Are We Really Just Peacekeepers?

The Perception Versus the Reality of Canadian Military Involvement in the Iraq War

Sean M. Maloney | 12 novembre 2003


Au printemps 2003, le gouvernement Chrétien décidait de la non-participation du Canada à l’opération « Liberté pour l’Irak », même si la chute du régime de Saddam Hussein servait clairement nos intérêts en matière de sécurité, et bien que nous ayons déployé tout au long des années 1990 des ressources militaires visant à contenir ce régime. Divers arguments ont servi à justifier cette décision. Selon le premier d’entre eux, le Canada ne pouvait participer à une guerre étant donné son rôle traditionnel de gardien de la paix. On soutenait aussi que le gouvernement s’apprêtait à mobiliser des forces pour une prétendue « mission de maintien de la paix de l’ONU » à Kaboul, en Afghanistan, laissant entendre sans l’affirmer ouvertement qu’en raison d’effectifs militaires insuffisants, il nous fallait choisir entre « combattre » et « maintenir la paix ». Enfin, on a parfois avancé que nos forces étaient sous -équipées pour le combat. Or, aucun de ces arguments ne tient la route à l’examen des opérations militaires que nous avons menées dans les années 1990 et de la réalité de nos ressources militaires. En outre, la mission de la FIAS à Kaboul n’est pas et n’a jamais été une opération de « maintien de la paix de l’ONU », et l’opération « Liberté pour l’Irak » n’est pas à strictement parler une mission de combat. La première est en fait une opération de stabilisation d’échelle réduite, tandis que la seconde prévoit une phase de combat suivie d’une autre de stabilisation.


The Chrétien government decided in 2003 not to commit the Canadian Forces to combat operations against the Hussein regime in Iraq. Instead it committed a 1900-man, partially mechanized battalion group to serve with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan. These decisions have once again prompted some to argue that the Canadian Forces is really a peacekeeping force, that it is not or should not be capable of fighting in a mid – to high-intensity war. 1 Indeed, the ISAF deployment was announced as a peacekeeping operation, not a war fighting operation. These arguments echo the sentiments made during the debate process over the 1994 Defence White Paper back in 1993, which drew on the non-deployment of Canadian ground combat forces to the first Gulf War (1990-91). But these sorts of simplistic arguments, made in the media and academic arenas to support policy advocacy, deliberately overlook critical factual and contextual details relating to force structuring, deployment capabilities and political will.

This study examines the military forces Canada has contributed to other wars in the 1990s, the principles underlying those commitments, the force structure as it existed in the fall of 2002 and spring of 2003, and what options existed for a possible deployment to Iraq. It illuminates critical contextual aspects of force generation and deployment as well as factors that need to be taken into account when considering any commitment of Canadian combat forces to crisis situations.

Definitions and Terminology

There are several existing and competing typologies of mission types which in turn inform the types of forces needed for their successful execution. This study uses the following typology, which was developed in 2000 by representatives of the Department of National Defence for a NATO Small Scale Contingencies (SSC) working group.

Since the 1960s, Western analytical organizations and service doctrine shops have generated many different means of differentiating between military operations. In general, the need to define emergent types of low intensity conflict during that decade coupled with the rise in political science as a discipline produced this proliferation of descriptors.2 Indeed, as we entered the 1990s there was a rush to expand the term “peacekeeping” beyond its originally intended definition(s).3

The current Canadian model is inadequate. It posits three states: peace, conflict and war. Conflict is the largest band and the various types of war remain vague. It does not, for example, take into account the variety of operations conducted by naval forces, some of which are extremely nuanced.4 A newer and more discriminate typology based on an older Canadian typology appears to provide a better means to achieve the aim.5

This project, therefore, differentiates “war” from “situations short of war.” The war category first distinguishes between high- and mid-intensity war: high-intensity war is used to categorize conflicts in which there exists the possibility of the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) between identifiable nation-states either during conventional combat or independent of it. Here, WMD refers to nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, as opposed to electromagnetic-pulse and high-energy weapons or forms of computer warfare.

Mid-intensity warfare includes conflicts in which there is combat between identifiable conventional military forces operating as representatives of recognized nation-states operating in an environment where the possibility of WMD use does not exist.

Again, in all of these cases the emphasis is on traditional conflict but does not rule out non- traditional methods operating within the context of the larger conflict. Clearly, non-traditional methods can augment traditional methods but are not necessarily dominant.

“Situations short of war” may cons ist of traditional conflict or non-traditional conflict, or traditional means or non-traditional means. In addition, situations short of war may consist of governmental responses to traditional or non-traditional conflict. In these cases, the concept of “traditional” generally refers to nation-state interaction, while “non-traditional” encompasses conflict overlapping with and beyond it. Situations short of war include the following:

Asymmetric support operations include military assistance and training, the use of special operations forces (SOF), and military and/or non-military support to an ally or third party.

Interventions may include international counterterrorism, non-combatant evacuation operations, non-permissive humanitarian assistance, and Chapter 7 UN operations.

Peace operations include peace observation, sanctions enforcement, interpositional peacekeeping, non-linear peacekeeping, support to peace observation and interpositionary operations, and support to NGOs.

Humanitarian assistance includes humanitarian and NGO support operations conducted within a permissive environment.

Diplomatic manouvre is the use of military forces to apply pressure, send signals, bolster support and/or exert presence, all without resorting to actually employing the military forces for combat purposes.

Domestic operations are conducted by sovereign states within their jurisdictional boundaries. They may involve a variety of military activities that break down into “aid of the civil power” operations (where force is used) and “assistance to the civil authority” operations (where force is not used).

Both war and situations short of war use military forces for political means. The non-political use of force or violence is purely criminal and a judicial matter; it is in the domestic operations category and is therefore not included here in detail.

As with any typology, new forms and novel combinations of types conspire to generate exceptions to the rule. For example, operations in Afghanistan conducted by Operation Enduring Freedom progressed from an asymmetric support operation against the Taliban regime to counterterrorism against Al Qaeda embedded within a mid-intensity war fought against forces of the Taliban regime. Since the original NATO SSC study, further clarification of mission types has produced the “stabilization operation,” which lies between counterinsurgency and interpositional peacekeeping. In effect, stabilization operations has emerged and become doctrine. Fundamentally different from peacekeeping, stabilization operations are not based on policing a thin blue line: they are based on the willingness and ability to use military force (tanks, special forces, attack helicopters, psychological operations) to coerce well-armed belligerents to comply with political agreements and to cooperate with humanitarian organizations.

UN peacekeeping forces, outgunned by increasingly sophisticated belligerent forces and incapable of protecting themselves (with poor command, control and leadership, and a muddled mandate), could not keep the peace in the early 1990s. Stabilization operations rectify those failings and are either NATO-led (in the case of IFOR, SFOR and KFOR in the Balkans) or led by an ABCA (American-British-Canadian-Australian) member (in the case of INTEFET in East Timor, the initial Haiti force in 1994, or the MNF in Zaire in 1996). Stabilization operations are closer to 1960s -style counterinsurgency than 1950s-style peacekeeping, and they perhaps constitute a new form of warfare in which the threat of force and its careful application can shape the environment and produce stability.

