Friday, May 19, 2017

Afghanistan, the sequel. Why would Canada return to a war it would rather forget?

By: Andrew Potter, Special to National Post |
Amber Bracken/PostmediaSoldiers disembark from their plane as they return home from Afghanistan at the Edmonton International Airport in Edmonton, Alta. on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
The last time Canadians paid any serious attention to Afghanistan was just over three years ago. It was March 2014 when we ended our training mission in Kabul with a quiet flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul.

It wasn’t exactly the Fall of Saigon, but there was a definite sense of Mission Unaccomplished to the proceedings. For all our efforts, first in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to rout out al Qaeda, then as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force that had committed to bring stability, security, good governance and democracy to Afghanistan, the job was far from complete. But many of our close allies, such as the Dutch, had already headed for the exit, and with President Obama determined to end the war on his watch, the Americans were drawing down as well.

Afghanistan was our most ambitious foreign adventure since the Korean War, but it’s an adventure most Canadians, including their government, seem keen to forget. The American journalist Dexter Filkins wasn’t wrong when he called it The Forever War though, which is why the United States is readying a “mini-surge” of potentially 5,000 troops back into Afghanistan. Once again, they will be asking NATO countries to help out. And as Postmedia’s David Pugliese reported last week, Canada will be asked to chip in.
Cpl Keith Wazny / DNDA Ramp Ceremony was held at Kandahar Airfield on 21 July 2010 for Sapper Brian J. Collier, who was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device
If we agree, we’ll be sending troops back to a country we left after 12-year military presence that cost the lives of 158 soldiers as well as those of a diplomat, two aid workers and a journalist. We’ll also be returning to a country where we left behind a great deal of unfinished business.

It’s no surprise Americans are looking to beef up their troop levels in Afghanistan: the place is on the verge of collapse.

The Afghan government in Kabul controls less than 60 per cent of the country, and that number is going in the wrong direction. In the parts of the country that it does control, the government is widely seen as deeply corrupt and barely functional. The Afghan security forces that are doing the bulk of the heavy fighting against the Taliban are suffering jaw-dropping (and unsustainable) casualty rates. In one shocking incident in late April, 140 Afghan troops were killed in a single Taliban attack on a base in the north of the country.

The peace agreement with the Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his “triumphant” return to Kabul earlier this month is a sign of how bad things are going for the government. Meanwhile, ISIL’s franchise in the region is clinging to a foothold with about 800 fighters regularly engaged in terror attacks and assassinations, mostly against Shia targets.

The Americans might have blowed things up real good when they dropped the MOAB onto an ISIL cave complex near the eastern border with Pakistan, but many analysts expect that its most significant effect will be to draw more jihadis to the cause. Right on cue, five ISIL jihadists attacked a television station in Jalalabad this week, killing four journalists and two police officers.

In short, there’s a lot of bad news, and the best predictions are things will get worse.

In the face of all this, the mini-surge of troops will have a pretty modest mission. Strengthen the government and train and assist the Afghan National Security Forces, while trying to stabilize the deteriorating security situation. The aim would be give Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s government just enough credibility while bombing the Taliban hard enough to force some sort of peace deal.

The problem with this is that it was former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s strategy for virtually his entire term in office, and it is the same strategy former President Obama pursued with his surge in 2010. Its failure was and always will be overdetermined because, to begin with, you can’t kill enough Taliban to force them to the table. If anything, what this does is play along with the Taliban’s parallel strategy, which is to kill enough western troops and Afghan civilians that we leave and then the Afghan government sues for peace. To ask which side has been more successful is to answer the question.

Canada, other NATO nations being asked to send troops back to Afghanistan
After decades as fugitive, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returns with appeal for peace
U.S. general would ‘not refute’ that Russia is arming the Taliban and re-engaging in Afghanistan war

The deep problem here is Pakistan. It isn’t just that Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas have served as the home base for the Taliban since they were chased out of Afghanistan in 2001. The Pakistan military has basically run the Taliban insurgency since then, using it as a proxy force to ensure the ongoing destabilization of Afghanistan. This suits Pakistan’s purposes fine, but it means that there can be no solution to the problem in Afghanistan without a solution to Pakistan. An additional 5,000 troops helping train Afghan soldiers to be Taliban fodder isn’t going to change that.

So where does Canada fit in? Our mission in Afghanistan was beset by confusion on many fronts: Why we were there, how we ended up in Kandahar, and what our ambitions were. Depending on who you ask — politicians, diplomats, soldiers, general public — you’ll get different answers.

As Carleton University professor Steve Saideman argues in his book Adapting in the Dust, Canada went to Afghanistan for the simple reason that it has always gone along with NATO missions. It would have been weird for us not to go in some capacity. We went big because wanted to show our bonafides to the Americans after refusing to get involved in Iraq. And we went to Kandahar because we wanted to make a real contribution that would allow us to have strong say in the campaign.

