Front Lines

Bin Laden’s letters home
Front Lines

Bin Laden’s letters home

He may have been one of the most dastardly millionaires in history, but not even Osama bin Laden was above writing flattering letters to his father asking for money. “To start,” bin Laden writes to his dad, “I do not forget your favour in raising us, and deepening the concept of jihad in our hearts, and on spending on us, and in helping us get married, and a lot more of other things...what a father and how wonderful you are.” Hearing this, any father knows what’s coming next: “There is another matter: When I got married, Abu Burhan Al-Suri covered the marriage costs and what was after. If these were not from your funds, kindly pay them back, so I will not be trapped in my grave.” Beyond begging for money, the letters reveal quite a bit about al-Qaida. Why does this still matter? ...
Watching Syria die
Defence Today, Front Lines

Watching Syria die

The crisis in Syria and Iraq—and the torment of the refugees—as considered by three of the smartest minds we could find Syria is dying. It’s emptying out. And the war is unleashing unprecedented chaos on the region, on Europe and on the world. The New York Times described it as a “proto-world war,” and legendary retired American general David Petraeus described it as “geo-political Chernobyl.” But the question is: what to do about it? Are there any solutions to the refugee crisis in Syria, to the civil war there and to the unending killing perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and by ISIS and by all the other murderous groups? During the recent Canadian election, our politicians were outdoing each other announcing how they would deal with the symptoms of the crisis, ...
NATO’s show of force
Front Lines

NATO’s show of force

With the chaos in Syria continuing to spill out across the world, it’s quite easy to overlook Russia’s recent behaviour, the unusual and worrying aggression it has displayed not only against its neighbouring countries but elsewhere. While the world’s attention may have shifted to Syria, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition is still tracking President Vladimir Putin’s moves and is doing its best to deter him from doing something even more dangerous. Besides filling Eastern Europe with NATO troops and hardware, the alliance recently held its largest-ever training exercise. Nearly 36,000 troops from 28 allies and nine partner nations converged on Italy, Spain and Portugal this fall for Trident Juncture. It was a truly massive show of force. “We see a new reality surrounding NAT...
Friendly fire incident investigated
Front Lines

Friendly fire incident investigated

Beginning in Iraq, the lingering mystery about the exact events that led to the death of Canadian Special Operations Regiment Sergeant Andrew Doiron at the hands of allied Kurdish peshmerga forces has been mostly resolved with the release of a highly redacted report into the event. More than two months after Doiron’s death, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) has released a censored three-page report which concluded: “This CFNIS investigation into the Operational Sudden Death of Sgt DOIRON revealed he was killed as a result of Peshmerga Forces mistaking him and other members of SOTF [REDACTED] for ISIS fighters.” “SOTF” stands for Special Operations Task Force, and refers to the name given to the Canadian element deployed to northern Iraq, which is redacted becau...
The Russian Bear Looks North
Defence Today, Front Lines

The Russian Bear Looks North

It takes only a cursory glance at recent headlines to see that the Russian bear has not only awoken, but is angry, quite possibly rabid. Not content to merely create chaos in rewriting the map of Eastern Europe, or to panic its neighbours farther afield with constant bomber flights across their flanks, the Russians have also recently turned their sights to the far north. In mid-March, no less than 80,000 Russian troops (yes, that eighty thousand number is correct, at least according to TASS, one of Russia’s official news agencies) were involved in an airborne exercise in the Arctic. Billed as a “snap check of combat readiness,” Russia’s Northern Fleet, Airborne Forces and multiple other formations made a massive display of getting ready to fight in the north, going so far as to land air...
Redefining ‘combat’
Defence Today, Front Lines

Redefining ‘combat’

In news from Canada’s shooting war, it turns out that the mission to advise and assist Kurdish forces in northern Iraq had a much more rigorous amount of assisting involved than was initially made clear. In a press conference in Ottawa on Jan. 19, Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance, head of the Joint Operations Command, and Brigadier-General Michael Rouleau, head of Special Operations Forces Command, told reporters that not only had Canadian special operations snipers directly engaged ISIL militants, but that the Canadian soldiers had been calling in airstrikes since November—no fewer than 13 times. While close observers have noted that the war against ISIL has been following the model of the successful 2001 campaign against the Taliban, which was to use coalition airpower guided by speci...