OTTAWA—On Feb. 15, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan emerged from a NATO conference in Brussels and hinted that Canada would be willing to support the alliance’s request for an expanded training role in Iraq. Sajjan could offer no specifics on how many Canadian soldiers would be involved or what their role would be, but somehow he remains confident that this time around the training of the Iraqi security forces will be successful.
What makes Sajjan’s broad comments laughable is that we still do not know which faction in this complex conflict our soldiers will be training. We now have a few hundred elite commandos sitting idle in the Middle East because their training missions in Iraq in support of both Kurdish militia and Iraqi government troops were suspended after these two groups began fighting each other.
There is also a handful of Canadian combat engineers in Iraq conducting training in regards to the clearing of booby traps and unexploded munitions.
However, in a bizarre move last June, the Trudeau Liberals had promised to keep our military in Iraq until the summer of 2019. At the time this arbitrary mission extension was announced, Daesh (also known as Islamic State, ISIS, and ISIL) was already reduced to a handful of diehard zealots fighting in the rubble of Mosul.
As expected, the last of the Daesh evildoers were eliminated weeks later, and equally predictable was the fact that the diverse factions of the United States-led, anti-Daesh coalition began to fight among themselves.
Now NATO wants to bring in more elite trainers to train more young Iraqi men how to fire weapons and drive tanks. With Canada having pledged our military support for another 18 months at least, the decision for Sajjan to join this new training mission was likely a no-brainer. We are there anyway, doing nothing until the summer of 2019, so why not?
However, for Sajjan to think this is a successful strategy is sheer folly.
Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. This is exactly what the West continues to do in conflict after conflict, with the same failed result of increased violence and instability instead of the desired end state of a secure environment.
In Afghanistan in 2001, after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban, NATO members including Canada contributed troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). As the name implies, ISAF was to assist the Afghans in achieving a secure environment.
The plan from the outset was for NATO to train and equip a self-sufficient Afghan security force. Seventeen years later, the alliance has trained hundreds of thousands of young Afghan males how to kill, and poured in massive arsenals of weaponry in the name of security.
The result has been a steady increase in factional violence and descent into violent anarchy. The proposed solution by NATO generals? More training and more weapons for Afghans.
In 2003, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the decision was made by the administration of then-president George W. Bush to immediately disband all of Saddam’s security forces—army, police, border guards, the lot.
This resulted in months of absolute anarchy, looting, and factional bloodletting. As the Iraqi insurgency grew around them, the Americans began recruiting, training, and equipping a new Iraqi security force.
By the time president Barack Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, the Americans had trained and equipped hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers.
However, when Daesh spilled into Iraq from Syria in the summer of 2014, this U.S.-trained force collapsed like a cheap suitcase. The huge, U.S.-supplied arsenal of modern weapons and armoured vehicles were abandoned to Daesh with hardly a shot fired.
Now that Daesh has finally been defeated in Iraq, NATO’s answer is to train more Iraqis how to kill and to bring in more weapons. Sajjan seems to want to send Canadians and he assures reporters that this time it will work.
By Einstein’s reckoning, our defence minister is completely insane. And he is not alone.
Scott Taylor is the editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine.
The Hill Times
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