Manpreet Romana / AFP / Getty ImagesIn this photograph taken on July 2, 2009, US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan's Helmand Province

As Saideman describes it, by these metrics our mission was a complete success: We earned combat cred with the Americans, we were able to keep the U.S. working within the NATO structure, and we punched above our weight in the alliance itself.

The problem with these metrics is they have nothing to do with Afghanistan or the Afghan people. They are entirely about Canada’s interests in alliance-building, continental politics and generally managing the Americans. They are, at best, only accidentally about fighting the war on terrorism, defending global security, fighting the Taliban or helping Afghan girls go to school.

And so Canada’s ultimate political strategy was always going to be at odds with the execution of the mission, which evolved from a counter-terrorism operation in the early going into a “whole of government” nation-building agenda in Kandahar. Our ambitions on this score can be traced through the quarterly reports to parliament that were issued from 2008 until the end of the combat mission in 2011, listing our priorities and ticking off our achievements.

The unfailingly optimistic tone of those reports held up right till the end, our faith in the strategy surviving our abandonment of it. As the last line of the last quarterly report put it: “As Canada begins to transition from Kandahar to a more nationally focused role in Afghanistan, we will continue to support the hopes and dreams of the Afghan people as they endeavour to rebuild a more peaceful and prosperous nation.”
Master Corporal Matthew McGregor/DNDA foot patrol of Canadian and Afghan soldiers near the village of Haji Baba
Or, to put it more colloquially, good bye and good luck.

Let’s be clear about this: Canadians made a number of profound commitments to helping Afghans, promises that many Afghans took seriously. At least they did until Canada’s political calculations changed and we simply downed tools and left. The Taliban weren’t defeated, the nation wasn’t rebuilt, but we’d done what we set out to do.

Maybe it’s this general sense of unfinished business that has led Canadians to pretty much forget that for 12 years, some of the best and brightest soldiers, diplomats, development officers and public servants this country has to offer risked their careers and their lives in, and more importantly, for Afghanistan. At the height of the troop surge in 2010, a senior Canadian civilian official at Camp Nathan Smith gave a rousing pep talk to the members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (and to journalists), telling them, “This is the place, now is the time, and we are the ones” to fix Kandahar. It was melodramatic, but it captured the spirit of the Canadian mission.
Corporal Bill Gomm/DND
Today, our interest in the country is pretty much non-existent, the war is rarely mentioned except in the context of wounded warriors.

And that’s an attitude matched by the government. The simple but symbolic Kandahar Airfield Cenotaph remains wrapped up in a packing crate somewhere in Ottawa. The more substantial military memorial to the mission, to be situated down by the Ottawa River east of the Portage Bridge, was scheduled to be opened for the sesquicentennial celebrations on July 1. It has fallen into Ottawa’s version of bureaucratic hell. When, where and whether it will ever see the light of day is anyone’s guess.

Besides, why have a memorial to a war everyone wants to forget?


And now we’re being asked to go back. Assuming we’d actually be welcome, what’s in it for Canada? Or more pointedly, what’s in it for Afghans?

Assuming the Americans do ask us to pitch in, and assuming we agree, there’s no way we are going back to our old mission. The heady nation-building ambitions of 2010-2011 are done. We’ll be there as trainers, as part of what the Americans are pitching as an open-ended mission without the artificial deadlines that Obama imposed. Which means we will be there in the service of one of two possible outcomes, neither of which is terribly appealing.

One is that we help the Afghans keep fighting in a more or less perpetual fight against the Taliban.

The other is that we play a part in helping bring about a political solution to the problem. Practically, that means handing over a big chunk of Afghanistan to the Taliban, which in turn means a return to the days of mandatory burkas and beards, Sharia law and the ministry of vice and virtue. No music or movies, no kite flying, no school for girls.

This wouldn’t be the end of the world — we already live with versions of that in other countries. We helped fight North Korea to a stalemate long ago, and have lived ever since with the result. Nothing says that every country’s problem is our problem to solve.

The difficulty we have with Afghanistan is that for a period of time, we made their problems our problems, and we sent the best among us to help solve them. Then we left, and ever since we’ve been trying, and mostly succeeding, at forgetting we were ever there.

If we do return, we might forgive our Afghan hosts if they are so unkind as to remind us.
Andrew Potter is the former editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen.

Will the CAF Return to Afghanistan?

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

Canada will be asked to consider sending troops to Afghanistan once again to deal with the Taliban resurgence in that country.

The request will be on the agenda May 25 at the NATO summit in Brussels to be attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trump is looking at up to 5,000 more troops. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already confirmed he has already received a request from NATO for more troops. Germany has rejected the request already.

NATO wants the soldiers to help shore up Afghan forces who are struggling to deal with a Taliban resurgence.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said a request has been received from alliance commanders in Afghanistan for several thousand more soldiers. Additional soldiers would be used for training and advising.

