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Canadian army is stretched Print

But mercenaries are out: Brass
By MURRAY BREWSTER, CP - November 21, 2006

OTTAWA -- The Canadian army is stretched so thin by the war in Afghanistan that it will rely increasingly on civilian contractors and reservists to train new recruits, the country's top soldier said yesterday.

But Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie said he draws the line at using civilian contractors as a mercenaries in war zones.

"There's no doubt the army is under tremendous pressure," he told the Commons defence committee.

Despite that, Leslie said he's confident the soldiers under his command would be able to do everything asked of them.


"If I wasn't, I'd tell you," said Leslie, who is in charge of the army.

The mission in Afghanistan has meant that junior officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), the backbone of army training, are in short supply at home.

The gap is being filled by outsourcing some training, such as driving courses for armoured vehicles and other non-combat instruction.


Even though they're under pressure, Leslie said seasoned NCOs and junior officers will still direct all combat training and mercenaries will not be used to fill any gaps on the front lines.

Other countries, notably the United States, employ civilian security consultants in war zones -- a practice the general said Canada has no intention of copying.

Relying on civilian help to get recruits ready for war is just the latest in a series of moves the army has been making to sustain the Conservative government's commitment to keeping combat forces in Afghanistan until February 2009. 

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