Monday, April 23, 2018

Vance: No plan for CAF in Churchill

By: Dylan Robertson, The Winnipeg Free Press

OTTAWA — The head of the military says there is no role for soldiers in Churchill, adding a "wistfulness" is behind a call to station soldiers at Manitoba’s only seaport.

DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE</p><p>The Canadian Rangers will get help from a refuelling site in Nanisivik, Nunavut (above), when it opens later this year.</p></p>
The Canadian Rangers will get help from a refueling site in Nanisivik, Nunavut (above), when it opens later this year.
"I don’t have a military task in Churchill," chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told the Senate defence committee last week.

Churchill’s town council has named government services as one of five areas to pursue to bolster the northern town’s economy, including suggesting an increased role for the military. The town of 900 used to house more than 6,000 people, largely driven by Cold War-era rocket testing by American and Canadian troops.
Related image
Remnants of the Churchill Rocket Research Range which was operated by the USAF and CAF during the Cold War. The range ceased operations in 1985. 
The town, located 1,600 kilometres north of Winnipeg, had its land link cut when the rail line was flooded out and damaged last May. Prices for necessities such as food and fuel have soared and families have moved away.

Vance said he is not aware of any plan to station soldiers in Churchill. He also doesn’t see the wisdom in such a move. "Sometimes, there’s a wistfulness there, that Churchill doesn’t have a military base or that somehow we should be there more," he said.

He described the question that governments and the military have to consider: "What does the government need to get done up there, and how much military do you need to do that at any point in time?"

Vance said the military’s role in the Arctic is to conduct search-and-rescue operations and ward off foreign encroachment. The Canadian Rangers operate patrol vessels in the North and take part in NORAD missile defence. He said a naval refuelling site in Nanisivik, Nunavut, will help when it opens this year.

"From a military perspective, there is a certain posture that we need to take to get the job done. I think we’re at that posture," he said. "We have tremendous capacity to sense what’s coming into the Arctic."

Vance was responding to questions from Manitoba Sen. Marilou McPhedran, who asked about a media report on how Canada’s army and navy presence in the town has withered, to the point of leaving only "wind-hollowed remains of a large military base" and centuries-old fortifications.

Meanwhile, NDP MP Niki Ashton, who represents northern Manitoba, raised Churchill’s railway crisis in the House of Commons Thursday.

"People in Churchill are facing skyrocketing food prices. They are going hungry because of the kind of policies and incompetence of the government that has led to the loss of the rail service," Ashton said.

Essay: The Paradox of Counter-Insurgency

By: Wilfred Greaves, Ph.D.,  The Mackenzie Institute 
Original Essay Found Here - Pages 10-13

The Challenges of Staying the Course and Maintaining the Commitment. 

During Op Athena, on 5 November 2009, Corporal Suzanna Long from the Canadian Police Monitoring Team interacts with Afghan children during a presence patrol in the Dand District. DND photo IS2009-3062-07 by Master Corporal Angela Abbey
More than 15 years after Western states first occupied Afghanistan, 13 years since the American-led invasion of Iraq, and at a time when Canada’s new Liberal government is assessing which complex UN peacekeeping mission it will contribute troops to, it is appropriate to reflect on the lessons learned in one of the most common recent forms of conflict: counterinsurgency operations (COIN). In particular, the limited strategic success of recent Western military interventions, considerable causality rates among allied militaries, and alleged violations of international humanitarian law as a result of substantial civilian casualties suggest that an appraisal of COIN doctrine is required.

