Mr. O'Connor told a Senate committee on national security yesterday that the military has sufficient ground troops to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely. But when asked whether Canada could send soldiers to help maintain peace in Darfur, Mr. O'Connor said, "We would be greatly challenged to take on a commitment anywhere else in the world."The whole, “Army you have, not Army you want..”
The minister later told reporters that other branches of the Canadian Forces might be able to provide some sort of assistance in a pinch if an international force is assembled to police a peace agreement in Darfur, where a civil war has killed at least 180,000 people in the past three years.
"We can't just instantly adjust the Armed Forces," he said. "It's what we have today that we have to deal with."
Mr. O'Connor said the Canadian army won't have additional ground troops to take on another major mission for at least several years.Small by U.S. standards (they have ~32 million people, the US has ~300 million), but that is a 37% increase in $$$ (Canadian) and a 21% increase in manpower. Oh, and the Navy’s shipbuilding program could learn something from a retired Canadian General.
Canada has 2,200 soldiers involved in the counterinsurgency operations to root out Taliban fighters in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will decide later this year how long Canada will keep troops in that war-ravaged country.
The Canadian Forces plan to recruit and train an additional 13,000 full-time personnel for all three services in the next several years. The current force strength is about 62,000.
Last week's federal budget pledged $5.3-billion in new defence spending over the next five years. This would boost the defence budget to almost $20-billion by 2010 from the current $14.5-billion.
Mr. O'Connor, a former army general and retired defence industry lobbyist, said the military has wasted time and money over the years by requiring that military suppliers meet particular Canadian requirements for equipment. "We are abandoning Canadianizing everything."Replace “helmet” with “Corvette sized warship” and you have some serious “out of the box” thinking that might, just might, get us back to 300 ships + and steady…might.
The military, he said, spent 10 years and $15-million on research and development to get a uniquely Canadian helmet to protect "this peculiar Canadian head when they could have put a table out there with a Russian helmet, a Chinese helmet, an American helmet, a French helmet and said, 'Which helmet do you want?' "