Thank you very much, sir.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to provide you with an update on our operations.
As the chair mentioned, I am Brigadier-General Craig King, director general of operations with the strategic joint staff at National Defence headquarters. You'll remember Ms. Jill Sinclair, our assistant deputy minister, policy, and Captain (Navy) Bernatchez, from the Office of the Judge Advocate General, from their appearances before you on Tuesday.
As you know, Operation Athena is Canada's participation in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and Operation Attention is the name of the Canadian Forces' contribution to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.
Before you are seven slides providing a broad update on our Mission Termination Task Force for Operation Athena and on the Canadian contribution to the training mission in Afghanistan under Operation Attention.
I would like to walk you through this quick operational update, after which I would be pleased to answer your questions.
I refer you to slide 1. In accordance with the parliamentary motion of 2008, the Canadian Forces ceased combat operations in July 2011 and will complete the redeployment of personnel and equipment out of Kandahar by December 2011. Under the command of Brigadier-General Chuck Lamarre, the mission transition task force is comprised of more than 1,300 personnel from all elements of the Canadian Forces, with the main task of conducting mission closure of Operation Athena in order to enable the Canadian Forces to transition to subsequent operations as directed by the Government of Canada.
The task force is executing its mission in three broad phases. Phase one was completed in July, with the thinning out or removal of non-essential equipment, the relief in place of our battle space by U.S. forces, and the consolidation of all Canadian Forces elements back to Kandahar airfield.
The mission transition task force is now executing the final phase of its operation in Afghanistan, focusing on actual mission close-out and redeployment. All activities are designed to ensure that our national objectives are being met as we transition out of Kandahar. The final phase, reconstitution, is being undertaken simultaneously back here in Canada under the leadership of the respective environmental commanders.
With respect to slide 2, we cannot underestimate the challenges faced by Brigadier-General Lamarre and his team; in recent reports, this effort has been described as moving a city halfway around the world. The mission transition task force is undoubtedly one of the largest logistical undertakings in the history of the Canadian Forces. As you can see by the numbers involved, our soldiers are writing a new page in the history of Canadian expeditionary operations.
With respect to the next slide, the general concept of operations is the leveraging of multiple staging areas and transportation nodes in order to efficiently repatriate equipment back to Canada while maintaining positive control over our operational equipment at all times. Our process has been greatly facilitated by our operational support hubs, which were located in Cyprus and, as of today, are starting up in Kuwait.
The basic concept and scheme here is that anything that is non-sensitive, such as generators and general stores, was passing through Pakistan to a sea terminal for shipment back to Canada by sea. A small number of CF assets have been flown back to Canada due to the sensitivity of the nature of that equipment--cryptographic equipment and that sort of thing--and the remainder of our CF assets, primarily vehicles and weapons, are being flown out to these intermediate staging terminals to be loaded on ships and repatriated back to Canada on a schedule that is being closely monitored.
Currently, Brigadier-General Lamarre is reporting that all lines of production and repatriation are progressing at or above the predicted level. I refer you to slide 4, where we show a conceptual graph representing our expected progress over time in the disposal of our infrastructure in Kandahar and the return of our equipment back to Canada. I apologize for the simplified version of this slide, but you can understand that actual numbers in such an open forum could give great insight to current and potential adversaries into the actual Canadian Force projection capabilities.
In view of what I have mentioned, I can report to you that we do not foresee any outstanding issues that will affect the mission transition task force's ability to meet the timelines established by the Government of Canada.
The next slide is about Operation Attention. As you know, on November 16, 2010, the Government of Canada announced a new role for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan that would see our soldiers training, mentoring and building the professional competencies of the Afghan National Security Forces.
Under the current leadership of Major-General Michael Day, the new mission will see up to 950 soldiers deployed to a Kabul-centric training mission until March 2014.
The Canadian Contribution Training Mission–Afghanistan will assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in developing credible, effective and sustainable national security forces—both army and police.
I would just highlight that Canada is the second-largest contributor to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, after the United States.
The focus of our efforts is on institutional capacity-building and the professionalization of the Afghan national security forces. By mentoring and developing Afghan trainers, Canada continues to play a vital role in assisting the Government of Afghanistan to achieve self-security by generating security forces that will be self-reliant in the near future.
With the current emphasis on helping the Afghan national security forces with institutional capacity-building, and with the need to create a professional military ethos to face an evolving threat, the provision of high-quality trainers is essential. Canada is stepping up to this task with a mix of professionalism and cultural understanding to support the Government of Afghanistan in developing the required capabilities to generate truly effective Afghan national security forces that will represent all Afghans in the execution of their duties.
