Skip to content



OTTAWA, Monday, November 20, 2006

The Standing Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4 p.m. to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the chair.


The Chairman: Good afternoon. My name is Colin Kenny, and I am Chairman of the Senate Defence Committee.

Colleagues, we have before us today Colonel David Barr, Commander, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, CANSOFCOM. Col. Barr is an infanteer by trade, having served in 3 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 3PPCLI, in all officer ranks from platoon commander to commanding officer. He served as Chief of Staff Land Forces, Western Area, during the G8 Summit in Kananaskis. Recent staff positions at Department of National Defence, DND, headquarters include Project Director for Land Force Reserve Reconstruction and Executive Assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff. He was appointed commander of the newly created Canadian Special Operations Forces Command in September 2005. That command was officially stood up on February 1, 2006.

Col. Barr, welcome to the committee. Please proceed with your brief statement.

Colonel David E. Barr, Commander, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, National Defence: It is my honour and privilege to appear before this committee. I wish to provide you with an overview of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, CANSOFCOM. I understand that the committee wishes the focus of this meeting to be CANSOFCOM structure, organization and operations. In order to meet that intent, I will speak to what CANSOFCOM is assigned to do, i.e. our strategic tasks and types of missions and our force generation and force employment concepts. This briefing is structured in order to provide the committee with a substantive overview, while not compromising any of the operational security aspects of the command.

To begin, let me describe what CANSOFCOM is and some of its tasks. My command consists of four units and, of course, my command headquarters. The units under my command are Joint Task Force 2, JTF2; the Joint Nuclear Biological Chemical Defence Company, JNBCD Company, in Trenton; the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, SOAS; and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CSOR. The last two are located at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. CANSOFCOM units are strategic assets conceived, built and honed for, what we call, no-fail tasks. My command is a standing integrated force that generates and employs a broad spectrum of agile special operations forces capabilities. Forces are maintained at high readiness and, therefore, CANSOFCOM can respond immediately to threats at home and abroad.

In the domestic security environment, it complements the Canadian Forces', CF, role as the force of last resort, while simultaneously offering specific capabilities that no other department or agency can muster. In the campaign against terrorism, it is a force of choice, capable of applying surgical, discreet and precise capabilities under the most hostile or difficult conditions.

In its endeavours across Canada and around the world, CANSOFCOM responds with a range of task-tailored forces; from robust, multi-purpose special operations task forces to small, special operations groups of specialists. To assist with command and control, it generates and deploys adaptable liaison teams and capable special operations headquarters that facilitate interoperability with CF and other government department security partners as well as our allies.

The success of CANSOFCOM truly relies on its people, who are selected appropriately for their role, trained without compromise, equipped with the best tools available and developed within a single integrated ethos of commitment to excellence and focus on the mission.

My mission is to provide the Chief of the Defence Staff and the operational commanders — of which I am one in addition to Gen. Dumais, Commander of Canada Command, and Lt.-Gen. Gauthier, Commander of Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command — agile, high-readiness special operations forces that are capable of conducting special operations across the spectrum of conflict at home and abroad.

In order to carry out this mission, I have a number of strategic tasks. The first is advice. As the commander of all Canadian special operations, I am the primary source of such advice to the Chief of the Defence Staff in my role as one of those three operational commanders. I am also responsible to provide that advice where appropriate to Commander Canada Command, Gen. Dumais, and Commander Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, Lt.-Gen. Gauthier, in the capacity of senior special operations adviser.

Next is force generation. Given its small size, CANSOFCOM must deploy all elements from a single integrated force generation model to ensure that elements can be brought together rapidly, seamlessly and ensuring that the overall effect is greater than the sum of the parts.

Another strategic task is to conduct operations, obviously. CANSOFCOM is and must continue to be equipped, trained, empowered and ready to conduct operations. These missions originate from the need to respond on short or no notice within a streamlined chain of command; to deliver a limited or precise effect; and/or maintain a high degree of operational security and compartmentalization throughout.

Force development is the strategic task that keeps the command relevant and prepared for battles of today and tomorrow. It is brought about through the union of technology with tactics, techniques and procedures. To meet terrorist and asymmetric threats effectively, this cycle must be compressed and make frequent use of near-off-the-shelf technologies as well as emerging technologies, orienting the broader CF research and development community to our needs.

As a strategic task, I must maintain relationships with our allies. CANSOFCOM has the strategic task to maintain special operations relationships with not only Canada's allies, but also with her Canadian security partners.

From a force generation perspective, CANSOFCOM is capable of generating task forces for both domestic and international commitments. Within the domestic arena, CANSOFCOM is capable of mounting various counter terrorism lines of operations. In general, we continuously maintain, but are not limited to, a high-readiness, immediate-response force in support of the Government of Canada. This capability must be maintainable and is the first priority of all our tasks. Quite simply, it is our job one.

We also maintain a second major response capability. Within the specific sphere of nuclear, chemical and biological defence capability, based on the JNBCD Company, it operates in support of the National Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Team. This capability is truly a partnership with the RCMP and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

In the international context, CANSOFCOM is also capable of deploying special operations task forces of varying sizes and roles.

Next, we have force employment. As stated earlier, as Commander CANSOFCOM, I am the senior CF officer responsible for special operations forces, reporting directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff and maintaining a close working relationship with Canada Command, Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command and the Strategic Joint Staff.

Within these command and control constraints, a number of force employment scenarios are possible. First, in relation to what I talked about as job one, is domestic counterterrorism. CANSOFCOM is uniquely structured and trained to provide the domestic counterterrorism response of last resort with two particular strategic assets: JTF2 and the JNBCD Company. Under the Canadian Forces Armed Assistance Directions, CFAAD, the Chief of the Defence Staff deploys my forces when requested by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada to do so. In the old days, the request was made by the Solicitor General of Canada.

With respect to out-of-area operations, these can vary considerably in scale and scope. At the upper end, they consist of the special operations task force’s structures based upon a core of either JTF2 or the newly created Canadian Special Operations Regiment. At the lower end of the scale, they could consist of small teams for specialized missions such as VVIP protection.

In conclusion, we have only just begun building a command by bringing together the existing units — JTF2, JNBCD Company and 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron — and creating one new unit, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. We clearly have more work to do. However, if we are to achieve an organization that is a sustainable system, we need to continue to be resourced and equipped and receive that priority of effort we have received to date from the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Government of Canada.

That concludes my opening remarks. At this time, I would be pleased to clarify any points in my remarks and respond to any questions.

I must remind you, if, for reasons of operational security, I cannot give you a complete answer to a question, I will try to provide as much information as I can without jeopardizing the safety of the men and women in my command or their ability to carry out their missions.

Senator Atkins: Thank you. After describing your responsibilities, you have an awesome task.

Col. Barr: An awesome task and an awesome job.

Senator Atkins: Help me clarify the line of staff. You report directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff. Under you, there are four units that report to you. What kind of commanders are in charge of those units? Are they lieutenant colonels as well?

Col. Barr: For JTF2, the three commanders are lieutenant colonels. JTF2 can be commanded in the rank of lieutenant colonel or promoted therein to full colonel. In that manner, they could carry on, so we have a commanding officer for more than just one year.

The 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron is commanded by a lieutenant colonel. The Canadian Special Operations Regiment is commanded by a lieutenant colonel. The JNBCD Company is presently commanded by a major, but in combination of both plans approved to expand its capability as well as in recognition of what a specialized capability it is, in the future — hopefully, as early as this summer — it will move up to be commanded by a lieutenant colonel.

Senator Atkins: You referred to no-fail tasks. How many times under your command have you been tested in terms of calls to special assignments or problems that face your command?

Col. Barr: We have responded several times in terms of readiness to be there at the right time and place with the right capability in case something goes wrong.

We have been and are deployed on operations in Afghanistan. I can assure you that whether or not we are in an anticipatory mode, as we are overseas, our special operations forces have always risen to the task — in the past, today and no doubt in the future.

If I could clarify, when I mentioned the phrase "no-fail tasks," we do not use that loosely. We are very serious about it; it drives much of what we do. For many of the tasks, if not all, we are being called upon because there truly is either no one else that can do it, and/or we are the only capability that can complete it or can complete it best.

A classic example would be hostage rescue. We are the best that the people of Canada can look to in a situation that is beyond the capability of traditional law enforcement agencies to complete.

When they turn to us through the mechanisms described, it is because we truly are that force of last resort. In that sense, we see that we do not have failure as an option. If we fail, there is no one else behind us. No-fail informs everything we do in our ethos.

Senator Atkins: You are commandos.

Col. Barr: No. We are special operators. "Commando" is not a bad term. It actually describes a great capability. I know the term is used often when talking about our operators. However, they are truly special operators.

Senator Zimmer: When you use the phrase "special task groups", do you have special task groups for special situations, or is it one group that covers all situations?

Col. Barr: This is a message I remind my own organization. I do not send units out to complete a task, such as the JTF2 or the JNBCD Company. I send out a special operations task force that, depending upon the nature of the task, may be heavily weighted by one of the organizations.

The whole raison d'être of building CANSOFCOM, adding the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and bringing the four units together is that it truly allows me to put out a special operations task force that is task-tailored to the specifics of the job. As I stated, that could be primarily JTF2 personnel with the others in a supporting role. That is often the case.