The importance of term definition lies in the problem of force structure. Too many analysts and media commentators assume there is one particular force structure for a particular form of warfare. In some cases, this is correct. However, we have seen forces structured for high- and mid-intensity war adapted for use in situations short of war: the use of a mechanized brigade group to contain and defeat (without resorting to lethal violence) an armed insurgency outside of Montreal in 1990 was one example. We have also seen forces dedicated to situations short of war utilized in mid – and high-intensity war. The use of a force originally trained for domestic counterterrorism in Canada and then committed to Afghanistan against Al Qaeda within the context of Operation Enduring Freedom is one such example.

ISTAR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance and Target Acquisition. It is not only a command process that fuses information from a variety of sources (human as well as electro-optical and electronic) and provides it to a commander; it is also used to designate a physical capability, like the Coyote reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and now even a unit type.6 ERSTA (“air force-ese” for ISTAR), Electro-optical Reconnaissance Surveillance and Target Acquisition, is the physical capabilities, e.g. sensors attached to an aerial platform, which feed information into the ISTAR process.

PGMs are precision guided munitions, known colloquially as “smart bombs.”

Canada and Wars in the 1990s

Canadians are ceaselessly inundated with the ideology that Canada doesn’t fight wars, that Canadians are peacekeepers and that combat is something others do for crass economic motives.

This ideology neatly taps into latent feelings of post-colonial insecurity and anti-Americanism lying dormant in the Canadian psyche. Peacekeeping is altruistic, peaceful and good. War is selfish, violent and bad.7 This simplistic construct was operative in the media and in government throughout the fall of 2002 during the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It ignored the context of Canadian Forces employment not only historically (Boer War, First and Second World Wars) but also in the 1990s. From the end of the Cold War in 1990 -91, Canada used military forces to intervene six times. This number includes Canada’s participation in three of the four major wars of the period involving ABCA and NATO powers: The Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Canadian combat forces were also involved in no less than twelve stabilization operations. The bulk of what people know as peacekeeping, interpositional peacekeeping and peace observation missions, were mostly holdovers from Cold War-era operations in which Canada provided service support troops, or were short-term missions with limited manning. Indeed, on four occasions the Canadian Forces were involved in armed missions with combat arms forces on Canadian soil against armed insurgents. When combined, these statistics eclipse in magnitude and duration the number of occasions on which Canada conducted unarmed support or assistance. In no way can the use of Canada’s military forces during this period be characterized as strictly UN peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance.8

What, exactly, has Canada sent overseas to fight since 1990 and how was it employed?

The Iraq War, Phase I, 1990–91

The first post-Cold War war was the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. The Saddam Hussein regime invaded Kuwait, which threatened to destabilize the entire Persian Gulf region and with it the post- Cold War economy. The fact that the Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them against Israel meant that the situation could escalate into Israel’s use of nuclear weapons against Iraq, with dire consequences.

Initial coalition operations were designed to impose economic sanctions on Iraq. Canada sent a three-ship task group (Operation Friction) to participate in the maritime interdiction force: a helicopter-carrying destroyer, a Harpoon-equipped destroyer and an operational support ship also equipped with Sea King helicopters. As the situation deteriorated, twenty-four CF-18 fighters and an infantry company group to protect their base were deployed (Operation Scimitar). The initial role of the CF-18s was to provide air cover for the naval task group. 9

A debate over how the CF-18s would be employed broke out in the Canadian political system and in the media during the conflict when Operation Desert Shield shifted into Operation Desert Storm. Some wanted the CF-18s to be used for defensive purposes only, while more realistic observers knew the distinction between defensive and offensive use of military forces was outdated, artificial and ridiculous in a war designed to liberate Kuwait. The main problem was that the CF-18s had a very limited air-to-ground bombing capability. This reflected a cultural problem in Air Command going back to the late 1950s: there were those who yearned for the “Snoopy versus Red Baron” age of dogfighting air-to-air combat, while there were others who understood the need for Air Command to conduct operations in support of ground manouvres (the so-called air-to-mud role). At this point, the Red Baron aficionados had ascendancy and the PGMs that NATO wanted Air Command to acquire in the early 1980s so that the CF-18s based in Germany could contribute to the NATO Follow On Forces attack strategy had not been purchased. In the Persian Gulf War, most of Iraq’s air force retreated to Iran and was hors de combat , leaving virtually no effective role for the Canadian CF-18s, save the lobbing of an air-to-air missile at an Iraqi patrol boat.

A series of ground force options were explored. The predominant one, Operation Broadsword, revolved around the deployment of a complete mechanized brigade group (which consisted of a 59-tank regiment, three mechanized infantry battalions, a self-propelled artillery regiment of 24 SP guns, plus support units) based on 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group located in Germany to serve with either the British division or VII US Corps in Saudi Arabia. Operation Broadsword, however, was not mounted for a number of reasons:

Several factors conspired to prevent [the deployment]. Most of these were related to the Canadian Forces’ stagnant ability to plan and execute an expeditionary operation of greater than company or battalion size as opposed to specific political opposition to fighting on the ground. Conditioned as the Canadian Forces was to preparing for war against the Warsaw Pact in the NATO Central Region, there was only a nascent joint planning structure, little strategic lift, no mobilization capability for sustainment and high expectation for revitalization of several equipment programs cancelled after the 1989 budgetary reassessment by the Mulroney government. Scaremongering casualty predictions based on outdated estimate processes were used by a minority of bureaucrats within DND who opposed ground operations in the mistaken belief that it would compromise Canada’s (mythical) peacekeeping image or tradition.10

Canada instead sent a field hospital (Operation Scalpel) which operated in forward areas. There was an infantry company group deployed to protect it, but absurd legalistic evolutions emanating from the JAG office at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa interfered with the infantry company’s ability to take heavy weapons with it to carry out its function. Anti-tank (TOW) missiles, mortars, heavy machine guns and other equipment were left in Canada: only basic small arms were taken.11

Haiti, 1993

The elected leader of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was deposed by a junta led by Raoul Cedras. Canadian and American efforts, through the UN, resulted in negotiations between the parties which in turn agreed to permit a Canadian -American construction force to land in Haiti to improve local infrastructure (Operation Cauldron). The situation was tense. As a result, a maritime command (MARCOM) task group consisting of an operational support ship, two helicop ter-carrying destroyers and a destroyer escort sailed for the Caribbean to participate in “exercises” at the same time the UN Security Council resolution allowing the deployment of the infrastructure team was adopted in September 1993.

The Canadian task group was designated Operation Dialogue, which also included an alert of 1st Commando of the Canadian Airborne Regiment for deployment to Haiti.12 The Dialogue task group remained outside Haitian territorial waters, prepared to intervene and extract Operation Cauldron personnel if necessary. The Canadian construction engineer team, aboard the landing ship USS Harlan County, was not permitted to land because of a demonstration conducted by hired Haitian goons. The Harlan County left and the Operation Dialogue force withdrew. This incident sparked the 1994 American-supported UN intervention, which toppled the Cedras junta.

Contingency Plan COBRA, 1995

In the spring of 1995 the possibility that the United Nations Protection Force I and II missions in Croatia and Bosnia might collapse prompted the creation of a NATO contingency plan, Operation Determined Effort, to extract UNPROFOR if necessary. This plan involved several American, British and French divisions and a Canadian contribution. It also involved securing various ports on the Adriatic and covering the withdrawal of UN forces while under fire. Other versions of the contingency plan involved fighting into Bosnia to add some steel to the UN force and imposing peace on all belligerent forces through firepower.