Canada ended its military involvement in Afghanistan in March 2014. Canada’s Afghan war cost the lives of 158 soldiers. In addition, a Canadian diplomat, two civilian contractors and a journalist were also killed. More than 2,000 soldiers were injured.

There are currently a handful of Canadian military personnel currently in the country to provide security at the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

NATO has up to 13,000 personnel, the bulk of those U.S. troops, involved mainly in training. Another 1,500 U.S. special forces are operating in the country as well, conducting combat missions against the Taliban as well as those aligned with the Islamic State.

There is not a lot of interest in the Trudeau government about sending troops to Afghanistan, considering there probably wouldn’t be much support for such a mission among the Canadian public (the attitude seems to be, “Been there, done that, it didn’t work).

There could, however, be a role to play for Canadian special forces.

NATO’s Stoltenberg specifically mentioned the need for special forces training teams. CANSOFCOM has done that role before. A small SOF team might satisfy NATO and Trump and be just enough of a low profile footprint to be acceptable to the public and Liberal government supporters.

Bombardier-Boeing Fight Could Kill Super-Hornet Buy: Freeland

By: Ross Marowits and Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

The federal government hinted Thursday that Boeing should not take future military contracts with Canada for granted, a veiled threat that coincided with a spat between the aerospace giant and rival Bombardier.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's comment that it's "reviewing current military procurement that relates to Boeing" appeared to be a not-so-subtle hint that the government would revisit its purchase of Super Hornets.

The government has said it plans to sole-source 18 Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure before running a full competition to replace its aging CF-18 fleet.

The Liberals say the Super Hornets, which internal estimates suggest could cost as much as $2 billion, are urgently needed.

Military officials and defence industry representatives contacted by The Canadian Press on Thursday were united in assuming that Freeland's warning related to the planned Super Hornet purchase.

Freeland's comments came as the next potential Canada-U.S. trade dispute unfolded Thursday with the aerospace giants clashing at a Washington hearing.

"The U.S. market is the most open in the world, but we must take action if our rules are being broken," U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement after the hearing began into Boeing's claim that Bombardier received subsidies allowing it to sell its CSeries planes at below-market prices.

Aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group said the Canadian government's move was inevitable, putting into question Boeing's strategy in taking on Bombardier.

"If Boeing is smart it'll press the do-over button and walk away," he said in an interview, adding the aeronautics powerhouse has much more to risk from losing military contracts than the tiny gain from a successful trade complaint.

"Boeing values Canada as a customer and supplier-partner for both our commercial and defence businesses," said company spokesman Dan Curran.

"Two of Canada's most recent acquisitions of Boeing military products, the C-17 Globemaster and CH-47 Chinook, were delivered on-time and/or ahead of schedule."

In an emailed statement Boeing also pointed out that it places substantial amounts of commercial and defence work in Canada and has a supply chain that "leverages the breadth and depth of the Canadian aerospace industry."

Lobbyists, lawyers and aerospace executives crowded a room in Washington for a little battle playing out in the broader context of the day's larger trade news: the U.S. announcement that NAFTA renegotiations will start in the next 90 days.

Bombardier has made it clear that its true goal is to grab half the international market share for 100-to-150-seat aircraft, according to Boeing, which argues its rival has received an unfair head start from Canadian taxpayers.

Boeing vice-president Raymond Conner said the sale of cheap, subsidized planes to Delta Air Lines helped build momentum for Bombardier to enter a new market. If Bombardier reaches its stated goal, he said, it would squeeze Boeing from that market and cost the company US$330 million a year in annual sales.

"Today we are at a critical moment," Conner told the seven-member U.S. International Trade Commission. "If you don't fix it now, it will be too late to do anything about it later."

Boeing has petitioned the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate subsidies of Bombardier's CSeries aircraft that it says have allowed the company to export planes at well below cost. A preliminary determination on the petition is expected by June 12.

If the ITC determines there is a threat of injury to the U.S. industry, preliminary countervailing duties could be announced in July, followed in October by preliminary anti-dumping duties, unless the deadlines are extended. Final determinations are scheduled for October and December.

Boeing is calling for countervailing duties of 79.41 per cent and anti-dumping charges of 79.82 per cent.

It complains that Bombardier has received more than US$3 billion in government subsidies so far that have allowed it to engage in "predatory pricing."

Lawyers for the U.S. aerospace giant argued Thursday that Bombardier's own words prove it was rescued financially by multibillion-dollar assistance from the Quebec government, which last year invested US$1 billion in exchange for a 49.5 per cent stake in the CSeries. The company also shored up its finances by selling a 30 per cent stake in its railway division to pension fund manager Caisse de depot for US$1.5 billion.

Bombardier representatives countered that their planes never competed with Boeing in a sale to Delta -- which the American rival describes as a seminal moment.