In another example, it may be the Canadian Special Operations Regiment with other elements in a supporting role. The JNBCD Company might have a very specific task and be the core of a very small special operations task force.

Senator Atkins: Are you expanding JTF2?

Col. Barr: Yes.

Senator Atkins: First, is your facility appropriate for that expansion? Second, are you finding military personnel you can recruit for these special operations?

Col. Barr: With respect to the expansion, no, the facility is not big enough or appropriate enough. In some ways we have outgrown the facility, and we have outgrown the neighbourhood.

A study has been completed that offers recommendations through the chief and the minister, and at the appropriate time will be presented to the Government of Canada, whereby we anticipate a decision will be made to move JTF2 to a new location.

With respect to your second question, we have no difficulty in finding recruits. I believe the real question is: Are there enough recruits of a high enough quality?

We will never compromise our standards. We cannot mass generate special operations forces. We consider that a special operations truism. However, we have no shortage of volunteers.

The capability of the average soldier, sailor, airman and airwoman is tremendous. Indeed, particularly with the combat experience occurring on deployed operations, we are finding that the overall calibre of the men and women applying for special operations, including JTF2, is quite high. JTF2 is growing slowly.

Senator Atkins: In expanding, based on the qualifications you look for, does taking these people out not cause some problems within different units in the military?

Col. Barr: Specifically, attempting to aggressively expand and grow the Canadian Special Operations Regiment is a challenge right now. In particular, that challenge is for the army. Although the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, the new organization at Petawawa, is a joint organization that is manned by people from the air force, the army and the navy, the preponderance of the early growth is anticipated to come from the army. That is just the way it is.

Right now, with the operations in Afghanistan and the enhanced commitments to combat operations there, the army is under a tremendous pressure and strain. Thus, given the pressures they are under, they are finding it harder to let people go to my organization, specifically to the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.

The Chairman: More specifically, Col. Barr, are you bleeding leaders away from line units or are the skills for which you are looking not necessarily those that would make a good non-commissioned, NCO, or a good junior officer?

Col. Barr: There is a concern that we take the best, the cream of the crop, from other organizations. That is not completely true. Let there be no doubt that those who come to us are tremendous people. We look for a broad range of skill sets, characteristics and attributes, many of which make a good NCO and many of which make a good young officer. However, we are not bleeding off that junior leadership. Indeed, we look for people who have maturity and experience as opposed to that young leadership. Yes, we take good people, but not necessarily the cream of the crop.

I am not sure I answered that question very well.

The Chairman: The question really was: Is it a different skill set than you might need to lead a platoon or to train a group of recruits? Is it the same person and, therefore, are they in shorter supply in the other units?

Col. Barr: There is greater commonality between what would make a good army officer and a good army senior non-commissioned officer between the army and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. There is probably more commonality.

As to what we look for in leadership in our operators in JTF2, it may or may not be common. There are so many unique skills that are looked for in the JTF2 operator that it may or may not be something that would make them a good officer or a good NCO in the army.

Senator Atkins: Once you get them, how long does it take to train them?

Col. Barr: In JTF2, it probably takes about a year from the time they have been fully selected to when they would become employable. For the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, I can give you our most recent example. We stood up that organization with a team back in the new year. Officially, it would have been February 1, the same time the command stood up. In early April, they started a 16-week special operations basic course, which concluded August 11. They are now undergoing, what we would call, collective training; previous training was for more individual skills. They are training in small groups as well as to practise working with elements of JTF2 for that interoperability. We anticipate that they will be ready for employment any time in the new year. That gives you a sense of the training period. There is still a significant training period before they are ready for operations. It is a longer period to get an operator fully up and qualified in JTF2 than it is in the other organizations.

Senator Atkins: They are over in Afghanistan. Are they identified as special forces over there?

Col. Barr: We do have special operations forces in Afghanistan. They wear whatever dress and equipment is specific to the mission and the task. They do not wear a badge that says "special operations." They wear uniforms.

Senator Atkins: Would normal infantry people know who they are?

Col. Barr: If they saw someone, they might say that that person looks like a special operations operator by virtue of their operational grooming standards or perhaps some of the unique equipment that special operators might have.

The Chairman: Given the amount of training that is involved, do you have a significantly different ratio between your authorized strength and your trained and effective strength?

Col. Barr: Could you clarify that, please, sir?

The Chairman: You describe a situation that requires a lot of training. I assume that while people are undergoing training they are on your authorized strength, but you would not count them as trained and effective.

Col. Barr: That is right.

The Chairman: Therefore, on any given day would your turnout of the number of people that you could actually use be far lower?

Col. Barr: That would be true during the training period for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. For example, we started that first course with 170-odd people. You are right; in that stand-up of the organization, it was well more than half the unit that would not have been able to do operations.

As we go into another cycle and another course runs, you are right, those people who have been selected and brought in is a high percentage of the total unit. Over time, as the unit grows and gets to its end-state strength, the number of people required to come in each year to sustain that strength will get smaller.

With regard to JTF2, it is still a relatively small number of people who are selected and then undergo the long course to qualify them as special operators, assaulters. They would not be deployable during that time, but it is actually a fairly small number from year to year.

Senator Banks: Col. Barr, thank you for being here. When we visited JTF2 in its present place, the idea that we subsequently heard was that the number of people who were involved would be approximately doubled from that time. Has that happened? Has that been authorized? Is it in train? If so, how close are you to achieving that number? You do not have to talk about the number.

Col. Barr: We are not there yet.

Senator Banks: Is the aim to double, give or take a nickel?

Col. Barr: I do not believe it would be necessarily doubling what is there now.

As I recall, it was the post-9/11, 2001 budget whereby $119 million was given to the Department of National Defence with the express intent of doubling the capacity of JTF2.

To be sure, the unit has grown significantly, but we are not quite there at end state.

I can say we are on track to get there; certainly, on the supporter’s side, namely, headquarters, service support and intelligence. We will make that target.

As to whether we can meet the growth we had wanted in the time we wanted for the operators, as I mentioned, we grow slowly because we do not compromise the standard. However, it has certainly grown significantly since 2001.

Senator Banks: Is an approximate doubling still the end you have in mind with respect to JTF2?

Col. Barr: Do you mean as a doubling of our capability?

Senator Banks: I mean of what it was when we were there in 2003.

Col. Barr: I thought you were there fairly recently.

Senator Banks: No, it was a couple of years ago. It seems recently to all of us, but I believe it was 2003. Is that what you have in mind, just as an approximation?

Col. Barr: That is about right. I am hedging a little not so much because of the numbers game, but more because we think of it in terms of our capability, and doubling the capability may not necessarily mean a doubling of numbers. It is a rough equation, but not necessarily an equation.

Senator Banks: Since that time and since your present command has been stood up, there is the addition to it of a regiment that is called a regiment. Is it an army regiment?

Col. Barr: No, sir.

Senator Banks: It is a regiment of the Canadian Forces, which has in it members from all forces. If we were ever to see a parade of it, would we see different insignia and different uniforms, because those members still stay members of their parent forces?

Col. Barr: No, sir. They come to the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. If they were on parade in their dress uniforms, and came from the army, they would be wearing a green uniform; from the air force, light blue. However, they will all wear this, and that is unique.

Senator Banks: It is the cap badge that is distinct.

Col. Barr: No, it is a tan beret.

Senator Banks: They would wear their individual cap badges perhaps on that?

Col. Barr: Yes, sir.

Senator Banks: It is a regiment, and I gather that it would never, in the conventional sense, be in the field as a regiment. Is that correct?

Col. Barr: I would not rule it out.

Senator Banks: It would be in a force-on-force situation.

Col. Barr: It would be rare. In most of the force employment models, most of the scenarios we foresee, it probably would have a company group or, what we call, a direct action company deployed. It might have elements of its regimental headquarters with it and would be part of an overall special operations task force, but I would not rule it out. It could, in extreme, do a task that might be associated with a ranger battalion in the United States.

Senator Banks: That is what I am thinking. If you have 750 people, who are trained to a standard that is different — if not higher than other regiments — when a rotation comes up, there would be a great temptation to use them as a unit. However, you say that would be rare, if at all.

Col. Barr: I believe it would be rare. If it is treated as just another conventional unit — not that there is anything wrong with conventional units, I commanded 3PPCLI and am proud of it — but if it was thrown at a conventional task, then we would have, frankly, made a mistake. Due to the training, investment and selection, if we were to put it to a task for which someone else was able, then that is probably not a task for our special operations forces.

Senator Banks: It would be reasonable, as a characterization in respect of the level of training and capability of people, that if JTF2, for example, is taken as 100 per cent in its capabilities, talents and the kinds of tasks it can do, then the regiment, which, I gather, is essentially a support group, would be trained to something like 75 per cent.

Col. Barr: I can understand that analogy, but it is not perfect. For certain tasks, JTF2 is clearly the best capability we have. Your analogy of 100 per cent for a hostage rescue, let us say, is absolutely right and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment would bring a supporting role to something like a hostage rescue scenario.

However, particularly in operations abroad, there are some types of operations where it would be better to have the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, given its training, its insertion capability and its size than throw a small element of JTF2 at a particular problem.

