would not be in a combat situation, and they've clearly broken that promise."

Much of Wednesday's briefing focused on the activities of Canadian soldiers near the frontlines in Iraq, but commanders also revealed that Canadian troops have provided medical assistance to 600 Kurdish and Iraqi government soldiers.

Rouleau and Lt.-Gen. Stephen Bowes, commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, also reiterated that Canadian military personnel are prepared to provide medical aid to captured ISIL fighters.

But Rouleau said there had not been any instances of that happening as the extremists prefer to fight to the death rather than surrender.

Canadian commanders were also adamant that the clock is counting down to the liberation of Mosul and the end of ISIL as a military force, though Bowes said the group will remain a threat to Iraq and the world for some time.

Military commanders are considering how the mission will need to change after Mosul is liberated, Bowes said. They will present options to the government to consider.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vance: Canadian Special Forces have fired first at Islamic State

By: Michelle Zilio, The Globe and Mail 

The country’s top soldier says that Canadian troops have shot first at Islamic State forces in Iraq, reopening the question of whether the military is engaged in a combat mission against the terror
group.

Image result for canadian special forces iraq

While government and military officials have said Canadian Forces are allowed to fire in defence in Iraq, General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, made it clear Tuesday that troops have fired first at the Islamic State. However, he said this does not mean the mission is turning from a “train, advise and assist” role into a combat one.

“The use of force by our soldiers on this operation ... has only been used in a defensive mode to ensure that our partners were not subject to an attack that they couldn’t deal with,” Gen. Vance told the House of Commons defence committee.

“If you are suggesting that our forces have been manoeuvring so as to provide offensive fire, thereby taking the fight to the enemy, then you are wrong.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Gen. Vance insisted Canadian troops have always been allowed to fire first in the fight against the Islamic State – something he says he has made clear throughout the mission.

“I’ve said this publicly. We do not have to be shot at first to defend ourselves,” Gen. Vance said. “I don’t think that any Canadian that’s listening out there would think that we need to be shot first before we can take defensive actions.”

For instance, Gen. Vance said that Canadian Forces would shoot first if Kurdish forces do not have the ability to defend themselves against suicide bombers, in order to protect themselves and their partners. He said he is confident Canadian troops are still operating within the parameters of the mission mandate outlined by the Liberal government.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan echoed Gen. Vance’s comments Tuesday, saying Canadian troops need to be able to defend themselves, their partners and civilians.

“When it comes to self-defence and the rules of engagement, you do not have to wait to be shot at first,” Mr. Sajjan told reporters. “The last thing you want to be able to do is put a restriction like that onto our troops.”

Last year, the Liberals campaigned on the promise to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq. Although the government withdrew Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition in February, it ramped up the training mission by increasing the number of troops on the ground to more than 200 from 69. Canadian troops were first deployed to Iraq in October, 2014, under the previous Conservative government.

The federal government continues to insist Canada’s involvement in the coalition against the Islamic State is not a combat mission. However, the opposition parties disagree.

“The Liberal government ... continues to mislead Canadians by insisting that we are in a non-combat role,” Conservative defence critic James Bezan said during Question Period Tuesday. “Will the defence minister finally be honest, acknowledge that our troops are in combat, and apologize for misleading Canadians?”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said outside the House of Commons that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have to stop “beating around the bush” and call the Iraq mission what it is.

“Mr. Trudeau promised word for word in his program to put an end to Canada’s involvement in the combat mission in Iraq. He has not done that. This is a combat mission. When you have soldiers on the front line firing first, you’re in a combat mission.”

Irving Accused of Conflict of Interest with BAE in Future RCN Warship Contract

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The multibillion-dollar effort to replace the navy's warship fleet is being buffeted by concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving the Halifax company that is leading the project.

Canada's Irving Shipbuilding and British shipbuilder BAE Systems recently announced they have paired together to bid on a $5-billion maintenance and support contract for the navy's new Arctic patrol vessels and resupply ships.

But BAE is also expected to enter its Type 26 frigate into a competition being run by Irving, in conjunction with the Defence Department, to select the warship design to replace the navy's 12 frigates and three destroyers.