Bombardier lawyer Peter Lichtenbaum said the plaintiff is a global powerhouse that hasn't lost any sales as a result of Bombardier, has an enviable order backlog and doesn't even compete with Bombardier in the sales campaigns it has complained about because the CSeries is smaller than Boeing's 737-800 and Max 8 planes.

"Boeing's petition in this case is unprecedented in its overreach," he said. "If this is a case of David vs. Goliath, Boeing has cast itself in the wrong role."

Boeing's annual sales were US$94.6 billion last year. That means the US$330 million Conner expressed concern about amounts to one-third of one per cent of its annual sales. Bombardier revenues last year were US$16.3 billion, including US$9.9 billion from aerospace activities.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Senate Defence Report Calls for Bold Defence Plan

© 2017 FrontLine Defence (Vol 14, No 3)

Canada can stop militarily “freeloading on our southern neighbour” if the federal government agrees to an ambitious capital equipment shopping list crafted by the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. However, in releasing its third and final report on how the Canadian Armed Forces should evolve to fulfill all of its domestic, continental and overseas taskings, the committee didn’t put a price tag on any of its recommendations.

Its Chairman, Yukon Conservative Daniel Lang – who used the “freeloading” comment at the onset of his opening remarks – explained at a May 8 news conference that no dollar figures are attached to the recommendations simply because the committee lacks the resources to do those kinds of calculations.

There’s no doubt the committee’s core recommendation – that military spending be increased to the much-discussed NATO target of 2% of gross domestic product from the current 0.88% – could easily triple the annual outlay once inflation and time frames are taken into account over the next decade or two. But Lang repeatedly stressed the economic benefit of having so many new programs in play.

Royal Canadian Air Force capabilities would be increased through improvements on several fixed-wing components, topped by the committee’s call for the acquisition of 120 new fighters. It urged the government to immediately begin its promised competition for a replacement of the aging Boeing CF-188 Hornets with a view to choosing a new aircraft by mid-2018. Part of the package would include cancellation of the planned purchase of 18 Super Hornets as an interim measure.

Other fixed-wing recommendations include a call to: prioritize new air-to-air refueling platforms to replace the current Airbus CC-150 Polaris fleet; to expedite the replacement of the deHavilland CC-138 Twin Otters currently based in Yellowknife for search and rescue work in the North; and to replace the Lockheed Martin CP-140 Aurora long-range platforms – all by 2030.

On the rotary-wing side, the committee recommends the acquisition of 55 new medium- to heavy-lift helicopters as a partial replacement for 95 Bell CH-146 Griffons, as well as 24 attack helicopters for ground support. It also calls on the government to increase to 36 (from 15) the relatively new fleet of Boeing CH-147F Chinooks, and to upgrade and put into operation the VH-71 Kestrel variants of the Leonardo (AgustaWestland) CH-149 Cormorant SAR platforms, purchased from the U.S. government as a spares source several years ago, in order to augment the current Cormorant fleet through a proposed mid-life upgrade.

Modernization of the Royal Canadian Navy would centre around the acquisition of 12 new air-independent submarines (a concept rejected by the federal government a couple of decades ago). Pointing out that other circumpolar nations are expanding their underwater capabilities, the committee agreed with the RCN’s assessment that subs are “likely to remain the dominant naval platform for the foreseeable future.”

These would be augmented by a second Resolve-class support ship to fill the urgent need; increasing the new surface combatant fleet to 18; and expediting replacement of the current fleet of coastal defence vessels with minesweepers and destroyers.

The committee also recommends that the government commission “a fully independent and impartial review” of the $3.5-billion Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) project because of their relatively low speed, inadequate armaments, and inability to operate in more than a metre of ice. Fleet defences would be enhanced through the acquisition of an Lockheed Martin Aegis radar-based combat system or a “similar-styled” platform.

The committee said the nearly universal opinion of witnesses saw the RCN as “a naval force in decline, mostly due to lack of funding and slow progress made with the recapitalization of its aging fleet.” It also said that capability gaps in the wider CAF are “unacceptable for a G8 nation which aspires to play a greater role in the world as well as meet its commitments to the defence of North America and NATO.”

Also in the maritime operational domain, the committee recommends the creation of an armed Constabulary Coast Guard to enforce environmental, transportation and fishing regulations, as well as Criminal Code offences.

While the helicopters would continue to be an RCAF asset, they tend mainly to be used to support land operations. The main Canadian Army-specific element of the report is the recommended purchase of 60 upgraded LAV III light-armoured vehicles from General Dynamics Land Systems.

Another key hardware element, which would have application across most CAF operations, is the recommendation that the DND proceed with its long-delayed Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS). This likely would involve four basic platforms and the committee, noting their value for SAR work as well as tactical operations, says there is no questioning the need for such systems.

Underpinning everything, the committee urges increased cooperation within NORAD, including improved protection against ballistic missiles and cyber attacks, and renewal of the North Warning System.

