Canada’s chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, says Canadians should not have any illusions about the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) peacekeeping mission in Mali. As CBC News reports, Vance says the mission will be “far messier” than the deployment that many Canadians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, remember in places like Cyprus.
“This is a mission sponsored by the UN and so think of it as a UN mission, not necessarily a peacekeeping mission,” he told CBC.
The mission to Mali has been roundly criticized as a leap of faith in the United Nations and as using the military to justify Trudeau’s deep faith in the that organization and his belief that Canada needed to get back in the business of peacekeeping.
There is little peace to keep in Mali. The African nation is in the midst of a civil war and is a hotbed of Islamic extremism. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently told CBC that Canadian soldiers would be walking into an open conflict.
“It is a war zone indeed there, but, it’s not for the peacekeepers to fight the war,” he said, leaving open the question of what rules of engagement the peacekeeping force is expected to follow.
“It is a dangerous environment and…peacekeepers may be attacked, and it’s important that we take all precautions to prevent that.”
That’s one reason that Vance is in Mali ahead of the 250-person contingent and six helicopters that Canada is contributing to this fractured country.
“It is certainly important for me and my senior commanders to arrive here early on to get a sense of what they will be doing, talk to the allies, get a sense of any lessons to take away,” Vance told CBC.
Vance says it is also important to ensure that Canadians back home know exactly what the mission is all about and what the contingent “will or won’t be doing.”
CAF planners expect everyone to be on-scene by early August along with two Chinook helicopters and four Griffon helicopters.