Good afternoon, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
I am Major-General Jocelyn Paul, and I am the Director General of International Security Policy at the Department of National Defence.
This means I am responsible for managing our defence and international security relationships and providing advice on international defence relations.
I am here with Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
I am also joined by Sandra McCardell, director general of the Middle East bureau, and Mr. Giles Norman, the executive director of security and defence relations, both from Global Affairs.
It's a pleasure to be here today.
My intent is to provide you with a high-level overview of Operation Impact before turning to General Rouleau, who will provide you with more details on the dynamics in theatre.
Operation Impact is the military component of Canada's whole-of-government response to Daesh in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Through this strategy, Canada is investing up to $3.5 billion over five years to help set the conditions for security and stability and to reduce human suffering.
Under this strategy, the Canadian Armed Forces contributes to the Global Coalition against Daesh. We contribute to NATO mission Iraq, and we also provide bilateral training and assistance to both Jordan and Lebanon. While distinct, these activities all work towards the common objective of strengthening the capacity of regional security forces, so that they can contain the threat posed by Daesh.
Let me take a few minutes to walk through each of these activities.
The Coalition was established in 2014 and includes 82 member countries and organizations committed to tackling Daesh on all fronts.
In addition to military operations, it includes four civilian-led lines of effort. The first one is stabilizing liberated areas. Second is preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Third is dismantling Daesh financing and economic infrastructure. Fourth is countering Daesh propaganda.
Countries may contribute to one or more of the coalition's lines of effort based on their expertise and capabilities. Canada is one of the few coalition members that contributes to all five lines of effort: military and civilian.
While NATO had been working with the lraqi security forces for some time, NATO Mission Iraq was established in 2018 to complement the Coalition's counter-Daesh operations.
NMI, the NATO mission in Iraq, is a non-combat training mission focused on strengthening the capacity of Iraq's Ministry of Defense, the office of the national security adviser and relevant national security institutions. More than 20 countries contribute to NMI. We are proud to have led that mission for its first two years.
Canada also deploys training and assistance teams to Jordan and Lebanon to strengthen their capacity to withstand Daesh and the spillover effects of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
This regional capacity building includes the delivery of training, infrastructure development and equipment. In all of these efforts, we respect the sovereignty of our partner nations. I would emphasize that we are in Iraq at the invitation of the government.
Since we first deployed to Iraq in 2014, the Coalition and the lraqi security forces have made tremendous progress in the fight against Daesh. But our mission is not over, and the Coalition and NATO are at an important juncture.
As the threat landscape in Iraq changes and the needs of our partners and forces evolve, both missions will have to adapt together. In February, NATO defence ministers agreed in principle to expand the NATO mission in Iraq so that it can take on some of the coalition training activities. We expect that these deliberations will be iterative and Iraqi-led.
I would like to close with a reminder that, while we are here to talk about Operation Impact, the military is only one piece of the puzzle. Through our whole-of-government initiatives, and in collaboration with allies and partners, we are working to set the conditions for long-term success so that our regional partners can tackle the maligned ideology that has created so much suffering in the region.
I trust that this context is helpful, and I thank you for your attention. I will now turn the floor to General Rouleau.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair, honourable members.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today alongside Major-General Paul and my colleagues from Global Affairs Canada to provide you with up-to-date information on Operation Impact.
I commend the committee for wanting to learn more about this complex, rapidly evolving mission on behalf of Canadians and I am eager to provide whatever clarity and understanding that I can from my perspective as the operational commander.
Before taking your questions, I'd like to briefly address three points to help frame the discussion.
First, I'll describe my role as the commander of Canada's joint operations command and what topics I can and cannot speak to from that position.
Second, I'll speak to different elements of Operation Impact, as described by Major-General Paul, and clarify which are under my direct command and control and which are not.
Third, I will provide you with an update on the latest developments on the ground, what's been happening there and where I believe the mission is headed in the near run.
Let's talk about my role as Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC). First, regarding my roles and responsibilities, let me say that I work on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance, to provide leadership and alignment of over 20 Canadian Armed Forces operations at home and around the world.
I do not get to pick which operations I command or the ends they are meant to achieve. These are given to me through chief of the defence staff direction, which is in turn shaped by Government of Canada policy.
Within that context, I'd be more than pleased to speak to you, at a level of detail that does not risk the security of our military capabilities or deployed personnel, about how the forces under my command are executing Operation Impact, as it was assigned to me.