Personnel requirements were also addressed, such as elimination of barriers within the CAF to “appropriate representation of women, indigenous populations and visible minorities”. Added resources for training, compensation for Reservists’ medical assessments, increasing the Canadian Rangers cohort in the North to 7,000, and establishing a Yukon-based Reserve Regiment were all identified for action.

In an earlier report, the military procurement machinery was singled out for criticism. In an exclusive interview, Lang agreed that it remains a key concern that the current process seems incapable of managing even the relatively few procurements in the hopper.

The Committee is convinced that “the responsibility for procurement should be in Defence, not elsewhere,” the Chairman told FrontLine. “We also recommended that any project over $1 billion should have an interlocutor to manage it and to be responsible for it, so that when decisions are taken […] they do what they can to put these projects into play.”

Elaborating on the concept that responsibility for procurement should be DND-centric, he says the department would determine what equipment it needs rather than having ministers or officials from other departments having the final say. He points out that the Cabinet Committee on Defence Procurement is chaired by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, whose department “has nothing to do with defence.”

Apart from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, the rest of the committee is comprised of Scott Brison (Treasury), Navdeep Bains (Innovation, Science and Economic Development), Kirsty Duncan (Science), Judy Foote (Public Services and Procurement) and Marc Garneau (Transport).

“It seems to me that what you need is to make sure that when the final decision comes down […] we can’t forget what’s in the best interests of the Department of National Defence.” Lang was not suggesting that Foote’s department, historically fundamental to procurement, should be excluded. “What we’re saying is that the actual decision-making should be going back into the Department of National Defence.”

Lang suggests that a review of the bureaucracy – where, he says, decisions are made by committees – could be beneficial. “We could go a long ways to ensuring that our procurement, once a decision is made, is done in a reasonable manner […] within a time frame that is acceptable.”

Lang adds that his perception from several years as committee chairman is troubling. “I don’t know if this is fair, but this is my evaluation: I see a system that’s almost in paralysis; nobody makes a decision, and no decision is a good decision because nobody’s responsible for it. We’ve got to change that culture.”

Will giving DND more money be practicable, given that it often has to carry forward unspent appropriations? Lang says that situation flows from a seemingly entrenched inability to make decisions. “Why would you spend the money if you don’t know what to buy?”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Is Canada overdue to lead NATO?

By: Tim Dunne, © 2017 FrontLine Defence (Vol 14, No 3)

June 2016 saw former British prime minister David Cameron launch the now infamous Brexit referendum about membership in the European Union. Subsequently, amid questions about his wisdom, his political acuity, and even his usefulness as a politician, he resigned as prime minister – leaving the clean up of what some describe as the worst political disaster for post-war Britain to his successor, Theresa May.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg 

On December 29, London’s daily newspaper, The Telegraph, floated a novel idea as a reward for Cameron’s dubious achievement: appoint him NATO’s Secretary General. Perhaps it was their wish to exile Cameron to Brussels for a few years while Britain re-establishes itself.

The Telegraph is correct in one regard: it is time for a dramatic change in who sits at the top of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – but, it should not be David Cameron, nor should it be any other Brit, or Italian, German, or any representative coming from a European ally.

The politico-military alliance, originally envisaged by the United States, Britain and Canada in 1947, has grown into today’s soon-to-be 29-nation defence bloc.

Looking at the birth of the alliance, we see that Canada had emerged from the Second World War economically and militarily strong and, with the United States, shouldered much of Western Europe’s defence burden as it recovered from wartime devastation. The U.S. Marshall Plan provided billions of dollars for European economic recovery, and Canada operated a Mutual Aid Program for Europe (such as giving Great Britain top-of-the-line Canadian F-86 Sabre jet fighters).

In those early years, Canada deployed a well-equipped army brigade group and an air division, eventually to total 240 aircraft. During the later phases of the Korean conflict, the RCAF was flying more advanced fighters in the European theatre than even the U.S. Air Force, and was responsible for the biggest contribution to the expansion of West European air defence.

By 1953, Canada was allocating more than 8% of its GDP to defence spending – a massive increase from 1947’s 1.4%.

Canada eventually cut back a significant portion of its contributions to West European defence for two reasons:

The massive expenses to sustain a robust military contribution on the European continent as we undertook shared responsibilities for North American air defence with the U.S. were too costly;

Canada believed it was time for Western European countries to do more for their own defence. Europe and its defence requirements were depriving Canada of its ability to focus limited resources on parts of the world where need was even greater and the entitlement more justified.

In the end, Canada withdrew its forces from Germany in 1993, saving some $1 billion annually. However, continued to deploy forces to massive NATO exercises in Germany and Norway, and maintained an active engagement in the Alliance. Canadian troops were involved in NATO-led operations in the Balkans when NATO accepted responsibility for peacekeeping operations from the United Nations (1996-2004), the Kosovo air campaign (1999), Afghanistan (2003-2014), and Libya (2011).