The concept of military necessity is central to this appraisal because it determines what conduct by combatants is permissible towards civilians caught in areas of conflict. The test of military necessity is vital for determining whether civilian casualties, however tragic, conform to the laws of war. The challenge is that unconventional military operations such as COIN invert certain classical war-fighting principles, resulting in a paradoxical meaning of military necessity. The goal of a successful COIN is to provide physical security for the civilian population since only by winning popular support and denying it to the enemy can COIN succeed.[1] In this sense, minimizing civilian casualties from both insurgent and counterinsurgent activities is vital for the ultimate success of the mission. But operational success is only one necessary component for victory. The SWORD model of COIN, for example, identifies seven strategic dimensions that must be won for counter-insurgency to succeed. One of these is “the war to stay the course and maintain commitment” (or the ‘war at home’), namely the need for domestic support for the deployment of troops conducting a COIN mission.[2] Counter-insurgency missions take years to succeed, if not decades, because they require nothing less than the creation of legitimate political institutions and the political, economic, social, and ideological isolation of the insurgent enemy. Any factor that reduces domestic support for the mission will likely harm the mission’s longevity since political leaders are less likely to maintain long-term military commitments if they are unpopular or otherwise costly for politicians to support. These two criteria for success – civiliancentred considerations for the use of force and maintenance of domestic support for the mission – result in a paradox for determining military necessity in counter-insurgency operations. Placing the physical security of civilians at the centre of military decisionmaking requires exposing counter-insurgent soldiers to greater risk of harm. However, increased friendly casualties are likely to result in a loss of domestic support which also undermines the mission’s ultimate prospect of success. The heightened risks assumed by counter-insurgents, therefore, have negative implications for a successful outcome, given that relatively small numbers of counter-insurgent casualties can translate into significant changes in domestic support. The maintenance of domestic support thus becomes a necessary military objective in itself, complicating the doctrinal emphasis on shifting risk from civilians to counter-insurgents. The result is the paradoxical conclusion that minimizing civilian casualties and maintaining domestic support by minimizing counter-insurgent casualties are both militarily necessary for successful COIN.

Military Necessity and International Humanitarian Law International humanitarian law (IHL) doesn’t seek to prevent war, but to curb war’s worst excesses by moderating combatants’ conduct so that it conforms to a shared standard of ‘civilized’ warfare. Going back to the industrialization of war in the 1800s, “the principle has been more and more acknowledged that the unarmed citizen is to be spared in person, property, and honour as much as the exigencies of war will admit.”[3] Between the mid-19th century and the First World War, IHL experienced a proliferation of treaties and statements which sought to restrict the use of military force only to that which was necessary for victory, such as the First Geneva Convention of 1864, the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868, and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Weapons such as soft-nosed bullets, explosive projectiles, or chemical and biological weapons that inflicted additional pain and suffering became prohibited. This established the precedent that there are restrictions on the conduct of war defined by generally agreed upon standards for military actions.

The modern conception of military necessity draws meaning not just from material considerations of what is necessary to win a war, but also from moral justifications of which actions are acceptable in the pursuit of victory. [4] It is, in effect, a question of legitimacy: are the military methods employed legitimate given the objective they are used to pursue? In this way, ‘necessary’ is a euphemism for ‘permissible’, based on how significant a combatant considers a military objective to be. In practice, the difficulty rests in the inherently subjective determination of which actions qualify as militarily necessary (and are thus permissible), and which do not.

The Geneva Conventions, for instance, do not precisely define ‘military necessity’, but instead offer a two-part explanation that informs the contemporary practices of many states. Legitimate military objectives are “limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose, or use make an effective contribution to military action, and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.”[5] While explicitly stating that attacks deliberately targeting civilians are prohibited,[6] the Geneva Conventions also indicate that civilian casualties do not constitute a violation of international law, so long as the number is not “excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”[7] Military necessity, therefore, is based on a reasonable determination of the strategic importance of an objective and the calculation of an acceptable rate of civilian casualties relative to accomplishing it. As such, it defines the threshold for determining proportionality in combat, and distinguishes legitimate military actions from war crimes.

Because of its inherent subjectivity and the high stakes for soldiers and commanders involved in combat, military necessity has often been interpreted very widely. Policymakers, senior officers, and military bureaucracies have extended what is considered militarily necessary to include their preferred objectives, often by referring to broad strategic goals rather than discrete tactical ones.[8] This allows for the conceptual stretching of military necessity to include a variety of military actions and activities.[9] It also enables the concept to be adapted to reflect important changes in the nature of war, the legality and culpability of military and civilian officials, and the distinct victory conditions for waging a counterinsurgency.

