General Jonathan Vance warns Canada to expect casualties (again)

In the early days of Canada’s war in Afghanistan, just as we were transitioning from Kabul to the badlands around Kandahar City, then-Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier made a point of rather prominently spelling out for Canadians that the new mission was, in his famous phrase, against “detestable murderers and scumbags”—and that we would be taking casualties. 

“This is a dangerous mission. There is an enemy. We have had casualties,” Hillier told The Washington Post in early 2006, as the Kandahar mission was ramping up. “But what we want to achieve there is worthwhile. Things that are worth doing are sometimes dangerous.”

Canadian Army soldiers from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery prepare to secure a simulated building while participating in combat first aid training at CFB Shilo, Manitoba, on March 18, 2016. Photo: MCpl Louis Brunet, Canadian Army Public Affairs AS01-2016-0016-001 ~ Des soldats de l’Armée canadienne du 1er Régiment du Royal Canadian Horse Artillery s’apprêtent à sécuriser un bâtiment factice dans le cadre d’une instruction de premiers soins au combat à la BFC Shilo, au Manitoba, le 18 mars 2016. Photo : Cplc Louis Brunet, Affaires publiques de l’Armée canadienne AS01-2016-0016-001
Canadian Army soldiers from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery prepare to secure a simulated building while participating in combat first aid training at CFB Shilo, Man. On March 18, 2016.
Combat Camera
Now, our current CDS, General Jonathan Vance, has made very similar points about the newly expanded mission in Iraq. “This is a dangerous mission in a dangerous place.…Canadians need to be prepared for the fact that there will be confrontation. There will be fighting, I am certain of it. There has been already,” Vance told the CBC. “This represents an expansion of our mission on the ground, so it stands to reason that there will be fighting, and potentially casualties as we face this mission.…We’re expecting there to be fighting.”

As for whether we’re winning the war, it’s pretty clear we’re not. As Vance says, the end is not currently visible. “I don’t think it’s in sight. I think we are thinking through the problem, we understand more and more. When you say ISIS, or ISIL or Daesh, it comes in many forms,” Vance said. “There’s the core ISIL that lives in and works in Iraq and Syria and that absolutely needs to be defeated. And I’m confident that all the steps are being taken right now, including with the Canadian mission, to see to the military defeat of ISIL in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, consider yourself warned: “Canadians can reasonably expect that fighting will occur in defence of our own people and the Kurds.”

Sounds familiar.


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