In the main, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment enables special operations and, specifically, JTF2; thus, JTF2 can focus on the precise tasks for which they are so well selected and trained. However, particularly in out-of-area operations, we see that the Canadian Special Operations Regiment would be the more appropriate organization to put to the task.

Senator Banks: Within the way it works and within the feelings of the people there, is the Canadian Special Operations Regiment the AHL to the NHL of the JTF2? Does one graduate?

Col. Barr: We foresee that the Canadian Special Operations Regiment will be a great source of JTF2 operators. We really do.

Senator Banks: In some special operations senses, are they more qualified prospects, because they have been selected, have had some special operations training and are sort of partway there?

Col. Barr: Many sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen might use the Canadian Special Operations Regiment as their own intermediate objective.

Senator Banks: To see if they like it.

Col. Barr: Right; but to be sure, we will have, and hope to continue to have, people who go directly from the army, air force or navy into JTF2.

Senator Banks: That would be the case particularly with those who have a high level of training and skill, for example, in surveillance electronics.

Finally, regarding the personnel aspect, you talked about where the people come from and whether that is a problem with staffing. At the other end, when you have trained people to a high level in, for example, electronic surveillance, they are surely much desired by private security contractors around the world. Do you have a leak of highly qualified people? How will you be able to keep them for when you need them, rather than having them trained at huge public expense only to go off to guard a mine someplace?

Col. Barr: That became an issue particularly for JTF2, once again, with the post-9/11 requirement for security in places like Baghdad or Afghanistan and the $1,000-a-day contractors doing security.

Senator Banks: Your people are among the best in the world.

Col. Barr: We were a targeted source for that type of employment.

Three factors have mitigated that. First, we did get approved, through the Treasury Board, a significant allowance package and a tiered allowance package for our operators and all members of JTF2, dependent upon what job they do. It is in recognition of hardship, risk, readiness, commitment and the tremendous investment we have put in them and the sacrifices they have accepted. It is a way to properly compensate them, but that has helped to stem that flow in a big way.

Second, some of the operators have seen some of their buddies come back from places abroad and when told about who they work with, the conditions they work under and who might be on their left and who might be on their right, that thrill is gone for some of that type of employment.

Finally, although I do acknowledge that the economics of the $1,000 a day did attract some people initially, I do wish to stress that our people do take very seriously and personally the importance and the commitment of what they do. The reward to themselves is the service they do — and, frankly, you might be amazed we have not lost many more. It has been because they truly are committed, dedicated people regardless of whether the money is there or not. It is important, but I would argue it is secondary to the reasons why they are a special operator in JTF2 or elsewhere within the command.

Senator Banks: That is very good to hear.

The Chairman: Before going on, I have two related questions. One, when the committee spent time at Dwyer Hill, we were concerned about the number of standby hours. It seemed to us that people were kept on a very short leash for a very long period of time in order to be able to deploy quickly.

How do you address that, and how do people maintain a reasonable lifestyle if they might be called out on short notice at any time?

Col. Barr: It is a concern, and it continues to be a concern. I do not want to sound callous, but part of that comes with a commitment to special operations. We have a higher threshold for operational tempo, which comes with signing up for it. However, we certainly do not want to burn out our people, and, equally important, we do not want to burn out the families. One way we can mitigate that is to grow the command; to grow the unit so we do have more people to create, what I call, the third element of our tiered readiness. Number one is to deploy; two is on standby to deploy; and we like to have that third one, which is on a bit of a break — reconstitution.

It has been difficult for us to get that third piece of the readiness, but we are striving toward it.

The Chairman: A corollary to that is, what happens to the soldiers when they leave? Senator Banks was talking about them going to contractors. In a more general sense, do you keep a registry of your soldiers when they leave, and do you know where all the former members of JTF2 are?

Col. Barr: Yes, we do keep track when they leave the unit as to where they are going. I cannot categorically say how long we do that, but certainly when they leave we know where they are going, and it is noted.

One reason is we try very hard, and another part of CANSOFCOM I did not speak to, is we have established a CANSOFCOM or special operations forces primary reserve list. When people leave, they may just be tired of that pace for so long and need a break. We do not want to lose them as a resource for good, so we will sign them up on a special reserve list in order that they do not lose their security clearance. Then we will ask them to, perhaps, help us instruct on the Canadian Special Operations Regiment course for four weeks, or go to Afghanistan in one of the various headquarters as a special operations liaison. That is one way we try to take advantage of the tremendous investment in them.

The Chairman: I was also thinking of the investment if it goes bad, and the skills that you are providing people can be used in all sorts of areas. My question had more to do with, on any given day, do you have recent up-to-date addresses of the whereabouts of former members?

Col. Barr: I would have to get back to the committee on that. I can confidently say that when someone leaves the community, we know where he or she is going.

The Chairman: You know where they are going, but do you know five or 10 years later?

Col. Barr: I cannot answer that authoritatively now, but I will get back to you.

Senator Atkins: When you recruit someone for JTF2, does that person sign any kind of an agreement to come in, and is it for a certain period of time?

Col. Barr: Yes, sir, they do. There are two aspects to that. They are committed to serve at least three years with us after successful completion of training as a result of the investment. For a reservist, that is a longer period of time. Of course, it has to be mutually beneficial for that period of time; because if we are not happy, then we break that side of it and say, "Thank you very much." However, in recognition we do have those types of commitments.

Senator Atkins: Do they have to sign an agreement?

Col. Barr: That is an understanding; that is right. The other agreement they formally sign is that the capabilities, techniques, equipment, range of things that are listed, they are bound not to disclose those, not only while at the unit or in CANSOFCOM, but also for good. They are bound by that.

Senator Day: Colonel Barr, thank you very much for your explanation of how your group fits into the modern day, transformed Armed Forces, or transforming Armed Forces.

Do you recruit anyone off the street, out of high school or out of university directly into special operations?

Col. Barr: No, we do not.

Senator Day: You take them all out of the Armed Forces, and you were indicating some difficulty from that point of view. Can you not supplement your recruiting by bringing in direct-entry people?

Col. Barr: We could. To date, our experience has been that we want that soldier, sailor, airman or woman to have had previous experience in the Canadian Forces, to have proven themselves in the Canadian Forces and to ensure they have thought about what they truly wish to do. Ideally, they have had an operational experience under their belt before coming to us; they have proven themselves in operations. That is not mandated, but it is nice.

I will say that other special operations communities, specifically the Australians, have experimented with direct recruiting into their special operations units right off the street with mixed success. They have had some success, but as far as that success versus tremendous training and how many do not make it, or whether it has been an overall successful venture, the jury is still out. However, I will not rule out anything. We pride ourselves in not being single-minded as to how to achieve a solution. If the solution requires us to provide more training to someone straight off the street, I would not rule it out. However, at present, based on our experience, we have not yet recruited directly off the street.

Senator Day: In your earlier presentation, there was one area I did not understand. You stated that in order to carry out your mission, the command has a number of strategic tasks and one of the strategic tasks is to conduct operations and maintain a high degree of operational security and compartmentalization.

Does that mean that when you are in the theatre in Afghanistan, your people are off and do not stay within the same compound as everyone else? What does that mean?

Col. Barr: That is true in Afghanistan, but that is not really the sense of what we mean by compartmentalization. That speaks to the concept of need to know.

Someone may have a security classification that means they are cleared, they have been background checked and can receive secret information; but in our business, that is just step one of determining whether someone needs to know something. Even more important is: Does that person need to know? There is concern that an operation would be jeopardized because word would get out. For that reason, we very carefully compartmentalize information based on someone being, yes, cleared to have it, but also someone needing to have it.

Senator Day: That is presumably because you are dealing with highly sensitive information, or could be.

Col. Barr: It is a combination of the sensitivity of the information, and the consequence of failure should that information leak out. The task or the mission is either so high profile or sensitive, or the consequence could be so high that we wish to minimize who actually has the information.

Senator Day: Do you see, over the long term, the likelihood that the JTF2 will become just another regiment within special operations, or will you always maintain a separate identity for the group under JTF2?

Col. Barr: Each of the four units will carve out its own identity. Clearly, JTF2 has, in past 14 years, carved out a significant history, legacy and identity with success in operations, with blood, with wounded, with the presidential unit citation. JTF2 will always be the centre of gravity of Canadian special operations.

Senator Day: Do they wear a separate cap badge?

Col. Barr: No.

Senator Day: If they were PPCLI or one of the other infantry regiments and then they joined JTF2, they are still wearing that cap badge. Are they now wearing the tan-coloured beret?

Col. Barr: Yes.

Senator Day: So all four of your groups are. Tell me about the air force group, the special helicopter group; they are down in Trenton, I think.

Col. Barr: No, in Petawawa.

Senator Day: Do they have to go through land training as well, or are they just trained as airmen?

Col. Barr: The main focus of their special operations training relates to what they do, which is flying helicopters and flying them better than anyone else. With their CO, the only mandate I really impose upon him, as I do with all the units, is that I want all his people to be deployable. There is a certain level of fitness that is associated with being able to deploy. However, as far as what he determines is the level of additional flying they have to do to be able to truly fly special operators in and out of scenarios and missions, I leave that to him.