Contemporary COIN Doctrine Contemporary counter-insurgency doctrine embraces the necessity of placing civilians at the centre of military operations. Perhaps the clearest example is the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, published in 2007, which states: “The cornerstone of any COIN effort is establishing security for the civilian populace. Without a secure environment, no permanent reforms can be implemented and disorder spreads”.[10] The Canadian Armed Forces also produced a counter-insurgency manual that drew on lessons learned in Afghanistan, though it was never published. [11] Though more equivocal than its American counterpart, it agreed that “the overall effect sought in a counter-insurgency is not the death or capture of insurgents, but more importantly, the provision of security to the population.”[12] As statements of military doctrine, these manuals underscore the extent to which success in COIN rests on the provision of human security for the receiving population, not with kinetic operations against the enemy.

According to Harvard University’s Sarah Sewall, who wrote the U.S. manual’s introduction and now serves as an Under-Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, “the civilian population is the center of gravity – the deciding factor in the struggle… The real battle is for civilian support for, or acquiescence to, the counterinsurgents and host nation government.”[13] Any action that alienates the local population is thus counterproductive to the counter-insurgents’ long-term goals, no matter how many enemy fighters are killed in the process. As a result, any civilian casualties benefit the insurgents, regardless of whom those civilians are killed by. If killed by intervening troops, support is lost among the local population, and if killed by insurgents, it demonstrates the inability of counter-insurgents to keep the population safe.

This undermines the conventional notion implicit in the concept of military necessity; that some civilian casualties may be acceptable because any civilian casualties are detrimental to the counter-insurgents’ goal of winning local support. The strategic onus to minimize civilian casualties rests squarely on counter-insurgents.

Effective COIN thus contradicts the tactics by which Western states have preferred to fight their recent wars.[14] Although international principles of legitimate military intervention expressly mandate that “force protection cannot become the principal objective,”[15] it was nonetheless a principle of Western combat operations for decades.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq altered this way of war by committing many Western states to the extensive use of ground forces for close combat and COIN operations, in which force protection was counterproductive for winning hearts and minds. This makes counterinsurgents less able to combat insurgents among the population, and suggests to the receiving populace that the counter-insurgents are unprepared to confront the same dangers the people have no choice but to face.[16] COIN doctrine underscores the futility of force protection as a guiding operational principle, since providing security to the civilian population requires that counter-insurgents accept greater danger by performing activities such as foot patrols, establishing forward operating posts, engaging with communities, and maintaining a visible public presence. COIN doctrine thus requires re-balancing the risks borne by soldiers and civilians.

COIN doctrine especially challenges the practice of “risk transfer”, which by “defying virtually every theory of counterinsurgency, military officials have pursued force protection even at the expense of mission accomplishment.”[17] The relationship between risk to soldiers and risk to civilians is zero-sum: less risk for one group entails more risk for the other. Risk transfer from soldiers to civilians has been practiced for decades, but is neither a natural nor inevitable aspect of modern combat.[18] On the contrary, “to a large degree, modern strategists fix the levels of risk that combatants and non-combatants face. Civilian casualties flow from policy preferences in predictable ways.”[19] It is therefore possible to redistribute the relative risks faced by civilians and counterinsurgents in order to support the objective of winning local support.

Contemporary COIN doctrine thus inverts the military calculus of valuing most the lives of one’s own soldiers and pursuing enemy fighters as the primary objective of military operations. This calculus does not – indeed, cannot – apply in COIN because the insurgent enemy is not easily distinguishable from the general population. Even if they were, the principal objective of counter-insurgency operations is not ‘defeating’ a conventional enemy. Precisely because the enemy can readily draw reinforcements and material support from the civilian population, is why securing public support is the primary objective. This imposes numerous operational, legal and political challenges upon states fighting counter-insurgencies, and alters the assessment of which actions will likely contribute to strategic success.

However, COIN doctrine is further complicated by the fact that success requires more than just tactical victory on the ground. It requires a popular perception that the intervening counter-insurgents are committed to defeating the insurgency over the long-term.[20] In the case of democracies fighting insurgencies, this commitment and how it is perceived by people in the receiving country can be affected by popular opinion at home. Since elected officials are often responsive to public pressure, and politicians, not generals, ultimately decide whether to sustain or abandon a military mission, maintaining domestic support is as equally important to the long-term prospects of success for a counter-insurgency as gaining local support. Problematically, domestic support can be undermined by casualty-aversion in the general public.

