Vanguard Magazine

Aug/Sept 2014

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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Page 38 of 47

b booKShelf AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 39 The Canadians in Kandahar Canada is a second case of a single-party, parliamen- tary government operating in Afghanistan. Though both the Canadians and the British operated in RC- South, two things differentiate their behavior. First, while the British were ruled by a majority parliamen- tary government, the Canadians were led by a series of minority governments during the intervention in Afghanistan. Second, Canada's behavior in Afghani- stan varied quite widely, from being heavily laden with caveats and ineffective to barely restricted and aggressive, making British behavior appear relatively consistent in comparison. That this occurred largely at a time of Canadian minority government, a rare phe- nomenon in Canadian politics, made the increased delegation to the ground quite a puzzle. Because of both institutional legacies and the weakness of the Canadian opposition, however, the Canadian Forces (CF) ultimately had signifi cant control over opera- tions in the fi eld. Variations in delegation, oversight, and incentives were largely driven by the individuals at the top of the Canadian military. behind the Wire and out in front Canadian forces in Afghanistan had very limited dis- cretion for the fi rst three years of the confl ict. This was certainly the case when they served as part of Ameri- can-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in 2002. Canadian ground commanders at the time faced the same rules as bomber pilots and special forces units: any mission that might risk collateral damage needed to be approved ahead of time. This meant a phone call home anytime the Canadians were to leave the base, since collateral damage is always a possibility when hundreds of soldiers move out. Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran, CF commander in Afghanistan in the fi rst half of 2002, feared that these conditions would dangerously restrict his ability to act when necessary and that micromanagement from home might create a disaster akin to events in Bosnia and Rwanda, where offi cers had to stand by and watch war crimes take place in front of them. After one six-month tour in Kandahar, the CF were withdrawn from Afghanistan, only to return in 2003 to Kabul where they helped to institutionalize ISAF. Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie became deputy commander of ISAF and the Canadian contingent commander in 2003. Leslie had to ask Ottawa for permission for operations where there was a signifi - cant chance of collateral damage, or the potential for lethal force, signifi cant casualties, or strategic failure. He also called home whenever Canadian special op- erations forces engaged in any signifi cant activities, even when operating outside of ISAF as part of OEF. Leslie found that approval was almost always granted, often immediately. Major-General Peter Devlin, com- mander of NATO's effort in Kabul under Leslie, be- lieved that the home offi ce said yes to about half of the requests to use the special operations units. Devlin considered the Canadians to be in the middle tier in terms of fl exibility and restrictions. In the next Canadian troop rotation, Devlin's re- placement, Brigadier-General Jocelyn Lacroix, re- ceived his offi cial national guidance via a "Letter of Intent." That letter stated that "NDHQ [National Defence Headquarters] authority is required, prior to committing CF personnel to any operations, wherein there is a reasonable belief that CF units or personnel may be exposed to a higher degree of risk." Offi cials in Canada were very slow to respond to fi eld requests, sometimes taking up to twenty-four hours or more. On a few occasions, Lacroix had to face the galling situation of needing to fi nd an alternative to the Ca- nadian contingent while waiting for deliberations in Ottawa to conclude. When Canadian Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier be- came overall ISAF commander, overlapping with La- croix's Kabul rotation, he faced a similarly frustrating situation. The leaders of the CF gave Hillier the au- thority to act as a NATO commander but little infl u- ence over Canadian forces in Afghanistan. Instead, a Canadian colonel was the commander of the nation's contingent, so Hillier was forced to call Ottawa should he want to override decisions made by this colonel. This was problematic, since the colonel was operating under relatively strict caveats. Hillier later referred to the Canadian contingents in Bosnia and Afghanistan as "CAN'T BATs" (instead of the traditional NATO term CANBAT for a Canadian battalion) because he frequently had to rely on other national contingents that were far more fl exible. All this changed when Colonel Steve Noonan be- came the senior Canadian on the ground in 2005–6; he found himself having far more latitude than previ- ous commanders – "wide arcs of fi re," as he called it. The orders at the time authorized "full spectrum operations." Instead of having to ask permission to engage in a variety of operations, Noonan found him- self facing a new command philosophy, enunciated by the new chief of defense staff (CDS), none other than the freshly promoted General Rick Hillier (Maloney 2009). Noonan was allowed to act fi rst and explain his actions later if necessary. His successor, Brigadier- General David Fraser, found a similar situation: "Ev- erything I did over there was notifi cation, not ap- proval. . . . If I had to go outside the boundaries of the CDS intent, then I would have to get approval. I never got to a boundary." In the offi cial "Letter of Intent" given to Fraser by the CDS, Fraser was told "Within the bounds of the Strategic Targeting Direc-

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