Irving will ultimately build the vessels.

Irving and the federal government say measures have been taken to ensure full transparency and fairness around the warship project, which previous estimates have pegged at as much as $40 billion.

The warship project "is being conducted in such a way that ensures that all bidders are treated equally, with no unfair advantage given to any individual bidder," Irving spokesman Sean Lewis said in an email.

Part of that has involved Irving and BAE putting safeguards in place to avoid any conflict, Lewis said, including the creation of separate teams for the maintenance contract and warship design competitions.

"All members of both teams, as well as senior management at both Irving Shipbuilding and BAE, have been thoroughly briefed on these measures and the government of Canada has been made aware," Lewis said.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday that the government has worked hard to make sure the process for selecting the next ship design is open, transparent and "done in a manner that is fair for all."

Some of BAE's competitors had already been grumbling about the Type 26 being allowed to compete, given that the ship has never actually been constructed, as well as Irving's role in selecting a design.

The announced partnership between BAE and Irving for the maintenance contract ratcheted those complaints to higher levels on Tuesday.

Several industry representatives, speaking on the sidelines of an aerospace conference in Ottawa, worried Irving would give BAE and the Type 26 preferential treatment during the design competition because of their existing relationship.

"This is an outright conflict," said one industry source, who like the others did not want to be identified because of a clause in the design competition restricting what companies can say publicly.

The warship project, known in defence circles as the Canadian Surface Combatant or CSC, is the single largest military procurement in Canadian history.

It forms the backbone of the federal government's national shipbuilding strategy, which includes new Arctic patrol vessels and resupply ships for the navy and a variety of Canadian Coast Guard vessels.

Previous estimates have put the budget for CSC at between $26 billion and $40 billion for 15 ships.

But the Liberal government has since said it will not discuss cost or how many ships it plans to buy until more information is available.

Defence officials have said they are trying to shave off the amount of time it will take to get the warships in the water, to both save time and ensure the navy has what it needs to operate.

The first CSC is expected to be ready in 2026, though officials would like to cut that back to 2024.

Any legal challenge to the process could scuttle those efforts, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and leaving the navy short of ships.

The British government announced earlier this month that construction on the first of eight Type 26s would begin next summer after years of delays.

HMCS Vancouver to provide aid to New Zealand town hit by Earthquake

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

The Royal Canadian Navy is joining efforts to help New Zealand deal with the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that hit the country on Monday.

New Zealand’s Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has confirmed the Canadian frigate, HMCS Vancouver, is among the warships from five nations now on the way to provide help.

The warships were to visit Auckland for an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Instead they are bypassing that and will head to the town of Kaikoura to assist with the earthquake response.

The quake trigged massive landslides, destroying homes and cutting off the coastal town of Kaikoura. Two people died. Around 1,000 tourists in the town are stranded. New Zealand military helicopters helped rescue 200 people.

Brownlee said ships from five nations that were to attend the country’s International Naval Review – the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore – are sending their vessels to the region hit by the earthquake. A US destroyer equipped with two helicopters is among that effort. The US has also offered an aircraft to conduct surveillance flights, he added.


Australia has diverted the HMAS Darwin from her planned participation in the naval celebrations. “The Darwin is expected to arrive off the Kaikoura coast on Wednesday evening and will deploy its Seahawk helicopter from offshore,” Brownlee said. “Canada is sending its frigate the HMCS Vancouver.”

It is unclear when HMCS Vancouver will arrive. Canada’s Department of National Defence could not provide details.

But Brownlee said the help is welcomed. “It’s heartening to see overseas partners so willing to alter their plans and offer their assistance,” he said. “The International Naval Review is all about celebrating 75 years of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the bonds it has forged globally. Despite the changes to the planned celebrations, it’s poignant to see the anniversary marked with such cooperation and camaraderie.”

The New Zealand Navy has already sent two ships to Kaikoura and another two will be added to that effort.

Several hundred members of the New Zealand defence force personnel are already on the ground helping with recovery efforts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Canada Expected to Launch new Fighter Competition

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

Canadian firms have now won $1 billion worth of work on the F-35 fighter jet, a selling point that aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin hopes to use as it prepares for an expected competition to replace the CF-18 fleet.