Although it is difficult to determine the effect of military casualties on democratic policy-making, casualties can awaken voters to the costs of a military engagement and incite resistance to the foreign deployment of troops, particularly if the mission is perceived as non-essential. “The further a particular war or military operation is removed from core national interests, the more the populace will be averse to casualties andthe more decision-makers will seek to avoid them.”[21] While circumstances vary, the long duration and elective nature of foreign counterinsurgents’ decision to intervene renders COIN more susceptible to public opinion than other types of military involvement. The consequence is that decision-makers need to minimize casualties in order to limit domestic opposition to the deployment of troops abroad.

The result of these competing imperatives is a paradox for effective COIN strategy. On the one hand, cothe unter-insurgency doctrine requires the intervener to accept more casualties in order to minimize the cost to civilians and maintain popular support in the receiving country. Higher numbers of friendly casualties can weaken domestic support for the mission, contributing to a stronger possibility of withdrawal without accomplishing the mission’s objectives. Such a withdrawal must be considered a strategic failure, and is an undesirable outcome for the counter-insurgents. On the other hand, an emphasis on force protection in order to mitigate domestic casualty aversion comes at the cost of civilian lives that decrease support for the mission in the receiving country. Given the nature of counter-insurgency, losing the civilian ‘centre of gravity’ is, by definition, likely to result in strategic failure. In both cases, it appears that this paradox constrains the ability of democracies to succeed at COIN.

This paradox raises the question of how to balance risks to foreign civilians in order to satisfy one aspect of counter-insurgency doctrine versus those to one’s own troops to satisfy another. Protecting civilians and protecting one’s own soldiers may both be militarily necessary for successful counterinsurgency, but can they be effectively reconciled? Ultimately, the concept of military necessity suggests that international humanitarian law provides an inadequate set of tools to guide military practice in counterinsurgency. In part, this is due to the inherent limitations of international law, since “the legal framework for regulating war does not contemplate asymmetric warfare waged by non-state actors and thus fails to regulate perhaps the dominant form of warfare for the 21st century.”[22] It is also due to the nature of counter-insurgency warfare itself, and the dual yet duelling objectives it demands of counterinsurgents. The provision of security for civilians is the ultimate objective of counter-insurgency, since only this will garner the local legitimacy that is “the single most important internal dimension of a [counter-insurgency] war.”[23] But as shown by recent examples of COIN operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, counter-insurgency requires some kinetic activities against the enemy. This exposes counter-insurgents and can weaken domestic support, prompting an early withdrawal or compromising the ultimate objectives. The paradox thus exists at the highest level of COIN doctrine. The competing imperatives of successful counter-insurgency indicate that decisions over the appropriate distribution of risk between soldiers and civilians must be reconciled through some standard other than international humanitarian law.


Wilfrid Greaves holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, where he is an Instructor at the Trudeau Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice. His research focuses on Arctic security, natural resource extraction and climate change, Canadian foreign policy, and human security in complex peace operations. Examples of his recent work have been published in the following journals: Security Dialogue, Polar Record, and Critical Studies on Security.


[1] Max G. Manwaring and John T. Fishel, “Insurgency and Coun - terinsurgency: Toward a New Analytical Approach,” Small Wars and Insurgencies 3, no. 3 (Winter 1992).

[2] Nils French, “Learning from the Seven Soviet Wars: Lessons for Canada in Afghanistan,” The Canadian Army Journal 10, no. 4 (Winter 2008): 36.

[3] Francis Lieber quoted in David Bosco, “Moral Principle vs. Military Necessity,” The American Scholar 77, no.1 (Winter 2008). Accessed at - ple-vs-military-necessity/.

[4] Ibid, 51.1-51.2.

[5] Nobuo Hayashi, “Requirements of Military Necessity in Interna - tional Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law,” Boston University International Law Journal 28, no. 39 (2010): 41-140.

[6] ICRC, Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 Au - gust 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), of 8 June 1977 (Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross, 1996), section 52.2.

