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Monday, June 20, 2011

Where do we send trained killers next?

Article from 2010 about when Canada was thinking of sending troops to the Congo... in the end they decided that this isn"t a good mission and placing troops back under the UN banner in large numbers generally has not been successful.

Also Afghan vets will probably not follow UN rules of engagement.

they will shoot to protect civilians
they will shoot to defend themselves
they will investigate bombings and attacks on themselves
if they see a crime they will interfer to stop it and even shoot to kill if neccessary.
The troops will demand equipment to protect themselves and never be silent about shoddy equipment
they will use digital cameras to tell their stories outside what the press operations would want.
blogs, pics, videos and stories will appear on the web almost overnight.

The Soldiers of today have the skills the tools in their pockets and as professional soldiers they will do their missions and protect civilian lives and kill the "scumbags" of the earth.

Where Canada send its soldiers next............ must be thought of long and hard....

"In the past two weeks, there have been rumbles in the Ottawa jungles that the Harper government might be interested in sending troops to take part in the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Chief of the Defence Staff was said to be telling the troops that Canada's next overseas mission was in Africa; the departing Chief of the Land Staff, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, was tipped to be the Congo force's commander. There was even a hot rumour that the Governor-General was to visit Kinshasa, the capital.

Certainly, Congo is a disaster – a huge country the size of Europe, with a corrupt government ruling its 70 million people, with genocidal tribal slaughters, rapacious mining companies scooping up everything in sight, and neighbours trying to bite off chunks of territory and population for their own purposes. The UN first went into Congo in 1960, with Canadian signallers providing its communications, and UN forces fought a war against separatist elements. They have been there again for more than a decade, with 22,500 people on the ground, mainly provided by African nations.

MONUC, as the UN force is dubbed in French, is underfunded and undersupplied, and has been neither competent militarily nor effective in halting the violence that is estimated to have killed more than five million Congolese since 1999. Moreover, as so often is the case with UN missions, the mandate is fuzzy, its political support in New York doubtful. Many also consider the UN troops in-country to be part of the problem, and charges of corruption and rape have been levelled against them. And even though MONUC has supported the Kinshasa government, President Joseph Kabila has demanded that the UN leave Congo by mid-2011.

Should Canada involve itself in this horrifying mess? There seems no doubt that Canadians continue to believe that Canada is uniquely gifted in peacekeeping. Lester Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize, the 60-year-long record of service in UN missions, and the popular sense that doing good is what the Canadian Forces should be doing all make UN service hugely popular. And with the Canadian Forces now set to pull out of Afghanistan by 2011 – an unpopular commitment (even though UN-authorized) because it involves killing and being killed and supporting the United States – what better way to re-establish our national bona fides than by taking over a UN peacekeeping force.

An Ipsos Reid poll last September found popular support for Canada's military to be a force that does only peacekeeping. The NDP, the Bloc Québécois, large elements of the Liberal Party and the peace movement speak as one on this: Government funding has made the Canadian Forces capable again, so why not use them for peace in a nation that is bleeding to death?

But hold on a moment. There's no doubt that Congo is a basket case, a perfect example of a failed state ruled for the benefit of a corrupt leadership and the corporations that loot it. But before we jump in, we need to remember a few things. The first is that the Congolese government wants the UN forces out. The second is that UN willingness to finance MONUC is shaky at best, and there's no guarantee that the countries that pay the bill might not accede to Congo's demands and support withdrawal.

Then there are the peculiarly Canadian factors. The members of the Canadian Forces are white, and that's never a plus in Congo. They are a Western force that needs roads and mobility to operate effectively, that requires a high standard of logistical support, and that has small numbers at its disposal. Congo is huge and, in the eastern regions where much of the killing goes on, there's no infrastructure. One Canadian officer who knows the country well says it can take five days to drive 100 kilometres in Orientale province in the rainy season.

What this means is that, if the Canadian Forces go into Congo, they will need fleets of helicopters, potable water and a secure supply line. Where's that to come from? Moreover, there are local armies aplenty operating all across Congo, some well-supplied from neighbouring regimes, and all knowing the terrain better than a bunch of white guys from Come by Chance or Moosonee. They will fight to protect their access to the spoils. In other words, any troops we send are likely to be involved in combat (156 peacekeepers have been killed since MONUC's creation) and will need to be equipped with a full suite of weapons and air mobility. Despite a decade of service in Afghanistan, we still lack sufficient helicopters, and the Canadian Forces won't have them available soon.

So peacekeeping, yes. But only if there's a firm UN mandate, full UN support, and a role that the Canadian Forces can play. Unfortunately, that's not in Congo.

J.L. Granatstein is a historian and senior research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

This being said we do have a small team in the Congo and have had for a number of years......

There are rolling hills and grasslands in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They belie the relentlessness of the shantytowns.
Men live to the age of 42; women to 44, according to the United Nations. It’s a sobering statistic that reflects the staggering poverty and systemic conflict that has plagued the region.

“It’s a broken country,” says Major Louis Xenos, a training officer serving on Operation CROCODILE, Canada’s contribution to the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
Based in Kinshasa, Maj Xenos is part of an 11-person multi-national training cell. Drawn from countries including Russia, Guyana, Pakistan and India, the cell is tasked with delivering a six-day course to military observers serving on MONUC.

In all, there are about 600 military observers in the DRC. Established by the UN Security Council, MONUC itself was created to facilitate the implementation of the Lusaka Accord signed in 1999. With a budget exceeding $1 billion, it is the largest and most expensive mission in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. Canada has contributed a nine-person team to the effort.