Cabinet officials met recently to discuss the way forward on a CF-18 fighter replacement and industry sources say they now expect the Liberal government to eventually proceed to a competition to buy new aircraft.

Aerospace firms are shifting into high gear for that event, although the timing of an announcement is unknown.

Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin’s CEO, will be in Ottawa Tuesday for a major aerospace conference and various meetings, while Pratt and Whitney officials will be highlighting details about the F-35 engine the firm builds.

Shelley Lavender, the president of Boeing Military Aircraft, will be in Ottawa on Thursday for the same conference. Lavender was program manager for Boeing’s Super Hornet aircraft, one of the F-35’s rivals in any Canadian competition.


Jordan Owens, spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, said Monday that work is still underway on determining how to replace the CF-18. Sajjan has said the procurement strategy would be decided in months, not years, as the CF-18s need to be replaced quickly.

The minister has noted he prefers an open competition.
Jack Boland/Postmedia NetworkA U.S. Navy F/A 18 Super Hornet performs at the Canadian International Air Show at the CNE in Toronto, Sept. 4, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power pledging the Liberals would hold a competition for a new fighter jet but, at the same time, said it would not buy the F-35. Trudeau has yet to explain that contradiction.

Lockheed Martin said Monday that while in Canada, Hewson will meet with company employees and “numerous Canadian stakeholders to Lockheed Martin.”

Jack Crisler, one of Lockheed Martin’s senior F-35 officials, told Postmedia in August that it looked like the F-35 would be included in any competition.

The stealth fighter became a political nightmare for the Conservative government after it pledged to buy 65 of the planes. The F-35 was plagued with technology problems. U.S. lawmakers were complaining about its cost.

Last year Donald Trump, then one of a number of Republican presidential candidates, complained about the cost of the F-35 and the technology issues affecting the aircraft. “I do hear that it’s not very good,” he said during an October 2015 radio interview. “I’m hearing that our existing planes are better.”

But Trump, now president-elect, has not indicated what, if anything, he will do about the F-35 program.

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However, stock market analysts are seeing positive news for defence company stocks, including Lockheed Martin, because of Trump’s election, as he has promised to revamp the U.S. military.

Lockheed Martin officials are keen for a competition since they believe their aircraft can readily beat other planes. The F-35 won in competitions in Denmark, Japan and South Korea, they add.

In June, Lockheed Martin almost saw its hopes of selling planes to Canada disappear completely. The government was close to moving on an interim purchase of Super Hornet jets from Boeing and Trudeau claimed the F-35 “does not work and is far from working.”

That prompted Lockheed Martin to warn that Canadian companies who had contracts on the F-35 would suffer. After that, plans for a Super Hornet interim deal seemed to disappear.

The F-35 has been declared ready for combat by the U.S. Air Force although critics have pointed out that much work still needs to be done on the aircraft. Two F-35s visited Canada for the first time at the August airshow in Abbotsford, B.C.

Canadian Special Forces Engaging ISIS to protect Civilians& Allies

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

Canadian special forces soldiers in Iraq have occasionally opened fire without warning on Islamic State extremists in order to protect civilians and their Kurdish allies, military officials say.

They have also been deeply and routinely involved in evacuating casualties from the front in the months leading up to the offensive to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Military officials revealed the information on Monday, saying they want the Canadian public to have a better understanding of the soldiers' mission to train and advise Peshmerga fighters.

The Liberal government has insisted the elite soldiers are not involved in combat and that they shoot back when they're attacked.

Commanders have in the past hinted about troops taking preventive action, but officials speaking on background in Iraq removed all doubt.

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Canadian troops watching for human rights abuses as battle for Mosul rages
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Later during a tour of the front line in northern Iraq — coming within 15 kilometres and earshot of the raging battle in Mosul — Lt.-Col. Steven Hunter pointed to several specific incidents.

He says his troops have sometimes been the first ones to spot the enemy, and when it's clear the Peshmerga can't respond, the Canadians have shot first.