[7] Ibid, 51.2.

[8] Ibid, 51.5b. [9] Eyal Benvenisti, “Human Dignity in Combat: The Duty to Spare Enemy Civilians,” Israel Law Review 39, no. 2 (2006): 95-96; Thom - as W. Smith, “Protecting Civilians, or Soldiers? Humanitarian Law and the Economy of Risk in Iraq,” International Studies Perspectives 9, no.2 (2008): 147.

[10] See, for example, Aaron Belkin, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Is the Gay Ban Based on Military Necessity?” Parameters 33, no. 2 (2003).

[11] United States Department of the Army, The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 42.

[12] DND, DRAFT: Counter-insurgency Operations Manual (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2007), 12. Commissioned in 2005 by then Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, a draft version of the ‘counter-insurgency operations manual’ was released to the public in 2007. However, DND subsequently announced that it did not intend to release the document for publication or use by the Canadian Forces.

[13] Sarah Sewall, “Introduction to the University of Chicago Press Edition: A Radical Field Manual,” The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), xxv.

[14] Antulio J. Echevarria, Towards an American Way of War (Carl - isle: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2004), 9.

[15] ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (Ottawa: Interna - tional Development Research Centre, 2001), viii. United States Department of the Army, 48.

[16] Hugh Smith, “What Cost Will Democracies Bear? A Review of Popular Theories of Casualty Aversion,” Armed Forces and Society 31, no. 4 (Summer 2005): 145.

[17] Smith, 146. See also Echevarria 2004, Reisman 2007, and Shaw 2005.

[18] Manwaring and Fishel, 281-284.

[19] Smith 2005, 492. For a more detailed discussion of this phe - nomenon in the context of Canada’s involvement in the Afghan war, see Peter Loewen and Daniel Rubenson, “Canadian War Deaths in Afghanistan: Costly Policies and Support for Incumbents,” Working Paper (2012). Available at - search_files/war_deaths_vfinal%20.pdf.

[20] Manwaring and Fishel, 281-284.

[21] Smith 2005, 492. For a more detailed discussion of this phe - nomenon in the context of Canada’s involvement in the Afghan war, see Peter Loewen and Daniel Rubenson, “Canadian War Deaths in Afghanistan: Costly Policies and Support for Incumbents,” Working Paper (2012). Available at - search_files/war_deaths_vfinal%20.pdf.

[22] William C. Banks, quoted in Bosco 2008.

[23] Manwaring and Fishel, 285

Operation Medusa: The Furious Battle that Saved Afghanistan from the Taliban

A book review by Brett Boudreau
Authors: Major-General (Ret’d) David Fraser and Brian Hanington

Publisher: McClelland and Stewart, 272 pages
Click to purchase from Amazon

It is now 2018, and the Canadian military ended its training mission in Afghanistan 4 years ago, wrapped up its combat operations there almost 7 years ago, and fought Operation Medusa nearly 12 years ago. During that long campaign, the Canadian Armed Forces transformed into an accomplished, middle-power combat force and the mission came to meaningfully impact the national political scene. The Canadian public also re-connected with the military – with a fervour unlike that for any military undertaking since World War II.

For about a decade, Canadians were subject to regular, daily media reporting about the Afghanistan campaign in its many guises and associated twists, turns and tragedies. A considerable number of books, periodicals, theses, articles and movies have dissected pretty much everything there is to know or of interest about the modern-day Afghanistan campaign.

As it turns out, however, in the book Operation Medusa, retired Major-General David Fraser and Brian Hanington have explored otherwise well-trod ground to produce a compelling and immensely readable first-hand account that sets out a panoply of new insights through Fraser’s unique perspective as operational commander. The pair recount in lush detail, and with crisp, precise prose the many challenges of command in modern-day conflict. They have given important reasons for those interested in current events, security and leadership to read and learn more about how a six-month period of the Afghanistan campaign molded and shaped the Canadian military of today (and indeed, NATO).

