Canada’s Elite Commandos Aim To Capture, Not Kill


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

Canadian special forces in Afghanistan capture more insurgents than they kill.
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.
Intel baby.

collect enough of it for a major operational playbook. Too many innocent lives have already been lost doing it the "American Way".
I didn't mean nothing, replying to the article.

But that isn't the way it reads. Correct me if I'm wrong but you've never served in the Canadian military, never spent time in Afghanistan, yet you remain highly critical of something you have no first-hand experience in?

I have too much regard for the Canadians I worked with in Kandahar to slam anything as the "Canadian Way."
Intel baby.

collect enough of it for a major operational playbook. Too many innocent lives have already been lost doing it the "American Way".

“You can’t kill your way to victory” is a very, very common theme in both COIN and SOF circles. Our Secretary of Defense even made the same observation. This isn't some brilliant new concept that the guy in the article suddenly came up with on his own.

I'm a very keen proponent of intel, I've been in that field for most of my adult life. But even perfect intel is inadequate if the correct operational decisions don't result. Both ops and intel are useless if national policy trumps them.

What is a "major operational playbook?" I don't recognize that as a combined or joint doctrinal military term.

I'm not sure what you meant by your last sentence about doing things the "American Way." What way is that, exactly? If there is in fact a better way then please enlighten us. If not, maybe you better rethink your post.
OK Free please don't make it a permanent BAN. Look up south africa and the practice Pardus brought up cutting up young children while they scream and using the body parts for JUJU medicine. Go through a village and see babies cut from their mothers body and young pre pubesence children raped by multiple people. watch your buddy loose the one dream he had of having a son. War is violent and killling is part of war. Not the American way of war the way of war. I look forward to hearing your criticism of the American way. Chaske I sent a message I look forward to hearing from you.
I know my country has faults it is run and occupied by human beings. I also know we try very hard to help any and all down trodden people. I know that we executed More American Soldiers in WWII for rape than we did murder and all other crimes.
Are we arrogant? sure. Do we need to be rained in some times sure. Do SOF forces all over the world teach a certain arrogance yes.
I am very proud of being an American and having served in the American armed forces. I am also very proud of the forces that stood shoulder to shoulder with the US in her times of need.
I am down to calling a spade a spade and it is a fucking shovel so you don't like the policy get in the game and change it or shut the fuck up.
I think this is just a case of trying to wrap JTF-2 in tofu so the Canadian liberals will eat it up and talk about how eco friendly it is.

All the Canucks I've worked with have been meat eaters, some of the mech boys were slightly fatter meat eaters but you know what I mean.
I think this is just a case of trying to wrap JTF-2 in tofu so the Canadian liberals will eat it up and talk about how eco friendly it is.

All the Canucks I've worked with have been meat eaters, some of the mech boys were slightly fatter meat eaters but you know what I mean.

;) When you have the capability of carrying that extra weight... lol

Most of our guys are willing to shoot and will do so but I think where this story is directed at, is precision strikes. Which happens to be JTF-2's main capability, we have other assets under the SOF Command that are more of a sledge hammer type reaction; than a scalpel.
There is no Canadian or American way. It's just an article that assumes because of the fact that 1/4th of the time the Canadian SOF forces pull a trigger as opposed to all the time that they are purposely trying to do this. The author thinks this is an anomoly so he puts a title on it - "Canadian Way" and rolls with it.

I think 1/4th was the way it was for us as well in Iraq/Afghanistan when I deployed. Most of the time you capture people, many times its a dry hole, and even less common we fuck shit up.

Stupid article by a stupid hippy.

JTF2 and CSOR are going into the objective with the same mindset as every other SOF force overseas- "I'm ready to fuck shit up if these motherfuckers don't come quietly". There is no difference in mentality between us.