ARCHIVED - Operation ATHENA: The Canadian Forces Participation in ISAF

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Backgrounder / March 3, 2005 / Project number: BG-03.039h

Introduction

The objective of Operation ATHENA, Canada's participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is to contribute troops to the NATO-led, United Nations (UN)-authorized mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, for a period of 24 months starting in August 2003.

Task Force Kabul (TFK) comprises all Canadian Forces (CF) units and formations committed to Op ATHENA.

Background

ISAF is not a UN operation; on August 11, 2003, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over the mission. ISAF was authorized by the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1386 on December 20, 2001, with a mandate to assist the Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA). The United Kingdom was the first country to serve as lead nation, from December 2001 to June 2002. UNSCR 1413 extended the ISAF mission and authorization to December 20, 2002. Germany and the Netherlands shared the lead under the original UN mandate (UNSCR 1386), which was extended on November 27, 2002 by UNSCR 1444 to run until December 20, 2003.

Mission

The mission of ISAF is to help maintain security in Kabul and the surrounding areas so the Government of Afghanistan and UN agencies can function. It also includes liaison with political, social and religious leaders to ensure that ISAF operations appropriately respect religious, ethnic and cultural sensitivities in Afghanistan.

The Canadian government's overarching goal in contributing to ISAF is to prevent Afghanistan from relapsing into a failed state that provides a safe haven for terrorists and terrorist organizations. Canada remains committed to the campaign against terrorism and, with our allies, will make a major contribution to the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Canada aims to help Afghanistan become the following:

  • A stable nation that is no longer a haven for terrorism;
  • A country that meets the needs of its people; and
  • A fully integrated part of the international community.

Afghanistan's full and sustained recovery is the key to eliminating the threat of terrorism and achieving greater international security and stability. The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan will require a considerable and sustained commitment over the long term, and Canada is doing its part with its allies.

Every effort is being made in the planning and execution of this mission to ensure that our people will be able to do what we ask of them safely and effectively in this high-risk environment. The government is using the skills and abilities for which Canadians are known to assist in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Tasks

  • Ensure freedom of movement in Kabul and the region surrounding the city.
  • Force protection.
  • Provide advice to the ATA on security structures and issues.
  • Assist in the operation of Kabul International Airport.
  • Assist in the reconstruction of the national armed forces of Afghanistan.

Current Makeup

At this time, ISAF comprises approximately 8,000 troops from more than 36 nations.

ISAF Headquarters (ISAF HQ) is located in the centre of Kabul. Subordinate to it is the tactical headquarters of the Kabul Multinational Brigade (KMNB HQ) at Camp Warehouse, 15 km east of Kabul. KMNB HQ covers the operational side of the mission and commands three battalion groups: one Norwegian-led, and two under French and German leadership that include troops from other nations.

The Canadian Commitment

The Canadian contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is known as Operation ATHENA, with about 900 CF personnel currently in theatre. Canadian soldiers conduct regular surveillance missions in the ISAF area of responsibility. In addition, they are involved in a number of projects in cooperation with other members of the ISAF team. Of the 900 troops deployed on Operation ATHENA, about 700 are deployed in Kabul; the rest are deployed elsewhere in southwest Asia in support of the mission.

Most of the CF personnel deployed on the fourth six-month tour (Rotation 3) come from Land Force Central Area in Ontario.

The CF is deploying the following forces during Rotation "3" of Op ATHENA:

  • An armoured reconnaissance squadron group with Coyotes and LAV IIIs, based on a squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) with an infantry element from the First Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (1 RCR);
  • An engineer squadron based out of 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, Petawawa, providing engineer support;
  • A training cadre to help train the Afghan National Army;
  • A National Command Element that links the Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa with TFK;
  • A National Support Element, based out of 2 Service Battalion, Petawawa, responsible for delivering centralized administrative and logistics support services to TFK;
  • “Dukes” Company from the First Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (1 RCR), who are responsible for force protection at Camp Julien;
  • A Health Support Services unit based out of 2 Field Ambulance that provides medical and dental support to the Task Force;
  • An airlift element in Camp Mirage, the Canadian sustainment base located in southwest Asia, operating CC-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft; and
  • An infantry element from Land Force Central Area is also responsible for force protection in Camp Mirage.

The Canadian contingent provides a significant capability to ISAF.

