Friday, October 7, 2016

The More We Know About Canadian Military Operations

The more questions we have, and that is why folks don't share much info most of the time.  I was unable to be on this phone press conference since I am 13 hours or so in the future, but the news story here is very interesting.

First, the Canadian Special Operations Forces in Iraq are not doing anything different under this more violence-averse government.  They are still advising at the frontlines, which can lead to combat.  It ain't called combat because politicians say it ain't combat.  What it is not: sustained combat operations.  What it is: violence conducted by Canadian SOF from time to time when they are near the adversary.  Lots of folks will get caught up in the definitional game, when we should focus on the central issues instead:
  • How much risk are the CANSOF being exposed to on a regular basis?
  • How efficacious is the training?
  • The larger political challenge--making the most effective force in the country more effective still may be problematic down the road when the Kurds feel a separatist itch.
The article does get at a big question--whether the mission will be renewed once again?  The folks mentioned in the piece seem to suggest that it will not be continued. This actually makes some operational sense (not just politics back home, not just budgetary/operational tempo stuff) if the Kurds and the rest of the Iraqis take Mosul between now and the exit.  If Mosul falls to the Iraqis, then there will be much less need for training/advising/assisting the Kurds as ISIS will mostly be ejected from Iraq and others can train the Iraqi forces how to patrol territory they own, rather than taking back territory they lost a few years ago.

Of course, this will raise a political challenge--what would Canada be contributing to the counter-ISIS fight after pulling out the CANSOF folks?   That is a challenge for the Trudeau government--to continue to stay in the fight against ISIS in some way that is recognized by those that Canada wants to recognize Canada.

There is another issue in all of this: Murray Brewster noted the lack of details.  Guess who is also not getting any details?  Parliament.  All of the parliamentary discussion about getting access to the secret stuff is about surveillance and not operations.  And, to me, this is a problem since that leaves democratic control of the military in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister and no one else.  And those guys might just be tempted to hide questionable stuff.  Oops. 

Canada is not alone in this oversight oversight.  Which is why I am writing this from Japan.

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