This book thankfully does not feature the hagiography that has served to diminish some other written accounts by general officers. This book is not about personality criticisms – excepting brief comments about one British brigadier, who also comes under fire in General Sir David Richards’ autobiography Taking Command (Richards wrote the foreword to Operation Medusa, and as the overall ISAF commander was Fraser’s boss during most of the time in question). Nor is this book it prideful boasting about penetrating insights and strategic acumen that somehow escaped other lesser commanders, or a personal history of life changing experiences in youth and military assignments that presaged later success: instead, it is about team work. The scene-setting is mercifully brief – the West was attacked by terrorists who were allowed to plot and plan from Afghanistan, and Kandahar was a challenging location where Canada could add strategic value to the Alliance mission – “and, so it began.”

Operation Medusa, the first large-scale ground combat operation in the Alliance’s history, is widely agreed to be the key engagement to date of the entire NATO campaign. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and was the spiritual heart of the Taliban during their rule of the country from 1996-2001. By early 2006, the Taliban had massed several hundred or even thousands of fighters nearby in defensive positions amongst the population and terrain with which they were intimately familiar, and could move with impunity. The city, and province of the same name – and indeed the whole of the south of the country – was at risk of again falling under their direct control. The Taliban were determined to test the newly- arrived and under-strength international NATO forces, which up to that point had operated in Kabul and in the north and west of the country, all relatively safe.

Had the effort to rout Taliban forces failed then, it is probable that Kandahar would have fallen, and risked the loss of the entire South of the country, providing an immense psychological boost to the Taliban as well as being a devastating blow to Alliance credibility. A defeat here would also have emboldened other states, terrorist groups and state-sponsored malign actors to more openly challenge NATO, being viewed as unwilling to sustain combat casualties needed to win wars.

This account sets out the road to the battle and the fight itself, from the person most responsible to orchestrate the effort at the operational level. This perspective is a welcome addition to the existing literature, being distinct from soldier-against-enemy soldier tactics or the other end of the spectrum where higher headquarters are consumed with considerations of personalities, politics and grand strategy.

A number of factors argued against military success in southern Afghanistan in 2006. Non-U.S. NATO members were just starting to learn what they had gotten themselves into. Limited NATO forces operated in an area more than 200,000 square kms large, or nearly the size of the United Kingdom. Staff regularly dealt with more than 30 major operations and incidents a day including attacks by a resurgent Taliban. A skeptical population was disillusioned from years of continual war and withheld support to back whoever would emerge the winner. Afghanistan’s capacity to deliver effective governance did not exist, or was limited, or was affected by endemic corruption of local and national authorities. A schizophrenia also bedeviled NATO as it tried to square the circle between a U.S.-heavy counter-terrorism “close with the enemy and destroy” interest and an Alliance effort decidedly more geared to supporting reconstruction and development. Conditions on the ground were not yet conducive to that, and any efforts to make a difference were limited by a lack of officials with the requisite expertise from contributing nations.

The telling of this story does not pull punches about the challenges, including starting out with a Canadian military inexperienced in modern-day combat and commanding forces at brigade level (c. 5,000 soldiers) in significant, joint operations. Nor does it hold back from explaining how national caveats or restrictions on the use of a country’s forces affected the operation. Many nations did not want to dispatch forces to the south where there was direct combat, fearing that casualties would result in domestic pressures to pull out altogether. The combination of constraints meant the campaign was hobbled from the start by a mission of “arbitrary limitation”. As Fraser recounts, “during Operation Medusa many nations simply would not show up to fight at all. Planning was agony. Even when the operation was only days away, we weren’t certain who would support us at H-Hour [the start of a military activity].“

In the face of great stress, we also learn the importance of “lively discussions” among peers, subordinates and superiors as a means to explore the best way to achieve the mission and limit casualties in the face of a determined enemy – and how, after “disagreeing daily on how that should be done,” they just got on with it.

The tone, style and format – with 20 chapters and an epilogue named with one-word action verbs – set a brisk pace. The terminology is made entirely manageable through careful attention to clarity of language, supplemented by helpful descriptive notes for the layperson. This is an accessible read for all and while scrupulously balanced, is not without wry commentary. In describing the challenges of coordination and command for instance, Fraser writes, “Here’s a surprise: the complexity of joint action between governmental agencies from multiple countries working on foreign soil to serve populations whose languages they don’t understand on behalf of a nascent democracy at war with a terrorist insurgency using the proceeds of illegal drug production to acquire weapons from neighbouring states did not turn out to be as easy as our deputy ministers assumed.”