The Risk Level

Every effort was made in the planning and implementation stages of Op ATHENA to ensure that deployed CF members can do what we ask of them as safely and effectively as possible in the high-risk mission environment. Afghanistan is still a hostile place where injury and death are common, and the likelihood of Canadian military or civilian casualties is high. The CF members deploying on Op ATHENA have undergone demanding and realistic training, outstanding officers and NCOs lead them, and they have excellent equipment and robust rules of engagement.

Rules of Engagement

The rules of engagement (ROE) have been communicated to our troops, who have trained with them. TFK is furnished with ROE appropriate for the kind of Chapter VII mission and high-risk environment they will encounter in Kabul. The ROE are robust, and will permit CF personnel to carry out their mission. For security reasons, we do not discuss the specifics of ROE.

Command and Control Arrangements

Command of the Canadian contingent will remain with the Chief of the Defence Staff and, ultimately, the Government of Canada.

Colonel Walter Semianiw is the Commander of TFK and, as such, the commander of all CF personnel deployed on Op ATHENA, both in theatre and elsewhere in support of the mission. The following senior officers serving in the command appointments support Col Semianiw in this operation:

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Follwell: Chief of Staff (COS), TFK;
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Kennedy: CO, National Support Element;
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Kile: CO, Health Support Services;
  • Major Ross Ermel: Officer Commanding (OC) Recce Squadron;
  • Major Nick Pilon: OC, 23 Field Squadron; and
  • Major Peter Scott: OC, “Dukes” Company.

Services and Equipment for Deployed Troops

Health Care and Support to Families

The Army has already conducted enhanced medical screening of all personnel on Op ATHENA. Medical officers are being re-briefed where required on the appropriate management of deployment-related health problems.

Special consideration has been given to the provision to all CF members deploying on Op ATHENA of realistic training to prepare them for the climate, environmental conditions and cultural sensitivities of Afghanistan.

TFK will include a complete Health Services Support Company of about 50 personnel comprising (among others) surgeons, social workers and dentists who will work with the contingent padres to respond to our soldiers' physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. If required, consideration will be given to the use of multinational resources in theatre and to the deployment of additional resources from Canada.

The families of CF members deploying on Op ATHENA have also received pre-deployment briefings through the Military Family Resource Centres. A 24/7 toll-free telephone line will be established to allow family members immediate access to unit members in Canada who can respond to their needs.

CADPAT

The disruptive-pattern combat uniform is now available in two versions, one for temperate climates, and one for arid or desert regions. The desert uniforms were acquired in 2002 for the Third Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) Battle Group in Afghanistan, but were not issued. The temperate-woodland uniform has been in service since April 2001.

The environment in Afghanistan varies from trees and bushes to rock and desert, and dry and wet periods also greatly affect the colour of the vegetation, making camouflage and concealment challenging. It was, therefore, decided that both the temperate-region and arid-region patterns would be issued to personnel going to Kabul.

The uniform patterns, which are patented and copyright to the Department of National Defence, are officially known as Canadian Disruptive Pattern Temperate Woodland, or CADPAT™ (TW), and Canadian Disruptive Pattern Arid Regions, or CADPAT™ (AR). Both are computer-generated colour patterns that have been shown to be highly effective camouflage under field conditions. Both versions are made of the same cloth, which is treated to reduce detection by near-infrared surveillance equipment. They differ only in pattern and colour.

Fragmentation Protective Vest and Ballistic Plates

Every soldier deploying on Op ATHENA will have a frag vest with ballistic plates. All CF personnel currently in Afghanistan have frag vests with ballistic plates.

The CF has a total of about 4,000 sets of ballistic plates. A newer type of plate that was ordered as part of the Clothe the Soldier program should be delivered in the fall of 2004, along with an improved frag vest.

It should be noted that neither the frag vest nor the vest plus the ballistic plates provide perfect protection. They are meant to reduce injury and save life. They do not make soldiers bulletproof.

Ballistic plates are not worn all the time during a deployment; the Task Force Commander for each mission decides whether they will be worn, depending on the mission and threat level. At the current threat level, Op ATHENA personnel are required to wear a frag vest with plates whenever they leave camp, and sometimes even in camp if the threat level indicates a requirement.

More information, including photos, can be found on the Clothe the Soldier website: www.forces.gc.ca/cts

CANCAP

The Contractor Augmentation Program (CANCAP) is a CF initiative under which civilian contractors deliver support services to CF units deployed on operations where local conditions permit. CANCAP does not replace CF functions, but augments combat service support capabilities and will, therefore, provide relief for overstretched CF support trades. This type of support has been used in Bosnia for about three years.

