Retiring general warns against skimping on support for future military missions

General wants more resources in future missions

CALGARY — A retiring Canadian general who served a number of international tours in his almost 40-year career says there should be more resources for and less government control over future military missions.

“I came back from Afghanistan and my biggest observation was what we have to stop is allowing capitals to run individual parts of the campaign,” said Maj.-Gen. Denis Thompson, who was attending an event in Calgary last week.

Thompson, who recently ended a three-year tour as head of the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt, also had postings in Germany and Bosnia.

In 2008, he was commander of Task Force Kandahar in Afghanistan, where he saw different countries overseeing different regions with little co-ordination.

“Ottawa tried to run Kandahar. The British tried to run Helmand. The Dutch tried to run North Urozgan and the Americans ran several provinces, and it wasn’t really joined up,” said Thompson.

“So what happened is we had 2,750 Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, the home of the Taliban. Next door in Helmand, which was a sideshow, there were 8,000 to 10,000 Brits, and when the American marines arrived … where did the marines go? To Helmand.

“So we were left holding the bag and … running around playing whack-a-mole because we didn’t have enough troops. We didn’t even have half the number of troops we needed and (additional soldiers) didn’t arrive until 2010-2011, and by then you’re 10 years into the war.”

Canada sent its first soldiers to Afghanistan in October 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Canada’s role initially was to help stabilize the Middle Eastern region and provide peace support operations.

But the assignment expanded into a full combat mission which continued until 2011. Some troops remained in a training and mentoring capacity until March 2014.

Thompson, who also served as Commander of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command in Ottawa, said there are lessons to be learned for future international missions.

“You have to apply enough resources, and the problem in a lot of these campaigns — whether it’s UN, NATO, a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ — is there has to be one central commander who has all the authorities,” Thompson suggested. 

“He can apply all the pressures he needs to solve all of the problems and not allow people to tinker with a 10,000-kilometre screwdriver from a great distance and mess with your campaign plan.”

Thompson favours leaving commanders in place for longer periods, so that they are familiar with all the nuances of a mission. He added more focus should also be placed on providing non-military personnel to help influence policy at local levels with aid organizations such as the Red Cross or the UN Refugee Agency.

“We need to invest civilians, send them to those organizations from our Foreign Affairs Department … and send them straight to those organizations … so they can influence the direction of the campaign.”

Thompson said the Canadian military is as well prepared as it’s ever been and will respond to whatever the government decides Canada should be doing. And as far as resolving problems in war-torn areas such as Iraq and Syria, he suggested there is a common denominator.

“It has more to do with fixing the economic imbalances and the widespread poverty, the destitution that’s been brought about by this conflict. Until you really get to the root problem, you can’t solve the overall security problem.”

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Blowing snow, slippery sections on Okanagan Connector

Compact snow, poor visibility on Highway 97 from Pennask Summitt to Brenda Mines.

Makeover for Vernon motel with a history

Crime-plagued Green Valley Motel rebranded as Okanagan Royal Park Inn

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

City tweaks snow removal policy

Clear plan now in place in City of Armstrong

Lake Country seniors receive Christmas surprise

Hampers will be given to 20 lucky seniors in need next week

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Family suspends search for missing Alberta couple, plane near Revelstoke

Due to bad weather, families of missing Albertan couple say they will resume in the spring

Fire crews investigating oil sheen on Penticton Creek

Fire crews are working to contain the oil from spreading

Canadian grocers make $3M per year from penny-rounding: UBC study

Ottawa announced plans in 2012 to phase out the copper coin

B.C. anti-hate campaigner finds Google search on his efforts redirects to porn

Text from online news article about Cran Campbell being used to link to suspect websites

Summerland’s Justin Kripps completes first double-medal weekend of career

High-powered Canadian bobsledders celebrate four-man silver at World Cup in Igls

‘The Last Jedi’ opens with $220M, 2nd best weekend all-time

As anticipated, the movie fell shy of the opening weekend for J.J. Abrams’ 2015 franchise reboot

2 couples tie the knot in Australia’s 1st same-sex weddings

West Australian couple Anne Sedgwick, Lyn Hawkins have been together for 40 years

Most Read