The Royal Canadian Navy has deployed ships with NATO’s Standing Naval Force Atlantic since its inauguration in 1968, and with its successor, Standing NATO Maritime Group One, since its establishment in January 2005.

Operation Unified Protector
More recently, on assignment to NATO’s southern European headquarters in Naples, Italy, LGen Charles Bouchard was appointed commander of the alliance’s Operation Unified Protector (March 2011 to October 2011). This operation established and enforced a no-fly zone over Libya in response to United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 concerning the Libyan Civil War.

Operation Reassurance
As Russia began to cut away parts of Ukraine, beginning with Crimea in late 2013 and spreading to the Donetsk region, Canada deployed seven CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft; three transport aircraft configured as tankers to conduct in-flight refueling: two CC-150 Polaris tankers; a CC-130J Hercules airlifter from 436 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton, and two CP-140 Aurora aircraft.

By mid-May 2014, Canada had deployed a platoon-sized Land Task Force to Eastern and Central Europe; HMCS Regina to the Mediterranean Sea; and the RCAF had established Air Task Force (ATF) Romania, consisting of six CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft and 200 personnel to provide training to the Romanian Air Force in of air defence, air superiority, aerospace testing and evaluation, and tactical support. The ATF moved to Šiauliai, Lithuania, with four CF-188 aircraft and 135 personnel to provide enhanced air protection to Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian allies. Canada’s air mission in the Baltics ended on December 31, 2014.

On 11 January 2017, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s joined Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various Allied countries. St. John’s worked and trained in the Black Sea with vessels from several allied and partner nations, including participating in a four-day multi-nation NATO exercise led by the Romanian navy, before returning to regular SNMG 2 responsibilities on 20 February 2017.

Operation Unifier
Beginning in August 2015, Canada launched Operation Unifier, a two-year army training operation in which 185 Canadian troops deployed to Ukraine. During the initial two-year mandate, the Canadians taught essential military skills to soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The training is conducted under the Multinational Joint Commission, comprising Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Canada joined the MJC in January 2015, and co-chairs the Sub-Committee on Military Policing with Ukraine.

On 6 March 2017, the Canadian government announced that Operation Unifier was extended until the end of March 2019.

Canada is one of only two non-European nations to be a consistent contributor to European security with little return for our investment.

In the 68 years since NATO’s establishment, there have been 12 secretaries general. Denmark, Germany, Italy and Norway held the position once each, Belgium twice, and the Netherlands and United Kingdom three times each.

The current Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, began his four-year term in October 2014. In a process that involves informal diplomatic channels, members of the alliance choose the next Secretary General through a consensus, or they may decide to extend the term. The last two Secretaries General each served for more than five years.

Despite Canada’s leadership role in the establishment of the Alliance and our continuing (and expensive) involvement in, and leadership of, NATO operations, a Canadian has yet to occupy that office. We are past due.


Freeland to Announce UN Training Mission and Risks of Modern Peacekeeping

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News

A major component of the Liberal government's plan to return Canada to peacekeeping involves using Canadian soldiers to train and mentor other, less experienced United Nations forces, say defence and government sources.

The strategy, which would possibly be employed in some of the most dangerous parts of Africa, is a departure from traditional peacekeeping, which is popular in the public imagination.

And in the opinion of some defence experts, it bears some resemblance to the kind of capacity-building counter-insurgency mission the Canadian Forces carried out in Afghanistan for the better part of a decade.

Foreign minister's policy speech to prepare public for peacekeeping risks
Allies anxious as Liberals put peacekeeping decision on pause

"Capacity in training is a strength for Canada," said one official, who was unable to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the file.

It is likely one of the reasons the Liberal government believes it must prepare the public for the risks of "modern peacekeeping."

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is slated to give a major foreign policy address in a few weeks' time, which will open the door to the delivery of the long-awaited defence policy review on June 7.

But it will also prepare the public for peacekeeping missions that could cost lives.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to start a push to educate Canadians on the risks of modern peacekeeping in a speech coming up in a few weeks. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)
One of the scenarios envisions Canadian troops helping train African Union peacekeepers in a relatively safe place, such as the West African nation of Burkina Faso, and then transporting the combined force into the country where they would operate.

Canadian soldiers would also accompany their apprentices into field in order to support them, reinforce lessons and ensure they don't get into trouble. UN missions in that part of the world have been marred with allegations of rape and child sexual abuse.
Echoes of Afghanistan

The concept sounds similar to the operational mentoring and liaison teams that Canadian troops used to help build up the Afghan National Police in Kandahar.

The idea of being seen as a leader in training peacekeepers and the development of uniform standards is politically attractive to the Liberals, who are eager to push the "Canada is back" narrative on the world stage.