Contingency Plan Cobra, the Canadian component of Determined Effort, advanced to the point where units were identified, some equipment upgrades implemented, and some training initiated for the mission. Air Command was to provide twelve C-130 Hercules transports, two KC-130 tankers and eighteen CF-18 Hornets. Maritime Command was to deploy two operational support ships, two helicopter-carrying frigates, and a helicopter-carrying destroyer, plus the seven embarked Sea King helicopters. The Army commitment shifted during planning. Initially a mechanized brigade group was envisioned, but this was reduced to the following:13

a brigade group headquarters

a mechanized battle group of three companies and a tank squadron (Leopard C-1)

a reconnaissance squadron

an artillery battery (155 mm M-109 SP guns)

a combat engineer regiment

an enhanced field ambulance and

a service battalion.

Planning assumed that two other units would come under command of the brigade headquarters, possibly the two Canadian army units already committed to UNPROFOR, perhaps units provided by other NATO members.

Contingency Plan Cobra was not activated, in part due to the successful diplomacy of the Dayton Accords that produced the NATO -led Implementation Force (IFOR). The force structure for IFOR was generally based on NATO contingency planning and essentially converted an intervention force into a stabilization force. The planned Cobra force was never deployed, though Canada contributed to IFOR with 1047 personnel in a composite organization that consisted of a recce (pronounced rek-ee, for reconnoitre or reconnaissance) squadron, a mechanized infantry company, an engineer squadron, and a National Support Element (logistics) and National Command Element (headquarters and signals). This was called Operation Alliance.

The Iraq War, Phase II, 1991-2002

The second phase of the Iraq War lasted for ten years. For the most part, it consisted of a series of feints and counter-feints that resembled Cold War posturing. On occasion, however, the Hussein regime made dangerous moves that threatened to escalate into war. Throughout this period, the Canadian military contributions included combat engineers, as part of the UN shield force in Kuwait, a frigate or destroyer with the maritime interception operation, intelligence support to UNSCOM, medical support to the stabilization effort in the Kurdish regions on the border, and crews for AWACS aircraft monitoring the no -fly zones.

The most dangerous period was throughout 1998 when the frigate HMCS Toronto and two KC-130 tanker aircraft deployed to the Persian Gulf, adding to coalition forces conducting a diplomatic maneuver to compel the Hussein regime to back down (Operation Determination). The Canadian forces deployed at this time were prepared to fight and indeed expected to do so. In the end, Operation Desert Fox, an air campaign, was implemented by British and American forces in the region. Canadian AWACS personnel contributed to Desert Fox.14

Kosovo, 1999-2000

The deterioration of the political situation in the Serbian province of Kosovo throughout 1998 brought forward concerns of further lethal ethnic violence in the Balkans. Attempts to deploy international observers to ameliorate the Milosevic regime’s military and paramilitary response to an ethnic Albanian guerilla movement produced the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). When the Milosevic regime continued to use disproportionate levels of force against Kosovar Albanians, a major refugee crisis emerged as nearly one million Kosovar Albanians flooded into Macedonia and Albania, which in turn threatened to destabilize the region and wreck the peace in Bosnia.15

Operation Allied Force was implemented by NATO powers to coerce the Milosevic regime, while a series of ground options were prepared. The 78-day air campaign involved eighteen Canadian CF- 18 fighter-bombers (Operation Echo), many with the ability to deliver PGMs. Unlike the Gulf War operations, Canadian air operations in Kosovo were significant and effective contributors to Operation Allied Force.16 The primary limitation on CF-18 operations revolved around the small number of Nitehawk targeting pods needed for all-weather PGM strike operations, as not all eighteen aircraft could be equipped at once. Other deficiencies lay with the inability of the CF-18s to communicate with allied forces operating the HAVE QUICK radio system and the comparatively small initial holdings of Canadian PGM stocks.17

Initially, there was a belief that the KVM would succeed and that an SFOR-like NATO stabilization force would conduct a permissive entry into Kosovo. This force, called KFOR, was British-led (a request was put in for a Canadian contribution, Operation Kinetic). After negotiations, Canada decided to deploy a Coyote armoured recce and surveillance squadron (eighteen Coyotes from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Recce Squadron) and a Griffon tactical utility helicopter unit (eight Griffons from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron) which was also equipped with a surveillance capability. The intention was that the Coyote and Griffon squadrons would be part of and commanded by a British brigade group, while a National Command Element and a National Support Element for Canadian-specific materials would also be deployed.18

When the Milosevic regime reneged on its agreeme nts, KFOR planning shifted from a stabilization mission into a combat mission. The Canadian elements were retained: the Coyotes and Griffons were integrated into the forced entry plans. A further request was made for Canada to contribute a mechanized battle group to include tanks (Operation Kinetic+). Doctrinally, a battle group should have a squadron (16) of Leopard tanks, three companies of mechanized infantry, TOW under armour (TUA) anti-tank vehicles, mortars, and support units, some 1200 men in total.

A variety of bureaucratic problems and mistakes reduced the planned battle group to 600+ personnel, so the battle group for Operation Kinetic+ consisted of two mechanized infantry companies, five Leopard tanks, six TUA anti-tank vehicles, plus support units. It was based on 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). By this point, negotiations and coercion produced a permissive entry into Kosovo: the recce squadron, the helicopter unit and the battle group deployed as part of a British- led multinational brigade group. There were serious problems in strategic lift: National Defence headquarters had to rent a RO-RO ship and 747 air transport to deploy the Operation Kinetic force.19

The Operation Kinetic mission in Kosovo was not a pure stabilization mission. There were serious concerns throughout the first year that the Milosevic regime might conduct a mechanized incursion into Kosovo to seize the resource-rich northern region and create an ethnically Serbian only zone. The Canadian units, working alongside NATO allies, participated in Cold War Central Region-like deterrent operations on the Kosovo-Serbian provincial boundary and participated in what amounted to a scaled-down version of NATO Central Region ground defensive operations, planning to repel any incursion. Despite their small numbers, the Canadian tanks, anti-tank, and combat engineering resources were deemed important enough by KFOR to cover an important sector. The unmatched surveillance capability provided by the Coyotes and Griffons was an essential component of the operation as well. All of this was conducted simultaneously with stabilization operations designed to suppress a nascent Kosovar Albanian insurgency and prevent an outbreak of Serb-Albanian violence in the province.20 The follow-on rotation in December 1999 came from the 1st Battalion, RCR; the Royal Canadian Dragoons Recce Squadron; and 430 Escadron Tactique de Helicopter.

Afghanistan 2001-02

The radical Islamist Al Qaeda organization declared war on the Western way of life in the mid-90s. After a series of what appeared to be unconnected attacks and thwarted operations, Al Qaeda operatives mounted extremely destructive attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Ce nter in September 2001. Al Qaeda training, command, communications and logistics sites were located in Afghanistan, hosted and shielded by the radical Islamist Taliban regime led by Mullah Omar. An American-led coalition, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was established to take the fight not only to Afghanistan but also to wherever Al Qaeda entities operated from.

