Exactly WHAT is a “Non-Combat” Mission?

The latest polling done by Leger Marketing for the Toronto Sun et. al. shows 45 per cent of those surveyed saying “Canada should step out of combat role and provide training and development only” (more detailed results on this question available here via Milnet.ca).

In addition to my tea leaf reading, I have some questions I hope is addressed by Sun Media (or any outlet’s) editorial writers and/or columnists supporting this idea:

  • If you have Canadian development or aid teams working on projects, and  these projects come under attack while Canadian troops are protecting them, will shooting back at the enemy constitute a “non-combat” mission?  (I will guess quite confidently some will say it certainly is if a Canadian soldier is killed in such an exchange)
  • If you have Canadian soldiers training Afghan troops and cops, but not being with them on patrol or on operations to mentor them and reinforce what was taught, how much is this going to increase Afghan security force confidence in Canadians?  Especially considering that now, from what I understand, Canadians are sharing the risks with the forces they train and mentor?
  • Is it a “combat mission” or not if Canadian troops join their Afghan trainees on patrol or operations?  After all, there’s a case to be made that it’s not the CANADIANS fighting, it’s the AFGHANS fighting with CANADIANS watching/supporting/mentoring, right?

As long as there’s an armed adversary willing to kill and maim to prevent humanitarian and development aid or programs from being delivered, someone is going to end up in a situation that some will consider “combat” in order to keep the work going.

I await answers to such questions from both the media as well as those ultimately responsible for sending troops and civilians into harm’s way.

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