Senator Day: Do they have tactical helicopters dedicated to your special operations, or do they just draw on them when you need them?

Col. Barr: No, in fact that was what was so significant about the new command relationship of 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron. It used to be a tactical helicopter squadron; it belonged to the air force. It still belongs to the commander of the air force, but he has topped it to me under what is the strongest level of commitment that I can have, which is called operational command. I task it, it is mine; I give it its direction as far as what I expect it to do, and it is responsive to me except for those issues that neither I nor the commander of the air force would want me to be responsible for: air worthiness, flight safety, et cetera. Those links are clearly still there back to the air force.

Senator Day: How many tactical helicopters do you have?

Col. Barr: I have 17 right now that are in the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron.

Senator Day: Of those, how many are in Afghanistan, the Kandahar region?

Col. Barr: There are no helicopters deployed in Afghanistan.

Senator Day: In Afghanistan, if your group had a task to perform, would they have to hitch a ride with someone else while they were over there?

Col. Barr: Yes, sir. However, in regard to the hitching of the ride, there is more of a formal understanding in the relationship with the various allies with which we work to determine that if and when our operations require aviation support, or any other support for that matter, they would be provided to them.

Senator Day: Take the scenario of a task that had to be performed, and let us go to Afghanistan. We know there are battle groups over there now, there is major activity going on and there is provincial reconstruction. Your group is off doing a special task. How do they keep in touch with the rest of the armed forces people and other Canadians who are over there, who are not in uniform, since they are not working with them? How do they keep in contact and ensure that they are not stepping on one another's toes, especially out in the field? What is the line of command and control?

Col. Barr: As you appreciate, I will have to walk carefully around this one. First and foremost, all Canadian troops deployed to Afghanistan — be they special operations, army, Hercules, the Provincial Reconstruction Team, the Strategic Advisory Team in Kabul — have a direct relationship to the senior Canadian, the commander of all Canadian Forces, the commander of Task Force Afghanistan. There is that relationship; that is a national relationship. That does not necessarily mean that commander — General Grant, it used to be General Fraser — would be saying, "I want you to do this task."

The Canadian special operations forces continue to work under Operation Enduring Freedom. The beauty of the relationship is that it is not just the Canadian Special Operations Regiment; any special operations do need to coordinate the effects they will achieve in the area of who owns that piece of turf and who owns the overall mission for that area. That coordination is done because, in truth, if we did not have the support of the commander of that area — for example, let us hypothetically say that if there was a special operations mission that was going to be done in General Fraser's area when he was there — it would behove the Canadian special operations task force commander to get the support of General Fraser, so that, as he gets his approval up the chain of command, it will get approved. That is always a question they will ask at a higher level.

The beauty of it is that the Canadian and, in this case, the NATO or International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, gets the benefit of having a special operations effect coordinated in its area, which has been enabled by some of those assets that come only under the umbrella of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Senator Day: Where does the request come from for that task?

Col. Barr: Once again, the commander of a certain area may have identified certain targets, needs or effects that he would like to have occur in his area. Depending upon what the targets or effects are, a decision may be made as to whether that is appropriate for conventional forces to do, or whether that is an effect that is more appropriate for special operations forces.

Senator Day: If it is determined it is a special operations task, does the request come from, for example, General Fraser — when he was there — to you? How does that flow down for you to determine that you have to put a task force together and what you will need, in terms of a communicator, some intelligence people, et cetera — whatever team you put together for the task?

Col. Barr: The task for special operations forces, including Canadian special operations forces can originate from a variety of sources. They may originate from a conventional commander on the ground — General Fraser being a good example, or General Grant now. They could come from a self-generated target. Perhaps their intelligence section had been able to develop and identify a target that was appropriate to them, which would still have to be approved; or it could be a top-down from their own higher chain of command within the allied and coalition effort.

Senator Banks: Would this be a Dutch officer?

Col. Barr: Would it come directly from the Dutch commander of Regional Command South to a Canadian special operations unit? That is probably unlikely. However, he would express his desire to have, perhaps, a mission set accomplished, and then at a certain level that might be determined to be a special operations task. It could go to a Canadian special operations organization, or it could go to another allied special operations organization.

Senator Day: For example, in Afghanistan, does a request go out to all NATO countries outlining the task for everyone to assess, including you from the Canadian point of view; or does somebody make the decision that Canada can do it and ask you to put together a team?

Col. Barr: There is no mission that is done by our special operations task force in Afghanistan that is not seen by the senior Canadian in theatre. That is probably about as far as I can take that.

Senator St. Germain: I had the privilege and honour of sitting for four hours in the airplane with General Fraser. That was likely the most enlightening four-hour trip on an airplane I have had in the 23-and-a-half years I have been travelling back and forth to Vancouver.

It is as a result of that that I have this question: How quickly can a decision be accelerated, or can you be activated relatively momentarily? My understanding from speaking to General Fraser is that the relationship between the forces over there is tremendous, with the support of the Americans supplying helicopters at the present time. How rapid a response can be given, and how quickly can you get forces on the ground at a particular request?

Col. Barr: The best I will be able to tell you is that we are fast. That truly is an area where I cannot say that we are at a specific amount of hours of readiness. We consider an indication of our readiness as an operational security issue that I cannot speak to, but we pride ourselves in being agile and responsive.

Senator St. Germain: Do our special forces work with the U.S. and the Dutch? Do they all have special forces units similar to ours?

Col. Barr: Most of the countries have special operations forces. We, historically, have tended to work most closely with the special operations forces of the United States, U.K., Australia and New Zealand. That is not to say we have not or will not work with other special forces organizations, but those are the main players that we, by experience, tradition and like-mindedness, tend to work with.

Senator Day: I have two short questions. I can ask them both and then you can answer.

With respect to the Joint Nuclear Biological Chemical Defence Company, which is part of your group now in special operations, at one time we heard there would be some of that training within the reserves. Can you tell me if it is still part of the proposal within the Armed Forces to do that?

My second question is unrelated, but was prompted by your earlier discussion in relation to the frequency with which your special operations people, because of the size — and you are hoping to grow— are required to participate in tasks at the present time. Are they task oriented; do they go over, do the task and come back, or are they in Kandahar, Afghanistan and in other places for a rotational period of six months like the other Armed Forces personnel?

Col. Barr: I have to be careful that I do not get out of my lane here, because that additional training that the reserves may be taking on in this realm is very much within the realm of the army. I can speak to it a bit, as a few years ago I was involved in the land force reserve restructure, as chief of staff to General Finch. I can only speak to what I knew to be the overall intent. It was not that the reserve units took on that JNBCD Company role to duplicate what truly only our company in Trenton can do. It would be to provide another level of depth to that.

In particular, it could be with regard to decontamination. All the scenarios call for significant decontamination capability, which is probably one of the greatest misperceptions about the role of my organization. It is not to do mass decontamination; it is to detect, survey, monitor, and to decontaminate law enforcement folk or my own operators involved in an incident, but not to provide the mass decontamination for people who may be victims of an incident. I believe that may be where the army will focus on developing its nuclear, biological and chemical defence, NBCD, capability in the reserves. I must caveat that, and say I am outside my area of expertise and maybe a couple of years out of date.

Senator Day: Is deployment time task oriented or a six-month rotation?

Col. Barr: It is not to say we might not send some people away for six months, but we are not the type of organization that builds its deployments on six-month rotations. We are, generally speaking, more a surge type capability, where we will go in for a shorter period of time, do the task and come back. However, in an area where the task just keeps continuing, we have also had to find our balance for what is the right amount of time for having someone do the task. Depending on the task, it may be that one group of people is sent for shorter periods of time and another group of people, based on what they are doing in support of that, perhaps stays for a longer time. We are not held to a fixed model.

Senator Day: That is very helpful and informative. Thank you, Col. Barr.

The Chairman: Col. Barr, before we go on, I have a question about prisoners. When you deploy with Operation Enduring Freedom and you are being supported by one of our allies, what rules pertain to prisoners?

Col. Barr: First, all the rules of the Geneva Conventions Act apply and what the Government of Canada has said it will or will not do with regard to detainees and to whom they will or will not turn them over.

The Chairman: If you are deploying a small number of people and you are dependent upon other people for support and logistics, can you really make good on that?

Col. Barr: Yes. Yes, we do, sir. I can assure this committee that we are in complete compliance with Canadian policy with regard to detainees — prisoners, if you wish — as to whom we hand over detainees and prisoners taken in the conduct of operations.

Senator Zimmer: Thank you, Col. Barr, not only for your remarks today, but also for your appearance. It is inspiring and sobering.

I want a point of clarification on a previous comment. You indicated that once a person has left, you may know where they have gone but over the years you may not be able to locate them. Are they subject to recall? Can you bring them back for assignment, or do you do that?

Col. Barr: The only way we would recall them for an assignment would be if they were on the primary reserve list. I would not rule out that we might say, "Listen, you are not on the primary reserve list. Have you thought about coming back?" We might do that. I truly do have to get back to the committee as to whether we do or do not track people, because there is also that balance of security and privacy issues. I do not want to say that we are unless I can tell you exactly what we are doing in this regard. I want to be careful.