"Because they have demonstrated hostile intent, we're able, through our rules of engagement, to use our own weapons systems to engage that kind of threat," said Hunter, the commanding officer of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.

It's happened in instances where ISIS fighters were rallying behind massive suicide bomb trucks and when civilians were being threatened.

As an illustration for one battle, Hunter used the rocky, sloping, barbwire-stitched side of Zardek Mountain, a long-time Peshmerga redoubt northeast of Erbil.

For security reasons, the accounts from the battle have been scrubbed of any details that ISIS commanders might find useful. It is impossible to corroborate the details.

The troops have helped man casualty clearing stations directly behind the front lines during Kurdish operations last summer that liberated a series of towns on the road to Mosul.

Some of the stories, told by officials, were stark.

At one station, 450 patients went through in the space of a few weeks.
Peshmerga Brig.-Gen. Weisi dismisses reports that Kurdish units have deliberately demolished Sunni Arab villages. A report by Human Rights Watch criticized the Kurds. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
Both Hunter and Brig.-Gen. Peter Dawe, the deputy commander of the entire special forces branch, praised the working relationship with the Kurds and said the trust that has been built up comes largely because Canadians were willing to share the danger.

It has also afforded them the opportunity to keep a close look on their allies.

Over the weekend, a Human Rights Watch report accused the Peshmerga of deliberately destroying Sunni villages.

Brig.-Gen. Weisi, the commander of Peshmerga forces of the district Zerevani, dismissed the allegations as being manufactured by disgruntled Sunnis.

"Of course there are some people over there who are ISIS supporters," Weisi told CBC News in an interview. "They provided information to ISIS. They worked with ISIS."
A CH-146 Griffon lands in a field northwest of Erbil. The helicopter detachment is a recent addition to Canada's mission in Iraq. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
He later suggested the village had been caught in the crossfire.

The U.S.-led coalition command released a statement, taking note of the controversy.

"We are aware of the reports, but cannot confirm the accuracy of the accounts," officials said.

The Liberal government in Ottawa has yet to formally respond.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sought to play up Canada's humanitarian involvement in Iraq.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced last summer a military hospital would be deployed to Erbil for the Mosul offensive.

The four-bed facility finally opened last week after numerous customs delays in Baghdad, where the central government has been keeping a wary eye on the relationships of the independence-minded Kurds.
Unidentified doctors and a nurse work on a patient during a casualty simulation exercise. After long delays, a Canadian military hospital began operating last week in Erbil. It will treat casualties from the offensive against ISIS in Mosul. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
The officer in charge of the centre, Lt.-Col. Richard Morin, served as a doctor during the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar. Bracing for casualties from the Mosul offensive caused him to reflect.

"When you do come to these kinds of deployments you realize how lucky we are; how privileged we are to bring our skills to this kind of environment," he said.

The Liberals also approved the deployment of a tactical helicopter detachment, which is now up and running. The CH-146 Griffons are meant to transport special forces soldiers and act as backup medical lift aircraft to evacuate wounded from the battlefield.

After reshaping the mission last year and ending an aerial bombing campaign against ISIS by CF-18s, the Trudeau government has been mum on whether Canada will participate beyond next spring in the aftermath of the expected defeat of ISIS in Mosul.

Despite that, National Defence has poured $3.75 million into the construction of a semi-permanent military camp in Erbil, housing different elements of the mission.

Major construction only started in June and some barracks just opened last week.

Trudeau affirms commitment to NATO, Latvia mission following Trump victory

By: Lee Berthiaume, Canadian Press 

OTTAWA — Canada is pressing ahead with plans to deploy hundreds of troops as part of a NATO effort to deter Russian aggression in eastern Europe amid concerns about the military alliance's future under Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday affirmed Canada's commitment to lead one of four NATO forces in eastern Europe, which will see 450 Canadian troops deploy to Latvia starting next year.

Trudeau said he is "very proud" that Canada is taking a leadership role "as we support the Baltic states and defend the eastern European border against Russia."

His comments came as NATO members scrambled to understand how the Trump administration plans to deal with and support the 67-year-old military alliance.

