Front Lines

Journalists go behind ISIL lines
Front Lines

Journalists go behind ISIL lines

File this under the department of things that happened once and will likely never happen again. A father-and-son team of German journalists managed to convince the Islamic State (or ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever you prefer) to take them on a tour of their capital city, Raqqa, and their biggest prize, Mosul. A book written about the experience–My Journey into the Heart of Terror: Ten Days in the Islamic State by Jürgen Todenhöfer–is due to be published later this month. Remember, these tour guides are the same people who tend to behead journalists, so the endeavour meant some very considerable risk. Todenhöfer’s actual guide for the trip was an obese German convert to Islam named Abu Qatadah and his driver was quite likely the Islamic State’s most notorious executioner, Jihadi John (wh...
General Jonathan Vance warns Canada to expect casualties (again)
Front Lines

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." 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 dang...
What the Russians left behind in Syria
Front Lines

What the Russians left behind in Syria

Now that Vladimir Putin has officially ended the Russian bombing campaign in Syria—where the main targets of his bombs were Syrian rebels, not ISIS—it has come to light that some of their normally secretive special operations forces have been committed to battle against the Islamic State itself. What actually happened was that during the battle of Palmyra a Russian Spetsnaz soldier within their new special forces command (KSO) was killed in battle, left behind, and suffered the indignity of having photos of his body and equipment splashed all over the internet. It’s not the type of photo you see very often, but it has made it impossible for the Russian’s to continue denying that their special forces are on the front lines of the conflict. What’s interesting about the gear is how a...
As ISIS loses ground, terror attacks will increase
Front Lines

As ISIS loses ground, terror attacks will increase

There’s no shortage of pundits willing to explain what’s happening in the world right now – the Middle East in flames, refugees inundating Europe, and a steady stream of terrorist atrocities across the world. The latest of these attacks killed dozens across two separate sites in Belgium earlier this week. ISIS has claimed responsibility and that is no surprise. “Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State,” said the ISIS statement. “Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom ...
A year of heavy bombing
Front Lines

A year of heavy bombing

Of the many ways to look at the global conflict situation in the past year or two, perhaps one of the starkest comes from an analysis of where the United States and its coalition partners (including Canada) have used airpower, and how often. According to research done by Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, there were 28,714 U.S.-led coalition munitions dropped in 2015. From this number, Zenko determines that the U.S. itself conducted at least 23,144 airstrikes in 2015. But where did all these bombs land? And who got killed? The first part of that answer is fairly easy to determine, the second part is somewhat murkier. The vast majority of the strikes–22,110–took place in Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan received 947, Yemen took 58, Somalia 18 and P...
So many missions, one common enemy
Front Lines

So many missions, one common enemy

While Canada’s involvement in the war against ISIS in Iraq seems to be escalating (at least in numbers of troops involved on the ground, if not in numbers of ISIS killed) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has made it clear that it sees Canada’s military as peacekeepers more than warriors.  While anyone paying attention to the past half-century of military history will concede that Canada was at one point more heavily involved in peacekeeping than it is now, the underlying truth remains that Canada’s military mainly spent the Cold War period preparing for combat against the Soviet Union and that peacekeeping was a secondary priority, at best. Despite this, rumours abound in Ottawa about the possibility of Canada becoming involved in a new mission in Libya, a mission that woul...

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