Canada preparing for next mission - Nova Scotia News - TheChronicleHerald.ca
OTTAWA — Canada’s military is locked into the Afghan mission until 2011, but is preparing for the next war or peacekeeping mission by establishing a series of supply depots around the world, The Canadian Press has learned.
Germany this week became the first country to agree to host a small detachment of Canadian military and civilian supply clerks, who will share space with the U.S. forces at an air base in Spangdahlem.
Ottawa is also negotiating with other NATO allies and plans to approach governments in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, the Caribbean and South America for similar ventures.
"We’ve learned a lot through transformation and the operations of the past few years," Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the country’s top military commander, said in a recent interview.
The supply depots, essentially small warehouse operations located in strategic regions, would allow for the stockpiling of equipment and ammunition for future missions.
Natynczyk said if the Canadian military is to play a role in hot spots around the world — as Defence Minister Peter MacKay recently suggested — then "we need significant bilateral relations with countries (where) we can pre-position combat supplies and equipment."
The plan envisions both sea and air bases, staffed in some cases by as many as half a dozen Canadians, located in friendly countries but close to potential trouble spots.
The depots could be used as jumping off points for military or humanitarian missions, said a senior defence official who spoke on background.
Critics have long complained the Afghan war has hamstrung the Canadian army, tied up resources and prevented it from undertaking other armed interventions — or peacekeeping assignments.
New Democrats, for example, have lobbied for an intervention to stop the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. But military officers have said that such missions can work only if there staging points from which troops can deploy or be supplied.
Natynczyk’s predecessor, Gen. Rick Hillier, often warned the army didn’t have the manpower to carry out two simultaneous operations in different parts of the globe.
But documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the bigger problem has been establishing a supply train to sustain a tandem operation when the country has virtually no overseas military bases.
"The CF lacks sufficient capability to constantly maintain the operational level support task because of policy decisions that resulted in these capabilities not being assigned or funded," said a November 2006 draft report prepared for National Defence headquarters.
The cost-cutting abandonment of bases in Germany by the Mulroney government as part of its peace dividend in the early 1990s has particularly hampered the military’s ability to quickly deploy missions abroad.
Canada does maintain a secret base in the Middle East, through which much of the Afghan war supplies are funnelled. But the camp — an air base — has limited capacity.
Since the closure of Canada’s Cold War bases in Europe, supplies and equipment for troops in the field on UN peacekeeping missions have been shipped directly from Canada.