The Canadian government recently voted to expand and extend the Canadian Special Operations Regiment’s “training and advising” mission in Iraq as well as the air bombing campaign, which will now extends to the Syrian portion of ISIS-controlled territory. With a first soldier killed as a result of friendly fire which revealed that CSOR has been operating on the frontlines, the confusion around the mission’s objectives and parameters arose in the public sphere, and both politicians and military leaders have so far proven inept at matching transparency and clarity.
In the United States, most special operations forces units enjoy a wide public window, with the notable exception of the Army’s CAG/Delta/1st SFOD and the Navy’s DEVGRU/Seal Team 6, save for high-profile interventions such as the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Most of their activities are held accountable through two subcommittees of the US Senate Committee on Armed Forces – budget, operations, procurement, personnel. Such a checks-and-balances system has mostly been accepted and very few have questioned its legitimacy.
And yet, commentators and politicians voiced their concerns when Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Brigadier Gen. Michael Rouleau broke with a tradition of secrecy and started giving press briefings about CSOR’s mission in Iraq, with some losing their mind over fears that increased media coverage opens the door to potential OPSEC and INFOSEC violations that could not only jeopardize the mission, but put soldier’s lives at risk.
Contrary to US Congress, the Great White North’s Parliament doesn’t follow Canadian special operations forces’ activities through committees. In fact, there is no oversight mechanism doing so, with the military establishment and government basically demanding blind trust from the public and citing national security concerns.