Friday, February 5, 2016

CAF's Armoured Patrol Vehicle Delayed Again

By David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Delivery of the Canadian military’s new armoured vehicles has been delayed once again after problems were found with the steering systems of the vehicles ordered under the $1.2-billion program.

The first of the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles was supposed to be delivered in 2014. But in April, the Citizen revealed that significant technical problems dogged the armoured vehicles. Department of National Defence officials said the vehicles would start being delivered early this year.

That has been pushed back again because of additional technical problems, DND confirmed Thursday. It hopes to get the first vehicle out in August.

At one time, the $1.2-billion Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) program was seen as a Conservative government procurement project that was proceeding smoothly.

Textron's armoured vehicle
TAPV from Textron (Photo: Handout - Textron Canada) 

The government announced the project in 2009 as part of its re-equipping of the Canadian Army. Canada plans to buy at least 500 new vehicles from Textron, a U.S.-based defence firm that has set up offices in Ottawa.

The TAPV program has “experienced a number of significant technical issues, particularly affecting vehicle mobility,” then-defence minister Rob Nicholson was told in August 2014. There have been problems with the suspension, steering and other items on the vehicle, according to a briefing document released under the Access to Information law.

The technical issues significantly delayed the test program, the document added. “These accumulating incidents, which relate to the vehicle’s ability to travel distances on medium cross country terrain, led the project office to conclude the existing testing could no longer continue.”

The government is purchasing the TAPV to give troops what it calls a high degree of protection and mobility on the battlefield.

Textron officials told the Citizen in late May that a new round of testing had started and was proceeding smoothly. All the previously identified problems had been dealt with, they added.

But testing had to be halted in September 2015. That was done to investigate the reliability of the steering system, said Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire.

The problem was solved and testing resumed last month. Testing is to be finished in May, said Lemire.

“The technical issues have been addressed by Textron Systems Canada,” she added. “Though the government of Canada does not have present concerns, the qualification program will be completed in accordance with the contract in order to confirm that the vehicle fully meets requirements.”

Canada has an option to buy an additional 100 TAPVs. The $1.2 billion project budget also includes the building of infrastructure for the new vehicles, as well as the purchase of ammunition and service support for the equipment.

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Targets Three ISIS near Fallujah and Mosul

In a press release on its OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that on 4 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position west of Fallujah using precision guided munitions.

Also On 4 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck two ISIS fighting positions southeast of Mosul using precision guided munitions.

No further details were announced. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Soloman: CAF Risks Returning to a Decade of Darkness

Evan Solomon, Macleans Magazine on National Defence’s looming funding crisis

February 3, 2016 

Who would have guessed that, at the time of his most critical decision, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would be doing a military sample of the 1976 Genesis prog-rock song, Ripples?

“If we want to understand the ripples we are creating, we have to understand the environment we are creating them in,” Sajjan said last week. He was being asked—as he is on an almost daily basis—when he will reveal details about the long promised Liberal plan to pull out CF-18 jets from the mission in Iraq and Syria. Apparently this “ripple effect” theory is the “genesis” of the long delay. “We may not be able to control all the ripples that are out there, but we can control the ripples that we create,” Sajjan said, adding something or other about “negative ripples.”

As there is no formal military theory about “ripple effects,” it’s hard to tell exactly what the minister is talking about. But we get the gist: The decisions he makes now will have an impact on the future. The problem is, the future is already here. The Conservative mandate for the mission is up by the end of March. If the Liberals were not ready with an alternative plan—and clearly they weren’t—why didn’t they just say they would complete the original mandate and then end it? Pulling out now, after more than 100 days of post-election bombing, looks disorganized at best—at worst, it smacks of cheap politics.

Related: Why Trudeau’s crass stance on Syria is lose-lose

But as politically charged as the bombing mission is, it is really nothing compared to the deeper funding crisis facing the military. “There is simply not enough money to buy the military hardware that we need,” says Dave Perry, senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Perry is to military procurement what Nate Silver is to polling, so when he crunches the numbers on the military budget you tend to listen. “There’s three times more demand for procurement dollars than there is budgeted fiscally, which means the Canada First Defence Strategy—the plan to maintain Canada’s military capabilities to protect our interests—is now, essentially dead.”

