Military Training as Foreign Influence: Canadian Behind-the-Scenes Imperialism
by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice
September 1st, 2015
Unlike the US or France, Canada is not a leading military force in Africa. But Ottawa exerts influence through a variety of means including training initiatives.
Canadian Forces have trained hundreds of African soldiers at the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre in Kingston Ontario and Lester B. Pearson Centre in Nova Scotia. Canadian forces have also directed or participated in a slew of officer training initiatives, running courses in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Mali among other places. In recent years Ottawa has funded and staffed various military training centres across the continent such as the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana, African Centre for Strategic Research and Studies in Nigeria and Ecole de Maintien de la Paix Alioune Blondin in Mali.
Canadian special forces also train a number of African militaries. Along with the US, Canadian troops trained counterterrorism units in Niger, Kenya and Mali and in 2014 Canadian Special Operations Forces Command spokesman Major Steve Hawken told Embassy that his force had recently trained 800 African military personnel.
Canada is increasingly involved in “counterterrorist” training exercises in the Sahel region, which covers parts of Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea. The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) has participated in Exercise Flintlock since 2011. Fifty members of CSOR and the Special Operations Aviation Squadron traveled to Senegal and Mauritania for Exercise Flintlock in 2014. The New York Times Magazine reported: “For the past three weeks, Green Berets, along with British, French and Canadian special operators, had been training 139 elite troops from Niger, Nigeria and Chad” as part of Flintlock 2014. Sponsored by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Flintlock takes place in a different Sahel region nation each year.
Canadian officials generally tell the media the aim of training other militaries is to help fight terror or the illicit drug trade but a closer look at military doctrine suggests broader strategic and geopolitical motivations. An important objective is to strengthen foreign militaries’ capacity to operate in tandem with Canadian and/or NATO forces. According to Canada’s Military Training Assistance Program, its “language training improves communication between NATO and other armed forces” and its “professional development and staff training enhances other countries compatibility with the CFs [Canadian Forces].” At a broader level MTAP states its training “serves to achieve influence in areas of strategic interest to Canada. … Canadian diplomatic and military representatives find it considerably easier to gain access and exert influence in countries with a core group of Canadian-trained professional military leaders.”
When Ottawa initiated post-independence training missions in Africa a memo to cabinet ministers described the political value of training foreign military officers. It stated: “Military leaders in many developing countries, if they do not actually form the government, frequently wield much more power and influence domestically than is the case in the majority of western domestic nations… [it] would seem in Canada’s general interest on broad foreign policy grounds to keep open the possibility of exercising a constructive influence on the men who often will form the political elite in developing countries, by continuing to provide training places for officers in our military institutions where they receive not only technical military training but are also exposed to Canadian values and attitudes.”
As part of Canada’s initial aid efforts in the early 1960s, Canadian troops trained armed forces in various African countries. In Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania, Canada endeavoured “to fill in the vacuum left by the withdrawal of British officers and training facilities,” notes Professor Robert Matthews. Military historian Sean Maloney further explains: “These teams consisted of regular army officers who, at the ‘operational level’, trained military personnel of these new Commonwealth countries to increase their professionalism. The strategic function, particularly of the 83-man team in Tanzania, was to maintain a Western presence to counter Soviet and Chinese bloc political and military influence.” By the end of the 1960s Canada had spent over $23 million (around $170 million today) training the military forces of seven African and Asian countries.
In 1966 Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew President Kwame Nkrumah, a leading pan-Africanist who was dubbed “Man of the Millennium” in a 2000 poll by BBC listeners in Africa. After independence Ghana’s army remained British dominated. The colonial era British generals were still in place and the majority of Ghana’s officers continued to be trained in Britain. In response to a number of embarrassing incidents, Nkrumah released the British commanders in September 1961. It was at this point that Canada began training Ghana’s military.
Canadians organized and oversaw the Junior Staff Officers course and a number of Canadians took up top positions in the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence. In the words of Canada’s military attaché to Ghana, Colonel Desmond Deane-Freeman, the Canadians in these positions imparted “our way of thinking”. Celebrating the influence of “our way of thinking”, in 1965 Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey wrote the under secretary of external affairs: “Since independence, it [Ghana’s military] has changed in outlook, perhaps less than any other institution. It is still equipped with Western arms and although essentially non-political, is Western oriented.”
After Nkrumah’s removal the Canadian high commissioner boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program at the Ghanaian Defence College. Writing to the Canadian under secretary of external affairs, McGaughey noted, “All the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.”
When today’s internal documents are made available they will likely show that Canadian military training initiatives continue to influence the continent’s politics in ways that run counter to most Africans’ interests.
Defied UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973
by Yves EnglerAugust 29, 2015
Since the start of the Canadian election campaign a series of posts have detailed the Harper Conservatives repeated abuse of power. The Tyee published “Harper, Serial Abuser of Power”, which listed “70 Harper government assaults on democracy and the law.” But the widely disseminated list omitted what may be the Conservatives’ most flagrant – and far-reaching –lawbreaking. In 2011 Ottawa defied UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1970 and 1973, which were passed amidst the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule in Libya.