The initial Canadian contribution to OEF, Operation Apollo, consisted of six ships (four frigates, a destroyer and a support ship) incrementally deployed to the Indian Ocean over a four-month period, three C-130 transport aircraft and a pair of Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. These forces, operating alongside coalition forces, were responsible for the conduct of leadership interdiction operations in the Indian Ocean to prevent Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders from escaping by sea. At the same time, OEF mounted an ambitious campaign to take down the Taliban regime and uproot those portions of the Al Qaeda network based in Afghanistan.21

The initial phase of the operation involved the deployment of coalition special operations forces supported by air power to conduct a series of asymmetric support operations against the Taliban, using Afghan warlords who could be bought, coerced or otherwise induced to support OEF efforts. As these operations expanded in October-November 2001, Canada contributed a portion of the JTF-2 special operations unit that was trained for counterterrorism operations. JTF-2 operators, working alongside coalition special operations forces, were employed in critical direct action and sensitive site exploitation missions.22

As the campaign evolved and the Taliban started to lose control over Afghanistan, the decision was made to deploy a light infantry formation to secure a base area and airhead from which OEF special operations forces could operate. Canada was asked to contribute to a light infantry brigade. This brigade would take over Kandahar International Airport and secure the immediate area. The Canadian contribution was a light infantry battalion (3 PPCLI) of three rifle companies and a Coyote recce troop plus the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Recce Squadron. An electronic warfare troop was deployed to conduct signals intelligence gathering. Support units were also deployed. In all, the battalion group had some 1100 personnel deployed.

The Operation Apollo battalion group rotated missions with the other units of the American brigade group: 3 PPCLI conducted stabilization operations in the communities around the airport to enhance the security of the facility; it also participated in Operation Anaconda, a sweep mission designed to catch and kill a substantial number of Taliban supporters hiding in a mountain sanctuary. Throughout early 2002, JTF-2 special operations personnel continued with direct action missions against Al Qaeda high value targets.23

In terms of troop contributors exclusive of special operations forces, Canada was the only country other than the UK to commit conventional ground fighting forces to Afghanistan at this time (early to mid-2002).

The Matters of Saliency and Effectiveness

It is not enough to merely commit Canadian forces in an alliance setting to a coalition. Some diplomats and analysts suggest that it is enough that “Canada is there,” that some form of low-risk or minimalist participation in operations should be pursued as policy. This is fallacious reasoning and ignores the realities of alliance politics and national interests. Canada’s strategic traditions include the principle of saliency.

Compared to the nations that will lead alliance or coalition operations, Canada cannot commit large numbers of personnel to military endeavours. Instead, the forces that Canada can contribute must be able to provide a unique capability that no other nation can bring to the table, or use the forces committed in an unorthodox or unusual way, or be prepared to accept missions that no other nation in the coalition would accept. Indeed, the Canadian commitment must be militarily significant and effective in the schema of the operation. If it is not, it will be ignored. There will be no operational influence exerted within the alliance or coalition command structure, which in turn can lead to the misuse of the Canadian contribution by other members.

Without saliency, Canadian diplomatic personnel in the coalition or alliance will be unable to claim that Canada is making an effective contribution, and therefore their influence in policy or strategic realms far from the battlefield may be impaired.24

The previous cases are illustrative. The forces deployed to the first phase of the war with Iraq were not salient. There were plenty of other coalition aircraft that were multi -role and not hindered by the absurd “defensive versus offensive” debate. The naval component was able to develop some effectiveness through the persistence of local Canadian commanders, but the main effort of the war was on the ground. With no effective Canadian participation, there was no Canadian influence. Canadian interests in the region were overshadowed by the allies who helped liberate Kuwait.

The Kosovo war, however, encompassed the exact opposite state of affairs. Canadian air and ground forces fulfilled every principle of saliency: the air component was relevant and it was used vigorously. On the ground, no other nation had a capability like the Coyote vehicle. The British lacked utility transport helicopters, and the Griffon unit, which also had a “hip pocket” surveillance capability, provided unique capabilities to the KFOR effort.

In Afghanistan, the pressing need for always-scarce special operations forces meant that JTF-2’s contribution was salient, while the Coyotes in the 3 PPCLI battalion group once again provided a capability that no one else possessed. The infantry unit, already trained and equipped for light operations, back-filled stretched American resources and was employed in ways that highlighted Canadian capabilities. The Canadian electronic warfare unit even wound up running the coalition EW effort in the Kandahar region because its equipment was superior to the American equipment.

The framework

It is clear from the examples that since 1990 the leadership of the Canadian Forces has learned that it is capable of contributing salient and effective forces to alliance and coalition war efforts in geographical areas as diverse as the Balkans and southwest Asia. Could Canada have done so for the third phase of the Iraq War, Operation Iraqi Freedom? A detailed answer to that question rests on the answers to several more:

What was the nature of Phase III of the Iraqi war expected to be, and what was it actually?

What forces did the allies send to achieve their objectives?

What Canadian Forces capabilities existed at the time?

What CF capabilities were available at the time for use in Iraq?

What options did Canada have?

Would those capabilities have been salient and effective?

Phase III of the Iraq war, like Phase I in 1990-91, was expected to be a high-intensity war, i.e. one conducted using all available conventional means supported by unconventional means fought against the backdrop of the possible use of weapons of mass destruction by one or both sides. It was expected from the outset that mechanized and air-mobile forces would maneuver after preliminary special operations (to include various forms of information operations as well as SOF direct action and special reconnaissance) and air operations had been initiated to shape the battlefield. The terrain would include desert as well as complex built-up areas in the south, with more mountainous complex terrain in the north. Coalition operations were presumed to take place under an umbrella of air dominance. The rapid seizure and protection of vital resources, particularly petroleum production facilities, was critical. It was equally evident to any trained observer that the collapse of main force Iraqi resistance and the damage done to the infrastructure would necessitate the immediate shift to some form of stabilization operation in preparation for reconstruction and reconstitution of the country.25

The ground forces allocated by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to carry out Operation Iraqi Freedom have been incorrectly categorized as purely mechanized, armour-heavy forces. Actually, the OIF coalition mix was diverse.26 In the south, operating from Kuwait:

a) III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF), a corps-sized formation that consisted of three division-sized formations: 1st Marine Division, consisting of three mechanized infantry regiments equipped with LAV-25 and LVTP-7 vehicles, an artillery regiment, and two M-1A1 tank battalions. Task Force Tarawa had a mechanized infantry regiment, two Marine Expeditionary Units (battalion-sized light infantry), and two M-1A1 tank companies. III MEF also had the 1st (UK) Armoured Division. A composite formation, 1st (UK) Armoured Division had three brigades: 7th Armoured Brigade with Challenger tanks and Warrior MICV’s; 16 Air Assault Brigade, an air-mobile formation which also had AH-64 attack helicopters; and 3rd Commando, Royal Marines, which had two British light infantry battalions, and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a light infantry battalion, attached as its third maneuver unit. III MEF also had the 3rd Marine Air Wing, equipped with Harrier AV-8B fighter-bombers, Cobra helicopter gunships, and F/A-18 fighter-bombers.

b) V (US) Corps: V Corps had two divisions and a brigade. 3rd (US) Infantry Division was a standard American mechanized division with three brigades, 270 M-1A1 tanks, 200 M-2 and M-3 MICV’s, and two regiments (six battalions) of AH-64 attack helicopters. 101st Airborne Division (air-mobile) with its three light infantry brigades and organic helicopter units equipped with AH-64, UH-60, and CH -47 machines. A brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division, with three battalions of light infantry trained for parachute and air-mobile operations. 4th (US) Infantry Division, scheduled to deploy to northern Iraq, was shifted to Kuwait late in the planning. It resembled 3rd (US) ID in structure, but was unavailable for initial combat operations.

c) Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force 20 (CJSOTF-20) included the British Special Air Service Regiment, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, and the 5th Special Forces Group (three battalions). Two ranger battalions and an independent airborne battalion from the 82nd Airborne were also included. Elements of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) (made up of NAVDEVGROUP, the Combat Applications Group, and their associated USAF and US Army air support elements) are assumed to have been embedded into CJSOTF-20 for the apprehension of high value targets and other direct action missions.