During the presidential election campaign, Trump repeatedly called NATO obsolete and warned the U.S. would not automatically come to the defence of a member that was attacked.

The real-estate mogul and reality-television star also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite a clampdown on human rights and democracy in Russia and its actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Now that Trump has been elected president, many NATO members have been wringing their hands over what might happen if Russia decided to flex its muscles in eastern Europe in the same way it did in Ukraine.

U.S. President Barack Obama sought to allay those concerns in Washington, D.C., on Monday, as he prepared to visit NATO members Germany and Greece.

"In my conversation with the president-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships," Obama said.

"There is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America's commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship."

Many NATO members are nonetheless waiting for Trump himself to set the record straight on his views over the military alliance.

Trump has said he would first consider whether an ally that is under attack has been pulling its weight in terms of defence spending before deciding whether the U.S. would help.

All NATO members agreed in 2014 to spend two per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, but only five meet that target.

Canada is in the bottom third of allies at less than one per cent, the lowest level in decades.

Latvia was at 1.04 per cent last year, but has committed to doubling that figure by 2018.

Asked about the risk to troops in Latvia if U.S. support for NATO softens, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the military is considering all the risks and will make sure the soldiers and their partners are prepared.

The Canadians are to form the core of a 1,000-strong battle group that will include troops from Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia.

"This will be a very robust battlegroup that Canada will be leading," Sajjan said.

Latvia's ambassador to Canada downplayed the impact of Trump's election on NATO, saying his country, a former Soviet republic, has lived through "different times and settings" in its history.

"We believe that U.S. institutions and democracy are strong, international commitments clear and there are no obstacles that we could not overcome if necessary," Karlis Eihenbaums said in an email.

Steve Saideman, a NATO expert at Carleton University, said he would like to see Canada come together with Germany and Britain to publicly affirm their support for the alliance and eastern European members.

Such an action, he said, would help counter some of the uncertainty that Trump has injected into the alliance and give Russia pause about taking any action.

But defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said the reality is that Canada and most of the other NATO members have not been pulling their weight, and that it may be time to start doing so.

"We've all agreed to these commitments of two per cent," he said. "We won't move to two per cent tomorrow, but increasing to 1.2 or 1.3 per cent would be a significant increase."

— with reporting from Alexander Panetta in Washington, D.C.

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Monday, November 14, 2016

Canadian Special Forces Watching for Human Rights Abuses in Battle of Mosul

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

Canadian special forces troops have been told to keep an eye out for possible human rights abuses and sectarian score-settling as the battle to liberate Iraq's second largest city from the Islamic State continues to unfold.

The assertion came on the same day a leading U.S.-based rights group accused Kurdish forces of practising a scorched earth policy — routinely destroying Arab homes, but leaving Kurdish ones intact, in areas cleared of ISIS control.

Mosul is the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq and the extremists there have been waging a deliberate campaign of terror meant to incite sectarian tensions.

A coalition of some 40,000 anti-ISIS forces is fighting for the city — a medley of fighters that includes Iraqi army units, militarized police, special forces, Kurdish troops and Iranian-backed Shia militias.

That means the campaign to evict ISIS from Mosul — which has been going on for almost a month — is being waged by uneasy allies who could quickly turn into enemies.

There's concern that the Iranian-backed Shia militias — operating west of the mostly Sunni city, with the consent of the Iraqi government — could take revenge on suspected Sunni collaborators.

Kurdish forces, whom Canadians have been training for the past two years, are also wary.

There were reports over the last week that some Sunnis who have fled the fighting were expelled from Kirkuk, a city further south, by Kurdish security, over fears they might be sleeper agents.

It is something the U.S.-led coalition has been keeping a wary eye on, Canadian officials said Sunday.

"It is a concern," said Christina Marcotte, a civilian policy adviser with the Canadian task force headquartered in Kuwait.
Canadian role to advise

"Certainly from the point of view of the government of Canada, we expect our military members who are up there right now to report any incidents. To date there have been no reports of such incidents."

It was revealed last month that Canadian troops were spending more time at the front lines as the anti-ISIS campaign shifted from defence to offence. There are approximately 200 Canadian special forces members in Iraq, mostly advising the Kurds and assisting by observing the battles and helping call in airstrikes.

