Two Options for Canada’s Intervention Against ISIL Under Trudeau

The tragic event of Paris that claimed more than 129 lives and injured 352 has once again struck at the heart of the Western civilization. The world community condemned the cowardly, IS-backed attacks and has offered their help to France. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered condolences to Parisians and France, and support of the Canadian government, while keeping its word on providing a different response to its campaign against the Islamic State (IS).

“We have offered all of our help and support to the government of France, to the people of France at this time. And we’ll continue to engage with our allies around the world in ensuring the safety of Canadians and others both here at home and around the world.”

When asked about Canada’s role in the fight against the Islamic State, Trudeau responded that “it is still very early moments in figuring out what is indeed happening as we speak right now on the ground in France,” Trudeau said. “It’s too soon to jump to any conclusions.”

Such an event can and will have a direct impact on Canada’s role against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, especially now with a newly formed Liberal majority government whom has made Canada’s contribution against ISIL a priority during the 2015 federal elections.

A clear sign of Canada’s new foreign policy under a Liberal majority government, one can ask whether Canada will stand firm along its Allies and keep conducting military operation against the Islamic State or will return to its 1990s peacekeeping and humanitarian aid policies.

Mr. Trudeau’s first conversation with a world leader, US President Barrack Obama, ended in an announcement—as he promised during its election campaign—that Canada’s CF-188 Hornets will be removed from the US-lead coalition against the Islamic State. Although the Canadian jets are still successfully conducting airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Trudeau’s government is putting a plan together to withdraw the Canadian fighter jets as soon as possible. That said, Canada’s contribution to the US-led coalition against ISIL has been approved until March 2016 and should remain in place until the end of the mission extension.

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

As a nation that just came out of a 13-years campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the Canadian Forces gained valuable skills fighting an insurgency, Canada should remain a solid ally in the US-led coalition against ISIL. However, especially with Russia conducting an incredible amount of air strikes in Syria, Ottawa has the ability to shift its focus on a different approach while keeping its approach battle-oriented. Because of the imminent redeployment of the six Canadian CF-188 Hornets and its crew back home, the Canadian Forces will have to quickly draw a new plan to keep constant pressure on ISIL while having a secondary role—but not a non-important one—in the fight against the militants. This doesn’t mean Canada will have no role to play in the coalition, however.

Two options could be implemented by Canada for its contribution to the US-led coalition against ISIL: targeting cycles and mentorship through training.

Targeting cycles

The Canadian Forces Intelligence Command (CFINTCOM) has the ability to play a major role in the coalition intelligence field and implement a more defined targeting cycles. Written by General Stanley A. McChrystal in 2014, targeting cycles is the process of selecting objects or installations to be attacked, taken, or destroyed in warfare. Called the “F3EA,” the targeting cycles would be a great asset to Kurdish forces during its offensive operations against ISIL.

The F3EA consists of:

  1. Find: A target (person or location) is first identified and located.
  2. Fix: The target is then kept under continuous surveillance to ensure it hasn’t moved.
  3. Finish: A raiding force is assigned to capture or kill the target.
  4. Exploit: Intelligence material is secured and mined, with detainees interrogated.
  5. Analyze: Information is studied to identify further targeting opportunities.

Targeting cycles is a great tool to support Kurdish and Iraqi offensive operations against ISIL by providing them with the necessary intelligence and assets to be successful and keep the collateral damage at its lowest. Although a direct implication in the operation planning and by providing constant intelligence update, targeting cycles does not implicate ground troops in battle. This role would be perfect for Canada due to its reluctance to send soldiers into combat along its allied forces in the region.

Mentorship through training

Canada was successful in conducting Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) in Afghanistan. Although the teams were engaged in combat along the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), it is possible to change its focus to a more training-oriented effort. Anyone who has deployed in a country such as Afghanistan knows that to be able to have a good trainer-trainees relationship, you have to prove yourself by taking part in combat operations along the local forces. However, due to the fact that no Canadian soldiers will step ‘outside the wire’, a ‘mentorship through training’ plan could be quickly established.

By creating small teams attached to foreign nationals soldiers who are going through its final training before being deployed on the frontline, Canadian soldiers wold have to ability to prove themselves while correcting its counterparts during training operations. This, of course, would involve the Canadian soldiers in the training operation itself, proving they will not stand behind while the foreign national troops are going through their training.

The Canadian Special Operation Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) could be leading the initiative. Furthermore, special forces soldiers could also start implementing the targeting cycles to the Kurdish and Iraqi chain of command. CANSOFCOM has been on the ground for almost a year now and has been very successful in its training mission; gathering enough credibility to successfully carry out a ‘mentorship through training’ plan.

On a side note, CANSOFCOM should be authorized to conduct high-value target raids along its coalition partners. Surgical strikes such as these would definitely lower the possible collateral damage while inflicting the same amount of damage to ISIL’s leadership.

Many more efforts could be done by Canada in the near future. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) and humanitarian aid are post-campaign efforts that could be established by Canada. However, to ensure its viability and success, the coalition along its local nationals partners needs to create a much more stable environment to keep civilians safe and ready to receive help. This can only be done by fighting ISIL on its own turf and by driving them out of villages and towns where they use civilians as human shields.


Facebook Comments

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.