Trudeau’s Training Mission is Unclear

Trudeau plan against Islamic State is vague and leave enough grey area to interpretation. Even with his new plan, there is no way for Canadians to know exactly what will Canadian soldiers do on the ground and how dangerous it will be.

Although Trudeau went forward with his election promise of bringing back home the CF-18 fighter aircraft, the training mission under an ‘advice-and-assist’ label could possibly engage ground troops in fierce combat.

Trudeau was asked why he was withdrawing the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s from the U.S.-led coalition as his government is not opposed to airstrikes. “We can’t do everything,” Trudeau said when asked the first of several questions about the CF-18s.

Let’s be clear here. Canada is far from doing everything. Although Canada is participating in many aspect of the coalition, the amount of resources made available to the coalition is very low. You can’t say that you are doing everything when you have 6 CF-18s conducting less than 3% of the airstrikes neither when you have 69 operators from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment training local soldiers in Northern Iraq.

Don’t take me wrong on this, Canadian soldiers are doing an excellent job and has been praised on many occasions by Americans generals. However, Trudeau’s words are not appropriated; he seems to be the only one thinking he’s doing everything. Even the Canadian population is against stopping airstrikes.

Deploying ground troops under the pretext of giving enough tools to the local soldiers to fight for their own turf might be a good argument, but it is almost impossible to do so without having troops engaged in the fight with them. In fact, the troops would be mentoring and acting as liaison with the available U.S.-led coalition asset, exactly the same way it was done with the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) in Afghanistan.

Trudeau seem to think that advising and assisting local soldiers puts Canada into a non-combat role. I guess he’s not been listening to his Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) nor his Defence Minister.

Aaron Wherry from CBC News wrote that CDS General Jonathan Vance was clear that Canadian soldiers might end up defending themselves against Islamic State fighters.

“The mission that we’ve engaged is an advise-and-assist mission, and that is exactly what we are going to do,” he said. A short while later, from the exact same seat, Vance was clearer: Yes, Canadian trainers would be marking targets and, yes, there was a chance that they would have to engage the enemy to defend themselves.

I can’t agree more with General Vance but something is missing here. Trudeau’s plan does not include any type of modus operandi for the Canadian troops except that they will deploy to advise-and-assist. I know it is the Canadian Forces’ job to work out the details, but Trudeau’s plan is announcing the future of Canada’s role against Islamic State to the population and should provide more details.

If your troops are marking targets, most likely operators from Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), you are actively taking part in offensive operations. And it’s ok to do so as well, it kills the enemy and enable the local soldiers to fight a weaker force (IS in this instance).

Is it possible that Canadian troops will conduct joint patrols with local soldiers and react to fire if fired upon? Yes!

Is it possible that Canadian troops will conduct offensive operations with local soldiers against Islamic State fighters? Still possible!

That said, conducting patrols might not be deemed as offensive operations by many, but they still can be qualified as so. You are deploying troops to patrol and secure an area without directly rushing into the hornet’s nest.

Knowing the ability of the Canadian soldiers, I know they will do an excellent job and they will conduct their missions with the outmost professionalism, but they need a clear mandate; they need to know whether they have to get ready to fight an insurgency or only train soldiers.

The two options are quite different. One is similar to what Canadian mentor did with the OMLT in Kandahar. The other is comparable to the training mission conducted in Kabul after the troops were pulled for their combat role in Kandahar.

Mr. Trudeau has to tell Canadians what kind of training mission he is looking at.


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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.