As slide 6 indicates, Operation Attention is already providing training in up to 13 different locations, assisting roughly 24 different institutions. The current deployment schedule will see our operation reaching full capacity in numbers in early November, with troops deployed in three locations: Kabul, where the majority of our forces will be located; Mazar-e-Sharif in the north; and Herat in the west.
I would like to highlight two important elements of our institutional capacity-building at the Kabul military training centre and the consolidated fielding centre, also in Kabul.
The Kabul military training centre, or KMTC, is the primary training location for the Afghan National Army training command and the main force provider for Afghanistan's national defence. Canadian Colonel Mike Minor advises the Afghan commander of KMTC. The purpose of this institution is to provide Afghanistan with a skilled army capable of disarming illegal factions, fighting terrorism, and assuring security in Afghanistan. KMTC is run by officers and non-commissioned officers of the Afghan National Army, with advice and assistance provided by staff of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan. The actual training provided starts at the individual soldier level, with courses on weapons, first-aid, the law of armed conflict, and Afghan National Army values and ethos, up to and including courses for newly commissioned officers on leadership and planning. In terms of scale, there are some 13,000 students and staff at KMTC, following up to 40 courses for recruits up to senior NCOs and officers.
On the other hand, the Kabul-based consolidated fielding centre is a collective training facility where battalion-sized formed units of the Afghan National Army, known as kandaks, of roughly 600 soldiers, conduct training and testing designed to confirm their skills before they are assigned and moved to the Afghan National Army corps for service within Afghanistan as part of the operational field force. The centre is run by Afghan forces but is provided with the critical support and guidance of 400 NATO mentors and trainers under the command of Canadian Colonel Rory Radford.
By way of summary, I would point out from the last slide that we are on time and on target with our mission closure efforts. We are also ready to continue our commitment to the people of Afghanistan with our capacity-building efforts under Operation Attention, and I am pleased to highlight the fact that our soldiers are already making a significant impact on the overall effectiveness of the Afghan national security forces. That's been highlighted in theatre through public statements made by such figures as General Petraeus, when we announced our transition to the training mission.
I hope this brief outline has provided you with a sense of what your Canadian soldiers, sailors, and airmen and airwomen are currently accomplishing in Afghanistan. They are performing critical missions in a very difficult environment with professionalism and dedication. Canada has been publically praised by NATO, ISAF and the Afghan National Security Forces for its contribution to this very demanding campaign. All Canadians can be proud of their men and women in uniform.
Thank you for your attention. We are ready to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, General King, Ms. Sinclair, and Madam Bernatchez.
You used the phrase that it's like moving a small city halfway around the world. I think I could add to that: “while they're shooting at you”. I appreciate that it's a very difficult environment.
I don't know whether you read The Globe and Mail this morning, particularly the editorial. It's a sentiment expressed in The Globe and Mail with which I largely agree. One of the paragraphs says it was Mr. Karzai who put Mr. Rabbani in harm's way by giving him an extraordinarily dangerous mission. As you know, he's been assassinated. The person who's trying to negotiate the peace with the Taliban has been assassinated.
The president seems to be preparing for the day when NATO and ISAF have left, when the Afghan war will once again be a civil war, rather than a civil war with a huge international component.
You say in your presentation that you can report that you don't perceive any outstanding issues that will affect the mission transition task force's ability to meet the timelines. Isn't the assassination of critical figures in Karzai's government a pretty important aspect to whether in fact your mission succeeds? If in fact the leadership is being systematically destroyed by the Taliban, that seems to be a rather significant component of whether your mission will succeed.
Notwithstanding all of your good efforts to train the police and the military up to some level of capability, if the leadership is not there, if the core elements of the government have been destroyed, isn't that probably the most serious threat to the success of your mission?
Absolutely. Another excellent question.
As you can appreciate, an army is a diverse organism, so you have programs of instruction for everything from recruits to officers and senior officers even. So what I'll refer to is just a typical program of instruction that you would have, let's say, within the recruits.
He's brought in and there would be an emphasis on the basic skills that a soldier would require: his ability to operate his weapon or weapons that are within his organization; physical fitness and building a robust stamina to be able to withstand the conditions of combat and operations in their country; specific skills related to first aid and to be able to do basic communications; and on top of that, some very specific training aspects of their syllabus related to the law of armed conflict, human rights, and ethics, so that we can address the kinds of things we were discussing recently, such as how do we prevent creating warlords and all that other stuff. These are all things that go on.
The other thing, too, that's interesting within the institutions of the army and the police is the role of women. There is a tolerance aspect that is imparted. I think we have something in the neighbourhood of 1,400 women who are spread between the army and the police right now in the security forces. I can tell you that for a country like Afghanistan, that is not an insignificant accomplishment.