There are currently up to 850 military personnel assigned to Op Impact and, as Major-General Paul noted, these forces are divided into three parts. There is our U.S.-led coalition conducting Operation Inherent Resolve. The second one is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's mission in Iraq, commonly referred to as NMI. Third, there are two Canadian training and assistance teams, CTATs, that are deployed to Jordan and Lebanon. In the discussion, we sometimes lose sight of these Jordan and Lebanon elements when we talk about Operation Impact. We tend to focus exclusively on Iraq, but it's a regional piece.
The defined joint operations area for this operation includes the countries of Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. It is important that the committee understand that, while I am ultimately responsible for all Op Impact personnel from a national perspective, I do not exercise daily command and control of all of these elements. Specifically, although the NATO training mission in Iraq is currently led by a Canadian officer, Major-General Carignan, she and the approximately 200 Canadian Armed Forces personnel working in NMI answer to a NATO chain of command and not to the Canadian chain of command. In addition, the majority of activities conducted by Canadian special operations forces in Iraq are commanded by the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command.
Let me now go over an operational update.
Now, Madam Chair, having clarified those few points, allow me to provide you with a quick overview of the situation on the ground for Operation Impact, which remains somewhat fluid, particularly in Iraq.
Currently, most of the enhanced force protection measures that we put in place following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3—including the pause in training operations and the relocation of Canadian personnel—remain in place.
Nevertheless, despite ongoing tension and uncertainty, the multinational commitment to defeating Daesh remains, and military operations are gradually returning to normal.
Under coalition leadership, joint military operations against Daesh have resumed, and I have authorized the redeployment of certain Canadian personnel from Canada to Kuwait in anticipation of moving them into Iraq in the coming days to ultimately resume their training mission as the situation permits. To be clear, these moves are conditions-based, not time-based, and I cannot predict exactly when the resumption will take place.
A very short few days ago, it appeared that we would be in a position to resume operations imminently, but now the latest source of uncertainty affecting the timeline of the mission is the spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. I can assure you that we are monitoring the situation closely, taking steps to protect our personnel and maintaining the operational flexibility to get back to our core business as soon as the situation allows.
In looking ahead, at this point, as a result of force protection and various other considerations, the immediate future of Operation Impact is not clear. However, what is clear is that the operational mandate to support the coalition and NMI and to conduct capacity building in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon extends until March 31, 2021. I intend to do everything with my team and within our capacity to fulfill that mandate until the CDS directs me otherwise.
I've been very fortunate to witness the Canadian Armed Forces and their partners make tremendous progress against Daesh over the past few years. I got promoted to general in 2014. Shortly thereafter, when I was commanding, we put special forces into Iraq, so I've personally been involved in this mission since September of 2014 as a commander of either a special forces command or, now, CJOC.
We now find ourselves in a crucial phase of the mission where, having helped defeat Daesh militarily, we must now help consolidate that defeat and ensure that Daesh cannot return. Achieving this will require a nuanced understanding of various regional dynamics and close collaboration with civilian partners. It will also require strong leadership on the ground, along with flexibility and agility to respond to challenges and changing circumstances.
I am proud to say that the commanders and forces under my command exhibit all these qualities. I saw these on display in early January as we successfully adapted to the very rapid changes on January 3, as a result of the strike, to protect our forces and preserve our operational capabilities.
If we can retain this level of leadership and collaboration going forward in Operation Impact, then Canada will continue to make a contribution we can be proud of.
I thank you for your time and welcome any questions you may have.
This is an extremely complex region. You've been out there. You've seen it yourself.
From a military perspective, when Daesh emerged, the Iraqi security forces ended up having a few challenges. I think everybody was extremely surprised to see the speed at which Daesh grew. It was extremely fast.
This is why our mandate is so important—the NATO mandate, the coalition mandate. A key aspect of it is training local security forces. We need to do our best to ensure that the Government of Iraq and its security apparatus are going to be in a better position to tackle that type of threat if it emerges in the future.
The root cause of the emergence of that threat is multi-faceted. There is a cultural aspect and a historical aspect. There's a faith aspect to it, and there's also an economic aspect. We could be talking about it for quite a long time.
Given the complexity of what's going on, this is why it was so important for us to work in the region with that whole-of-government mandate. There's no doubt in my mind that the military instrument alone will not be sufficient at all.
That may be a good segue for letting my colleagues from GAC expand a little more.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for allowing me the opportunity to answer that question beyond the security aspects.