Operating from northern Iraq, alongside Kurdish forces:

a) 172nd Airborne Brigade: three light infantry battalions trained in parachute operations.

b) 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit: a light infantry battalion.

c) 10th Special Forces Group (three battalions).

All coalition formations were supported by the following air resources from the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps27:

Close support

18 X Harrier GR.7 (UK)

4 X Jaguar (UK)

70 X AV-8B Harrier

30 X A-10 Thunderbolt II

8 X AC-130 Spectre


12 X F-117 Nighthawk

30 X Tornado GR.4 (UK)


236 X F/A-18 Hornet (USN/USMC)

14 X F/A-18 Hornet (RAAF)

56 X F-14 Tomcat

42 X F-15C Eagle

48 X F-15E Eagle

60 X F-16 Falcon

71 X F-16CJ Falcon 14 X Tornado F.3 (UK)


11 X B-1B Lancer

4 X B-2 Spirit

28 X B-52 Stratofortress

Canadian Capabilities and Options

Canadian Forces capabilities as they existed in late 2002 and early 2003 and their applicability to Operation Iraqi Freedom can be broken down by element.

Maritime forces

The CF has eighteen Aurora maritime patrol aircraft; three Arcturus unarmed patrol aircraft; four helicopter-carrying destroyers (DDH) each capable of carrying two Sea King helicopters; twelve helicopter-carrying frigates (FFH) each capable of carrying one Sea King helicopter; two operational support ships (AOR), and twelve maritime coastal defence vessels.28 Between three and six of the destroyers and frigates, one AOR and two of the Auroras were engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean. The MCDVs and Arcturus patrol aircraft are really sovereignty tools and unsuited for operations overseas.

Manning problems ensured that at least one-third of the existing ships were tied up in port, unable to deploy. Maritime forces would have had no saliency in Operation Iraqi Freedom, though their effectiveness elsewhere is without question, as other operations like the Multinational Interception Force (MIF) in the Indian Ocean and Operation Enduring Freedom missions demonstrate, but maritime forces alone cannot be decisive against a land power. The only system that could have been used over land was the Aurora, perhaps in a reconnaissance role, but there were faster, less vulnerable resources available.29 If, however, there was some form of asymmetric threat to the sea lines of communications to the Iraqi theatre of operations, then Canada’s maritime forces could have played an important role. As far as can be determined, there were no contingency plans to do so.

If Canadian ships were capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, in the same way British submarines HMS Splendid and HMS Turbulent contributed to supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom30, the saliency level may have been raised somewhat. It still would not have been as salient as the commitment of ground forces and, as in the 1990-91 phase of the Iraqi war, it most likely would have been seen by other coalition members as a “coat holding” exercise.

Air forces

Potentially deployable Air Command forces at end 2002 consisted of CF-18 Hornet fighter and fighter-bomber aircraft and CH-146 Griffon utility tactical helicopters. There were four CF-18 squadro ns (425, 433, 416, and 441)31 each with an estimated UE (Unit Equipment) of 18 aircraft per squadron, for a total of 72. At least two of these squadrons have NORAD taskings and must remain in Canada, leaving two which could be deployed. Though they can be equipped with the Nitehawk pod for PGM delivery, it is probable that not all aircraft in the deployable inventory have the capability. Similarly, not all CF-18 pilots had attended the Air-to-Ground School, or were trained to use the Nitehawk pods themselves, or trained in night vision goggle work or qualified for air-to-air refueling. It is possible that one squadron of eighteen Hornets could have been made available for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, assuming that the top third of each squadron’s pilot pool had the required skills and experience for PGM delivery.

The saliency aspects of CF-18 Hornet employment would have revolved around how aggressive the Air Command leadership would have been in pushing for Canadian participation in high-profile PGM delivery missions in the context of the Operation Iraqi Freedom air support campaign. As Operation Allied Force in Kosovo demonstrated, a high operational tempo might have made up for the smaller numbers of Canadian aircraft deployed relative to American and British numbers. Indeed, a Canadian Hornet commitment might have resembled the Royal Australian Air Force commitment in numbers.

As for tactical helicopters, there are five Griffon tactical helicopter squadrons which support land operations (400, 408, 427, 430, 438 Squadrons), each with an estimated UE of twelve aircraft. In addition, there are four combat support squadrons equipped with Griffons (444, 439, 414 and 417).32 The combat support squadrons have a lower UE and tend to support localized search and rescue and base activities. Like the Hornets, some Griffons can be temporarily modified to augment their primary role. The ERSTA program is designed to enhance the Griffon’s long-range all-weather surveillance, target and acquisition capability. How many Griffons could have been modified with ERSTA in time for Iraqi Freedom is unclear, but the capability was successfully employed during Operation Kinetic in Kosovo where the Kosovo Rotary Wing Aerial Unit operated closely with the army’s Coyote surveillance vehicles.

The comparatively limited capabilities of the Griffon vis-à-vis the UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache would have, perhaps, forced Canada to consider deploying to support the US Marine Corps (which operates a similar machine) or to support British forces as it did in Kosovo. The Griffon’s ERSTA enhancements would have provided more “eyes” on the battlefield, something there is never enough of, and creative couplings with ground-based ISTAR units might have provided a salient capability. Additional tactical helicopter transports might have been welcome in the American air-mobile units, but the lift limitations of the Griffon would probably have militated against that mission.

Land forces

The Canadian Army regular component in late 2002 consisted of three brigade groups and several independent units. Each brigade group had approximately one tank squadron with Leopard C-2 medium tanks; one Coyote surveillance squadron and one Coyote cavalry squadron (Coyote minus the surveillance package); two LAV-III equipped mechanized infantry battalions each with a platoon of TUA anti-tank vehicles; one light infantry battalion; and an artillery regiment, some of which were equipped with the 105 mm Light Gun, other with M-109A1 155 mm self-propelled guns or a mix of batteries. There are, of course, support units: one combat engineer regiment, one field ambulance, one MP platoon, one service battalion, and one command and signals squadron per brigade group.33

Practical totals for combat arms units

1 X tank regime nt

1 X Coyote recce and surveillance regiment

1 X Coyote cavalry regiment

6 X mechanized battalions

3 X light infantry battalions

3 X artillery regiments (mixed batteries M-109 and LG-1).

Independent units include 2 (electronic warfare) Squadron; a test bed nuclear, biological and chemical recce detection unit with plans to equip it with modified Coyotes; an air defence regiment; and an engineer support regiment.34

The intractable problems with determining where, exactly, Canada’s reserve forces fit into the land force structure and concept of operations outside of providing individual soldiers to augment regular force units had not been solved by late 2002 and remain to be solved, if they can be. Consequently, the deployment of formed militia units or sub-units would not have been seriously considered for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Obviously, if this Gordian knot had been dealt with as mandated, it is quite possible that substantial and perhaps unique capabilities could have been deployed to Iraq.