In December 2002, DND entered into a contract with SNC-Lavalin/PAE to provide support services to deployed CF operations to a value of $400 million for up to 10 years. SNC-Lavalin/PAE is an experienced company that has been in Afghanistan for two years supporting non-governmental organizations and the deployed forces of the United States and other countries. Many other contractors in Kabul provide services such as food and fuel supply.

CANCAP will support the 700 CF personnel deployed in Afghanistan from August 2004 to August 2005. Due to the mission's timelines, the support task was divided into two parts: the Support to Theatre Activation Task and the Mission Sustainment Task.

The Support to Theatre Activation Task ended on August 10, 2003, when the entire Canadian contingent arrived on the ground in Kabul. Activities in Kabul included camp construction, reception and movement of camp materiel, and provision of some camp support services (e.g., food services and fuel supply) to the Theatre Activation Team. Most of these activities are being conducted under subcontracts arranged by CANCAP in theatre.

The Sustainment Task Order for services to the Canadian camp allows CANCAP to provide camp services such as food services, local procurement, laundry, water and waste management, engineering support, fire services, accommodation control, and system support to communications and information systems.

CANCAP is expected to save 80 to 100 military logistics positions in combat service support. CANCAP personnel will be integrated into the CF logistics support structure.

A Chronology of Key Statements and Events

February 12, 2003: The Honourable John McCallum, Minister of National Defence, made the following statement in the House of Commons: “Canada has been approached by the international community for assistance in maintaining peace and security in Afghanistan for the UN-mandated mission in Kabul. Canada is willing to serve with a battalion group and a brigade headquarters for a period of one year, starting late this summer. We are currently in discussion with a number of potential partners.”

February 28, 2003: Chief of the Defence Staff General Ray Henault issued a warning order to some CF organizations to be prepared to meet the requirements of a potential deployment with ISAF. A warning order gives notice of an impending operation and is part of the normal process of prudent military planning; its purpose is to provide guidance on planning activities to be undertaken. It maximizes the planning time available to subordinate commands to prepare for deployment while awaiting further orders.

March 22, 2003: A Strategic Reconnaissance Team (SRT) departed for Kabul, Afghanistan, by way of the Netherlands and Germany. Among other things, the SRT confirmed command relationships and tasks, lines of communication, logistics support, engineering requirements, the existing infrastructure and medical facilities. It was an interdepartmental initiative comprising 22 representatives from the CF with one representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), and one representative from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The SRT returned to Canada on March 31, 2003.

March 31, 2003: Two CF officers were assigned to liaison positions in Europe to initiate joint operational and logistics planning for Op ATHENA. One liaison officer went to the Multi-National Movement Control Centre in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and the other went to the ISAF Operations Co-ordination Centre in Potsdam, Germany. Both liaison officers were already in Europe, serving in NATO-related assignments.

April 24, 2003: An Operational Reconnaissance Team (ORT) comprising 15 CF members and 10 civilians departed for Kabul, Afghanistan. Among the civilian members of the ORT were five employees of SNC-Lavalin/PAE to make an assessment of the support services their company could provide to the mission. Most of the ORT members returned to Canada after one week; six of the CF personnel with the ORT remained to continue planning.

April 25, 2003: A Transitional Planning Team (TPT) consisting of 11 CF members departed for Brussels, Belgium, and Potsdam, Germany to conduct detailed staff planning with our ISAF partners on issues such as logistics support, command relationships and tasks, lines of communication, engineering requirements, the existing infrastructure and medical facilities. The team returned to Canada on May 4, 2003.

April 26, 2003: A Liaison Reconnaissance Team (LRT) and a Specialist Engineering Team (SET) totalling 19 CF members departed for Kabul, Afghanistan, where they joined the six CF members of the ORT who stayed behind to continue their planning and liaison activities, and to work on engineering and logistics requirements, and camp design.

May 5, 2003: Minister McCallum announced that Canada would offer to head ISAF during the second six-month tour (Rotation 1), and that NATO would decide which rotation would provide the commander and the staff for ISAF HQ.

May 23, 2003–June 10, 2003: Vehicles and equipment to be used by TFK were moved to the Port of Montreal and loaded aboard cargo ships bound for Turkey. From Turkey, the vehicles and equipment were flown by chartered airlift (Antonov-124 and IL-76 transport aircraft from Ukraine) directly to Afghanistan. The delivery of the entire shipment to Kabul was completed by early August.