That’s a big problem. It would cost the government another $2 billion a year for 20 years, on top of what we’re already spending, just to maintain the Air Force, the Army, the Navy—and upgrade our technology for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (the NORAD commander comes to Canada later in February to demand those upgrades). Meanwhile, NATO is asking Canada to fulfill its commitment to contribute two per cent of our GDP to military spending. That would mean another $20 billion this year alone. Not happening, NATO. Because it’s 2016. And we’re still broke.

Fulfilling the military promises Trudeau made in the campaign looks equally unlikely. “The biggest one from the campaign in terms of the budget is the idea of savings tens of billions on the acquisition of new aircraft to devote to ships,” Perry says. “The $9-billion fighter budget was set when the Canadian dollar was worth 100 cents American—and now it’s 70 cents.” We’ve lost close to 30 per cent of our purchasing power. There’s no way to save on planes and still have a viable air force.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks during a conference on foreign affairs in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
The Navy’s needs are even greater. The government has budgeted $26.2 billion over the next 12 years or so to build 15 surface combat ships, destroyers and frigates. Any savings on jets—at best a few billion—won’t make a dent in this.

Related: The sinking of the Canadian Navy

The status quo alone is fatal. “We’re spending an inadequate share of the defence budget on capital equipment—between 10 to 12 per cent over the last three years,” Perry says. The bare minimum is supposed to be 20 per cent. “That’s the lowest share of the budget devoted to procuring new kit since 1977.”

That leaves Sajjan with three choices, Perry argues. “Invest the $2 billion a year, cut our military capabilities, or cut the size of the military.” That could mean giving up on a blue-water Navy or an expeditionary air force. And the chances of new money coming? “No government of any stripe has ever invested more in the military in a time of fiscal restraint,” Perry says. Given the other Santa Claus-like promises Trudeau has made on infrastructure and health care, more money to defence is about as likely as Stephen Harper asking women to wear a niqab. Cuts, cancellations or constriction.

This is not all the Liberals’ fault. Since 2007, the Conservatives lapsed over $10 billion in military spending. They turned military procurement into a game of freeze tag: whatever they touched stopped moving altogether—from military jets to joint support ships, maritime helicopters to the tactical armoured patrol vehicles. But if the Conservatives—and the Martin Liberals—didn’t spend, at least they did what NATO insiders call “swimming.” They took on tough missions in Afghanistan and Libya. That got Canada to the table, even with a light wallet. Trudeau says he’s out of that game, which is why Perry is not surprised Canada was not invited by our allies to the recent meeting on Syria and Iraq. If we don’t spend and we don’t swim, we get shut out.

Trudeau likes to say Canada is back, but unless he has a big budget surprise for the military, we may be back to the decade of darkness that once defined the military under Jean Chrétien. These aren’t ripples. These are full-size waves.

Walkom: Canada wise to be cautious about ever-widening ISIS War

Thomas Walkom published a very interesting article in today's Toronto Star, explaining why the Liberal government has been smart about taking its time outlining Canada`s future contribution to the ISIS campaign. He clearly explains how after 10+ years of war against terrorism, things have only gotten worse. 

Here is his article, 

By: Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, National Affairs, Published on Thursday, February 04 2016

Slowly, inexorably, the war against the Islamic State is widening.

It has moved into Afghanistan, where both the U.S. and the Taliban are taking on ISIS militants.

It is moving into Libya. There, the U.S. is reportedly contemplating airstrikes. Italy is said to be looking at the eventual dispatch of ground troops.

In Iraq, the U.S. has already found itself enmeshed in ground combat — in spite of President Barack Obama’s stated aversion to the notion.

American special forces have also been sent into Syria.

In both countries, U.S. ground troops are there technically only to “advise and assist.” But the phrase is being interpreted broadly.