Senator Zimmer: Yesterday, our Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Hillier, was at the Grey Cup game in Winnipeg. He spoke glowingly of the Armed Forces at the CFL Commissioner's brunch. It was remarkable to hear the humility, response and respect paid to the Armed Forces. It leads to my question about terrorism and threats.

What are the major threats to Canada against which you principally plan? Who decides on the definition of these threats, and how do they do it?

Col. Barr: What are the main threats, and who decides?

Senator Zimmer: Yes, and what the definition is and how they respond to those.

Col. Barr: In determining the threats, in particular to Canada domestically, whether directly or indirectly, there is a wide variety of partners involved, of which the Canadian Forces is just a small part, including my intelligence cell. Once again, I do not want to go out of my bounds, but when I think of that, I think of organizations such as CSIS, the RCMP and the Communications Security Establishment, CSE. There is a bigger intelligence community that helps the Government of Canada to articulate and to determine what the threats are and who is best mandated to deal with those threats.

Senator Zimmer: It is a combined effort.

Col. Barr: Absolutely, it is a combined effort.

Senator Zimmer: What is your concept of operations for providing aid to the civil powers in the event of a major terrorist attack or asymmetric attack on Canada?

Col. Barr: The operations are fairly well laid out as far as how we would provide the support. Perhaps I could run through a scenario. If you are asking about how a special operations task force, be it JTF2-based, is requested and put into action, then let us use the classic hostage rescue or the taking of a hostage scenario as an example. First, that would fall within the realm of law enforcement agencies. Eventually, if it were deemed at the municipal, provincial or federal level that the capacity was not there to resolve the situation, then a request would come from Minister Day to the Minister of National Defence asking for deployment of the Canadian Forces. If it were specific to that type of scenario, then it would be for my organization.

Prior to that, depending on where the incident was taking place, there could be, what we call, pre-positioning or anticipatory moves. In that case, the commissioner of the RCMP would call the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, to say that the CF might be needed, although not right away, so in the best interest of everybody it would be good to shorten the time lag and pre-deploy the forces. That is the requesting perspective.

Was there a follow-on question, senator?

Senator Zimmer: In the attempt of a major terrorist attack, how do you respond beyond that? Do you correspond with other militaries around the world? As a civilian, I had the good fortune about six years ago to go to NATO installation at Cheyenne Mountain Operations Centre to observe how they work together with other nations around the world. That would be an extension of that question. What other nations do you work with? I presume that you do that with nations all around the world and, if so, what type of operations do you undertake to deal with them in that respect?

Col. Barr: We maintain the links with our major allies, in particular the four or five that I mentioned: The United States, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and others. Continentally, I believe that the Government of Canada is working closely with the Government of the United States to develop plans that would deal with a terrorist threat that might span our borders. Such a plan would have to be worked out and agreed to formally to ensure the interoperability, if it were required, to support a terrorist event that spanned the Canadian-American border.

Senator Zimmer: Your reaction would depend on the kind of terrorist attack, I would imagine.

Col. Barr: Yes.

The Chairman: Col. Barr, in the scenario that you described to Senator Zimmer you spoke about pre-deployment. What happens when departing a crime scene? Let us say, the commander of the unit is invited by the provincial authority or other in charge of the crime scene and signs a contract taking responsibility for the crime scene. He performs his role and then signs the crime scene back to the police commander. In the event that something has gone drastically wrong, which results in an inquiry after the fact, who would conduct that inquiry?

Col. Barr: It would depend on the nature of the concern. I cannot say whether an inquiry would be led by the Department of National Defence or by law enforcement officials.

The Chairman: For example, during a hostage rescue half a dozen passengers might be killed, not just terrorists, leading to concern about whether your people had acted appropriately. Who would examine that?

Col. Barr: Honestly, I cannot tell you who it would be, because I am not certain about that. In the spirit of all inquiries, it would have to be at arm’s-length from the organization involved, whether the RCMP, senior military or both — or beyond that — in order to maintain that arm's-length and prevent a perception of potential bias. I cannot answer that question. It would be at an extremely high level, no doubt.

The Chairman: Would the names of all who participated in the activity be available?

Col. Barr: We would seek to protect the names of our operators. That is different from saying those names would be available. We would seek to protect the disclosure of those names of our operators, so as not to jeopardize their safety or the safety of their families.

Senator Moore: Col. Barr, in your remarks you mentioned that CANSOFCOM units are strategic assets conceived, built and honed for no-fail tasks. I am interested in the tradition of the special operations forces, in particular, Joint Task Force 2. You mentioned that the unit is 14 years old.

Col. Barr: Yes, it stood up on August 1, 1993, but they started building it about one year prior to that date.

Senator Moore: Who did Canada rely on prior to that unit being stood up?

Col. Barr: The task was initially given to the RCMP to take on the counterterrorist, hostage-rescue and high-end capability in terms of the Special Emergency Response Team, SERT. It held that task for several years. For a variety of reasons, a review was done as to whether the task should continue to sit with the RCMP or whether it should go to the military.

Senator Moore: Was the disbanded airborne regiment looked to as that kind of unit in the past?

Col. Barr: No.

Senator Moore: Who did the training of the JTF2 personnel? Was it done in Canada? How did we establish the training protocol in the beginning?

Col. Barr: In the beginning the RCMP put us through the training and there was advice from some of the other premier special operations units.

Senator Moore: From other countries?

Col. Barr: Yes. The first commanding officer, as part of his plan to take on the role, sought the advice and experience of other military special operations forces. The initial training was conducted by the RCMP. Over time, we were able to generate our own instructors.

Senator Moore: Is it an all-Canadian training process that the personnel go through?

Col. Barr: Yes.

Senator Moore: Are there meetings of people at your level from other countries to discuss updating systems or approaches to the training and requirements of personnel in such a special operations force? How often is that reviewed?

Col. Barr: It is an ongoing networking.

Senator Moore: Does that occur between yourself and the commanding officer of the JTF2 and other countries?

Col. Barr: First, it is between the units and their similar-like units in other countries. That is a relationship that takes a long time to build and can be broken very quickly. In terms of operational security, if we prove we cannot guard our operational security, the door closes.

There is a natural networking that shares best practices with respect to equipment, tactics, procedures, et cetera.

The Chairman: Col. Barr, you have made reference a number of times in your testimony to "better than anyone else" and "no-fail tasks." How can the taxpayer know that you are as good as you say you are?

Given the secrecy surrounding your organization, what tests should parliamentarians apply, or how can the taxpayer know they are getting value from your organization and you, in fact, are good? How can we be satisfied that Canadians are getting their money's worth?

Col. Barr: First, Canadians can be assured that their Canadian special operations forces are doing tremendous work and completing the task. I understand that is not the root of your question.

The Government of Canada through its ministers — in particular, its cabinet — is briefed and aware of missions that Canadian special operations task forces complete and the results of those missions. That is the first answer I would provide.

The Chairman: Trust your government?

Col. Barr: We serve the people of Canada, but through the Government of Canada. I believe that the first check, as far as whether there is appropriateness of missions as well as the overall effect we are achieving, occurs through the Government of Canada.

The Chairman: How many ministers are aware of what you and your people do?

Col. Barr: It would depend upon who the Minister of National Defence informed as part of the requirement for there to be Government of Canada approval for all CF missions, let alone the special operations missions. I am not in a position to say whether that is all of cabinet or a subset thereof. I am not present at that briefing.

The Chairman: However, they have a vested interest in your success?

Col. Barr: Yes.

The Chairman: Where should we look for some form of independent evaluation?

Col. Barr: I do not believe there is a requirement for independent evaluation. I believe there is sufficient oversight within the Canadian Forces and to the people of Canada through the Government of Canada — the minister, the cabinet and the Prime Minister.

I believe one of the advantages of having established a CANSOFCOM to actually better integrate, coordinate and supervise the activities of our special operations units has actually added a layer of oversight that was not there before.

The Chairman: You report to the CDS and he reports to the minister. The minister presumably reports to cabinet or the Prime Minister.

For example, we have oversight for organizations like CSIS or the Communications Security Establishment. The work they do can be intrusive, but it is far more benign than the work your organization might do. Yet, they have a similar governmental oversight. There is also an additional body that does not have a vested interest. Is there any merit in that?

Col. Barr: I cannot speak to whether other organizations by the nature of the work they do or the information they seek require additional oversight or not.

Among the type of operations that special operations forces complete on behalf of the people of Canada, I cannot think of an operation for which they would have tremendous concern. Everything we do is in support of the security of Canadians at home or abroad. I do not believe that we have given cause to initiate that concern.

Senator St. Germain: I have a quick question with respect to deployment capabilities.

Do you have immediate transportation available to you for deployment? My understanding is that some of these foreign special force organizations in other countries have committed transportation and mobility features about them that allow them to move instantaneously. I do not want to put you on the spot.

The Chairman: That question was covered earlier.

Col. Barr: We have access to certain aircraft within the inventory of the Canadian Forces presently. If it does not meet the requirement either due to size, lift or readiness, then there is the option of contracting. We may have to pay money to obtain readiness out of contracting.

Certainly, all plans and thoughts I have seen about what is in the future for the Canadian Forces, as far as greater capabilities, strategic lift, medium- to heavy-lift helicopters, if we do not have it now, it certainly looks good that it is coming soon.

Senator St. Germain: Sorry about being repetitious in my question.

