http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/mercedes_stephenson/2010/12/10/16509801.html Canadian special forces in Afghanistan capture more insurgents than they kill. Surprised? Well it’s true. Like most issues surrounding the secretive Canadian special operations community, the truth is more nuanced and complex than the myth. Contrary to popular belief, Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is not Canada’s only special operations unit, nor does it spend most of its time shooting. “You can’t kill your way to victory,” says Brig.-Gen. Michael Day, commander of Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM). Day shatters the shoot-’em-up, cowboy special forces image of popular culture. Apparently, Canada’s elite commandos don’t go around kicking down doors and shooting up insurgent compounds. Canadian special operations forces (known as SOF) “pull the trigger less than a quarter of the time,” Day explains. Canadian special operations forces are unusual in the world. Based on a police model, (JTF2 replaced the RCMP’s SERT task force in 1993) Canada’s super-secret soldiers emphasize the minimization of the use of force, especially deadly force. Don’t kill unless you absolutely have to. It makes sense. Terrorists are worth a lot more alive than dead, because they know useful information. A dead insurgent can’t tell you where the money for the bombs came from, who their boss is, or what operation they’re planning next. Beyond the cold, hard utility of keeping their targets alive, the institutional culture and ethos of CANSOFCOM — especially JTF2 — drive the capture-versus-kill mentality. JTF2 has unique characteristics stemming from its police past that drills the primacy of Canadian domestic rule of law into every member’s head. Unlike the U.S., where ‘posse comitatus’ deters the military from acting on home soil, JTF2 is Canada’s primary domestic counter-terrorism response. To minimize the need for training, and prevent potentially deadly confusion, Canadian special operators adhere to a single standard overseas and at home. In Afghanistan, a JTF2 operator will apply the same standards he would in Toronto for a domestic event. This means that CANSOFCOM operators meet, and frequently exceed, the standards for laws of armed conflict, Day explains. Every target is assessed on a “threat” or “no-threat” basis. Simply because an insurgent is a target does not make them an immediate threat or give the justification for killing them. It is illegal for a JTF2 commando to kill an unarmed person, no matter who they are. I don’t just mean civilians or an insurgent who has been previously forcibly disarmed. A JTF2 operator who has spotted a wanted terrorist must first determine whether they are a threat, (read: Armed) rather than simply calling in an air or artillery strike on the location the way some allies do. Then they will attempt to devise a way to take the target into custody without harming them. The insurgent is then turned over to Afghan authorities using the same rules that govern every other Canadian soldier in Afghanistan. Detainees are a national issue determined by a single policy. That means Pte. Smith from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry follows the same rules as JTF2 assaulter X. CANSOFCOM operators are, at their core, a precision force. They offer sophisticated, highly flexible, rapidly deployable, elite capabilities to the Canadian government to achieve “no fail” tasks in Canada and influence Canadian interests abroad. In the media and popular culture, speculation has been substituted in the place of fact to fill the information vacuum created by the secrecy surrounding Canada’s elite commandos. At best, the lack of information and answers generates a legend out of touch with reality. This column isn’t long enough to smash every special operations myth, but there’s one more worth mentioning: SOF are expensive. The entire budget for Canadian special operations this year is $205 million. A number that small is peanuts in the defence budget. Now that’s value for money.