What is clear is that the rise and success of Daesh, the Islamic State, not only in Iraq but across the world, is something that will be preoccupying us for a very long time. This is an ideology, an organization, that has found expression across the world, to the shock of most democratic societies where it has taken root.
There are a number of causes that have been identified, and you're likely familiar with them. Some of them speak to exclusion from society, a lack of acceptance in the societies where those who espouse this ideology have been living. At some point, too, there is a lack of hope, a lack of economic opportunity. There is a wide range of reasons that draw individuals to espouse an ideology as heinous as that of the Islamic State.
To link up with the work of Operation Impact, I think we need to look at why this group found footing, particularly in Iraq and Syria, and was so successful in attracting individuals from literally across the world. In that, I think there is much to speak about in terms of governance. The ability of Daesh to take root finds itself in the weakness of the Iraqi government and its inability to secure its territory and provide services for its people.
With that, one of the areas in which we work with our partners from the Department of National Defence is in looking at strengthening the state. Part of the work that they do is with Iraqi security forces. There are others who work with reinforcing police capacity as well, to be able to provide the security that the country needs.
As well, we see that there's a need to support the unity, stability, diversity and democracy of Iraq and to provide a governance structure that allows all Iraqis to find their place in their society.
Finally, we'd also point to a lack of respect for human rights, which was present in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and through.... With that, we're working to promote human rights, particularly with minorities, women and girls, so that overall we can provide a society that is resilient to the ideology of Daesh, not only by the capacity of the state to protect its citizens but also because of the strong governance and respect for human rights that the Iraqi government is meant to espouse through our efforts.
Thank you for your question.
The short answer is no.
When we joined the coalition, we became dependent in various ways, to some extent, but we are mostly dependent on the United States. In terms of basic communication systems, of course we have our own systems, but the architecture of the intelligence system is based on the American system. I am thinking in particular of C4I, which stands for “command, control, communications, computers and intelligence”, in terms of surveillance, air strikes and protection of the forces at the various bases. This is done by the Americans. In terms of logistics, many contracts are done through U.S. forces.
So we are dependent on the United States, or the coalition, if you like, in some respects. Having said that, we try to be as self-sufficient as possible. For example, this week, because of COVID-19, we sent more personal protective equipment to our medical forces in Iraq and Kuwait.
We believe we are able to continue the mission under conditions such as those of January 3, the worst night of the mission to date. For example, after the attack, we made sure that we had enough munitions on the ground. We increased Canada's munitions in Iraq. I am more comfortable today than I was on January 3. I think we are in a good position.
In terms of COVID-19, within Joint Task Force-Iraq we are able to do four things.
We can do the screening. We can do the treatment. We can do the quarantine, if necessary, and we can do the evacuation.
If our troops contract COVID-19, we have the medical resources to take care of them. This morning, I asked our forces in Iraq whether we have the medical resources we need if the worst predictions of the number of people infected were to materialize, and I was told yes, without hesitation. So I'm not worried about that.
Thank you for your question.
Indeed, when we had the NATO ministerial meeting, the ministers agreed in principle to continue with the first part. This is what we call stage 1 of the expansion of the NATO mission in Iraq.
Right now, in terms of NATO, military staffs are looking at what training activities currently conducted by the coalition could be carried out under the NATO umbrella with short and medium notice.
So the staffs are looking at all that. This is being done in close co-operation with the Iraqi government. The acting Prime Minister has agreed that NATO will continue to work in this area in co-operation with his government. That's stage 1.
The strategic staffs are having discussions at NATO with respect to stage 2. What training activities beyond NATO's current mandate could it possibly take on in the future? Right now, in terms of stage 2, we are at the discussion stage.
NATO military staffs, in co-operation with the various missions, are studying the whole thing. The result of the deliberations will be presented at the next meeting of NATO ministers of Foreign Affairs, which will take place in early April, if I am not mistaken.
A report will therefore be provided to the various ministers. We will then continue to do some planning in terms of time and space. There will certainly be a follow-up at the ministerial meeting of defence ministers, which is scheduled for June.
There's a lot we can say. Let me start with a broader framework and then we'll take it back to some of the security issues.
I think it's clear. The general mentioned earlier on that we've had a commitment of $3.5 billion from 2016 through to 2021. It's a very significant commitment, and I think it demonstrates what you'll likely hear in your respective ridings from your constituents about how the Middle East is affecting them directly, whether that is because they have family there or because of other things.