Sources say the plan has also been given "enthusiastic" buy-in among senior UN officials who are themselves eager to improve the quality of peacekeeping soldiers, many of whom are ill-equipped and from developing countries.
Troops and a tank from the Edmonton-based Lord Strathcona's Horse are shown during Operation Lion II in Khenjakak, Afghanistan in this file photo. (Murray Brewster/Canadian Press)
"The complexities of today's operations require a collective effort to enhance the training of uniformed personnel for United Nations peace operations," said a report prepared in September 2015 by former secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who also requested that contributing countries be certified in peacekeeping practices and that the UN support "the establishment of bilateral and regional training partnerships."

The decision on where to deploy roughly 600 troops and 150 police officers in support of UN operations has been in a holding pattern for months.

Originally announced last summer, it was supposed to be made by the end of 2016. But it remains in limbo, with one senior government official recently suggesting it could remain there until the fall.
Eyes on Africa

Mali is most often mentioned as a possible destination and has been the focus of repeated research trips by senior federal officials, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The list has also included, at various points over the last year, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

While justifying the absence of a decision in March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said deploying troops is a not a move to be taken lightly, but also noted Canada has had "a difficult history in Africa as peacekeepers."

He was referring to the disastrous missions to both Somalia and Rwanda in the mid-1990s.

The Canadian who led the Rwanda mission during that country's genocide said he applauds the government's determination to "wean" the public off the notion of classic peacekeeping, which is rooted in ceasefire observation missions.

But retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire says Canada risks being on the wrong side of history if it hesitates or fails to make a significant contribution to peace and stability during a complex and ambiguous time in the world.

"It's not going to blow over. It's going to continue to be complex," Dallaire said. "And we have a lot of capabilities that we're simply holding back."

Canadians are among the best prepared for UN missions, he added, particularly with the introduction of new guidelines to deal with the use of child soldiers.
Roméo Dallaire says Canadians are among the best prepared for taking on UN missions. (Adrian Wyld/CP)
Regardless of the location, it is likely the troops will be deployed in mostly violent, unstable nations.

In the case of Mali, local insurgents are competing, sometimes at cross purposes, with international jihadist groups.

The U.S. Intelligence Community's "Worldwide Threat Assessment," released last week, noted that al-Qaeda is attempting "to promote unity among Mali-based jihadists" in the region, "increase military action, and speed up recruitment of fighters."

While there is a need to underline the peril, it must also be put in context, said Richard Gowan, research director for New York University's Center on International Cooperation.

"Mali is certainly is one of the most dangerous missions, and scores of peacekeepers have been killed in ambushes," Gowan told CBC News. "It should be said that the majority of those who have died were relatively poorly armed, poorly protected African troops.

Senators issue warning over potential Mali peacekeeping mission
Canada's mission in Africa to focus on 'peacemaking'

Dutch and German forces have operated there under the UN flag and occasionally have been targets. But Gowan notes that "their fatality rates are much, much lower."

"So if Canadian troops do go into Mali, they will face very great risk, but we are not likely to see casualty figures on the level of Afghanistan some years ago," he said.

Meanwhile, Central African Republic was rocked by a series of attacks over the past week that have forced more than 15,000 people to flee their homes.

And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila's resolve to stay in power beyond his constitutional time limit has led to rising tension and the threat of popular violence in that country.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Defence Review After NATO Meeting

By: Murray Brewster, CBC NEws 

Canada's long-awaited defence policy review will not be made public before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces allies at the NATO Summit in Brussels later this month, CBC News has learned.

It's a significant decision that could make the gathering of alliance leaders uncomfortable for the prime minister, especially in light of the demands and expectations of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has insisted allies boost spending on their militaries.

A senior government official tells CBC News the plan had been to release the policy before the meeting, but officials believe it is important that Canada's defence policy align with a broader set of foreign policy goals.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will deliver a major speech shortly after the gathering of NATO leaders that will more clearly define the Liberal government's vision, said an official with direct knowledge of the plan.

That will be followed closely by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's policy review, which has been more than a year in the making and will set the future direction for the military, in terms of expectations, spending and equipment.

Canada needs to 'stand-up to our responsibilities' on defence spending
Military grappling with years of underfunding, Sajjan acknowledges
Dawson considers revisiting probe into Sajjan over detainee abuse

Many critical decisions, including the replacement of aircraft, ships and vehicles, have been in a holding pattern because of the review.

The latest federal budget removes over $8 billion from the immediate equipment purchasing plans of National Defence and promises to sprinkle the cash into programs in future years.

NATO leaders agreed at the 2014 summit in Wales that, with a resurgent Russia on the world stage, member countries should have a plan to increase their defence budgets and bring spending up to two per cent of their gross domestic products.

That would require Canada to double the size of its defence appropriation to just over $40 billion from the current $18.7 billion.
Cash vs. action

Both Trudeau's Liberal government and former prime minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government have balked at the notion, arguing that the GDP measurement is arbitrary and that the true measurement is participation in NATO missions.