In terms of special skills, we are involved with communications schooling, in particular in Kabul, to give you a sense of some of the specialist training. We're doing medical training up in Mazar-e-Sharif. There's something in the neighbourhood of 11 branch schools that have been developed to provide specialist skills to the Afghans that go beyond the basic training I described for a recruit.
On top of that, we're talking about a further level of training and professional development for the leadership. The leadership is key; that is how we transition to the Afghans the running of their own security forces, so that they do it themselves and we're not there.
Thank you very much, Madam.
If it's okay with you, I will answer in my mother tongue.
There is a whole-of-government effort for Afghanistan to address the issues you raised.
Ma'am, I don't want to deflect the issue, but I want to make sure that my area of expertise is properly represented. I would invite you to discuss with the Department of Foreign Affairs and CIDA the role that you've mentioned in those areas.
I can tell you from a Canadian Forces perspective that we are very much focused on the requirements that have been set for us by the Government of Canada. So the Canadian Forces, right now, are focused on transitioning out of Kandahar and providing training assistance to the Afghans through the NATO training mission.
The only thing that I would say, in terms of humanitarian assistance, is that as we're going through the mission transition task force, if we find there are items that are more economical to donate than move back to Canada, we have the mechanisms in place to be able to divest or apply those assets to agencies that look after humanitarian assistance on the ground, through umbrella organizations and Afghan NGOs. I would say that as a matter of focus, that is where the Canadian Forces are right now in those areas.
If you like, Mr. Chair, I'll start and then pass it to General King.
The funding of security forces, as you point out, is enormously expensive, and there's no question that the Afghan government is going to need the support of the international community for a long time to come. I don't have the numbers, but there's also no question that it is cheaper to assist the Afghans to do their own security than to keep deployed forces there. Here you've talked about the U.S. contribution to this effort, and to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan doing that business, for example, it costs a lot more.
But in many other post-conflict situations around the world, we've seen this need for sustained engagement and for developing the security forces, because the worst thing you can do is to kind of stand them up and then leave them and not fund them. So issues of pension and making sure that you're bringing in recruits and they're getting a reasonable wage, and that you're dealing with issues of corruption and things like attrition, are absolutely essential. Those are the sorts of discussions that, again, you may want to raise with our DFAIT colleagues, I think, in more detail. But those are the discussions, let's say, in the Friends of Afghanistan and that go on in the UN context and with the Afghans themselves as they stand up their economy. It's going to be a long-term process.
I don't know if you have anything to add, General.
Broadly speaking, our training system is geared, as is the Afghan one, to producing the very best soldiers in all the breadth and depth of the competencies that we expect them to have. Those come in two forms: individual training and collective training.
Individually, we make sure that the individual has those skills, that he can march, shoot, and communicate. That is a very basic description of those sorts of things. If he's an engineer or if he's an artillery soldier or if he fights out of a tank, we make sure he is able to operate the systems that are at his command in the way that is necessary to achieve the effects we want on the battlefield. So that's the individual training system.
Our collective training system builds teams: everything from platoons to companies of 150 to battalions of 600 or more.
So the elements of the Canadian training system--which, by the way, was the foundation for the success we were able to achieve in Kandahar--very much mirror the training structure we have within the NATO training mission.
The KMTC, the Kabul Military Training Centre that I described, where Colonel Mike Minor is doing great work, you could equate to kind of a battle school environment or maybe some of the stuff being taught in Gagetown, New Brunswick. When you get to Colonel Rory Radford's consolidated fielding centre, you're talking about perhaps the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre out in Wainwright, Alberta, and those kinds of parallels.
The fact is that our guys are in there mentoring the trainers of the Afghan force with the view that they own that development long term, in both the individual realm and the collective realm.
Thanks very much, Chair.
First, I'd like to commend the Canadian Forces for their performance at all stages of Operation Athena as it closes out. Athena is the goddess, if I'm correct, of wisdom, warfare, and intelligence, and I think they've displayed all of those qualities in the highest degree at every stage.
We're obviously all in mourning for former president Rabbani. Our Prime Minister expressed yesterday condolences and concern across Canada. President Rabbani was someone who contributed strongly to disarmament, to the first formation of a parliament in Afghanistan, and now to reconciliation.
Mr. Stanekzai, who you mentioned, Brigadier, was someone I and many others worked with very intensely over a decade--in my case, six years--in Afghanistan. To hear that he has been badly wounded is just awful.
But we do need to be careful about drawing conclusions about what we are heading towards this year, or in 2014. I certainly do not think it need be a civil war. On the contrary, as you have implied, if one looks at the nature of the continuing conflict and the roots of these sorts of attacks, the roots are not inside Afghanistan. We have to ask what will be the future of the reconciliation process in the wake of this attack, but it's not a defence question; it's a political question, which other committees will have the opportunity to take up, and I hope we as parliamentarians in another context.