As U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter noted last month in a speech to troops, the U.S. plans to go after ISIS commanders and militants “killing or capturing them wherever we find them.”

Politically, Washington is putting pressure on its friends to up their commitments.

That was the message that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered to his allied counterparts, including Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, in Rome Tuesday.

In spite of American pressure, Canada’s new Liberal government is moving slowly. Conservative critics slam Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for failing to say what, if anything, he will do militarily in Iraq and Syria once he fulfils his promise to bring Canada’s six fighter jets home.

But perhaps the government is wise to take its time. War is serious business.

As Canadians found in Afghanistan, it’s easy to get enmeshed in war. It’s harder to get out.

To his credit, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan seems to recognize this. A veteran of the Afghan War, he knows what can happen when politicians send troops into conflict before sorting out the ramifications.

“I want to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Sajjan told the Commons Monday.

“Because every single time we make these mistakes as political leaders, we send our men and women into harm’s way for no reason.”

For that frank assessment, the minister was pilloried. Conservative critic James Bezan suggested he was belittling Canada’s soldiers. Jason Kenney, another Conservative MP, mocked his syntax.

In fact, Sajjan was right. Mistakes were made in Afghanistan. As a soldier serving in that war, he was on the receiving end of them.

On Friday, he outlined some of these mistakes in a speech to a foreign policy conference.

The Canadian Press reports that Sajjan singled out the West’s failure to grasp the complex situation on the ground.

He also noted that much of the money earmarked for Afghan aid only fuelled corruption.

And he issued a general caution about the war against terror.

“Over the last 10 years, we need to do a really hard assessment,” he said. “Should we be patting ourselves on the back? And I’m talking from a security perspective around the world.

“I think we can say things have not gotten much better. Things have gotten worse.”

It’s hard to disagree with that conclusion. Things have gotten worse.

Afghanistan is still mired in war. In spite of Western training, Afghan troops have not taken up the slack in the fight against the Taliban. The Americans have delayed the withdrawal of their forces once. They may do so again.

What’s more, the Islamic State is now active in Afghanistan, fighting both the U.S. and the Taliban. According to the New York Times, U.S. forces have carried out a dozen operations against ISIS in Afghanistan during the last three weeks.

Libya is a mess. Western intervention to remove Moammar Gadhafi has left it fractured and without a coherent government. The U.S. and its allies are now belatedly trying to cobble together a Libyan government of national unity to prevent the country from becoming yet another ISIS stronghold.

Iraq is in crisis thanks in large part to the U.S. invasion of 2003. Syria is in crisis even though the U.S. didn’t invade. There are no easy answers.

Given all of this, it makes sense for Canada’s government to move carefully. It may bother the armchair warriors that Canada is not rushing into battle in Iraq and Syria. I doubt that it bothers the soldiers who might be sent there.

Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

3 RCN Members Arrested in Japan

The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 8:05PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 3, 2016 9:54PM EST

ESQUIMALT, B.C. -- Two members of a Canadian warship's crew have been charged with drug offences in Japan, the navy says.

The charges follow a port visit to Tokyo by HMCS Winnipeg, a Halifax-class frigate with a crew of about 250 personnel.

The navy said in a news release that police detained two military members and a civilian employee on Monday for the alleged use of a controlled substance.

Police released one of the military members but have charged the other two with use of a controlled substance, the navy said.

Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier, commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, called the allegations troubling.

"While it is too early to speak to the specifics of any actions or investigations at this point, I can state definitively that our response will be based on facts and will serve to remind and reassure all who serve in the (Royal Canadian Navy) that unacceptable behaviour, whatever its nature, has no place within our ranks," he said in a statement.

The Canadian Armed Forces has a zero-tolerance policy for the possession and use of illicit drugs.

The navy said it will work with Canadian consular officials and Japanese authorities and will support the individuals who are being held in custody, and their families at home.

HMCS Winnipeg deployed from Esquimalt, B.C., on June 15, 2015.

It participated in Operation Caribbe, a multinational campaign against drug trafficking in the Caribbean and the eastern Pacific Ocean, before joining NATO forces in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Operation Reassurance.

