General Vance: No End in Sight in the Fight Against ISIS

The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance, believes there is no end in sight in the fight against Islamic State.

“I don’t think it’s in sight, I think we are thinking through the problem, we understand more and more and when you say ISIS, or ISIL or Daesh, it comes in many forms,” Jonathan Vance said during an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

I cannot agree more with General Vance on this, the fight against Islamic State is far from being done. As a matter of fact, it could take decades, if not more. Canada pulled out of Afghanistan too early and I believe the same will happen in Iraq. Although the mission is completely different, our contribution to training troops remains almost identical.

When we left Kandahar for Kabul, Canada ended its combat mission and started a training one. This time, I believe the plan will be similar to Operation ATTENTION in Kabul. Canadian soldiers train local fighters to fight for their own turf while we provide them with logistics and training.

Vance also believes that Canadians should prepare to see casualties due to the newly established ground operations.

“Canadians need to be prepared for the fact that there will be confrontation, there will be fighting, I am certain of it, there has been already,” Vance said during the interview. “This represents an expansion of our mission on the ground, so it stands to reason that there will be fighting, and potential casualties as we face this mission.”

CANSOFCOM in Iraq
CANSOFCOM providing training in Iraq

As a matter of fact, I believe General Vance is right. Although the Liberals calls the mission a training one, having troops on the ground exposes them to possible clashes with Islamic State militants. Fighting Islamic State militants and dealing with improvised explosive devices (IED) like in Afghanistan will most likely occur on a regular basis.

When General Vance said its soldiers are allowed to “engage a hostile act … or an intent before it materializes,” mostly to defend themselves, it was a proof of possible fighting.

“When you are using the rules of engagement that allow you to defend yourself and you are fighting, it’s combat. But it’s not a combat mission. If it was a combat mission we would be doing things very differently,” Vance added during the interview.

Deemed a train, advice and assist mission, the Canadian soldiers on the ground will expose themselves.  The plan itself lacks so much details that it is hard to say whether it will be an “inside the wire” mission or a mentoring mission such as what Canada did in Kandahar with the Afghan National Security Forces.

Even if the mission is to be conducted “inside the wire,” training local fighters could potentially create “green on blue” attacks, meaning that trainees would attack the trainers.

This happened on many occasions in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, when I deployed to mentor Afghan soldiers in Kandahar back in 2009, it never happened and I can proudly say that Canadian soldiers were excellent mentors and were very respected by our Afghan counterparts.

The experience acquired in blood and tears by our soldiers in Afghanistan will truly reflect their professionalism and I am convinced they will only engage potential threats if they are 100% sure.

Having said that, despite the possibility of casualties, I believe Canada’s plan to train locals is great.

Pulling out the CF-188 Hornets was a huge mistake

Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jets taxi on the runway in Kuwait during Operation IMPACT on November 13, 2014. Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND
Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jets taxi on the runway in Kuwait during Operation IMPACT on November 13, 2014. Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND

However, I don’t agree with the Liberals pulling out our CF-188 Hornets from the U.S.-led coalition.

The removal of the CF-18 fighter aircraft does not only engage Canada in a supporting role instead of a combat one, it also send a message to our allies that “we’re done with combat and everyone else should do it for us.” Trudeau might pretend our allies are satisfied with our new plan, but I still find it very hypocrite to bring back our fighters while keeping an aerial refueling tanker in the air to support other nation’s air strikes.

Basically, Trudeau pulled the CF-18 on a promise he made to get elected regardless of the consequences it will have on Canada’s reputation within the Allied circle. While it might only be less than 3% of the air strikes, Canada’s contribution was a proof of its willingness to destroy IS and to offer a more stable environment to the civilians on the ground.

The same CF-18s, along some Canadian Special Forces operators, were able to help the Kurds kill 70 Islamic State fighters in a failed surprise attack. With troops on the ground soon, the CF-18s would’ve been a great close air support asset to support them in case of future surprise and coordinated attacks.

 

As a combat veteran of Afghanistan, I would’ve love to have Canadian fighter aircraft supporting our operations, especially since they would’ve been made available right away for us. This is something Minister Sajjan knows but I guess Trudeau was insistent on keeping its promises regardless of the possible close air support possibilities for Canadian ground troops.

 

 

 

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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.