Trudeau's plan to combat the Islamic State is so vague, there is no way for Canadians to know exactly what oursoldiers will do on the ground and how dangerous conditions will be.
Although Trudeau went ahead with his election promise to bring home our CF-18 fighter aircraft, Canada's new training mission, under an "advice-and-assist" label, could possibly engage ground troops in fierce combat.
Trudeau was asked why he was withdrawing the CF-18s from the U.S.-led coalition, given that his government is not opposed to airstrikes.
“We can’t do everything,” Trudeau replied.
Let’s be clear: Canada is far from "doing everything." Although Canada is participating in many aspects of the coalition, the amount of resources we're contributing is very low. You can’t say that you are "doing everything" when you have six CF-18s conducting fewer than 3% of the airstrikes, or when you have 69 operators from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment training local soldiers in Northern Iraq.
Don’t get me wrong. Canadian soldiers are doing an excellent job and have been praised on many occasions by Americans generals. However, Trudeau is the only one who thinks Canada is or has been "doing everything." Even a majority of Canadians oppose stopping airstrikes.
Deploying ground troops under the pretext of giving local soldiers the tools to fight for their own turf sounds good in theory. In reality, it almost impossible to do successfully without having troops fighting alongside local soldiers. Under this arrangement, Canadian troops would be mentoring and acting as liaison with the available U.S.-led coalition asset, exactly the same way the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) did in Afghanistan.
Trudeau seems to think that advising and assisting local soldiers puts Canada into a non-combat role. I guess he hasn't been listening to the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) nor his Defence Minister.
Aaron Wherry from CBC News reported that, according to CDS General Jonathan Vance, Canadian soldiers might end up defending themselves against Islamic State fighters.
“The mission that we’ve engaged is an advise-and-assist mission, and that is exactly what we are going to do,” he said.
A short while later, Vance elaborated: Yes, Canadian trainers would be marking targets and, yes, there was a chance they would have to engage the enemy to defend themselves.
I can’t agree more with General Vance, but still, something is missing here. Trudeau’s plan does not include any modus operandi for the Canadian troops, except that they will deploy to advise-and-assist. I know it is the Canadian Forces’ job to work out the details, but Trudeau’s plan should provide more specifics.
If your troops are marking targets, you are actively taking part in offensive operations. That's as it should be; these actions kill the enemy and enable the local soldiers to fight a weaker force (in this instance, Islamic State).
Is it possible that Canadian troops will conduct joint patrols with local soldiers and react if fired upon? Yes.
Is it possible that Canadian troops will conduct offensive operations with local soldiers against Islamic State fighters? Still possible.
Conducting patrols might not be deemed "offensive operations" by some, but they still qualify as such. You are deploying troops to patrol and secure an area without directly rushing into the hornet’s nest.
Knowing the ability of the Canadian soldiers, I'm confident that they will do an excellent job and conduct their missions with the utmost professionalism, but they need a clear mandate. They need to know whether they have to get ready to fight an insurgency or only train soldiers.
The two options are quite different. One is similar to what the OMLT did in Kandahar. The other is comparable to the training mission conducted in Kabul after the troops were pulled for their combat role in Kandahar.
Trudeau has to tell Canadians what kind of training mission he has in mind for Canadian soldiers.