HMCS Winnipeg was replaced in the latter operation by HMCS Fredericton, which deployed from Halifax on Jan. 5. 

The official statement from DND was as follows: 

ESQUIMALT, B.C.- On February 1, 2016, three members of HMCS Winnipeg’s ship’s company were detained by Japanese authorities while the ship was conducting a port visit in Tokyo, Japan. These crew members, two military members and one civilian employee, were detained for the alleged use of a controlled substance. One of the military members has since been released by police, while the other two persons have now been charged with use of a controlled substance by the Tokyo Police.

The Navy will continue to work with Canadian Consular officials and Japanese authorities as may be required throughout this process.

The RCN, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as a whole, has a zero-tolerance policy for illicit drug use and possession.

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will continue to provide support to those being held in custody, as well as to their families here in Canada.

“All of our personnel, military and civilian, are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that brings credit to the Navy, the Canadian Armed Forces, and our country as a whole. Our personnel are held to the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, and are subject to all Canadian laws, the Criminal Code, and the Code of Service Discipline, which is part of the National Defence Act. These allegations are obviously troubling, and while it is too early to speak to the specifics of any actions or investigations at this point, I can state definitively that our response will be based on facts, and will serve to remind and reassure all who serve in the RCN that unacceptable behaviour, whatever its nature, has no place within our ranks.” Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier, Commander Maritime Forces (Pacific)

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Target 3 ISIS Positions near Mosul

The RCAF kicked off February with a busy day - targeting three separate ISIS positions. In a press release on its OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that on 3 February 2016, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position, an ISIS ammunition cache, and an ISIS vehicle in three separate airstrikes conducted south of Mosul using precision guided munitions. 

No further details we announced. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

10th Anniversary of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

DND Press
Article / February 2, 2016

On February 1, 2016, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) celebrated its tenth anniversary.

In 2005, General Rick Hillier, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) asserted that “We need an integrated Canadian Forces that consists of maritime, air, land and special forces, woven together to make a more effective military.” Subsequently, he declared that he intended “on bringing JTF 2, along with all the enablers that it would need, to conduct operations successfully into one organization with one commander.” As result, on 1 February 2006, the CDS created CANSOFCOM as part of his larger transformation initiative. The Command included a headquarters, JTF 2, the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU), the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), and 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (SOAS).

CSOR operators on patrol
CSOR Operators on Patrol in Afghanistan (Undated Photo DND)

Ten years into its existence, CANSOFCOM has proven itself as an integral national capability. It has conducted operations domestically and around the world, particularly in combat theatres and countries at risk. Throughout the past decade its members have demonstrated a high level of professionalism and expertise. Importantly, the Command has provided DND and the Government of Canada with a unique capability that is unmatched elsewhere in the Canadian Armed Forces or any other governmental department.

Canada’s history with special operations goes back to its beginnings as a French colony. Specifically, Canada’s SOF traditions can be traced back to la petite guerre conducted by the French-Canadian raiders during the struggle for colonial North America. Their daring and aggressive raids allowed the embryonic nation to punch above its weight in the battle for North America.

This tradition created a legacy that lives on to this day in the nation’s SOF forces. It was next resurrected in the Second World War as Canadians wrote a new chapter of national SOF history. Canadian participation in the British Special Operations Executive, responsible for sabotage and subversion in Occupied Europe, was the earliest example. Canada also created the Viking Force, its own version of the famous British Commandos, as well as the Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W.” In addition, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, which boasted a 30 percent selection rate, as well as the Canadian component of the First Special Service Force, also known as the “Black Devils,” were stood up. Notably, all contributed to a proud national record in the conduct of special operations.

The special operations mandate in the post-war era fell to the Canadian Special Air Service Company, which existed between 1948 to 1949 and then to the Canadian Airborne Regiment (Cdn AB Regt), which spanned from 1968 to 1995. The Cdn AB Regt’s mandate was to deploy into an operational theatre within 48 hours to provide “a force capable of moving quickly to meet any unexpected enemy threat or other commitment of the Canadian Armed Forces,” as well as “special forces types of tasks.”

