Libya: Canadian Forces “will certainly be involved somehow”

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told reporters at the Conference on Security and Defence in Ottawa on Friday that the Canadian Forces will “will certainly be involved somehow” in Libya.

“I don’t know whether we will be involved militarily, but we will certainly be involved somehow, because Libya sits at a crossroads of some very important and dangerous things that are happening in the world,” Vance said.

Last Saturday, I wrote about Canada considering joining a coalition in Libya. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said a stable government for Libya would bring stability to the region.

“There is a national government that we are recognizing but there are two other governments claiming to be governments. So that’s the first thing we need to know in Libya. Is it possible to have a government for Libya, one government? It’s key for the stability of the region,” Sajjan said. 

According to CTV News, Sajjan “told reporters Canada needs to “look at what the potential political solution is,” in Libya, and added, “if there’s a need where Canada can bring in a certain capability that will assist part of the coalition, we will consider it.”

That said, I believe Canada is currently drafting an intervention plan and will offer different options to Libyan International Assistance Mission. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the CF-18s, who were recently redeployed to Canada, have a part in the operational planning.

A line of Canadian fighter jets at the Trapani Air Base in Sicily, Italy, from where they’ve flown over 400 missions above Libya. (David Common/CBC)
A line of Canadian fighter jets at the Trapani Air Base in Sicily, Italy, from where they’ve flown over 400 missions above Libya. (David Common/CBC)

Royal Canadian Navy in Libya

Another option that seems to fall between the cracks is a stronger maritime presence from the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to cut the influx of illegal migrants to Europe. During Operation Mobile, Canada’s contribution to the 2011 military intervention in Libya, the RCN deployed the HMCS Charlottetown to the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1.

The HMCS Charlottetown stood with NATO SMG1 during the 2011 intervention in Libya.
The HMCS Charlottetown sailed with NATO SMG1 during the 2011 intervention in Libya.

By having ships in the region, Canada could contribute to fight against illegal immigration in Europe and offer search-and-rescue options in case of sinking migrant ships.

Canadian Army and CANSOFCOM in Libya

As for ground operations, Steve Day, a former Canadian special forces commander, told Power Play it makes “no sense” for the West to intervene with trainers on the ground.

“If there isn’t an indigenous force to train, there’s no sense putting trainers on the ground.”

Two conventional options would be a peacekeeping effort and humanitarian aid or a battle group ready to strike Islamic State positions. The latter is most likely the least favorite option for the Liberal government who seems to be reluctant to send troops in combat. A peacekeeping effort would mostly conduct patrols and enforce security in Tripoli and offer humanitarian aid to those in need.

Canada could also contribute to a special operation task force where it would take part in raids against high value targets (HVT) and mark targets for the LIAM aircraft. The Canadian Special Operation Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) could also adivse and assist an “indigenous force” if there is a plan to build a Libyan government force.

That said, due to the current deploymenst in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Iraq, there is a good probability that a small number of troops will be deployed to Libya; a perfect opportunity for CANSOFCOM to use its expertise on the ground.

NATO group in Libya led by Italy

Last December, Canada joined a group of seven NATO allies called the Libyan International Assistance Mission (LIAM). Aiming at finding options to the bring stability to Libya, the group is led by Italy.

Italy announced it was ready to take a leadership role in the coalition against ISIS in Libya. In 1911, Libya became an Italian colony called the ‘Italian Libya’ and was disestablished in 1943when  retreating German and Italian forces were forced to abandon Libya as they were pushed out of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, thus ending Italian jurisdiction and control over Libya.

“I had a good meeting with my counterpart, the minister of defence from Italy, [on military intervention in Libya],” Sajjan said following a NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels..

“Italy is willing to take the lead on this; once we have a good understanding of the political situation, that will allow us to figure out what we need to do,” said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio’s The House.

The fact that the Italian island of Lampedusa is located less than 300 km from the Libya coast enable Italy to have a command and control element close to the war-torn country.

US Airstrike kills 49 in Libya

On Friday, the United States struck a training camp in Libya, where Islamic State foreign fighters were receiving advanced training, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Noureddine Chouchane, a senior operative in the terrorist group from Tunisia, was believed to be among the 49 killed at the camp.

A Canadian participation in Libya seems to be well on its way along its LIAM allies. That said, Canada needs to draft a solid plan and clearly tell its citizens on its role within this coalition. Although many analyst say the first intervention was a disaster and that NATO shouldn’t prepare a second attempt to bring stability to Libya, I do believe that a better prepared and a well executed plan could definitely be beneficial to the war-torn region and its suffering population.



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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.