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Canadian contribution to the "war on terrorism"

Shunpiking Magazine. December 2001 -- January, 2002, No. 40

HALIFAX (19 December 2001) -- Canada is the third largest contributor to the "war on terrorism" after the US and Britain. By mid-February 750 Canadian troops will be deployed in Kandahar "and in outlying areas with a higher chance of confilict," news sources say. A Department of National Defence (DND) official said the troops, members of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, will work with US troops to secure transportation routes, de-mine roads and help with humanitarian aid.

"It's going to be a broader role than traditional peacekeeping, there could be a variety of tasks involved," a DND official is quoted as saying. David Pratt, the Liberal MP who chairs the House of Commons defence committee, is quoted as saying that one of their duties will be to hold "banditry to a minimum" so as to maintain the channels for humanitarian aid.

British troops and forces from 17 other countries will be acting as peacekeepers, securing the national capital region of Kabul. Britain had asked Canada to contribute 200 to 300 troops to this operation, but the federal government rejected the request. "Ottawa instead insisted on deploying a self-contained combat-ready battalion trained to work as a cohesive group," reports said.

As part of the US-led "Operation Enduring Freedom," it already has five warships in the Arabian Sea with 1,100 troops on board and another 400 in the vicinity.

Another ship, the HMCS Toronto is stationed in the eastern Mediterranean along with nine other NATO country warships as part of NATO's Standing Naval Force Atlantic squadron.

It is "operating in the Eastern Mediterranean to enhance security in the Middle East," the DND website says.

Three frigates, HMCS Charlottetown, HMCS Halifax and HMCS Vancouver, the destroyer HMCS Iroquois and the supply ship HMCS Preserver are in the northern Arabian Sea off Pakistan.

They are escorting American aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships and helping interdict ship traffic to ensure "terrorist suspects don't escape by sea."

A Canadian airbus transport has been flying cargo into the region for more than a month. Just after Christmas, two CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol planes and the first of a support group of 200 air force personnel and engineers left for the region to help in surveillance operations.

A contingent of National Defence's "anti-terrorist unit" JTF-2 is operating with other "special forces" on the ground in the Afghan city of Kandahar.

The contribution to "Operation Enduring Freedom" was launched in Halifax by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien as "Operation Apollo" and is Canada's biggest military deployment since the Korean War.

It involves 30 per cent more naval personnel than the number which participated in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. By comparison, during the Gulf War against Iraq, Canada deployed three ships.

Since the Gulf War, the Navy has concentrated on increasing its rapid-deployment capabilities. Thus, whereas it took 21 days for navy ships to prepare to sail to the Persian Gulf in 1991, it took only 10 days for the navy to leave for the Arabian Sea in 2001.

The Canadian warshipThe armaments of the Canadian warships include surface-to-surface (anti-ship) and surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes as well as Sea King helicopters which are used in reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.

This fire-power is not of a defensive nature. The 4,750-tonne Halifax-frigate class was built between the late 1980s and mid-1990s for bluewater operations according to US and NATO "standardized" specifications. (The "standardization" program was originally implemented to create a unified NATO market for the US arms industry, at the expense of Europe; the unification of the three wings of the armed forces by the Pearson-Trudeau governments in the late Sixties was an element of this policy.)

To illustrate, frigates designed for coastal defence average around 3,000-tonnes.

But the Halifax class is designed to shell targets on coasts -- which they perfect in annual exercises formerly called "Caribops" at the US base in Vieques, Puerto Rico -- as well as against enemy aircraft and ships. Twelve are now in service.

In this regard, it was announced on January 5 that the HMSC Ottawa will sail from its home port in Esquimault, B.C. to the US Navy Pacific missile range near Hawaii, to conduct firing exercises off the coast of Kauai in mid-January. According to reports, "the exercise is designed to evaluate the performance of the frigate's Sea Sparrow air defence system, as well as aspects of Canadian naval tactics."

On such "multinational operations" or NATO missions, Canada's navy passes under direct US command from Norfolk, Virginia or, as in the case of "Operation Apollo," the US Central Command in Florida, the headquarters for the war against Afghanistan. Overall, it is promoted as a "niche navy" operating "in a boundary-less ocean."

Military integrationThere are now more than 80 treaty-level defence agreements, such as the North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) agreement, some 150 bilateral fora (the Permanent Joint Board on Defence dates to 1940), and 250 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the Department of National Defence and the US Department of Defense.

The Commander-in-Chief of NORAD, as with NATO, is an American general who, by American law, is obedient to his commander-in-chief, the US President.

Besides the troops assigned to "Operation Enduring Freedom" and those which will be deployed as part of the ISAF, another 3,300 Canadian troops are operating in foreign countries as part of 14 UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

In addition, the second biggest deployment of Canadian troops abroad, after the Arabian Sea is Bosnia, where another 1,619 Canadian troops are stationed as part of NATO's Stabilization Force.

Canada has taken part in more than 40 "peacekeeping missions" since 1956, when then Prime Minister Pearson committed troops to a UN mission during the crisis of the Suez Canal. In all, 106 Canadian peacekeepers have been killed in missions in the Golan Heights, Cyprus, Cambodia, East Timor, Kosovo and other countries.

The military budgetCanada spends $47.8 billion annually on national defence, compared to $71.6 billion for all other program spending. Defence spending and the servicing of the federal debt ($42.1 billion yearly) represent more than 55 per cent of all federal government spending. In its December 10 financial statement, the federal government committed an additional $1.6 billion to fund Canadian participation in the US "war against terrorism."

The new funds represent the third budget in a row in which Defence funding has been increased. The new money includes $210 million (for this fiscal year and the next) to fund "Operation Apollo"; $119 million over six years to enhance the capacity of JTF-2; and $300 million in this fiscal year for the purchase of capital equipment and information technology.

Canadian Forces have 56,000 members, down from 80,000 ten years ago. The number of reservists have gone from 13,500 to 15,500 over the last two years.

In June, 2000 DND put forward a plan to increase that number to 20,500, according to its commitment to "maintain a footprint in the community."

The "footprint in the community" program was designed to ensure a military force within Canada "as the regular army becomes more concentrated in fewer bases distant from Canada's population base."

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