The conservative Canadian government announced earlier last week that the Royal Canadian Air Force would send six CF-18s, two CP-140 Auroras, and a C-150 Polaris, alongside approximately 600 personnel—most of them working to support the aircraft.

When the decision was made, it was clear that Canada would not engage in ground combat nor have their fighter jets flying in Syrian airspace. Out of the 69 offered SOF advisers from CANSOFCOM, 26 are presently on the ground.

Canadian Prime Minister Harper told Parliament that he doesn’t expect to eliminate ISIS. As a matter of fact, CBC reported that Harper only expected a degradation of the capabilities of ISIL, not their elimination by deploying these troops.

What is the point of engaging in a war against ISIL–or ISIS–if we don’t expect to destroy them? Prime Minister Harper, alongside his top brass at the National Defense Headquarters, knows that no war can be won without boots on the ground. This move is clearly intended to support Canada’s allies without getting into another bloody war that could cost him the election set for next year.

The war—because it is one—against ISIS cannot be won with airstrikes. Although we need boots on the ground, we don’t need the big green machine. The Canadian government has a great asset that has been training multiple African countries’ Special Operation Forces, and is most likely training to deploy in support of the war against ISIS: CSOR.

CSOR during an airshow.
CSOR during an airshow. Courtesy of Virtuailes.

The Canadian Special Operation Regiment’s spectrum is unconventional warfare. Small teams deployed alongside the Iraqi military and Kurds could very well do the job. Actually, having them on the ground—I am talking more than 26 here—could bring new expertise to the locals who are fighting ISIL. The operators of CSOR are capable of coordinating air assets, working as advisors to the local military, and even providing them with valuable training. The United States Army’s Green Berets have proven this theory on countless occasions.

Knowing the boys from CSOR, they are probably working extra hours every day to be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. These soldiers are who Canada should put their trust in, not CF-18s hovering at 30,000 feet, having no situational awareness (no disrespect intended against the pilots here, they are doing a superb job). They are the ones who will hunt down and destroy ISIL with help from the locals.

CSOR conducting fast rope training.
CSOR conducting fast rope training. Courtesy of Virtuailes.

CSOR could also be assisted by PSYOPS (psychological operations) and HUMINT (human intelligence) teams, providing them with live intelligence and enabling them to work with the local population who stand against ISIL. Both these assets have worked pretty well during the time Canadians were in Kandahar.