Senator Banks: I have a couple of clean-up questions I did not get to earlier, Col. Barr.

I want to get back to this question. I am looking at page 3 of your opening remarks. There was an enumeration at the top. The first one says there is a major response capability addressed in paragraph 1. It says a high-rated estimate response force, et cetera.

Number 2 is a second major response capability. Then there is a blank space, and then number 3. Is number 3 what is referred to in number 2, or is there something missing here?

Col. Barr: In my notes — and hopefully we have the same ones — number 3 addresses nuclear, chemical and biological defence capability.

Senator Banks: Is that the second major response capability?

Col. Barr: No.

Senator Banks: What is the second major response capability?

Col. Barr: Without getting into too much detail, we recognize that there must be more than just the ability to respond to one incident here. If all forces are committed to one incident and are unable to react to something somewhere else, that is not good enough.

Senator Banks: Then that is a redundancy.

I do not believe we have ever asked this question, but I am presuming everybody under your command is a volunteer. Is that right? That is to say, they have volunteered to move from wherever they were before into special operations. Is that the case? Can you comment?

Col. Barr: I must be careful in answering this question because I could get called out on this on a technical perspective.

In the last year, I have had two new organizations that became a part of CANSOFCOM overnight.

Senator Banks: Does that mean you can write their rules as you go along?

Col. Barr: No. I cannot put my hand over my heart and say that every single person in two of the new organizations said they wanted to be there. With my visits to all the units, including the new ones, I see they are keen as mustard about having come to the special operations community, and they are raising the level of their capability to meet that commitment. However, certainly those in the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and JTF2 are all volunteers and, in the fullness of time, if they are not all volunteers now, they will be as soon as possible within all of CANSOFCOM.

Senator Banks: In the regiment and in JTF2, they are all volunteers?

Col. Barr: Yes, sir.

The Chairman: This has been very helpful. Thank you very much. We hope to see you again and hear from you more as your command evolves.

We now have before us Brigadier-General A.J. Howard, Director General Operations, Strategic Joint Staff, of National Defence headquarters. The purpose of today's meeting is to receive an update on the operational situation in Kandahar and examine future operations in the area and to discuss our recent initiatives of the Canadian Forces in Kandahar.

Brigadier-General Howard first joined Canadian Forces in 1978. He was commissioned into the army as an artillery officer and has commanded from troop to brigade group level. He spent over 15 years either serving on operations or in field units, and he has served internationally in Lahr, Germany; Cyprus; the former Yugoslavia; and Washington, D.C. More recently, he was appointed Commanding Officer 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery from 1999 to 2001, and Commander 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, from 2004 to 2006. Brigadier-General Howard was appointed Director General Operations, Strategic Joint Staff at National Defence Headquarters in the summer of 2006.

Brigadier-General A.J. Howard, Director General Operations, Strategic Joint Staff, National Defence: Honourable senators, good evening. I am back again this evening to provide you with a short update on Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan over the last few weeks. My presentation will focus on CF activities, and I am prepared to provide clarification on my presentation afterwards. Questions on activities of other departments involved in Afghanistan are perhaps best addressed to them, but I will do my best.

Before I dive into the detail, let me start by highlighting some of our accomplishments in Afghanistan so far, which we have shared with the government. As you can see in this chart on page 2, Strategic Accomplishments in Theatre, the provision of a strategic assessment team, some 14 members of the Canadian Forces, assists the Afghan government in Kabul with a variety of planning activities associated with security and defence reform.

On the development front, our provincial reconstruction team, PRT, continues to advance, and in the follow-on slides, I will talk more about some of their work.

On the security side, we have recently completed our ninth month of lead of Regional Command South.

The next slide goes to accomplishments and the sterling face of Brigadier-General David Fraser.


Brigadier-General David Fraser officially led the multinational Regional Command South from February 28, 2006 for nine months, as part of an international commitment to ensure regional development and stability. While commanding Regional Command South, Brigadier-General Fraser and his troops tackled many major challenges.


I have listed on the slide here some of the accomplishments that Brigadier-General Fraser and his team of 200 soldiers achieved. Brigadier-General Fraser arrived and began working under Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF. He had command transferred to him from U.S. forces that were operating very thinly throughout the region. He obviously facilitated the arrival of Canadian Forces into Kandahar province, but he also facilitated the implementation of Task Force Helmand, the British in Helmand province and the Dutch into Uruzgan province. He enabled NATO expansion; International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, expansion phase three, which included the transfer of forces from OEF to ISAF command. He and his team strengthened the governance of the Kandahar province. We began with the implementation of Afghan development zones, and a large number of insurgents were pushed out of the Panjwayi region.

Brigadier-General Fraser received the Vimy award last Friday, given to him by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, and, certainly, he and his team deserve a great amount of credit. All Canadians can be proud of what the team accomplished in nine months.

I am moving to the next slide entitled Insurgent Activity.


Taliban insurgency remains largely limited to the south and east of the country.


In Kandahar province, where Canadian troops operate, the Taliban, over the past months, have attempted to re-establish a strong presence to the west of both Zhari and Panjwayi districts, west of Kandahar City and are likely trying to rebuild their ability to defend areas in which they now operate.

Recent Taliban attacks, such as improvised explosive devices, IED, attacks and ambushes against convoys moving along main routes; direct attacks against Canadian troops protecting the construction of the road — code-named Route Summit — and those engaged in the actual construction; and the killing of several prominent government officials and politicians in Kandahar point to a strategy that they are likely to carry on into the winter. Their aims are likely the following: first, to prevent any meaningful reconstruction or humanitarian assistance from taking place — Taliban attacks in Zhari district, in particular, continue to dissuade many locals from returning to their homes while at the same time slowing down or impeding reconstruction; and second, to attempt to prevent any meaningful interaction between Canadian Forces and the local population by making it difficult to hold shuras with local leaders and by forcing us to focus on force protection and prevent us from conducting more outreach activities.


Third, attempt to undermine the improved sense of security in Kandahar City as a result of Operation MEDUSA by way of suicide car bombing in urban areas, by killing more local leaders and by continuing to conduct campaigns of intimidation and make threats in every town and city.


Elsewhere, in many rural areas where there is a strong Taliban presence, they will try to consolidate their hold over the population throughout the winter in order to try to defeat any attempts to spread the Government of Afghanistan influence. Whether in Kandahar City or along the Highway 1 corridor, it may impede Taliban activity over the winter months.

Moving to the next slide entitled Insurgent Activity in the Canadian Area of Operations - Past 2 Weeks, this slide gives a snapshot of insurgent activity against coalition forces which has been reduced from the late summer and early fall period, where we saw numbers much higher than the ones you see here.

As described in the slide, the types of attacks used by the Taliban are quite wide. Our recent defensive stance has forced the Taliban to use indirect fire attacks, such as rocket and mortar attacks, in order to engage us. Furthermore, they still demonstrate the knowledge and skills to mount improvised explosive device attacks. They have, however, pulled back somewhat from conducting direct attacks using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Perhaps they want to prevent being fixed on the ground by our battle group with powerful manoeuvre and firepower capabilities.

To be sure, our presence in Kandahar province is essential if Afghanistan is to move forward. A steady and patient approach will demonstrate resolve with international community to make a difference. We are in Afghanistan to support the Afghan authorities and are determined to help them win the confidence of the people; so that a functional state can be built, and the reign of terror by the Taliban can be neutralized. We certainly all hope that the Taliban will reduce activities and help support elected Afghan authorities.

The next slide is entitled ISAF. This is the current ISAF situation. The commander ISAF's operational main effort remains in setting the conditions for the establishment and expansion of Afghan development zones. I would like to describe that concept to you at the next slide.

The Afghan development zone, ADZ, concept offers an excellent opportunity to bring together security, governance and development in a timely and fully coordinated manner. The ADZs will establish regions that are sufficiently safe to allow focus on reconstruction. Commander Regional Command South's main effort is to develop the Kandahar City ADZ. This is being accomplished by establishing defined areas where development can be optimized through the maintenance of security.

We will promote Afghan governance to initiate, prioritize and execute development initiatives and projects to make a difference. We hope to stimulate the interests of other communities to embrace the concept and create a need.

Essentially, the Afghan development zone concept sees us as a military force moving into an area, normally a populated centre, to clear the area of insurgents to the best of our ability. That then allows international aid organizations, non-governmental organizations and our own staff to move into that area to help with development efforts. We stay within the city and on the outskirts to try to maintain the security providing a quick reaction force, and our hope is that others outside of the zone will see the tangible benefits that grow.

The best example I can give of a successful ADZ is the city of Kabul itself, where NATO has established a great presence and development has flourished to what it was initially. We can achieve the same results in many of the towns, cities and large population centres in the South, so when you visit, I think you will see that. You will actually see Canadian troops focused on this. General Fraser was involved in this, obviously, and now Brigadier-General van Loon is focused on this particular concept.

This next slide shows the Regional Command South chain of command. On November 1, 2006, the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, Regional Command South structure was modified as a result of the transition of command from Canadian to Netherlands lead. Joint Task Force Afghanistan used this opportunity to reorganize the command and control structure on the Canadian side in order to gain unity of command, purpose and effort under one Canadian commander, who is now Brigadier-General Tim Grant.