In direct contravention of these legally binding resolutions, Canadian troops were on the ground in the North African country. On September 13, three weeks after Tripoli fell to the anti-Gaddafi National Transition Council, Canada’s state broadcaster reported: “CBC News has learned there are members of the Canadian Forces on the ground in Libya.”
A number of other media outlets reported that highly secretive Canadian special forces were fighting in Libya. On February 28, CTV.ca reported “that Canadian special forces are also on the ground in Libya” while Esprit du Corp editor Scott Taylor noted Canadian Special Operations Regiment’s flag colours in the Conservatives’ post-war celebration. But, any Canadian ‘boots on the ground’ in Libya violated UNSCR 1973, which explicitly excluded “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”
The Conservative government also directly armed the rebels in contravention of international law. Waterloo-based Aeryon Scout Micro supplied the rebels with a three-pound, backpack-sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The director of field support for the company, Charles Barlow, traveled 18 hours on a rebel operated boat from Malta to the rebels training facility in Misrata. There, Barlow taught the rebels how to operate this Canadian-developed drone, which was used to gather intelligence on the front lines. In an interview after Gaddafi’s death, Barlow said: “I hope we did a little tiny part to help get rid of that man.”
According to various reports the drone was paid for out of Libyan government assets frozen in Canada. Aeryon CEO Dave Kroetsch said the company was “approached by the Canadian government.” But, in April 2011 Foreign Affairs officials advised then foreign minister Lawrence Cannon that providing military assistance to the Libyan rebels contravened UNSCR 1970. Based on documents uncovered through the Access to Information Act, Project Ploughshares reported: “A ‘Memorandum for Action’ signed by the Minister on April 11, noted that under the UN Security Council resolution that established the arms embargo against Libya, ‘Canada generally cannot permit the export of arms to Libya without the prior approval of the UN 1970 Sanctions Committee.’ The memo also stated that the arms embargo ‘encompasses any type of weapon … as well as technical assistance such as the provision of instruction, training or intelligence.’ It confirms that the UN arms embargo on Libya precluded the transfer of the Canadian surveillance drone to Libyan opposition forces.
However, the memo also provided an interpretive feint for Canada by which it could allow the drone to be exported. It noted that Security Council Resolution 1973 contains language that key partners the US, the UK and France interpreted as permitting provision of arms to Libyan opposition forces as part of ‘all necessary measures … to protect civilians.’ The memo was clear that this interpretation was not shared by many other states, including NATO allies Italy and Norway.”
The government failed to inform all departments about its interpretive feint. In early 2012 a Canadian Forces website plainly stated that UNSCR 1970 “called for an international arms embargo on Libya” and “[UNSCR] 1973 of 17 March, which strengthened the arms embargo.”
Montréal-based security firm Garda World also contravened international law. Sometime in the “summer of 2011”, according to its website, Garda began operating in the country. After the National Transition Council captured Tripoli (six weeks before Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte on October 20, 2011) the rebels requested Garda’s assistance in bringing their forces “besieging the pro-Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte to hospitals in Misrata”, reported Bloomberg. [iv] UNSCR 1970 specifically mandated all UN member states “to prevent the provision of armed mercenary personnel” into Libya.
Resolution 1973 reinforced the arms embargo, mentioning “armed mercenary personnel” in three different contexts. In an article titled “Mercenaries in Libya: Ramifications of the Treatment of ‘Armed Mercenary Personnel’ under the Arms Embargo for Private Military Company Contractors”, Hin-Yan Liu points out that the Security Council’s “explicit use of the broader term ‘armed mercenary personnel’ is likely to include a significant category of contractors working for Private Military Companies (PMCs).”1
Canadian officials probably introduced the rebels to Garda, the world’s largest privately held security firm. In fact, Ottawa may have paid Garda to help the rebels. As mentioned, the federal government used some of the $2.2 billion it froze in Libyan assets in Canada to pay Aeryon Scout to equip and train the rebels with a UAV.
After Gaddafi was killed the Conservatives spent $850,000 on a nationally televised war celebration for the troops that fought in Libya. Harper called it “a day of honour… Soldier for soldier, sailor for sailor, airman for airman, the Canadian Armed Forces are the best in the world.”
But don’t expect the Prime Minister to discuss Libya during the election. “Since Colonel Gaddafi’s death in Sirte in October 2011,” the BBC reported recently, “Libya has descended into chaos, with various militias fighting for power.” ISIS has taken control of parts of the country while a government in Tripoli and another in Benghazi claim national authority
The Conservatives’ violation of international law delivered a terrible blow to Libya. If international affairs weren’t largely defined by the ‘might makes right’ principle, Harper would find himself in the dock.
Hin-Yan Liu, Mercenaries in Libya: Ramifications of the Treatment of ‘Armed Mercenary Personnel’ under the Arms Embargo for Private Military Company Contractors, Journal of Conﬂict & Security Law, Vol 16, No 2, 2011
Yves Engler is the author of The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. His Canada in Africa — 300 years of Aid and Exploitation will be published in September and he will be speaking across the country in the lead up to the election.