We've been working across a number of pillars, security being one but also humanitarian, development—as I was alluding to earlier—and improving governance. There are a couple of things that I think would resonate with your constituents back home. Since 2018, we've reached an average of 780,000 people every single month with food assistance. That's 780,000 people every month who are not hungry. In co-operation with the UN, we have provided 297,000 women and girls with gender-based violence services. That's almost 300,000 women and girls who have been traumatized who now have access to help to address both their physical and, as you were saying, non-physical injuries. We've provided 450,000 people in Iraq with safe water infrastructure. You can now take a drink out of the tap and not get yourself sick.
I'm sure that the generals would be proud to mention as well that, in co-operation with the global coalition, we've cleared explosives from 12.7 million square metres of land. Now people can farm. They can walk safely. Kids can go to school without being afraid. As well, with regard to police officers, 7,400 Iraqi police officers have been trained on community policing and other law enforcement: basically getting in touch with their communities, understanding what's happening and making people feel safe.
As a final note, I'd just say that there is now in Iraq an anti-domestic violence law, which didn't used to be there. That's also due to Canadian efforts.
Thank you for your question.
As far as refugees are concerned, Syria unfortunately continues to produce refugees on a daily basis. On our screens and in the newspapers, we are seeing the harmful effect of what is currently happening in Idlib. The flow of refugees continues, with all the trauma and regret it may cause.
That said, we continue to support refugees. We are major donors. Through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, we are providing significant amounts of money to Jordan and Lebanon to support countries that are hosting displaced persons.
I also want to tell you that it isn't only the refugees themselves who receive support from Canada, but also the communities that welcome them. If we didn't help the poor people in Lebanon, very significant tensions could arise between the refugees and the host communities. At present, our support includes humanitarian aid, medical care, basic education and food in the communities where refugees from Syria have settled. I can assure you that this support continues.
Thank you for your great question.
Actually, what we do in both countries is not only focus on the military instrument. Under the other line of operation, there are great effects being delivered by the Canadian government. If I can make some links here, we were talking earlier about refugees. Through our programs, there are a lot of refugee children who are given access to school when they're living in Lebanon or Jordan. This is a very good example of what we're doing.
With respect to Lebanon, we've been training them in terms of a winter type of environment. We've been making some interesting segues out there. Also, if I'm not mistaken, we ended up delivering a bit of medical training, but I don't want to go too much into the details. General Rouleau masters that much more than I do.
Project management is a key aspect of it. Right now we're working, for instance, on additional projects in Jordan aimed at increasing the level of security inside the country. We are still studying what these projects can be, but this is something we're working on hand in hand with our Global Affairs colleagues. It's a mix of infrastructure, training and specific military training, and on that, maybe General Rouleau can expand a little.
Today we have about 40 people in Lebanon and just under 30 in Jordan. That's today, but these numbers flex. The thing I would point out is that for all of these environments, whether it's Iraq, Jordan or Lebanon, they're never static. They're always evolving.
When we think of the work we're doing in Lebanon and Jordan, in Jordan we have a combat service support training team that is there. We have a female engagement team element there. We just wrapped up chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear TTP work with CBRN specialists. In Lebanon, we're doing a logistics enhancement piece so that they can better sustain their force further back from the front, if you will. It's more of an institutional sustainment thing. Also, of course, there's the winter training.
When we think about what we're doing there, we're really enhancing the security and promoting increased security capacity in these countries. That's what we're doing. We're fundamentally trying to increase the depth and, in some cases, the capabilities, but we can't think of this training in terms of just people.
It takes people and expertise to train another military to do something, but those people need to have the right permissions and authorities from people like the CDS and me to make sure that they can adjust on the ground and do the things they have to do. Also, we need access to funds and resources in many cases to help enable that training and to buy things or build things. It's a system that comes together in order to be able to do this.
I would close by saying that we send young people on these missions, people with, in some cases, very little operational experience. We've reduced a bit the ranks that we're sending there to try to empower the youth a little more and to try to husband some of our key ranks for the long run. These young people step up and they do a great job with it. I'm proud of what they're doing.
Thank you, sir.
If I may say so, “evolving” is probably the key word for this. As the general alluded to earlier, a few months ago we saw demonstrations in Iraq. They were cross-sectarian and, quite frankly, in those, consular generals of the Iranian government were attacked. That is just to say that there are many Iraqis who have been frustrated and resentful of the foreign influence in their country and who have been disappointed by what their government has provided them in terms of both the unity and coherence of the structure and also the ability to deliver the services they are expecting.