The next slide is entitled Operations in Regional Command South. In Regional Command South, the transfer of the lead nation to the Dutch was successful. If I may, I will spend a couple of minutes talking about our other partners in the South before I hone in on Canadian efforts. In Task Force Uruzgan, which is the Dutch and Australian team, framework operations, base construction and security operations continue. Platoon patrols are being conducted in the vicinity of Day Rod and in the vicinity of the town of Tirin Kot, which you can see just below the arrow on the slide. The town of Tirin Kot will be established as an Afghan Development Zone. That is an example of an ADZ that the Dutch will work on in their province.

Task Force Helmand, the effort of the British and a small Estonian contribution, continues operations throughout Helmand province to prevent insurgent infiltration as its focus. Task Force Zabul, the U.S. and Romanian effort, continues its framework patrols and convoy escort duties along Highway 1, which connects Kandahar and Kabul, as its main effort. Qalat has been formally declared an Afghan Development Zone in that province.

The next slide shows friendly forces activity in the Canadian area of responsibility. Since I was last before the committee, there has been no significant change to 1 Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group force disposition. The commanding officer 1RCR Battle Group's main effort continues to be the provision of security with Afghan national security partners throughout the Zhari-Panjwayi area just west of Kandahar City — where we have been engaged since the summer — in order to contribute to the establishment of the Kandahar ADZ. November 3 marks the first graduation of 41 Afghan National Auxiliary Police, ANAP, candidates destined to go to the Zhari-Panjwayi area. The Provincial Reconstruction Team, PRT, opened the Sham-E-Dinkkar Middle School, located across from the provincial development centre in Bizar-E-Panjwayi. In addition, the PRT has hosted a series of VIP visits from the chief of the land staff, the president of Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, the deputy clerk of the Privy Council and the Canadian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

The Mentor Liaison Team, which numbers some 64 people, works with local Afghan units to help them with their professional skills to continue the training program in liaison duties with the local Afghan battalions deployed in our area of operations in the Zhari-Panjwayi area.

The next slide is entitled, DND Funded Development Ongoing and Proposed Projects. The PRT has completed 18 of 35 planned projects. The number of planned projects will continue to increase over time. The PRT is assisted in the distribution of food, water, blankets and tents throughout the Panjwayi region. The Department of National Defence, DND, funding, in the form of the Commander's Contingency Fund, has been increased to over $3 million from about $2.4 million, which is a very good trend. This DND portion of the fund is used to assist with development. To see it increase means that there is more demand for this at a local level.

The family food packages referred to on the chart are designed to provide 2,000 calories per day for six people for one month. We have delivered over 10,000 such packages over the last several months, and that is certainly good news.


Over the past six weeks, four medical visits to villages were organized jointly with the taskforce within Kandahar province. More than 2,000 Afghans received basic health care and medication in the remote Panjwayi region.

In cooperation with the Afghan Health Department, local doctors and dentists treated people in these regions. In addition to medication, supplies such as tools, school supplies, food, blankets, toys, rugs and radios were distributed.

The Provincial Reconstruction Team provided over 100 diagnostic kits to a Kandahar nursing school, where students studying to become nurses started their programs in October, 2006.


Moving to the next slide, I draw your attention to the ANAP growth in Kandahar province. Again, you might consider the numbers of 121 who have graduated and 172 currently in training to be a small step, but we are hoping this step will lead to bigger ones in the future. Again, the trend is good toward the creation of an auxiliary force.

The next slide shows PRT progress and is an excellent overview of the types of assistance and work that the PRT is accomplishing. Under "Key Leader Engagements," the total figures refer to us and our efforts to engage local elders and tribal leaders throughout Kandahar province. As well, the slides shows the cumulative totals of food and food carts distributed since we arrived in Kandahar in February.

Non-food packages, such as blankets, are listed and you can see the figures for training of the Afghan National Auxiliary Police. As well, there are figures under "Village Shura Damage Lists," that record damages as a result of war, not necessarily the ones that we have created, but by the Taliban and such. With 227 claims listed to date, this is a good step forward to try to win the confidence of local leaders. We have conducted a number of patrols to increase our visibility throughout Kandahar because it gives a good sense of what the PRT is doing.

Next we will move on to the slide entitled, "Route Summit," which is a Canadian-led initiative that is worth bringing to your attention. We hope to construct this route that will run between Highway 1 in the North and the Arghandab River in the South. This is the region where we have been deployed for many weeks with our battle group. The road, which is in the bottom left-hand box — the red line — is approximately 4.2 kilometres long and about 100 metres wide. This road was initially built as a combat road by bulldozing through marijuana fields to increase force protection by avoiding ambushes along local routes and the high density of IEDs we encountered using local routes there.

The funding contract for Route Summit was signed last week amongst the partners who are funding this project. The Germans, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, and DND are providing funds. Construction has begun and will be tied in with our partners' efforts. This route is a major focus of development and security efforts within the region and will provide a secure, paved alternative for local commerce and transit of security forces. Canada will contribute some U.S. $600,000 through our Commanders' Contingency Fund to help pay for this.

Why Route Summit? Route Summit is to demonstrate a major investment project that will change the livelihood of local communities. If we want to have commerce, we need to have the lines of communication to allow that commerce. It will allow the transfer of goods between Kandahar and Zhari-Panjwayi communities and should reduce the travel time, while at the same time increasing the security for locals by having a paved surface.

Of course, Route Summit has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, and progress this week has halted because of the weather. With all the rain that Afghanistan has received offer the last several days, no vehicles can actually move up and down that route — some of our track vehicles can — until the weather improves. Once it does, then I do anticipate construction being able it proceed in the days and months ahead. There is no doubt that the security situation along that road is extremely challenging, but that is why we are fortifying positions and asking for more Afghan partners to come down and join us. I would be happy to explore that further with you, if you wish.

The next slide shows the Canadian Forces personnel strength in theatre. I thought you would find this slide helpful in order to see where our CF personnel involved in Afghanistan, who number just over 2400, are actually employed.

Finally, you will be happy to know the RG-31 Nyala is in full use. The RG-31 has a mine-resistant hull and lightly armoured sides. The steel hull protects against rifle-calibre bullets, but, more importantly, against mines and IEDs. RG-31s are large vehicles and, in fact, they dwarf the Gelaendenwagen — G wagon for short — in size.

As observed earlier, the Taliban has demonstrated both the will and the knowledge to use improvised explosive devices against not only local Afghans, but also us, the coalition. We have had to adapt in order to maintain the initiative and protect our troops by increasing the RG-31 fleet. We can never completely defend against an explosive payload, as a bigger one can always be constructed; however, this is an excellent example of adaptability to get the troops what they need and to increase their protection in the area they are operating in; the aim being to help local Afghans and their efforts toward governance.

That concludes my briefing, and I would be happy to take a few questions.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. On the subject of Nyala, are there now Nyalas in Canada, so that the next rotation can be trained on them before they go overseas?

BGen. Howard: Yes. The Nyala training that we accomplished, backtracking to the beginning of the mission, 1 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry battle group rotation 1, ROTO 1, had do training in theatre. The vehicles were delivered them. The rotation that went in on ROTO 2, based on Petawawa and Shilo, had a small pool of vehicles by which to train here, and they completed their training when they got into theatre. The current team that is training now has a small pool of Nyalas on which to train before they arrive in theatre. They will complete their training when they get to Afghanistan where there are larger numbers. We have put the emphasis on deploying the equipment to theatre; but there is sufficient, albeit reduced, numbers of vehicles to train on here before they deploy.

Senator Moore: Thank you for being here. I have a couple of general questions, and then I want to ask you more pointed ones with regard to the reconstruction efforts.

Lieutenant-General Gauthier was here in May, and he stated that the Provincial Reconstruction Team, PRT, was comprised of approximately 55 to 60 personnel, and recently the CDS announced that a company of Van Doos were being deployed to provide security for the PRT.

In terms of the operations, does that mean that the PRT has not been able to operate since September of 2005 when Canada took over that mission from the U.S.? Has there been a stall there? Has there been need for this backup security?

BGen. Howard: We have had to provide the security for the PRT from the battle group. For the protection of the camp and the conduct of their activities, we have used the infantry companies we currently have in Afghanistan, so it has meant that we have not been able to do as much as we would like. From the field, from Afghanistan itself, the commanders asked if we would send another infantry company that would be devoted to the PRT. This is the Van Doos company you refer to. They will be ready to go and in theatre in early December, and I believe we will see a marked increase of the amount of activity the PRT will be able to accomplish.

The PRT has done a number of activities. For everything on the chart that I walked through, the delivery totals and the engagements they have done, they need protection every time they go out the gate. We have had to defend the camp. We have been able to do some activities, but, hopefully, we will be able to do a few more with that enhancement.

Senator Moore: Will the mission of the Afghan National Auxiliary Police be to provide security for the people working in the PRT? Is that their sole mission?

BGen. Howard: No. The Afghan National Auxiliary Police will be a component of the Afghan national security forces, so they will be subordinate of the Afghan National Police, ANP. They have about a 10 to 14 day training package, which is supervised by our RCMP and military police, to give them some rudimentary, basic training. There is no intention that they will operate as a full police force. It is simply a stepping stone. However, they will operate within the local Afghan population.

