Some details (and even more speculation) are starting to emerge about the forthcoming mission ~ an aviation task force ~ to Mali. The real, hard news, in a Globe and Mail report, is that:
- “Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the military is already doing the necessary reconnaissance for the 12-month mission. It is preparing the aircraft and conducting training specific for the conditions in Mali;””
- “Talks have begun with the United Nations to determine an appropriate deployment date, he said. “Right now, we’re looking at the summer,” Mr. Sajjan said;”
- “Mr. Sajjan said he could not say how many members of the Armed Forces would take part. “Gen. Vance and his leadership will do the analysis of what is actually needed on the ground and, once that is complete, we will have a much more thorough answer for you,” he said;”
- “The Aviation Task Force, the minister said, will include two Chinook helicopters to help with the logistical needs of the UN forces and the medical evacuation of dead and wounded troops, as well as four Griffon helicopters that would provide armed escort and protection … [but] … Gen. Vance was less clear on those numbers. He told reporters that the number of helicopters would be determined after the reconnaissance has been completed. Sources have told The Globe and Mail that as many as six Chinooks could be sent to Mali.“
So we will send a mixed bag of helicopters with the crews needed to fly and maintain them and with the people needed to support the air and ground crews to somewhere in Africa to support UN operations in Mali … I guess.
I mentioned, some months ago, that “Canada’s best choice would be a coherent (but undoubtedly too expensive ~ more than DND can afford without that infusion of new cash) air transport support mission (C-130 Hercules, CH-147 Chinooks and CH-146 Griffons) providing tactical airlift for several UN missions ~ perhaps as lead nation of a multi-national air transport force.” My idea was, and remains, that individual UN mission, even in large countries like Mali, might be better served by one, theatre level (all of Africa being a possible theatre or, perhaps two theatres: West Africa, which includes Mali and East/Central Africa which includes e.g. Congo) …
… air task force with a mix of fixed and rotary wing transport and utility aircraft and an appropriate mix of combat escort aircraft, too:
In my “perfect world” this would be a UN Security Council approved mission that would be “contracted out” to, say, Canada which would, in turn, recruit nations to form a “coalition of the willing,” including the UN’s own humanitarian air service, to provide aircraft with national air and ground crews, and shared, multi-national air base facilities, support services and air liaison and planning teams (to be attached to each UN mission). The combined task force would be based in, just for example, Algeria and Kenya, or, centrally, in Nigeria ~ with appropriate status of forces and operational agreements having been negotiated with the host nation(s) ~ and would fly throughout the theatre, perhaps from sub-bases in specific theatres, too.
The essential element of my plan is that it minimizes United Nations involvement in management and, therefore, improves the chances of actually doing something right. My own, personal, experience and the anecdotal evidence provided by many friends indicates that there is nothing wrong with the people who serve in the UN, the people in the field and the people in New York and Geneva; the problem is with the UN’s “system” and with the “office politics” when those good people are double tasked by the UN, which pays them, and by their home nation governments which unduly influence them. My own personal experience, again, was that UN civilians at the “sharp end,” working side-by-side with Canadian soldiers in a UN Peacekeeping mission, shouted at New York with the exact same level of dismay, frustration and real anger as did the Canadian soldiers.
But we’re not going to have anything like a “perfect world” situation. I share, with Andrew Scheer and John Ivison, the sense that this mission is more about burnishing Canada’s image, which Justin Trudeau, himself, has damaged, than with doing anything useful in Africa, and the mission is all about winning a worthless, second class, temporary seat on the UN Security Council so that the Liberal Laurentian Elites can attend better cocktail parties in New York, Geneva, Paris and Rome. That’s not a good enough reason to send Canadian Armed Forces members off on a mission that has very, very limited chances of success, has a high chance of costing unnecessary casualties and is certain to cause immense frustration and angst and worse amongst the men and women who must serve there.
Anyway, some initial thoughts, for today … more will certainly follow after General Vance competes his work and we see who and what is being sent where.