In was not until the mid-1990s, however, that Canada’s modern SOF capability began to truly take shape. On 1 April 1993, the Department of National Defence (DND) took over the national hostage rescue / counter-terrorism responsibility when it created Joint Task Force Two (JTF 2) to replace the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Special Emergency Task Force (SERT).

The deployment of a JTF 2 special operations task force to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 (9/11) terrorist attack in New York became a turning point for the unit, and for Canadian SOF at large. Much like many of its predecessors, JTF 2 carved its reputation in combat and earned its recognition internationally as a Tier 1 SOF unit. Continued combat duty in Afghanistan from 2005 to cessation of Canadian combat operations in 2011 simply reinforced its international credibility.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

CAF Ill-Prepared to Return to Peacekeeping Role

Written by Murray Brewster, Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has promised to get Canada back into the peacekeeping business, but a new report from two independent think tanks says the military is ill-prepared for the task.

The study by the Rideau Institute and the Centre for Policy Alternatives was penned by Walter Dorn, a professor at the Canadian Forces Staff College and one of Canada's leading experts in peacekeeping.

For the last decade, he says, the army has specialized in counter-insurgency warfare because of the combat mission in Kandahar and other skill sets — once second nature to Canadian training — were relegated to the back burner.

Dorn says the complexities of modern peace operations require in-depth training and education, on subjects including the procedures, capabilities and limitations of the United Nations.

He says Canada is currently far behind other nations in its readiness to support the United Nations and train for modern peacekeeping.

"Special skills, separate from those learned in Afghanistan and warfare training, would need to be (re)learned, including skills in negotiation, conflict management and resolution, as well as an understanding of UN procedures and past peacekeeping missions," said the report.

"Particularly important is learning effective co-operation with the non-military components of modern peacekeeping operations, including police, civil affairs personnel and humanitarians, as well as UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the local actors engaged in building a viable peace."

The focus of training at both the Canadian Forces Commnd College in Toronto and the army staff college in Kingston, Ont., is on "taking part in 'alliance' or NATO-style operations," Dorn concluded.

"At the higher (national security) level, the case studies and exercises on peacekeeping were dropped."

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have said rather than sending a lot of soldiers, Canada can contribute equipment and expertise, such as commanders and headquarters contingents. But Dorn says the military regime provides less than a quarter of the peracekeeping instruction it did a decade ago.

The report recommends the reinstatement and updating of the many training programmes and exercises that have been cut, and introducing new instruction that reflects the increasing complexity of modern peace operations.

"Canadian soldiers have served as superb peacekeepers in the past and can do so again, with some preparation," the report says.

Following the Somalia scandal of the mid-1990s in which a teenager was tortured and killed at the hands of Canadian soldiers, National Defence recognized the need for specialized training. It was implemented with success between 1995 and 2005, when the army went into Kandahar.

Dorn says while the number of personnel deployed in the field by the United Nations is now at an all-time high of more than 125,000, the number of Canadian soldiers involved in those operations has dwindled to an all-time low of 29 as of Dec. 31, 2015.

Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

CAF Equipment Funding Billions Short

Written by Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A Senate committee has been told there is a shortfall of tens of billions of dollars between funding that's been set aside for military equipment and the actual price tag for what the military says it needs.

Defence analyst Dave Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute testified that the "mismatch" is one of the biggest problems facing the new Liberal government as it seeks to overhaul the country's defence policy.

"At present, the defence procurement system is trying to buy more equipment that DND can afford," said Perry. "There is roughly three times more demand for project funding than there are available funds, leaving the capital acquisition budget short by several tens of billions of dollars, even with the planned increase to the defence budget that the government has promised to honour."

There are at least 100 pieces of equipment that Defence has deemed essential to fulfil its mandate in the coming years and only a portion of that list is funded, he said.

The dysfunctional military procurement system was a bane to the former Harper government, but despite reforms implemented two year ago, roughly 63 per cent the projects listed in the federal government's defence acquisition guide are late and only 34 per cent are on time.

