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Canada losing JTF2 soldiers to mercenaries: NDP Print

 Nov. 21 2006 ETCTV.ca

Canada's defence minister dodged a question about members of Joint Task Force 2, the nation's special forces, quitting to serve as mercenaries in places like Iraq.

"The mission in Afghanistan is on the right track. We also have no problems recruiting people for our special forces, contrary to what the member is alleging," said Gordon O'Connor in Parliament's question period on Tuesday.

NDP Leader Jack Layton asked about both JTF2 and that more and more reservists were being called up to backfill for the inadequate preparations that were made accommodate "our obligations in Afghanistan."

"When we took over, the armed forces had been dramatically reduced," O'Connor said.

"The training system was in great difficulty. What we're doing now is being innovative. We're using community colleges, we're using training institutions, we're using retired military to help train in the skills of the military."

All people trained by alternate methods must be fully qualified before being deployed, he said.

Layton said this shows Canada was unprepared for the Afghanistan mission.

"And that's why our commanders advised the Liberals, when they were contemplating this idea in the first place, our generals told us that they wanted nothing to do with this mission at the time," he said.

Now this government is scrambling to salvage the mission while experts say the battle for the hearts and minds of Afghans is being lost, Layton said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Layton that the military leadership are fully committed to the mission.

"What I wonder is when the NDP will realize it is on the wrong track ... in not backing our men and women in uniform?"


The news about JTF2 came out of a Monday appearance before the Senate defence committee by Col. David Barr, head of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command.

The luring of JTF2 soldiers started in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, with private contractors offering the highly trained commandos up to $1,000 per day, he said.

Barr never gave details about how many soldiers had left since that time, but noted that JTF2 is a small unit, so the loss of even five would be significant.

The federal government endorsed a "significant allowance package" for JTF2 soldiers earlier this year, he said.

For soldiers with two years experience, the "special operations assaulter allowance can result in a $15,000 pay hike for those with less than two years experience to almost $40,000 for those with 14 years or more service.

"It's in recognition of hardship, risk, readiness, commitment and the tremendous investment we have put in them and the sacrifices they have accepted," Barr said.

There are no problems finding new recruits, but only 20 per cent pass the initial course. Those who do pass face another year of training before they are considered ready for deployment, he said.

CTV.ca contacted the Department of National Defence for further comment, but no one was made available. 

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