What we have seen more recently, particularly since the killing of Qasem Soleimani, is that there has been pressure to return again to sectarian camps a bit, compared with what we had seen before, which was much more of a unified demand on the government to govern appropriately.
How it will go from here remains to be seen. I think there is a need at this point to select a prime minister who can run the country. The country has been under a caretaker prime minister for several months now, and the most recent candidate was unable to form a government. I think that speaks to the profound differences you're seeing in the parliament itself.
Going forward what will Iran try to do in Iraq? Obviously, there are many people who can speculate on that. What I will say is that clearly Iran is in difficulty right now. The economic situation, as you're likely aware, is very poor. A number of very strict sanctions have been put in place by the American government. The joint comprehensive plan of action, which was to contain the nuclear program of Iran, is currently under a dispute resolution mechanism because of a lack of compliance by Iran. Finally, as the news will tell you every morning, the situation with coronavirus is a very grave domestic health concern for the Iranian government.
If I may close where I began, the situation is very much evolving, and I think it will need to be watched. Certainly, there will continue to be a need for Operation Impact and also for the work we're doing on the development and humanitarian fronts across the region.
I would like to echo the words of my colleagues in terms of thanks for your service and the service of our women and men who are over there, and also for the answers you are giving today and the information you are providing, which I think is very helpful to the committee.
Something that has been mentioned is that even with the suspension, within days and certainly now, a number of the core training activities have continued. We spoke about Jordan and Lebanon and the Canadian training advisory teams.
You mentioned the female engagement training that's happening in Jordan. As we know, Canada is committed to the action plan on women, peace and security. We have a woman, Major-General Carignan, who is the commander of the NATO mission.
Can you tell us a little more about what is happening in terms of training the women in Jordan and whether or not there's a cascade effect to that training? I understand we're training trainers who are then going out and training others.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to take a moment to reposition some of the conversation we had about Iran-Iraq relations. These are two countries that historically, culturally, religiously and economically are highly interdependent, with periods of conflict. One of the holiest sites in Shia Islam is in Najaf, Iraq. There are significant pilgrimages from Iran to Iraq. There are high-ranking officials in the current Iraqi government who have spent substantial periods of time in Iran. There are, of course, concerns about Shia militia, and I am very grateful, Lieutenant-General Rouleau, for your comments.
Shia militia have been a live issue since at least 1991, the Shia uprising in the south. If you're telling us that you're concerned about large-scale Shia militia I think this committee should take very careful note of that, potentially even greater note than the current state of Daesh. I think the more successful periods of Iraqi stable politics since 2003 have been periods where the Iraqi Shia militia have been able to stand down through calibrated negotiations at various tracts. The risk now is whether they will stand up again. Is there dissatisfaction? Are there reasons for them to become more active, and if so, what does that mean for Canada, for NATO?
We're currently in a stalemate in Baghdad, with Mohammed Allawi having stood down a week ago, saying he's not going to be their guy.
Are there mechanisms to go to the regional level, to the governor level, to the provinces of Iraq to build relationships on security and governance and human development? If things aren't moving in Baghdad, do we have other channels to reach out to other parts and micromanage—if that's the right term—relationships with commanders of Shia militia, or other channels that could be constructive or do us harm? Is there a strategy or capacity for that?
The biggest threat for peace and security in the Middle East.... This will give me the opportunity to just inform you that, as we mentioned earlier, the Middle East strategy through which we have been working will come to a conclusion at the end of fiscal year 2020-21. In fact, we are doing reflection now on what we think is at the core of what would bring stability to the Middle East.
It will escape no one's notice that it remains an area that has been unstable for a long time, unable to provide services to its people, which has brought us and our Canadian Armed Forces partners back repeatedly to the region.
There are some things we cannot change. The geography of the Middle East we cannot change. The battle for influence amongst regional powers we cannot change. What we can work on, I think, is strengthening the countries within the region. That's what our partnership under the Middle East strategy has been about.
Global Affairs, for our part, is focused on programming, either to strengthen the governance of the countries involved or to work on, specifically, stabilization programs to give them the capacity to provide security to the limits of their borders—in some cases very much so, with the road in Jordan that the general mentioned. We're also trying to make sure there are the tools to govern properly.
As far as what Canada can do from the outside is concerned, we really need to focus on building the capacity of these states to govern effectively, including all of their diverse populations and in a way in which they can manage relationships with their neighbours.
In summary, although there are many who could write their Ph.D. dissertations on it, allow me to say that there is a range of reasons, but what's important is that Canada find its place where it can contribute to peace, long term.