Perry says since 2007 a total of nearly $9 billion in allocated capital funding for military hardware was not spent and much of that went back to the federal treasury.

He noted the figure rose significantly in the last budget year, which concluded in March 2015 and saw $1.5 billion in funds earmarked for purchasing capital equipment go unspent.

The Harper government introduced its much-heralded Defence Procurement Strategy in February 2014, an initiative meant to streamline the process and leverage the participation of Canadian industry.

But Perry told the Senate defence committee that the effort has not yet produced results.

"To be blunt, I hope the new government finds that lack of progress unacceptable," he said.

The Liberals promised a comprehensive defence policy review to replace the former Conservative government's 2007-era Canada First Defence Strategy. That document had a list of planned equipment purchases, but within 18 months of its publication National Defence privately deemed some of the projects unaffordable.

The new review — the first comprehensive analysis since the Chretien government's 1994 defence white paper — is key for tough decisions the Trudeau government will have to make, including how to replace the Air Force's aging CF-18 jet fighters.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said he wants the policy review completed by the end of the year — a commitment he reinforced last week in a speech to the Canada 2020 think-tank.

Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

Monday, February 1, 2016

Ottawa Pushes Military Deal with Kuwait despite UN

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 9:42PM EST
Last updated Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 9:48PM EST

The Canadian government is busy promoting Canada’s defence industry in Kuwait even as a United Nations report accuses a Saudi-led coalition, which includes Kuwait, of “widespread and systematic” bombing of civilians in Yemen.

Ottawa’s efforts to secure military contracts for Canada’s defence industry are coming under increasing scrutiny as controversy grows over the federal government’s commanding role in a $15-billion sale of weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for human-rights abuses.

Kuwait is among a group of Arab states conducting air strikes in Yemen and has supported this effort with its air force, which includes fighter jets and KC-130J tanker aircraft that can supply warplanes with fuel while in the air.

Montreal-based CAE recently built a flight simulator for the Kuwait Air Force that trains military pilots on the KC-130J tanker aircraft. It was contracted to supply the simulator to the air force’s Al Mubarak air base near Kuwait International Airport.

Canadian officials paid a visit to the simulator last week, talking up the Canada-Kuwait business deal on the same day the UN report on Yemen air strikes made international headlines.

The delegation included a top executive from the Canadian Commercial Corp., Ottawa’s defence and security export sales outfit, as well as Martine Moreau, Canada’s ambassador to Kuwait.

“Great visit to @CAE_Defence’s impressive new KC-130J flight sim[ulator] & facility with @CanadaKuwait CDN Ambassador Moreau,” Cameron Mackenzie, vice-president of business development and sales at Canadian Commercial Corp., wrote on Twitter this past Wednesday.

A leaked UN panel report last week attributed 60 per cent, or 2,682, civilian deaths and injuries in the Yemen conflict to air-launched explosive weapons and said the Saudi-led coalition’s actions are a “grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution” and violate international law.

Saudis and their Arab allies launched a military intervention in Yemen last year in support of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi who was under threat from Houthi forces aligned with Iran.

Kuwait, a Persian Gulf state of 3.4 million, is heavily dependent on oil exports. According to Amnesty International, even peaceful criticism of Islam and the emir, the ruling head of state, remains criminalized. The rights watchdog says human-rights activists and political reformers are among those targeted for arrest, detention and prosecution. Authorities have prosecuted and imprisoned critics who express dissent through social media and they have curtailed the right to public assembly, Amnesty says.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s department did not immediately respond when asked Friday to explain why the government is promoting military sales in Kuwait while the Mideast country is part of a Saudi-led coalition that is carrying out air attacks in Yemen.

Targets in Yemen, the UN report found, have included refugee camps; weddings; civilian vehicles, such as buses; homes; medical facilities; schools; mosques; factories and civilian infrastructure.