May 23, 2003–June 1, 2003: The Theatre Activation Team (TAT) for Operation ATHENA, comprising about 150 CF members, departed for Kabul, Afghanistan. The TAT was made up of soldiers from the Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group based in Kingston, Ontario, and a defence and security element from the Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2 RCR), which is based at Gagetown, New Brunswick. The TAT established the necessary in-theatre support infrastructure for Op ATHENA by facilitating the reception, staging and onward movement of materiel, advance parties, and the main body of TFK.

July 17, 2003: Brigadier-General Peter Devlin of Canada assumed command of the Kabul Multi-National Brigade (KMNB), taking over from Brigadier-General Werner Freers of Germany. Brig.-Gen. Devlin commanded the 3,600 soldiers of KMNB for six months.

July 24, 2003–August 10, 2003: The first stage of Op ATHENA ended with the return of the Theatre Activation Team to Canada from Kabul.

August 11, 2003: Major-General Andrew Leslie assumed the responsibilities of Deputy Commander of ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj.-Gen. Leslie, as the senior Canadian in theatre, was also the commander of TFK, the Canadian formation comprising all CF personnel committed to Operation ATHENA.

August 21, 2003: After months of preparation, the Third Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR) Battalion Group was declared operationally ready: that is, prepared to assume operational responsibility for the Kabul West area of operations.

September 11, 2003: Several explosions occurred on or near ISAF camps in Afghanistan. Two rockets exploded at Camp Warehouse: one on the outer perimeter and the other on the inner perimeter near the Canadian extension. A third explosion occurred near Kabul International Airport, and a fourth about 1,000 metres southeast of Camp Julien, the main Canadian camp in Afghanistan. One Canadian, a civilian support worker, was slightly injured.

October 2, 2003: Sergeant Robert Alan Short and Corporal Robbie Christopher Beerenfenger of the 3 RCR Battalion Group were killed, and three other soldiers were slightly injured, when the lead vehicle of their patrol struck an explosive device near Kabul, Afghanistan.

October 6, 2003: Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier of Canada was selected as the next commander of ISAF, with effect from February 2004.

October 16, 2003: The CF announced that it would send more armoured vehicles, with crews; to Kabul after the Canadian and ISAF commanders reassessed the security and threat situation there.

August 2003–February 2004: The CF deployed the following forces during Rotation 0 of Op ATHENA:

  • A battalion group based on the Third Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR);
  • A Brigade Headquarters based on 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron (2 CMBG HQ and Sigs Sqn);
  • A National Command Element to link the Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa with TFK;
  • A National Support Element to deliver centralized administrative and logistics support services to TFK;
  • An airlift element, not based in Kabul, to operate two CC-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft in southwest Asia; and
  • Additional staff for ISAF HQ, including Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, the Deputy Commander, ISAF.

December 10–13, 2003: Rick Mercer and Tom Cochrane performed for CF members at Camp Julien and filmed a Christmas special that was broadcast on the CBC on December 21, 2003.

January 5, 2004: Redeployment begins on Op ATHENA as the first members of Roto 1 arrive and Roto 0 troops begin to go home at the end of their six-month tour in theatre.

January 18, 2004: Operation TSUNAMI — Elements of the 3 RCR Battalion Group supported the Kabul City Police (KCP) in the successful seizure of a compound in southwest Kabul. Op TSUNAMI was based on reliable information indicating that the compound was a hub of narcotics trafficking with possible links to terrorist groups.

January 24, 2004: Brigadier-General Jocelyn Lacroix of Canada assumed command of the Kabul Multi-National Brigade (KMNB), taking over from Brig.-Gen. Peter Devlin of Canada. Brig.-Gen. Lacroix will command the 5,500 soldiers of KMNB for six months.

January 27, 2004: During a routine patrol near Kabul, Cpl Jamie Brendan Murphy of the First Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (deployed with the 3 RCR Battalion Group) was killed and three other soldiers were injured by an explosion.

February 9, 2004: Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier of Canada took command of ISAF, replacing
Lt.-Gen. Gotz Gliemeroth of Germany. Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie handed over the command of TFK, the Canadian formation that comprises all CF personnel committed to Operation ATHENA, to Colonel Alain Tremblay.

February 15, 2004: Final duties and responsibilities are transferred from the 3 RCR Battalion Group to the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (3 R22eR) Battalion Group as the last soldiers from Roto 0 return to Canada.