But the Trump administration, which has consistently hammered allies to pay more towards collective security, is likely to be unimpressed that Trudeau is showing up empty-handed, said one defence analyst.

"I think the Americans are going to be disappointed and our European allies will be dumbfounded," said Dave Perry, of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. "Our recent budget changes have all been negative. We've pushed several billions of dollars of purchasing off into the future and our share of defence spending continues to decline."

According to NATO estimates, Canada is spending just under one per cent of its GDP on defence, but a recent Senate committee report, using Library of Parliament data, pegs that figure at .88 per cent.

"So, to go into the meeting empty-handed, without even the defence review; it will put our government in a very uncomfortable position," said Perry.
Ending defence cuts

The senior government official, who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the file, said they are expecting that defence spending "will be brought up, as it always has been" at the NATO meeting, but argued "the defence policy is not for our allies. It is for Canadians."

The Americans were given a sneak peek at the new policy and were pleased, said a pair of defence sources, who were not authorized to speak to the media.

The expectation that Canada will deliver something of substance when leaders meet on May 25 extends beyond the U.S.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the 28 member nations pledged to stop cutting defence and find a way to to get to two per cent GDP.

Canada ranks 23 out of 28 NATO countries on defence spending
U.S. defence secretary tells NATO countries to increase military spending

"I expect all allies to be able to meet the commitment we made in 2014," Stoltenberg said Thursday following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It will be a major topic in the coming days, and he said everyone is expected to be on onboard.

"What we're going to address is how to implement the pledge and I am encouraged by what I see across Europe and Canada."

NATO Asks Canada to Send Troops back to Afghanistan

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

NATO is asking Canada to once again send troops to Afghanistan to help deal with the resurgence of the Taliban.

The request will be on the agenda at the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels, to be attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said a request has been received from alliance commanders in Afghanistan for several thousand more soldiers to help shore up Afghan forces who are struggling to deal with the resurgent Taliban. Estimates suggest the Islamic fundamentalist group, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the U.S.-led NATO invasion of 2001, is now back in control of or a major presence in about 40 per cent of the country.

“It will continue to be a train, assist and advise operation,” Stoltenberg said. “We are now looking into requests regarding some areas like more education, for the military academies, but also training special operation forces and air forces.”

The office of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan did not comment on whether the NATO request had been received yet or whether it had already been rejected by the Canadian government. “We are not tracking a request,” Sajjan’s spokesperson Jordan Owens said in an statement emailed Friday.

But Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed Friday he has received such a request from NATO and is considering sending more troops. Although Australia is not a NATO nation, it has about 300 soldiers in the country training and advising Afghan forces.

Germany’s government indicated it too had received a request from NATO but would not send additional soldiers. German troops are already in northern Afghanistan.

In March 2014 Canada ended its military involvement in the Afghan war, which cost the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers. A Canadian diplomat, two civilian contractors and a journalist were also killed. More than 2,000 soldiers were injured.

A handful of Canadian military personnel are currently deployed in the country to provide security at the Canadian embassy in Kabul. “The number of CAF members deployed is limited, and in order to maintain operational security and ensure the safety of Canadian Armed Forces personnel, no further information is available at this time,” Department of National Defence spokesman Evan Koronewski said Friday.

There are slightly more than 13,000 coalition and NATO soldiers now in Afghanistan, involved mainly in training. Of those around 7,000 are from the U.S.

Another 1,500 U.S. special forces are operating in the country as well, conducting combat missions against the Taliban as well as those aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Trump is currently examining a recommendation that could see between 2,000 and 5,000 additional U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan. He has yet to make a decision. White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Friday that Trump will have the opportunity to hear from allies during his trip to the NATO summit and the upcoming gathering of G7 nations. McMaster said that Trump understands that “America first does not mean America alone.”

In February, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress that America and its NATO allies are facing a “stalemate” in Afghanistan as the Taliban gain more ground. He noted he needed a “few thousand” soldiers to act as advisors to the Afghan military.

Afghan security forces are still plagued by weak leadership and corruption.

Several weeks ago John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, told Congress that casualties being suffered by Afghan security forces were “shockingly high.”

In the first six weeks of 2017, 807 Afghan security personnel were killed and more than 1,300 wounded. Civilian casualties had also increased to the highest on record since the United Nations started documenting them in 2009, Sopko said.

Australia’s Turnbull said Friday he is carefully reviewing the NATO request. “We are certainly open to increasing our work there, but we’ve obviously got to look at the commitments of the Australian Defense Force in other parts of the region and indeed in other parts of the world,” he told journalists. “It is very important that we continue — we and our other allies in the effort in Afghanistan — continue to work together,” he added.

U.S. intelligence official Dan Coats told Congress on Thursday that the Taliban are making gains and warned that the situation will get worse over the coming year. “Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Coats said. “Afghan security forces performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertion, poor logistics support and weak leadership.”