Despite the seeming formidability of the Canadian land force structure, not all of the ground units would have been able to deploy in spring 2003. Existing ongoing deployments, for example, would have eaten into the numbers. Every six months, a new battle group based on either a mechanized or light infantry battalion must rotate through the NATO -led Stabilization Force (SFOR) commitment in Bosnia. Each rotation usually takes a coyote troop or sometimes a squadron. Canada has also committed a flyover troop of LG-1 105 mm guns and a regimental headquarters to a multinational artillery support unit committed to SFOR’s Multinational Division Southwest. On the Golan Heights, Canada sends 200 logistics and support troops to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. This composite unit is formed from individual units across Canada.

Furthermore, it is CF policy to designate soldiers as non-deployable for one year after any six- month deployment. This policy was established because of the mounting human cost of the high operational tempo established by the Canadian government in the 1990s, while the same government reduced the size of the army. Though the exact figures are not publicly available, large numbers of army personnel might not have been deployable in the spring of 2003 unless they had been given waivers by the deputy chief of Defence Staff. If we assume that three infantry battalions were tied up with the SFOR commitment (one in place, one preparing to deploy, one resting from having been deployed) and that 3 PPCLI was resting after participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, this would leave five available infantry battalions, two light and three mechanized. One of the Coyote squadrons, perhaps two, would also have been in rest mode, leaving four available squadrons. The tank regiment and at least two of the three artillery regiments (albeit with mixed batteries) would have been available.

However, there was another commitment that could have tied up ground force units. The Canadian army had not collectively trained at the brigade group level for the better part of a decade. The operational tempo and the emphasis on peacekeeping and stabilization training, in the main, prevented this in the early 1990s and forced training down to the battle group/battalion level. The Land Staff was preparing a brigade training event (BTE) for the summer of 2003 and it had taken years to staff and arrange resources for it. To what extent could the BTE be disrupted for a deployment to Iraq?

Canadian policymakers would have needed to take a decision on one of three courses of action very early on. There would have been a combat operations phase, followed by a stabilization operations phase to the war. Canada could either contribute forces for both, to the combat phase only, or to the stabilization phase only. For saliency purposes, Canada would have needed to contribute saliently and effectively to the combat phase in some fashion. The mainstream options developed by Canadian planners for the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom probably consisted of the following:

A mechanized brigade group of one tank regiment, a recce squadron, two or three mechanized battalions, and an artillery regiment.

A mechanized battle group of one mechanized infantry battalion plus a tank squadron.

A brigade group headquarters, a recce squadron plus a battle group, hoping that a nation or nations would provide two other maneuver units.

A Coyote recce squadron.

A light infantry battalion

The problem with the first option was the inability of Canada to sustain it longer than six months, probably less if the formation started taking casualties. The lack of a battle casualty replacement system or plan, and the lack of earmarked reserve units or equipment for them would have posed serious problems. Option two was more realistic. However, there is a question of saliency. What would have been unique about another mechanized battle group? How would it have been employed in ways different from other allied mechanized battle groups? It would in all likelihood have been submerged in the mass of other units. Option three would have had more saliency and would also have permitted Canada to have staff representation at the divisional level above the brigade, thus allowing for operational influence. It was also more sustainable than the first option. Let us, however, examine some less mainstream and perhaps more creative force options, based on what other allies provided and which might have afforded opportunities to Canada.

1st (UK) Armoured Division

The composite structure of this British division could have included Canadian forces in at least four areas. First, a mechanized battle group with tanks could have put additional steel into 3rd Commando Brigade, which only had two light infantry battalions. Second, one or two Canadian light infantry battalions plus Griffon helicopters could have joined 16 Air Assault Brigade. Third, a mechanized battle group could have augmented 7th Armoured Brigade. Fourth, some form of composite ISTAR unit consisting of a Coyote recce and surveillance squadron, an ERSTA- equipped Griffon squadron and an electronic warfare squadron could have contributed significantly in many ways to divisional operations. Canada had an established track record working with British formations in Bosnia and Kosovo, but at the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom the relationship between the two armies was at a low point because of the perception in Canadian planning circles that Britain and the Europeans roughly spurned Canadian participation in the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.35

III Marine Expeditionary Force

A composite ISTAR regiment, consisting of two or more Coyote squadrons (surveillance equipped and cavalry variant equipped), plus ERSTA Griffons, and an EW squadron could have been used as a corps-level resource. Canada, however, has no experience in dealing doctrinally or operationally with the US Marine Corps, an organization that has a tendency to remain as self- contained as possible. Additionally, the Marines conducted essentially a flank guard operation and were dependent to a certain extent on the US Army logistics system.

Task Force Tarawa

Canada could have provided the third mechanized battalion, LAV-III equipped, in the second regiment, plus a Coyote recce squadron. The same limitations as option 2 still apply.

The airborne and air-mobile forces

The brigade of the 82nd Airborne deployed to Iraq could have accepted a Canadian light infantry battalion, a light gun battery and Griffon helicopters. Similarly, the 101st Airborne Division, a brigade of which had already incorporated 3 PPCLI battalion group into it during Operation Enduring Freedom, could have taken in one or two light infantry battalions, a light gun battery and Griffon helicopters. Indeed, the 101st would have welcomed working with a Canadian light infantry battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom.36

Northern option

The American forces operating in northern Iraq were spread very thin and could have used reinforcement. A mechanized battalion with LAV-IIIs, plus a Coyote squadron, or a light infantry battalion plus a light gun battery or regiment could have worked with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Alternatively, a Canadian brigade group headquarters with a recce squadron, a light gun battery or regiment, a light or a mechanized infantry battalion or both could have taken the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit under command. Having the 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Canadian brigade headquarters would have justified the deployment of a division headquarters, which Canada would have had some significant representation in. On the downside, there would have been problems sustaining a northern option.

V (US) Corps, specifically 1st (US) Armored Division

A composite ISTAR regiment, consisting of two or more Coyote squadrons (surveillance equipped and cavalry variant equipped), plus ERSTA Griffons, and an EW squadron could have been used as a corps-level resource. A Canadian contribution would have been welcomed by the US Army, which has a close doctrinal and working relationship with the Canadian Army, one far closer than between the Canadian Army and the US Marine Corps. This would probably have been the best option for Canadian participation.

It should be recognized that the ability of the Canadian Forces to support these options would have rested on having access to certain allied service support structures. Specifically, Canada would have been hard pressed to provide in-depth medical capabilities. Commonality of ammunition would also have been a factor: for example, the 25 mm ammunition used by LAV-IIIs and Coyotes would have been similar to that used by US Marine Corps LAV-25 vehicles.