The military observers course includes subjects as diverse as patrolling and driving, as well as ensuring each candidate has the required level of English proficiency. It also reviews MONUC policies, and command and control structure. While the course has a low failure rate, Maj Xenos says candidates have been sent home in the past.
Capitaine de corvette Abdou Sene from Senegal (left), and LCol Roch Giguère meet with local villagers off the Congo River near the city of Kisangani in a fact-finding mission to evaluate the needs and investigate concerns of the local population.
Capitaine de corvette Abdou Sene from Senegal (left), and LCol Roch Giguère meet with local villagers off the Congo River near the city of Kisangani in a fact-finding mission to evaluate the needs and investigate concerns of the local population.
by MCpl Robert Bottrill
The course typically averages 15 to 40 students; although the most recent course saw 42 observers participate. Maj Xenos just delivered his third course since arriving in-theatre nearly two months ago.
He says language remains one of the biggest challenges. Given the variety of accents and the fact that for some, English is their third or even fourth language, he says the use of plain language is critical. “When you are instructing, you speak slowly,” he explains. “You don’t use slang or other expressions,” he adds.
Computer skills is another area that sometimes presents additional challenges. Not every military regularly uses technology, he explains. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, two periods of computer training are included in the curriculum. Maj Xenos says these skills, especially the use of Lotus, are important. “It’s the primary means of communication with the brigades,” he says.

Success, he adds, comes when all the candidates graduate. And, using course critiques, they are always looking to improve the curriculum. His goal, he says, is to improve the quality of training and documentation.
Based in Kinshasa, Maj Xenos says he’s seen a lot of poverty and homelessness in the bustling city. Polio is also a concern. The local infrastructure is basic at best, and the availability of utilities such as water and electricity fluctuate greatly. Roads are few and riddled with potholes. No major roads link any major cities. There’s no postal service to speak of in the country.

Yet, he says, the local population readily recognizes the Canadian flag. They know, too, that Canada has no vested interest in the area, no ulterior motive for being there. That knowledge breeds a certain trust.
Maj Nick Torrington-Smith is an information operations officer working in Kisangani. He also collects and analyzes information for the regional brigade. And while he’s previously worked with NATO, this is his first experience in a multi-national environment.

Given that his job is so dependent upon language and nuances, he says it can be a challenge. It’s especially so when the end goal is to communicate to the population. The last thing he would want is for the message to be opposite than the one intended.
He says a lot of his more recent work has been to re-assure the population ahead of a kinetic operation. And while info ops is well used and understood in Canada, it had to be modified to not only the UN context, but also to reflect local expectations and beliefs.

“Sometimes you have to explain the intent and the expected outcomes,” he says. And when he first arrived, Maj Torrington-Smith says there was not much focus on info ops. He says he’s trying to make people more aware of not only its capability, but also its impact. “We’re getting successful in that respect,” he offers.
He says true success will come when more and more people ask for input.

Lieutenant-Colonel Roch Giguère, the Chief of Staff for Sector 2, is also based in Kisangani. He says locals there also are familiar with Canadians. “They are quite happy we are here,” says LCol Giguère. “They recognize the impact of MONUC.”

Maj Trevor McLeod holds a young girl from an orphanage located in Kinshasa, as he and other Canadian officers watch the children play with new toys June 3. Maj McLeod, from Ottawa, Ont., is a legal officer at the MONUC Headquarters in Kinshasa.
Maj Trevor McLeod holds a young girl from an orphanage located in Kinshasa, as he and other Canadian officers watch the children play with new toys June 3. Maj McLeod, from Ottawa, Ont., is a legal officer at the MONUC Headquarters in Kinshasa.
by MCpl Robert Bottrill
Plus, he says, the Congolese often approach CF personnel to tell them of friends or relatives they have in Toronto or Vancouver. They also make an extra effort to speak English, even knowing that many of the CF members speak French. “You can see the difference,” he adds, “when you have the Canadian flag on your uniform.”

As the Chief of Staff, LCol Giguère co-ordinates the tasks of all the staff officers in the sector. He, too, says language is a challenge. Staff officers are drawn from at least eight different countries. As a francophone, he says he well understands the obstacles one sometimes faces when working in a second or third language.
Despite the challenges, he’s already seeing successes. He points to a recent disarmament operation—still underway at the time of our interview—which, if successful, could very well have a domino effect. “If we can show,” he explains, “that we can take care of this group …we are expecting that other rebel groups might join the process.”

He’s especially proud of this process because just a few months ago, negotiations ground to a halt following nearly seven months of talks. “With a lot of work and a lot of patience, they started negotiating again. It looks very good,” he says.

In Kisangani, the CF team lives in what LCol Giguère terms one of “the best” houses in the city—near the river and in the middle of the equatorial rain forest. By local standards, it’s topnotch, but far from comparable to anything in Canada. “We do gymnastics with the appliances in the kitchen,” he says by way of an example. “If we plug them in at the same time, the electrical outlets can’t sustain them.”

Despite this, a situation he says they now laugh about, he’s philosophical about this deployment. He says his goal is to create a team spirit among the staff officers and to exploit their strengths for the benefit of MONUC. He thinks he’s making good progress.

Plus, he offers, it’s been 10 years since his last deployment. LCol Giguère wanted this mission to remind himself of what it means to be Canadian, to better appreciate the quality of life at home and to remember the sacrifices made on overseas deployments.

“I was afraid I had forgotten,” he says thoughtfully. “And near the end of my career, I thought it was important to get a reality check.”

And while he knows the operation in Afghanistan is at the forefront—and should be—he says it’s still important for personnel to leave behind a solid, Canadian footprint.

1 comment:

  1. Gotta ask - do you really think Canadian troops would ignore ROE's if they were on such a mission? I know what many may want to do, but is that what they would do?