Readers may be struck by the paucity of support at the time in theatre by both CIDA (the Canadian development agency) and Foreign Affairs. Fraser recounts that in 2006, he had to make do with a single representative advisor from each of CIDA and Foreign Affairs, and only after making a case for the help. At this stage of the mission, departments struggled mightily to evolve expeditionary capability to give weight and purpose to the 3-D (defence, diplomacy, development) effort. The death of diplomat Glyn Berry in January 2006 when a vehicle he was travelling in struck an IED, set back efforts by Foreign Affairs for several months to deploy more civilians to theatre, as the department frantically examined duty-of-care issues and how to deploy staff safely in a raging counter-insurgency. It was not until 2008-09, following the recommendations of the Manley Panel that the Canadian civilian contribution improved from a handful of persons to a world-class effort of more than 100 from multiple departments and agencies. Sadly, these important lessons have not been captured in any detail from a whole-of-government perspective.

And, yes, current Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan features briefly, in a factual recounting of his important contribution drawing on his heritage and background as a police officer.

My one quibble is a desire for the book to have set out at least a short treatment of the effort, energy and attention expended in theatre to detainee handling during the period in question. Operation Medusa is neither the book nor the place for a detailed account of the Canadian-transferred detainee saga. Still, the challenge of dealing with detainees captured on the battlefield had been brought into stark relief by the American experience during the Iraq campaign, and was already a keen topic of discussion in the Canadian Parliament in early 2006.

The agreement signed in December 2005 by Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier and Afghan Defence Minister Rahim Wardak informed how Fraser operated with respect to Canadian-transferred detainees – recalling that NATO did not have their own agreed policy on the matter and so each nation followed different rules about what to do. By early 2007, those overseeing the effort in Ottawa understood the need to build Afghan capacity faster, and in May 2007 a new transfer arrangement was in place – reinforced by policy, standard operating procedures, a robust monitoring regime, training and better infrastructure. In November 2009, Fraser, along with his Canadian boss Lieutenant-General Mike Gauthier and Hillier testified to a special Afghanistan-related Parliamentary committee about the subject. There, Fraser recalled his remit before leaving for Afghanistan – the Canadian strategic intent, he was told by Hillier, would be affected by three things: careful attention to avoid Afghan casualties (‘civcas’), Canadian casualties, and detainees. It was a stricture that informed Fraser throughout his command.

Early in the book, Fraser surprises with the admission that prior to deployment he had studied and reflected on the prospect for casualties, telling Hillier in a PowerPoint briefing that the expected death toll would be “between forty and forty-two Canadians between February and November of 2006,” [it turned out to be 36] and was told “now take that slide out and never show it again.” Given the human and financial cost, the book inevitably and rightly concludes with the necessary “Was it worth it?” question. Entitled “Tally”, this chapter provides some of the book’s most important insights. Fraser sets out context to explain why he answers ‘yes’, assessing that, “Operation Medusa was a costly and necessary fight that achieved a temporary effect that allowed the coalition and the Afghans to move on. We did not lose this battle. Had we, the consequences would have been grave…. Operation Medusa gave hope and opportunity to people, two precious gifts we all take for granted in Canada. The Canadian men and women who gave their lives did not die in vain, and those who were wounded may bear their scars with well-deserved pride.”

In addition to the Canadian toll of 159 military and three civilians killed and thousands injured during the mission, should be added the dozens now known to have committed suicide following their tour and the hundreds more who have developed mental health injuries. And, the jury may still be out on whether Afghanistan is yet “saved” from the Taliban. But today, Afghans are now fully responsible for the country’s security, and the army, air force and police in 2018 are decidedly and without question much more professional and better equipped. They are not asking anyone to do their fighting for them. They are doing the fighting – and the dying. And, for the first time, there are tentative yet substantive feelers regarding reconciliation.