The mission has been billed as "non-combat," though the government says they can shoot in self-defence.
Brig.-Gen. Shane Brennan, commander of Canada's Joint Task Force in Iraq, speaks at a media briefing Sunday at an unidentified coalition airbase in Kuwait. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
A senior Canadian representative with the multinational coalition said the Iraqi government will not tolerate the kind of sectarian blood-letting that has been a horrific feature of life in that country since the U.S. occupation.

Brig.-Gen Greg Smith, who serves as the chief of staff to the coalition land headquarters, said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made it clear that those committing atrocities will be held accountable under the laws of armed conflict.

"This is not a group of fighters going around waging war against the population," Smith said via video conference from Baghdad.

He paraphrased an old quote, saying the cleanliness of the war will determine the cleanliness of the peace that follows.

"In a multi-ethnic country with a lot of history, like Iraq, they're very sensitive to that in particular," Smith said.
Battle could take a long time

He wouldn't, however, speculate on how long it will take for the Iraqis and Kurds to recapture the city, which fell to the Islamic State in 2014. Coalition commanders have previously predicted the Mosul campaign could last months.
Iraqi special forces come under fire from ISIS fighters while running across an intersection Sunday as they try to push forward in the Karkukli neighbourhood of Mosul. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
The battle is slow going. In many cases, it's now going street by street, block by block.

The Kurds have made strong progress in the east and have entered the outskirts of the city. The Shia militias just recently began their push in the west.

Some analysts suggest the campaign is being held up by the inexperience of Iraqi troops, who are pushing in from the south.

The commander of the Canadian task force urged patience.

"I don't necessarily agree with the words 'held up.' What we have got underway right now is a complex battle in urban terrain," said Brig.-Gen. Shane Brennan. "In the urban battleground, everything is slow, i.e. it's close."

The Iraqis and Kurds have suffered roughly 200 dead and over 1,000 wounded in the campaign thus far — casualties that will put further strain on already frayed relationships.

Canada Committed to 3-Year deployment in Africa: Sajjan

By TONDA MACCHARLES, Toronto Star

OTTAWA—Canadian troops headed to Africa will operate in dangerous territory where peacekeepers have been killed, says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

In an exclusive interview with the Star from Vancouver Sajjan said Canada has committed to a three-year deployment that will be reassessed each year to ensure it has an “enduring” impact.

It will be spread among a number of unspecified African countries, have a major focus on training and increasing “capacity” of the host nation as well as other countries’ troops, and build on existing social, economic and deradicalization programs on the ground.

“These missions, all of them, have the level of risk where peacekeepers have been hurt, they have been killed. And we’ve been looking at the risk factor in a very serious way,” said Sajjan.

Asked about his approach to deploying Canadian forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations — something the previous Conservative government was keen to avoid in Africa when it turned down requests to deploy soldiers to Congo and Mali — Sajjan said “some of it is going to be the reduction of radicalization in certain areas, in other parts it will be developing the capacity of the host nation.”

Just back from Mali, which hosts the deadliest United Nations mission in the world right now, Sajjan says it’s clear there are risks there. He said the same risks exist in the other African missions under consideration by the Liberal government.

But, he added, there are also risks to Canada of doing nothing to counter insurgent groups that are terrorizing populations and radicalizing new recruits, and suggested he and the Liberal government have made this clear to Canadians from “day one.”

“This is not the peacekeeping of the past — we need to look at what the challenges are of today and develop the peace operations for today’s challenges.”

After having travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia in late summer, and Senegal and Mali in the past week — Sajjan said he believes the UN mandate for and rules of engagement with hostile forces are “robust” enough to address the risks, particularly in Mali. The UN mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, has seen 106 casualties since it was established in 2013, including 69 from “malicious acts.”

“One thing I did learn, the mandate for the mission is robust so there no concern that our troops would be limited in any way,” said Sajjan. “I had a very direct conversation with the political leadership of the UN and the force commander about that, and the safety of our troops is always paramount.”