My questions will focus on Operation Attention. First, could you clarify for us what roughly the Canadian share of the mission is? We know we're the second-biggest contributor, but what does that represent in terms of the overall numbers? Secondly, does Major-General Day have a position in the NATO training mission, apart from commanding the Canadian component?
Right, it was on certification.
So you will have a unit that will be formed under its commander, say a kandak or a battalion, of about 600 members in all-up strength, organized into companies of about 150 and command and control and support. They will be formed and provided with a series of tactical training environments in which they will be closely assessed, on everything from the low-level skills that are displayed by the soldiers to the manoeuvre decisions in a particular context that are made by a particular commander.
Then they will organize a test exercise in which they will pit this force in a scenario and assess its capability in all the domains. There's a very elaborate process of assessing command and control and manoeuvre and proficiencies and all that kind of thing. Then a report will be made.
Once the kandak is certified as having the necessary people, having the required equipment, and having undergone the necessary training, then it will be confirmed as being good to go into the field force of the Afghan army. At that point it will be assigned to a parent brigade under a parent corps in a particular part of the country according to a very elaborate rollout program for units according to whatever direction the security forces have been given by the government on the security picture in the country.
So that kind of paints a picture of how that's done. The Afghans look after that with mentorship...and it's a comparative and collaborative process. The NATO training mission motto is “shohna ba shohna”, which means “shoulder to shoulder”, and that's the approach taken to confirm these institutions.
With regard to areas of transfer, under the program for transition to Afghan ownership, which was confirmed last year in Kabul, in July, Bamyan in central Afghanistan, formerly under a New Zealand lead, became the first province firmly established as a lead within the Afghan security forces. That process is ongoing and there will be a couple of other sites.
As you can appreciate, the process is complex. It is affected by factors, such as those we were discussing, in all aspects of the picture, not just security force availability and preparedness. This process is under continual review, as you will well appreciate. So we're waiting for the next tranches or slices of that rollout.
All I would say to you, sir, is that it has started, and we're on a path now.
That's a really great question.
We have to make sure, just as with the previous question, how we balance the purse tempo, and that the Canadian Forces, despite the demands of the overseas missions, continue to be a viable force to address Government of Canada directed activities and requirements.
Right now, the mission overseas has been drawn largely from the western part of the country. That will rotate over time, just as we did on previous missions. I believe the next one up on the block is in Ontario, so Two Brigade, central area, will probably be up. Don't quote me on that, but I believe that's the trend we're on.
The training that's conducted is still done using the institutions that we have gained success in using and we will continue to exploit. Just as we talked about syllabus and all that, we are adjusting the training syllabus for those folks who are going over to the training mission to account for the things they are going to be doing. There is a lot of emphasis on the culture of what they're doing, there is a lot of emphasis on training, and there is a lot of emphasis on the nature of the security forces with which they will be dealing. I think the training system we have in place is very well adapted.
I will say this about the current mission. It is very leadership heavy because of the kinds of jobs we're doing. You'll find that our senior NCOs, our master warrant officers, or warrant officers, are implicated quite a bit. The same applies to the officers with the major and the lieutenant-colonel ranks. There are a lot of requirements there for operating within the NATO training mission structure and to pair up with our Afghan colleagues. That's something we're managing and we're managing well. We don't see any problems with force generation, as we term it, to provide the forces, that would be any cause for concern, and what the Canadian Forces can do to respond to domestic or other international contingencies.
On the face of things, sir, I can understand your discomfort. Let me try to dispel some of that discomfort if I can.
The first thing is we're not shipping anything very valuable through Pakistan. The things we are shipping through Pakistan, were they to be lost to banditry or whatever you're implying, the effect on the Canadian Forces and our future posture would be minimal. However, they are assets that we own, and we're responsible for bringing them back.
Secondly, as General Lamarre's mission has unfolded, we have tried, and have had some considerable success, in reducing the number of things we're sending on that route, recognizing the things you say, through better approaches to our divestments. We are forecasting right now that we're not going to ship nearly as many sea containers through Pakistan as we estimated at the start because we're getting better success in selling stuff and divesting ourselves of stuff.
I would say that we're very conscious in terms of potential contingencies. If we had to, because the situation in Pakistan became untenable and it did not make good sense to send our stuff through Pakistan, we do have fallback options and we could divert things to air movement or other means. It would be more expensive, but in the cost analysis of doing things, that is a potential option to us, that we would just send it out of Kandahar to our support hub in Kuwait.
These things have all been taken into account. The tremendous expertise that is assembled in Kandahar with our movers, with our logisticians, all the things that are at the command of General Lamarre right now to do this very detailed and huge-scale logistical effort are all tracking well right now. So we are able to mitigate the risk that is presented by Pakistan.