I want to be clear--I don't think it is wrong for the Canadian SOF to help with targeting and other advising/assisting stuff that gets them closer to the front lines. If you want to engage in a bombing campaign, it is better to have accurate bombing than not.
BUT this government has done its best/worst to be manage the messaging and create more confusion than there needs to be. The latest is a statement by the CDS to make it appear that he was not lying on October 19th:
“I understand that there may be some questions about my comments
on Oct. 19th about the nature of activities being undertaken by
Canada’s Special Operations Forces in Iraq. To be clear, the situation
on the ground has evolved since I offered those remarks, and we have
increased our assistance with respect to targeting air strikes in direct
correlation with an increased threat encountered by the ISF.
Personnel are not seeking to directly engage the enemy, but we are
providing assistance to forces that are in combat. The activities of
Canada’s Special Operations Forces in Iraq, as described by Generals
Vance and Rouleau on January 19th, are entirely consistent with the
advise and assist mandate given to the Canadian Armed Forces by the
government. You should be justifiably proud of your men and women in
I call B.S. on this. Why? Because I have some decent sources that say that the CAN SOF were tagging targets--acting as forward air controllers--before October 19th... as in when the mission started. Indeed, the Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson says that the SOF guys never had any limits on what they could do. So, which is it? No activities near the line, no tagging or no limits? I would bet on the latter.
The problem is that this government created a false impression in September when it was talking about the mission. It should have said something about how this mission was not going involve the SOF engaged in offensive operations on their own, which would have allowed for facilitating the offensive/defensive ops of the Kurds/Iraqis. But the urge to say no boots on the ground doing combat made the government say something that was unlikely to be true--that the SOF were not involved in combat.
This is not mission creep as Roland Paris would argue, but deceptive government messaging. If the govt slid into combat, then it would be mission creep. But that is not what happened, aside from one firefight. But this is also not akin to what the CF did in Bosnia or other peacekeeping missions, as the CF did not tag targets for someone else in those efforts (as far as we know).
So, we have much muddled/confusing/conflicting tales being told now that just undermine the credibility of the government and the Canadian Forces. More transparency at the start would have largely avoided this.
I will post tomorrow on combat vs. whatever, boots on the ground vs sneakers and all that.