Which of the above options would have provided Canada with visibility within the coalition while at the same time contributing in a militarily effective manner? Generally, the northern option or any of the options that involve contributions to some higher formation’s ability to collect intelligence and targeting information would have achieved both criteria. We must not ignore the probability that forces engaged in executing the other less visible options would have acquitted themselves well on the battlefield and may have generated saliency through their sheer valour.

What of the stabilization phase? As demonstrated by Operation Kinetic in Kosovo and Operation Apollo in Afghanistan, all Canadian units are flexible and experienced enough to downshift from combat operations and conduct stabilization operations. Indeed, all Canadian equipment is compatible for such a downshift, including, as we have seen in Kosovo, tanks. In addition to the existing options for the combat phase of the war, certain capabilities would have to be brought in from Canada for the stabilization phase for all units and formations concerned. Four capabilities come to mind. First, some form of civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) capability would have to be brought in to augment the ad hoc measures that the deployed units would have already been implementing. Second, counterintelligence and human intelligence gathering detachments would have been critical to feed the ISTAR system established to monitor the defined area of operations. Third, additional electronic warfare resources would have to be brought in. Fourth, a military information team would have to deploy to handle the PSYOPS tasks critical to any stabilization effort.

We must, of course, address the problem of strategic lift. Canada’s clapped-out C-130 Hercules fleet plus the five Polaris airliners would not have been enough. Alternate service delivery (ASD) aircraft would have to be rented. Furthermore, Canada has no strategic sealift capability, other than the infamously seized (and rusting) GTS Katie RO-RO vessel. Again, ASD shipping would have to be found. This leads us to the matter of when to commit. As Operation Broadsword in 1990 demonstrated, and Operation Kinetic in 1999 confirmed, if Canada does not commit early enough, Canada will be outbid in several critical areas, which severely complicates or even prevents deployment.

Other coalition members will buy up Antonov heavy airlift and RO-RO shipping: these are scarce resources. Other nations will have made paper commitments to get personnel onto coalition staffs early so they can influence planning. Prime sites for support and logistics facilities with good access will be quickly gobbled up by others. Air ramp space, always at a premium in the Gulf region, will be occupied by those who commit early. Access to critical intelligence will be given to those who commit early. Indeed, those who seek to bureaucratically thwart a Canadian deployment because they disagree with it in principle have many means at their disposal to do so and can therefore influence a decision before it is even defined.

Equipment effectiveness

The question of equipment effectiveness is a morass influenced by sensitive issues related to the acquisition process, domestic political factors in production, and what limitations are accepted on the equipment by the bureaucracy and how that relates to risk. The following equipment types were available for deployment to Iraq (these are very broad characterizations as to how Canadian equipment would have rated in the coalition):

LAV-III Kodiak infantry fighting vehicle: as effective as infantry fighting vehicles deployed by the US Marine Corps; less protection than the Bradley Fighting Vehicles employed by the US Army.

Coyote reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle: no equivalent US or UK capability.

CH-146 Griffon helicopter: less capable than American helicopter types flown by the US Army; as capable as some utility aircraft flown by the US Marine Corps; as capable as most equivalent aircraft flown by the UK, when equipped with ERSTA package with the exception of TOW-armed Lynx (note that Canada has no equivalent to AH-64 or AH-1 attack helicopters or heavy lift machines like the CH-47).

Leopard C-2 medium tank: not as effective as the US M-1A1 Abrams or the UK Challenger II, but would have been able to defeat most Iraqi armoured vehicles; not as survivable as US or UK vehicles, but more mobile than Challenger II.

TOW under armour: as capable as equivalent US and UK vehicles.

M-109A1 self-propelled gun: less effective than upgraded US M-109A6 and UK AS-90 vehicles (note that Canada lacks any equivalent to the US and UK MLRS rocket systems, which complements tube artillery).

LG-1 towed gun: as effective as equivalent US and UK systems.

Electronic warfare capability: better than US and UK systems.

Unmanned aerial vehicles: Canada lacks an equivalent capability to US Predator or UK Phoenix systems.37

CF-18 Hornet: with PGM capability and upgraded communications, Canadian fighter- bombers would have been as capable and effective as equivalent US systems.

The special question of special operations forces

Possessing special operations forces is something relatively new for the Canadian Forces. Special operations forces, due to their elite nature, have unique qualifications for the types of personnel required, have access to specialized equipment, have higher levels of readiness, and are smaller in numbers. They are also more expensive. Special operations forces are in a category of their own when it comes to saliency. Special operators are always in short supply. The fact that Canada’s JTF-2 has emerged as a respected Tier I unit38 and has seen considerable operational activity in Afghanistan and elsewhere would have made a Canadian special operations commitment to Iraq extremely significant.

There are some analysts, planners, and commentators who mistakenly believe that JTF-2 is some kind of reincarnated Canadian Airborne Regiment, or view it as a passing fad, and seek to downgrade the potential that exists in this special unit. Such thinking is simplistic and nearsighted. JTF-2, had it been deployed to Iraq, would have been the “ace in a royal flush” of effective and salient Canadian capabilities. With its integral air support capability and a proven track record in direct action missions alongside American JSOC units, there would have been unlimited scope for JTF-2 employment in Operation Iraqi Freedom, particularly against high value targets.


There can be little doubt that Canada had the military means to contribute in an effective and salient fashion to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The force structure currently deployed to Operation Athena in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the NATO -led International Security Assistance Force and the previous deployments to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Kinetic in Kosovo demonstrate that the capacity and capability to deploy battle group – or battalion group-sized forces exists (with some creative thought and jury-rigging) and that Canadian soldiers are well-trained. Operation Allied Force demonstrates that Air Command has learned from its previous experiences in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 and would also have been capable of contributing air resources for combat in Iraq. The main problems of long-term sustainment remain, as do the ongoing problems of reliable strategic lift.

The questions of political will and strategic direction, however, will continue to be the deciding factors as to whether the Canadian government continues to present ad hoc solutions to ongoing problems or develops a more effective and more rational approach to force generation and deployme nt in pursuit of Canada’s global interests.