Senator Moore: There was some criticism when this was announced that they were young teenagers. Who is being recruited to do that training and to form that auxiliary force? Are they young adults? They will be helping to give our people some sense of security, so who are those people?

BGen. Howard: They have to meet the same criteria as Afghan National Police — over 18 years of age and under the supervision of our cadre of RCMP and military police. We help local Afghan officials with the training and the supervision. It is really a matter of the length of training that they will undertake. They will not be assigned duties that are beyond the training they received.

This is a bit of an interim measure to increase local security forces. Ideally, we would have a sufficient number of police that can complete the full period of training. Hopefully, in the months and years ahead, we will be able to increase that throughput.

This initiative is meant to meet a very short-term need to get more Afghans involved with their security.

Senator Moore: You went through the list of projects that have been achieved. There are a couple of newspaper articles, one published on Saturday and one again today, by Lee Greenberg in the Ottawa Citizen. Are you familiar with those articles? I will read a couple of quotes and get some reaction from you.

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, Zhari's villages are still largely without electricity, water and schools.

Where there were once 30 schools operating in the district, there is now only one…Moreover, not one school project is under way, Sgt. Courtney says, adding he's yet to see a CIDA-funded project completed in the district since he arrived in September.

I read the comment in today's press from Captain Steve Brown where he talks about the Afghanistan soldiers walking away when Ramadan came. The article states: "Canadian troops moved into several positions along the road to fill the gap. Capt. Brown said they were ‘stretched thin.’" He continues, "What we’re doing is preventing outright defeat."

It sounds like we had some territory, we had been pushed back and now the Afghanistan troops are not there participating with us as we anticipate they should have been. We are now trying to hold the line. Could you comment on that?

I do not know how we can do that, and if we cannot, how can we do the planned reconstruction that is so needed?

BGen. Howard: If you permit me to bounce back a bit, I will provide a long-winded answer.

This time last year, there was a very thin number of U.S. Forces operating under Operation Enduring Freedom. Starting in January, four NATO nations led initially by the Canadians arrived to assume a presence in the southern region.

Senator Moore: Are we talking about January 2005?

BGen. Howard: January 2006, since the beginning of this year.

When we evaluate what we have accomplished between then and now, we have been able to establish a footprint on the ground. We knew, going into the southern region, there would be many challenges. There are many challenges. Our mere presence is a step in the right direction.

Certainly, with regard to the Zhari-Panjwayi area, we have been requesting assistance, and the Afghan government itself was quick to do the best they could to cooperate with us. The Afghan National Army is a fledgling army. The battalions are created and run through a training centre in Kabul and, in turn, dispatched to various provinces throughout the country. Seventy-five per cent of the country is in great shape, but the huge challenge is down in the South and the East.

About a month ago, having received a few hundred Afghan troops formed in companies and with battalions, we began to increase our footprint Route Summit within that particular region.

These folks have families as well. These troops arrived from other provinces. While they came down to help us initially, official decisions were made to send them back to where they came from and to find a more permanent solution. Other troops have now been assigned.

Senator Moore: Other Afghanistan troops?

BGen. Howard: Yes. We will continue to see that rotation.

For example, when the good captain was questioned on this, he was exactly right in stating there were some Afghan troops that had to rotate back to the province from which they came. Those troops have now been replaced. We have 300 or 400 Afghan troops that are deployed in our area.

This will be a game of patience. This will take an inordinate amount of time, patience and challenge. We are up to it. I am convinced that in the weeks and months ahead, you will see progress along this route; the local community wants it. The people who do not want this route are the Taliban. We have shown them in the past that once we are committed to something, we will see it through.

I do not underestimate and do not want to leave you with a view that there are challenges. I believe we should be optimistic. I know that we will succeed on this route.

Senator St. Germain: Thank you, Brigadier-General Howard, for being with us today.

As I stated earlier, I had the honour and privilege of sitting with General Fraser on the trip here from Vancouver today. My questions arise out of the conversation I had with him.

The biggest challenge is communication. Good news does not sell newspapers. I did not know that General Fraser was planning on attending speaking engagements. How can we better communicate the good work that is being done?

After having spoken to General Fraser and hearing you for the second time, I am certain you would not jeopardize your brilliant military careers by misstating any facts, yet those honest, positive facts are not getting out to the public.

Has there been any initiative to inform the public of the $20 million of improvements that General Fraser implemented when he was there? There are some stories, such as Senator Moore cited, where certain areas have been negatively impacted. Has there been any thought of initiating an actual communications speaking tour, which would travel around the country, so Canadians can fully understand where their tax dollars are going?

Senator Kenny's committee has done an excellent job. I am a new addition to this committee. I feel if we do not tell the story, it will not get out there; we cannot rely on traditional media.

BGen. Howard: Certainly, the issue of communicating on Afghanistan is the responsibility, within a DND context, of our public affairs folks. I would be straying outside my lanes if I was to tell you the exact strategy. It may be worth asking them.

Last week the minister travelled across the country. I believe that was a good chance to communicate. I have mentioned that General Fraser will also be travelling across the country to speak. General Hillier certainly communicates about Afghanistan, as well as Brigadier-General Tim Grant.

As far as a holistic strategy goes, that is outside of my lane on which to comment.

Senator St. Germain: The other question I must ask is brief. To my surprise — not a great surprise but a certain surprise — was the fragile aspect of parliament that has been developed over there.

Apparently, the structure consists of President Karzai at the top and, down one side, appointed governors that have traditionally been present. They are the ones who receive funding. On the other side, you have parliament and the parliamentarians; both work down to the people. Apparently, the parliamentarians do not have the resources that the appointed governors have. This creates a situation when you ask about the police forces and the various security forces that are being developed there. I believe that the chain of command within the structure of Afghanistan as it stands is in its infancy and is struggling. Do you have any comment on this and whether it has any impact on our ability to carry out our mission there?

BGen. Howard: It is a great question. One of our key planks — and we are not necessarily in the lead in this — in the strategy on Afghanistan is the security, development and governance pillars. Regarding what you have just referred to as the governance pillar, at least we have an elected president and an attempt to put together an elected parliament. We have 14 Canadians who work in Kabul as a strategic assistance team aimed at defence and security reform, but certainly aiding the chief of staff to the president with strategic planning and assistance from there.

The key to the future in Afghanistan, beyond the implementation of the ADZs, strengthening the ANA and the ANP, is to get at effective governance. We need and want to take prompt action against corruption. That is a stated aim. This will take some time; we are starting, as you say, from scratch. Patience and working away at it is the solution. However, it is a slow move at this point.

Senator Atkins: Brigadier-General Howard, do our commanders have confidence in the leadership of the officers in the military and in the police, or do they operate with some hesitation as to just how much they can rely on those forces?

BGen. Howard: We are trying to establish a partnership with the Afghan national security forces. We do that right on the ground, face to face. For example, our Observer Mentor Liaison Teams have been highly effective with the Afghan National Army units with whom we have been working at a very low level. We have found that their ability to conduct operations is greatly enhanced when we give them a hand; for example, we can help them with extra communication devices and a few of the enablers.

Every time we try to help them along, and they see and rub shoulders with the great professional Canadian soldiers, it rubs off on them a bit more. We do the same at the training centre. It is really in this interaction where they have a role model, and they can actually see what a military officer or a soldier does. They are baby steps, small steps, but we are beginning to see the professionalization of a force. There are about 30,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army. However, this sort of growth will take years.

As I mentioned before, when we see corruption, we try to deal with it by taking our concerns to the governor of Kandahar. We are there in support; we do need to be diplomatic. We will not pass a fault, if I can use that term. If we do see a problem, we try to deal with it, but we have to respect the local methods as well. We will not walk past corruption if we see it.

Senator Atkins: Would members of the Afghan army not consider any role as being high risk compared with not being in the military, but involved in the economy in some other way?

BGen. Howard: All of us who wear a uniform do ultimately have unlimited liability, which is a higher risk. I would say it is no different for them than for us.

Anecdotally, I have heard that the Afghan National Army soldiers are tired, in the sense that they spend long periods of time away from home, but they are committed to trying to help their state flourish. This is really one of our key measures. As security networks improve in Afghanistan, hopefully one day they will not need us. That is a stepping stone forward.

I do not want to underestimate the challenge. It is challenging.

Senator Atkins: Are you satisfied that their commanders have control of their troops?

BGen. Howard: I do not personally deal with the commanders. In your up-and-coming visit you will get a better sense of that situation. It would be a good question to pose to them. We are certainly working hard with them.

Canadian Forces have vast experience in working with other militaries. We have a fair amount of contact, for example, in Africa, where we work with other militaries. It takes a large amount of patience and training. We are beginning to see a more professional force. Are they having challenges? Most certainly they are. Are they used to operating as a professional force? I believe they are getting better every day, but the progress is something that will take some time.

The Chairman: Brigadier-General Howard, on behalf of the committee I would like to thank you very much for coming. We appreciated it. To members of the public, if you have any questions or comments, please visit our website by going to We post witness testimony as well as confirmed hearing schedules. Otherwise you may contact the clerk of the committee by calling 1-800-267-7362 for further information or assistance.

The committee continued in camera.

Back to top