Canadian military sales to regions such as the Mideast have risen significantly in the past decade as the former Harper government worked to build up this country’s role as an international arms dealer. Pentagon budget cuts drove the Canadian Commercial Corp. to look further abroad for arms buyers. In 2009 it created a new line of business, Global Defence and Security Sales, to seek new customers. This move into “non-traditional defence and security markets will require an increased vigilance for responsible and ethical business conduct,” the agency says in its latest published corporate plan.

Critics say Ottawa’s policing of arms exports is in dire need of an overhaul.

“The credibility of Canadian export controls is severely strained. It is high time the government address persistent, legitimate questions about the process by which military export authorizations are granted,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, based in Waterloo, Ont.

He said the UN report “left little doubt about the systematic targeting of civilians and the violation of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition that Kuwait is a part of. Canada should proceed with utmost care when pursuing or entering into military exports deals” with these countries.

Mr. Jaramillo said the Canadian government is in a conflict of interest when it comes to military exports. “There is a clear tension in Ottawa between the sometimes conflicting objectives of facilitating trade deals for private Canadian companies and ensuring that Canadian-made goods do not contribute to the violation of human rights or serve to exacerbate conflict situations.”

Asked whether CAE would cease doing business with Kuwait in light of the UN panel report, a CAE spokesman said the company is complying with all Canadian government rules on exports.

Pascale Alpha, director of global communications at CAE, said the simulator deal with Kuwait was arranged through the U.S. military.

“We follow Canada’s export regulations as well as NATO regulations, and the export regulations of the countries we operate in. In this case, our contract was to supply a simulator to the U.S. Navy. Through Foreign Military Sales, the U.S. Navy supplies the aircraft and training equipment to foreign nations, including the Kuwaiti air force,” Mr. Alpha said.

Follow Steven Chase on Twitter: @stevenchase

Canada & the Middle East: Jordan and Lebanon will be Part of ISIS Focus

This news is a few days old, but I had not gotten around to sharing it yet. Enjoy. 

Written by the Canadian Press: 

QUEBEC -- Canada's new role in the fight against the Islamic State will involve ensuring Jordan and Lebanon remain stable, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Friday after a meeting with his U.S. and Mexican counterparts.

Dion promised that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon announce details of Canada's new deployment within the American-led coalition. The Liberals promised during the election campaign to end Canada's role in the bombing mission over Iraq and Syria.

Canada's role won't focus solely on Iraq, said Dion, adding "we will see what to do about Syria."

Dion added that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered suggestions about how Canada "can be more effective" in the coalition, whose members also include Britain, France and Australia."The two other countries we need to help to make sure they are stable, because they are so key for the region and are affected by the civil war in Syria and the situation in Iraq, and I am speaking of Jordan and Lebanon. These considerations will be in our plan."

"The goal of Canada is to redeploy our efforts in a way that is optimal," Dion said.

Trudeau has been panned at home by the Conservatives and other critics for his plan to end Canada's bombing mission, particularly after six Canadians were killed mid-January by a terror group linked to al-Qaida.

Kerry said he is "absolutely confident" Trudeau will ensure Canada continues to make a "significant contribution that will make a difference."

"While they (Canada) have made a choice with respect to one particular component of that effort (the fight against ISIS), that does not reflect on the overall commitment or capacity to contribute significantly to the road ahead," he said.

Kerry, Dion and Mexico's Claudia Ruiz Massieu also discussed other topics, including the economy, human-trafficking and climate change.

Friday's meeting in Quebec City sets the stage for a summit later this year featuring Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The so-called Three Amigos were supposed to meet in Canada last year, but former prime minister Stephen Harper cancelled the summit.

Speaking in Spanish, Dion confirmed to reporters that Canada will eliminate the visa requirement for Mexican citizens imposed by the Conservative government, but gave no timetable.

Kerry noted that every day more than $3.5 billion worth of goods cross between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"We have to continue to do more," he said, "to increase investment, reduce costs for trade, business, travel and make tourism easier without jeopardizing safety."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Targets ISIS Fighting Position near Ramadi

In a press release on its OP IMPACT webpage, DND announced that on 30 January 2016, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position northeast of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

No further details were released.