Canadian military offers 3,000 troops to invade Iraq

UncleSam_200“Putting everything on the table” – revelations in the media concerning the extent of the preparations for war by the “military planners” of the Canadian Forces. In this regard, it may be significant to note the tactics which the U.S. is using on Canada. According to the National Post, “US military planners appear to have had it with Ottawa’s dithering, and are taking out their displeasure on Canadian soldiers stationed at the US army’s Florida-based headquarters for Middle East operations … our officers will be excluded from war games and meetings related to Iraq.” But such revelations do not explain why Canadian solders are stationed there in the first place, nor why “military planners” have capitulated to the Pentagon nor why the Canadian government should capitulate to the U.S. if its stand for peace is as principled as it claims.

Canadian military planners offer 3,000 troops to fight alongside UK, US

By Chris Wattie, National Post

(10 January 2003) – Canadian Forces planners are “putting everything on the table” for a contribution to any war in Iraq, military sources say, including a brigade group of up to 3,000 mechanized infantry, armour and artillery troops that would fight alongside US and British soldiers.

One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the navy, air force and army are pushing to make the maximum effort possible despite well-publicized shortages of equipment, funding and personnel.

“Everything they could possibly send to Iraq, they will … if the government gives the go-ahead,” said the source.

But some observers say the military’s contingency plans to send everything from CF-18 fighters to a large formation of ground troops to Iraq are being stymied by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs, which object to Canadians becoming involved in combat.

“The government is not terribly happy with the idea of fighting a war,” said Colonel Alain Pellerin, a retired army officer and executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations. “That goes against their idea of what our image should be – that we’re peacekeepers; we don’t fight wars.

“The PMO and [Privy Council Office] have been particularly hard line about that.”

However Col. Pellerin said those objections may not stand up to pressure from Washington.

“The bottom line is the Americans expect something from Canada,” he said. “And they would like to have them contribute to land operations.”

The Canadian Forces has, for the past few months, been making extensive plans in anticipation of a possible war in Iraq, and one senior defence planner said the army has indicated it could send an entire brigade group to the conflict.

“The feeling among the army is that this is their last chance to show the country what they can do.”

A brigade group is about 3,000 soldiers, built around an armoured battalion and one or more mechanized infantry battalions. The source said the infantry would be drawn from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, in Gagetown, N.B.

The plan would draw the armour – including squadrons of Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles and C-2 Leopard tanks – from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, based in Petawawa, Ont.

The 3rd Battalion of the RCR, the regiment’s light infantry battalion, is another possibility for deployment with the brigade group. That battalion is the army’s designated “rapid reaction unit.”

Another military source said the Canadian Forces’ joint operations group, the central co-ordination unit for major operations, has already sent a small reconnaissance group to the Gulf to check out possible sites for a Canadian headquarters in the region.

The source said one plan under consideration would see a Canadian battalion of about 1,000 soldiers joining allied forces arrayed against Iraq as a “first wave,” along with a headquarters for the full brigade group. Other battalions and smaller units such as engineers, artillery and support elements could be added as they arrive.

“That’s the template they used in Kosovo and as far back as Korea,” the source said. “One battalion became the nucleus of the Commonwealth Brigade.”

An air force officer, who also asked not to be named, indicated that a squadron of CF-18s has been offered for any fight in Iraq. Although the jets are in the process of a badly needed upgrade to their airborne electronics, the source said the military hopes a small number will be ready in time to allow them to operate with British and US forces.

The air force has also been replenishing its supply of “smart” bombs, almost all of which were used during the bombing campaign over Kosovo.

Heather Brunner, a spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence, said Canadian military planners are already involved in discussions with the Americans.

“There is a small military liaison team engaged in discussions with the US military authorities right now,” she said. “[They’re] looking at determining the needs and appropriate contributions should the use of force become necessary.”

However, Ms. Brunner said all the plans being laid are still hypothetical. “It’s not appropriate to speculate at this time what our specific contribution might be.”

John McCallum, the Defence Minister, has said that at minimum, two navy frigates, transport planes and two surveillance aircraft now patrolling the Persian Gulf region in the war on terrorism could be transferred to operations against Iraq.

The commandos of JTF-2, who were withdrawn from Afghanistan late last year for a rest, could also be easily and quickly transferred to an allied force in Iraq.

Col. Pellerin said the proposal to send a large body of Canadian ground troops to Iraq is possible, but said time is not on the defence planners’ side.

“They would have to commit themselves now or very soon,” he said. “They would have to make an announcement like the Brits or the French did this week that they feel it’s prudent to begin real preparations.”

cwattie@nationalpost.com © Copyright 2003National Post

* * *

America’s benchwarmer

 National Post, Thursday, January 09, 2003

US military planners appear to have had it with Ottawa’s dithering, and are taking out their displeasure on Canadian soldiers stationed at the US army’s Florida-based headquarters for Middle East operations. As the Post has reported, our officers will be excluded from war games and meetings related to Iraq.

The move is understandable. In the 16 months since Sept. 11, 2001, our soldiers, sailors and airmen have served valiantly whenever called upon in the war on terrorism. In Afghanistan, most notably, our small contingent did Canada proud. But not so their Liberal masters, who hum and haw over Iraq, and otherwise look for ways to distance themselves from Washington.

Having witnessed Ottawa’s indecisiveness during the Afghan campaign in late 2001, the Americans were careful not to ask for too much this time. The Liberals agreed a month after 9/11 to send 2,000 air force and navy personnel to provide support and surveillance for US and British combat troops, and oversee humanitarian airdrops. But when infantry were requested for actually fighting, the Liberals wavered. First they put Edmonton’s Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry on 48-hours notice. Then, when the fighting became intense and people started getting killed, Ottawa blinked. It downgraded the PPCLI’s status to seven-days standby. Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, admitted frankly that the prospect of Canadians becoming involved in war troubled him. Infamously, he said, “We don’t want to have a big fight over there. We want to bring peace and happiness.” The National Defence Department asked the British if, instead, we could join their peacekeeping mission in Kabul. They declined our entreaty because our cash-starved military could not airlift our troops there, nor provide for their food, water or munitions once they arrived.

Finally, with mounting political pressure at home for significant Canadian involvement, Ottawa begged a ride on the US mission to secure and defend the Kandahar airport and hunt out al-Qaeda in the neighbouring mountains. It was a far more dangerous assignment that the Liberals had wanted for Canadian troops. But by that time, it was all that was on offer.

The Americans learned from this ignoble floundering. So this time, all that has been requested to date is that Canada make ready for rapid deployment in the Gulf region a handful of ships and transport aircraft, a squad of Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles and a unit of our elite JTF-2 special forces. Yet Ottawa is not prepared to do even that until the United Nations approves an invasion of Iraq, a decision that will come no sooner than the end of this month. Britain and France share Ottawa’s reluctance to invade before the Security Council provides authorization. Yet both are sending troops and equipment into the region in advance. They appreciate, as Ottawa clearly does not, that preparing for war is often the best way to avoid it: The current build-up may cause Saddam Hussein to see the West’s resolve and resign without a fight. They also appreciate that once the Security Council approves a war – if it ever does – there will be too little time to commence a build-up if the invasion is to occur before the long, hot Iraqi summer.

Speaking about his government’s decision to call up 1,500 military reservists, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon declared this week that “the price of influence is that we do not leave the US to face the tricky issues alone.” Words well spoken. What a shame we’ll never hear them from our own government.

© Copyright  2003 National Post

Leave a comment

Filed under No Harbour for War (Halifax)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s