Canada pulled out of aerial fight against ISIS, possibly too scared to continue

CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft from 409 Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta refuel in the air during Exercise Vigilant Eagle 13 on Aug. 28, 2013. Photo: Cpl. Vicky Lefrancois, DAirPA

Canada has decided to revise their strategy and role in fighting ISIS alongside their coalition partners – which mostly consists of the United States.

A few weeks ago, Canada officially grounded their CF-18 aircraft from conducting any flights over Iraq or Syria.

According to a release, the CF-18s conducted 251 raids on Islamic State targets during the 16-month mission, including 246 in Iraq and five in Syria.

Canada’s prime minister is in favor of a counter insurgency role that was more prevalent during the last years of Operation Iraqi Freedom but it has also been suggested the decision was made out of fear once Russian aircraft entered Syria.

Canadian officials believe their military forces can best support the coalition through the use of combat advisors and intelligence officials on the ground.

According to Joint Publication 3-24 Counterinsurgency, “COIN [Counter Insurgency] plans and orders should integrate and synchronize operations, forces, and capabilities in a manner that addresses the root causes of insurgency and neutralizes insurgents.”

While the coalition air campaigns may “neutralize insurgents” they do not address the “root causes” of insurgent actions.

“Large-scale guerrilla actions” such as ISIS’s major military actions are only the tip of a pyramid diagram that describes the actions that build an Insurgency.

Figure 11-2

The 3-24 publication – prepared under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) in 2013 to reduce redundancy between the military branches’ COIN publications – states, “insurgent elements operate through covert or clandestine methods, subverting existing political and civil institutions to support the insurgency or damage the legitimacy of the HN government.”

Canadian support on the ground may better serve the coalition than their aging fleet of CF-18s by intelligence gathering that could lead to the interdiction of ISIS support elements.

Canada is currently seeking replacements for the CF-18 aircraft and feel vulnerable to threats in Iraq in Syria.

According to Christopher Sand’s statements – the head of the Center for Canadian Studies at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies – Canada’s decision to ground their aircraft was out of fear of an accident, ISIS anti-aircraft guns or a direct engagement with Russian aircraft in Syria and Iraq.

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18s were first delivered in 1982 and are overdue for updating but not necessarily outdated for use in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.

During the Gulf War Royal Air Force CF-18s flew more than 5,700 hours and flew 56 bombing missions – which were mainly behind enemy lines.  During the war and the complete time the CF-18 has been in Canadian service it has never been shot down or crashed in or over enemy territory.

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