March 5-10, 2004: TFK received 100 Mercedes-Benz “G Wagons”, which feature armour plating, bullet-resistant windows and a grenade-proof roof. This new vehicle, officially called the Light Utility Vehicle Wheeled or LUVW, will eventually replace the Iltis, which is the light utility vehicle currently in service with the CF.

February – August 2004: The CF deployed the following forces during Rotation 1 of Op ATHENA:

  • A battalion group based on the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (3 R22eR);
  • A Brigade Headquarters based on 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron (5 CMBG HQ and Sigs Sqn);
  • A National Command Element that links the Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa with TFK;
  • A National Support Element to deliver centralized administrative and logistics support services to TFK;
  • An airlift element, not based in Kabul, operating three CC-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft in southwest Asia; and
  • Additional staff for ISAF HQ, including Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier, who commanded ISAF from February – August 2004

August 9, 2004: Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier transferred command of the NATO-led ISAF to French Lieutenant-General Jean-Louis Py, on completion of his six-month tour of duty in Kabul, Afghanistan.

August 9, 2004: Final duties and responsibilities are transferred from TFK Roto 1 to TFK Roto 2 as the last of the soldiers from Roto 1 return to Canada.

Roto II Accomplishments / Key Events

August 2004 – February 2005 : The CF deployed the following forces during Roto 2 of Op ATHENA:

  • An armoured reconnaissance squadron group with Coyotes and LAV IIIs, based on a squadron of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) with an infantry element from 3 PPCLI;
  • 11 Fd Sqn from 1 CER, providing engineer support;
  • A training cadre helping train the Afghan National Army;
  • B Coy from 1 PPCLI, responsible for Force Protection at Camp Julien;
  • A Health Support Services unit based out of 1 Field Ambulance providing medical and dental support;
  • An airlift element in Camp Mirage, operating CC-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft;
  • An infantry element from 38 Canadian Brigade Group responsible for force protection in Camp Mirage;
  • The National Support Element, based out of 1 Service Battalion, responsible for delivering centralized administrative and logistics support services to Task Force Kabul; and
  • The National Command Element that links the Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa with Task Force Kabul.

August 29, 2004: At least 15 people were killed in separate explosions in an upscale district of the Afghan capital Kabul and at a school in a southeastern province where nine children died. The Taliban militia claimed responsibility for the Kabul blast that killed at least three U.S. nationals involved in the training of Afghanistan's new police force and two Afghan policemen. ISAF forces move to heightened alert states as preparations continue for the first Afghan presidential election.

September 15, 2004: Task Force Kabul receives 24 new G-Wagons in the Command and Reconnaissance variant, with a turret-mounted C6 machine gun, giving the task force additional flexibility in the light support role.

October 2, 2004: Recce Squadron conducted a joint night-time operation with British forces, directing the British soldiers into a compound where known terrorists were gathered. The operation ended with the arrest of 25 people with suspected links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The operation was a successful use of Recce Squadron’s high-tech surveillance suite and proved the effectiveness of joint operations.

October 5, 2004: Improvised explosive device discovered close to Camp Julien. Canadian Quick Reaction Forces secure the scene, providing security while Canadian explosives experts disarm the device and remove it for later destruction.

October 9, 2004: Afghanistan’s first free presidential election takes place. Despite concerns of violence, approximately 80% of eligible voters turned out and the election took place with only isolated incidents. Hamid Karzai was declared the winner more than two weeks later due to the lengthy counting process.

October 23, 2004: Suicide bomber attacked a crowd outside a carpet shop in downtown Kabul, injuring several ISAF soldiers and Afghan citizens. The attack serves as a potent reminder that despite the success of the election, the situation in Afghanistan remains unstable and ISAF forces are still targets for attack.

October 28, 2004: Armed men in Kabul kidnapped three foreign election workers. The workers were from Britain, the Philippines and Kosovo, the sources said, and two of the victims were women. They were part of a joint U.N.-Afghan election team handling the Oct. 9 presidential election. The workers were released a month later, safe and relatively unharmed.

December 9, 2004 : Inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

December 17, 2004: A Canadian patrol was approached by an individual at Camp Julien who requested that ISAF troops accompany him to remove a large amount of ammunition from the area where he was living. On arrival at the scene, the Canadian Explosive Ordinance Disposal team discovered possibly the largest weapons cache to date. Among other items, this cache included over 4, 736 different munitions weighing over 5,100 kilograms.

February 10, 2005: Final duties and responsibilities are transferred from TFK Roto 2 to TFK Roto 3.

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