Operation Medusa is an overdue account and a memorable addition to modern-day military literature that will feature on staff college reading lists throughout NATO. It is also a wonderful primer on leadership. This is a notable work of non-fiction that will be surely be marked as a strong favourite to win a major national book award.


Brett Boudreau (Colonel, Ret’d) is a Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the author of We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us, an examination of the NATO strategic communications effort during the 2003-2014 ISAF campaign, and is available online at

Canada-Japan Sign Military Cooperation Agreement

The Canadian Press

Canada and Japan signed a military co-operation agreement ahead of Sunday’s G7 foreign ministers meeting where the North Korean nuclear crisis will be front and centre.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freelandand her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono signed an efficiency agreement Saturday night that will allow each other’s militaries to share equipment during joint exercises in Canada, Japan and elsewhere.

Freeland and Kono met last month in Tokyo where they affirmed their commitment to keep economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear program when they meet their G7 counterparts today in Toronto.

The gathering is part of the regularly scheduled run-up ministerial meetings ahead of the G7 leaders’ June summit in Charlevoix, Que., but its timing is giving foreign ministers a chance to discuss key developments in the North Korea nuclear standoff.

Their meeting comes days after North Korea pledged to suspend testing of its nuclear and long-range missiles and close its nuclear test site, and days ahead of this week’s historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who is also working on his own landmark meeting with the North Korean leader in the coming weeks, initially tweeted that Kim’s latest announcements are a sign of progress, though he tempered that assessment with a new tweet Sunday saying there is still a long way to go.

Freeland also wants the disruptive influence of Russia and the West to be a top agenda item, and has asked Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin to join part of today’s talks, going so far as to host him – along with other ministers – at her home for brunch.

Freeland views the clash of the forces of democracy and authoritarianism as a defining feature of our time and she has singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin as a major disrupter.

Later Sunday, Freeland announced that she and the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, will co-host a meeting of women foreign ministers in Canada this September.

Freeland will be joined tomorrow by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale who will lead his G7 ministerial counterparts in talks on terrorism and cyber security.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

Friday, April 20, 2018

Firms Skipped CSC Bib for Fear of Loss of Proprietary Information

By: David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen 

In December Fincantieri of Italy and Naval Group of France decided not to bid on the Canadian Surface Combatant project. Instead, they offered the Canadian government a direct proposal that would see the the companies build 15 of the consortium’s FREMM frigates at a fixed price of roughly $30 billion.

The Liberal government rejected the offer.

A FREMM frigate sails off the coast of France in 2016. BORIS HORVAT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Fincantieri and Naval Group knew they were taking a chance when they passed on the formal bidding process for the CSC. Sources close to the European companies said at the time they felt they didn’t have anything to lose. They alleged the Canadian competition was skewed to favour a bid by Lockheed Martin Canada and the British firm BAE which would see Canada buying the Type 26 frigate BAE is building for Britain’s navy.

The Canadian government had originally asked for only bids featuring proven ship designs. But it later changed those parameters to allow a bid from BAE, though the Type 26 was at the time still on the drawing board.

Giuseppe Bono, the CEO of Fincantieri, recently told my colleagues at the U.S. publication Defense News of another concern that led to the decision not to bid on the CSC. Bono said that the firms were willing to turn over their sensitive technical data to the Canadian government but that they drew the line at providing the proprietary information to Irving and its team.

“We said we were prepared to give the information to the Canadian government but not to a rival company if we didn’t know if we were going to win the bid or not,” Bono said.

Fincantieri and Naval Group, along with other companies, have voiced concerns about Irving’s alliance with the U.S. firm, Gibbs and Cox, a top U.S. naval architecture firm that designs surface warships. Gibbs and Cox is also the main competitor for many companies – including Fincantieri and Naval Group – pursuing ship contracts around the world.

Irving, however, has rejected such concerns and has stated it is committed to protecting any sensitive data provided by companies bidding on CSC.

But Fincantieri and Naval Group weren’t buying that reassurance.

The firms still have their proposal ready in case the Canadian procurement falls apart and the federal government decides on a different course of action.

In February, the U.S. Navy named the FREMM design as one of five it could consider for its future frigate program and has provided Fincantieri $15 million to look at a design concept.