The defence minister, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran of the Afghanistan combat mission, suggested the risk to soldiers’ lives, however, does not justify inaction.

“It can’t just be one factor that we look at. That’s one; that’s an important factor that needs to be addressed. We have looked at that and the question always comes: how do you mitigate some of these challenges,” he said.

“But at the end of the day just because you see a problem ahead of you, you can’t just ignore it, you have to look at, can we look at addressing it.”

He insisted Canada “can play a huge role where we can reduce conflict and get into areas where we can start preventing conflict by addressing certain root causes at an early stage.”

Sajjan said there are ways to “mitigate” risk, just as he says the Liberal government did when it overhauled Canada’s combat mission to Iraq, “and making sure that we put the right type of troops, the right equipment with the right mandate for that mission.”

The Liberals pulled out Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets and refocused Canada’s military contribution to the fight against Daesh on training Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces to fight the Islamist rebel forces.

Sajjan stressed that a big part of the federal analysis underway — as he, two other federal ministers, and military and civilian fact-finders have travelled to Africa — is examining how Canada’s contribution of some 600 soldiers and up to 150 police can have a maximum impact, whether it’s through military training, building on economic development programs and opportunities like on the “agriculture side” in Mali, or combating sexual violence, including by UN peacekeeping troops.

“What we do provide will be enduring. We committed for three years, but the thinking is to have the impact, we always need to assess,” said Sajjan.

Asked how Canada avoids sending troops to be injured or killed in a mission where there is no end in sight, Sajjan stressed Canada’s intention is to effect measurable change.

“I wouldn’t want to put troops in any place where there is no end,” he said, suggesting the plan is to provide “innovative” solutions, to help UN or African Union troops be better able to do their jobs, “so we don’t have to look at a very long, protracted deployment that will not have an impact.”

Sajjan said Canada is looking at spreading its various contributions — military, police and civilian — among a number of UN missions, not African Union-led missions, in Africa. But it will support African Union efforts at the same time.

Right now, he said, much of the public attention is on exactly where soldiers will be sent.

But he said Canadians should expect a broader mission that could see troops sent to one end of Africa while other elements of Canada’s contribution will be sent to a different part. He said there are troop and police training centres across Africa, and “a small number of troops or even RCMP can have significant impact in other areas, to make a training centre far more effective.”

“We will be assisting in capacity-building in many of the training centres and that will be . . . regardless of where we go.”

Much has been made of the fact Canada has French-speaking troops and no colonial baggage, an asset from the perspective of many francophone African nations and the UN. Sajjan said it doesn’t mean soldiers from Quebec or New Brunswick would be the only ones to deploy, rather he said that across the armed forces, the leadership in officer ranks are bilingual, as are many in the non-commissioned ranks.

Sajjan said the government has “narrowed” the ultimate destinations for its Canadian mission, but did not tip his hand on his preference.

He said there is nothing to be read into the countries he’s travelled to, nor the fact that he recently went to Mali, saying he couldn’t fit it into the earlier trip to central and East Africa. Although he has not travelled to the Central African Republic, Darfur, or South Sudan, Sajjan said he has addressed the same questions around those missions at meetings in Ethiopia late summer.

He said the decision on where to dispatch Canada’s peace support mission is expected to be finalized by the federal cabinet before end of year.

“I think when Canadians see the level of work that’s gone into this it’s not just the location that’s going to be the main news, it’s how we’re going to be deployed.”

Sajjan’s comments flesh out the “layered approach” that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians should expect to its upcoming Africa “peace support” operation.

Several ministers and government departments are working up options to make good on the Liberal election pledge to re-engage with the United Nations.

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau also travelled to Senegal (where many UN offices operating in West Africa are located) and Mali in August. And Global Affairs Minister St├ęphane Dion travelled this week to Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Dion, in a statement issued Thursday from Nairobi where he announced $21.5 million for development and security projects, said: “Kenya is an important partner for Canada in regional peace and security in Africa, but there is room for further growth.”

Dion said the money will “help provide youth with enhanced skills for employment and improve security and stability by countering terrorism, combating radicalization and violent extremism, and ensuring safety and security of borders within the region.”