Mark Collins – Africa: UN’s CAR MINUSCA Mission to be Canadian Forces’ Schwerpunkt?

More trial-ballooning from the government (another recent example here on shipbuilding):

Canada peacekeepers seem set for Central African Republic deployment before end of year

The government’s decision on where in Africa to send Canadian peacekeepers will rank as one of its most portentous — if the Liberals get it wrong it could prove fatal to their prospects at the next election [that’s quite the stretch].

This helps explain why, a year after Justin Trudeau proclaimed that Canada is back on the world stage, Canada is not yet back.

The plans appear to have been drawn, scrapped and redrawn in recent months. But sources suggest that if a decision on deployment is not imminent, it will at least come down before the end of the year.

The most likely outcome is that the bulk of Canada’s resources [total up to 600 military, 150 police] will be sent to Central African Republic, the landlocked country of 5 million that ranks 187th out of 188 nations on the human development index [more here and see Canadian government’s advisory: “AVOID ALL TRAVEL“].

It sounds increasingly as if some military resources will also be deployed in neighbouring Mali, where the United Nations mission covets Canada’s Chinook helicopters [see “Canadian UN Peacekeeping in Mali? RCAF Helicopters?“].

But while the Trudeau government is conscious of the need to confront Muslim extremism in Mali, it is keen to resist calls to commit hundreds of combat [surely only if necessary] troops in a country where 32 UN peacekeepers have already died this year.

CAR is considered a much less risky bet for Canadian personnel — according to Walter Dorn, professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada [and a big booster of UN peacekeeping for Canada]…

The thinking at Global Affairs Canada [the new title of our foreign ministry] (admittedly, often not the same as the thinking inside the Department of National Defence), is that the conflict in the CAR is relatively self-contained — a quasi-peace where some armed groups have already signed up to a disarmament agreement introduced by the newly-elected government.

…a UN special report last spring said CAR has made “considerable progress” since early 2013, when Muslim Séléka rebels forced the government to flee, amidst fighting with mainly Christian anti-balaka militias.

There are currently 10,000 UN troops and 1700 police in the country keeping a kind of peace [Operation MINUSCA], despite outbreaks of violence between armed groups, and incidents like the murder this week of a senior army officer in the capital Bangui, which set off clashes that left 11 dead [see also: “Violence hinders aid delivery in northern Central African Republic: agencies”]…

It is striking how minuscule (good UN mission title?) is the European contribution to the CAR mission–scroll down from latter part of p. 2 PDF here. There are quite a few more Euros in the Mali mission, e.g. Germany, Netherlands, Sweden–p. 5 PDF here; and there is also a major French combat force around, Opération Barkhane.

Meanwhile we see this from the Chief of the Defence Staff; the dithering, to be polite, is getting embarrassing:

Gen. Jon Vance flips and flops on Africa

Posts on (killer) peacekeeping broadly:

Canadian UN Peacekeeping in Mali? RCAF Helicopters? Part 2

“The end of peacekeeping, and what comes next for Canada’s soldiers” [note “Comments”]

It remains ass-backwards to announce the number of military personnel one will commit before deciding on which missions–with which roles therein–one is willing to undertake.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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21 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Africa: UN’s CAR MINUSCA Mission to be Canadian Forces’ Schwerpunkt?”

  1. 1) France training locals in region:

    Earlier, non-UN:

    “Canadian regular forces to train troops in Niger as Liberals seek to take part in more UN peace operations”
    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-regular-forces-to-train-troops-in-niger-as-liberals-seek-to-take-part-in-more-un-peace-operations

    2) CAR background:

    Mark Collins

  2. Blast from the Congo past from CGAI fellow Jack Granatstein–
    http://www.cgai.ca/fellows#Granatstein

    at Milnet.ca (note Avro Arrow effects):

    “The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    A report on peacekeeping in Africa written by none other than a certain Lt. Granatstein in 1966, marked “Secret”, and then Unclass in 1986. The report concerns the Congo, but more importantly it details the utter confusion within the UN when they requested Canadian assistance, and the hand wringing and lip twisting of the Canadian government of the day- Mr. Diefenbaker.

    However, it appears that the Canadian army was quite prepared to do some fighting and probably actually wanted (suggested?) to send 2BN R22R to the Congo (since this was the apparent ready duty force at the particular point in time, with an embedded and quite functional signals capability). However, so much dithering went on and about what to do, what to send, what the troop limits should be etc., that one might think there is not much difference between then and now….including purchasing, at the last minute, expensive equipment not even requested (Caribou aircraft for example) while the rest of the forces equipment were reaching end of life cycle, and then forcing DND to absorb unexpectedly high costs for other urgently needed equipment within the existing defence budget (communications equipment).

    One more thing, then as now, the forces were desperately short of Jimmies to such an extent they were considering sending RCN personnel to assist in the jungle!

    http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/his/rep-rap/doc/cfhq/cfhq008.pdf

    What is not stated in this report, because it was not within scope, is that the costs of the Avro Arrow program to the DND budget essentially bankrupted the rest of the armed forces at a time when there was a need for other more prudent capabilities such as transport aircraft, new armoured vehicles, trucks, secure radio, transport ships etc. At the time the Congo mission was starting, the 3 services were only just beginning to recover from the cost of the CF105 program.”
    http://milnet.ca/forums/index.php/topic,123590.msg1459077.html#msg1459077

    Mark Collins

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