  1. Thus the use of the title “Are We Really Just Peacekeepers?” The author has rapidly become the expert on Canadian ground non-deployments to fight in Iraq. See “Missed Opportunity: Operation BROADSWORD, 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade and the Gulf War, 1990-1991,” (updated version) in the Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 2002, pp. 24-31. This was originally an annex for the history of 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade, but the lack of space resulted in its omission. It was subsequently published as a separate article.
  2. See Frank Kitson, Low Intensity Operations. (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1971).
  3. See Christopher Bellamy, Knights in White Armour (London: Hutchison Publishing, 1996) and John Hillen, Blue Helmets (Washington: Brassey’s Publishing, 1998).
  4. Land Staff, BGL300-000/FP-000 Canada’s Army: We Stand on Guard for Thee (Ottawa: DND, 1998).
  5. CFHQ, CFP 165: Conduct of Land Operations (Ottawa: DND, 1967).
  6. Operation ATHENA, the Canadian force deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, includes an ISTAR squadron which is based on a Coyote squadron.
  7. Sean M. Maloney, “We’re Not Peacekeepers,” Maclean’s, October 21, 2002.
  8. As quoted in Douglas Bland and Sean Maloney’s Strategies for International Security (forthcoming: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003).
  9. See Sean M. Maloney, War with Iraq: Canada’s Strategy in the Persian Gulf 1990 -2002 (Kingston: Queen’s Centre for International Relations, 2002).
  10. Sean M. Maloney, War with Iraq: Canada’s Strategy in the Persian Gulf 1990-2002, p. 8.
  11. Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Michael Blanchette, Kingston, October 2001. LCol. Blanchette commanded the hospital protection company.
  12. DND Access To Information (ATI). 1994, “Speech Module: DND and the Situation in Haiti,” (4 Aug 94), memo from the CDS to the Minister, “Operation LANCE and Operation PASSAGE: Canadian Airborne Regiment Participation.”
  13. ATI DND, (12 Apr 95), letter, CDS to SACEUR.
  14. Sean M. Maloney, War with Iraq: Canada’s Strategy in the Persian Gulf 1990-2002.
  15. Sean M. Maloney, Operation KINETIC: The Canadians in Kosovo 1999-2000 (forthcoming: Vanwell, 2004).
  16. David Kinsman, “Canada’s Air Operations in the Balkans,” The Defence Associations National Network, Vol. 6 No. 2, Winter 1999.
  17. Bob Bergan brought these deficiencies to light when he presented his paper, “Balkan Rats and Balkan Bats” at the CDAI Students Conference held at RMC in Kingston, Ontario on October 25, 2003.
  18. Sean M. Maloney, Operation KINETIC: The Canadians in Kosovo 1999-2000.
  19. Sean M. Maloney, Operation KINETIC: The Canadians in Kosovo 1999-2000.
  20. Sean M. Maloney, Operation KINETIC: The Canadians in Kosovo 1999-2000.
  21. Backgrounder, “The Canadian Forces’ contribution to the International Campaign Against Terrorism.”
  22. “JTF2: Canada’s super-secret commandos.”
  23. Presentation given by Lieutenant Colonel Pat Stogran to the author’s WS 500 class, RMC Kingston, January 2003.
  24. Sean M. Maloney, “The Canadian Tao of Conflict,” in Bernd Horn (ed.) Forging a Nation: Perspectives on the Canadian Military Experience (St Catharine’s: Vanwell Publishing, 2002) pp. 271-286.
  25. See Williamson Murray and Robert H. Scales, The Iraq War: A Military History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003) and Bing West and Ray L. Smith, The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division (New York: Bantam Books, 2003).
  26. The ground forces order of battle depicted here is drawn from Murray and Scales, The Iraq War, pp. 62- 70.
  27. This is an abbreviated list taken from Tim Ripley, “Iraq War: By the Numbers,” Air Forces Monthly (August 2003) pp. 26-29, and it in turn is based on an initial US Air Force “hot wash up” document that was made publicly available. I have not included all of the support aircraft and have instead focused on aircraft that shoot.
  28. “The Fleet.”
  29. Note that Canadian Auroras have been used in overland recce missions, specifically over Montreal during the 1990 Oka Standoff (Operation SALON). American P-3s also conducted reccemissions over Zaire during Operation ASSURANCE in support of the Canadian-led MNF. In both cases, these missions were conducted in an unopposed environment with no IADS threat. Canadian Auroras were asked to fly a recce mission over Serbian bases in Montenegro during Operation SHARP GUARD, but the on-scene commander refused since the aircraft could not protect itself.
  30. “Hammer Blows from Tomahawks Precede a Daring Invasion of Al-Faw,” Warships, May 2003, p.6.
  31. “Air Force Wings Across Canada” and “Canadian Forces Aircraft.”
  32., “Air Force Wings Across Canada” and “Canadian Forces Aircraft.”
  33. “Army Units.”
  34. Note that the NBCD recce unit is still in the formative stages but could have been made available if prioritized.
  35. Confidential interviews.
  36. Confidential interview.
  37. Note that Canada is renting a UAV system for Operation ATHENA in Kabul.
  38. Special operations forces are generally grouped into tiers depending on their experience and capability. A Tier I unit is capable of highly specialized counterterrorism tasks involving direct action. Other Tiers include special reconnaissance or other tasks like foreign internal defence.

Pour diffusion immédiate – le mercredi 12 novembre 2003

Montréal – Le manque de volonté politique et de direction stratégique empêche la création d’approches sensées et efficaces qui permettraient le développement et le déploiement des Force canadiennes, conclue l’étude. L’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques ( a dévoilé aujourd’hui une étude de Sean M. Maloney intitulée « Are We Just Peacekeepers? The Perception Versus the Reality of Canadian Involvement in the Iraq War ». Selon l’auteur, « il y a peu de doute que le Canada avait la capacité militaire nécessaire pour contribuer de façon efficace et marquante à l’Opération Liberté en Iraq en 2003 ».

Maloney analyse la nature du conflit et les objectifs essentiels de l’intervention, ainsi que la capacité, la disponibilité, la pertinence et l’efficacité des Forces canadiennes, pour conclure que, au cours de cette troisième phase de la guerre en Iraq, le Canada « a manqué le bateau ».

L’auteur avance que les atouts des Forces canadiennes reposent non seulement sur leur flexibilité et leur expérience à l’étape du passage des opérations de combat à la phase de stabilisation, mais aussi dans leur capacités de cibler et de recueillir des renseignements. Comme exemple concret de ces capacités, Maloney parle du JTF-2 et affirme que, s’il avait été utilisé en Iraq, « il aurait en quelque sorte constitué l’as dans un flush royal ».

Le bilan que trace l’auteur des interventions des Forces canadiennes au cours des années 1990 et l’évaluation qu’il fait de la capacité qu’elles avaient de contribuer efficacement à l’Opération Liberté en Iraq défont le mythe selon lequel l’armée canadienne est avant tout utile en cas de maintien de la paix et est incapable de mener des combats de moyenne ou de grande envergure.

L’étude « Are We Just Peacekeepers? The Perception Versus the Reality of Canadian Involvement in the Iraq War», du champ de recherche Sécurité nationale et interopérabilité militaire, est la plus récente à paraître dans le cadre de la série Document de travail de l’IRPP. Elle est disponible en ligne en format Adobe (.pdf) sur le site Web de l’Institut ( Vous en trouverez le résumé ci-joint.

Prière de contacter l’IRPP pour toute précision ou demande d’entrevue.

Veuillez noter que vous pouvez recevoir les avis et communiqués de l’IRPP par courriel en vous abonnant à notre service de distribution électronique. Pour ce faire, rendez-vous sur notre site Web (

Fondé en 1972, l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques est un organisme à but non lucratif national et indépendant qui a pour mission d’enrichir la pensée politique en stimulant la recherche, la réflexion et les débats susceptibles de contribuer au processus décisionnel et à la qualité des politiques publiques mises de l’avant par les gouvernements, les citoyens, les institutions et organismes du pays.


Prière de contacter l’IRPP pour toute précision ou demande d’entrevue.

Veuillez noter que vous pouvez recevoir les avis et communiqués de l’IRPP par courriel en vous abonnant à notre service de distribution électronique. Pour ce faire, rendez-vous sur notre site Web (

Fondé en 1972, l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques est un organisme à but non lucratif national et indépendant qui a pour mission d’enrichir la pensée politique en stimulant la recherche, la réflexion et les débats susceptibles de contribuer au processus décisionnel et à la qualité des politiques publiques mises de l’avant par les gouvernements, les citoyens, les institutions et organismes du pays.