March 05, 2004


After some serious behind-the-scenes horsetrading, the Canadian military has gone with a new Haiti deployment, over extending the Kabul and Bosnia missions.

As said here, before, the Canadian military currently has a sustainable deployment capability of 1,200 infantry, more or less. And you need infantry to do these missions. Add an 1:1 leavening of support personnel (from engineers to medics) and the total deployable land force package is roughly 2,500. That's the more-or-less rigid personnel planning envelope to work in. It's also a number we've been rather consistently exceeding for over a decade, which is a large part of where the forces are now.

Currently, the foreign commitments are: Afghanistan (2,000), Bosnia (1,200) and the Golan (200). That absolutely had to come down, ideally from either drawing the larger two down to minimum strength, or ending one of them altogether. But Haiti was calling, too. And a lot of people, this call sign included, were deeply skeptical that the pressure to keep the Afghan and Bosnia missions going would end up the winning argument, as it always has before. But apparently that pressure has abated somewhat.

t's hard to imagine the Defence Department could have reasonably agreed to another 450 troops for Haiti without some understanding with the Foreign Affairs office, on paper, signed, in blood, that Kabul, Bosnia, or even both would actually be really drawn down this time. And this seems to be what has happened, in fact. By the fall, assuming the second Haiti rotation is of a similar size to the first, which seems likely, those commitments will be reorganized to Haiti (450), Bosnia (600), Afghanistan (500) and the Golan (200)... under 2,000 in total, basically a heavily reinforced infantry company group or two in each of the first three, which will give enough headroom for proper reconstitution and a restarting of the army's moribund training establishments.

The problem now is going to be resisting what will be HUGE diplomatic pressure from NATO to keep Bosnia/Afghanistan going even further. There's some serious foreign affairs triangulation going on here... a couple inches closer to the US (which wants Haiti support) and the UN, and backing off a bit from NATO. But the big dread in National Defence HQ now has to be that the Foreign Affairs office will welch in a few months or so, and insist on keeping one or both of the NATO missions going at high tempo, ie still at a battalion-plus strength. Were that to happen, it could be extremely hazardous, both to the troops, and to the Forces' longterm planning.

UPDATE: It goes without saying that this force is significantly smaller than what was sent to Haiti the last time (750).

Posted by BruceR at 04:43 PM